As university communicators, we're paid to love and promote our institutions. We not only read our own press; we write it. Even though we all know that our colleges and universities aren't perfect, we wouldn't thrive in our positions if we didn't believe in the mission and leadership of our organizations.
This professional bias leads us to tread a difficult line when it comes to social media. If we're doing a good job of monitoring our brand online, we will inevitably see something negative at some point. Jessica Krywosa at the .eduGuru blog authored a post on her recent experience with negative Facebook comments, which also includes helpful comments on handling such issues.
But beyond our official social media channels also lies a wide range of forums, blogs and other social resources in which our institutions have no voice. Yes, we could respond as individuals to negative attacks when we see them on discussion forums or blogs, but we need to resist the urge to do so lightheartedly or in the heat of the moment. Most readers will immediately discredit comments that smell like they've been authored by a company representative. Some social media sources specifically ban biased responses (i.e., Wikipedia). At bare minimum, PR-sounding responses will be unwelcome in most any online community.
Most professional communicators know to pause and think before responding publicly to negative press. But while marketing professionals may know these protocols, we must remember that everyone in our organizations has the same publishing access to social media that we do. Not only do we need to be disciplined and not act prematurely, we must educate our internal audiences about these issues as well.