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It was in the words of his employer a ‘serious error of judgement’.
Presenter Danny Baker was sacked by the BBC over a tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s baby that showed a chimpanzee dressed in clothes.
The BBC 5 Live presenter was accused of mocking the duchess’s racial heritage amid a widespread Twitter backlash.
Mr Baker is far from the first person or organisation to find a bad social media decision has far-reaching and almost instant consequences.
So what can we learn from this last social media fallout?
Damaging posts can never truly be deleted
One of the points we emphasise on our social media training courses is that no matter how quickly you take down a damaging social media post, as Mr Baker did, it can’t really be deleted.
By the time you have removed it, other users will have already taken screenshots and begun to share them.
And those screenshots not only live forever, but they quickly gain a momentum of their own, often leading to mainstream media coverage, as was the case here.
Did you post this? pic.twitter.com/v6OcM97MmX— Carole-Anne Collins (@MsCCollins1) May 8, 2019
While social media is a fast and almost instant medium, to avoid the screenshot backlash, posts and content need to be carefully considered before it is posted.
Time is not on your side with social media when things have gone wrong. But while it is important to apologise quickly, that apology also needs to be meaningful.
While it is true that Mr Baker’s apology shows his personality - a good trait in making it feel genuine – it seems to fall some way short of consoling those who have seen his post and are offended
Sorry my gag pic of the little fella in the posh outfit has whipped some up. Never occurred to me because, well, mind not diseased. Soon as those good enough to point out it's possible connotations got in touch, down it came. And that's it. Now stand by for sweary football tweets— Danny Baker (@prodnose) May 8, 2019
When he says that it ‘never occurred’ to him that the picture could be racist because his mind is not ‘diseased’, it implies that people need to be looking for offence to find his post offensive. It could easily be interpreted as blaming those who are actually pointing out the racism.
And the blame game is never a good look in a social media storm.
There were other indications in his initial apology post that suggested that Mr Baker was apologising because he felt he had to rather than because it was the wrong thing to do. For example, he talked about how his post had ‘whipped some up’ which does not sound particularly remorseful.
‘It was just a joke’
When celebrities and brands find themselves in a social media storm because of something they have posted, the response is often to put it down to a misguided attempt at humour.
Mr Baker referred to his post as a ‘silly unthinking gag’. Similarly, when Sir Alan Sugar found himself criticised for a post he made about the Senegal World Cup football squad last year he said ‘my attempt at humour backfired’.
Once again. Sincere apologies for the stupid unthinking gag pic earlier. Was supposed to be joke about Royals vs circus animals in posh clothes but interpreted as about monkeys & race, so rightly deleted. Royal watching not my forte.— Danny Baker (@prodnose) May 8, 2019
Also, guessing it was my turn in the barrel. pic.twitter.com/86cQGbAhDc
Alan Sugar leads the way in this case... pic.twitter.com/wiMMaCOJl6— Ivjana Banic (@Ivjana) May 9, 2019
But this is a feeble excuse and suggests the poster has failed to ask themselves the key question – is this appropriate?
On our social media training courses we stress that humour in social media can play a key role in a brand showing a refreshing human side.
But humour can be hard to pull off and it is a risky area for communications teams, particularly those where the social media accounts may be in the hands of a relatively junior team member.
The key with attempts at edgy or funny posts is to ask a few simple questions first:
*Has anyone else internally seen the content – how did they react?
*Could people be offended by the post?
*Is this right for our audience?
*Will the audience think what you think?
*Will people understand the humour?
A tone-deaf tweet and three other self-inflicted social media disasters
You represent your employer
One of the key things to note here is that Danny Baker was posting on his personal Twitter account.
Whether you like it or not, if you are posting online and your accounts can be linked to your employer – or you are well known enough to be linked to them - you are representing them and they may act fast to protect their own reputation.
One of the most infamous examples of this was the case of Justine Sacco who posted ‘a joke’ about Africa and Aids shortly before getting on a plane.
By the time she had landed her post had travelled around the world and she quickly parted ways with her employer.
Many people opt for the disclaimer ‘my views are my own’. My view is that would not save you if you posted something damaging,
Finally, amid this latest social media storm we should spare a thought for another Danny Baker who spent a lot of time on Twitter letting angry people know he was not the television presenter.
I AM NOT THE DANNY BAKER PLEASE STOP GETTING ME MIXED UP WITH THE PRESENTER ONE!— Danny Baker (@heebee123) May 8, 2019
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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