Somewhere in the metro DC area, a presumably 20-something and former interactive-agency staffer is still wondering what the heck just happened.
Earlier Wednesday morning, he or she was tweeting on behalf of the Chrysler account. As I and many social-media pros do, this person probably had multiple desktop applications open on their screen, or maybe one app that fed multiple Twitter feeds—one of those being a personal account. One misfired tweet laden with the F-bomb, followed by immediate panic and what must have been some horribly uncomfortable phone calls, and by the afternoon said staffer was severed from said interactive agency as confirmed by the automaker.
(Read the offending tweet here, which was first RT’ed by @tverma29 and later reported on by Jalopnik, Mashable, The Detroit Free Press and even HuffPo before it was later regurgitated by USA Today, CNET, Autoblog and other outlets. For the record, @tverma29 has a name, and Trisha wryly gives her take on her personal blog.)
Everybody has an opinion on this incident, whether the punishment fit the crime, if one could call it that. Did Chrysler and New Media Strategies do the right thing, the only thing to do in this case and terminate the employee, or should they have taken a page from last month’s Dogfish-Red Cross case? I’m torn, to be honest. I see every side of this, from Chrysler needing to act swiftly to protect its consumer brand to NMS needing to preserve the agency-client relationship at all costs, to coming to the defense of the pour soul at the center of it all. Hey, that could one day be someone from my social-media team. That could be me.
Sure mistakes happen, though for as forgiving a society as we claim to be, we are first-most cold and unforgiving, all too quick to cast the first stone, calling “OUT!” at the first strike. That’s not a complaint, that’s just reality. Face it, dropping the F-bomb, even accidentally, was a career-limiting move well before the web. I am a bit perplexed that NMS won’t so much as acknowledge the incident on their website, blog, Twitter or Facebook. But I know all too well how that can go. Imagine the conversation: “Utter so much as a hint of this on any of your sites and we’ll lawyer up.” Maybe that’s an unfair assumption, and perhaps both agency and client are working up some sort of joint mea culpa, potentially to pre-empt any of those year-end business blunder lists.
But what of this mystery offender in question, alleged critic of Motor City traffic and current jobseeker? I don’t really care what was going through his or her mind at the time, and I’m sure this person will land on both feet just fine. How, exactly, is what most intrigues me. Will we see this character at a conference any time soon, recounting that crazy day in March when their world turned upside down in a matter of minutes? Can they parlay this into a guest spot on Freakonomics Radio or a better gig or whatever golden egg gets laid before them, being a little older, a bit wiser?
Or will it all be a waste, just another cautionary tale for community managers to consider while a would-be web genius dons a smock at Starbucks? Because that would make me one angry f#@$%!…
Trisha Verma is one of my favorite all-time social media pros, and she smartly left the biz before it got old.