Justine Sacco fired : 6 things we can learn about PR on Twitter

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PR on Twitter and what it means

When it comes to PR, Twitter is the primary tool for the media today, but when people like Justine Sacco take humor over-the-edge, it can be misinterpreted and blown out of proportion.

In this case, the tweet she made was very insensitive, and angered many in Africa who have been labelled by this comment.

However, what we can learn from this particular incident may give others a warning not to go overboard with their personal remarks. As we’ve seen earlier in the year with Alec Baldwin, controversial comments can travel fast in no time at all. People are watching these feeds, so it’s best to be careful what you say.

So what did we learn about PR on Twitter in this example?

1. The media is watching

If you’re influential, have a big following on Twitter and you say something odd, most likely, it will get picked up and made into a story. The media is watching 24/7

2. There’s no hiding from a bad joke

Once you’ve sent out your tweet, or your comments are made public you can’t reverse engineer the problem. As we saw in Justine’s case, IAC (or Justine herself) deleted the Twitter account but it made no difference. That comment was saved the minute it went live.

3. If you’re joking : Check the context

People should be free to say what they like, but they should be aware that one-sided jokes can offend a certain group of people. If it is badly interpreted, it can spiral out of control, even if the person didn’t mean it in that way. In this case, Justine most likely didn’t wish to offend, but her comments have been seen as offensive, and she can’t turn back.

4. If you’re in PR, Twitter is your publicist

What I mean by this is that your personal message being sent across the web via Twitter is in essence a transparent tool that tells people what you’re about.

5. Companies have no choice

Once a negative tweet goes viral, you’ve lost your job. The PR damage from Justine’s tweet on IAC could have been significant if they hadn’t immediately sacked her. It would have been impossible, and the stakes were far too high to risk any more bad reports. Clients of IAC would be nervous about that bad publicity affecting them, and rightfully so.

6. Clients read what you say

PR agencies and personal Twitter profiles are two separate things, but to clients, they are the same. If you work in PR and you have your own Twitter account, you still represent that brand even if you don’t claim to. It’s inevitable and again, journalists won’t distinguish two separate entities. You know why? Because it makes a story more dramatic.

So there we have it. Twitter is evolving the PR industry, and people have to be careful.

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