Worst Twitter Post Ever: Ketchum Exec Insults Fedex Client on Mini-Blog

Last Updated Apr 22, 2011 9:48 AM EDT

Much has been made of Ketchum vp James Andrews, who became an international embarrassment to Ketchum when he used his Twitter account to insult Memphis, the hometown of client Fedex, the morning before he was to meet with them there. The tweet was copied to Fedex's marketing management, and a predictable round of corporate apologizing followed. Here's a summary of what happened, when it happened, and who noticed.

The Twitter post was initially spotted by blogger Peter Shankman:
This particular Twitter posting came back to bite the agency person from Ketchum (New York office) who made some unflattering remarks about Memphis this morning before he presented on digital media to the worldwide communications group at FedEx (150+) people.
Note that Andrews is presenting on digital media, and is supposed to be au courant with the way that a single blog post can become a shot heard 'round the world.

Here's what Andrews' tweet actually said:
True confession but i'm in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say "I would die if I had to live here!"
(Note to non-New Yorkers: About 90 percent of New Yorkers think this about every town.)

Here's what the Fedex employees who read the post said in their email to Fedex management:
Many of my peers and I feel this is inappropriate. We do not know the total millions of dollars FedEx Corporation pays Ketchum annually for the valuable and important work your company does for us around the globe. We are confident however, it is enough to expect a greater level of respect and awareness from someone in your position as a vice president at a major global player in your industry. A hazard of social networking is people will read what you write.
My favorite part is the last line:
true confession: many of my peers and I don't see much relevance between your presentation this morning and the work we do in Employee Communications.
The blog world jumped in, first with the obvious:
He seems to have embarrassed himself terribly.
by Tweeting about Memphis, Andrews appears to have forgotten that he's publishing stuff - or he's forgotten what 'publish' means.
Andrews then apologized:
As many of you know there has been a lot of online chatter around a recent situation that has unfortunately spiraled. As an active practitioner in the space, I felt the need to both address the situation and offer my perspective on the practice of social media. Two days ago I made a comment on Twitter that was the emotional response to a run in I had with an intolerant individual. The Tweet was aimed at the offense not the city of Memphis. Everyone knows that at 140 characters Twitter does not allow for context and therefore my comments were misunderstood. If I offended the residents of Memphis, TN I'm sorry. That was not my intention. I understand that people have tremendous pride in their hometown.
Ketchum then apologized:
Ketchum also called the incident a "lapse in judgment," in a statement. "We've apologized to our client... We greatly value this long standing client relationship. It is our privilege to work with them," the Ketchum statement read.
In later Twitter postings, the "keyinfluencer" said he was "Having a great day with my new friends at #Fedex" and apologized.
And Fedex said it was letting the whole thing go:
FedEx spokesman Jess Bunn said, "This is an unfortunate situation and demonstrates very poor judgment by Mr. Andrews. The reaction by our employees proves once again that FedEx takes great pride in our hometown of Memphis."
"This lapse in judgment also demonstrates the need to apply fundamental communications principles in the evolving social networking environment: Think before you speak; be careful of you what you say and how you say it. Mr. Andrews made a mistake, and he has apologized. We are moving on. "
Bloggers then noted the not-so-obvious. Here's ZDNet:
What's interesting to me about the ill advised client communications faux pas by James is the meeting of his lightweight and open Twitter message with the rather pompous classic 'impress the command and control bosses' riposte by email.
One commenter noticed by Adrants:
People who live in small cities are always trying to prove something. They exhibit irrational pride for their little slice of nowhere. Seriously. Who cares? If James said he would die if he had to live in LA, no client would even take notice. Of if they did notice they certainly wouldn't care. They definitely wouldn't ship it to a gaggle of senior leaders at both companies. But talk about Memphis.....and it's ON.
And finally, Gawker:
James Andrews had to fly into Memphis yesterday for a client meeting with FedEx, and observed, correctly, that Memphis is a hellhole.
James Andrews will never make the mistake of being honest again.

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