Mistakes happen…in business and in our personal lives. Yesterday, Chrylser was presented with a sticky situation when an employee at one of their new media agencies tweeted the F-bomb on their account. A few hours later the Big Three automaker announced the person at the agency, New Media Strategies, had been terminated. In the impersonal, big brother-like post, Chrysler apologizes and condemns “inappropriate language or behavior". A lot of people were turned off by this apology…just read the comments section. I’m curious if the employee was fired on a push from Chrysler or independently from a NMS executive.
It’s now being compared to a recent Red Cross incident, where an employee tweeted about going out and drinking some brews on the official Red Cross account, unfortunately assuming it was their personal Twitter account. She later confessed her inability to use Hootsuite correctly. The woman was not fired and the Red Cross cleverly, while not dismissing a mistake, used humor and even charitable methods to address the minor crisis.
I have mixed feelings about this recent incident and Chrysler’s reaction, which reminds me of the Domino's Pizza response from their president, Patrick Doyle (after a booger sandwich video from a local franchise became viral). Although he was undeniably impersonal in the video, at least Domino's used a human to represent their remorse. So far, I feel Chrysler’s reaction is typical of the company in general when it comes to using social networks and blogs. Let’s face it; they have not even jumped on the social bandwagon until recently. While Ford and GM have put together excellent social media and digital communications teams and campaigns in the last few years, Chrysler's been slow to come on board (perhaps spending most of their marketing budget on pricey TV ads). I do think if this incident happened with a Ford or GM Twitter account, we’d see the apology or response much more personable, if not clever and maybe even viral. And believe it or not, listening to and engaging with consumers online really does help automotive profits…ask Scott Monty or Christopher Barger.
Personally, I’m not offended by much online. I don’t care that someone at Red Cross likes to have a few beers or that a New Media Strategies employee uses the F word. I often think these social media crises are silly and a waste of a lot of people’s time and attention. But a lot of people do care, and just like traditional PR crises, social media crises (big or small) need to be addressed. A line should be drawn within organizations about appropriate online language, and even though social media allows for more transparency, honesty and humanistic behavior, employees should follow some guidelines when representing their company.
So what do you think? Would you have fired this employee? And what would you have done for a better apology and response? I’ll be interested in seeing how the agency reacts as well.
UPDATE: Chrysler has now terminated their account with New Media Strategies according to Autoblog.com. Chrysler also added an update to their blog this afternoon (using the Eminem TV ad as support of their dedication to Detroit and its people). So not surprisingly this comment sprung up: "You think Eminem is a positive face for the city of Detroit? Which one of his debilitating character flaws would you like to talk about? Drugs? Guns? Homophobia? Abuse and threats to kill his wife? Your audience can read an f-bomb, because they obviously listen to them."