New Technologies, New Controversies

As Twitter continues to evolve as a means of personal and professional communication, tweeters are struggling to find a balance between these two worlds. Many public relations professionals, and even job-seeking students, have created two accounts – one public and one private. Although this distinction is meant to avoid crisis and controversy, recent examples have demonstrated that this is easier said than done.

In February, the Red Cross made headlines when a personal tweet about #gettngslizzerd was accidentally posted on the company’s account and was instantly available to over 250,000 followers worldwide.  The company responded with: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

With acknowledgement and a sense of humor, the incident resulted in increased interest and donations, according to the organization. Dogfish Head, the company mentioned in the tweet, even benefitted from the fortuitous publicity. Although the employee and the Red Cross emerged favorably from the mishap, others are not so lucky.

Earlier today, this tweet appeared on Chrysler’s account: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive.” The company apologized for the PR blunder, which was apparently tweeted by an employee of its social media agency. Said employee has already been fired. I’m interested to see the public’s perception of Chrysler’s response, as it is a sharp contrast to the Red Cross.

My advice: don’t post negative or controversial tweets in the first place, especially if it relates to your employer or client. Even if these posts only appear on your personal account, they are still tied to your name and in turn, tied to your employer, clients and associations. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.

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March 2011

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