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The flight from hell: Epic PR fail by PR expert December 23, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
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Justine Sacco became widely known almost overnight. Undoubtedly, she wishes things worked out differently. Sacco was a PR executive for media company IAC, which manages websites for The Daily Beast, About.com, CollegeHumor, and Match.com. It’s surprising that a PR expert could be so foolish. Before boarding a flight from London to Cape Town in December 2013, Sacco wrote on her Twitter feed, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” She then boarded. On a flight without internet or phone access. The flight was long. Just enough time for a scandal to explode.

Sacco’s tweet quickly went viral. Parody accounts were set up on Twitter and Facebook, and hashtags related to her dumb tweet were more popular than almost anything else on social media in that 24 hour span. Social media users scrounged through her previous statements to find other gems. And even though she had just hundreds of followers when she boarded, she had thousands when she landed. And by the time she did land, Sacco found that IAC had distanced itself from her, she was looking at unemployment, and hated by millions of people who learned about her through a shared tweet.

Sacco quickly deleted her social media accounts, and eventually released an apology claiming that she was deeply ashamed. Nevertheless, her incident has become yet another case study on the importance of avoiding shameful behavior on social media. Whatever is entered online, assume that the world can and maybe even will read it!

For a detailed hour by hour account of Sacco’s social media scandal, see the following article from Buzzfeed.com: CLICK HERE.

For more on this story, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How does an individual’s personal use of social media influence their public and work life?

2.  What are some basic guidelines for using social media?

3.  Should employers have the right to terminate employees who create controversy in private social media accounts? Why, or why not?

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