When I screw up, no one cares. When Steve screws up, the whole PR blogosphere has a front-row seat. Steve, it may seem like I’m piling on here, but I’m just doing the professor thing and showing my readers (many of ’em students) how social media can bite you in the ass — even when you’re on top of your game.
Steve’s trouble grew from a message posted to Twitter, the social network that “takes instant messaging to an extreme.” In a hasty post, Steve said: “PC Mag is another. I have a free sub but it goes in the trash,”
…I started thinking about what this means for our relationship with Edelman. One of the company’s top execs had stated, in a public forum, that my magazine (and by extension, my audience) was useless to him. He wasn’t even interested in seeing whether we’d covered one of his clients. Did the rest of Edelman think like Steve? Were we no better than fishwrap to the entire company?
Should I instruct the staff to avoid covering Edelman’s clients? Ignore their requests for meetings, reviews and news stories? Blacklist the “Edelman.com” email domain in our exchange servers, effectively turning their requests into spam? If we’re not relevant to Edelman’s employees, then how could we be relevant to their clients?
Ouch! I told you that blogsphere would bite you.
Context: Strumpette loves taking shots at Steve Rubel — or in this case, letting others do it. The pseudonymous Amanda Chapel views Steve a social-media zealot with tunnel vision. Steve’s readers see him as a guru. Steve’s Technorati ranking today is 128; Strumpette’s is 9,010.
The media relations lesson here is an obvious one. Don’t diss sources important to your clients — at least not where anyone can capture your words for the record. But the lesson in social media is a bit of a paradox.
The instantaneous nature of Twitter (this goes for MySpace, Facebook, and others) makes it easy and quick to share thoughts with your “network.” But too often, we don’t stop to think beyond that network. It’s just a conversation, right?
Because of his influence, Steve’s conversations on Twitter travel around the globe instantly. And people pay attention. Unlike the rest of us blogging schlubs, Steve has to be more cautious. And that “caution” flies in the face of the naked candor we often see, and treasure, in our favorite blogs.
Steve was simply being a blogger — posting thoughts for all to see. His comment was taken out of context and blown out of proportion, but it still damaged Edelman’s rep at PC Mag, at least in the short run. Strumpette’s satire on the matter drives the point home, again at Steve’s expense.
The paradox? Steve’s error was being honest when he really didn’t have to be. He put transparency ahead of discretion. We all do it, but most of us don’t have a global audience holding us accountable. Crazy stuff, this social media.
So I get to share this lesson about the unforgiving nature of the blogosphere. It’ll bite me someday, too — probably sooner than later.
Also, don’t ever forget that little white lies are wonderful tools of diplomacy. They’ve saved my bacon time and time again. What’s that? Oh, no, honey, you don’t look fat in that dress. You’re fabulous.
Hmmm. Maybe this transparency thing is overrated.