It wouldn’t be an average week without reporting on the outrageously offensive social media antics of the rich and famous. By now, you’ve all heard of Vogue editor Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis questionable decision to post an Instagram photo of a Paris homeless woman reading Vogue magazine. von Thurn und Taxis Instagram post included a caption even more offensive than the photo: “Paris is full of surprises… and @voguemagazine readers even in unexpected corners.”

 

Not surprisingly, Instagram users weren’t amused by her post, and they quickly lashed out at the editor. What followed was a predictable public relations disaster that could’ve been prevented. At the very least, the damage could’ve been lessened had she apologized immediately, which, like many out-of-touch people of affluence, she did not.

 

We’ve seen this before. During the Egypt uprising of 2011, fashion icon Kenneth Cole made the disastrous decision to compare the uprising to the collective excitement caused by the release of his spring fashion line.

 

Kenneth Cole's infamous Egypt tweet caused an immediate backlash to the Kenneth Cole brand.

Kenneth Cole’s infamous Egypt tweet caused an immediate harm to the Kenneth Cole brand. (Twitter.com)

There’s no greater asset to an organization than reputation. When reputation is badly damaged, businesses suffer; when reputation is damaged beyond repair, businesses close. Vogue, of course, won’t shut down due to an insensitive Instagram post. However, the weight of the offense shouldn’t be disregarded. It will be months before the public sees a Vogue magazine cover without thinking of von Thurne und Taxis’ gaffe.

 

Like Kenneth Cole’s insensitive tweet about Egypt, the Instagram post represents not the individual but the brand. To the public, a Vogue editor’s behavior is Vogue’s behavior. They’re inseparable in the eye of the public. Her post wasn’t meant to cause harm, but it did cause harm to the Vogue brand. When Instagram users expressed their distaste for the post, Thurne’s reaction was unapologetic — her first mistake. She then waited a full day to apologize — her second mistake.

 

She eventually did apologize the next day, but by then, the harm had been done. By waiting a full day to recognize the harm she’d done, the harm manifested into a full-blown crisis. Any organization in the midst of a crisis must face it immediately. Apologizes aren’t always in order in the beginning of a crisis, but recognition of the crisis is a must. When reputation is on the line, there is zero room for error.

 

Were you offended by von Thurne und Taxis’ Instagram post? How do you think she should’ve responded to the criticism? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, or tweet me @nataliepetitto.