Adviser's tweet about widow of fallen Navy SEAL sends firm into crisis PR mode

The incident illustrates yet another example of how not to use social media

Mar 2, 2017 @ 1:22 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

The ripple effects from a single tweet Tuesday night during President Donald J. Trump's speech before Congress have turned at least one financial adviser's life upside down, while also sending an unsuspecting financial advisory firm into emergency PR-mode.

The tweet from Dan Grilo, a principal at Liberty Advisor Group in Chicago, insulted Carryn Owens, the wife of Navy SEAL William Owens who died during a military operation in Yemen on Jan. 28.

As President Trump was honoring Mr. Owens and recognizing his wife in the audience, Mr. Grilo tweeted the following: "Sorry, Owens' wife, you're not helping yourself or your husband's memory by standing there and clapping like an idiot. Trump just used you."

As will often happen in the wide-open world of social media, that 23-word tweet went viral and marked the start of a downward spiral for Mr. Grilo. It also introduced yet another example of how not to use social media.

Mr. Grilo, who could not be reached for comment for this story, is "no longer affiliated with Liberty," according to an apology statement posted on the advisory firm's website Wednesday morning.

While Mr. Grilo apparently tried to delete the tweet following the initial reaction on Twitter, the damage had already been done, as tweets piled up posting images of Mr. Grilo as well as the contact details for Liberty.

The advisory firm did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

While the advisory firm might be hunkering down until the dust settles, the initial response of posting a statement and firing the offender gets high marks from public relations veteran Jennifer Connelly, chief executive of JConnelly.

"They absolutely did the right thing by putting a stake in the ground," she said. "They chose to disassociate themselves from someone who doesn't represent their values or what they stand for. Liberty knew they could not hide from this and there were big risks on the table."

In terms of social media, the key is to have policies in place, but to also use common sense, according to Kristen Luke, co-founder and marketing consultant at Kaleido Inc.

"Unlike Facebook, where you can lock down your privacy a little bit, Twitter is so public that everybody in the universe can see what you're posting," she said. "What you post on social media represents you and your company, and people need to learn to practice restraint because once it's out there and goes viral, there's nothing you can do about it."

Mr. Grilo is likely learning that lesson the hard way. He has closed his Twitter account, @grilodan, where he identified himself as a former volunteer for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

On Mr. Grilo's LinkedIn profile, where it states he joined Liberty in August 2015, he is described as an "accomplished client engagement executive with Fortune 500 management consulting experience." The account was terminated on Wednesday.

Carolyn McClanahan, founder and director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners, is an active Twitter user who does not shy away from political debate. But, she said Mr. Grilo's comments crossed the line.

"I'm all about being authentic on Twitter, but for that comment I probably would have fired him, too; I would have even fired myself," she said. "Being mean and hateful, especially to somebody who has lost of loved one, that's a sign of bad judgment."

Regarding the temptation to vent and express personal views that might be considered controversial, Ms. Luke recommends opening a personal Twitter account that doesn't include your real name, and can't be linked to your employer.

"For anything you don't want the whole world to know is coming from you, you should probably post through an anonymous account," she said. "Or, if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."

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