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Executives on Social Media: Ponder Before Posting

In this age of instantaneous communications and rapid sound bites, long gone is the luxury of correcting something said in haste. Today's proliferation of channels and technologies has completely obliterated any chance of a safety net. There is no place to hide. The old axioms we thought were destined for the dustbins of history now take on new purpose and vigor.

Executive Social Media PostingSayings like "a card laid is a card played," "haste makes waste," and "discretion is the better part of valor" reveal both the benefit and the bane of going on the record with a witty quip, a critical critique or a wrathful word. It no longer matters whether you are the CEO or the community crier. The public has no patience for commentary in poor taste or words lacking authenticity and integrity.

Compounding the dialogic dilemma, should you be on the hunt for a new gig or a number two in the executive suite, the retribution can be swift and permanent. The corporate world is littered with examples of mis-Tweets, Facebook faux pas and loose lips on LinkedIn. So the judicious thing to do is to ponder well before you post. Here are some factors on which to ruminate. The life you save may be your own.

Set limits. Assess and define what you will publicly post. Decide what is relevant for your career, profession, family and avocation. Write it down and commit to it.

Outline a logical strategy that includes where and how you will comment and whether it helps forward your personal and professional interests. Ask the question, “Will this comment or post help or hurt my goals and objectives.

Choose your weapon. Identify the channels that are most resonant for your personal and professional brand. The choices are many, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Snapchat, Pinterest, WeChat, Tumblr, YouTube, Google+, etc., etc., etc.

Whither Form and Function. What is the best medium to get across your message? Is it a text, blog, voice, image or video?  It may be an oversimplification but as Marshall McLuhan once opined “The  Medium is the Message.” Choose the means or methods that help you make the best case in the most relevant environment.

Trust but Verify. Confidence in your message and commentary is critical. But as President Ronald Reagan made famous “Trust but Verify.” Test and validate your comments by answering the following simple questions :

  • Is it true?
  • Can you back it up?
  • Is it intentional?
  • Will it offend or hurt?
  • Does it send an appropriate message?
  • Will your Mom approve?

If the answer is no, you have two choices, 1) don’t post or 2) re-engineer your words.

Prepare for the consequences. Good or bad, right or wrong, get ready to respond and act on commentary that comes your way. Be honest, open and authentic. People will appreciate it and if your response is immediate, all the better to blunt any aftershocks.

Everyone today has a voice, can use it and likely will. Always keep a clear head and stay on message. There is no room or patience for anger and vitriol. Don’t let your words come back to haunt you. Ponder before you post.

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About the author

BlueSteps Member Executive Guest Writer

Gerard F. Corbett is Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Redphlag LLC, a strategic public relations, marketing management and executive coaching firm.  He also is an instructor on branding at UC Berkeley, Extension, and is Past Chair & Chief Executive Officer of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA,) the world’s largest member organization of public relations practitioners. He is accredited in public relations (APR) and a member of the PRSA College of Fellows.

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