Gloating Law Firm boss shows social media needs careful hands

Gloating Law Firm boss shows social media needs careful hands

It is sometimes not appreciated just how new social media really is, but occasionally we see a huge Public Relations own goal that makes us appreciate that it’s still very much in its infancy.

In recent days, law firm Baker Small have found a place in the social media hall of shame after gloating tweets from its founder following a special education needs tribunal victory.

Subsequently, the firm has been dropped by local authority clients in what we can only assume is a huge financial loss to the business.

The tweets were posted from the firm’s Twitter account by the founder Mark Small on Saturday 11th June and concerned a ‘win’ which included a picture of a kitten that appears to be yawning, with the message: ‘Some great tweets received today from people who just see a one-sided argument… just shared them with my cat…’

However, despite his apologies, it seems lasting damage has been done with many clients and would-be clients now distancing themselves from the firm.

Mr Small has tried some damage limitation with a statement saying: ‘I have apologised for the serious error of judgement on my part, which was both provocative and hurtful to many. I deeply regret it and have issued two apologies and made a donation to a children’s charity. I am passionate about the law in this area and a moment of red mist has done severe damage to my firm and reputation. I alone take full responsibility.”

As a PR firm that manages and directs many law firms’ social media and communication strategies, we believe this tale is a warning of how calamitous poorly thought through communications can be.

Being so close to the subject matter, Mr Small was clearly momentarily blinded by his fist pumping euphoria, which resulted in the very unwise posts. It’s unfortunate in any form but in a professional environment, it’s fatal.

Mr Small might well be a very decent chap, but he had nowhere to hide following the tweets. The only way forward, which he did do, was to issue an apology.

However, just like Gerald Ratner’s jokes many years ago about his jewellery empire’s goods being worth no more than a sandwich, some comments are best never divulged to others, even in jest, and definitely not on social media.

PR is all about the management of reputation. Without proper guidance, communication tools, such as social media can be as dangerous as the Wild West.

Mr Small is not feeling as tall as he did when he posted his unfortunate tweets and his mistake demonstrates how at the very least, every firm should have a social media policy, so as to educate employees and set some ground rules.

Many employees are naïve about social media — they think that their posts and tweets are only being read by friends. Comments on social media sites can spread very quickly and as demonstrated in this case the outcome was hugely unfavourable for the firm.

With a social media strategy and/or policy in place, Baker Small would be looking at a much brighter and safer future but the outcome will now be very different because of one person’s momentary lapse of judgement.