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Protecting your personal reputation online – with guest John Rennie

March 15, 2014

Stacey Johnson is the Director of Communications for the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (@CCRM_ca), a Canadian centre of excellence that supports the development of foundational technologies that accelerate the commercialization of stem cell- and biomaterials-based products and therapies. In this post she sets the stage for the March 19th #hcsmca chat that she will moderate.

By Stacey Johnson

head shot Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

head shot John Rennie

John Rennie

HCSMCA is pleased to welcome back science writer, editor and lecturer John Rennie (@tvjrennie) as a guest for the March 19th tweet chat. He wowed us on June 5th with his quick mind and fast fingers and we look forward to his tweets on the following topic:

T1: How do scientists and health care practitioners who communicate with the public online respond – or not ­– to those who attack them through social media?

When a company or organization is attacked through social media, the principles of crisis communications come into play to manage the situation and mitigate any damage to reputation. But imagine this: you’re a health care practitioner (HCP) or a scientist. You’ve expressed an opinion online and have hit a nerve. Now you’re being attacked online. You don’t have a communications team behind you to step into the fray. How do you respond? Do you respond?

Social media continues to grow in popularity and scientists, patients, caregivers and HCP are migrating online. The likelihood of the above scenario is growing – and many of us know someone who has been victimized this way. In my case, I know a prominent, popular science blogger (let’s call this person “Dr. Blogger”) who advocates for strict regulation of unproven therapies in Dr. Blogger’s field of research – a reasonable position for a researcher to take.

Dr. Blogger has upset a patient advocate who wants unrestricted access to those therapies and feels patients have the right to choose whether to put unproven therapies in their bodies. The patient may see the downside as throwing money away when there is no improvement and/or cure while Dr. Blogger may be worrying that the outcome could be fatal. I have read negative posts about Dr. Blogger, on LinkedIn, by this patient. To my knowledge, Dr. Blogger has refrained from responding to the personal criticism.

While it might be interesting to debate the issue at the heart of this matter, the tweet chat will aim to focus only on protecting personal reputations online.

Now let’s flip it for the second topic.

T2 Should an individual’s personal opinion, shared through social media, be the cause for discipline in his or her professional life? 

That same patient (or it could as easily be a caregiver) has freedom of speech on her side, and the truth of her convictions, but what if an employer thinks she is going too far and harassing Dr. Blogger? Should she be admonished or even fired?

In case you missed it, here is a dramatic, real world example of Twitter backlash for an ignorant online comment. Justine Sacco, a PR executive, was fired for a tweet. It isn’t in the same league as what we’ll focus on, but serves as a cautionary tale.

Please join us with your stories and solutions.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2014 9:41 am

    Should be an interesting discussion. Being online means a certain amount of loss of control, but at the same time a new level of engagement and learning. I’ll be interested in hearing people’s responses. ~Catherine



  1. Protecting your personal reputation online &nda...

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