In a world of social media and information sharing, the most loved celebrities and even noteworthy business people have fallen victim to the Internet, requiring formidable crisis management to right the narrative. From Jeff Bezos’ alleged divorce scandal to Kevin Hart’s Oscar faux pas and Gigi Hadid’s three second “eye slant” upload to Snapchat that prevented her from walking in Victoria Secret’s 2017 fashion show in Shanghai, China, due to cultural concerns, often even what one may think is trivial misstep (even a retroactive matter) can put a reputation at risk.
The one common thread between the latest celebrity and CEO “scandals” and small business owners is the oversharing of sensitive information.
While your company may be in startup mode or has only recently taken off it is important to implement safe information sharing practices early, both as an individual and a company or brand, to avoid any public relations crisis down the line.
Be careful about what you display online (as an individual, brand or company)
With the increasing amount of social users, which includes both personal and business accounts, social media is an efficient business marketing tool that can aid in company marketing and branding and transition current followers to future clients. However, it’s also the host of home videos, family photos and personal viewpoints, allowing both personal and business content to be disseminated across the same platforms for primarily the same audience.
Coupled with a 24-hour news cycle, the intertwining of both personal and business content positions social media as a double-edged sword in the media industry. As a tool meant to launch your business forward, social media can also be the one tool that sets your brand or company back if not managed correctly.
In comedian Kevin Hart’s case, old tweets posted to Twitter in 2011 became the subject of controversy. In December, public outcry surrounding the seven-year-old tweets caused Hart to bow out of hosting the highly-coveted Oscars this year, and resulted in a partial loss of his fan base.
The takeaway as a small business owner or startup is to post with caution. Even if you don’t think it matters now, you never know when personal or business content can be called into question, causing damage to brand, company and individual reputations. In 10 years your startup or small business could be a major industry-mogul, and both as an individual and company executive it’s best to question prior to posts: would I want this to be publicly displayed down the line?
Be careful about what you put in writing
Private communication isn’t as “private” as we would like it to be. With the current easy-accessibility to advanced technology, private communication such as text messages, emails, direct messages and voicemails have the power to be hacked at any moment and publicly displayed for all to see or hear. In addition, people to whom you send these messages can become conduits to the media and public for any number of reasons, intentionally and accidentally leaking your information. Therefore, any important business information should be communicated through highly-secure company platforms, such as Slack or secure conference call lines, to ensure safe information sharing, and you must learn to be even more careful with your “circle of trust.”
In Jeff Bezos’ case, CEO of global tech-giant Amazon, personal texts sent to news anchor Lauren Sanchez were shared and publicly displayed, a factor that contributed to his public-scrutiny after announcing his split from wife MacKenzie Bezos of 25 years earlier this month–the current situation could potentially affect his standing with Amazon.
Small business owners and startups can avoid potential PR crises by communication through secure platforms and being hyper vigilant as to what you convey to any soul through almost any medium. The rule of thumb: if the information is sensitive or damning, it’s probably best said in person.
Choose confidants wisely
It’s easy to place trust in new employees, romantic partners, friends and family, but regardless of whether you think they wouldn’t put you or your company on the line doesn’t always hold true to reality. As mentioned above, shared information with the wrong person has the potential to travel and change form, resulting in bad press and a damaged reputation.
In supermodel Gigi Hadid’s case, sister and supermodel Bella Hadid posted the contentious video of Gigi at her birthday.
With new celebrity and company executive “scandals” frequently appearing in the media, it is easy to dismiss the situation as “stupidity” or an “innocent act,” but these “scandals” should be taken as a lesson to all business owners and new startups that are continuing to grow. Safe and wise information sharing implemented early can save a person, brand or company bad press and hefty crisis management fees down the line.
Juda Engelmayer is the president of HeraldPR. He is an expert in crisis communication and has managed a number of high-profile clients, while contributing to various media outlets as an expert in his field.