04/28/2014 11:48 am ET Updated Jun 28, 2014

Here's How #myNYPD Could Be Saved

After 9/11, the only bigger brand in America than the NYFD (New York Fire Department) was the New York Police Department. They were bonafide heroes and just could do no wrong.

So how is it that NYPD brand was literally taken down with one careless hashtag (#myNYPD) this past week? In case you didn't see what happened, check it out here.

This is basically yet another case of corporate / institutional misunderstanding of the power of real-time social media. Hard to believe that so many still just don't get it.

Newsflash: When something goes out on the Internet, you lose control of both the message, the messenger's intent, and the distribution of the message. If you have a strategy in place, this can work in your favor. If not... well, #myNYPDFAIL.

Make no mistake, what happened to the NYPD brand can and does happen to many brands throughout their lifetime. Business case studies are written about the Tylenol scare in the 1980s and many more blunders that have turned around over time.

Good can come from disaster, but it needs to be well thought out and well implemented.

We asked my Social Media Marketing class at UCLA Extension on Wednesday what went wrong and what could be done to repair the brand's image. Here's their analysis:

1. The first and biggest mistake was having absolutely NO STRATEGY for what happens if something goes wrong. Most large organizations have a Crises Management plan in place to deal with things like this. What happened here?

2. Not enough internal education on the power of social media -- what is is, what is isn't, etc. So many organizations still don't take social seriously -- thinking that "well, it's just Twitter, what harm can that do?"

3. Inability to learn from others' mistakes. JP Morgan had a similar social media FAIL in the pre-announcement of a Twitter Chat they had in the works and had to cancel because of similar problems.

4. Find best practices of similar campaigns that were successful and analyze WHY it was successful. Implement those tactics.

5. Going forward, the NYPD should own up to the fact that there are 'mixed' impressions of the brand and start the 'that was then, this is now' conversation. Acknowledge head on there are some problems and then lead (and document in social) the way forward. #newNYPD

That's the take from #SMMUCLASpring 2014 class -- happy to help!

Beverly Macy teaches Social Media Marketing at UCLA Extension with Karl Kasca. She is the author if The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing and the host of Social Media Radio.