You Can’t Just Delete Stupid

14 Jan

2014-01-14_15-58-19New rule: if you have your finger on the social media trigger for any brand, you must be able to recall instantly three stories from last night’s news. If you can’t then back away from the keyboard.

Case in point, this afternoon BBDO New York posted a message about a “fun reminder from all 6 M&Ms that cellphones ruin movies.” Sadly, about 24 hours before a nut job with a concealed handgun shot a father for texting his daughter during movie previews.

So you can understand why, when I saw the tweet, I had to look twice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I used to work at BBDO, albeit in Atlanta. But I never worked on this account. Fortunately the post wasn’t on the M&Ms Twitter handle (each color has its own account, @mmsgreen alone has 54 thousand followers), but @BBDONY does have more than 12 thousand followers.

Within seconds of posting my response I got a DM from someone at BBDO making clear that they had no clue why I would be stunned.

“Sorry, are we missing something here?”

“Yeah, someone shot to death yesterday for texting in the movies,” I replied with a link to one of the thousands of stories on Google News.

“Yikes. Deleted. Thanks for the heads up, looks like the story is just blowing up nationally,” they wrote back. And that’s when my blood pressure spiked.

The story wasn’t just starting to get national coverage. It was prominently on the national news for all three networks the night before. (It’s the second story in this archive of ABC World News.) It was in the first 15 minutes of all three morning news shows.

Is it really asking too much for the people pushing brand messages on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms to understand what’s happening in the world and how that will affect their clients? I’m not expecting newsroom savvy of nuanced current events. If you are getting paid to, or are paying someone to create, post or monitor social media, then how can you justify being ignorant of  events that will influence your audience?

My colleague, and force of nature, Sunni Thompson has an entire presentation on the importance of understanding context when developing and publishing content. Her content team, and our social media team at JWT Atlanta meet for 15 minutes every morning to review planned posts and discuss any events that may affect that. Not only does it prevent foot-in-mouth moments, such as BBDO’s, but it assures that everyone has the same broadest possible view of the environment. They go so far as to game out how developing stories may require adaptations in the plan or ad hoc posts. I encourage you to steal the idea, especially since Sunni stole it from hundreds of newsrooms around the world.

But let’s go back one more time to my hapless friends from BBDO New York. To add insult to injury, they subsequently sent me this direct message on Twitter:

2014-01-14_20-39-52 copyYep, they wanted me to erase my tweet to assure there was no record of miscue. I am hoping that this isn’t an attempt to hide the incident from the client. But we’re talking Twitter. Nothing is ever really deleted. Screenshots live on forever.

Look, if you’ve stepped into crap as BBDO had, then it’s time to bring the grownups to the table. That means finding a strategist or seasoned veteran who can help you think a few steps ahead and then decide what to do next. Deleting a post and hoping no one noticed is seldom the right answer.

Hell, in this case BBDO even had a plausible defense. They were just promoting a story that a trade publication had posted earlier in the day about one of their clients. And as indefensible as BBDO’s actions were, the publication’s lack of situational awareness borders on criminal stupidity.

But now, this, well it was just taking a bad situation and making it much worse.

So here we are, not only is the tweet still up, but they riled me up enough to crank out this post. I replied to the request, explaining that I didn’t think deleting the tweet was appropriate. I’ve also offered BBDO that I’d run any statement they had about what happened and why.

Something tells me that got escalated for more consideration before they act.