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A Lesson in Social Media Use from Khristopher Brooks and his Almost-Employer, Gannett
By: Christine Geraci
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We've talked to death about the need for any company serious about building a quality social media presence to develop and adhere to sound policies and guidelines for social media use. 
 
But what happens when those policies are a bit...well...outdated?
 
Enter the curious case of Khristopher Brooks, a journalist and NYU graduate student who was fired from a reporting job at the Wilmington News Journal in Delaware before he even wrote a single word for the paper. Brooks was so excited about his hiring that he decided to announce it on his public Tumblr blog in a mock press-release style as if he were a star athlete who'd just signed with a team. It was a creative and playful way of letting his family, followers, and colleagues know his career trajectory.
 
Only Gannett, the News Journal's publisher, wasn't amused that Brooks quoted the hiring letter he received from the newspaper's editor, and also used the newspaper's logo in the post. And as a result, Brooks was fired.
 
At first, I wondered if there was more to the story. Maybe Brooks wrote something controversial or disparaging. Maybe he said something really unprofessional. But judging from the original post, he didn't. 
 
This situation is especially damning because it involves a newspaper company — a company that should especially know better. But in the end, this is just yet another classic case of a company not quite understanding social media.
 
If the company did understand, its officials:
 
1) would have realized something like the announcement of a hiring on a personal blog was a distinct possibility. And thus,
 
2) would have provided simple guidelines for new hires on how they should be conducting themselves via social media as an employee of the company.
 
3) would have embraced the fact that many of today's young job seekers — journalists especially — use social media voraciously for professional purposes and probably found out about the job in the first place via one of their social channels.
 
4) would have understood that personal blogs — especially Tumblr blogs — are going to have a bit more of a casual tone where coloring outside the creative lines is encouraged. 
 
Call me crazy, but it seems like anyone else who used a company logo on their blog without permission would have simply received a cease-and-desist email. And the quoting of the hiring letter? That's an official document from the company, not a personal correspondence between two people. Why not quote it?
 
Hopefully, other companies will learn a valuable lesson from this: Always assume your potential hires are using social channels. In fact, their skill at using said channels should factor into your hiring decisions. Heavily.
 
What do you think of the Khristopher Brooks situation? 


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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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