Whales are Harpooned When They Spout

By Peter Nasca

Over the summer, Anthony Scaramucci was fired from his job as White House director of communications after a profanity-laced phone call he made to a reporter for The New Yorker, one that included numerous F-bombs and lewd comments. In other words, he got harpooned!

There are scores of examples of government officials, entertainers, athletes and CEOs who have damaged or destroyed their careers by “spouting.”

The ultimate platform for such whales is Twitter. I could fill this magazine with stupid tweets that either cost someone his or her job or tainted his or her career. Anthony Weiner once was a respected politician who, unfortunately, liked to send pictures of himself naked.

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried got fired from his gig as the voice of the Aflac duck because he tweeted jokes about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Was that necessary? Did he get a big laugh out of that?

Of course, you don’t have to be famous to make egregious, stupid mistakes. For instance, a high school math teacher in Aurora, Colorado, was put on administrative leave after a local TV station found her tweets containing half-naked photos and boasts about bringing marijuana to school.

And then there was Justine Sacco, a senior director of corporate communications for the New York-based internet company InterActive Corp. She was fired for a tweet she sent before boarding a flight from London to Cape Town, South Africa. It read, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Seriously?

Don’t get me wrong—I think there is great value to social media. But like I tell my clients, before you tweet or post anything online, read it one last time. If you think if it will offend anyone, unless that is your intention, think twice.

We all do things in the spirit of anger at times, but it’s often best to count to 10 and hold our breath before saying or posting anything.

If you want to go old-school, do what President Harry Truman would do when he was miffed at someone, particularly reporters. He would write a letter (the mid-20th-century version of email and Twitter), put it in an envelope and then put it in a desk drawer. He would then look at it the next day and determine if he wanted to send it or not.

A whale’s spout can shoot as high as 20 feet and be seen for up to a mile. Tweets and email are basically infinite. So the next time an issue arises that you want to post or tweet about, think it over. Are you just coming up for air or spouting?

Peter Nasca, APR, is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and a past president of its Miami chapter. A former journalist, he has been a public relations practitioner in South Florida for nearly four decades


Photo Credit: Daniel Schwen

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