#PRFAIL:  Oh, You Actually Think We Suck – Maybe We Shoulda Checked First

There’s a saying that perception is reality – but that isn’t necessarily true. More accurately, our perception may feel very real, but aren’t necessarily fact.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. learned that lesson – and that it works both ways – when they took to Twitter and got a big dose of reality in the form of a lot of people’s perceptions.

In JPMorgan’s case, what they wanted was a productive Q&A that gave one of their own a spotlight. Instead, they got an audience that wanted to talk about the last thing they wanted to be reminded of.

The banking giant, the largest by assets in the United States – was obviously well-versed in the world of finance as they were, but not so much in the world of Twitter – and was not prepared for the social media platform’s ability to become the great equalizer of messaging power. And brand new to the Twitter game, JPMorgan opted to make their first entrance a virtual Town Hall, (i.e., a live Q&A), hosted by their vice-chairman, Jimmy Lee.1

Some more experience with social media may have helped with the timing of their Twitter debut. Just months, JPMorgan had endured two major crises: a trading scandal that had been pay $920 million in fines, as well as billions more for violation involving bad mortgage loans.2

Jimmy Lee was involved with Twitter’s November 6 public offering. To mark the day, JPMorgan decided to take to Twitter to announce he would be giving career advice the next day via what he perceived to be friendly territory. After all, he’d acting in advisory capacities for huge transactions with global corporations, so the wisdom was he could easily field questions from the multitudes eager for his guidance.

You’ll recall I mentioned that Twitter was a great equalizer when it came to messaging. Everyone on the platform, whether you’re a single individual speaking on behalf of yourself, or a business leader representing thousands of employees and billions in assets, are just as “loud” and just as visible – everyone stands in the same virtual pace.

The first Tweet (#AskJPM) was sent announcing the upcoming Q&A was going to be available without much notice, but it was the second that announced Jimmy Lee would be taking over that got the “Twitterverse” a-goin’. But they didn’t come looking professional advice. Nope, with the banking giant’s recent troubles top-of-mind, the questions were, shall we say, more “off topic”.

A few samples of the more sarcastic responses:


“Do all employees get noise-canceling headphones to mute the sounds of poverty your foreclosures cause, or do only execs get those?”

“Does the sleaze wash off with a regular shower, or do you have to use something special “

“I have Mortgage Fraud, Market Manipulation, Credit Card Abuse, Libor Rigging and Predatory Lending. Am I diversified?”


You can even watch actor Stacy Keach perform a few of  the real zingers.


And those were just the tip of the iceberg.

Within 24 hours, the #AskJPM hashtag had collected 18,669 tweets, a virtual fountain of vitriol that spurred JPMorgan to cancel the following day’s event in a rather frank tweet:


“Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.”


One more tweet didn’t exactly solve their new problem. Unfortunately for JPMorgan, angry Twitter users were not the only ones that had watched the PR disaster unfold. The media was there as well, and they took to their respective outlets to share the fallout with millions more who otherwise wouldn’t have ever been aware:


Buzzfeed.News: JPMorgan Shows Exactly How To Not Use Twitter

Business Insider: What Other Banks Can Learn From JPMorgan’s Epic Twitter Fail

Huffington Post: JPMorgan’s #AskJPM Twitter Q&A Canceled After Backlash


Now, hindsight being 20/20, it isn’t really a mystery as to why JPMorgan got a social media tongue lashing and yet one more PR nightmare. Two very recent scandals easily overshadow one public IPO, even if it’s for (ironically) the very social media platform you’re helping. That was a bullet they could have easily dodged – especially when you’re the one firing the gun!

But less obvious to other may be the medium itself. Twitter, like other social media platforms, is designed to be unfiltered and under no one’s control, hence an even playing field and anyone can participate. What you want has nothing to do with what you may get.

Social media is a delicate balance that requires lots of time and delicate handing. JPMorgan sent just one ill-timed message that quickly – mere hours – turned into a PR disaster. They did make an attempt to backtrack in a single follow up tweet to cancel the event – but it was too little, too late. Their social media inexperience led to an unforeseen situation and they weren’t prepared to handle it.

What started out as an innocent engaging quickly devolved into a Crisis Management situation. The JOTO PR Disruptors team specializes using Social Media to have your audience engaging with you – and never screaming at you.


Click here to learn how our Social Media team will get the media buzzing about you.


 Already have a crisis on your hands? Call us today at 888-919-4034.


  1. Kim, Susanna. “JPMorgan Chase Cancels Twitter Q&A as ‘Bad Idea’.” ABC News, 14 November 2013, abcnews.go.com/Business/jpmorgan-chase-admits-twitter-qa-bad-idea/story?id=20887665.
  2. Greenhouse, Emily. “JPMorgan’s Twitter Mistake.” The New Yorker, 16, November 2013, newyorker.com/business/currency/jpmorgans-twitter-mistake.
  3. Pilcher, Jeffry. “8 Lessons From JPMorgan’s Twitter Fail.” The Financial Brand, 10 December 2013, thefinancialbrand.com/35532/8-lessons-from-jpmorgan-twitter-disaster/.