By: Steve Radick
Yesterday, KDKA fired Michael Telek, one of their producers, for creating this graphic. Had this been created thirty years ago, most people wouldn’t have even noticed, and the ones who did would chuckle, look at the person next to them and say, “did you see that?” and then moved on with their day.
Today, that graphic gets screengrabbed and shared around the world. It gets turned into memes and GIFs. It gets added to news aggregators and newsfeeds. It even becomes a topic on other programs too (ESPN is an expert at this). And with every post, share, and comment, the worst parts of the Internet become more visible, more vocal, and more emboldened.
The pitchfork-carrying social media users come out in full force.
“Whoever created that should be fired!!”
“I’m never watching that channel again!”
“This is incredibly offensive – hope your station goes bankrupt!”
“I hope your dog dies and you get run over by a truck!” (things tend to escalate quickly on the Internet)
As the hyperbolic speech escalates, brands feel like they’re held hostage. So they respond, lest a social media boycott picks up momentum. Unfortunately, all too often, this response consists of giving in to the demands of the social media mob and firing the individual. #boycott is avoided. The conversation goes away. And the mob moves on to their next source of outrage. Situation defused right? Except, well, for the guy who no longer has a job because of a choice he made that was no worse than dozens of others I’ve made throughout my career. I was just lucky enough to not have them go globally viral.
That’s why we’ve invited Michael to attend our Renaissance Awards ceremony tonight so that he can network with other members of this city’s PR and communications community.
While every organization is free to make their own employment decisions, we lament the fact that Internet trolls turns every indiscretion and mistake into a fireable offense. And that brands and organizations lack the conviction to not give in to the very vocal, very minority subset of the population that wants nothing more than to ruin someone’s life for a minor lapse in judgment. We welcome Michael to our community because we’ve all made decisions in our job we’d like to take back. Luckily, we had colleagues, mentors, and bosses who helped us learn from those mistakes and we’re better for it. Seems like a better solution than letting the worst parts of the Internet decide who does and who doesn’t have a job the next day.
Here at PRSA Pittsburgh, we want to be that supportive community, not only for people like Michael, but for all 200 of our members.