All Kids Dumb Enough to Get Kicked-Out of Harvard

My phone was blowing up earlier this week with colleagues and friends asking my opinion of the 10 Harvard students who had their admissions canceled after posting offensive memes on social media.

If you haven’t heard the story, a number of students who had been admitted to the school had connected on the Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group.  Some kids then starting posting risqué memes and eventually created their own splinter Facebook group.  And there things got more graphic with some kids publishing racist and obscene posts.  Administrators found out and chose to rescind the admissions of 10 of the offending students.  The story broke in the Harvard Crimson and soon went viral.

Then the messages started:

“These people need copies of your book.”
“Social media #fail of the year.”
“Call Harvard and send them your book.”

Sadly, I’m not the least bit surprised by this story.  I have heard variations before: Kids did dumb things online shortly after admission and didn’t get the chance to attend their dream school.  An unknowable number of others, applying to Ivy League schools and junior colleges alike, don’t get accepted because of online mistakes and social media mess ups.  And yes, I have chronicled many similar tales in my book How to Protect (Or Destroy) Your Reputation Online.Read More

Social media policies in order after “covfefe” kerfuffle and Kathy Griffin photos

COVFEFE definitionWhen President Donald Trump tweets gibberish (“covfefe” anyone?) and comedienne Kathy Griffin loses her job over a photo depicting the same president beheaded, it makes me wonder if either has even heard of social media policies.

Before jumping to the corporate world, here are a few personal tips when it comes to communicating in modern times.

  1. Don’t drink and dial (or tweet or text or snap.) Goes without saying that impaired communication doesn’t go over well with your boss or your ex.
  2. Don’t argue via instant message. Whether its via Facebook messenger, What’sApp, text message or another form of instant messenger, it’s best not to fight or argue only using your thumbs. The nuance of language is lost, and you may permanently damage a relationship.
  3. Put a second set of eyes on social media posts. If you are tweeting for your company, care about your personal brand or have anything to lose on social media, don’t distribute anything even remotely controversial without having another human being look at it.  This is a must for corporate social media postings and anyone running their own business.  A costly mistake could be averted with a second set of eyes.

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A Pocket Square Is Not Your Reputation

Pocket square is not your reputationGreat location, beautiful offices and a CEO who wears designer suits, ties that pop and impeccably folded pocket squares.  Too bad the company can’t find a qualified office manager because online review site Glassdoor says the dapper executive’s business only rates one and a half stars.

I heard yet another online reputation horror story this week as a business struggles to find new talent because online reviews suggest the company is not great place to work.

The sad aspects are that the online reputation and the actual reputation of the company don’t match, and the top executives are focusing more on how they appear in client meetings than how the internet presents their business.  The web is the front door to all our businesses, so if how you appear online looks questionable, then spiffy offices, tailored shirts and luxury cars don’t really matter.

Before you go on another shopping spree for office attire, please check out some basic online advice that overrules a delightful pocket square:Read More

Trump Administration Sets PR Back Years

Melissa McCarthy is Sean SpicerSince the election, I have discussed President Donald Trump’s communications style and practices with dozens of people, from fellow public relations and communications pros to friends and family members.  While I don’t want to get into specifics about his foreign and domestic policies, I am comfortable discussing how Trump’s communications practices have the potential to set back the PR profession years.

Sure, my profession doesn’t itself have the greatest reputation.  I have been called a flack, a spin doctor and probably worse (actually, I know there’s worse), but I believe the example being set in Washington for the future of public relations is more damaging than mere name calling.Read More

Three Questions Every Business Needs to Ask About Online Risk

3 questions to answer about online riskHaving recently written a book about online reputation issues, I spend a lot of time thinking about online risk, and I am increasingly interested in cybersecurity.  Online reputation and cybersecurity are both interconnected and of critical importance for most businesses.  Yet while I believe every business needs to understand these risks, some are more susceptible than others.

Hackers prefer some industries while online reputation problems can have greater impact with other types of businesses.

While thinking this through, I boiled it down to three key factors for dealing with online risk.  Answer these three questions and you will have a better understanding of your business’ level of risk for online problems.

Do your employees touch private data? 

Hackers want private information that they can exploit quickly or sell on the black market.  If your employees touch the private data of your customers, then you have risk.  Do you accept applications for financing, for example, where private information like social security numbers or driver’s license numbers are exchanged?  Does this information get e-mailed?  Do you coordinate wire transfers?  Do you send or receive wire instructions via e-mail?  Do you handle medical records of your clients?  Do you allow customers to pay by credit card over the phone?Read More

How to Manage an Online Catastrophe

online catastrophe david PRThe most well-known online reputation problems typically fall into a category that I refer to as “catastrophic.”  Many people make online mistakes each day, but only a few online errors will spiral out of control, go viral and end-up causing economic damage or personal misfortune. An online catastrophe gets widely shared, makes the news and has people talking — sometimes laughing.

We have seen many examples:

  • An executive writes an inappropriate tweet and loses her job.
  • A public company CFO accidentally leaks insider information on his Twitter account – drawing attention from investors and regulators alike.
  • A pilot suggests one of the presidential candidates should be executed – drawing a suspension and forcing the airline to explain why the guy belongs on the payroll.
  • A professional athlete publishes a picture of his junk on social media (too many to mention.)

In these worst-case scenarios, a social media post gets shared, catches the eye of mainstream media outlets and then ends up everywhere.  They are the most difficult to manage.Read More

Cybersecurity, Human Error and Online Reputation

Moonlight wins best pictureHuman error took center stage this week in the world of crisis and reputation management.  By now we all know that accounting and consulting firm PwC, the firm hired to tabulate and manage the results of the Academy Awards, gave the wrong envelope to actor Warren Beatty, who was responsible for reading the winner of the Best Picture Oscar.  The accountant in charge was distracted during the process (allegedly tweeting) and Beatty and Faye Dunaway read the wrong winner – and then chaos ensued.  The incident made worldwide headlines and PwC took a tremendous reputational hit.  Human error, compounded by distraction, was the primary cause.  (In case you haven’t heard, PwC partner Brian Cullinan was taken off the Academy Awards assignment, and the account is under review by the Academy.)

The other day, I attended a seminar at another accounting and consulting firm called MBAF in Miami.  They hosted a great event where a number of experts discussed current trends in cyber crime.  Interestingly, one of the main themes was human error.  We know that cyber criminals target organizations with hacking efforts and denial of service attacks, and in some cases companies get infiltrated as the bad guys find ways around firewalls and cyber-defenses.Read More

Online Review Sites: The New Normal

Online Review Sites David PRThe value proposition for online review sites is simple as they enables almost anyone to offer a public review and rating of a business. A review site allows users to give both good and bad reviews of businesses – and gives consumers the opportunity to make an informed purchase decision. This new reality can be a challenge for businesses, however.

Here are some general recommendations when it comes to online reviews:Read More

Do you Resolve to Write a Business Book?

yes you can write a business book

It might surprise you to learn that when I tell people I published a business book, the first question I’m most frequently asked is not “What is the book about?” or “Why did you write it?”  Instead, it’s “Did you self-publish?”  When I tell them that my book was published by a traditional publisher that paid me to write it, I generally get an “Oh, really?” with an eyebrow raise—and then we almost immediately jump to a “How did you do that?” conversation.

It’s interesting to me that the assumption is that I self-published, and I think this has as much to do with an overriding belief that self-publishing is the path of least resistance and also that securing a publishing contract is impossible.

I’m here to tell you that getting a traditional publishing deal to write a business book is absolutely possible, and I’m not diminishing self-publishing in the least.Read More

9 Business Books Recommended as Last-Minute Gifts

9 business books as last minute giftsSince writing my book How to Protect (Or Destroy) Your Reputation Online, I have met many interesting authors and interviewed a number of them for my blog.  Here are nine books I can wholeheartedly recommend as last-minute gifts.  All are available on Amazon.com and can be shipped in time for the holidays if you, as they say, act now.

In alphabetical order:Read More