Ethics of an American Tragedy

I remember the day of the Boston Marathon Bombings very vividly. I got home from school, turned on the television and immediately texted my friend, whom I know has family in Boston, to see if everything was alright. Even though most of my days are spent on social media, this was one event that I didn’t hear about on Facebook first. However, for the rest of the time that the bombings were at the forefront of the news, most of that news came to me through social media.

In dealing with the news breaks of tragedies like this, people have many ethical dilemmas about what content to publish on social media and how that content might affect the audience. There are certain situations where someone’s heart is in the right place, but it comes off as in poor taste to the public. When a news broadcaster asked fans to “like” a photo of an injured boy on Facebook to let the boy know how many people care, it was met with some intense backlash. Even in situations that are bad, but maybe not to this extent, I always feel awkward “liking” a post with bad news. I would feel much more comfortable commenting to let the person know that I am thinking of them, rather than “liking” the post. I feel like this is what the broadcaster should have done to create the desired effect of his post, while also possibly eliminating any negative feedback. Although it could be annoying to see so many of the same message, people have the option to personalize it and truly let the boy know how they feel about him.

Courtesy of PA Media Group

In response to the image above that Ford posted to the first responders of the bombings, I saw nothing wrong with it. I can understand why people would think that Ford was doing this to push their own product, but I don’t believe they were. In an article with PR News Online, head of social media for Ford, Scott Monty said “if you manage social media for a brand, this would be a good time to suspend any additional posts for the day.” I don’t think Monty would have said that if his true intention was to sell a product during a catastrophic event like this. If people thought that Ford had an agenda more than sending out well wishes, I think they are cynical. It’s not unethical to thank someone on social media and Ford should not be made to feel bad about doing something good.

With every tragedy, there are going to be questionable moments of whether posting something on social media is ethical or not. If you’re unsure of how people will react, don’t post it. But most of all, think of every possible way the content could be misconstrued and do everything in your power to eliminate those possibilities.

Advertisements

Saving Your Reputation On Social Media

As a budding music critic, I need to prepare myself to receive and properly handle negative criticism. Not everyone is going to like what I say, but I would need to make sure that my reputation with the rest of my audience stays intact. Handling people on social media who have negative things to say about your brand or company can be very tricky. British Airways learned that the hard way when a follower on Twitter, who goes by the handle @HVSVN, sent them a negative tweet. This person went one step further by paying to have the tweet promoted, so more people than just his followers and the followers for British Airways would see it.

BA Tweet

There are many ways to go about rectifying this issue, but not all of them are ethically sound. First of all, British Airways would need to ask this person what the problem is and apologize in advance for any stress that may have been caused. In the case of @HVSVN, whose real name is Hasan Syed, his bags were lost on a recent British Airways flight. If I were responding on behalf of British Airways, I may even apologize that his tweet was not answered until the next morning, but also kindly remind him that the hours of operation for British Airways’ Twitter account is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. as it states in the biography of the account.

I believe British Airways handled gathering his luggage information in an ethical manner, by asking that Syed send it to them via direct message on Twitter. Once the information was received, I would keep Syed up-to-date on any new information we acquired regarding the bag. Once the bag was located and shipped, I would have informed Syed of when he should expect his luggage to arrive at his address. A few days after the luggage was due to arrive, if I hadn’t heard from Syed, I would have followed up with him via Twitter to make sure the luggage had arrived safely. Then I would make sure that he knew that British Airways would do their best to make sure his bags were not lost next time he flies with us.

I also think that British Airways did the right thing by releasing a statement to the media. Specific details were left out, but the public was reassured of British Airways’ good reputation, if it was clouded by the negative tweet. This way the matter with the luggage was dealt with privately with Syed, but the public still got closure on the situation. What I would not do is offer Syed any more compensation other than the returned luggage. If others found out about extra compensation and were not offered the same thing if it happens to them or happened to them in the past, it could ruin British Airways’ reputation even more.

Hopefully my brand never has to deal with anything this difficult or public with any member of my audience. But if it does, I would handle it in a more timely manner than British Airways.