Aurora, a town just outside of Denver, Colorado faced a horrific scene this morning where a gunman, now identified as James Holmes, went into a midnight showing of the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” and shot 71 people, and 12 of them died.  Now, what this boutique did was almost exactly what we saw Kenneth Cole do a few years ago during the Egypt Protest riots with his tweet heard around the world.

However, an online boutique named Celeb Boutique , which is based in the UK, had the following tweet that went viral and got the social media community in an uproar.  Here was the tweet they launched on Twitter related to the #aurora hashtag:

So – the company thought that the hashtag that was being used for this horrific crisis was due to their Aurora inspired dress by Kim Kardashian.  Pretty outrageous and insensitive to the horrible events that happened to the community of Aurora, Colorado.  What was the statement from the boutique?  Well, they said that the people that handle their PR were not US based and had not checked the nature of the Twitter trending hashtag for #aurora.  Several apology tweets followed this statement.

In this day of age for social media and crisis communications, all brands have to be aware of all of the characteristics and attributes related to communication via a particular social media channel.  In addition, monitoring your own brand’s comments, updates, and shares to your audiences is essential – first impressions are made instantly based on what you write and post online.  Was there a blog post or apology statement on their main page?  No – nothing about the crisis appeared on their website.

Many social media and traditional media outlets have reported on this tweet that not only was heard around the world, but it one that really ignited anger and frustration towards the brand for their insensitivity for the current crisis and situation.  For this particular brand – by not doing these items, they really took a huge hit to their reputation and credibility as a brand and company.

Several things we need to point out here to take away as social media and crisis lessons to learn from this particular extension of the bigger Aurora theater crisis.  First, hashtags need to be used to share updates, information, and links with others regarding the crisis – not to be hijacked or used inappropriately.  Second, brands and other high profile individuals who want to voice their opinion on the crisis should do so – but with empathy.  Brian Solis just wrote a great article about empathy and published it on his own personal website.

Lastly, brands who did wrong, like Celeb Boutique has done in this case, need to take responsibility and accountability for their actions and face the consequences of not being proactive in 1) monitoring conversations and updates coming from their social media profiles on various platforms; 2) Being aware of the global events happening in that could translate into trending topics online and 3) do more background research on the PR firm you hire to handle your social media activities to make sure they are qualified professionals and are familiar with the various elements associated with certain social media platforms.

During this time, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the victims and community members of Aurora who had to experience this horrific event.  My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

Best Wishes,