In the eye of a Twitter storm

In the eye of a Twitter storm

Britain’s first Youth Crime Commissioner stood down on Tuesday after less than a week in the role after old tweets, which critics said condoned drug taking and violence, caught up with her.

Seventeen year-old Paris Brown admitted that she had fallen into the trap of “behaving with bravado on social networking sites” and hoped that her case “may stand as a learning experience for many other young people”.

There’s been much debate over whether Paris was right to quit, but there’s no doubt that past comments, even those intended as humorous, tongue-in-cheek or ironic, can ruin good reputations and intentions in a moment, especially when thrown into the media spotlight.

Twitter has a key role to play in democratising communications. Those not engaging via social media are in danger of missing a trick. Putting your staff, service users and volunteers forward as representatives of the organisation through their own social media platforms can prove incredibly powerful, creating a more ‘personal’ identity for your work and fostering new connections. But if you’re going to do it, you have to accept the risks that it can bring, as well as the benefits.

Having clear policies in place for all your representatives to read, so they understand the role their comments play and the impact their wider postings can have (like those being developed by the CIPR), is crucial, as is taking the time to plan how you will respond should something negative crop up.

No organisation is immune to a social media crisis but with a bit of forethought and a quick and sincere response it is possible to turn a Twitter storm into a PR opportunity. It’s how you manage it that counts.

If you need help with your reputation management strategy please get in touch.