Public relations tip: Watch what you tweet/post. A misguided or misdirected tweet can spread around the world, leading to career suicide in 140 characters. One University of Alabama student, an aspiring sports broadcaster currently working on campus for ESPNU, is learning that the hard way this morning. Her tweet combined the incompatible elements of a school shooting, Florida State’s talented but controversial football quarterback Jameis Winston, and an attempt at humor. The incident provides a cautionary lesson for converged communicators and anyone else using social media.
As reported by John Talty for al.com (Birmingham News), the reporter posted a tweet after the initial reports of the shooting this morning on the Florida State campus. (First mistake: Tragedies like school shootings tend to be inherently unfunny. Steer clear.) She posted the following message:
“Reported gunman on the FSU campus. Maybe he is heading for Jameis.”
Not a good idea. After receiving abundant negative feedback (the last step in the ever-popular SMCR communication loop), she aggravated the problem by appearing to defend the tweet.
“Since apparently I cant make a joke in all seriousness I hope everyone at FSU is safe & that the gunman is found. But I stand by my opinions”
Eventually, she deleted the entire account and said that the offending tweets were the result of hackers.
ESPN has already received word of this situation, and the Worldwide Leader in Sports likely isn’t too happy. The ESPNU reporter’s LinkedIn account, which still exists at this time, says that her “ultimate goal is to work for a major network and become a sideline reporter or an anchor for shows such as ESPN’s SportsNation, Unite and First Take.” That career goal likely became many football fields further away after this episode. Whether you’re in PUR3000, PUR3801, or just getting started in the #concomms program, it’s a powerful lesson. Take that extra second to think before you make a social media post. One message could make the difference between success and disaster in your long-term plans.