September 7, 2010

A tweet can cost you plenty

Posted in current events, Social Life, social media, Work-Life at 3:17 pm by Jennifer

Love it or hate it, Twitter is steadily gaining in popularity and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Celebrities, athletes, CEO’s and everyone in between are communicating these days in short sentences, but 140 characters is still enough to get into big trouble.

Professional athlete Stephanie Rice may have won big at the Olympics, but when she tweeted an offensive statement during a heated rugby match she immediately experienced international backlash. Despite making a public apology and taking down the offending tweet, Jaguar soon dropped their endorsement of Stephanie.

Jaguar spokesman Mark Eedle released the following statement on the issue; “We have terminated our agreement with her. It’s to do with how we want to associate our brand and unfortunately this … is not an association we want to have going forward.” (Source: AP)

While I firmly believe that in many instances a person’s private life should remain private and outside the realm of corporate/public scrutiny, when you enter into certain careers or accept corporate endorsements you accept the terms and the level of public accountability that come with it. Tiger Woods is another example of companies making a judgment call and ending endorsements based on the personal life of their spokesperson – and he lost a lot more than his wife over his scandal. Stephanie may not have meant to offend anyone and chose her words in the heat of the moment, but the result is a lesson for all of us.

A few lessons learnt;

  • It’s good practice to brief your clients in social media usage and etiquette, even as a refresher. People have varying levels of experience in understanding new mediums of communication.
  • If your company or client sponsors and/or uses individuals as spokespeople, they are linked to your brand. It’s important to know what they are saying/doing in the public eye as well as messages they are sharing through their public profiles.
  • When in doubt, don’t post it. While you can “remove” things there is always an online trail, and you don’t know who may have seen the information before you had a change of heart.
  • Offensive, racist or derogatory words? I’m of the opinion they’re never okay no matter the context.

 Do you think Jaguar was justified in terminating their endorsement over her tweet?

 -BB

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2 Comments »

  1. John said,

    It’s absolutely possible to make a mess of things.

    Even though the case of Stephanie Rice is somewhat obvious — almost like standing in the middle of a room full of 8952* random people with a megaphone and shouting the most offensive thing possible, as loud as possible — it’s easy to do something with the best of intentions but as soon as one person gets the impression that there is a negative motive behind it a rolling stone effect takes place and the herd mentality takes over.

    * = number of twitter followers as at 09/08/2010

    • I agree that sometimes things can be taken out of context online, and then it’s the responsibility of the individual who made the statement to clarify their position. Once that happens, people usually are reasonable and understand there was a miscommunication.

      But – there are certain words and language that no matter how you want to portray it after the fact are offensive. It’s important to be aware of the “social” aspect of social media and choose your words carefully.


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