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Online behavior: You are what you tweet

twitter illustration
When your personal brand is tied to a professional entity, your online behavior will be taken into account.

If hindsight is 20/20, this week’s Twin Cities gaffe on Twitter is a look into the future of social media and reputation management. As you may or may not know, morning co-host Dave Ryan from KDWB decided to tweet out insults to various local high schools and colleges. The Pioneer Press reported that Clear Channel, (KDWB’s parent company,) was under fire from the Minnesota Department of Education. The MDE, (MN Department of Education,) decided to pull all advertisements from Clear Channel affiliated stations. Brenda Cassellius, (State Education Commissioner,)  released a statement:

 ”I find it troubling that anyone — especially an adult — would use social media or any platform to make light of serious issues facing young people or to perpetuate stereotypes. This is the kind of behavior that we teach our children is wrong.”

Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s your perception. If Dave is perceived as insensitive and rude to local schools, the DOE is taking the necessary steps to disassociate themselves with Dave’s label. However, this type of behavior is nothing new to Twin Cities radio. Earlier in July, I tweeted my own lament with local radio and the boundaries that are crossed on a daily basis. I was only mildly shocked when KS95′s own Staci Matthews joked that she’d trade her right to vote for an iPad. My beloved Cities97 started losing its own identity in 2011 and a few weeks ago, I noticed that their playlist almost perfectly aligned with KDWB and KS95′s. Clear Channel is all the same music,  the same personalities and frankly, none of it is done very well. I can’t imagine Clear Channel will need to do more than a small statement about how they were saddened to see Dave’s tweets, and the fact they do not represent the channel or the subsidiary of the radio giant. Fixed, done and forgotten about, ad nauseam.

While making fun of teenage pregnancies, drug use, and basic high school debauchery are bottom of the barrel material for any local comedian, most comedians would understand the need to not make fun of their sponsors. Sponsors pay for the cost of business and business cannot operate without meeting advertising targets. With the DOE being so vocal about pulling their ads, I wonder if other advertising clients will follow suit. But probably not — remember: radio advertising still works

Brenda made a great call, but my hope for it actually mean something fell in between trying not to think about it and reading the Pioneer Press’ poll.  I found it interesting, that most people believed the DOE over-reacted. In the  poll, a growing majority of those answering believed that although the tweets were unprofessional, there was no reason to pull advertisements. Because we’re used to it. It has to be controversial to be hilarious, right? 

Dave didn’t tweet for a few hours after the incident, and I’m beginning to wonder if Clear Channel is going to take other measures or actually start a precedent. In either case, it’s an interesting study in reputation management and affiliation, but the hype is clearly not warrantied. It’ll happen again, just with a different name and maybe next time, it’ll be worse.

Here’s the reminder that free speech comes with an additional freedom: Consequences. When your personal brand is tied to a professional entity, your online behavior will be taken into account. If you want to risk your own reputation in aligning your personal brand with your professional brand, do so with caution. You are what you tweet.

Update: I received one of the kindest emails this afternoon from Charlene Briner, Chief of Staff for the MN Department of Education. I asked permission to quote the email. Charlene emailed:

“I really appreciated your thoughtful post yesterday about MDE’s decision to pull our PSA’s from Clear Channel.  It really was a no-brainer business decision.  We didn’t ask for an apology, a change in programming or content or any other consideration. We simply asked that the PSA’s stop running and our logo be removed from Clear Channel’s station pages due to an emerging mismatch in values and message.”  
– Charlene Briner, Chief of Staff, MN Department of Education 

This post was written by Kate Madonna Hindes and originally published on Girl Meets Geek. Follow her on Twitter: @girlmeetsgeek.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 08/02/2013 - 11:35 am.

    Dave Ryan

    Since you failed to link to any of these so-called offensive tweets, I had to look them up myself. Now, I’m not a KDWB fan. Never have been. I’d almost rather be deaf than listen to that.

    However, his tweets were not at all offensive. Everything he was saying was completely made up, not connected to any actual event. It was all just improvised one-liners.

    I don’t see the big deal.

  2. Submitted by Claude Ashe on 08/02/2013 - 12:17 pm.

    But Arito…

    Just because you personally don’t find them offensive doesn’t mean they aren’t offensive to others. And offensive comments do not have to be concerning actual people, things or places to be offensive.

    What I find more offensive is that Ryan is still on the air. He’s been serving up swill for decades and hiding behind the it’s-all-a-joke defense. (That’s exactly what bullying junior high students do.) He is also pig-ignorant and routinely spouts cringe-worthy inaccuracies.

    But even more offensive still are Ryan’s apologists who have kept him employed all these years. They are usually the ones who don’t see the “big deal” and label people with education “elitists” and proclaim on bumper stickers that their child’s biggest accomplishment is that they can beat up your honor student.

    Why is it offensive to me? Because it turns society caustic and merciless. Because empathy is already on the downswing and we don’t need more brutal behavior hiding under the guise of “harmless fun.”

    Genuinely sorry to read that you can’t see any harm that doesn’t personally effect you.

  3. Submitted by Shelly Satre on 08/02/2013 - 02:51 pm.

    PSAs do not equal “advertising”

    What MDE did was pull all their PSAs, and sever any ties to any promotional programs they’d established. Note: PSAs are free (hence “public service announcement”). I do personally think that MDE over-reacted, but for sure, there is no skin off the nose of Clear Channel or KDWB. In fact, the pulling of those PSAs likely frees up time in the schedule for salesfolk to sell more actual advertising, which in turn makes the company more money.

    The MDE is only hurting itself, in this case.

    The tweets were not offensive; Dave said nothing directly against MDE. It could be implied that he was, but the actual content of the offensive material is coming from the listeners, not the personality. I have more issue with the rampant misogyny of most radio morning shows than with the slagging off our educational system.

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