When email was fresh and new, a newspaper editor once sent a recipe to several newsroom colleagues, among them his wife. Somehow, he accidentally included a love letter at the bottom of the recipe to another newsroom colleague who was not his wife.
This 25-year-old cautionary tale came to mind when I heard about Kevin Durant and his Twitter faux pas. What I learned from the Incident of the Email That Blew Up a Newsroom was that you never, ever, ever put something in email that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the next day’s newspaper. And now I think the same can be said for social media.
Durant posted from a pseudonymous Twitter account, writing things that he didn’t want attributed to himself. He trash-talked coaches and teammates. He stuck up for himself in Tweetstorms with trolls.
And then he forgot to sign out of his personal account and into his fake one. And he was caught talking about himself in the third person from his own Twitter handle. The jig was up. And the trolls had a field day.
To his credit, he owned up to it. “I look like an idiot,” Durant said. “My peers are going to look at me like an idiot. All the jokes — bring ’em. I deserve it.”
As the reigning NBA Finals MVP, Durant should not be so worried about what trolls say about him on social media. Haters are gonna hate. Any celebrity needs to take the long view of their brand, which is bestowed upon them by the people. Of course, the brand material starts within the celebrity’s heart, within their core values. Stay the course and the brand perception will track.
And if your core is a bit nasty, then live with the brand that springs from that. Some people thrive on a bad brand image. Ask Dennis Rodman.
Another Puzzler this week:
Uber, whose brand name is to ride hailing as Kleenex is to tissue, is at risk of flaming out. As noted above, the people tell you what your brand is. But your core values provide the grist for the mill. And Uber has fed the mill a lot of manure.
Transport for London, the agency that licenses public transportation in the city, last week yanked Uber’s license to operate, saying the company is not “fit and proper” to do business there. The stated reasons for the action clearly do not go as deep as the real concern about Uber’s suitability to serve Londoners.
The company’s founding CEO, Travis Kalanick, showed how personally unfit he was to run a service-oriented operation by bullying his drivers, making immature public pronouncements and picking unnecessary fights with local government officials.
With his core values on display, he fostered a corporate culture that is similarly harsh and pugilistic. The London operation is said to be arrogant and dismissive of regulators, giving them no goodwill to draw from. The Transport for London decision is the destination the Uber leadership had plotted for itself.
Kalanick stepped down in August and was replaced by Dara Khosrowshahi, a former Expedia executive with a more diplomatic reputation. Uber apologized to Londoners in full-page newspaper ads this week, and Khosrowshahi will bend the knee next week in meetings with London officials.
It will be interesting to see whether Uber’s core values can turn on a dime. It will take fast action to pull the organization out of its nosedive.
Each week, PR Puzzler highlights public relations issues in the news. It is written by Steve Krizman, principle of Connected Communication, LLC. PR Puzzler items result from discussions he has with his PR students at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Steve is sole proprietor of Connected Communication, LLC, a consultancy that helps organizations develop integrated PR, communication, and marketing programs. His particular expertise is in the health industry, including insurance, health delivery systems, and digital health.
Steve also is professor of public relations and journalism at Metro State University of Denver.