KennethCole and #Cairo: Social Media in the Hands of the Vapid


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Posted on Friday, February 4th, 2011

Thousands of peaceful Egyptian citizens hunker down in a public square, facing retribution at the hands of “loyalist” thugs armed with knives, bats, and in one memorable description, a meat cleaver. Roving security police storm into hotels hunting down domestic and international journalists and human rights activists, and the New York Times’ Nick Kristof chillingly wonders what they plan to do that they don’t want reporters to see.

A world away, a shoe designer laughingly tweets that Cairo is in an uproar over his new spring collection. Two brain cells meet in a vacuum, bringing us yesterday’s epic #PRFAIL.

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”

Kenneth Cole’s PR team is either committing harakiri or thanking their boss for guaranteeing their jobs through a good stretch of crisis management. My jaw just hit the floor when I saw this; I was literally in the middle of writing a post about the ideal social outreach equation:

social media (smart, trustworthy people + basic guidelines) = personality, trust, and loyalty

I forgot for a moment that the first person in need of a muzzle might be the man in charge.

In a way, I don’t mean to jump on Mr. Cole, who (let’s give him the benefit of the doubt) probably feels like a moron. But let’s also take a few moments to try to glean some social media crisis-prevention lessons that other would-be humorists might apply:

  1. You need some training. To paraphrase from my kids’ favorite movie, “any idiot can tweet, but not every idiot should.” Really, the idea of building a following and community for a business should be a little bit daunting, and it’s entirely appropriate, while maintaining an open communications policy, to put any communicator through a few straightforward paces. Topics include: politics (generally, no), courtesy (almost always, yes), and the difference between valuable commentary and shallow marketing opportunism.
  2. Bad press is contagious. Remember when a lone blogger coined the term “Dell Hell” back in 1995? In that comparative stone age of online sharing, those two words defined a multimillion dollar business. Now I’m writing a blog post about a tweet that I saw mentioned in a UK paper, and which has already garnered significant — and spreading — online backlash. All attention is not good attention.
  3. You must use social media tools honestly. That’s actually the guiding principle of White Hat PR, and Mr. Cole’s cardinal sin (along with appalling taste): you don’t trick people into seeing your stuff. Hashtags and other SEO-type or search-gathering tools are valuable because they help users filter appropriately. Misusing them to gain attention is a lie. Bad juju.

Thankfully, this isn’t rocket science. In fact, the best and most effective social media guidelines I’ve seen are the simplest; they’re short, they’re sweet, and they warn that big screw-ups may get you fired. I wonder if that goes for C-level folks as well.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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