The Philadelphia Public Relations Association, @PPRA, recently tweeted about an article that caught the attention of my colleague, Leah Rice, who then shared the article with me. Sony Pictures Television’s Madhuri Shekar’s wrote “4 reasons to shut up on Twitter.” How about that? With everyone telling us to get involved and be proactive with social media, who should you be listening to and why?
As a proponent of the strategic use of social media, it’s important that you understand that there’s good and bad with everything. Just recently, I co-presented “Productive Social Media Strategies” with Neen James, which was covered by Crissa Shoemaker DeBree of The Intelligencer, not to be confused with The Legal Intelligencer. We touched on some of the positives and negatives and definitely covered what people and companies should NOT be saying in the social media-sphere. Examples included: “I’m having a bad day,” “I just ate lunch,” “I’m the best in the business” and “It’s raining.” Really, I ask you, who cares? For other examples, read my last blog on Egregious Lawyer Misuses of Social Media.
But Shekar went even further than that. Her article states that there are four reasons why at times twitterers need to take a timeout from the tweetfest.
The first thing she advises is not to tweet in a crisis.
Shekar attended the recent 140 Twitter Conference and there Mike Prasad, the brain behind Kogi BBQ, addressed tweeting in a crisis situation. Prasad shared an example of how taking a break from tweeting in a crisis can sky rocket your image. He said, “This summer, when Baja Fresh announced a new item on its menu – the ‘Baja Kogi Taco’ – Prasad was shocked and concerned that Baja Fresh was ‘ripping off’ Kogi's trademark name. Prasad and @kogibbq refrained from going on the attack and, instead, allowed followers to voice their unhappiness at Baja Fresh. Within hours, Baja Fresh was overwhelmed with a deluge of tweets criticizing the company's move and declaring their support for Kogi BBQ. In an effort to conciliate the Twitterverse, @BoldBajaFresh replied to almost every single one of the disgruntled tweets. Each of the replies mentioned and praised its competitor with phrases such as ‘Kogi truck is in a class of its own.’”
In this example, by refraining from tweeting in mass quantities, Kogi BBQ emerged from this situation looking classy and seemingly untouched as well as dedicated and loyal to its customers. However, Baja Fresh ended up back pedaling in the public eye and calling positive attention to the strengths of its competitor. Shekar advised the audience not to tweet in these situations, when others can do it for you. And I agree. It’s less self-serving, more credible and often helps to build awareness and strengthen your reputation.
Even though Prasad’s example deals with consumer brands, it is important to note that the same strategies should be applied to high-profile litigation. In fact, lawyers should make it a policy to track what is being said about them and their clients on Twitter and other social media outlets – especially when there is publicity surrounding the case. Just search for “Mumia,” “Gosselin,” “Caylee Anthony” or “Michael Vick” in Twitter and you’ll certainly get an eyeful.
Shekar’s second recommendation is not to tweet when you think you’re funny.
Trying to be funny in print is a Catch-22. Some people may get it, and others may be offended. The best thing to do is to avoid sarcasm and jokes all together. One-liners work in movies because they’re in context – it’s nearly impossible to provide context in a 140-character tweet.
Shekar’s third rule is don't tweet when it will ruin your brand mystique. She equates tweeting with dating. She says, “If you know everything about the person by the end of the first meal, then the mystery and intrigue have vanished, and you don't see the point in sticking around for coffee.”
I agree with Shekar when she says that “there is a fine line between transparency and over-exposure.” Like all PR and social media outreach you should stay true to your brand (law firm or personal image) – regardless of whether your brand is that of a large firm or solo, make sure that all of your social media accounts including Twitter resonate that tone and keep your followers engaged.
And Shekar’s final point was not to tweet when the president of the United States says so. When President Obama was interviewed by CNBC regarding Kanye West’s comments on Taylor Swift’s MTV Video Music Awards he made an un-presidential remark. ABC’s Terry Moran was in the room and tweeted about the president’s comment immediately. When the White House found out about the leak, they were very unhappy and this damaged Moran’s reputation as a credible journalist. Michael Calderone covered the story in his Politico commentary, ABC's Moran removes tweet with Obama swipe at Kanye.
One commandment in the PR and social media handbook is always showing respect in regards to the wishes of your clients, your colleagues, and others. It is good business and as lawyers, we are required to abide by professional rules of conduct. In Pennsylvania, you should be familiar with Rule 1.6 that deals with confidentiality of information, 3.6 that deals with trial publicity, all of the rules in Section 7 and various others.
When sharing information online, the reputations of your clients, co-workers and law firms all need to be taken into account – it’s not just about you. Think twice about what you tweet because once the damage is done it remains in the social media abyss indefinitely. There’s no easy delete button.
About the Author: Gina F. Rubel, Esq., is the owner of Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., a public relations and marketing agency with a niche in legal communications. A former Philadelphia trial attorney and public relations expert, Gina is the author of Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers and the co-author of 6 Essentials for Success in Business and Life. Gina and her PR firm have won numerous awards for legal communications, public relations, media relations, strategic planning, corporate philanthropy and leadership. She maintains a blog at www.ThePRLawyer.com and is a regular contributor to The Legal Intelligencer Blog. You can find her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/ginafuriarubel or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ginarubel. For more information, go to www.FuriaRubel.com.