After being fired twice in the last year-and-a-half – including once by The Donald – former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojavich is making press again. This time, it’s for a social media campaign aimed to repair the reputation of the infamous politician-turned-reality-TV-personality.
Shortly after his corruption trial began in Chicago last week, Blagojavich launched a Twitter account as a means of rallying support and sharing his side of the story. While his comments have been sporadic over the past week, his agenda is clear based on some of the most recent messages:
@governorrod: Please follow on Twitter for the latest updates. I am innocent and look forward to clearing my name.
@governorrod: Looking forward to opening statements because that will unlock the truth… stay tuned.
To promote the campaign, Blagojavich’s PR firm, The Publicity Agency, issued a press release, which highlighted third-party tweets in support of Blago’s innocence:
@IP0905: Good luck. Hope they release all the tapes. (18 followers)
@JanetRudd: Innocent till proven guilty. I’m watching closely. (88 followers)
@keenansaulter: Keep an open mind regarding the Blagojevich trial-remember everyone has a right to a FAIR UNBIASED trial by jury!!!! (39 followers)
Additionally, the release includes a quote from Blagojavich’s publicist, Glenn Selig, stating, “I can’t tell you how much the former governor and his wife Patti appreciate the words of encouragement whether they come via Twitter, email or snail mail.”
At my agency, we council our clients against issuing press releases announcing social media programs. If executed well, the social media presence should garner audience awareness and cultivate engagement on its own. This particular release was a misstep for many reasons:
1) The third-party tweets come from low-profile users who lack influence and reach. The inclusion of tweets from media or political thought leaders would have boosted credibility.
2) The quote came from Selig – a biased source who some have called “a PR sleaze” – rather than an outside supporter or Blagojavich himself.
3) The release is highlighting a poorly executed Twitter account. In theory, Twitter could be a very effective tool for Blagojavich’s reputation management. It provides a platform for the fielding questions and starting an open dialogue with the public. However, the account posts only once a day (if that) with very little interaction with other Twitter users.
When repairing a tarnished reputation, the social media presence should resonate with the character and consistency of the brand. Unfortunately, Blagojavich’s Twitter account and the press release fit together perfectly with what we’ve come to expect of the former governor. Rather than launching a social media campaign focusing on the “I’m the victim” angle, he would have been wise to position the Twitter account and press release in a way that emphasized transparency, honesty and a willingness to opening engage about his positive attributes.
No matter your political stance or personal sentiment toward Blagojavich, we can all learn what not to do when it comes to managing a soiled reputation through Twitter.