The Social Media Adventures of Justine Sacco

If you don’t know how the power of the Internet and how it can change people’s lives, this story will sure deliver on that. A PR executive, transatlantic and multi-continental flight and one bad tweet made for international news recently. It all stems from a small distasteful post on social media becoming more than expected.

Justine Sacco was a PR executive from the firm IAC took a trip from United States and into South Africa. Upon boarding the plane, Justine made a distasteful tweet about the AIDS crisis hitting the country and boasted about her ethnicity. What started off as a “harmless” tweet ended in a firestorm of backlash before her plane even landed in South Africa.

#HasJustineLandedYet was the hashtag for that day as the more than half a day flight was making its way to South Africa. Apparently, the social media world caught wind of the tweet and decided to comment, or rather bombard on the PR executive. Sacco handled multimillion dollar accounts and now she found herself needing to do her own PR and damage control.

What does this mean for you in the business and marketing world? What you say on social media means something. From anything you meant to be trivial or even something completely trite, what you put out there is for public consumption. And if it is up there for public consumption, it can be understood and digested in many ways.

Ms. Sacco’s comments were distasteful but it doesn’t reflect her character at all. She has worked hard to get to where she is in her career. But she is a representative of her company and to a degree, a representative of her clients. She is free to say whatever she wants, but she has no control over how people interpret it.

Social media gives us, the audience, an unfiltered platform for celebrities, sports stars and politicians to speak their mind. It also gives us insight to what is going on in a person’s life; But unfortunately, the example of Ms. Sacco was that she spoke too much and she spoke much too inappropriately. And as a representative of a company and their client, she is putting her reputation and the reputation of her company and clients on the line.

We should all be thankful we can live in a world where we can speak our minds out loud and to a global audience. But we also must understand that we are responsible for the things we say and that we not only represent ourselves but our interests. As a business owner and marketer, your thoughts our yours but the moment you amplify them, be prepared to explain them.

Image credit: Karen on Flickr



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