• Sarah Robinson

KitchenAid Community Crisis: A Case Study for Doing It Right

During last night’s presidential debate, the community manager for @KitchenAidUSA made a career-ending error. He tweeted something personal, derogatory and downright mean from the company account instead of his personal account. While the tweet was quickly deleted, it was screen-captured and retweeted over and over gain, throwing KitchenAid into an immediate PR and Community crisis.

(I’m not going to put the offending tweet in this post. You can easily find it by googling it.)

I’ve watched many many communities face this kind of deep crisis. Sometimes it’s completely public for all the world to see and sometimes it happens inside the community and is (slightly) less public. Where and how the crisis happens isn’t as important as how the community leadership responds to it. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many companies and organizations freeze in these moments.  Instead of immediately responding, they spend a great deal of time placing blame and pointing internal fingers. Fear sets in and no one is willing to take the blame, step up and handle it. If and when there is finally a response, it’s too little too late.

Communication lines are broken, trust is blown and the community is in shambles.

Last night, KitchenAid proved that it doesn’t have to be like this. They are THE case study for what to do when (not if) your community faces a crisis in trust. Take notes now so that you are prepared.

First, Cynthia Soledad, the head of the KitchenAid brand, immediately took over the corporate twitter account:


Second, she apologized:


Third, she took responsibility:


Fourth, she made herself available to talk about it:


And this is what Cynthia said to Mashable:


And she did all of this IMMEDIATELY. Not after a long meeting. Not after consulting their legal team, their pr team, their whatever team. She did it INSTANTLY. And because of her immediate and powerful handling of the situation, she’s earned praise for KitchenAid and strengthened it’s community.  An incredible outcome to a damaging situation.

Here are the Crisis Management Lessons every community leader/organizer/manager can learn from Cynthia Soledad:

1) Be ready and prepared to handle a community crisis immediately. Set the protocol in place now that will prevent a response delay. Decide who will step up to the plate to address the situation. Know how to get in touch with them immediately at all times.

2) Apologize. No excuses. No hand-wringing. No nothing except a direct apology.

3) Take responsibility. You may have had nothing to do with what caused the crisis. It doesn’t matter. Accept immediate responsibility without deflecting it onto someone or something else.

4) Talk about it. There’s nothing worse than a company that “hides out”, waiting for the storm to pass. It will only get worse if you aren’t part of the conversation.

Print out this post. Put it in your playbook. Have your plan ready to go. Handling a community crisis as deftly as Cynthia did for KitchenAid will make the difference between a community that forgives and embraces you and a community that will turn it’s back on you.

What do you think of the way KitchenAid handled this crisis?