Say This, Not That: Messaging and Crisis Response in the Age of Twitter Shaming

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Laura Bedrossian, Vice President of Social Strategy at Hot Paper Lantern 

Maybe I’m boring. Maybe I’m on Twitter too much. Maybe I’m just too obsessed with communications and thinking about the actions people take to end up in a very public reputation battle.  

(It’s all of the above.) 

Each week there’s always a new “oh, did you see [insert celebrity, politician, or someone else who’s well-known] tweeted this?”  

But, that’s not the stuff that keeps me up at night. Working in communications and marketing, I love what I do and I love thinking about the mechanics of all communications and how that person’s “brand” could be long- or short-term tarnished. I’m here for the communications gone awry. The interview that shouldn’t have happened. The spokesperson who . . . mis-spoke.  

This past Friday night, I was intrigued to see the millennial cooking fave, Alison Roman, trending on Twitter.  

What I wasn’t expecting was to see that Roman was getting publicly shamed on Twitter and other social platforms. Roman shared an opinion of others (Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo) who are also notably in the public domain during what was probably thought to be an innocuous and fun interview that gets Roman a bit more press.  

I read the original interview, articles rehashing the drama, pored through the tweets and other posts. I won’t summarize what you already know.  

As I dug in more, going through Roman’s feed, the tweets related to the trending topic, and her replies this weekend, I noticed that she mentioned she “has no communications person,” she “didn’t mean it to come out like this,” she’s not a “content creator.” 

These are all wrong. Roman may not have a communications person, but she needs one. She may not have meant it to come out like this, but then what did she mean? She may not think she’s a content creator, but she is and does (tweets are content; Instagram posts and videos are content; writing for one of the largest newspapers in the world is content).   

We all have opinions. However, once you start to make public and strong statements about people, highly visible or not, you need to be prepared for what’s next. If you yourself are a highly visible person of interest, typically strong statements about others result in very public backlash. 

Sure, Roman may not have intended her comments to be taken as they were, but that doesn’t matter because they did get perceived negatively. Perception. And, why bring any of those women into it? Why not just say, “now that I’m more well-known, I’m being picky with what I get involved with. I’m not looking to create a ROMAN empire.” (Sorry, if I were your PR person, there would be a ton of puns involved . . . and that’s how I get fired.) 

The bigger issue and one to learn from is this: If you make a statement, you must be prepared to respond and stand by your comments. Roman did not and does not seem to be prepared to respond or stand by her comments.  

Roman’s debacle is a reminder that everything you say IS on the record and you need to be ready to deal with the public response and sentiment.  

Having read everything myself and reading between the lines, it sounds like she had a legitimate point worth discussing. She isn’t just going to “slap her name” on a product and try and sell it. Where she went very wrong was with messaging.  

Like it or not, Roman is the definition of an influencer. Her words get read. Her recipes are followed and made and tagged on social media sites. Her recipes are tagged on social media sites as people try their best to follow them. Her interviews get read and shared. And, now that she mentioned two other incredibly popular influencers, she is feeling the heat. 

Cringeworthy interview aside, here’s where I continue to cringe. You can see the backpedaling in her tweets. She was responding to replies from both fans and new haters (as of writing this her last tweet was on May 8 and is to Chrissy Teigen. Teigen has since made her 12 million+ followed account private).  

Roman teeters between apologizing and jokingly trying to nod the backlash. Here’s an example:

 She’s not sorry for what she said. She’s sorry for how it was perceived. She’s sorry for the very public backlash she’s getting. 

Say that. Say what you supposedly meant. Don’t try to self-deprecate.  Say you are sorry for your words coming off as X, here is what you meant. Now, move on.  

This is a new gold standard of how not to handle brand issues.

If I could go back in time Marty McFly-style, I would have told Allison to stop tweeting. Stop responding to everything. Think of why you said what you said and create a response around that. (If I could have gone further back in time, I would have helped her better prepare for her interview.) 

Her debacle is a good reminder that you should always practice for an interview. That’s not to say you must come off as scripted, but even with someone that’s a casual discussion–there’s a reason you’re being interviewed. You should have a firm grasp of what you’re trying to get across to the interviewer. Now everything Roman tried to get across is lost in a sea of public perception.  

This trending news regarding Roman is the perfect example of how wrong an interview can go if you’re not prepared and also how quickly news spreads and public perception can turn. Also, as if this weren’t hard enough to follow, this is a nice reminder that your old tweets can come back to haunt you, as Roman supporters go after Teigen for old tweets and comments calling Teigen a bully.  

Roman and Teigen have both since publicly apologized and made amends (in less than a week). Goes to show how quickly the news cycle works, too.   

If you learn anything from this social media “feud,” it’s that you can only control what you say, post, and how you react to help mitigate how you are perceived. Choose wisely and remember it all impacts your brand. 


About the Author: Laura Bedrossian is VP, Social Strategy at Hot Paper Lantern. She oversees social media and other digital initiatives working closely with various disciplines across the agency. In her role at HPL, she works to understand strategic needs of clients and deliver strategies and tactics that hit overarching business goals. As an expert on social media platforms, she also thinks through content strategy, growing audiences, and engaging with audiences in a genuine way. She sets cross-platform strategies for clients and rolls up her sleeves to get it done with the team. Laura has worked on a mix of B2B and B2C industries including financial services, architecture & design, education, food & beverage, agriculture, technology and specialty chemicals. She has more than a decade of experience in integrated marketing and communications, crisis communications, social media strategy, and digital marketing. A sampling of brand experience includes: American Museum of Natural History, American Institute of Architects, Army Cyber Institute, Edible Arrangements, Ernst & Young (EY), Raymond James, Saint-Gobain, TGI Fridays, and Wilbur-Ellis Company.