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“My Stupid Mouth:” apologies are better in 140 characters or less

We all love a great Perez-Hilton-infused celebrity scandal, and who has drawn more fire recently than John Mayer? Mayer’s extremely relaxed and a little bit too revealing Playboy article sparked controversy across the nation.

His “stupid mouth” definitely got him in trouble in the multi-page article, where he kisses and tells about intimate relationships with America’s sweethearts Jennifer Anniston and Jessica Simpson. Also in the article, Mayer peppers in some racism when he uses the N-word and calls one of his body parts a “white supremacist,” which drew fire from the media, Twitter and some African American groups.

A dedicated Mayer fan, I read the article and wasn’t really phased by his comments. I’ve seen his aimless rants in interviews since I fell for him back in 9th grade, and I know when he’s had a little too much scotch to censor himself.

“What’s a boy to do?” An obsessive tweeter, Mayer takes control of the situation and apologizes—in 140 characters, give or take a few. It was easy for me to forgive him when I opened Tweetie and found a heartfelt apology from @johncmayer:

He’s not alone.

Celebs are using Twitter to issue mass apologies to the audience who matters most: dedicated fans. When Lady Gaga was forced to cancel an Indiana show in January, she took to her Twitter page to explain and apologize. After Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga was arrested on DUI charges, he vowed to regain the trust of his followers and fans in a few short tweets with a few exclamation points.

During a crisis, we can’t always wait for a press conference or a press release to hit the media gatekeeper’s inbox. Twitter provides a quick and easy platform to address problems in real time.

In 140 characters or less, Mayer, Gaga and Maualuga made to-the-point, sincere apologies; sometimes even press conferences don’t clear things up in such a neat package (insert Tiger Woods reference here).

Celebrities aren’t the only ones using Twitter for crisis communication; large corporations have already taken advantage of Twitter to communicate with an unhappy public. SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines and Comcast use Twitter every day to manage crisis communication while building relationships.

After trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by a killer whale last week, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment quickly responded on its Twitter page: “It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of a member of the SeaWorld family. Thank you for your thoughts during this difficult time.” Over the last few days, @SeaWorld_Parks temporarily ceased updating its Shamu account and posted links to its blog and company statements about the incident. The company also replies to followers who offer condolences and answers some questions.

Southwest Airlines and Comcast use Twitter every day to manage crises. After the Kevin Smith incident, @SouthwestAir communicated with Smith directly through Twitter and posted the conversation to its blog, showing the public exactly how much the company wanted to resolve the problem. Comcast’s team of tweeters monitor negative content generated on Twitter about the company. Minutes after I tweeted about my less-than-perfect Comcast service, @ComcastBill quickly responded and had my problem fixed in a few hours or less. I then, of course, tweeted about my positive experience, and Comcast turned a mini-crisis into free, positive PR.

In PR, I’m constantly learning about the importance of social media for personal branding, creating relationships, etc. Why not include crisis communication? As Twitter becomes more widely accepted by the general public, a trend is developing towards shooting out a quick tweet to calm rough waters before a press conference or press release can push away the storm.

by Allison Cook


  1. Post comment

    This is a good example of how immediately apologies can be sent, but I would also urge people to realize that they should not be the only form of apology. They are great for immediate satisfaction, but only if followed up with more action when necessary. For Mayer, this may have been enough. After all, he was trying to make a point with that word and stick to doing so, wrong or not. But with the Shamu incident, and the Kevin Smith incident, these apologies can only work as immediate front and back end formalities.


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