Using Social Media To Say ‘Good Bye’

By Nicki Mayo

Journalists don’t always get a chance to address the audience before leaving a position. Here are some ideas on how to use Facebook, Twitter and the like to talk directly to the people you cover.

Layoffs, buyouts, denied contract renewals and firings on the spot… American newsrooms are looking and feeling more like corpse filled battlefields than the people sent to cover the wars.

When managers deliver the bad news that a journalist is being let go it typically plays out like a Seal Team 6 mission. Fast, swift and stealth. The newsroom is often given a Human Resources crafted email resembling the following:

“John Doe is no longer with the company. We wish him well in his future endeavors.” -Management.

Losing a journalism job does not equal death, but it can sure feel that way when you don’t get a chance to say “goodbye” to your audience.  This is because most news organizations have had to cut costs so aggressively that the traditional newspaper letter, radio address or TV memory montage is not even part of the “usher you out the door” treatment.

‘Don’t Let the Door Hit You…’The dismissal process has changed a lot in this recession.

My experience has been the following pattern.

1. Management…

  • Announces “changes” are coming.
  • Sends out a mass email with the impending doom coming down the pipeline
  • Spontaneously cattle herds a group of employees into a room

2. Human resources bring employees into executives office one-by-one.

3. Fire at will. (all puns intended)

4. Remove the bodies. (A security escort may be involved)

5. Repeat dismissals as many times as necessary to balance the budget. This typically happens in mass around the fourth quarter (October through December) which is also the holiday season.

After all this “yuletide cheer” and an audacious exit, it’s understandable for anger to settle in. But it’s important to remain professional through it all.

Sure you may not have gotten a chance to say “goodbye” on the company dime, but there’s nothing stopping you from using social media to address your audience directly. This is the time to put your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to good use to preserve your professional brand.

Your Cheerful Departure
Write or record the “goodbye” you want your audience to see. This is a chance to tell your positive story, minus the negative feelings. So no matter how bad the working relationship was, negative energy has no place in your “goodbye.” Simply put, it looks unprofessional and comes off like sour grapes.

I resigned from my last position in January. I was lucky enough to use my work web page to video record my farewell to the people I covered in Crofton, Maryland. This method is good for offering closure while preserving your professional brand.

Say It With a Picture
I turned to my (then) 3,000-plus friends on Facebook to say “Gotta Go Buffalo” when my contract ended in Western New York. I spent week taking photos with my favorite people around Western New York. Then I posted a photo gallery on Facebook for all to chime in. The 120+ comment thread shows how this wasn’t a one-sided farewell. The audience community wanted to say “goodbye and thank you” too. This method is great for strengthening audience engagement at a time when you are disengaging from your media organization.

Tell Your Side
Sometimes you just want to tell your side of the story. Meteorologist Justin Berk used his Facebook fan page to pen his “Goodbye WMAR, But Not Baltimore” message to viewers. That post garnered more than 500 comments, 50 shares and 720 likes from followers. The letter to viewers detailed Berk’s time in the Baltimore market and what he love most about serving the Charm City community. This method is ideal if you plan to stay in the market and maintain your brand and audience following.

Clean Tweets 
I’ll never forget listening to the “Big Tigger Morning Show” on WPGC-FM Dec. 22 as the host celebrated his birthday on the air. Then reading DCRTV.com hours later to find out the 20-year veteran was ousted the same day. Darian ‘Big Tigga’ Morgan posted the following tweet the same day:

“FYI @WPGC & I have agreed 2 part ways. The BigTiggerMorningShow W/ Free is no more! Thanx 4 ya support & stay tuned! Now Back 2 my Bday:) RT”
Tigger is not a journalist, but this was a good example of what could happen to any anchor, reporter and the likes. “Here today, gone tomorrow.” Twitter is a great way to break the news that you’re “no longer with the company.” Just be sure to keep it clean as you respond to inquiries as to what happened from your supporters. This method is a good way to get in front of the story. Word travels fast and rumors more even faster.
There are countless other ways to say good-bye using social media. The key is to always stay professional. Remember you possibly signed a contract with a confidentiality clause that prohibits you from speaking freely of your employment and company privileged information. plus frankly,  it’s just not a good look. My rule of thumb is public knowledge is public. Any secrets and company business should stay within the company. You look like a jaded ex speaking negatively of your previous employer. So just avoid it at all costs. 
Journos,  your reputation and credibility are the legs of your brand. Don’t lose either on your way out the door, you won’t be left with a leg to stand on as you walk into your future.

Nicki Mayo is a multimedia journalist in Baltimore, MD. She has reported and produced for Aol/Patch.com, YNN Buffalo, WJHL-TV Newschannel 11/Tricities.com, BET News, WJZ-TV13, SNN 6/HeraldTribune.com and CTV 76 PG County .
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