PR Industry Experts: Social Media Going Rogue

PR Industry Experts: Social Media Going Rogue
December 4, 2014 Doug Haslam

By Doug Haslam, PRSA Boston member

Social media program have become a regimented part of companies’ communications programs – or have they? Despite many companies hiring dedicated social media managers, complex content planning programs, sophisticated publishing and listening dashboards, and airtight social media policies, “rogue” social media still happens. How do companies and their partners deal with unauthorized Twitter accounts, employees going off-message on social media, and blunders made on official corporate channels.

A recent panel of industry experts explored these questions and more at the event, “Social Media Going Rogue,” co-hosted by PRSA Boston and the Publicity Club of New England. Panelists included:

  • Brian Heffron, EVP and partner at advertising, public relations, and digital agency Conover Tuttle Pace (CTP)
  • Crystal Duncan, director, client strategy and operations, at social media advertising agency IZEA
  • Eric Korsh, SVP social content, at marketing and technology agency Digitas

James Katz, Ph.D., a Boston University field professor of emerging media, moderated the panel discussion.

The discussion among the panelists was lively and covered a lot of ground. Below are some of the highlights:

Taking quick action and responsibility 

Mistakes will happen, as will the unexpected few examples the panel brought up including:

  • KitchenAid apologized quickly after a staffer accidentally sent a political Tweet over the corporate Twitter account.
  • An Academy Award “Oscar” hashtag campaign needed to be abandoned as news broke of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius being arrested for murder.
  • An educational YouTube campaign counteracted consumers leaving bad reviews for a new dry shampoo, to correct their misperceptions on how to use it.

In each case, decisive action was taken immediately resulting either in taking responsibility for the mistake, avoiding a potential unforeseen problem, or stemming a flood of negative feedback. Having a team paying attention to react quickly, and be empowered to do so, are important aspects of any social media program. At the same time, while speed is important one should always triple-check responses and messages before posting them publicly. Speed and prudence must work together.

HR and corporate governance need to be part social media

During the panel, Korsh of Digitas, said, “HR needs to adapt to new social media behavior, but also corporate governance should follow common sense.”

There is a recognition that companies need to have rules around social media so that employees know the boundaries of what they can discuss, and to have a framework as to how corporate channels are run. That said, many policies have built in “Don’t be stupid” language in some form. At some point, command and control only goes so far, leaving companies with the need also to appeal to their employees’ common sense and trust.

Brand voice informs how “cheeky” a brand should be 

Many brands use humor on social media successfully. Does that mean your company should do it too? Not necessarily. Some companies have a staid voice from which a blast of humor or “cheeky” behavior would seem jarring and off-putting. Others (such as DiGiorno Pizza) can be more humorous, and even be forgiven for the occasional misstep.

Minimize risk of going rogue by seeing goals and KPIs upfront

Measurement is important in any social media campaign. However, clearly setting goals and key performance indicators also creates guidelines to follow. The clearer those are the less of a chance a campaign can “go rogue” through mistakes made by people unclear on the campaign objectives.

Were you at the event and have more observations to add? Do you have your own thoughts on the subject? Please add to the discussion by commenting below.



Post Author

Doug HaslamDoug Haslam is a senior consultant at Stone Temple Consulting, and a member of the PRSA Boston Board of Directors as well as the chapter’s vice president of social media. He can be found, among other places, on Twitter (@DougH) and on his blog,


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