Inside PR 361: Justine Sacco, poor judgment and the mob mentality

Martin here…And as I said on the podcast, I was waiting for Google to write this post for me…

We start 2014 talking about the mob mentality you sometimes experience in social media.

Picture this. You’ve had a busy year and it’s almost the holidays. You’re traveling halfway across the world to head home for some much-needed R&R. It’s a long and maybe a bit of a dull plane ride. There’s no Wi-Fi, so you’re unplugged. The perfect way to unwind.

Sounds tempting.

But when you land…you notice something’s different. Strangers recognize you. Are they pointing fingers? You get reconnected only to find out you’ve been fired with no warning – over a tweet.  The decision had been made when you were in the air.

I’ve just described what happened to Justine Sacco, who was a senior communicator for IAC. As in, past tense. The reason for her firing was a racist tweet she posted before leaving on the flight.

Let’s be clear, we don’t condone any racist remarks and this was clearly a case of very bad judgment (just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should).  If you followed the story, you’ll know it blew up when she was in the air and didn’t have access to Wi-Fi, there was an avalanche of critical posts, hashtags, a twitter storm and, of course, she abruptly lost her job.

Now that we’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the situation from the perspective of a few weeks, we thought we’d discuss these questions:

– Is it wise to let the community do your thinking for you?
– When should you wait to make a decision and when should you react immediately?
– How do you deal with a mob mentality when you’re trying to make a change?
– If you react quickly, is your decision strategic or just designed to stop the noise?
– Do you dump first and then ask questions later?
– Shouldn’t everyone have an opportunity to answer for their actions before they feel the consequences?

It’s a complex and multi-layered issue, as you’ll hear in the podcast. Have a listen and let us know where you stand.


We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Inside PR is part of the FIR Podcast Network.

Send us an email or an audio comment to [email protected], join the FIR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Google+ Community, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoseph Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

Thank you to the people behind Inside PR

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

Inside PR is produced by Kristine D’Arbelles and Ashlea LeCompte.