The Internet is Not Written in Pencil; It’s Written in Ink

10 Sep

For corporations, a social media site such as Twitter can be a double-edged sword. As exhilarating as it can be to market to your target audience with such innovative technology, it can also create backlash when the wrong words are published.

In 2009, James Andrews, vice president of public relations firm Ketchum, flew down to Memphis, FedEx’s global headquarters, for a client meeting when he tweeted, “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here!’” Unfortunately for Mr. Andrews, a FedEx employee was following him on Twitter and soon enough, the message was copied to top FedEx executives. A FedEx Corporate Communications team member then sent Andrews a private message demanding a formal apology and stating that considering “the total millions of dollars FedEx Corporation pays Ketchum annually…it is enough to expect a greater level of respect and awareness from someone in your position.” In 150 characters or less, a successful long-standing client partnership came close to being jeopardized.

This incident triggered a firestorm of controversy, including arguments in Andrew’s defense that he should not be criticized for stating his honest opinion about a city that has seen better days. Although honesty should be encouraged, it comes with a price when one is representing a multi-million dollar business. Is Andrews’ public tweet of honesty worth insulting the hometown of his target audience and tarnishing his company’s reputation? To reflect on the question, here are the last words from the FedEx employee’s private message to Andrews, “to continue the context of your post; true confession: many of my peers and I don’t see much relevance between your presentation this morning and the work we do in Employee Communications.”

by Kevin Chen

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One Response to “The Internet is Not Written in Pencil; It’s Written in Ink”

  1. Adam Solomon September 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Great post. I think that voicing your opinions and being honest is very important, however, there is a place and time for everything. In this day and age, one should be very careful about what they say because with the power of social media, a murmured statement can reach millions in seconds.

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