JPMorgan is under attack. And this time it is not from regulators or investors demanding answers about multibillion- dollar losses from their trading desks. No, this time, the battleground is Twitter and the enemy is John Q. Public. After promoting a Twitter chat with one of its senior executives, the JPMorgan Twitter handle was besieged by an angry mob of tweeters who were seemingly venting their anger for the company's financial miscues. Check out the #AskJPM hashtag on Twitter if you like verbal train wrecks.
So, what should JP Morgan have done differently to avoid this situation? What can other brands learn from JPMorgan's mistakes? Here are six tips:
1. Timing is everything. If you are going through a massive reputation crisis, don't use your corporate Twitter handle to conduct a Twitter Q&A with one of your most senior level executives on an undefined topic. In the world of social media, this is a recipe for disaster.
2. Be empathetic. The world's greatest brands and their leaders all share the ability to understand the wants and needs of their audiences, and willingly show empathy and transparency when communicating with them in good times and bad. Being empathetic requires a commitment to active listening and putting the needs and concerns of your audiences ahead of your own.
(Read more: JPMorgan's Twitter #FAIL)
3. A seat at the table. When making any decision about communicating in any channel on behalf of any brand, include senior public relations counsel before launching it. This is why it is so important for corporate communicators to have a seat at the table. Their role should be to advise their leadership teams on the impact that business decisions will have on the reputation of the brand. They must also be the steward of reality for executives who are out of touch with how the brand is perceived in the marketplace.
4. Measure success. Regardless of the crisis, a company can actually come out of it looking better IF they're fully transparent, apologize and take corrective action (and the results of that action can be measured in real-time). For JPMorgan, #AskJPM is more than a lesson in social media; it should be a wake-up call to change how and what it communicates with its audiences. Hint: humility and transparency go a long way.
(Read more: Short sellers test the waters on Twitter)
5. Authenticity. Before embarking on a major social media endeavor — ahem, such as a Twitter Q&A — the individual involved should have a proven track record on the platform in which they plan to participate. James B. Lee Jr., JPMorgan's vice chairman, has a Twitter account but has never tweeted. It is a dormant account. He's not the right person for this type of effort.
6. Be specific. When conducting a Twitter Q&A, brands must set parameters and be as specific as possible about the nature of the chat and the topics that will be discussed. Asking a global audience to submit questions on any topic is asking for trouble, especially when in the midst of a global reputation crisis.
The #AskJPM debacle is a story of hubris, not enough empathy and a huge lack of understanding of the public's frustration and downright anger with JPMorgan's brand — all of which are recipes for disaster for any company. Will this be a wake-up call for JPMorgan or will they continue to ignore the reality swirling around them? Only time will tell; in the meantime, #AskJPM continues to go strong and the company remains steadfastly silent.
— By Ted Birkhahn
Ted Birkhahn is president of Peppercomm, a strategic marketing and communications firm based in NYC. You can follow him at @tedbirk94.