Roland Martin’s Twitter Gaffe Proves Executive Branding is Key

CNN announced yesterday that the network suspended Roland Martin, one of its commentators, three days after he posted Twitter messages that were interpreted by some to be anti-gay.

The commentator, very active on Twitter, received angry comments from online readers about the a tweet he posted concerning David Beckham’s Superbowl TV ad.

This incident really demonstrates the significance of executive branding and reiterates the fact that quotes and postings on twitter (especially if you’re a high-profile figure) should be given the same considerations as something you’d say the New York Times. It’s obvious that media outlets and reporters have been quick to engage on Twitter because the speed and ease of the platform make it perfect for finding sources, building a network, and breaking stories to tech-savvy readers.

This relationship comes with its fair share of problems, too. Every so often a journalist or other media personality will draw criticism for something they tweeted (like Martin). This probably discourages some journalists from using Twitter effectively.

Top-tier news outlets have responded with specific policies urging staff to be careful. The Washington Post’s policies tell reporters not to tweet/retweet anything that could be perceived as reflecting political bias or favoritism. The Associated Press just recently published new retweet guidelines warning that retweets can appear to express a reporter’s opinion.

With social media becoming ubiquitous in the workplace, those issues won’t be going away anytime soon (as employee misuse of social media is not limited to journalism).But issues like Martin’s do provide a case study about the importance of putting together a social media policy.

As a refresher, here are a few quick tips for dealing with negative issues on Twitter:

  • Determine what comments demand a response – Not only must you have a place where consumers can ask/answer questions about their concerns, but your PR team should determine which questions can/will get answered. Look at the negative conversations to see what people are really thinking, then respond accordingly.
  • Remain transparent - First and foremost – be honest about not being able to answer at the time of the  issue and ensure consumers that you will provide more information when you can.  Don’t let your social media audience rule the conversation. Sometimes all it takes is, “We’re listening, and we appreciate your feedback”.
  • Be human, but not irrational – when you provide a compassionate, humanistic response, you can people relate to other people. However, don’t waste your time on posts that are inappropriate, obnoxious, or defamatory.