I was both appalled an intrigued this week about the story that took off like wildfire in the press where a high school senior dared to tweet her negative opinion about a government official, in this case, the governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback. The article on CNN, “The girl who dared to tweet about Gov. Brownback” actually caused me to pause and consider how buzz monitoring tools in the wrong hands can cause disastrous situations.
In this case, the wrong hands is a spin happy PR team trying to save a political figure’s reputation. When a PR team uses a buzz monitoring tool to seek out negative comments and fires all cannons on the commentor without regard to free speech and understanding the power of social communities, it’s definitely in the wrong hands. It’s also why you cannot just take this tools an apply them without a strategy, you should have a clear cut policy to respond to negative comments spelled out and not allow anyone, not even your PR team, to go rogue.
The afore mentioned article also brings up some terrific points that really had me contemplating Social Media’s role in our governmental process. Should government dollars be used to monitor a governor’s reputation and then used to assail those who disagree? Most people would lean to the side of “no”. Should it be used so that the governor understand’s what his constituents think and use that to help craft policies and agendas for what his constituents want? Most people would lean to the side of “yes”, in fact most would like that their elected politicians are listening and using that feedback to help craft policies.
The main issue with the Brownback disaster has to do with training and clear cut policies being in place and not allowing anyone to over react without researching the situation fully. Obviously none of that was done in this case. Now Brownback’s team is spending even more tax dollars to clean up a mess that shouldn’t have happened in the first place, angering even more constituents and further damaging his reputation in Kansas.
When companies take the kind of tactic that Brownback’s PR team did, the results can be even more disastrous. Profits lost, blemished/tarnished reputation and trust with the consumer is utterly destroyed. That’s why its so important to make sure your team is trained on how to deal with negative situations and comments when they find them with these buzz monitoring tools. Before reacting in a knee jerk fashion to “shut someone down”, it might be better to do some research and understand what brought the situation to a boiling point in the first place. A better prepared team can diffuse a potentially harmful situation in a much better way that can help both parties feel as if they’ve been heard and understood.
Imagine the kind of publicity Brownback’s team would have gotten if they had done some research and found out Emma Sullivan was just in the state capital for the Youth Government event, was a darn good student and involved in other school activities and then replied to her tweet with “Hey Emma, we saw your tweet & would love to invite you to spend a day with the Governor”. Wouldn’t that have been a much better outcome than what they are dealing with now?