Saturday, December 21, 2013

Plenty of tin ears all around

It would be too easy to judge Justine Sacco's Dec. 20 hara-kiri on Twitter. It would also be premature, because as of this writing, she's still an employee of IAC and its boss, Barry Diller.

Memo to Justine: ask friends to round up empty copier paper boxes for when you're back in the office.You'll need 'em.

Justine Sacco, via NY Daily News
Details on Justine Sacco's self-inflicted PR disaster are here, along with the preposterous Gogo tie-in. Calling this the internet equivalent of drunk dialing is an understatement.

There's plenty of stupid to go around:

  • For a PR person, Sacco's now-deleted Twitter account contained a wealth of borderline coarse comments that were stunning in their stupidity. Teachable moment: just because you have only 400 followers on Twitter doesn't mean the whole world can't see you be stupid.
  • Diller has owned and sold more media properties than almost everyone, including Rupert Murdoch. He's not a shy person, and I'm convinced IAC's rapid exorcism of Sacco's name and PR contact information from its website stem from a Diller edict. The real question: why was she in this job for so long, given her incredible tin ear and inability to self-edit?
  • Gogo, the in-flight internet service provider hoping to get a positive halo effect from Sacco's "hope I don't get AIDS" flub, moronically links its brand with what's become an international online fiasco.
Whether Sacco has any afterlife in public relations remains to be seen. The real lesson: if you work in PR, you must always assume the mike -- or Twitter -- is live, and thousands are watching you and your brand. Even when you're at 30,000 feet, en route to Africa. And you, as the PR person, never ever ever ever want to become the story.