Vetting Your Brand’s Voice – a Lesson from KitchenAid

This morning I caught wind of a Twitter “oops” made during last night’s Presidential Debate by the well known brand KitchenAid. Someone responsible for the Twitter handle Tweeted, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president” – in regards to President Barack Obama’s deceased Grandmother.

While a lot of outlets are reporting on how KitchenAid handled the bump – Cynthia Soledad, the senior director of KitchenAid’s brand and marketing division jumped on Twitter immediately apologizing and offering explanations and interviews – I’m more interested in how such an accident happens in the first place. My Twitter pal Chuck Gose said,

This “simple case” begs the bigger question for me on how companies are vetting and qualifying employees responsible for corporate social communications. It goes beyond the technology tools and “need for social apps that let you better separate accounts.”

I’m thinking beyond that. I understand social media managers could have a dozen or more Twitter accounts that they are responsible for. I understand how easy it is to be furiously Tweeting in order to keep up with the conversations taking place, and to accidentally tweet from the wrong account. I get all that and yes, from that perspective, it’s a simple mistake.

The bigger question is – are brands thinking about who they are hiring for such important decisions and investing in the right level of experience for such? I’m not talking about HR violations like asking what someone’s political preference is, but rather, taking a look at their communications experience and ability to think strategically in the way they present information and engage constituents in conversations. I’d also recommend taking a look at their personal Twitter accounts, blogs and Facebook status updates to get a good sense of cultural fit with your organization and corporate values. I don’t condone asking for Facebook passwords but I do believe that checking a candidate’s public social behavior is a must – especially if they will be a public voice for your brand. In this case, perhaps that “tasteless” individual would have shown such characteristics and not been hired. Would you hire someone that made such a crass comment in an interview? I don’t think so. And if you’re hiring a social media manager, I think checking their social behavior when they’re not “on the clock” is perfectly acceptable.

I’ve watched the evolution of companies finally coming around  to social as an important part of their marketing mix. But I still think it’s a bit of a stepchild – companies want to be social but they still don’t take it seriously enough to put a strategic communications expert behind the curtain. This isn’t the role to throw an inexperienced, entry level executive into managing. Let me ask you this,

Who would you put in front of the microphone to represent your brand at a news conference?

Who do you have in charge behind the scenes to write speeches and content for that person to present?

Those are the same people who should be in charge of your social communications.

It’s been argued that the younger generation should be in charge of social because they “grew up on it” – with one young lady going so far as to say no one under 25 should be a social media manager. I don’t understand this mentality at all. Just because someone knows how to use a tool doesn’t mean they’re good at it. Everyone has a telephone, right? It doesn’t mean they are effective, strategic communicators. I have said this time and time again – putting someone in charge – or even as a team member – of your social should be carefully considered. You are vetting your brand’s voice and putting it in their hands!

Perhaps the KitchenAid executive was just one of a handful of folks who have responsibility for – and access to – updating the brand’s Twitter account. Perhaps they aren’t in charge of producing strategic content, but rather just posting prewritten updates. In any event, brands need to be very careful about who has control of and access to using social networks on their behalf – this is a good lesson that anything they say or write – even a “simple mistake” – can come across as your brand’s voice, and reflect on much more, such as political views, religious beliefs and other stances best left out of the corporate environment. (Not to mention, if they’re this tasteless, do you really want them in charge of your creative communications ideas?)

How do you manage your social accounts? Do you vet who has access and participation rights? How deep do you go in the HR process to check their online behavior before hiring them?



2 thoughts on “Vetting Your Brand’s Voice – a Lesson from KitchenAid

  1. I can’t tell you how many times I’m halfway through a hilarious (to me anyway) tweet before I delete it and decide “nevermind” because I’m not sure if it would fit with my professional image. Even if it’s from a personal twitter or Facebook page! When I owned my own company I might push the envelope a bit more, but now that I work at the senior executive position in a national company, I’m extra careful.

  2. For those of us who manager or have access to multiple accounts, we’ve all sent out messages under the wrong account. Or maybe I’m the only one willing to admit it. 

    And that’s what makes this occurrence different from past Twitter mishaps from the likes of Entenmanns or Kenneth Cole. In those cases, the message was intended and offensive. KitchenAid’s was a mistake. 

    But the bigger issue comes to the person who sent the message out. They meant to send that out from a personal account, which should be equally troubling for the brand. 

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