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?


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