October 17, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Not One Bad Day

Not One Bad Day

Social media “crises,” from the Ragú/Dads flap to the Bloggess Mess to the Great ConAgra Lasagna Caper have had something in common–well, something other than the common theme of botched social media outreach campaigns.

In each case, there has been a rapid calling for someone to get fired. Not reprimanded, no mea cuplas–just go straight to the unemployment line, do not pass go, and certainly do not collect $200. In an era with stubbornly high unemployment rates, does the punishment called for fit the crime?

I’m not defending shoddy work, and I’ve certainly contributed more than my .02 worth of critique of the execution of these campaigns. But the knee-jerk response calling for someone to be fired is starting to feel a little…pitchforky to me, for lack of a better term. We’re not allowing people to have one bad day. Not one.

Social media outreach hasn’t been mainstream for that long. Companies are still trying things, and they are going to make mistakes. Overreaction in response will lead to timidity, is that what we’re looking for here?

I’d say no. Why? Because we’ll end up with a bunch of people like…me. I’m famously (among my friends) risk-adverse. When asked if I wanted the $1 a day insurance on my rental skis during a ski vacation taken 15 years ago, a friend said “Forget the insurance Jen, live on the edge.” My response was (I kid you not, I’m still teased about it to this day) “I refuse to live on the edge.” The insurance was purchased. I could probably dig up a dozen of these types of stories, some with more relevance to work, but you get the picture.

I don’t typically take risks, and while I can’t say with any certainty that it’s held me back professionally, I do wonder sometimes what my path would have been like had I been more willing to take risks.

Again, I’m not defending sloppy work. When companies or firms botch social media outreach, they can and should be called out on it. I am going to suggest that not every messed-up social program should result in someone getting canned. Of course, some are egregious enough that perhaps it’s the correct response. But not all of them, not every time. Sometimes a “here are some suggestions so this isn’t such a disaster next time” is enough. This constant “off with their heads” leaves us all looking like the Queen of Hearts, saying “Sentence first–verdict afterwards.”

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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