Sunday, March 27, 2011

Social media rules keep evolving

There was genuine surprise recently when UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued a written and YouTube statement regarding a now-famous student video by a student who mocked and complained about Asian students at UCLA.

As any person in charge of student affairs at a campus will confirm, students can and will behave badly. So, when Chancellor Block issued a statement, there were questions.

"What promoted the Chancellor to respond to this? Really, he needed to issue statement....for this video?"

As the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday, the rules of the game have changed. A "local" incident can quickly become an international one when a video or other item gets reposted and multiplies faster than the spread of a cold at grade school.

UCLA did the right thing to respond quickly in the manner it did. UCLA recruits globally. Silence or a "standard response" on this incident could have been perceived in many negatives ways by current and future students, alumni, donors and other stakeholders.

Those who wondered aloud why the Chancellor issued a statement probably felt that in doing so, it gave greater attention to an isolated incident involving a bone-head move by a student. However, UCLA's media team was monitoring the student video and soon realized it was taking on a life of its own.

Fortunately, UCLA's chancellor was available for the video shoot. Media and public relations departments must have back-up plans and pre-authorization in place to videotape the "next-in-line" in cases like these, should the chief be unavailable.

As this incident points out, the rules of responding to social media crises keep changing, keep evolving.

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