Bad Social Media Manners Cost NHL Mediator

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    Thoughtless Twitter posts lead to rapid ejection from mediator role

    It’s common to see Twitter profiles including comments like “opinions are my own and do not represent those of my employer,” but the fact is that whether you post a qualification or not, the things you do and say online can definitely have an impact on your professional career.

    Look no further than Guy Serota. Guy has been a member of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for fifteen years, and helped to end the 2004 NHL lockout, so it was an easy decision to bring him back to mediate this year’s lockout negotiations. The difference between today and 2004, however, is that in 2012, when you’re publicly appointed to a position of interest, those interested parties are going to dig up every bit of information that they can possibly find and share it with the world.

    Unfortunately for Serota, he hasn’t been the nicest “guy” on Twitter (sorry folks, couldn’t resist that one!), and it was only minutes before hockey-starved fans began lining up to make cracks at the oddball mix of comments on his feed that included nasty racial remarks directed at Sarah Silverman, a masturbation reference, partisan political comments and prevalent use of the term “ass mode.”

    In a hamfisted attempt at crisis management, Serota did shutter his Twitter account, only to bring it back up and post claiming that he had been hacked, but a web-savvy public found the idea of an undetected hack spanning several weeks and with no apparent focus to be a dubious explanation at best. Much of the offending material has now been deleted, but Serota’s words have been chronicled by countless sites and columnists across the ‘net. It took us about ten seconds to find a whole series of images depicting his reputation-damaging Twitter history.

    Of course, all the hubbub also attracted the attention of both the NHL and the FMCS, and within the hour the following statement was released:

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen has issued a follow-up statement today regarding a mediator assigned to the ongoing labor negotiations between the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association:

    “Within one hour after I issued a press release announcing that further negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA would be conducted under the auspices of the FMCS, it has been called to my attention that there are issues involving an allegedly hacked Twitter account associated with Commissioner Guy Serota, one of the mediators I assigned. Accordingly, in order to immediately dispel any cloud on the mediation process, and without regard to the merits of the allegations, I have determined to take immediate action, namely to remove Commissioner Serota from this assignment.”

    “There will be no further comment from the FMCS on this matter.”

    What’s the point of all this?

    Image is everything.

    Do Serota’s personal views or potty mouth have anything to do with his ability as a moderator? Not at all. Does the fact that the public now believes him to be a loose cannon who makes poor decisions? You betcha. Not only that, but he also embarrassed his employer simply by association, and frankly once you do that most organizations will do anything they can to pull you out of the public eye, if not cut ties altogether.

    In 2012, and surely moving into the future, putting something on social media is taken the same as if you stood up in the office and shouted it out loud. THINK before you post, it’s basic reputation management.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]