Tag Archive: Justine Sacco


“My finger said what I was feeling, I’m angry and I’m frustrated.” – Former Marketing and Communications professional Juli Briskman

TOPSHOT – A woman on a bike gestures with her middle finger as a motorcade with US President Donald Trump departs Trump National Golf Course October 28, 2017 in Sterling, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

As we all know: You cannot yell “Theatre!” in a crowded fire station.

There are indeed reasonable limits to our cherished First Amendment Right of Free Speech.

As an employee of any organization, one instinctively knows that not all speech is protected.

When are you on the clock working for the boss?

And when are you on your own time?

Is there a distinction (without a difference?)? Are they one-and-the-same?

Last month, Juli Briskman went out for a Saturday bike ride. During the course of her ride, she encountered a convoy of limousines and secret service protection. It was indeed the caravan of the 45th President of the United States.

Briskman utilized the opportunity from the bike lane to give the occupant the infamous one-finger salute.

As another sign of our digital 21st Century times, the photo of her gesture went viral. After becoming a 15-minute-plus celebrity, Briskman reportedly posted her middle-finger image on her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

As it turns out her employer, a federal contractor by the name of Akima LLC, found her gesture toward POTUS neither funny nor amusing. Briskman claimed she was just a simple bike rider on her own time flipping off the president.

Akima, located in an employment-at-will state (e.g., Virginia), quickly made the decision to fire Briskman for twice-at-least posting her single-digit salute to the nation’s chief executive on social media.

Considering the divisiveness of today’s politics, the coverage of her gesture/firing quickly became big-time news for affirmational journalists. GoFundMe reportedly even raised $30,000 to support Briskman, bringing into question whether subsequent coarsening-of-America actions will become charitable giving opportunities?

Still the basic interrogative needs to be answered: Are you really on your own time and as a result able to express yourself however/whenever you want, when you are employed on an at-will basis?

Pleasure Appointment

Five years ago, the author of Almost DailyBrett wrote about his “No Second Beer Rule,” reflecting on his tenure as a lead media spokesman/Press Secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian.

As a “Pleasure Appointee” of the 35th Governor of the State of California, yours truly never separated my official role in the Office of the Governor from my personal life. They were essentially one-and-the-same for eight years.

Many times media calls came in the middle of the night. Here’s where the no two-beer rule came into play: If I was quoted while under the influence and subsequently uttered a major gaffe, there is little doubt the governor would have relieved me from my duties.

Worse if I was pulled over for DUI, your author would NOT be just another irresponsible sap arrested for drunk driving. Instead, one can easily envision the headlines: “Governor Deukmejian Press Secy Arrested for DUI.”

There is absolutely no distinction in this case between private citizen/government employee in a sensitive job working for the governor of the largest state in the union.

Yours truly would have been immediately terminated with cause by the former attorney general and would understand completely why my foolish actions led to my dismissal. It was truly a privilege to serve the governor, and with that opportunity came a sacred responsibility.

There would not be any $30,000 support payment for me.

#HasJustineLandedYet

I’m an IAC employee and I don’t want @JustineSacco doing any communications on our behalf ever again. Ever.” – Unnamed IAC employee responding Justine Sacco’s tweet

Justine Sacco had it made.

At 30-years-young, she was the senior director of Corporate Communications for InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ: IAC), a $3 billion+ internet and media services company with more than 100 recognizable brands (i.e., The Daily Beast, Match.com, Vimeo, Angie’s List …).

During the 2013 holidays, Sacco was flying from JFK with a stop at Heathrow and then continuing on to Cape Town, South Africa. She was firing off acerbic tweets about English teeth and German body odor during her trip. And then she hit the send button on an immediately viral, less-than-140 characters tweet, which changed her life forever.

Sacco was terminated before her plane landed in Cape Town. She slept during the course of her 11-hour flight from London to Cape Town with her phone in “airplane” mode.  She did not understand the consequences of her tweet until she turned on her phone.

As a college professor teaching public relations, advertising, corporate communications and investor relations, my students are simply stunned when Sacco’s PowerPoint slide of her tweet is first presented.

Was she simply not thinking? Was she trying to be cute or clever? Is she, racist?

The answer to the first is certainly, yes. The response to the second is, most likely. The fact the third question is even asked in a serious vain is damning in-and-of itself.

She may have been on a holiday trip to South Africa and may have seen herself as simply exercising her guaranteed First Amendment Rights as a citizen. Nonetheless, she was the senior director of Corporate Public Relations for a major publicly traded company and she fired off an acerbic and insensitive tweet that comes across as racist and not caring about the spread of AIDS in Africa.

InterActiveCorp was well within its rights in terminating Justine. In fact, the company really had no choice.

Maybe if she had just flipped off the President of the United States, she may still be working for IAC today … or maybe not.

Alas, life is just not fair.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/woman-flips-off-donald-trump-fired_us_59fe0ab4e4b0c9652fffa484

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/no-second-beer-rule/

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/359727-crowdfunding-campaign-raises-over-30k-for-woman-fired-for

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/11/07/woman-fired-after-flipping-off-trumps-motorcade.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/06/politics/juli-briskman-motorcade-protest/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=0

http://uproxx.com/webculture/what-happened-to-justine-sacco-the-woman-whose-life-was-ruined-by-an-aids-joke-she-made-on-twitter/

 

 

 

 

“After taking your PR classes for the past three years, I feel confident to go out into the world of PR communications professionals. I will miss your enthusiasm in the classroom every day, and writing your two-page executive memos! I can’t thank you enough.” – Graduating Central Washington University Public Relations Student

“I have learned more from your classes than all the other classes I’ve taken combined, and that’s not just including lessons having to do with school. You taught me to take pride in my work, and to put in the effort to do my best. I honestly do not know if I would be where I am today, or have the future that I see myself having if it weren’t for you.” – Another Graduating Central Washington University Public Relations Student

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Trust me when I say not all student reviews are so positive.

When they are, you treasure each and every one.

Most of all you don’t take them for granted because there is always another opinion.

What we call the “Rule of One.” There is always at least one student, who quite frankly hates your guts and even loathes the very ground you walk on. Sigh.

And then there is the student, who can quote back what you said.

In this world of texting, Snapchatting, mobile devices and old-fashioned laptops, breaking through and instilling even ein bisschen wisdom seems almost miraculous.

A professor can prepare. She or he can spend hours researching. And devote even more time to tinkering with PowerPoints and video. Finally, the time comes to deliver the lecture, coax questions and then ask two key rhetorical questions:

  1. Was anyone listening?
  2. Does anyone care what you have to say?

One of my students provided me with a thank you card with valuable “Kevin Quotes” including a smiley face.graduation2016

Here they are with an Almost DailyBrett commentary under each one. They are offered in the exact order chosen by the student writer:

  • “Buy on rumor; sell on news” Almost DailyBrett: This ubiquitous expression in the late 1990s directly led to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) promulgating Reg. FD (Fair Disclosure). Corporate chieftains could no longer “whisper” meaningful tidbits to favored financial analysts (e.g., Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Fidelity, Morgan Stanley) allowing their clients to buy on the whispered rumor and then sell on the actual news.
  • “Your Brand Is In Play 24/7/365” Almost DailyBrett: Donald Trump in particular should pay close attention to this axiom. With instantaneous global communication through a few key strokes, digital communication can advance a personal or corporate with lightning speed, and destroy it just as quick.
  • “Digital Is Eternal” Almost DailyBrett: The complement to your brand being in play 24/7/365 is that all digital communications are permanent, enduring and can be resurrected by hiring managers, plaintiff attorneys and others who can hurt your reputation and/or career.justinesacco
  • “The Long and Short Program” Almost DailyBrett: The Olympics figure skating competition metaphor pertains to 10-K annual report letters and 10-Q quarterly earnings reports respectively. The former has more flexibility, while the latter must give precedence to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and include revenues, gross margin percentage, net income, EPS, cash-on-hand and dividends (if applicable).
  • “Don’t Be a Google Glasshole” Almost DailyBrett: Guess, I really did say that …
  • “Buy Low; Sell High” Almost DailyBrett. Every one of our corporate communications/investor relations classes began with this chant. One must understand profit margins.
  • “Do Not Buy Stock in Enron” Almost DailyBrett: Don’t buy a stock just because it is going up. You need to understand a company’s raison d’ etat before you commit funds. There is a real difference between investing and gambling. Those who gambled on Enron lost everything.
  • “How Does a Company Make Money?” Almost DailyBrett: Bethany McLean of Fortune asked this basic question to Jeffrey Skilling, now imprisoned former Enron president. The Harvard-trained chief executive needed an accountant to answer this most basic of questions. McLean smelled a rat.
  • “Stocks Are Forward-Looking Indicators” Almost DailyBrett: As Wall Street wild man Jim Cramer of CNBC Mad Money fame always states” “I don’t care about a stock’s past, only its future.”edwards1
  • “Tell the Truth, Tell It All, Tell It Fast. Move On” Almost DailyBrett: These 11 words are the crux of effective crisis communications. Disclosure is inevitable. You can manage or be managed. Former presidential candidate John Edwards is the poster child for failing to follow this advice.
  • “Corporate America Needs Better PR” Almost DailyBrett: Amen

Appreciate the nice words. Even more: Thanks for listening and learning.

https://www.snapchat.com/

https://www.sec.gov/answers/regfd.htm

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/the-internet-where-fools-go-to-feel-important/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/the-mother-of-all-weak-arguments/

 

 

Or unemployed …

justinesacco

Love him or despise him, you can always count on Mr. Warm and Fuzzy, Charles Barkley, to have an opinion. In this particular case, he has a point: Sometimes the Internet draws fools into its web.

When it comes to anything and everything binary code, one must always recognize that digital is indeed eternal. Weigh these examples.adamsmithvante

  • Former $200K+ Vante CFO Adam Smith took a video of himself berating Rachel, a Chick-fil-A employee working the drive-thru window, about the company’s position on same-sex marriage and posted it on YouTube. He was fired. He can’t find a job.
  • IAC/InterActiveCorp senior director of corporate communications Justine Sacco dashed off her insensitive tweet about AIDS in Africa just before she flew to Cape Town, South Africa. Her tweet went viral. She was terminated before her plane landed.

Let’s ask here and now: Why are so many so damn cavalier when it comes to Twitter’s 140 characters?

Why are some so consumed with posting every minute detail about their lives on Facebook, no matter how trivial?

Do we have to post every still on Instagram or upload every video on YouTube, no matter how mundane or in some cases, obnoxious and offensive?

Why will others insist on uttering every-and-any political thought that comes in between their ears on WordPress, Wix, Tumblr or any other blogging site? Maybe we are not interested, let alone enamored, with your political views?

Barkley is not a fan of social media and has the luxury to say so. He and many others assume a who cares attitude toward the Internet. For the rest of us mere mortals, we know that social, mobile and cloud are game changers.

The World Wide Web is the classic definition of a destructive technology, the biggest communications advancement since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th Century. We can communicate to-and-from virtually any place on the planet in a matter of seconds, 24/7/365.

The Genie is not going back into the lantern.

The real question is whether we are using these tools with the care they require. Think of it this way: blogging, social media and other digital forms of communication are “radioactive.” They are not monolithic (e.g., think “Friends” for Facebook and “Connections” for LinkedIn), but they all have the potential and the capability to get us in trouble in nanoseconds.

They can be abused. Why do some insist upon posting literally anything about their daily lives on the net? How many baby pictures are necessary? How many images of casseroles are required? How many more cat photos do we need to see?

Okay, the author of Almost DailyBrett pleads guilty when it comes to felines; yes, I have posted a tabby cat photo or two on Facebook.

Reputation Management for an Eternal Digital World

“Someday that party picture is going to bite them when they seek a senior corporate job or public office. I think they should wake up now, and become aware of the extent to which they’re sharing parts of themselves that one day they may wish they had kept private.”– Don Tapscott, Author of “Grown Up Digital”

The most important public relations of all are personal public relations.party

Would a hiring manager performing a Google search (okay Yahoo and Bing too) uncovering photo of the obviously inebriated Florida Gator fan doing a little pole dancing, automatically disqualify this individual?

Is that fair?

Does the hiring manager actually know the individual?

Most likely, the answers are “yes,” “no,” and “no.” Translated: The candidate is disqualified. It’s not really fair. And the hiring manager does not know the individual … and yet she or he doesn’t want to become acquainted with the “candidate.” The digital ones-and-zeroes that make up the photo tell the story, and it is not a good tale.

Some have expressed a concern, particularly college students, that the vast majority of their photos of Facebook and elsewhere (hopefully not LinkedIn) usually come with a drink in one hand. Does the preponderance of party photos send an unwanted message? Is alcohol a problem? Maybe they should do a little surfing on Google images and see if there are one (or two) too many fiesta photos?

Studies have revealed that executive recruiters (e.g., headhunters) spend only 6.25 seconds on a contender’s LinkedIn profile, and the first place they go? A potential candidate’s photo.

If that is indeed the case, wouldn’t someone interested in personal reputation management choose the most professional JPEG possible? One would think so, and yet Almost DailyBrett has seen LinkedIn portrait photos that are more appropriate for Match.com.

Internet Jail?

“A little payback. Sometimes there are consequences for being a dick.” – TYT Network Young Turks host Ana Kasparian

Can Schadenfreude or the celebration of someone’s demise get a little out of hand?

Kasparian’s sidekick, Cenk Uygur, wondered if Adam Smith (not to be confused with the Adam Smith of Wealth of Nations fame) will ever get a job again, any job, let alone a six-figure position.saccolanding

Sacco’s sin, which she fully comprehended when she landed in Cape Town, is even worse, particularly when you consider that she rose in the ranks to become a senior communicator for a major media conglomerate. If she can’t police her own dialogue, why would a reputable firm turn over its messaging, branding and reputation management to Mizz Intemperate Tweet?

Both Adam and Justine are in Internet Prison. Did they earn a lifelong sentence? Is that fair? Maybe not. Will it change? Maybe not.

What did Sir Charles say about “Fools” and the “Internet”?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gha5rNS6WyI

https://www.tytnetwork.com/

http://www.businessinsider.com/former-vante-cfo-adam-smith-apologizes-for-bullying-chick-fil-a-worker-2012-8

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=0

http://iac.com/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/03/26/what-your-resume-is-up-against/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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