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Friday, June 25, 2010

Lessons Learned: Don't Burn Bridges

Guest Blog: Is It Easier to Burn Bridges in Social Media? (Uh... Yeah)

As a marketer who has been innovating in the social media space for three years now, I have come across a clear and somewhat harsh reality when it comes to building your professional brand: the importance of not burning a bridge.

Yet it is so easy to do when you let emotions and perhaps even the desire to avenge your former employer overtake you. And if you’re not smart, you’ll take these feelings to the airwaves of social mediums and really dig yourself a whole. A blog post here. A Facebook status update there. Pretty soon you’ve unknowingly built yourself a leveraging base for questioning how much of a professional you really are. (Yep, people do forget they’re still connected with their ex-boss on Facebook).

This is reality. Social media is a reality (not a fad, in my humble opinion) and is making it a whole lot easier to burn bridges, moreover, making it quite awkward when seeing former employers and colleagues at PRSA and IABC events—and now social media breakfasts and tweet-ups. So what do you do if you’ve burned a bridge? Let’s start by saying the bridge can be mended. As the digital age now tells us one needs to share by experience, so I share this with you.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to make things right with a former employer of mine and I took it. It just so happened that this person was going to be attending the same social media event that I was. And knowing it was a small, intimate gathering, the chances of uncomfortably catching each other’s eye was all the more plausible. (Months earlier, I had briefly ran into this person at the Alphabet Bash and it was, to say the least, awkward).

We decided to meet pre-social event over coffee and mend the bridge. Now, we’re retweeting each other’s posts and all is well on the professional front. And it has to be said: I feel a whole lot better about myself, as I'm sure they do too.

If you’re a professional, and you get a queasy, uneasy feeling upon seeing certain individuals at events both big and small, ask yourself if all is well on the social frontier. The faster you mend, the more likely your brand will move in a positive and supportive direction.

Tim Otis is Supervisor, Social Media/PR for Gabriel deGrood Bendt