When it comes to your business, brand and credibility the most important asset you have is your reputation. In today’s world you can express your opinion quickly and have it viewed by a potential audience of millions in just a few minutes. That means a whole new way of thinking about what comes out of of your mouth or streams from your fingertips. Just ask former PR consultant Justine Sacco.
To summarise, Ms Sacco, the former PR executive of InterActive Corp, the owner of popular websites Match.com, Dictionary.com, OkCupid and Vimeo, posted a quick tweet to her small band of fewer than 200 followers. Although it was intended as a lighthearted joke, it quickly took on a life of its own.
She posted this just as she was boarding a flight to South Africa – the country she was born in. In a statement she said
“This is my father’s country, and I was born here. I cherish my ties to South Africa and my frequent visits, but I am in anguish knowing that my remarks have caused pain to so many people here; my family, friends and fellow South Africans. I am very sorry for the pain I caused,”
By the time she had landed, one of her small band of followers had sent the tweet to BuzzFeed where it went viral. She has lost her job as her employer didn’t want their reputation to be tarnished by her actions.
While it was treated as something of a joke (as evidenced by the “LOL” tag on BuzzFeed this is really serious business. This moment of poor judgement will haunt Ms Sacco for the rest of her career. Indeed, like the unfortunate Claire Swire, Ms Sacco will find this story will appear in every web search any future employer, friend or colleague makes. Her reputation will precede her, even if that one tweet is not representative of her actual views.
It’s easy to make offhand comments over social media, thinking that the only people who will read them are your immediate friends. But as Ms Sacco, and Ms Swire before her, can attest, the retweet or forward buttons are very easy to click and their affects can be long lasting and damaging.
Over the holidays, you might be tempted to post a funny picture or make a witty comment about a news story, something you see or some random thought that pops into your head. My advice is – don’t do it. Even if you delete a silly post within a few minutes of making it, it’s possible that someone might screen capture it and send it on.
If you’re tempted to do this, leave your smartphone at home. If you absolutely need to be contactable, buy a cheap, boring cell phone that can make calls and text without all the social media apps.
Christmas and New Years are meant to be a fun time where you enjoy yourself and let your hair down. Don’t spoil it in a moment of poor judgement.