How to apologize like a boss (unless you’re Kenneth Cole)

Tyler HurstValley PR Blog3 Comments

So, this happened yesterday:

Wow. Pretty insensitive, yeah? I see how he could have thought that was funny, and I’m sure I’ve made jokes about Egypt, but it’s still too soon. Anyway, thousands of people called him out on Twitter, which lead to an apology of sorts:

Except that’s not really an apology, but more a half-assed effort made in hope this will all just go away. And it totally was your intention to make light of it and you included the #Cairo hashtag so people would see it.

But we shouldn’t assume he’s some monster just based on one tweet, right? I mean, it’s far more important how he reacts to the public outcry and somehow redeems himself, correct?

But instead, he issued another apology attempt:

Except that isn’t an apology, either. Here’s a breakdown of where he went wrong and what he could do right.

“I apologize to everyone who was offended…”

Nope. You can’t apologize by saying “I apologize.” You apologize by saying you’re sorry or my bad or something along those lines. By instead saying you apologize, you’re either shirking your responsibility toward the matter or lying.

You should be apologizing to the people you made light of, Kenny. Don’t apologize to us whiney social media types, say you’re sorry to the goddamn Egyptians for being a jerk.

“…insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt.”

Stop lying, Kenny. I bet the tweet sounded funny in your head, right? Didn’t it? If it did, just say that. “Everyone, I’m sorry for making light of the Egypt uprising. My tweet this morning sounded funny in my head, but you’ve corrected me…” and so on. Or maybe it didn’t sound funny in your head and you are just a monster. That’s okay. You do make some nice clothes and we’ll trust you more if you are honest (I wish I was kidding).

“I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues…”

Nobody cares. At all. This reminds me of the “I can’t be racist! I have non-white friends!” excuse that too many racists use. And no, you’ve dedicated your life to being a really great fashion designer, because that’s all I ever see you do anything with. I don’t mean to judge, but…well, actually, yes I do. Shut up.

“…in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”

Maybe a little “thank you for pointing this out to me” or “after reading your rants, I realize you were right and I was wrong”, yeah? Hindsight? It’s not like you thought it through and reconsidered. Twitter and Facebook blew you up, dude.

Also…”poorly timed?” Can you think of an appropriate time to make light of a bloody revolution? It’s always too soon to use a negative incident to sell material crap. Always too soon.

And just say Egypt. Don’t waste our damn time with “a nation liberating themselves against oppression.” We know you mean Egypt. Just say that.

Talk like a real person. Say you’re sorry like a friend would. Own up to your mistakes. If you miss the funny mark, just say that. We’re smarter than you think.

It’s almost never about what you do. It’s about how you react.

Enjoy @KennethColePR beforewhile they go too far.

Update: this picture LOOKS legit. But is it for real?

Likely Photoshopped.

Tyler HurstHow to apologize like a boss (unless you’re Kenneth Cole)

3 Comments on “How to apologize like a boss (unless you’re Kenneth Cole)”

  1. Joe Manna

    Photoshopped. (In reference to the last image.)

    I agree – it seems like a weak attempt at an apology. Assuming he is genuine, these status updates don’t completely reflect it.

    I liked your analysis of it and supported it with alternative, better examples he could have used.


  2. Claire

    While Kenneth Cole’s social media blunder is just that, a poorly-timed, ill-considered blunder, I can’t let your comment about him:

    “This reminds me of the ‘I can’t be racist! I have non-white friends!’ excuse that too many racists use. And no, you’ve dedicated your life to being a really great fashion designer, because that’s all I ever see you do anything with.”

    stand unchallenged.

    Perhaps you need to have been a New Yorker in the ’80s, or tuned in for the last 25+ years, to appreciate just what Kenneth Cole has accomplished for AIDS and homelessness. His original ad campaigns were starkly black-and-white, smart, funny, snarky before that word was ever in the vernacular. They were highly anticipated, and hugely successful in raising awareness while also selling shoes.

    Apart from his social conscience advertising, his Imelda Marcos ad is still one of the funniest I’ve ever seen (no matter how much you can roll your eyes at some of the lame puns of later efforts).

    He also put his money where his mouth was: donating funds and his own time and resources, getting everyone else to do the same, and continuing his efforts long after it was “trendy” to do so.

    He made a misstep with this Cairo post, and is now making efforts to correct the situation. Critiquing his PR for this blog is one thing, but let’s not tar and feather the man, and completely disregard all the good he’s done up to now for this one gaffe.

    And let’s remember to investigate the facts before blithely dismissing him as a mere fashion designer simply because that’s your sole impression or knowledge of him.

    Here are a few key points from

    “Kenneth Cole’s marketing savvy has earned the Company a renown image as a forerunner of fashion and trends. His controversial advertising campaign has garnered worldwide attention for its humor and social consciousness. In 1985, Kenneth Cole was the first member of the fashion community to take a public stand in the fight against AIDS. Since then, he has continued to support the global fight through both personal and corporate initiatives including the dedication of an ongoing portion of marketing budget to public awareness initiatives. Cole continues to serve as a National Board Member of both AmFAR: The American Foundation for AIDS Research since 1985 and the HELP U.S.A. Homeless project since its inception in 1987.

    Kenneth Cole has been recognized for his design and business talents as well as for his philanthropic involvement. The Creative Coalition honored Kenneth with their Spotlight Award for dedication to increasing public awareness; Amnesty International honored Kenneth Cole with their 1998 Media Spotlight Award. Kenneth was simultaneously chosen as Humanitarian of the Year by Divine Design and the CFDA presented their Award for Humanitarian Excellence to Kenneth Cole in 1996. Kenneth Cole has been awarded the Extraordinary Voice Award by Mother’s Voices for his continued efforts in AIDS awareness. Cole was recipient of the Council on Foundations 1996 Humanitarian Leadership award. Kenneth Cole has received the footwear industry’s highest honor as Footwear News’ Person of The Year”. Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY) honored Kenneth Cole with The Fashion Medal of Honor Award at their 1997 Gala.

    Every year since Kenneth Cole Productions went public in June of 1994, Kenneth Cole Productions has been on Forbes’ annual list of the World’s 200 Best Small Companies in America. In addition, each year as a public company, Kenneth Cole Productions is named on Business Week’s list of Top Hot Growth Companies.

    Kenneth Cole Productions continues to declare ‘What you stand for is more important than what you stand in . . . .'”

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