Aussie Ad Agency creates social media PR disaster

Here’s a guest post by Peter Hawkins of Tribe Count on the George Patts/Defence Force social media bungle; I saw Peter’s comments on a recent Mumbrella story, and thought he made good sense while many Ad types overlooked the PR implications and impressions, preferring to brush the issue aside. Peter writes:

“GPY&R recently found themselves in the middle of a PR meltdown when a News Ltd paper investigated the online behaviour of members of its social media team.  The agency had been charged with reviewing the social media policy of the Australian Defence Force ( ADF)  after a recruit secretly filmed himself having sex with a fellow trainee and airing it to colleagues via Skype. The News Ltd article and the prime time television news bulletins that followed highlighted comments the social media team had made on Twitter and on their own blogs. The agency’s Facebook page also features images from a drunken staff party and provides links to the Facebook and Twitter accounts of staff, including the social media manager. The episode raises several issues.  Firstly, the need for every  organization to put in place staff policy on social media activity  that protects the company’s image and reputation. The organization you choose must be able to demonstrate their expertise in online and social media, have PR expertise in reputation and crisis management,  as well as public affairs and legal counsel. The ADF’s choice of partner in this case was demonstrably a bad one.  In my (sic Peter’s) opinion the agency doesn’t seem to get it. In a statement from GPY&R “ …none of the content of Twitter or blog entries made by staff in their own time and in their capacities as private citizens breaches any law”.  Well maybe, but it’s not the point.  The issue is about perception and most would say that based on online behaviour,  GPY&R  should not be handing out advice on social media policy to the ADF.
Comments that followed on the Mumbrella story suggest staff at GPY&R  are not the only agency personnel short on acceptable online behaviour.  According to a few posted comments you are not a real advertising person unless your Facebook etc has the word ‘F*** ’ and includes lots of reference to ‘sex, drugs, rock and roll’.  Creative no – boorish yes. More than anything, this episode demonstrates the demarcation between skill sets clients need to make in choosing good communication partners.  I know that most advertising agencies will put their hand up and their invoice out to anyone who asks for digital advice.  It is the client’s responsibility to choose wisely. There are a lot of people out there who really are great resources when it comes to digital and social media.  Ironically, some of the best are actually found in Government.”

One thought on “Aussie Ad Agency creates social media PR disaster

  1. Agreed. Choose wisely … and check how those who profess they ‘know’ how to use social media actually use it.

    and, it’s even worth looking beyond traditional comms networks for advice on social media.

    and like everything, getting a few perspectives is a good investment.


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