Some poor public relations exec, a VP at a major international PR firm, was flying into Memphis to meet with a client. He had a lapse of judgment as he Twittered how he hated Memphis. Actually, he wrote "True confession but I'm in one of those towns where I'd scratch my head and say 'I'd rather die than live here.'"
A bit harsh for any town, but that's his opinion and he has a right to it.
But how dumb to post it on Twitter where it becomes public.
People from the client (FedEx) saw his Tweet (or should it be twit?) and were outraged, sending emails to the agency and anyone else who might listen, including this one that's been showing up on some blogs and made it onto widely-read Gawker.com...
Many of my peers and I feel this is inappropriate. We do not know the total millions of dollars FedEx Corporation pays ____ annually for the valuable and important work your company does for us around the globe. We are confident however, it is enough to expect a greater level of respect and awareness from someone in your position as a vice president at a major global player in your industry.
It's easy to get caught in a situation like this, since Twitter is about friendly dialogue (and also, often inane chatter about what you're about to have for dinner or that you just fed your cat). But what you write is going out there in public, and Mr. Big Agency Guy should have had a bit more sense and sensitivity. Oops.
I got caught up in an awkward email faux pas a while back. I had written to a friend some negative comments about the behavior of a mutual acquaintance. Months later, my friend used that old email for my email adrress, hitting reply and then sending me a new message. But my old correspondence was still there, way down below. And she also sent it to someone else, who happened to be good friends of the person I had criticized. How embarrassed was I when the person I had criticized three months earlier forwarded me my original email and asked why, if I had a problem hadn't I gone to her directly. Good point and I learned a valuable lesson.
If you don't want your comments made public, even by accident, don't write them down anywhere online.
As a public relations person, I've told many people to be careful what they say when talking to reporters. "Off the record" is a dangerous thing, because some reporters feel nothing they are told in an interview is off the record. Many years ago, I had set an interview for a client's director of sales with a bright, young and very pretty reporter at Women's Wear Daily. All went very well and as things were wrapping up, my client and the reporter started talking about non-business things -- where are you from, how long have you been with the paper, where'd you go to school, etc. Clearly, my client was smitten by this pretty woman, who was using her charms to distract him.
Seeing he was now at ease, she said she had heard a rumor that the company was about to launch a new line of products that would put it into a different category. I knew they were working on it, but it was supposed to be secret. But the client, under the reporter's spell, spilled the goods before I could stop him.
The news of the new product line made the front page of WWD the following Monday, and the director of sales came within inches of losing his job.
A good example of the need to be careful what you say and where you say it ... online or off.
Update March 16th -- MarketingProfs' newsletter "Get to the Point" talks about this post and offers their own take on it. Click here to see that post. (Thanks Ann.)