Take Twitter Seriously

Social media has continually gained prevalence in the lives of people around the world. Increasingly, it is a place for people to rant and joke. People cuss, say mean things, get into fights, vent, complain or post whatever comes to mind. A lot of people don’t realize the seriousness of what’s posted on social media. This applies to every social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, Vine, Twitter, etc. It’s vitally important for you to carefully think through the consequences of what you post.

I would argue that Twitter one of the most dangerous when it comes to consequences. Why? Yes, you can get in trouble no matter the platform, but Twitter is unique in that anyone can see what you post, unless you are private. It is not like other platforms where you typically post things that only a private network can view. When you post something on Twitter, it is out there for the entire world to see.

Perhaps you aren’t taking me seriously. Let me give you two examples. According to The New York Times, Dutch police recently arrested at 14-year-old girl because of a tweet. What could a young girl have possibly done that was so bad on Twitter? As you can see in the screen shot, she threatened American Airlines in a tweet posing as someone from a well-known terrorist group. As far as anyone knows, she is not connected with Al Qaida. The tweet was meant as a joke, but American Airlines does not take these jokes lightly. She learned that lesson the hard way.

Sadly, young people are not the only ones who have made this mistake. In another recent incident, a public relations professional tweeted a rather racist joke before boarding a plane to Africa. You can see in the picture what she posted. According to reporter Ashley Southall, before getting fired Sacco worked as the communication director of InterActiveCorp (IAC). This tweet started a wildfire of fury on Twitter, resulting in her dismissal from the company before the plane even landed in Africa.

Shortly after this tweet, IAC responded by sending out the statement, “This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC. Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.”

It does not matter who you are or what your job, it is vital to be wise in your posts on social media. BBC News reporter Bill Thompson wrote an article titled “Be careful what you tweet.” In it he explained that social media has created a space where people feel free to fire quick responses, a space that encourages informality. People often use it for conversations that were previously private. I agree with his point. I think social media platforms have given people a feeling of freedom because they’re sitting behind a computer screen. Honestly, I’ve been tempted to feel more safe saying something rude on Facebook or Twitter because I am not saying it face-to-face.

What we all need to understand is that being online doesn’t negate the consequences of unwise decisions. Writer Joel Lee wrote a helpful article listing five ways Twitter can get you in trouble. He listed slander, self-incrimination, inappropriate jokes, threats and rule breaking as terrible ideas. I agree with everything he had to say, but these are not the only posts that can get you in trouble.

Especially in public relations, where we are representatives of the company or client, it is even more important because the entire company’s reputation is at stake. At all my internships, I haven’t had free reign on social media. I could choose to get upset and see it as them not trusting me, but this will be the same whether I am an intern or a full-time employee. Having someone else double-check the posts gives an extra level of security to the company reputation. It allows PR professionals to hold one another accountable, catch any mistakes and avoid possible disasters. As a rule of thumb, regardless of who you are or where you’re posting, always run it through what I call “the consequence test.” Think about the repercussions of what you’re about to post. Ask yourself if it will offend anyone. Use good judgment. If you’re unsure about something, ask another persons opinion. At the end of the day, take Twitter and every other platform seriously. Choices, even on social media, have consequences.



The Harsh Reality of Brand Reputation

ReputationRecently, I had a curious experience involving a Mastiff and Alzheimer’s disease. Before I confuse you, let me explain. I am currently the communications intern at the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Dallas. One of the ladies involved in the nonprofit asked our permission to take a picture of her beautiful Mastiff, Campbell, with our Alzheimer’s Association logo in the background. She hopes that country artist Glenn Campbell will sign it and then she can auction it off, donating the proceeds to the nonprofit. Regardless of the outcome, this experience sparked a conversation between my boss and I about brand reputation.

Why is it important?

I think people and brands have a lot in common when it comes to reputation. In both cases, success is tied to a good reputation. In the same way, a bad reputation can cost everything. I would argue that reputation, whether for brands or for people, takes constant work. At the same time, I argue that reputation is something that, when tarnished, is almost impossible to repair. Blogger Cara Pring shared a quote from Benjamin Franklin that captures my thoughts exactly. He said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.” She warned that it’s easier to protect than to repair a brand’s reputation. 

Why should you care that a brand is so difficult, if not impossible, to repair? In addition to the frustration of fixing a reputation, Author Sam Huleatt explained that a brand is increasingly becoming the most important part of a company. Huleatt says this is due to brands becoming more a means of personal identification. This makes sense. Just think about all the different ways we identify ourselves through brands and products. I am proud to drink Dr. Pepper. The organization even makes shirts with the saying “I’m a Pepper” across the front. In the same way, we also identify ourselves by what brands we don’t associate with.

Therefore, if a brand is not only the most important part of an organization but its reputation is nearly impossible to repair once damaged, it is imperative to protect it in all circumstances. Remember that reputation is in the mind. Reputation is all about perceptions. The crisis public relations agency, the Red Banyon Group, made an excellent point: “Perception is reality, especially when it comes to your company’s image.So, what can you do?

1. Protect

First, it is important to realize that everything your company produces and does, including the actions of employees and representatives, is a reflection of the brand. Therefore, it is important to protect your brand’s reputation in every area. One way you can protect brand reputation is by protecting the brand identity. Novagraaf, an international patent and trademark consultancy, recommends several legal avenues of protection such as trademark, copyright, design and logo protection.

2. Communicate

Another way to protect your brand reputation is by making sure that everyone in a company or representing a brand is aware of the desired image. Pring suggested that everyone, from the very top to the very bottom, needs to understand the policies and guidelines and abide by them at all times.

3. Be Prepared

The last recommendation I’d make is being prepared for the worst. This world is filled with unexpected moments and events outside of our control. Therefore, just like my brothers learned in Boy Scouts, it is always good to be prepared. Being prepared includes protecting in case of possibilities. This means asking the tough questions and coming up with a plan, typically called crisis communications plans. Think of these crisis plans as reputation insurance. Heather Rast gave an excellent reminder that planning prepares you to respond instead of simply react. Coming up with the solution to the problem before the problem occurs is the best way to protect a brand’s reputation.

In public relations, as representatives for companies and brands, this should be our MO. If a brand’s reputation crumbles, we are the ones who get to pick up the pieces.  Remember how I said that people and brands are a lot similar in this area? Take a moment and consider what you do to protect your reputation. What would you do to keep your reputation from falling apart? What would you do to repair it? Consider your answers and ask yourself if they’d be applicable to the brand or company you represent. Right there is a great start to a crisis communications plan.