When you tweet something about work that you shouldn’t have, or from the wrong account and it gets picked up, you want the ground to swallow you up. It’s awful, and the chronicles of social media crises are full of heads on pikestaffs.
But what feels like a full-on social media crisis at the time, often turns out to be a storm in a teacup a few days later, with only a few red faces to show for it. It’s one of the ‘mishap’ scenarios described in a great piece of guidance from New Zealand (hat tip: Craig Thomler) which they deem the more easily fixable.
In a training course on Monday, we gave participants three ‘crisis’ scenarios, and got them to share what their handling strategy would be for each. The one that sparked the most debate was a version of this one:
A junior communications officer has been tweeting live coverage of a ceremony taking place, at which national VIPs are present, including a Cabinet Minister and senior managers. During the sombre event, thinking they are tweeting from a personal account, the officer accidentally tweets a picture along with the comment “stick a bomb under the lot of them and there’ll be #nomorecuts”, which is widely retweeted.
Assuming you’re responsible for the channel, let me know in the comments or by Twitter (checking you’re logged into the right account first) what you would do:
- in the following few days?
For extra credit, how would your response differ if the account in question was the individual’s own work-related account (where they say in their bio or username where they work), rather than the organisation’s corporate channel?
Not sure there’s a right answer, but I’ll post an update with my thoughts tomorrow.
Thanks for the comments and responses on Twitter – all pretty sound thinking, I’d say. Here’s what my answer would be:
We can conclude a few things here:
- The perpetrator of the offence will have learned a salutory lesson, and will be a wiser and smarter tweeter as a consequence who double checks before posting a controversial opinion (a valuable learning experience)
- This isn’t the right place for humour: this was a sombre ceremony, and a fairly serious mis-tweet
- We need to be transparent about what happened and how we’ll learn from the experience
- We need to respond quickly, ideally within a few minutes but certainly within a couple of hours
- Longer term, we need to avoid similar mis-tweets, which in this case means ensuring people don’t mix accounts in apps like TweetDeck
So, assuming this happened on a corporate account, I’d suggest the team:
- set record straight (including deleting the tweet)
- take some action to reduce the risk of it happening again (not necessarily preventing the original tweeter from ever tweeting again)
“Sorry, a member of our team inappropriately tweeted an offensive personal opinion through this account”
“We’ve removed it, as it’s not the <org>’s view, and we’ll take steps to prevent that kind of mistake happening again”
“Today is really about <sombre ceremony>: [link to coverage/round-up of event]”
If it happened on an individual’s own professional account, the approach would be the same, with a couple of differences:
- distance the professional persona from offensive remark
- promise to learn, making sure you come across as an individual and show a bit of remorse
- be clear this is about foolishness, not self-flagellation
“Sorry, I foolishly tweeted an offensive comment through this account in the heat of the moment. I’ve since removed it.”
“It didn’t reflect my professional view or the view of my employer. I’ve learned a tough lesson and will apply better judgment in future.”