I heard an interesting story on NPR during my commute the other day about Alex Harris, a Miami Herald reporter who was covering the Florida school shootings. She was using Twitter to find witnesses who were willing to talk to her about the shooting. And she started getting some really heated feedback from people about her tweets. It turns out, however, that the tweets people were upset about were screenshots of doctored versions of what she had sent out, not her original tweets. In a somewhat ironic twist, this reporter had become a victim of fake news…
This year, Patagonia announced that it would donate all Black Friday proceeds to grassroots environmental groups fighting to protect natural resources like water, oil and soil. The company expected to rake in about $2 million across its 80 global stores and Patagonia.com. In reality, Patagonia recorded $10 million in revenue – five times what the company expected – and is still promising to donate 100 percent of that revenue to the environmental groups.
It seems that with each passing day, the era for digging in your heels, drawing lines in the sand and shouting “how dare you?!” becomes more and more pronounced. I was reminded of that last month as I watched a very public and painful saga play out between former coworkers.
It all started when former FOX31 Denver investigative reporter Heidi Hemmat took to her personal blog on Thanksgiving day to air grievances with her former employer. Mind you, these grievances were at the very least deemed worthy of headlines locally (see: Denver Post), nationally (see: New York Post) and internationally (see: The Daily Mail).
Hemmat said she received death threats from a man who had not only been put out of business but convicted of fraud on the basis of her reporting. These were threats, Hemmat claimed, that had been substantiated by the man’s psychiatrist. If nothing else, I remember hearing about these threats shortly after Hemmat became aware of them, as I was working for the Denver TV station as its digital content editor at the time.
My favorite HR lesson came from a soon-to-be-retired lawyer at a Fortune 200 technology company. Tasked with giving an annual reminder to managers about appropriate behavior at our company’s various holiday parties, he decided to condense a 60-minute training down to about five minutes – and it largely centered around his “Two-drink Theorem.”
The theory held that sexual harassment allegations would overwhelmingly be the problem that arose from our company’s parties. And his rules of thumb were:
- Someone accused of sexual harassment who has consumed one drink or less will be determined not to have committed sexual harassment (although their behavior may still be loutish).
- Someone accused of sexual harassment who has consumed three or more drinks will be determined to have committed sexual harassment.
- It is the person who has consumed two drinks that causes the most problems when trying to assess guilt.
His primary takeaway? Only let people have a single drink at holiday parties. Or give them three so his legal staff could just immediately settle claims rather than wasting their time investigating them first. I think he was kidding about that part.
I was reminded of this theory recently when I saw that staffing firm Robert Half has released a
The chief executive of Grubhub, an online and mobile food ordering company, learned a lesson last week after he sent out a companywide email that implied that employees should resign if they supported President-elect Donald Trump.
The backlash was immediate and sustained. CEO Matt Maloney quickly moved to clarify his comments, but he damage was done. There were calls for a boycott and media pounced on the executive.
Responding to questions from a Ragan’s PR Daily reporter about the issue, GroundFloor Media’s Vice President Gil Rudawsky said that he began advising clients to update their policies concerning making public political statements earlier this year, and re-emphasized this in the weeks leading up to the election.
“Public comments, even from personal accounts, can be—and often are—misconstrued as being representative of their company’s views,” Rudawsky told Ragan’s. “As a best practice, it is not appropriate for executives to make decidedly one-sided political comments or to push their views on employees.”
And regarding Maloney’s missive to his staff, Rudawsky offered this lesson:
“We remind our clients that while free speech is right, just because you can make political mandates doesn’t mean you should.”
And with social media, you can lose it in even less time. Think about how long it takes to write a tweet. The good news is that for whatever reason a reputation is trashed, steps can be taken to repair it.
As part of GroundFloor Media’s service line offerings, we help businesses, organizations and individuals with reputation management issues. Tools we use include earned and paid media campaigns, enhancing social media and online presence and community outreach.
But now, bad news has an online shelf life that can last for years. GroundFloor Media helps repair online reputations and one important aspect of managing a reputation is to be diligent about monitoring what is being said about you or your company in real-time. Below is a checklist to help determine how and what to monitor during a crisis and in the aftermath.