Of April Fools and Twitter Rogues

Looks like most pundits are filing this lapse on the Marc Jacobs fashion house’s Twitter account under bad publicity = good publicity. PR Daily suggests that the Twitter intern’s meltdown “will probably help Marc Jacobs in that it boosts exposure to its Twitter feed.”

It reminded me of the error that cost journalist Linda Ellerbee her first job at a wire service: she used the computer at work to write a personal letter that ranted against her employer and, instead of hitting Print, managed to send out the letter to said wire service’s subscribers – promptly landing herself a better job with one of the subscribers.

It happened with old media, it happens with the new. One update: there’s a line of thinking that goes It’s Better to Hire Young People to Manage Our Twitter Accounts Because They “Get” Social Media. It’s why interns are overseeing a lot of temptingly open channels to your key audiences.

Truly, I’m not trying to start a Seasoned Professional vs. Callow Youth or With-it Social Media Guru vs. Old Fuddy-duddy flame war – this is not about that kind of dynamic – only to suggest that Twitter and Facebook are newer versions of the same old channels.

Good communications people of every age need to learn how to use these new tools to serve our clients and audiences and, while that includes a bit of personal-technical-upgrading (which I’m guilty of avoiding myself sometimes), it’s our adherence to guiding principles (such as communicating on behalf of our clients and audiences, rather than putting ourselves first) that makes us professionals – whether we’ve been at this work for days or decades,

Likewise the role of intern isn’t the problem here. I’ve seen plenty of interns do remarkable work – and come into a department with their own strong set of professional tenets and work habits. It’s the choice being made to assign an entire channel to someone with short-term skin in the game. The amount of time an intern spends in an organization is often barely enough to absorb an understanding of a communications department’s regular work flow, much less to adopt and implement the principles that guide why and how a company communicates.

Handing over the keys to a social media channel to the person who understands how to use it most effectively isn’t a bad instinct. But, these channels are where a good percentage of the conversation about your organization and your brands are happening, and they deserve as much oversight and guidance as your websites, newsletters and employee meetings.