Tyler Blance – Contributing Writer
Recently in the world of communications, something happened which will go down in the history books as a truly embarrassing crisis-causing event. This occurrence came from one of the most unexpected companies, and is gradually becoming known as the “Kitchen Aid Twitter Crisis.” Although the situation became immediately messy, the way in which the seemingly-irrelevant cooking appliance maker handled their Twitter crisis is something definitely worth congratulating.
The crisis originated from a tweet posted by a member of Kitchen Aid’s social media team on the night of the Presidential debate; a highly offensive joke about President Obama’s deceased Grandmother. Many of us probably heard of what happened and though to ourselves, “Kitchen Aid has a Twitter feed?”
A lot more people are aware of Kitchen Aid’s social media presence now, even if they didn’t plan it to happen that way. The true mistake that caused the crisis was this: the tweet was meant to come from the person’s personal account. The person managing Kitchen Aid’s official Twitter page probably meant for the tweet to come from his or her personal account, and the mistake instantly caused a wildfire of discussion and negative responses (rightfully so).
What happened with Kitchen Aid during the debate was not erasable, and it certainly wasn’t something the Whirlpool-owned company could sweep under the rug. It is the aftermath of the crisis that reveals excellent crisis management on Kitchen Aid’s part.
Although the offensive tweet was already re-tweeted and noticed by thousands by the time it was removed (minutes after its creation), and the company responded immediately with an apology to the public. They stated how the tweet was not a representation of the Kitchen Aid brand, and also how it was irresponsible in nature. A good start, but what makes their efforts impressive is what they did beyond simply apologizing in general.
The company issued a personal apology to the President himself, as well as an apology to the general public for having to see the tweet. The head of the Kitchen Aid brand spoke out quickly; stating how herself and her team take full responsibility for what happened, and that it is in no way anyone else’s fault. All of this occurred within hours of the incident, and not one element of the apology involved blaming other people, directing attention elsewhere, or ignoring the heart of the issue. These results: a PR representative’s crisis management fantasy.
Kitchen Aid rose from the crisis quickly and with little battle wounds. Sure, some people are mad at their mixer’s maker. A few tweets I saw described how hateful Kitchen Aid was, or how the household now has a strictly Cuisinart kitchen from now on. As a PR and crisis management scholar I know the science of what happened, but aside from people like me Kitchen Aid received a lot of understanding and sympathy for what happened. People generally understood that their social media manager was fired, and that Kitchen Aid as a company did not mean to release such an insensitive message.
Other companies have experienced this same type of crisis, while undergoing a lot more scrutiny and bad press than Kitchen Aid has. The crisis management skills of this company will probably be in the textbooks of the future. So, all I have to say is well done, Kitchen Aid. You still have a spot on my kitchen counter.