TV3’s PR Blunder on Nana Aba’s off-duty twitter prank– My take

TV3’s Nana Aba Anamoah, is currently spending time off our screens for perhaps th e most surreal “offence”, when her innocent prank to excite commentary from her followers on twitter rather became her undoing.

Perhaps one of Ghana’s biggest-ever silver-screen goddesses, Nana Aba is learning the hard way that Ghanaians are yet to warm up to a culture of taking life a little easier. Unfortunately, her own employers, for whom she had dedicated over 12 years of her whole being and professional career through unquestionable loyalty, seem to have shockingly ditched her when it mattered most.

This piece examines the Public Relations (PR) implications of TV3’s response to the Nana Aba twitter prank and argues that the station’s reaction did more harm to its own brand and Nana Aba’s. I conclude with a model strategic response to the situation which would have rather solidified the station’s brand and begin the reputation repair process to the Nana Aba brand as well.

Inspiration from elsewhere?

The emergence of what most in this part of the world call social media, but what professionals call ‘New Media’ has lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding information sharing and has brought with it an unintentional transparency. Anything you post on your timeline is instantaneously visible or accessible to your hundreds of followers and their hundreds and followers too. It is the more reason why caution and circumspection must be the key. However, it appears we haven’t learnt much about this yet.

There is a tall list of employees who got the sack for something they tweeted or posted on their social media timelines. Journalists are not excluded.

For instance, an ESPN sport analyst Curt Schilling was been suspended for sharing a tweet with a meme comparing Muslims to Nazis that featured Adolf Hitler’s image. In the tweet, Schilling wrote, “The math is staggering when you get to the true #’s.” The words were written above a graphic of Hitler, which included the caption: “It’s said ONLY 5-10% of Muslims are extremists … In 1940, ONLY 7% of Germans were Nazis. How’d that go?”

Employer’s response: “Curt’s tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company’s perspective,” the network said. “We made that point very strongly to Curt and have removed him from his current Little League assignment pending further consideration.”

Comment: It is important to note that although the tweet was not related to Curt’s professional engagement as a journalist with the ESPN, such religious comments often hurt sensibilities. So the reaction of ESPN was understandable.

Another case worth considering was that ofOctavia Nasr, formerly CNN’s senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs. In July 2010, Nasr tweeted, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” It was in response to news that the Shiite cleric had died. The now infamous tweet caused a furore among some Israeli supporters.

Employer’s Response: Although Nasr apologized, the higher ups at CNN still fired her, saying Nasr’s “credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.”

Comment: The sensitivity of Nasr’s position in the Middle East means she was likely to be biased in her reportage of the volatile Israeli-Palestinian situation. It touched the core of her engagement. Hence the employer’s decision to sack her was understandable. It was the only way CNN could have assured its followers in Israel of an unbiased reportage.

Furthermore, in September 2010, the Arizona Daily Star fired Brian Pedersen for “inappropriate and unprofessional” tweeting. In several different tweets, Pedersen criticized his paper and another news outlet and negatively commented on Tucson’s homicide rates.

Comment: You cannot bite the hand that feeds you and expect to be continuously fed. The employer’s reaction was again understandable.

Australian radio announcer Gavin Miller was canned from his job at a Melbourne-based radio station for “a severe breach of [the station’s] social media policy.” Miller took to his Twitter account to call out a Christian lobbyist. Miller disagreed with the remarks and called the lobbyist a “turd” and other more graphic insults on Twitter.

Employer’s Response: “Social media policy or not, we do not want someone who makes comments like that working at our radio station,” said the station’s acting general manager.

Comment: As a journalist, it is a cardinal sin to insult others. This conduct couldn’t have been tolerated by any other employer.

Additionally, Damian Goddard, a sports reporter in Canada, lost his job at Rogers Sportsnet after tweeting against gay marriage. “I completely and wholeheartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage,” Goddard tweeted.

Employer’s Response: According to CBC News, Goddard’s station later tweeted, “Today’s tweet from Damian Goddard does not reflect the views of Rogers Sportsnet.” He was subsequently let go.

Comment: Again, gay marriage is an extremely controversial issue in the west. So a journalist who declares his anti-gay position is not likely to be tolerated by his employers.

Renee Gork lost her job at an Arkansas radio station in August 2010 for a bad tweet declaring her bias against a particular sports team.

Employer’s Response: Dan Storrs, Gork’s boss, told Sports Radio Interviews Gork tweeted (on her personal Twitter account) that she would rather cover the Gators than the Arkansas Razorbacks. “We can’t allow employees covering the Razorbacks to get on the Twitter account and say how much she’d prefer to be covering the Gators and things like that,” Storrs said.

Comment: Again, this situation was directly connected to the journalist’s job. Hence a possibility of bias against the other team in her reportage. They only insurance against that was her removal.

As recent as this week, a Polaris Marketing Group employee Gerod Roth was fired after snapping a seemingly innocuous selfie alongside 3-year-old Cayden Jenkins and posting it to Facebook on Sept. 16, triggering an immediate torrent of hateful comments, including “I didn’t know you were a slave owner” and “But Massuh, I dindu nuffin” while also calling the young boy “Kunta Kinte.”

Employer’s Response: Polaris Marketing Group President Michael Da Graca Pinto called the Facebook comments “disgusting,” but insisted Roth’s Sept. 29 termination two weeks after the post was the result of unrelated issues at work. (By Nicole Hensley,New York Daily News, Monday, October 5, 2015)

In another instance, thirteen Virgin Airlines crew members were fired after publicly discussing aspects of their job on Facebook. They shared the number of times that certain airplane engines had been replaced and that the cabins were infested with cockroaches. They also took the time to insult the passengers who ultimately pay their salaries.

Comment: They surely couldn’t have expected to remain in their jobs after such inappropriate conduct. They could have reported same to their supervisors for action. So the company’s response was appropriate.

Indeed there are many more of such instances where employees got the sack after a tweet or post. Nevertheless I need to make the point that in most of these situations, the employees’ tweets or posts had a direct relationship with their roles as employees. But the circumstances differ from case to case.

For media organisations that hold objectivity, fairness and truth as its cardinal principles, any post or tweet which is likely to compromise any of these principles may be taken seriously by the employer.

Like any other media organisation worried about the torrent of ridicule and tweet-bashing one it its star anchors was going through, TV3 may have jumped onto google to look for how organisations reacted in similar circumstances. Their mistake was to follow wrongly.

An overkill?

What was Nana Aba’s offence? That she posted photographs taken by another person, claiming she was at a football match when she actually wasn’t. Later evidence however showed that her intention was to play a prank on his followers and later tell them they had all been pranked. Unfortunately, she got accused of ‘stealing the pictures’ and passing them off as hers. This attracted a lot of negative reactions from followers, haters, colleagues, etc.

If left without clarification, Nana Aba’s 12 year old personal brand was on the way to being shattered into pieces; and of course this was going to affect her employer’s brand too. There was a need for some action to forestall this. Then her employers took the decision to take her off-air. But the public announcement of that decision and on the station’s prime-time news programme gave the impression that TV3 would not stop at nothing to protect its brand, even if it means publicly destroying the personal brand of its employees. This singular act in my view was an overreaction. I believe the station was ill-advised and that action brought back the controversy which was almost dead.

The wording of the press statement was quite damaging to the Nana Aba brand. The first paragraph says “The management of TV3 has taken a serious view of the recent media reportage relating to its news anchor, producer and presenter, Ms. Nana Aba Anamoah and the alleged online information theft and other unprofessional misrepresentations which have flooded social and other media in the past one week. After preliminary investigations internally, and in accordance with TV3’s own commitment to the highest levels of professionalism, Management has decided to take Nana Aba off-air until further notice.”

This paragraph seems to suggest that the station had absolutely no confidence in one of its star employees. The use of the words “online information theft”, and “unprofessional misrepresentations” without quotation marks, meant the station does not trust its key anchor.

The second paragraph of the statement reads: “As a broadcast network that prides itself in upholding high ethical standards and delivering credible and trustworthy content to its viewers, TV3 would like to assure its stakeholders that it shall continue to take all necessary steps to maintain such high standards”.

The above paragraph further reinforced the station’s seeming lack of trust in its employees.

The final paragraph reads: “We expect guardians of our brand, particularly employees who we entrust to deliver content on air to our viewers to ascribe to the company’s core values wherever they are. TV3 is committed to deliver on its promise of being the First in News and Best in Entertainment”.

This paragraph also appears to have accused Nana Aba of not ascribing to the station’s values.

Although the statement from TV3 may have been influenced by a desire to protect its source of revenue by keeping the confidence of its advertising clients, it had the unintended consequences of further destroying Nana Aba’s personal reputation as a brand. It is my respectful view that this is a poor way of handling a perceived PR crisis. Not only would this also lower the self-esteem of existing employees, it will also discourage potential employees from choosing TV3 as an institution to die for.

It is even more worrying particularly when the employee involved in the off-duty twitter prank explained the circumstances of the situation and apologised for her misjudgement. Equally disturbing is the fact that in this particular instance, the tweet had absolutely nothing to do either directly or indirectly with Nana Aba’s engagement as an employee of TV3, save the casual media reference to her as a extension of the TV3 brand.

It appears to an outsider like me that either the station was already shopping for an opportunity to disengage with the employee without being accused of unfair dismissal, or the station was simply ill-advised on how to deal with the situation.

It is no wonder therefore that this has backfired so badly, that majority of the public described the decision as highhandedness, unnecessary or an overkill. Now the same people who were ridiculing Nana Aba on social media, have jumped to her defence, with the campaign dubbed#BringBackNanaAba, calling on TV3 to reinstate her.

As Nana Yaw Kesse stated in his brilliant article on this issue, TV3 has scored an own goal in this instance.

A better response strategy?

After waiting for almost a week after the initial furore before saying anything, TV3’s response should have been aimed as first protecting Nana Aba’s reputation, while at the same time positioning itself as an organisation that cares about its own reputation.

Consequently, a publication on the station’s website only, indicating that the station is investigating the situation and would make its findings public in due course would have been enough. This could have been followed by an internal decision to allow Nana Ana to stay off-air for a while in order for the dust to settle. There was no need announcing to the world that Nana Aba has been taken off-pair particularly when the prank had nothing to do directly with her employment at TV3.
Model response statement

So if I were writing that statement, the draft below would have been a better response from the organisation:
“The Management of TV3 has taken a serious view of the recent media reportage relating to a private social media tweet of its news anchor, producer and presenter, Ms. Nana Aba Anamoah. An internal committee has been constituted to investigate the issue. TV3 will make the findings of the committee public.

As a broadcast network that prides itself in upholding high ethical standards and delivering credible and trustworthy content to its viewers, TV3 would like to assure its stakeholders that it will not tolerate any conducts that would compromise this standard”.

The above would have ensured that TV3’s own image stayed intact without destroying Nana Aba’s brand

 

Credit :James Afedo

Email: consultant@reddconsultingllc.com

james.afedo@gmail.com