My smart colleague Daniel posted a terrific new year’s resolution blog yesterday. I have one more thing to add.

Many of us at some point have had to make an apology or two for comments made when we may have been, er, overserved. Andy Cohen did so after his annual CNN New Year’s Eve hosting gig with Anderson Cooper, during which he made digs at Ryan Seacrest. Less common is the need for a brand to apologize for social posts about drinking. So, this is a legal blog; some might say even a family blog. We do try not to offend. Even setting the stage here is a bit delicate. Lots of folks participate in Dry January (a challenging yet less rigorous approach than Whole30). Some alcohol companies will promote their nonalcoholic alternatives:

But Pabst Blue Ribbon tried a different approach, mocking and shaming the concept in a way not unlike the beat-down Andy gave poor Ryan. Pabst likened avoiding drinking in January to, well, nibbling on body parts. When people engaged with the posts, the brand responded with hard-to-beat “your mama” retorts. The tweets were promptly deleted, with an apology in their place that explained they were the work of a rogue employee and did not reflect the brand’s values.

After all of the focus on social media influencer disclosures after the Federal Trade Commission sweep in the fall, now is a good time to consider other important safeguards to your own brand’s social channels to prevent something like the Pabst debacle. Pabst’s mistake is an easy thing to mock, but it’s also pretty easy to understand how such a thing can happen, with pressure on brands to have engaging and consistent content, even during the holidays when many people are off. We recommend doing the following:

  • Know all of the official brand social media channels – keep a current list.
  • Set clear rules for who has permission to post on your brand’s shared privileged accounts and what the clearance procedures are, both internally and at your agencies.
  • Have a clear process for terminating access to posting if an employee or agent is fired and generally managing password access.
  • Think carefully about who will be tasked with administering the accounts.
  • Provide and update guidance on brand voice, tone and language.
  • Provide guidance on how to address IP issues, including use of hashtags and curation guidelines.
  • Maintain a social media policy that addresses all the above and is specific to those employees and agents who create and post content on the company’s social media accounts.
  • Have a crisis plan – stuff happens. Usually the best approach is speed, honesty and brevity when clearing up an “oops” posting moment.

Make a toast (alcoholic or not) to buttressing your social media processes!