Twitter is a powerful tool for communicators that can take your brand to new heights, but in the wrong hands it can be a terrible weapon that can lead to a PR disaster. A poorly worded tweet sent out in the heat of the moment or a tasteless comment by someone who thinks they’re being clever can do a lot of damage to your brand.
Here is a brief list of some classic Twitter mistakes that could have been avoided:
- Justine Sacco will be long remembered in annals of bad PR for her bad AIDS joke. Her job at IAC was over before her plane even landed, and her tweet sparked worldwide outrage.
- Kenneth Cole tried to spin demonstrations in Cairo as an attempt to promote their clothing line.
- The New York Police Department’s #myNYPD campaign was an attempt to encourage the public to share interactions with New York’s Finest. What followed was a series of tweets of officers fighting with Occupy Wall Street protestors, engaging in rough arrests and even shooting a dog.
In examining these and other examples of tweets gone wrong, it’s worth thinking about just how your tweet could lead to a crisis. Here are the most common errors:
- Not knowing your audience: Always be thinking about who is going to read your message. Never assume they’re all friends who will see things your way or get your brand of humor.
- Being tone deaf: Be sensitive to issues and topics that can stir emotion, such as deaths, chronic illnesses or diseases, and natural or manmade disasters.
- Making inappropriate comments about race, gender, sexuality or religion: This never ends well. Never.
- Getting into arguments on Twitter: As a general rule, never get into an argument on any form of social media. Nobody wins and nobody looks good in the process. As Mark Twain once said, “Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
To learn more about handling a crisis on social media, join PR News for the Crisis Management Boot Camp, taking place on Sept. 15 in New York City.
Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell