Don’t Be A 22-Carat Mug on Social Media

Many social media practitioners will not be old enough to know what the Ratner Effect is all about.

So let me give you some background.

Thirty years ago, Gerald Ratner reigned supreme as king of bling, having transformed his family-owned chain of shops into the world’s biggest jewellery group with more than 2,500 stores.

He had it all, the private jet, helicopter, chauffeur driven Bentley and a luxury home in London’s upmarket Mayfair.

That’s until the infamous speech he made in front of 6,000 British business men and women in London’s Royal Albert Hall, when he jokingly referred to one of his products as ‘total crap,’ and went on to say “A set of 99p earrings it sold was cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long“.

The Daily Mirror picked the story up and splashed this headline the following day: “You 22-Carat Mugs.” It was published during a time of deep recession, when people couldn’t pay their bills and had little sense of humour.

Customers demanded their money back, sales plummeted and Ratner’s Jewellery could not contain the crisis. Mr Ratner was fired from his own firm.

He is known as the man who destroyed his multi-million company in ten seconds. ‘Doing a Ratner’ is short for really screwing things up.

This was in the days before social media when news wasn’t liked or shared and didn’t travel digitally at lightening-speed.

Some organisations still have the view crisis and reputation management is more applicable to traditional press than social media which is simply not true.

A key part of a media relations practitioner’s role is to anticipate tricky questions from journalists, scenario plan at length, devise lines against enquiry and legislate for issues with potential to bring organisations into disrepute.

To stay reputationally safe in the digital age, the same time, effort, planning and strategizing has got to be invested into how individuals and businesses manage their online personal and professional reputations.

Like Gerald Ratner, a slip of the tongue, an off-the-cuff remark, an angry response, a hasty comment could spell disaster.

Unlike traditional press, you don’t have time to think of a response, to carefully craft your line against enquiry, or say, I’ll get back to you in an hour, after you have consulted your boss and your lawyers.

Social media is unforgiving and relentless in the speed of exchange, where news travels at break neck speed and where your reputation can be destroyed way beyond the reach of say, your local newspaper.

There is a saying for young people: don’t post on social media what you wouldn’t want your granny to read. The sentiment of this has real value not just for teenagers but to anyone who has a social media account.

Your digital footprint will last forever and you will be judged by it. Time might heal as it did in the Ratner case (he is now a successful motivational speaker) but the internet does not forget.

There is no longer any point in sending your brilliant CV to prospective employers if your online profile is problematic. They will search and they will find you. Historical comments can also come back to haunt you.

A local politician’s recent tweets are point in case. The UUP party Leader was criticised for using inappropriate language in posts dating back ten-years. What followed was an excruciating week of public apologies.

You don’t just step out of your day job and into your social media profile and forget about reputation management rules. First do no harm! Before you commit anything to writing think long and hard about how it would read as a newspaper headline.

22-Carat Mugs!

There by the grace go so many social media users who don’t stop to think that what is posted in the here and now, in the heat of a moment can cause damage that might last a lifetime.

Don’t write what you wouldn’t want your granny to read is a great phrase because therein is the communications lesson.

To stay safe in an online world and to manage your reputation follow these basic rules.

Be mindful. Be decent. Be truthful. Be real. Be kind. Be you.

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