Mr. Weiner's Social Skills

What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive…most especially on Twitter or Facebook. Today’s revelations from New York Rep. Anthony Weiner were no surprise after all the dodging he did last week when questioned by news media. When journalists appear embarrassed about asking questions of an elected official, it’s a pretty good sign that there’s something pretty bad happening.  Mr. Weiner did himself no favor challenging and chastising reporters, especially knowing all the while that he was indeed guilty of inappropriate behavior. And as usual, it’s worse than anyone knew. Throw in the viral capabilities of the internet a la Twitter and Facebook and you’ve practically got an international incident in just a matter of seconds.

We just launched this firm’s social media component today and while we’ve had great fun, we’ve also marveled at the fast pace that followers displayed joining us on Twitter and Facebook. Surely Mr. Weiner was aware of the breadth of social media. Heck, maybe that was the attraction for him.

It’s terrible when elected officials behave badly. It’s amazing that so many public figures never seem to believe that they will get caught. It’s even worse that they lie about it.

In spite of the all the flak that public relations professionals get for being, well, flaks, these are the circumstances when we can be most helpful. A PR practitioner’s greatest responsibility is to serve as the conscience of an organization, reminding others when their behavior is inappropriate and what the fallout can and most likely will be. It’s always better to provide counsel before a misdeed occurs, but that’s not usually how it happens. Once the issue becomes public, encouraging the subject of the controversy to tell the truth is the best advice and offers the best outcome.

In Rep. Weiner’s case, those of us who provide such counsel were left bewildered or chuckling at either the bad PR advice he got or how horrible his advisers must feel that he ignored them.