Kenneth Cole — yes, that Kenneth Cole — made a very big, very public mistake: He tweeted an ill-fated attempt to inject some humor in the Egypt protests (a decidedly non-funny situation), which led to a flurry of negative tweets and articles. A couple hours later, Kenneth Cole issued a non-apology apology. Then, he deleted the original tweet and issued an apology on Facebook. (If you haven’t seen the back-and-forth, check out this Kenneth Cole summary from Mariam Shahab.)
Much will be written about whether this is “brand suicide” or just a misstep. Either way, it raises a couple PR learning opportunities:
- What happens at your company when the CEO (or other high-ranking exec) takes to Twitter and shares something deemed inappropriate? The series of tweets weren’t sent by an intern or a junior-level staffer who can be easily dismissed or reprimanded. This tweet came from the company’s namesake. Who’s job is it to tell the CEO “Hey, you’ve cause quite the firestorm on Twitter. You have to apologize.”? Imagine that awkward conversation.
- When it is appropriate for PR, marketing or social media to capitalize on current events? AdAge’s Ken Wheaton shared that he’s received more than a few pitches from PR people offering “”Marketing Lessons You Can Learn from the Egyptian Revolution.” Seriously?! That said, we all know there are times in PR when you can offer a valuable resource during current events. But, I’d caution that offering marketing advice is not as helpful or relevant as offering an expert in Egypt politics. See the difference?
What do you think about Kenneth Cole “tweetgate?” Big deal? Questionable judgment that won’t have any long-term effect? What other lessons do you think PR people should learn from this situation?