There is a thin line in today’s engagement-driven world between posting provoking content in order to solicit an emotional response and sharing a legitimate opinion of concern based on personal knowledge and contextual opinions. This line becomes further blurred when that content is of a controversial manner.
In the professional world, we use company policies and industry ethics standards to guide how we represent brands and companies when sharing content.
However, in our personal life, these filters are often left to the traits that define our personal judgement, and in a broader sense, character. Intelligent questions of the establishment can often be viewed as personal attacks by those who are directly connected to the party or issue being questioned, or by those with other conflicts of interest.
Firsthand experience with content filters
A close friend, Riley de León, recently learned many of these things firsthand. For those of you that don’t already know Riley, I can not do justice to the man he is in a simple web posting.
An accomplished author? Yes.
A Mizzou scholar? Yes.
An entrepreneur mind with a commitment to positive change? Yes.
As wonderful as each of these facts are individually, it is what they combine to create that makes Riley stand apart as a friend dedicated to having an impact.
He is a friend to peers, a friend to improving the culture at Mizzou, and a friend to me.
Framing the conversation: Open dialogue with an offering of context
Riley was appointed as the MSA Director of Student Communication, a position on the 2016 Executive Council at the University of Missouri.
Then, that appointment was withdrawn.
If you want to know why, I encourage you to reach out to him directly. He has repeatedly offered to have a frank and open dialogue about how he was informed, why he thinks the decision was made, and the impact it has had on him.
Few people know the direct facts so I won’t try to relay them. Instead, what I fill focus on is the strategy used by Riley to communicate what he believes was an unjust dismissal.
He posted a blunt apology. “In the interest of brevity, I have only written here an apology for my ill judge of character,” he said on his personal Facebook account.
In the post he describes a narrative of why he believes the Mizzou MSA President broke the trust confidence of the team that supported him and helped to put him in office. He offered cons statements on his personal experiences and then followed them up with context and a promise to provide additional information offline.
Riley could have approached the situation in many ways. He could have gone on the attack, making slanderous and false statements. He could have done nothing, and left others in the dark about someone, who in his words, “his personal agenda to cloud his administrative “decisions”.
Instead, he made the mature decision to voice his option and to be an advocate for open discussion. As some reached out in support, others posed questions or direct disagreement. Riley responded to each of these comments with a calm demeanor and even more impressive in my opinion, a thank you for engaging in the discussion….even with they were in disagreement.
The person on the other end of this discussion, the incoming MSA President, has had no communication on his official social media pages. He offered no context and engaged in no way to the conversation Riley initiated.
Without speaking to the facts of the situation, I think an elected representative as an obligation to inform stakeholders of their narrative. As a Mizzou stakeholder, both as a state taxpayer and campus donor, I hope this changes in the days to come.
The take away:
It’s easy to take path of least resistance. It’s easy to making a post based on emotional out lash instead of a combination of personal experience and fact. However, a true leader faces the content head-on. He or she knows that if they are going to make statements that evoke questions, they have to openly and respectfully engage in responding to them.
5 things to keep in mind:
- Set emotions aside – Don’t post when you are writing from an emotional standpoint. Write it, wait 24 hours, then re-write it. Does your message stay the same?
- Be prepared to engage in open and respectful dialogue – You don’t have to agree in your response but you do need to acknowledge a differing opinion. Sometimes you will be in a position to offer reasoning for your differences, other times it is best to recognize there may not be a clear path to resolving them.
- Be transparent – If you aren’t ready to put everything on the table, including the things you may have done that were wrong or less than perfect, then you shouldn’t be posting.
- Know your audience – Your message may vary based on the platform, sensitivity of the content, and specific audience. Know who you are talking to and adjust your message accordingly.
- Measure the ROI – Thinking like a finance major, is there a return of investment? Is your content just stirring the pot or is there a path to measurable change? Know the amount of effort you are willing to put in and what you want your final result to be.
While brands have the luxury of being driven by industry standards and company policies when posting online, our personal accounts rely on a different judgement, our own.
I continue to encourage peers to exercise their First Amendment rights and raise questions, share personal experiences, and challenge the establishment when the situation warrants.
However, I challenge that same group to do so in a responsible and transparent matter. Together we can collaborate for a greater good when we have the courage to speak up.
– Chase, #JustTouchingBase
The ideas and content shared in this post are the sole personal opinions of Chase Snider. They do not represent a professional standpoint or opinion of any company Chase works for, provides work services for, or serves as a member of. For questions about this content, please email firstname.lastname@example.org