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Kenneth Cole’s ‘personal’ Twitter account has a bio that states ‘My tweets are not representative of the corporate @kennethcoleprd feed’. 

This poses some questions about governance. Is a tagline of ‘views my own’ inoculation against scandal?

The answer is ‘you’re missing the point’, as is Kenneth.

Kenneth yesterday tweeted as below, referencing the debate on Syrian intervention.

Reaction is succinctly tied to the bottom of the tweet as ‘related headlines’.

Kenneth Cole is the founder of the Kenneth Cole brand, and the two share a name. His tweets are therefore not representative of the company that bears his name, they simply are the tweets of the company that bears his name.

I didn’t know two Twitter accounts existed (man and brand), until I investigated the recent reaction. 

Again, this is beside the point. Social media fascinates everyone because it is simply real life. Anyone with a degree of social nous is an expert on social media.

Social media is a heightened reality of idea exchange and we don’t need to discuss whether what Kenneth did was right or wrong. All we have to do is look at the reaction. 

Here it’s of course pertinent that strong reactions are not some sort of absolute opprobrium. But Kenneth will have realised from the reaction to a tweet about unrest in Cairo (see below) that his referencing Syria would upset a lot of people.

 

From this point, we need to answer the question: ‘is it right for the figurehead of a company, a company that pays wages and has a board, to stir public feeling in this way? 

The answer is undoubtedly ‘no’ because the public know that whether right or wrong, this tweet will prove ‘all PR is good PR’ and lead to increased awareness and sales for Kenneth Cole. 

So, how do all the people that work for Kenneth feel when they see the brand mired in this way? It can’t be good for morale. 

If individuals tweet and make mistakes like this, even CEOs, MDs etc, it can be argued the mistake is easier in the making, because the person in question may not be intending to increase revenue. Kenneth Cole might not have been aiming to do this either, but the fact that he is the company means he can’t take the risk. 

His explanation, via Instagram video, is that he’s raising awareness. If he is, it’s at the expense of his reputation. But, he isn’t raising awareness. 

What does ‘raising awareness’ mean?

It doesn’t mean waiting for the public to reach peak awareness levels about a subject and then jumping on the crest of the wave with an insensitive tweet about sandals.

What it means is working for a cause, no matter what the political or social climate. Kenneth Cole does this in another capacity by serving as Chairman of amfAR

With his recent Instagram video excuse Kenneth is damaging his sincere work. When I went to the ‘awareness’ part of his website I started to question some of the information. I started to cynically see it as brand augmentation, which it isn’t at all, at least most of it. 

So, this whiny post is to say that these kind of tweets are defensible from an individual, but not from a company, and certainly not from a company who has pulled this stunt before.

Ben Davis

Published 6 September, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

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Nick Stamoulis

Kenneth Cole the person and Kenneth Cole the brand are too tightly intertwined to keep one social personality separate from the other. He is literally the name/face of the brand and what he says is bound to reflect back on the company as a whole. Everyone in entitled to their own opinion but when it comes to social you have to remember the lines between personal and professional are blurring more and more everyday.

almost 3 years ago

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Michael Batey

The fact that he did it again after the Egypt tweet fiasco suggests a) he's an autocratic ruler of the company and b) he's a dick. As you say, social media is merely a conduit for his behaviour - it is not somehow 'separate' from real life.

almost 3 years ago

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