Top Online Reputation Trends for 2019

David PR Group Online Reputation Trends for 2019After a year that saw a slew of epic social media fails, like an Elon Musk tweet leading to a set of $20 million fines and numerous folks losing jobs over offensive posts, I can say with certainty that 2019 will offer a new batch of colorful online problems. Some of the old pitfalls remain, but there’s also hope as we learn to better manage our online lives – and hopefully be less judgmental of others. Here are five key online reputation trends for 2019.

Your job is watching you, but mainly if you screw up

While most employers truly don’t care what you do in your off hours, what you say on personal social media accounts can still get you in hot water and even fired. For example, last month Green Bay Packers Associate Head Coach Winston Moss posted on Twitter that the team needs to hold star quarterback Aaron Rodgers accountable for the team’s poor play. Moss was quickly fired. Lesson: Don’t publicly bash your organization’s most high-profile employee. Sure, we have freedom of speech in America, but you don’t get to say whatever you want with impunity. I’m not an employment lawyer so I can’t get into the finer points of what constitutes a legally fire-able offense, but I know that in some states an employer doesn’t need a reason to terminate you. My advice is that it’s best to keep controversial opinions to yourself, and don’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t be comfortable saying in your company break room among all of your co-workers.Read More

Holiday Tips to Protect Your Online Reputation

As we close out the year, many of us will attend office-sponsored holiday parties and fun gatherings with friends and neighbors. Risks for online problems have never been greater as 2018 was marked by a rise in people losing their jobs due to negative social media posts and all manners of online reputation problems.

A few key tips for holiday party season:

More cameras than ever

Each year, it becomes easier for holiday party misdeeds to be captured digitally. The global digital surveillance market is projected to grow by more than 9% per year, and this year Amazon bought video doorbell company Ring for a purported $1 billion. More cameras are coming.  According to Pew Research Center, more than three quarters (77%) of U.S. adults own a smartphone. That means that three out of four folks at your party have a camera – and many are not afraid to use it. So when you are thinking about having that extra glass of wine,imagine that nearly every adult can take your photo in an instant. Be on your best behavior.  And when you are at a gathering with coworkers, don’t complain – about anything.  If you are not having fun, power through it and leave early.  Don’t over-imbibe,over-stay or over-talk because bad behavior can be memorialized online. Have a good time but as I tell my college-aged daughter: “Don’t do shots.”Read More

Can You Really Submit an Op-Ed Anonymously?

Can you really submit an anonymous op-ed?Events of last week struck me regarding the concept of anonymity these days.  Like everyone else, I’m curious to learn the author of the now infamous New York Times anonymous op-ed. (Analysis from Slate and the BBC is fun to read.) I will let others jump into the mud pit to wrestle over whether the author is a patriot or a coward. I’m interested in how one actually remains anonymous in the digital age.

Word is that the op-ed author approached the Times through an intermediary, and his/her identity was confirmed by the paper.  If you or I wanted to get sensitive or confidential information to an outlet like the Times, could we do it and remain anonymous?

You can go right to the media outlets for answers. The Times, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Forbes, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and USA Today, among others, offer ways to send a confidential news tip.  SecureDrop and old-fashioned postal mail are the most common, but here are a few options:Read More

No Reputation is a Bad Reputation

no reputation is a bad reputation David PRSome businesses do well operating “under the radar.”  During my career I have met many executives who have purposely kept a low profile, avoiding publicity as they focus intently on their business and their market.  The strategy sometimes makes sense when companies face large logistical and operational challenges that supersede public relations and marketing.  Some executives also shy away from PR because they don’t want to draw the attention of potential competitors.

My experience is that this only works up to a point.

In recent weeks, I have encountered several companies that are facing significant online issues.  One is a a great company that took flying beneath the radar to new extremes.  The company has thousands of employees and multiple offices, appears to be very successful and yet has almost no online presence.Read More

PR Lessons from 2017

The past 12 months have been fascinating in the world of public relations. We have a president who communicates off-the-cuff each morning to his more than 45 million Twitter followers, and for the first time in at least eight years, most of us can name the White House Press Secretary. Communications from the White House has never been more high profile. We also learned this year that no amount of PR wizardry or spin control can save executives, even at the highest levels, who are guilty of sexual misconduct. Here are a few main PR lessons from 2017, when perception and reputation ruled the day.

Words Matter

Each day, major news networks focus part of their daily coverage on what President Trump tweeted that morning. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he is showing that he can control part of the news cycle and that words still matter. Trump’s tweets have a huge impact on how he is perceived. His word choices and tone are interpreted by both his supporters and detractors, and he often makes mistakes that cost him on the perception front. He recently “called-back” a tweet, claiming it was instead written by his lawyer. Again, it doesn’t matter what side you are on, but even in this age where visuals and short videos dominate, words still matter.Read More

First Amendment and Social Media Don’t Mix

First Amendment and Social Media Don't MixWe feel it in our bones.  Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and the First Amendment guides many of our core beliefs.  It shapes how we think as Americans and how we view ourselves compared to the rest of the world.  But guess what?  The First Amendment and social media don’t mix.

Yes, you can say practically anything online, often without legal consequence, but the First Amendment won’t protect you from losing your job, your livelihood or your reputation – and sometimes you lose all three.

Earlier this week, Hayley Geftman-Gold, a vice president and attorney for CBS, wrote on her Facebook page that she was not sympathetic to victims of the Las Vegas shooting because, she claimed, most country music fans are Republican.  She was quickly fired.

Geftman-Gold wrote: “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing. I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”

Nothing illegal about her comments.  Her argument is insensitive and idiotic but well within her right to free expression as an American.  Yet even a law license and a thorough understanding of the First Amendment didn’t help her keep her job.

Last year, United Airlines Pilot Michael Folk was suspended after tweeting that Hillary Clinton should be hanged for treason.  Folk, who also serves in the West Virginia House of Delegates, let his political leanings, and some despicable word choices, directly impact his income.  Again, he has every right to say it, but his employer didn’t, and shouldn’t, allow it.

Also last year, a Miami man went on an epic rant about the election in a local coffee shop.  His disparaging words were captured on video and posted online, turning him into a viral sensation.  The self-employed man lost clients almost immediately and is still rebuilding his tattered reputation. Did he say stuff that was offensive?  Yes.  Illegal or slanderous or defamatory?  No.  Yet severe punishment was meted out by the marketplace.Read More

Businesses Should Fight Back Against Online Attacks

Social media and online reviews bring an incredible new level of accountability to the customer service equation. The internet enables consumers to reach out to companies and service providers in brand new ways, and I believe the transparency that exists because of these online tools is a great thing for commerce. However, there’s a difference between feedback and online attacks.

Companies that fail to deliver on their product and brand promises are quickly weeded out, and frankly, it’s keeping many business owners on their toes. However, sometimes these powerful tools are misused, and it’s important for both individuals and businesses to understand that one should not go on social media and bash a company without considering the consequences. A couple cases have been publicized recently.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter caught considerable heat recently for her online tantrum about Delta Airlines. If you haven’t heard the story, Coulter had her seat assignment changed and got very upset.  I guess sitting by the window or aisle or whatever is extremely important to her.  She felt wronged by Delta, yet before the airline could even make an apology to her, she started tweeting and tweeting and tweeting her disgust.  She wanted to really hurt the airline; instead, she ended up just making herself look petty and foolish.

Here’s the thing, we all make mistakes. In the grand scheme of life, Coulter’s seat change is a pretty minor thing, and most of us understand that businesses make mistakes. But Coulter went bonkers, and her acrimonious online attack didn’t fit the crime.  Delta, thankfully, did not roll over for her. The airline apologized for the mistake, gave her a refund for the change fee and then did something that I thought was really important. They scolded her.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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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