PR pro’s offensive tweet highlights need for social media help

Posted on January 15, 2014


Last year was yet another record breaking year for companies and professional individuals using social media channels. However, whilst the medium is increasingly being well exploited – largely helped by online news providers – there are still some glaring mistakes being made.

A perfect example was seen in the run up to Christmas.

Justine Sacco, moments ahead of boarding a flight to Africa, thought it appropriate to tweet:

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

As clearly offensive as the tweet was, Sacco knew nothing of the online outrage. As she was climbing to 36,000 feet, so too was she climbing to the top of the global trending stats, with #HasJustineLandedYet becoming the hottest hashtag.

Sacco’s ball drop is clearly more than just a harmless mistake and, as a PR executive at the time, (she later had to resign over the debacle), she most certainly should have known much better.

Whilst perhaps it was one of the crudest ‘fails’ on social media in 2013, there were some more humorous episodes.

Possibly coming in at number one, though Number 10 would be more appropriate, was the gaffe made on Dave Cameron’s Twitter account. Revelations in November showed that he followed an escort agency on the network.

Tesco too had a poor time of it back in January 2013. Right amid the horse meat scandal, some marketing wit tweeted:

“It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay! #TescoTweets”

Protestations that the tweet was scheduled before the scandal fell on deaf ears.

It all indicates that the editing, proofing and check and balance services of an independent news content provider are still much needed by many.

Sacco has since released an apology for her tweet.

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