Off With Their Heads! Twitter as a Fireable Offense

By now I’m sure Chrysler’s handling of the f-bomb tweet from their corporate Twitter account is old news. But for those who haven’t heard, their first reaction was violate every rule in the crisis management rulebook. First, they announced that the account had been compromised. (Deny).  Well, except for the annoying little fact that it was indeed you – or rather, your representative, it might have worked.

But then Chrysler made things worse by lying about it again. Instead of announcing that they were investigating what happened, they issued a statement that sounded like it came straight from their lawyers instead of a regular person (which is the point of social media):

Chrysler Group Response to #MotorCity Tweet
by Blog Editor

March 9, 2011 3:01 PMThis morning an inappropriate comment was issued from the Chrysler brand Twitterhandle, @ChryslerAutos, via our social media agency of record, New Media Strategies (NMS). After further investigation, it was discovered that the statement was issued by an NMS employee, who has since been terminated.

Chrysler Group and its brands do not tolerate inappropriate language or behavior, and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this communication.

Furthermore, the Company has set in place appropriate steps to ensure that this does not happen again.

They followed that genius move up with forcing New Media Strategies, the agency that handled their @ChryslerAutos Twitter account, to fire the employee responsible. Based on the statement posted on New Media Strategies’ site, it sounds like Chrysler fired the entire agency:

NMS Statement Concerning Chrysler

New Media Strategies regrets this unfortunate incident.  It certainly doesn’t accurately reflect the overall high-quality work we have produced for Chrysler.  We respect their decision and will work with them to ensure an effective transition of this business going forward.

— Pete Snyder, CEO, New Media Strategies

I’m thinking this has all been handled wrong. Reprimand the employee for sure, maybe take them off the actual tweeting job for a while, but firing him or her is a bit extreme. And firing the entire agency?  Have we become that intolerant? Was there no other way to handle this? And did the firing actually solve anything>

I have to agree with one commentor on Chrysler’s blog, EyeonAnnapolis, suggested that the company look to other companies who’ve experienced similar situations on how to handle this by turning a negative into a positive:   “‘Wow, sorry about that errant tweet—we’re getting to the bottom of it.’ ‘Hey, but are we really that bad of drivers here? Submit your story here {link} and you might win a {insert prize here}’ Involve your followers. Yes apologize, but this reaction was so predictably corporate!” The commentor pointed to the American Red Cross Twitter Incident as a specific example.

So what do you think? Right move? Wrong move? Where do you think Chrysler – and New Media Strategies – should go from here? And what about the fired employee? Would you take a chance on that employee, or is he or she consigned to PR purgatory?

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