Kenneth Cole Tweet Disaster

As the people of Egypt struggle to find democracy, the whole world watches. Every major news organization airs the protests daily as the world tunes in. Along with broadcast media, social media has also been flooded with response to the “uproar” in Egypt.

The clothing brand, Kenneth Cole decided to tweet a controversial remark about the situation, which has several people offended. The tweet was removed only a few hours after it was posted.  It was removed after outraged people re-tweeted the post. The company immediately reacted by posting a response a few hours after the tweet. Kenneth Cole himself apologized and issued a statement on the Facebook page. The comments on the Facebook apology page were overwhelming negative. Even though the apology went out right away, the tweet was viewed as too “intensive” to repair.

This public relations issue was handled quickly, but may still result in some serious backlash. What is one do to in this situation? After issuing a public apology, can the company regain trust immediately? Those close to the situation in Egypt or passionate about it may never feel the same way about the clothing brand.

On the contrary, any publicity is good publicity … right? A couple of hours after the tweet, the number of followers increased by 3,000. The apology also linked directly to the online store for Kenneth Cole. There are several mixed opinions about the company’s tweet, but overall awareness of Kenneth Cole has grown. Do you think Kenneth Cole’s PR team did a good job?

Have there been other similar situations about the protests in Egypt? In every tragedy or controversy, public relations professionals are involved. Kenneth Cole is just an example of a controversy within a greater situation. Often times, people feel strongly about these situations which can do irreparable damage to a company, if not handled properly.

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6 Responses to Kenneth Cole Tweet Disaster

  1. tgierba says:

    While I disagree, some companies do look for more business and publicity through negatively posted comments or situations. And while I agree that handling such hazardous situations is the job of a good agency, it is often times not us who involve ourselves in such an act. Having been involved in something such as this in one of my internships, I can assure you that the PR world typically acts according to the PRSA code of ethics (http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/). We simply do our jobs to promote core values and “protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information,” and so on. This, unfortunately, is why I believe that PR is often regarded as a practice based around deception … or at least that’s what I feel when I tell other journalism professors that I am in the field of public relations. Simply doing our job can make us seem as if we are manipulative practitioners. We simply help clean up the mess others put themselves in.

  2. afleisha says:

    The short time fuse on social media forces PR professionals to quickly write causal comments without time for careful editing and consideration. As followers expect instantaneous responses from their favorite brands on real-world issues, in real-time, more blunders like this (and Groupon’s Super Bowl ads) will continue to offend readers. It’s a trade-off: politically correct statements that pass through five rounds of editors or quick remarks that may occasionally offend.

  3. cbustam1 says:

    I do think the tweet was in bad taste. Do I necessarily think that it will damage any future plans for Kenneth Cole? Probably not. Although you do bring up the point that followers of Kenneth Cole’s Twitter increased, I wonder if that is just a shock and awe effect of controversy. Some people may be interested in following him just so they can get the scoop if he has another mishap. I don’t know if the correlation between scandal and followers will translate into loyal customers and consumers, but I do think it helps the overall exposure of his brand.

  4. cfetter1 says:

    This is an excellent example of how a company can generate negative publicity for getting involved in issues that are outside of its know-how. I think the company handled the situation beautifully and learned a good lesson from this. I’m sure they are going to be more aware of what they Tweet from now on!

  5. dbaxley says:

    The comment was obviously uncalled for, but I think their PR team reacted about as well as they could. I also like the idea of posting a link to the Website in the apology (why not try and drive traffic to the Website right?). Clothing companies shouldn’t make a habit out of commenting on the negative politics of other nations, but the speedy reaction is probably an indication that they quickly realized their error. Overall, I would be surprised if the backlash from this off-color tweet will affect their sales in the long term.

  6. kdoyle3 says:

    I think that this type of tweet was not the best idea for Kenneth Cole during this sensitive time for Egypt. That being said, we are currently in the middle of New York Fashion Week, and although the tweet was inappropriate, the fashion world will attract attention any way they can. In some respects, I feel as though this gained Kenneth Cole some attention, whether it’s good or bad, it is publicity. At the end of the day, this means more than angry tweeters.

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