Clearly, my posts on this blog over the last couple of days have drawn a lot of attention and comment. Let me today express my perspective and opinion.
We have just entered a new era in the United States where a leader, our new President, has called for principled behavior, and an end to the partisanship and nastiness that has so permeated our society. And so, all of us … or, at least, many of us … are trying to figure out how to mirror that behavior in various aspects of our lives. We have to get away from the nastiness and partisanship.
What James Andrews of Ketchum Public Relations posted on Twitter about Memphis was nasty. In a world that fundamentally is all about relationships, Andrews dissed the town, and, in doing so, he mocked the decision by his employer’s major client, FedEx, to have that city as its home. The mere fact that Andrews is still employed by Ketchum Public Relations, a company owned by Omnicom Group, reveals that his employer neither comprehends nor understands the changing discourse of conversation, the new spirit of change hoped for in America or the online world of New Media.
We are living at a time when there are millons of people who are looking for a unific way to communicate, to change our language, and to rise above the mean-spirited sniping and partisan jibs which have become a form of our communication.
In the mix of all that has been said, the heart of the matter has to do with trying to change an atmosphere that promotes nastiness, a snide laugh by belittling somebody else. That’s really the absolute core.
This is what the call is of our new White House leadership, and it applies just as much to the government as to our corporate relationships. We find it amusing to arrogantly put somebody down, and that sort of behavior must stop in order for our country to move forward.
I believe that Andrews’ insensitive posting on Twitter has triggered the first example of crisis communications in this evolving new world of Web 2.0 online social media. Think about it … two nights ago, more people read my first posting about this issue here on my blog than read the online sites of most major newspapers, and nearly all of the awareness was triggered by Twitter, a social media forum that Andrews’ employer had not discovered.
Regardless of the communications method – whether Twitter, a blog, television news, radio, newspapers – the underlying principles of working with journalists as well as our clients, customers, colleagues and friends remain the same. Openness. Transparency. Accuracy. Honesty. Relationships. Respect.
The same fundamental rules and principles apply to a new form of media in today’s Internet era as with mainstream or traditional media. Ketchum and Andrews apparently are exceptions, and do not embrace those principles. Otherwise, Andrews would no longer work there.
The reality of today’s Internet era is that a crisis can spin out of control globally in a nanosecond because people all over the world have access in new ways that did not exist before the advent of the Internet and the interactive communications tools of Web 2.0.
But the principles of journalism, public relations, and relationships still apply. Openness. Transparency. Accuracy. Honesty. Respect.
Andrews presented his side on his blog. Yes, he has made a statement on his blog but the aspect of New Media is conversation. He does not owe me an interview but the lack of an interview is his response, and that sends a message, too.
Andrews breached the boundaries of business ethics. He used his personal Web 2.0 forum to voice his personal opinion about a town within the context of doing his job. It was the same as a snide aside remark that gets caught on a radio or TV program when the mike is not turned off. He chose to put it out there.
My efforts have been to highlight the benefits and pitfalls, and how a single comment made by a single employee can escalate and cause a corporate problem and crisis. FedEx took exception to this man sent by the PR firm they had hired. Who could blame them? I don’t. That is a warning about what can happen.
Web 2.0 is more like TV and radio because it is immediate, and when you misspeak, you cannot go back and fix it. When you engage in the world of Web 2.0 and social media, you cannot go back and say, no I have nothing to say.
So, we are left with fundamental principles of openness, transparency, honesty, and, let me underscore, respect as we strive to learn this new and ever-changing new world of communication and news online … and, most importantly, the change asked of each of us by our new President.