Optics

The Memphis Grizzlies weren’t the only ones who used Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to send out a “feel-good” message while showcasing their brand. However, their decision to feature player Matt Barnes in their Valentine’s tweet, “Love is ALWAYS the answer,” didn’t gain them the kind of attention they were seeking.

Why? Well, last October, Barnes stormed into the Los Angeles home of his ex-wife Gloria Govan and got into a physical altercation with his former friend and teammate, Derek Fisher, who’d begun dating Govan. Unfortunately, love was NOT the answer for Barnes, who chose to let his fists do the talking.

But the Grizzlies aren’t the only organization to suffer a PR miscue sparked by social media. Last year, Tinder, Clorox, the New York Times Magazine and many other high-profile organizations experienced their own social media blunders. So, how can you steer clear of online gaffes? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Assume the worst: Before posting a message or image, ask yourself if there’s any way your intended message can be flipped into something negative or be interpreted as offensive.
  • Consider the big picture: Think about your message in the context of the world at large. Are there events (current or historical) that could be linked negatively to your comments, image or hashtag?
  • Take a breath: Although time is of the essence in social media, take a moment to ensure your post captures your intended message. And, as always, be sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Just ask Steve Harvey. After announcing the wrong contestant as the winner for the Miss Universe pageant, he later tweeted out an apology in which he misspelled the home countries of both contestants.
  • Watch the humor: What’s funny to one person can be offensive to another. As a rule of thumb, if you have any doubts about a comment or photo, don’t post it to your corporate account.
  • Own your mistakes: The Internet doesn’t care about good intentions. So if you have made a blunder, and stirred up a social media firestorm, take your lumps, apologize and fix it.

Fair or unfair, perception becomes reality once content goes out to the world. To save your CEO heartburn (and save your job), prepare, plan and preview the optics before posting your next message.