What can “a very young intern” do?

Running a digital campaign fully integrated with policy, field and media appearances often means you are doing it the right way. But now and then exclusive digital content is posted, published and shared among thousands within minutes. In most cases that’s something beneficial for your campaign but sometimes it can destroy months of work and if handled incorrectly it can mean the very end.

Sounds pretty scary and important, hu? It is. So who’s in charge of the official image of your whole brand, campaign and relations to the world? Last week U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump posted a tweet with nazi soldiers on it leading to a huge controversy, negative publicity for several days nationwide.

It was deleted but the harm was already done when Twitter exposed it all:

Over 3 000 news articles online only, TV and radio broadcasts and more media coverage than millions of dollar later “a very young intern” was blamed for the incident. Fact is, already in 2012 another republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney misspelled America in the campaign’s iPhone application leading to nation wide negative publicity for days, trendic topic two days on Twitter and mobilized opponents.

Romney’s spokesperson Andrea Saul back then said that “mistakes happen” and that “I don’t think any voter cares about a typo at the end of the day" but of course the campaign was damaged although probably some pro Romney grassroots learned about the app after the news articles.

About a week ago the Swedish political party Centerpartiet (non-socialist center-right party) tweeted that they are heading for vacation with no more tweets during summer.

But two days ago the party tweeted a job announcement for a junior press secretary with “other ethnical background than Swedish”.

The tweet lead to huge controversy among center- and right wing grassroots, editorials and politicians still debating the tweet. Some even threatened to leave the party meaning it being discriminating.

So, who was in charge for tweeting something like that? It turns out someone from a completely different part of the organisation temporarily was given full authority of the official Twitter account.

It doesn’t matter if it was “a very young intern” or not — I’m still curious about the key question: Why is the only communication channel with instant contact with thousands of key stakeholders, media, the own organisation and rest of the world not treated with more respect? After all, it is one of few channels you are in total control of. Every single word. Whereas a press conference journalist will twist, edit and create their own perspective of your message — you are in the hands of the press.

And it happens all the time. About a year ago the official Twitter account of the Left Party in Sweden tweeted: “The news flash said that information regarding foreign underwater activity in the archipelago of Stockholm came from a credable source. Wondering what kind of sources like that has houses in the archipelago….”.

The party was blaming the tweet on “handling error” and if I remember things correctly it turned it being a press secretary that forgot to log out from his own Twitter account.

These are the lessons that can be learned from the honest mistakes and questionable decision on an organisation level above:

✔Seize the opportunities instead of being afraid of mistakes: Yes, sometime things go wrong but that’s not a reason for shutting down or decreasing one of your most powerful communication channels — social media.

✔Put the right people on the right jobs: Start treating social media as a fully integrated channel with your other communication strategy but make sure that the right people is running and in charge of the channels.

✔Take advices from the outside: Honest friends, grassroots within your own organisation or full blood social media expert have one thing in common. They are on the outside often with an external perspective.

✔Learn from mistakes: You need an experimental approach towards your social media channels. How else will you ever know what works for you and what absolutely doesn’t work? They key is to learn from your mistakes instead of denying them.

✔Focus on the positive examples: Mistakes can be a real energy thief making you forget that 9 out of 10 times you create real value and helping your party or organisation with digital communication as a tool. Isolate problems to a few to handle them and keep focusing on the positive.