…if you know what I mean.”

These were the last words of US Secret Service supervisor David Chaney’s career. They were plastered on his Facebook page as the cutline for a photo of him allegedly protecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin from all enemies foreign and domestic in 2008.

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Chaney, 49, is now without a job and his wife and family cannot be thrilled with his behavior or his employment prospects.

So what are the lessons from the U.S. Secret Service scandal that simply will not go away?

One is that engaging in foolish behavior on social media (e.g. swimmer Michael Phelps and his bong pipe) is not just restricted to young Bo-Hoes. The digital-is-eternal mantra applies to all age groups, occupations, economic and education levels and demands that we think before we post. Chaney’s crowing about ogling Palin’s curves and using them as eye candy was included among other posts about his extramarital recreational adventures with scantily clad women attending his high school reunion and belly dancers in Egypt (All published in the New York Post).

If you are asking, “What was he thinking?” Well obviously he wasn’t.

The second lesson is captured in the first two-chapters of the New York Times bestselling book by Chip and Dan Heath, “Made to Stick.” When asking what causes a story, a concept, a tagline to adhere with the public like duct tape, the Heaths responded that an account must be simple and unexpected.

Let’s see: Secret Service guys and Colombian prostitutes? Yes, I can understand this combo without hurting my brain. This tale is quite simple, but it cannot be dismissed as a “boys will be boys” story. What is unexpected about this caper is that it involves the Secret Service with its motto, “Worthy of Trust and Confidence,” the elite protectors of US leaders, even those with ornamental value…such as Palin, campaigning for vice president four years ago.

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Don’t we expect unquestioned integrity from the Secret Service, just as we demand the same from the Navy Seals or the Army’s Delta Force? The whole issue exploded when one agent offered a lady of the evening only $30 for her efforts, when she was expecting $800. Prostitution is legal in Colombia and she immediately complained about non-payment to the gendarmes, which brought investigators to the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena and shortly thereafter the story to computer screens and the remaining newsstands around the world.

Another lesson is this simple and unexpected story has “legs” and we are not talking about Palin’s wheels or those of the sex workers in Colombia. We are talking about embarrassment to the agency and the White House in a political year. We are talking about congressional committees. We are talking about marauding reporters. Simple, unexpected and a growing cast of characters with new news angles virtually every day all lead to a story with legs.

And it continued today as Connecticut Senator Joseph Liebermann summed it up: “The White House advance person knows exactly where the president is going to be at any time. If anybody thinking the worst wanted to attack the president of the United States, one of the ways he might find out the path that he would follow in Cartagena is by compromising White House advance personnel.”

Instead of strictly concentrating on protecting the nation’s chief executive in a historically dangerous country, some of our “wheels up, rings off” heroes were visiting the “Play Room” in Cartagena and bringing their special friends back to their Hotel Caribe rooms. Conceivably the president’s itinerary could have been spread out on hotel tables or even night stands. Think about it: This story could have been worse, much worse.

The advent of social media – blogging, webcasting, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest and many, many more – allows us as communication choreographers to enhance an individual or organizational reputation and brand with unprecedented speed and extent in record time. These same tools can feed the human inclination toward negativity, destroying or severely harming a reputation and/or brand even faster.

Does David Chaney wish that he had never had typed those 12 simple words onto his Facebook page? Think of it, compose 12 words and you are toast.

Does the Secret Service agent with flexible morals wish that he had fully compensated his love rental for the evening instead of insulting her by only offering $30? One would think so.

Has the Secret Service taken a severe hit to its reputation and brand, one that may take literally years, if not decades, to repair? That is clearly the case…if you know what I mean.

http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/obama-briefed-as-secret-1423377.html

http://photos.denverpost.com/mediacenter/2012/04/photos-the-image-of-secret-service-agent-david-chaney-and-sarah-palin-is-denver-posts/33845/

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/dirty_little_secret_6QBSk49hscdXUEwqchjxJK

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/palin-drawn-secret-service-scandal/story?id=16179857

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/the-secret-service-had-the-worst-week-in-washington/2012/04/22/gIQAna6qZT_blog.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

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