Oprah WinfreyThe public understands the challenges of brand consistency in the digital age. With so many distractions unfolding so continuously and quickly, it’s easy to go off message or reveal a failure in a brand’s promise or values.

Just as that dangerous mix of human fallibility and technical reliability brought former General David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell down like the Hindenburg, so online PR campaigns can self-sabotage when technology exposes the contradictory actions of CEOs or employees.

Take Oprah Winfrey, for example, who recently tweeted glowing reviews naming Microsoft’s Surface tablet as one of her Favorite Things 2012, thereby giving the tablet an important and powerful endorsement in an intensely competitive market category.

It’s Oprah, after all, and she’s (still) one of the most important personalities in America. We can only assume that Microsoft was ecstatic about the praise from Ms. Winfrey. The company was also probably just as surprised as everyone else to learn that the tweets were sent from an iPad, the Darth Vader to Microsoft’s young Luke Skywalker.

What was Oprah thinking?

Is this a PR crime on par with BP’s gulf oil spill? Of course not. Is it hilarious? Absolutely. It’s also a PR setback for both Oprah and Microsoft because of the innate “stink test” the public exercises in moments like these.

Read more