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Online, We’re Judged By Everything We Write

Seth Godin has a nice post reminding us that in the online world “we are are judged almost entirely by our actions, usually based on just our fingers.” Worth reading.

After Godin, read this post by Peter Shankman about Ketchum exec James Andrews.

Landing in Memphis for a Fedex meeting, Andrews posted this tweet:

True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say “I would die if I had to live here!” 4:58 PM Jan 14th from twhirl (twitter:keyinfluencer)

According to Shankman, Fedex noticed and Fedex was not pleased. Their email response:

Mr. Andrews,

If I interpret your post correctly, these are your comments about Memphis a few hours after arriving in the global headquarters city of one of your key and lucrative clients, and the home of arguably one of the most important entrepreneurs in the history of business, FedEx founder Fred Smith.

Many of my peers and I feel this is inappropriate. We do not know the total millions of dollars FedEx Corporation pays Ketchum annually for the valuable and important work your company does for us around the globe. We are confident however, it is enough to expect a greater level of respect and awareness from someone in your position as a vice president at a major global player in your industry. A hazard of social networking is people will read what you write.

Not knowing exactly what prompted your comments, I will admit the area around our airport is a bit of an eyesore, not without crime, prostitution, commercial decay, and a few potholes. But there is a major political, community, religious, and business effort underway, that includes FedEx, to transform that area. We’re hopeful that over time, our city will have a better “face” to present to visitors.

James, everyone participating in today’s event, including those in the auditorium with you this morning, just received their first paycheck of 2009 containing a 5% pay cut… which we wholeheartedly support because it continued the tradition established by Mr. Smith of doing whatever it takes to protect jobs.

Considering that we just entered the second year of a U.S. recession, and we are experiencing significant business loss due to the global economic downturn, many of my peers and I question the expense of paying Ketchum to produce the video open for today’s event; work that could have been achieved by internal, award-winning professionals with decades of experience in television production.

Additionally Mr. Andrews, with all due respect, to continue the context of your post; true confession: many of my peers and I don’t see much relevance between your presentation this morning and the work we do in Employee Communications.

Ouch.

Andrews specializes in social media marketing.

Double ouch.

James Andrews has responded, explaining he was actually ranting about a bad hotel checkin, not about Memphis as a whole. And perhaps he was. But that wasn’t how Fedex read it.

Regardless, the “I would die if I had to live here!” incident is another reminder of Seth’s point: online, we’re judged by everything we write.

Memphis skyline

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
  • Comments
    12 Responses to “Online, We’re Judged By Everything We Write”
    1. Billy Ye says:

      That’s particularly harsh. Do we have to watch and censor ourselves on everything internet from now on? There has to be a line between a direct attack on something verses a random rant to warrant the wrath of big brother.

      While social media keeps everyone connected and making the wired world a little smaller; an episode like this reminds me of the McCarthyism era where you have to watch your back on every type of communication because it can become digital evidence for possible future witch hunts.

    2. “Do we have to watch ourselves on everything internet from now on?”

      Yes.

    3. Jason Bird says:

      I think that it’s obvious that we should censor ourselves. This has always been true. A wise man (my father) taught me at a very young age that the things that we write, say or do directly reflect on our character. Without character, the best resume in the world is useless.

      I think that there is a huge difference between McCarthyism and self-censure. Choosing to do the right thing and not offending one of your largest clients by maligning their hometown is common sense.

      If you think that the small world we live in is not watching, you are dead wrong. And it’s getting smaller everyday.

    4. Sara says:

      I’ve often heard “but that’s not what I meant!” when someone said something using a tone. Well, it’s what I heard. And what is –received– is what matters when it comes to communications.

      When something is said verbally, tone is important. Type doesn’t have that luxury, so context is what is judged. Had Andrews Twittered, stating “I’m in one of the worst hotels I’ve had to stay in for a long time” I’m sure it would have had a more positive reception. And tell the hotel staff, not a broad, faceless audience. We keep forgetting that people all over read this stuff and that the Internet isn’t a lock-and-key diary from days of old.

      Never rant about the city you stay in, the food you eat, your job, your clients… unless that is your expertise and your employment as a critic.

    5. I had to laugh when I read this, and the guy is a social media marketing expert. I’ve never figured out how to censure my fingers, the trick is not to type it in the first place… LOL

      I love Alan’s #2 above. “Yes”. No explanation, nothing that will get him in trouble with anyone. He was probably laughing when he typed it.

      I guess what I find the most interesting is that this guy saw value in wasting his time to type somewhere that he didn’t like a city, like anyone would care what his opinion was of that city…

    6. Yep, it’s the vanity of Twitter that amazes me most. Why would anyone presume that anyone cares what they’re doing or thinking at a given moment?

      The folks spending time on Twitter have too much time on their hands.

    7. Adam Covati says:

      @George People who say that usually haven’t actually tried twitter. People generally don’t post random useless updates about their day. Granted that may make up 10% of the posts.

      Most posts, however, are useful facts or links. It’s a great place to meet like-minded individuals and stay current on news and events. I often find out about news before it hits CNN.

      I dearly hope that your work isn’t in social media, marketing, or really anything internet based. If so, you sir, have missed the boat.

    8. Adam, I’m a twitter user, but not a heavy one, and I’d agree that the frequency of tweets is often proportional to the size of the tweeter’s ego. (Which may explain why I am using the service and George isn’t! )

      Also interesting you lump “SMM”, “marketing”, and “anything internet based” into a single bucket. By common metrics — dollars spent, dollars generated, or societal impact — marketing in general still dwarfs web marketing, and SMM is but a tiny fraction of web marketing. This may change going forward, but it is true in 2009.

      Thanks for the comment, and I shall add you to my Twitter following list!

    9. Hi Adam,

      I’m guilty as charged. Have never tried Twitter. I should probably stick to what I know, eh? RKG got on a pretty big stable ship (Paid search marketing), we’ll see if social media becomes a valuable channel for generating marketing ROI. It certainly hasn’t to date, but I can certainly see it becoming and important piece of CRM.

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