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:(”
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?