Posted June 27, 2012 11:12 am by with 0 comments

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If you are the NBA you should be feeling pretty good right now. Despite a strike shortened seasn you just ended on a very high note where your most loved and hated player, LeBron James, finally got his ring (although his big mouth lessened the impact since he was talking about 7 championships in Miami but no one said he was sharp).

The trouble is that though the season ended with a bang how do you make headlines now? Well, you have a player who ultimately gets fined $50,000 for using an anti-gay direct message on Twitter and your esteemed commissioner uses the subject of wife beating as a wedge against a pesky reporter. In this world of online reputation potholes the league is now axle deep in two when it should be promoting one of its greatest moments. All of this after the league went through the trouble of putting on the first annual social media awards show!

So what are the details? Well, let’s talk about the commissioner first. Apparently, he’s a bit touchy these days. Two weeks ago, Jim Rome of syndicated sports talk radio fame asked him on his radio show if the NBA lottery was fixed. A loaded question, for sure, but not uncommon for a guy like Rome who specializes in ticking people off to make headlines (he was once attacked on camera after he goaded NFL quarterback Jim Everett by referring to him as ‘Chris’ for years on radio then in person). Rather than laugh it off like he should have, the commissioner, in his infinite wisdom, responded with the out of the blue and unfounded response of “Have you stopped beating your wife?” (You can go here to listen to the exchange which starts at about 7:40). Real funny commish.

That was just about two weeks ago. Fast forward to today when the very same commissioner handed out a $50,000 fine to New York Knicks player Amare Stoudemire got into an exchange with a fan on Twitter.The LA Times reviews the situation with the following

The NBA has fined Amare Stoudemire $50,000 for using an anti-gay slur in a tweet to a fan.

Stu Jackson, the league’s executive vice president of basketball operations, announced the penalty Tuesday in a news release.

The incident occurred on Saturday after Stoudemire responded to a fan’s tweet that read: “You better come back stronger and quicker to make up for last season.” The tweet also had an obscenity at the end of the sentence.

Stoudemire replied to the fan with a direct message that included an anti-gay slur and profanity.

The fan then took a screen capture of Stoudemire’s message and tweeted it. Multiple blogs reposted it.

Stoudemire apologized to the fan Sunday morning by sending him another direct message, which read: “I apologize for what I said earlier. I just got off the plane and had time to think about it. Sorry bro. No Excuses. Won’t happen again.”

The fan tweeted that message as well.

Rather than get caught up in the right or wrong nature of this incident (should the fan have kept a direct message private? or is Amare Stoudemire that stupid to think that someone won’t try to screw him if he says something incredibly offensive?) Let’s look at this as marketers and people who need to protect company assets in a world where there is more exposure to trouble than ever.

The most glaring lesson is the completely inadequate awareness by most people that they are being offensive. As a result they keep saying stupid things. Stern and Stoudemire prove that with their ‘wit’. What if this were an employee in your company talking to a client or anyone for that matter? What do you do? If you wait until after the fact you are just trying to mitigate and minimize the damage.

What’s most important is education prior to an event like this. Policies are fine but the National Labor Relations Board is making a hobby of tearing those apart. In case these haven’t been worked on at your place of business already, you should consider the following 3 steps in helping protect your company’s reputation from the perspective of your employees.

1. Educate employees on social media and acceptable use regarding your business

2. Educate employees some more

3. Continue to educate employees on a regular basis using case studies like this one to prove our point over and over again

Look, you can’t legislate stupid. People do dumb things no matter how much they are told not to. That’s a fact of the world not just social media. When it becomes the company’s problem though, is when there is potential damage to the reputation of the company and to its ability to operate and make money.

We all need to accept that the online world is fraught with peril. That’s a given. But that peril can be minimized and managed to a great degree with some simple, straight forward prior planning.

Are you doing all you can to educate your employees about social media and its inherent risks to the company? If not then don’t go crying that someone screwed up your reputation with a sideways tweet or update. If you have not educated them then the problem is on you.

Agree? Disagree? What are you doing to try to keep the Stoudemire’s and Stern’s of your business in check with regard to social media and media in general?