5 crisis PR lessons from KitchenAid’s offensive tweet

The brand’s official Twitter account sent an errant tweet during Wednesday’s debate riffing on President Obama’s dead grandmother.


KitchenAid is apologizing profusely for an errant tweet sent from its corporate account.

Shortly after President Obama mentioned his late grandmother, the following tweet appeared on the @KitchenAidUSA Twitter feed:

“Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics”

The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before a swift and fierce backlash against the brand. (At the time, @KitchenAidUSA had about 24,000 followers.)

KitchenAid issued this apology on Twitter:

“Deepest apologies for an irresponsible tweet that is in no way a representation of the brand’s opinion. #nbcpolitics”

Shortly thereafter, the head of the KitchenAid brand, Cynthia Soledad, began tweeting from the account, saying:

“I would like to personally apologize to President @BarackObama, his family and everyone on Twitter for the offensive tweet sent earlier.”

“It was carelessly sent in error by a member of our Twitter team who, needless to say, won’t be tweeting for us anymore.”

“That said, I take full responsibility for my team. Thank you for hearing me out.”

She then tweeted directly at several media outlets, including Mashable and Adweek, insisting she’d like to talk on the record about what happened.

Naturally, the incident offers lessons for PR and social media professionals of all stripes. Brian Adams, a former journalist turned public relations professional, shared five tips to help organizations prevent or recover from such a crisis:

“Members Only

“It is a widely known, yet somewhat less followed, rule that the members of your social media team should be your organization’s spokespeople–i.e. not interns. Regardless of your available resources you must ensure that only trained spokespeople access your account. Your online voice lives well beyond the moment a post was written. (While Ms. Soledad confirmed that the insensitive tweet’s author “…won’t be tweeting for us anymore” we do not yet know anything more about the originator of the post and what their official capacity was at KitchenAid.)

“Training and Policy

“Staying topical has its risks, leaving little room for error or a review process. As you train members of your social media team, provide them with ample time to draft practice posts that can be reviewed prior to providing them access to the official account. Draft a social media policy with the Human Resources department regarding usage guidelines, the penalties for any offenses, and outlining clearly defined roles of each team member.

“Multiple Accounts

“It is inevitable that you or members of your social media team may have multiple accounts for personal and professional use. When drafting your social media policy it is critical to have all staff members include statements that their posts are personal and do not reflect the opinions of their employer.

“Mission and Morals

“Hopefully your organization’s staff members are ‘on mission’ and aware of the longevity of comments posted online. If social media has taught us anything it is that a little dose of paranoia is a good thing. When drafting a post be aware of how it may be taken out of context or misunderstood. Take a moment to set it aside and then come back to, even if it is only a minute later. Everyone has been known to say something regrettable in the heat of the moment or voice a truly tasteless ‘joke’ to garner a few laughs. Hold your post up and ask yourself if it is in the spirit of your mission before spreading it online.

“Plan for the Worst

“Even if you follow the above advice there will be a day in your life when something slips through the cracks. Hopefully, it will not be as offensive or attractive to the media as the KitchenAid tweet. You need to be prepared and have a crisis communications plan that clearly states the necessary steps for external and internal action.”

Read more from Adams on his blog.

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