The Golden Rule In PR

As a communications professional, it’s always interesting to see the latest faux pas – not to make fun or think that I’m better (I’ve no doubt had my share of mistakes to own up to) – but to get a reminder that you are never off the record.

What is to be learned from Justine Sacco’s tweet?

First, it really is a good idea to live the Golden Rule. We all know one or two people that just don’t have the mean bone, but the rest of us are human, and we err. Keep striving to become truly nice, and in the meantime follow the advice of Thumper’s mom: “If you can’t say anything nice, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.”

Second, if you don’t learn from the first point, at least remember that Twitter is not Snapchat. Transparency is an important buzzword for corporations and a goal for individuals, but let’s not take it so far that we have to hang out all our dirty laundry.  It’s still a good idea to put your best foot forward.

Third, apologies are a good thing. I’m impressed with Justine’s. She and her employer parted ways, but I hope that she picks herself up and moves on.

It gets even more interesting for me when you consider that wireless Internet was probably available on her flight and then notice that in-flight wifi provider Gogo did indeed jump into the story. In PR we are always looking for connections, trends and news items that we can hitch our clients to and that’s what Gogo did. But that backfired too.

Gogo took the opportunity to promote its service by saying essentially that you should use inflight wifi so you aren’t surprised 12 hours later that your tweet went viral. Gogo initially defended its tweet to those who criticized them for capitalizing on Justine’s mishap, but then they apologized too, admitting that their policy is to not “engage those types of borderline topics to raise some activity in social media. Our policy is pretty simple: to try to keep people informed or connected in-flight. It’s more of a customer-care operation than to try to stir the pot.”

(And the irony is not lost on me that I may in fact be doing the same type of thing by writing this post. Hopefully, we can all view this as analysis, rather than promotion.)

So the last lesson is to know whether or not you have a “stir the pot” kind of client. Some believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Others, usually depending on their industry, regulations, client confidentiality or just their culture, will want to stay out of any controversy. What is your company’s social media policy?