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PR firm retracts twitter post looking for class action plaintiffs

September 19, 2008

I posted a couple days ago about Laura Young of Firmani + Associates Inc. using Twitter to find putative class members for a possible class action law suit versus Verizon Wireless on behalf of Seattle law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.

Mark Firmani, the principal of the PR firm, defended this use of Twitter in comments here on the basis that information was power and that Hagens Berman has done some excellent work on behalf of American consumers.

I think Firmani is a good PR firm and agree that the Berman firm has done some great work. I just questioned how the public will perceive lawyers in general, when a law firm spams Twitter soliciting clients. Young had only just started a Twitter account, started following a few folks, and only made this one post soliciting clients.

The public reaction to the Firmani/Hagens Berman posting was not good. People on Twitter thought it bad taste and poor use of Twitter by the law firm and its PR agency. Though admittedly not a fan of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers, the Wall Street Journal (via syndication of my post) picked up my post and all the other blog posts about the PR company’s Twittering for class members. The coverage frowned on their use of Twitter.

The result was Laura Young’s removal of her Twitter post soliciting clients for a class action suit. Here’s Young’s Twitter page yesterday:

Firmani PR Twitter

And here’s two days ago with the posting:

Twitter law suits

The lesson here. Be smart. Just because your law firm, marketing company, or PR agency heard of a new communication tool that others have found powerful, doesn’t mean you should start using it tomorrow.

You need to know how to use tools like Twitter. This means getting out and playing with Twitter. Use it for personal use. Look at how others are using Twitter. Twitter on training wheels if you will. Then start using Twitter in business settings – after you feel very comfortable with how Twitter works. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t start.

For Firmani, which like I said I know to be a good company, they’ve stepped back from the hot burner. Mark’s got a Twitter account now, and if he’s like me and thousands of others, it’ll be 3 to 6 months before he figures out what the heck Twitter is.