Learning From This Week’s Social Media Disasters

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Shocked couple in front of laptopCorporate blunders don’t just decrease the value of company shares. Especially when social media is involved. An inappropriate post can send the organization into a public relations and recruiting storm. For example, US Airways’ pornographic Tweet or one that could lead to legal distress like Duane Reade’s post. It has the potential to ruin a company’s reputation in both the corporate and recruiting worlds.

Recruiting departments get hit when public relations fiascos happen. At first glance, a social media public relations disaster doesn’t always seem like a big deal. That’s not true. Potential candidates often find companies on social media, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn. When a company publishes posts that get them into trouble, candidates are the first ones to see it.

Needless to say, it damages a company’s name when they socialize an inappropriate image, like US Airways. What matters is how the company recovers from the blunder. Prepare before something like this happens. Preparation might prevent the loss of employees, and on the same note, potential candidates.

Both US Airways and Duane Reade are apologetic for their actions. Even using a person’s likeness without their approval can send the organization in a bout of legal trouble. Duane Reade did just this. The company posted an image of actress Katherine Heigl on Facebook and Twitter walking out of the store and wrote “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.” What originally seemed like a harmless post, resulted in a $6 million lawsuit.

Take special notice of social media posts during hiring periods. If corporate character is less than acceptable, less than acceptable candidates will apply. Job candidates look to social media. With the immediacy of news, carefully choose social media teams. They have the most impact on the organization’s reputation. Train the social media team in public relations tactics so it can address mistakes with sensitivity. It could be the determining factor if qualified talent applies or not.

Address the situation with professionalism and sincerity. Take ownership of the situation to reestablish the character of the organization. Brandemix has some suggestions to address these public relations disasters. They include:

  1. Apologize first – Honesty is the best policy. Apologize and be truthful about the situation. Hiding information or skewing facts to make the situation not seem as bad will always make the situation worse. People will find out if you lie.
  2. Stay calm – The public may be angry with the company because of what happen[ed] via the social media channels. Stay calm, don’t fight back. The company will lose clients, followers, etc., if the public notices aggressive behavior.
  3. Present a unified front – If one person is sorry, everyone should be apologetic. It is of no use when one person is regretful of the mistake, and another leader could care less. Designate one person as a representative during times of media crisis as a best practice for a united front.
  4. Communicate internally – It causes more distrust among the public if two leaders say two different things. Internal communication is critical during a public relations emergency. Make sure everyone is on the same page, and it will keep the social media mistake from escalating further.

Any social media mistake is avoidable. Have a plan of action in the event of an online public relations disaster. According to Cara Waters, some steps to prevent a situation like US Airways or Duane Reade include:

  1. Become an authority in a topic – Chose a social team that is knowledgeable about the company. [If a social team has] more corporate understanding, they are less likely to make a mistake socially.
  2. Language and tone are important – Language and tone are just as important when writing a job application as they are when writing for social media. Take the time to create specific hashtags and concise phrases.
  3. Understand the influence – Understand who the audience is and what the company values are. Combining these two will create a stellar social media update.

Crisis management is just as important for the company as a whole as it is for recruitment. A negative public relations incident leaves a negative impression on the public, and subsequently, on candidates. A company’s reputation has a direct impact on the talent who applies for job openings. Avoid making social media mistakes. They can leave a scar on the organization’s name.

How have you recovered from a social media blunder?

Read more in Social Network

Sarah Duke is a Content Creator at Red Branch Media, a marketing and advertising firm that serves the Human Resources and Recruiting markets. Red Branch Media has grown from a simple consultancy to a full-service B2B marketing agency. Duke brings a history of Public Affairs experience to Red Branch and enjoys writing about the HCM Marketplace.
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