I’m frequently asked why I don’t name names when addressing bad marketing / PR practices. The answer is usually in part because this person may have mitigated what seems like bad conduct elsewhere and I may just not have found it or I see no reason to call someone out for an innocent blunder (at least what I consider, IMHO, to be a blunder).
Usually it’s something I’ve seen elsewhere, to some degree or another, but there’s always one particular incident that stands out and I base the post on that, without calling anyone out.
That’s not a strict policy.
It’s all case by case, and will continue to be.
But today we break the 4th wall and go deeper than ever.
Why…because when it’s obviously not innocent, obviously offensive, resorts to ad hominem attacks, and is against someone I know and trust (who I know wouldn’t deserve such conduct) it’s time to point out the line in the sand that’s been crossed…and to do so with gusto, if at all possible.
That it also happens to be bad PR and is just plain ol’ shi#y, just makes it all the more fun.
If you’d like a soundtrack with this post, try this….play it loud…
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Midday yesterday, a number of the PR Pros I know began receiving @ messages from a Matt Whittier (@MattBWhittier) promoting internships at his company.
I may have politely replied but for the most part I ignored the information since I’m not an instructor and am not seeking an internship.
As it turned out Mr. Whittier had sent out this tweet 85 times (I’m not sure how many duplicates were in there) within approximately an hour. I’m not shy about talking on twitter but even I’m not that kind of chatty.
Seizing upon this opportunity to teach a valuable lesson, our own TJ Dietderich pointed out to the students in the chat what isn’t accepted SM conduct.
Because really, the posts were excessive, nearly bot-like. Worthwhile here to note that TJ also happens to be the Social Media Coordinator at a well respected local agency…one that’s an “independent division of Ruder Finn, the 12th largest PR agency in the nation, and the largest private public relations firm in New York City.”
So it’s a safe guess she knows her shiitake from her shinola when it comes to Social Media.
Then, came the response from Mr. Whittier:
Let’s break this down….
- “Most of the people were thankful” — I doubt this, but it’s entirely possible.
- “Enjoy your day” — quite polite.
- “btw – do YOU have a job?” — Ummm, yeah, as previously mentioned…she’s paid and trained to do what you’re doing badly.
- And while we’re at it Mr. Whittier (and I’m pretty sure we’re going there anyway)…since you seem to be the SM guru at your company, how’s that LinkedIn profile coming? Are you going to have more than 1 connection soon? Pick your chin up, you opened the door.
While up to this point the line had only been stepped on…the next post takes a big flying leap over it…
Seriously Mr. Whittier — that’s the public face you want to put on your company (and no, unlike you, I’m not asking about your avatar)? That’s what you want your clients, your employees, employers, co-workers and/or investors to see if they ever ask themselves, “Let’s see what Matt’s up to on Twitter? How is he representing us?” I’m all for using twitter to vent (understatement of the year)….but when you drag others into it by association it’s a whole different game.
We’ll go further into this discussion in a bit, because if you (not you Mr. Whittier, I’m talking to the other readers now) think this was weird…let’s go back a few minutes in time and look at a post Mr. Whittier had made just moments earlier.
Wow….does everyone see what just happened here. Let’s review
- Minute 1-60 — Mr. Whittier inundates all the flacks he can find with information about the internships.
- A few minutes later — Mr. Whittier apologizes for offending people, supposedly realizing he’s made a mistake. And 2 quick tangents on this:
- We’re allowed to make mistakes, learn from them and move on. Had it ended here, there would have been no brouhaha at all.
- For Pete’s (not me, FB friends) sake — I’m very happy that you believe in a higher power…Saying it after an apology, and then following it up with attacks as you did offends me generally. It’s as if you don’t even believe your own apology but slap on the ‘God’ sticker so people will go along with it. Tsk Tsk.
- A few minutes after this apology….we get the bats@!t crazy attacks on Ms. Dietderich
To finish the story before getting into the PR discussion….I did feel the need to chime in at this point.
I have no problem with debate, discussion, dialog….you want to go after a colleague intellectualy, get on with it, I’ll very possibly help. You wanna take the low road and do the above….I won’t have it.
I still stand by the first one, the second one I think we’ve nearly put to rest at this point…and the last one….well my regulars know exactly what I was thinking.
Mr. Whittier did grace me with a reply….
So, let’s review this one too:
- “It’s true, inquire within” — There’s a reason self-audited reviews are fishy. I still doubt that most people were thankful or interested. Maybe most people who responded were but I have trouble believing 43 PR Pros or Students responded positively.
- “Good one.” — Ummm, we’ve pretty much beaten to death in this discussion whether Mr. Whittier or Ms. Dietderich was the one conducting themselves professionally.
- “too bad….insight from you” — Thank you for the invitation to review your conduct in more detail on my blog.
So, here are the high points for you (any of you really, but you — you know who I’m talking to at this point) to take home. I’ll keep them short, so maybe they’ll stick —
- When you’re representing your company publicly — don’t be an idiot. Consider who’s going to see what you type. Are you ok with everyone you work with (both inside and outside your organization) seeing it? Are you ok with a blog response (like, I don’t know, possibly this one) being the first thing a new boss might see if they Google your name?
- When you’re representing your company publicly — don’t be an idiot (yes, same title, different reason). Look before you leap. And if you make a mistake, apologize and move on. (And apologize again if you need to until you get it right and can stop apologizing, or at least apologize less.) Don’t: apologize, move on and then attack someone for pointing out your error when you’ve already admitted mere minutes earlier that you made that error. It looks bad on lots of levels and you’ve already admitted to making a mistake so it sounds a lot like listening to a 4 year old who apologizes and then immediately repeats the behavior that he just finished apologizing for.
- I think we’ve sufficiently discussed the professionalism thing.
There’s really too much to say on how bad this kind of conduct is. It’s social media…not sh&!ty media — interact, make friends, if you eff up, apologize and move on. I apologize many many times a day online. It bothers me each and every time I find out that I’ve inappropriately offended someone. If I still believe what I said, I’ll stand by it; if I was mistaken or rash, I’ll apologize. That’s the way it is if you want to get the most out of the sandbox we’re calling social media.