Salt Lake City School District

A story is going viral right now and it goes something like this. This past Tuesday an elementary school decided it was O.K. to allow little children (ages 7 -10) to select their lunches and walk to the register where lunch staff took the child’s tray (depending on whether or not child had an unpaid balance) and dumped his/her food into the trashcan! Offending children were then given a carton of milk and a piece of fruit and told to sit down.

The local paper got their hands on the story and by Wednesday night the district published a lukewarm apology on their Facebook page. Even worse, below the apology is the following post, “Help fight child hunger through the Souper Bowl of Caring! Child poverty and hunger are reaching alarming levels in Utah…” Salt Lake City School District might as well have dug their own grave, jumped into it, and danced in the dirt.

Here are 3 social media management takeaways generously gifted to us by the Salt Lake City SD:

1. Apologize properly. Don’t ever begin an apology with an explanation. People already know what happened. Begin with a thoughtful, compassionate apology stating not only how you will hold the offenders accountable but also how you will make amends.

2. Avoid appearing hypocritical. Salt Lake City SD’s lukewarm apology for taking food away from hungry children above their “Help Fight Child Hunger” post is inordinately stupid. Fact is, they should have taken the Help Fight Child Hunger post down.

3. Communicate with your audience. Organizations who ignore or delete negative comments appear as though they are beyond reproach. Even if they don’t feel this way, their refusal to acknowledge and respond to complaints or concerns smacks of disregard.

The Salt Lake City School District fiasco is just beginning and, although they are taking and will continue to take a lot of damage, their reputation is reparable. If you were their social media manager, how would you help them recover? What PR advice do you have for them?