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Social Media Lessons From Pro Athletes

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We’re not in the business of picking on pro athletes. But it sure appears that some of them are quite good at social media blunders. We can learn from two ill-advised postings over the summer:

observer9Shortly after Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin (aka RGIII) lost his starting job, an intern he hired to manage his social media postings “liked” a posting on Instagram criticizing the football team’s owner. Of course the “like” was tagged to RGIII, and followed several of his own prior ill-advised postings that led him to hire a social media manager in the first place. Within hours Griffin had “apologized” and wrote a statement to “set the record straight” about being a team player. The 900+ comments on his apology were, to put it charitably, not too kind.

In a summer of out-of-control wildfires in the Northwest U.S. and British Columbia, rookies on the NHLs’ Vancouver Canucks hockey team tweeted a photo as they set a camp fire. That was followed by a photo of team prospects knocking down wooden pegs using a water hose, this during water restrictions due to the extreme heat and drought. The response to both was so angry that the team’s management had to issue a public apology.observer9.1

Lesson #1: Whether you are a public figure like Griffin, or a national consumer brand, delegating social media account management does not protect you from a major PR hit. It’s your name, your brand, your reputation. We remind our clients that in the real-time social media world proper vetting trumps the temptation of speed. Retractions are lost in the initial buzz. Make sure your social media manager runs potential postings or responses by you, up the organizational ladder, or through PR counsel before he or she hits “send.”

Lesson #2: Organizational social media rules must be made clear, enforced, and RE-enforced. The Canuck rookies and prospects – and all employees of any public-facing organization – should always have the importance of following social media protocols front-of-mind rather than ruefully in retrospect. We wonder if the Canuck management talked about social media in training camp orientation.

Lesson #3: Clever does not mean smart. Don’t let creativity overrule good judgment.

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