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Ketchum Employee Sets Off Tempest in a Tweetpot

FedEx Follower Tattles Over Out-of-Context Twitter Comment

By Published on . 5

Seems that all the Twitter and blog frenzy over a comment made by @keyinfluencer was a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing (except someone's oversensitivity and rush to take said comment out of context).

On Jan. 15, as many Twitter users were congratulating themselves on the awesome job they were doing of spreading the news of the crashed US Airways flight, a tweet popped up warning users to be careful what they say on Twitter. As a big fan of inappropriate behavior, I decided to investigate and found myself at Peter Shankman's blog. Shankman related the tale of Twitter user keyinfluencer, who had tweeted the following about Memphis: "True confession but I'm in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say 'I would die if I had to live here!'" The problem is that keyinfluencer is James Andrews, VP-director of Ketchum Interactive, who was in Memphis for a client meeting with FedEx. The other problem: A FedEx employee noticed the tweet, got worked up about it and, according to Shankman, e-mailed Andrews to voice his complaints, CC'ing a host of Ketchum and FedEx executives.

I, being a journalist and not a diplomatic agency sort, would have fired back a reply to all, stating that my tweets were my own business, that CC'ing the boss is a punk thing to do, that Memphis does indeed leave a lot to be desired and that I'd bet my salary that Memphis folks dis New York all the time. Then I would have added: "P.S. Memphis barbecue is a joke compared with Texas and Carolina barbecue." Finally, I'd fly down to Memphis and challenge said e-mailer to a street fight (assuming he or she was not bigger than me, of course).

Andrews didn't reply to a tweet for information, but subsequent posts explained he was talking about a miserable check-in experience at a hotel, one involving an "intolerant individual." (Be sure to read Andrews' follow-up at that link.)

Ketchum said in a statement: "It was a lapse in judgment, and we've apologized to our client. We greatly value this long-standing client relationship. It is our privilege to work with them." According to the company, Andrews still has his job. Which is only fair, in my mind.

The lesson, of course, is that if you work in a communications-related field and get paid to kiss up to clients for a living, you should be careful what you're posting on public forums. And, like it or not, Facebook, Twitter and other such tools have turned into public forums. And, as Andrews explained, the 140-character limit on Twitter doesn't always allow for context.

The other lesson is for Twitter readers. Keep in mind that the 140-character limit doesn't allow for context. Also, as mama always said, "No one likes a tattletale." It's one thing to beef with someone over civic pride. It's another to try to get a person fired by CC'ing superiors for an offense so minor.



UPDATE: Meanwhile, in a statement released to PRWeek, FedEx manages to come off as completely sanctimonious and smug. Really. It has to be read to be believed. ~ ~ ~
Michael Bush contributed to this piece.

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