The New York City mayoral race is heating up. With dozens of candidates in the field and the June 22 primary date fast approaching, many voters are starting to pay attention.
Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate and current mayoral frontrunner, is pretty regularly trending on Twitter. And it seems like every time I click on his name to see why, he’s getting dragged by the Twitter mob for saying something wrong.
It’s not anything gravely offensive, nor is it anything that undermines his legitimacy as a candidate. It’s just, for lack of a better term, rookie mistakes.
Case in point: April 11 is National Pet Day. Obviously, this is a made-up internet holiday, and therefore, acknowledging it is 100% optional. People who have pets are welcome to post a cute pic, but there’s no need for anyone else to get involved.
Yang took to Twitter on National Pet Day and posted what he thought was a loving tribute to the former family dog, Grizzly:
While the charitable read on this tweet is, “man who loved his dog but had a child with severe allergies made gut-wrenching decision to rehome said beloved pet,” when’s the last time you knew the Twitterverse to be generous of spirit?
Instead, Twitter took the low road and collectively dragged Yang, framing him as an uncaring, dog-hating monster.
Once the dust settled on the initial Grizzly-related firestorm, Yang spoke with the press about how painful it was to give away the beloved family pup. Yang and his wife got Grizzly before they had kids, and had to find him a new home when their eldest son had a respiratory attack brought on by dog allergies. Grizzly relocated to California with close friends of the Yangs, where he lives a lovely life. Yang seemed sincerely sad to have been faced with the decision to rehome Grizz. I believe his story and feel empathy for him.
But dude. Why, oh why, would you open yourself up like that on Twitter? My guess is this tweet was not approved by Yang’s communications team. And I say that because this tweet embodies why it’s so critical to get a second opinion on your story before sharing it.
Many people think of social media, and Twitter especially, as the home of off the cuff remarks and hot takes. That might be true for you as an individual and private citizen. But that’s not the case for brands (and, yes, politicians are brands).
Anyone looking to persuade an audience—whether that audience is voters or customers—must carefully consider every tweet. They’re all part of the larger story of who you are. And people are watching intently and evaluating each one.
Yang thought he was telling the story of a beloved family pet, building camaraderie with fellow animal-lovers, and even managing to slip in the #dogsforyang hashtag.
But had he asked an outside observer to weigh in—someone not clouded by his own loving feelings for Grizzly, and who was unfamiliar with the whole rehoming backstory—they likely would have noted that distilling that particular story down to 280 characters on a day when the most ardent pet fans will be out in force on the internet is practically begging for trouble.
This is a fairly innocent example of a public storytelling gaffe, but it clearly demonstrates the importance of getting a second set of eyes on your story before sharing it. Novelists do it, and we all should, too.
We each hear stories through our own lenses, shaped by our unique life experiences and perspectives. What’s patently obvious to you might be completely mystifying to me. It’s incumbent upon the storyteller to make their message crystal clear to anyone who might come across it, particularly when you’re attempting to resonate with a large, diverse audience. You know, like you might during a mayoral race in the largest city in America.