Having working in the realm of politics and government for many years, I’ve experienced countless instances of inappropriate and unnecessary social media comments made by elected officials or political candidates that result in damage to their credibility, the credibility of the party they are a member of, and violates the trust of constituents they represent. People have a high level of expectations for folks involved in politics and government. Every word is over analyzed in an attempt to construe or misconstrue motives, meaning, and intent.
We always tell our elected officials and candidates to hold themselves to a higher standard. As a result of the social media environment we live in, the need for higher standards must be extended to a greater number of professionals.
With the explosion of viral digital outrage, executives, employees, and members of high profile organizations have also come under scrutiny. The same negative effects occur – damaging the brand, the reputation of the company/organization, the goodwill of the hard working associates/employees of the organization, and violates the trust of loyal customers/members.
A dean at Yale who was placed on leave after she left online reviews recommending a restaurant for “white trash” customers and describing movie theater workers as “barely educated morons” has left her position permanently, a college official said.
Online critiquing shouldn’t be discouraged. However, businesses and organizations should encourage respectful, rational, thoughtful thoughtful, and constructive commentary from individuals, who by virtue of their employment or membership, represent the organization in their public and private lives.
No one is immune to impulsive and reactionary negativity as the result of a bad experience at a restaurant, post office, or airport. Every organization will have individuals who can’t help themselves. Organizations should consider employing or contracting with an entity that can review and monitor public comments by their employees and/or officers.
Situations like the above referenced Yale dean’s are preventable. The first step is self control. If self control fails, the only logical step is for someone else to be available to review and intervene.
When the best interests of your organization are at stake, there should be a high level of value placed on your organization’s ability to identify vulnerabilities and address them before viral digital outrage occurs.
Whether or not this is a service provided by public relations firms or not, it should be. Everyone with a social media account is susceptible to viral digital outrage, and it requires a new way of thinking for businesses and organizations whose personnel used to think they were private citizens.