Making a Bad Decision Worse in Minutes

The Power of Social Media: Making a Bad Decision Worse in Minutes (and How to Repair Your Wrongs)

It’s no secret that the Internet – and social media specifically – has made it extremely easy to share information of any kind with both friends and strangers.  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., are thus ideal venues for PR professionals to update their audiences on the latest happenings with their clients. However, with anyone being able to share almost any information at anytime, we often follow certain guidelines when posting – and have recommended guidelines clients should require their clients to follow to ensure nothing they post comes back to bite them.

Kelly Blazek, a communication professional from Cleveland who also ran the Cleveland Job Board for years, either doesn’t have any policies in place or doesn’t quite recognize the occasionally painful power of social media.  As reported in numerous media late last month, Blazek responded very harshly to a young job seeker’s request to connect on LinkedIn:

“Apparently you have heard that I produce a Job Bank, and decided it would be stunningly helpful for your career prospects if I shared my 960+ LinkedIn connections with you — a total stranger who has nothing to offer me. Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky.”

Within a few minutes, the job seeker had posted to, an online image posting service, and from there, the email went viral, was picked up by media outlets around the country, and discussed endlessly by readers as well as on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets.

Blazek immediately closed her social media accounts and sent an apology letter (smartly) to the Cleveland Plain Dealer,  “In my harsh reply notes, I lost my perspective about how to help, and I also lost sight of kindness, which is why I started the Job Bank listings in the first place. The note I sent to Diana was rude, unwelcoming, unprofessional and wrong.”

An apology was a good step, in my opinion. But as a communications professional, she should have thought first about how her rant could be shared across the globe within seconds, and the impact that might have on her career.  Lesson learned? I think so.


Social Media Guidelines Revisited

Let’s revisit some basic social media guidelines I posted earlier last year for helping companies establish social media policies, with a couple others thrown in after Blazek’s example.  Maybe they’ll keep another communications professional – or their clients – from suffering the same backlash Blazek just went through.

1.    Be Yourself: On your main social media page (whether Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or a personal blog), make it clear to your readers that the views you express are yours alone and that they do not necessarily reflect the views of your company.

2.     Be Confidential: Avoid disclosing any information that is confidential or proprietary to the company or to any third party that has disclosed information to your company.

3.    Be Respectful: Since your Twitter or Facebook account – or blog – is a public space, be as respectful to the company, its employees, its customers, its partners and affiliates, and others (including competitors) as the company itself endeavors to be. If you start to get negative feedback, count to 10 before responding. Consult your company’s PR/marketing team to help determine the best way to continue the discussion, if at all.

4.     Be Mindful: Know that as with any coverage, your company is watching for and tracking any mention. They will see your posts. Limit social media while at work to posts and comments related to work as part of an intelligent, strategically directed social media campaign.  Even more important, if you have any doubt about whether to Tweet or post something on Facebook, have someone you trust look at it first!!

5. Be Smart: Know that anything you post online at any time can be quickly shared with anyone. If you’re upset, take a deep breath and rethink any retort.  If you’re still upset, write up what you’d really like to say and then hit delete.

6. Be Apologetic: If you do post or even email something you later regret, be prepared to apologize. While some might feel that you are just sorry for being caught, others will recognize that you are contrite and genuine in your apology, which can make up for some of the damage you might have caused. At least Blazek got one thing right.