Employees a Potential PR Risk?

In a world dominated by real-time social media, it’s almost impossible to monitor everything being said about your brand. Businesses must be laser-focused in their efforts to prevent potential public relations crises before they catch fire. Inevitably when something does happen, responding quickly is crucial in keeping things from going up in flames. But what happens if your own employees are the ones setting the fires?

Barneys New York, an upscale clothing retailer based in New York City, had to deal with exactly that. Last week, one of the brand’s interns committed a major fashion flub by accidentally posting this to Barney’s some 200,000 Facebook fans:

“Beyond livid. Studied my ass off for my exam, and when I got to the test did the first 5, and ran out of time having to frantically guess all of the rest. Who gives 21 accounting word problems to be done in an hour??! Fml:(”

BarneysNY Facebook Page


As social media becomes further integrated into the lives of employees, the risks can begin to negatively affect the workplace. Employees are brand ambassadors, and those in communications especially must be apt in using the tools of social media. A small mistake like this can be damaging to a major brand’s image. Maybe it’s time we start thinking twice about giving the job of communicating with hundreds of thousands of consumers to an intern. Yes we all make mistakes, and as a college student I have made plenty of them. That’s not the point here. Businesses need to understand the power of social media and why it is so important to entrust the brand’s reputation with those who understand the complexities of the medium and its impact.


Here are a few points to consider when staffing communications positions:

  • Hire someone with a public relations degree. More, hire someone with extensive social media experience who is qualified to handle such an important and integral part of the company brand.
  • Provide training classes or a mentoring system for interns and those professionals to whom you plan on asking to engage the public through social media.
  • Know what you are looking for. What are the job responsibilities? What is expected of the employee and who will they report to? It can be argued that those in social media are accountable to the entire company, but developing an accountability structure will help prevent communication mistakes.


The potential for mini public relations crises are greater now than ever before. In the unforgiving world of social media, word travels fast, and your brand’s reputation can be impacted even faster. What advice can you give to brands who staff social media positions with interns? Have you ever accidentally posted something on your workplace’s Facebook wall?

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4 thoughts on “Employees a Potential PR Risk?

  1. Hannah Summerville says:

    I am truly glad that you posted this story. These kinds of things happen way to often even though many don’t make it to the level that this story did. This makes me very curious as to where the PR was for Barney’s when this happened and why it didn’t come down faster. It is very unprofessional for things of this nature to be posted on a company’s Facebook. The point of fan sites on Facebook such as this one is to reach as many people as possible and this intern surely reached many people with her comment.

  2. kentslocalmusicscene says:

    As a PR major, I definitely agree with this post. Furthermore, I feel that it is refreshing to see. Whoever was the employee that had made that post on the brand’s Facebook page was definitely in the wrong. I think that if it is a company’s Facebook page or any other type of web page that is promoting a company, there should be nothing personal about the employees made. I think that person probably didn’t check if they were using their personal or their company’s Facebook page and that is something that always needs to be made sure of. I know I always check before I make a Facebook status since I also have a radio show Facebook page that I switch over to on my account. Great post, though. Should be shown to any PR student.

  3. Amanda Van Fossan says:

    I believe that social media has a great effect on the world today and when used irresponsibly, it can be very damaging. On a professional page for a big name company, there is no room for employees to complain about irrelevant things. The post is frankly embarrassing and is doing no good for the employee or the company they represent. As professional people, we need to watch everything we do online. I for one will not post anything inappropriate online due to the fact that everything I write can be reviewed by a potential employer. The act of writing anything too personal is not worth the risk that could result. Your post is well written and could be helpful to any person interested in PR.

  4. Helena says:

    I every time emailed this webpage post page to all my associates, since if like to read it afterward my contacts will too.

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