This week, I’d like to talk about something that people seem to forget about when using the internet. It’s the concept that social media is publicly available. People pay attention and react to situations in a variety of different ways. For example, there was a monstrous outcry as a result of a former Guild Wars 2 writers’ tirade against content creators.
For the purposes of this article, please watch the video linked at the end for clarification. Anyways, as a result of the Guild Wars 2 debacle, I’d like to focus on the role of public relations during major outcries like this.
For some reason, people seem to think that forcing a company to take action against a person is justified. And while I don’t think forcing a company to do something about their employees is right, I also don’t think that representatives of a company should get free passes. If someone is shitty to their community through social media, they should be reprimanded. In this case, I believe that regardless of the community’s outcry, ArenaNet would have dealt with the situation on their own.
Unfortunately, many people are under the belief that they can say anything on social media and not be penalized. That’s not true. “Anonymity” is not meant as a shield against recourse. So, when a Guild Wars 2 writer was fortunate enough to have a friend defend her because she used ‘her personal Twitter account’, that meant she was safe from company scrutiny. Sorry, but that’s wrong.
Companies can, and do, review social media accounts before and during employment. But let me use an example as to why the ‘personal Twitter’ defense isn’t worth much.
Social Media’s Role in Employment
A few years ago, I worked out of a law office which was considering a number of interns. One day, the office secretary asked me to look over a potential candidates’ social media posts to determine whether we should let the person work in our office. I spent some time pouring over this person’s Twitter, Facebook, and a few forums. The applicant did not scream ‘model citizen’ and as a result, I suggested we find someone else. After much debate, the secretary interviewed the person and asked about their heinous online posts. Suffice it to say, the applicant was shocked. They explained what happened and the secretary gave the person a chance – something I would not have done.
So, what can be learned from this? Employers look at social media. Every person that uses social media has to be mindful of their public image, despite the fact that no person is flawless. It’s one thing to complain about particular issues and it’s another thing to outright attack people – especially valued members of a community. Just because a person is a veteran of a company does not mean they are immune from punishment. And since this woman had a reputation for stating less than stellar things online, the PR team of ArenaNet was forced to step in.
So let’s look at the role of a PR person.
The Function of Public Relations
People in this role have to consider a number of different aspects like: understanding:
- Understanding the type of language used in press releases,
- Knowing how much information is allowed to be publicized,
- Understanding the forums used to distribute information,
- Not promising things without delivery,
- Controlling misinformation spread about the company and,
- Uphold the values of the company that they work for.
Because of the above things, people in PR positions walk a tough road. They are on the front lines between a company and its clients.
When we consider the actions of people working for a company, the PR person or someone higher needs to address problems as they arise – which can sometimes be dicey. In essence, just because a person maintains a personal account, does not absolve them of their commitment to uphold a company’s values. As a result of such an erroneous assumption, the woman in question (along with a man who stood up for her) was fired.
We live in an age where news travels faster than normal because of social media. As a result, people can find themselves in sticky situations with regards to their careers. In this case, it has nothing to do with certain hot button topics like sexism in the gaming industry (which has been a problem in areas of the industry). The fact that this woman continues to be oblivious about the potential reasons behind her termination, without caring that a fellow MALE colleague also was fired, is beyond me.
Something I will say is that despite the lapse in judgment made by this woman, her being fired was not solely her fault. Yes, what she did was wrong, but what forced the company to act was the massive outcry from the community.
I don’t believe it was right that the internet forced two people to lose their jobs, despite my own opinions of either. The problem certainly could have been handled differently, allowing some form of recourse that would appease all parties. However, as a result of the woman’s carelessness, this company lost two veterans because of threats made by the community.
I really wonder if that helps the community at all? Sure, our conscience is clear, but we might have to suffer more delays or potentially bigger and unforeseeable future issues.
What’s done is done.
After ArenaNet’s decision to fire the two people released, one of the content creators that was sucked into the spiral said the following in Discord:
Even though MMOINKS was briefly targeted in this event, he is conscious of the consequences and is not pleased about someone losing their job. In my opinion, he thoughts on the matter on not wrong. Celebrating job loses without knowing all the facts is never a concept to be celebrated. While, I’m not defending this woman’s’ actions, I’m not going to be happy that she took down a respected member of the community with her. I believe that ArenaNet would have dealt with the woman in due time, and all the Guild Wars community did was expedite their decision.
How could this have been handled differently? Do you think ArenaNet was justified in this case? Why or why not?
For those of you that want to know the details, here is a video explaining what led to the above mentioned results.
Until next time.
Article by Susan N.