shameThis past weekend there was a PR/Social media/Personal branding crisis via twitter. Justine Sacco, a former PR exec with IAG brands, tweeted a racist remark from her personal twitter account and the backlash is something that she will be dealing with for years to come.

A South African by birth, American by residency, Justine tweeted ignorant and derogatory remarks about South Africa’s AIDs epidemic. As a result, she became instantly infamous. Photographers flocked to the airports. News sites reported her faux pas, and countless people joined in to express their discontent and disgust.

But taking it even further, the brand crisis was turned into an opportunity for Aid For Africa, a non-profit organization in partnership with 85 other organizations working to address the primary issues impacting Africa, from health care to education and beyond. From a branding point of view, it immediately brought to mind to me how critically important it is to own your own name as a domain name. Here’s why:

1) It doesn’t matter who yo work for, we are all brand ambassadors. The moment something in your life that doesn’t match up to the values of the organization you work for, there is potential crisis

2) If Justine Sacco has already owned her name, she would have the tools and resources to lay a platform for recovery under her own name, which would be easier than it will now be without it.

3) Owning your name makes as much sense as having a social media profile, email account or home address. It is now one of the standard ways that people will find out about  you and get in touch with you. Having that foundational control is not only smart, but beneficial.

It’s hard when your mistakes are laid bare for all the world to see. As a christian, and reflecting on this Christmas holiday season, my heart goes out to Justine and her family and the scrutiny they must now face. My prayer for Justine is that the lessons she is learning through this crisis serve as a breeding ground for education and change.

We have all made mistakes. We have said stupid things. Done stupid things. Thought stupid things. Most of us have never had them captured by a global audience, and most of us never will. I hope you and I never have to face such a crisis, but just in case… perhaps today is the day to get your “”?

What insight do you have on this? My goal in writing this post is not to hop on the bandwagon of hate and condemnation but instead to highlight what can be learned from someone else’s mistakes. Comment below, what say you?


magic-2-1120375-mThe new tools of online marketing present a tricky subtext when creating or managing a brand. Often I have conversations with friends and colleagues about whether social media is good or bad… used or abused…

Historically, BIG brands were the only ones to be able to manufacture what you think and perceive about their company, employees and community but now with the onslaught of social media, video and myriads of platforms available manufactured perception is now in the hands of all.

Creating the persona that everyone wants to be, see and connect with is at the root of a very dangerous force. There’s something that is driving a falsehood about your self worth being strongly connected with your life activity. I’ve watched as people commit to being really busy so that they can feel validated and valued.

In developing a brand one of the exercises we complete with our clients is to establish core values. Every brand has them. Every brand needs them. Establishing your brand values helps you to stay on track and can prevent you from falling into the trap of manufactured perception.

Here’s something to consider:

Your value doesn’t lay in the number of fans you have on Facebook.

It doesn’t matter that you follow more people on Twitter than follows you.

It doesn’t require that you stay in a constant cycle of impressing people.

It allows you to be content with where you WANT to be, as you work towards being more of that. And it doesn’t have to be driven by social chaos.

Take a step back and consider what holds true for you. Share your insight in the comments below.


I’m starting a new Sunday series today for churches. A new category, called Church Branding, because it’s one of the most rewarding ways that I use my expertise. I’ve been managing the social media for my church (Hoboken Grace) for about 18 months and also serve on the welcome committee on Sundays. What’s so rewarding is that each Sunday we have a few Connection Points set up at the church, small round tables where a new visitor can come over and introduce themselves and get a free gift.

Being at that table has been such an inspiration for me, especially because the social media team is now a group of 4 women. When I first started managing the social media for the church it was because I saw a lost opportunity. I felt I was a part of an amazing community but that the message, our existence, just wasn’t reaching enough people. Instead of sitting back and thinking “they really outta do something about this” I got in touch with the teaching pastor and told him that I’d like to do this for the church. Each Sunday the majority of the first-time visitors to our church reveal that they found us online!

Chris was open to the idea and so we got together over coffee to discuss the churches goals, values and guidelines, and then I began. With so many people being attached at the hip to some type of internet-capable device it seemed to me that not being consistent and active in social media was a big mistake. I was right. Pretty soon, once we had consistent posts going up once per day, we started to see a more engaged community and attendance at our services and social events soon followed.

Each Sunday I’ll start to deliver to you some of the ways that you can help your church to have a stronger brand and give you insight into how we leverage technology to better serve and love our community. For starters, if your church doesn’t yet have a Facebook business page, Twitter Profile, or YouTube Channel speak with the staff about setting them up. Usually, as long as they know you’re going to be in total alignment with the church’s values they’ll bless you with their full support.

Next Sunday we’ll discuss best practices and setup for each of these three channels.

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