By: Jennie Osber
After the first presidential debate there has been a lot of stirring in the twittersphere, not just about the presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but about the appliance makers, KitchenAid. On Thursday, KitchenAid’s Twitter account @KitchenAidUSA tweeted “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president.’” This was in response to Obama defending his healthcare plan and how Medicare helped his grandmother while she was sick. Although the tweet was taken down immediately, it still caused a great uproar in social media. Angry Twitter users threaten to boycott the products and were greatly offended by the attack made on President Obama. The company’s senior head of marketing Cynthia Soledad issued apologies via Twitter as well as personally to the President.
This tweeting mishap happened because of multiple Twitter accounts. The message was accidentally tweeted through the corporate account when the person meant to send it through their personal Twitter account. Accidents like this have happened on more than one occasion with various corporations, such as Kenneth Cole and Microsoft, whose Twitter blunders have also hurt their brands reputations. From these types of incidents we can learn how important it is to double and triple check what we are putting out there on the web.
Since mistakes like this cannot be taken back, it is the Public Relations team that is responsible for saving face for the brand. Cynthia Soledad did just that for KitchenAid. After the tweet was deleted and she initially apologized for the events, Soledad also tweeted that she takes full responsibility for her team and would talk on the record to the media. By acting quickly, she is helping to show that this tweet does not represent the thoughts of the KitchenAid brand and that they are willing to discuss what happened openly. In crisis situations such as this instance, a solid PR team is very important. Knowing how to handle circumstances that have put the brand’s name at risk is one of the most important skills for a PR professional.
Cynthia Soledad tweeted again later on saying, “I wanted to emphasize that the tasteless joke tweeted during Wed night’s debate in no way represents our values @KitchenAid–Appropriate actions have been taken with the individual who sent the offensive tweet– We again want to express deepest apologies to President Obama, his family and our consumers. Thank you.” By reiterating their apology, the PR team is able to gain back a lot of their offended consumers. There has been a lot of positive feedback about how the PR team handled the situation and they have regained some respect in the Twitter world. Future PR professionals can take from this situation that social media is a very powerful tool and one wrong tweet can tarnish years of a company’s reputation. As long as we are careful and double-check ourselves, we can use social media as a powerful tool for public relations.
Jennie Osber is a sophomore, communication interest major with a psychology minor. Along with PRSSA, she is a member of the community service sorority, Gamma Sigma Sigma, and the UDress magazine. In the future, she hopes to work as public relations professional for a non-profit organization.