Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Twitter, transparency and damaged reputations

I was reading Ann’s post the other day about Twitter, and I found myself in the same position, wondering why all this fuss about it. The last two months, due to the module of PR and technology, part of which is this blog, I’ve come to grips with several of the new media that tend to change totally the way people communicate nowadays. Twitter gets its own “buzz” lately, and therefore has a prominent position in blogs’ posts.

Steven Rubel, Edelman's Senior Vice President, has proved to be a great fan of Twitter, as several posts of his blog are dedicated to it, while on the same time he is “twittering” on a regular basis. But he could never, probably, predict, and maybe nobody, what would follow this post on Twitter, last Friday.

Rudel in this 15-word post, said to millions of people, to whom this post is now available, that PC Magazine, a magazine of high circulation, and of great importance for many of Edelman’s clients (among which are Microsoft, Palm, Adobe etc.), is of no interest to him; useless; for the “trash”. He obviously couldn’t imagine what reactions this post would create.

Not surprisingly, Jim Louderback, Editor in Chief of PC Magazine, in a guest editorial on Strumpette, replied to Rudel, in a very critical tone. He expressed his concerns about the relationships of the Magazine with Edelman. He was wondering if Rubel’s opinion, which he shared with millions of people, reflects the views of his company as well. Louderback even expressed his doubts, if PC Magazine should carry on co-operating with Edelman, or simply boycott it and its clients.

Rubel’s response was immediate. With a post in his blog, he tries to settle the matter. He states that even though he doesn’t read the hard copy of the magazine, he subscribes to its RSS feeds, and he often links to its online articles. Moreover, he points out that his consumption habits have nothing to do with his employer, and his views (and therefore his blog’s and twitter’s posts) do not reflect neither Edelman’s views nor its clients’. He also adds that he acknowledges the value of PC Magazine as a medium to reach important audiences.

A simple, small and fast message and a great misunderstanding, (as it is implied by Rubel’s response) evolved. The fact that Twitter gives everyone the chance to post something very fast, in limited words, and share it with everyone, helped it to gain grounds, but on the other hand that word restriction, can prove to be dangerous, as many things can be implied, but only few are written.

Transparency, which is a “buzz” word for the new, social media, and something that everyone seems to be seeking, can be harmful. As everyone has a say, and everything that is said will be “alive” for ever in the www, reputations are in danger. In one less-than-160-character note, Edelman has let one employee (unintentionally) weaken its core structure. If Rudel, a master PR person, got in trouble, PR firms and PR practitioners individually, have to take into serious account the dangers that new media include.

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