PR Gone Bad: How NOT to Deal with Twitter

There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. They must have coined this one in the olden days, before Twitter.  Because these days there is such a thing as bad publicity, and a Chicago company named Horizon Realty is getting it in spades.

One of Horizon’s former tenants, Amanda Bonnen, allegedly posted a not-so-favorable Tweet about her Chicago apartment, and the 22 people who followed her on Twitter saw it. That was grounds enough for a $50,000 libel lawsuit, according to Horizon Realty.

In fact, one of the company’s owners, Jeffrey Michael, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “We’re a ‘sue first, ask questions later’ kind of organization.”

As you can imagine, this quote has gone viral. The lawsuit and the response are all over the Twittersphere, with the Twitterati daring Horizon to sue them as well. Their 140 characters include the hash tag “#SueMeHorizonRealty.”

I’m assuming that being a company with a lot of properties to rent, Horizon Realty probably spends a fair amount of money on advertising to potential tenants. You know: young up-and-comers who probably use twitter. I would guess that its advertising budget is far more than $50,000. So how much money will the company have to spend now to erase “SueMeHorizonRealty”?

On top of that, the little tweet that only 22 people originally saw is now “a shot heard ’round the world.” Bonnen allegedly wrote, “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.” So now add moldy to their brand perception.

Chalk this up as a lesson in Social Media 101: what NOT to do.

Contributed by Christi Dunn, Chair, PRSA Houston Web Committee

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Filed under Public Relations, Social Media, Twitter

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