Tracey Mendrek, Executive Vice President

JPMorgan Chase & Co., in an effort to connect with a younger demographic, learned the hard way yesterday that a good idea in theory doesn’t always mean you should execute it.  No doubt there were extensive meetings to discuss ways to engage young people with their business executives.  Maybe the idea to hold an open TwitterChat with a top JPM executive hatched from the marketing department or maybe the PR department was involved, but no matter who was behind the idea, it turned into a nightmare of far-reaching proportions that no one seemed to imagine.

The bank asked people to communicate using the hashtag #AskJPM in an open online forum. Responses ranged from snarky, to downright sad, as users quipped and asked about the status of their foreclosed homes. Twitter handles like @OccupyWallSt were mentioned in conjunction with JP Morgan’s, calling unwanted attention to the public’s negative perception of the bank. It’s hard to imagine during the initial conversations that no one looked at previous experiments with Twitter open forums, like McDonald’s infamous #McDStories. Someone should have realized this may not be the best medium to begin trying to connect with a younger crowd, particularly when many are still struggling to recover from the housing market collapse and a sputtering economy.

We have all read the stories that advise us to be mindful when we post things on the Internet because they live on forever.  Within just six hours of their first #AskJPM tweet JPMorgan’s posted their final tweet on the subject, admitting it was a “#Badidea! Back to the drawing board.”  But #AskJPM has already left the bank with a permanent digital footprint. Rest assured that every move the banking giant makes will be tracked with this hashtag, because the memory of Twitter users, an unhappy and angry public and the lifecycle of the Internet is infinite.

PR professionals and professors will use this as a teachable moment in their businesses and curriculums for years to come.  A perfect case study of how a brainstorming session may have gone terribly wrong.  We will follow this story here in the next several days and report back on any developments that suggest how a company of their stature could have blundered so badly.  If you haven’t heard about it you can read the article here or get a recap here or simple search #AskJPM on Twitter.  By the time you finish reading all the posts there will undoubtedly be another PR snafu to talk about, but this lesson will provide classroom fodder and water cooler talk until the next big corporate Twitter stumble.