Was it a big f'ing deal for the auto industry? Well, no, but it's pretty funny and, more importantly, it is a testament to the pitfalls of the instant digital communication that companies use to reach consumers in this age of social media.
"I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one knows how to f***ing drive," tweeted @ChryslerAutos, the official Chrysler handle, on Wednesday. The f-word was unfortunately fully spelled out in that hash-tagged denigration of Detroit and even if it hadn't been, mocking the Motor City seemed a rather odd tact for a carmaker whose new slogan, "Imported from Detroit", is meant to portend a comeback for a city that, along with American auto companies that inhabit it, has fallen on particularly hard times during the economic downturn.
Chrysler quickly deleted the errant message and tweeted that its account had been "compromised." As it turns out, the original profanity-laced tweet was sent out from Chrysler's twitter account by an employee of New Media Strategies, the company hired by Chrysler to help handle its social media communications. Chrysler said in a statement on its official blog that the person "has since been terminated."
"Chrysler Group and its brands do not tolerate inappropriate language or behavior, and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this communication," said the Chrysler statement. "Furthermore, the Company has set in place appropriate steps to ensure that this does not happen again."
Precisely what those "appropriate steps" were became clear on Thursday when the automaker announced that it would not be renewing its contract with New Media Strategies. "This company is committed to promoting Detroit and its hard-working people", Ed Garsten, Chrysler's Manager of Social Media, said in a blog post.
"[W]e appreciate the challenges Detroit faces in reclaiming its place as a vibrant, world-class city. Inside Detroit, citizens are becoming even more proud of their town, and outside the region, perception of Detroit is rapidly improving," Garsten explained. "With so much goodwill built up over a very short time, we can't afford to backslide now and jeopardize this progress."
Well-said, Ed. And whoever that now-former New Media Strategies employee is, it's safe to say he or she isn't LOLing.
Carter Yang is a Washington-based producer for the CBS Evening News. He covers the White House, aviation, transportation, and homeland security.