Are you in the midst of a breaking crisis? Call +1 (514) 458-7101

The Crisis Intelligence Blog

DKNY: The Perfect Example of How to Avoid a Social Media Crisis

27 Feb

fire-extinguisherDKNY recently found themselves in an online situation that very well could have gone viral, creating a potential crisis for the brand. However, it didn’t. Instead, DKNY handled the situation promptly, directly, responsibly, sincerely, honestly, sympathetically and strategically – and wham! Crisis averted. So much so, in fact, that there was nothing more anybody could say on the matter other than “Go DKNY, you rock!”

And that’s how it’s done, ladies and gentlemen!

I often elaborate on, and explore, the differences between a social media issue and a social media crisis. More often than not, what ends up developing into a crisis could have been avoided, had the brand addressed and dealt with the issue while it was still in the “issues” phase. The fact that so many fires can easily be avoided by evaluating the risks, identifying the red flags and potential of the issue on-hand, and by responding appropriately, is a reason in itself why every company out there needs to be prepared with a proper  crisis management plan adapted for today’s realities, as well as proper training for the brand’s executives, frontline employees and crisis management teams.

Because both posts explain within themselves the potential threat and the reason why this issue was quickly resolved and never escalated further, I need not post more than the two screenshots below. Read both the initial provocation and the excellent reply by DKNY, and then ask yourself the following:

If faced with a similar situation, are you confident that your team would:

a) Be one of the first to become aware of the situation, in real-time?
b) Be able to extinguish this potential fire before it began to go viral, quickly escalating into a potential crisis?

The DKNY social media issue that never escalated

Brandon Stanton, of Humans of New York, posted the following to his Facebook Fan page:


Within a few short hours, DKNY posted the following post to their Facebook fan page:


Crisis well-averted, DKNY, props to you and your team! Now how bout you? Are you confident that your team is able to avert a social media crisis by promptly and appropriately responding to an online issue or problem?

Update: Unfortunately, the attacks continued for DKNY, though not for the “stolen picture” incident, but rather for their lack of donating the full 100K to the YMCA. Read my update on this issue and discover what to do when the court of public opinion becomes the bully.

Tags: ,

9 Responses to “DKNY: The Perfect Example of How to Avoid a Social Media Crisis”

  1. Sam February 28, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Umm…not quite sure you can consider this "crisis averted."

    • Melissa Agnes February 28, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      Why is that?

      • Guest March 1, 2013 at 10:45 am #

        Have you been to DKNY's facebook page?

        • Melissa Agnes March 1, 2013 at 11:26 am #

          I have and I'll consider publishing a follow-up to this post.

  2. Emily Skeels March 4, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    I disagree. DKNY only donated 1/4 of what Humans of New York suggested. We know DKNY can afford the full $100,000 in donations to the Brooklyn YMCA, but they made a horrible choice in not donating the full amount. Humans of New York then raised the money themselves through their Facebook/Tumblr fans (which DID go viral). Now Humans of New York is on the cover of NYC's Metro "A picture is worth $100K." DKNY's first mistake was to offer only $15,000 for 300 professional photographs. What were they thinking low-balling a famous photographer like that?

    • Melissa Agnes March 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Hi Emily,

      It’s awesome that Humans of New York raised such a great donation for the YMCA. They really used this situation for a positive cause and I applaud them.

      As for DKNY, the fact that the whole situation was a mistake/misunderstanding, that they fixed the error immediately and responded apologetically and very sincerely, AND that they made any donation at all was really well done and showed the true sincerity of the brand and rectified the entire situation. The outcry from the people that the 100K donation suggestion was not met in its entirety is a little ridiculous considering all of the above. What people should be thankful for is that, out of this situation the YMCA (which had no part in the situation at all) gained in receiving a $100,000 donation out of it all.

      None of this lessens the fact that DKNY’s response to the issue was beautifully executed and communicated.

      Brands can’t begin to let themselves be bullied by the public when they’ve already corrected the situation at hand, in such a sincere and compassionate way.

  3. Rui March 20, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    Erm…are you either a massive fan of DKNY or their PR agency?! I don’t know how you could call this a ‘crisis averted’ and then praise them. They spent many, MANY hours not posting a single update anywhere and pretty much every one of their pages was filled with anti DKNY postings. Even now, their Facebook page is being filled with anti DKNY sentiment.

    On top of this, the reason they were apologetic and sincere was because they were caught out! Please don’t tell me you actually believe they would have taken those photos down of their own accord?

    I’d say at most, you can describe this whole situation as ‘How to barely avoid a crisis whilst damaging your online brand image substantially for quite a long time’. You’re seriously not telling me that a company the size and experience of DKNY really did this out of ‘true sincerity’ after trying to rip off the photographer so badly? No one is more apologetic than when they get caught out. And I need to point out that their social media team were certainly NOT the first to notice this situation. This is more of an example of how NOT to do social media rather than a good example of crisis aversion.

    I notice in your follow up post there’s a lot of talk of them being punished for rectifying things in a charitable way but is that surely not what they SHOULD be doing as a bare minimum? Plenty of companies do this on a very regular basis anyway and don’t court any extra publicity for it. But then again, plenty of companies don’t make extremely stupid mistakes that put them in a position where they have to grovel their way out anyway.

    • Melissa Agnes March 20, 2013 at 8:55 am #

      I am not a “massive fan”, nor am I on their PR or crisis management team. I’m also not going to argue with you about this. We’ll have to agree to disagree. I stand by my post from a crisis communications standpoint and my follow-up post to this one explains my stand on the backlash that came from the public.

      Only correction I’d like to make: It did not take them “many, MANY hours” to respond, it took them 4 hours. It’s not what I would recommend as a “best practice”, but it is a good starting point to be built upon in their online crisis management plan, after the issue is over.

      I appreciate you taking the time to voice your opinion here on my blog, and I understand that you aren’t the only one who feels the way you do. It’s an interesting case this one, but at this point, it comes down to personal opinion on whether you think DKNY is wrong or being excessively bullied by the public.

  4. andreas andreou June 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi Melissa,
    my opinion is that the company should make more.In the challenge of the donation could give it all.
    After some actions could help but I thing they lose time.This make the sence that the company avoid to
    respond-response to the challenge.

Leave a Reply