Exploration of Twitter apologies gets journal attention for alumnus

Dr. Allen Berry

Dr. Allen Berry's article on the ideal strategy for apologizing for a bad corporate tweet has been published in the journal "Technical Communication."

Michael Mercier | UAH

An article by an alumnus of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) that explores the ideal strategy for apologizing for a bad corporate tweet after it has created a scandal has been published in the journal "Technical Communication."

Dr. Allen Berry (Masters, English, ’14; Certificate of Technical Writing,’15) says the article, entitled "A One-Hundred Forty Character Discourse: The Twitter Apology as an Emerging Sub-Genre of Corporate Communication," had its genesis in an individualized study with UAH’s Dr. Ryan Weber, associate professor of English, for Dr. Berry’s technical writing certificate.

"Allen first developed this project in my graduate Theory and Practice of Technical Communication class, and he was enthusiastic to pursue the project beyond the course, so we developed it in an independent study," says Dr. Weber. "He presented his initial findings at our local Society for Technical Communication conference as well as at the national Association for Teachers of Technical Writing conference before developing the article for publication."

"For a scholar, publication is life, so naturally I was excited at the prospect," Dr. Berry says. "Three years later, the rest is history."

The article explores the phenomenon of the corporate Twitter apology, and how best to manage the recovery phase following a bad tweet.

"Managed properly, a company can not only recover from a bad tweet, but also emerge with an improved public image," says Dr. Berry.

As he worked on the project, new examples of Twitter apologies from companies appeared almost weekly, showing the continuing timeliness of Dr. Berry's work, Dr. Weber says.

"The challenges and pitfalls of social media make apologies common and necessary, and many companies do a terrible job apologizing for their own mistakes," Dr. Ryan says. "The insights from Allen's work, which maps traditional theory about effective apologies onto the social media sphere, can be used by companies who want to remedy their mistakes and preserve their reputation online."

Presenting at the national conference in Houston, Texas, is what got Dr. Berry’s work noticed.

"After my panel was over, I was approached by a well-dressed gentleman who handed me his business card and asked me to please consider submitting my work to the journal ‘Technical Communication,’" Dr. Berry says. "I thanked him and told him I would certainly be in touch. It wasn’t until he walked away that I looked at the card and read the name Sam Dragga, the editor of ‘Technical Communication.’"

Dr. Berry recognized the name as the same one on the cover of the textbook he had used for Dr. Weber's course.

"Once I recovered myself, I sent a quick, enthusiastic email to Dr. Weber thanking him profusely – but inadequately – for encouraging me to apply to the conference," Dr. Berry says.

Since graduation, Dr. Berry has taught Business and Technical Writing at UAH, and Composition and Literature at other area colleges. He currently teaches Business and Technical Writing online for UAH, as well as Composition, Literature and Modern British Literature at South Georgia State College. In addition, Dr. Berry is coordinating the South Georgia State writing center.

His article would never have been published without Dr. Weber’s help and guidance through every step of the process, Dr. Berry says.

"From the article's inception to its final draft, Dr. Weber has been a mentor, friend and guide," says Dr. Berry. "This is the kind of personal attention and instruction that makes UAH such an incredible place to learn and grow as a professional."


Dr. Ryan Weber

Jim Steele