There was an article in the Post and Courier recently regarding a photo taken near the Mother Emanuel AME church. The photo in question, shared on social media, included much of the Calhoun Street background, including a hotel sign. The manager – for whatever inane reason – asked that the photo be removed from Twitter and it not be included in any future photos of the church. This naturally set off a brief but painful Twitterstorm for the hotel – whose manager and corporate ownership promptly apologized. (Go back and read the article if you want the full story).
Well, we’re not shy about offering our opinions on social media faux pas here, and I was asked later about my PR perspective on corporate social media, gaffes, apologies, etc., so I thought I’d condense my long ramble (forgive me Allison) here to close out 2015:
You don’t need a PR whiz to tell you right from wrong. Your mom and dad probably did a decent job of that when you were growing up – you know, the whole “Golden Rule” thing? So getting snippy about an innocent photo which has inexorably linked a site In Charleston’s downtown to both our finest and darkest hour is well… WRONG. I am sure had the hotel manager taken a moment to reflect on their childhood teachings, they would have made the right decision.
In the absence of definitive guidance, common sense should rule the day. Corporate communication standards abound in large organizations – especially in the Marriott organization and especially regarding social media. That said, an organization cannot account for every situation. Guidelines from the corporate mothership provide consistency and boundaries. Individual managers in the field are expected to execute within those boundaries and when none exist, exercise maturity, common sense and professionalism. Is this Marriott’s fault for not providing detailed guidance? Nope. Yet curiously, America expects the corporate entity to apologize in cases like this – and they did.
Apologies should never be delivered via Twitter, Facebook or other forms of social media. Never. If you need to apologize for something, do it in person, a letter, an email, and possibly even release a signed statement to the media. If you want to use social media to make people aware of the apology, fine. But in my opinion, using social media as your primary means of admitting wrongdoing is a cheap cop-out. It’s amateurish, undignified and insincere. For a great example, check out this recent twitter apology by an NFL star.
Everybody gets ONE. Yes, sometimes people make mistakes – whether it’s the heat of the moment or simply poor judgement. Folks make allowances for that – no one is perfect. Apologies are accepted. For serial social abusers however, the keyboard/phone needs to be taken away unless there is adult supervision present.
Happy New Year Lowcountry!