I remember my first beer, only because I took 100 pictures of my friends and I that night at a party. Those pictures eventually made their way to Myspace but don’t worry my profile was private so only my friends and I had access to those pictures. Oh and no one could ever find these pictures now because I deleted them a few years after, meaning they are gone forever. WRONG. At a young age we are taught that deleting something makes it go away, never to be seen again. Don’t we all wish this was true?
Posting something on the internet should come with a contract saying in big uppercase, bold letters “THIS IS HERE FOREVER, POST AT YOUR OWN RISK”. Everything you post, no matter if it was 10 years ago, 10 months ago or 10 minutes ago is still accessible to someone somewhere even if you delete it. In this day and age screen shots can either be your lifesaver or your worst enemy.
There have been so many instances where someone in a position of power has posted something offensive, hateful or on accident that caused a stir. Naturally your initial reaction is to pretend it never happened and delete whatever it was that pissed people off right? WRONG. This is how numerous public relation disasters have been created for companies, networks and people across the nation. The correct action plan would be to take responsibility and apologize for your actions instead of simply trying to pretend it never happened. Someone somewhere will call you out on it, they aren’t shy.
The examples of this are numerous; Justine Sacco a PR professional who posted a racist tweet resorted to deleting her entire account to hide the offensive post.
E! Online quietly deleting a critical fashion story about Ellen Page after negative comments were made about it.
And Steve Elkington deleted all of his offensive posts regarding gay athlete Michael Sam.
A statement wasn’t made on behalf of any of these people until a statement was pretty much forced out of them, not helping their reputations much. Yet all of these tweets, posts and stories live on, you can see pictures or read any of them just by searching them on Google. Goes to show you, nothing is gone forever.
In many instances however, it is completely necessary to remove or delete an online post from an account. In those cases there needs to be acknowledgement on behalf of the person that posted the negative material that it was wrong and has been taken down. The main point I’m trying to make here isn’t that you shouldn’t delete things, it’s that if you decide to delete something because it is offensive and gaining negative attention don’t try to pretend it never happened just take responsibility for it. A great example being Ashley Bensons recent stir, minutes after she posted a picture that looked as if she was mocking Amanda Bynes, she took the picture down and apologized via twitter to all of their fans.
In the world of PR I think it’s important to realize that our profession is based off of how the public views our clients. We have to make sure our clients own up to mistakes made online by taking responsibility and apologizing for inappropriate posts, not by trying to take the easy way out and deleting/hiding things. Keeping clients in the good graces of the general population is something we should all strive to achieve and you can’t do that by being shady. Also as PR students and professionals, we must all be extremely careful what we are posting online because you never know when it can come back around and bite you.
As for those 10th grade party pics, let’s hope those stay away.