It’s your reaction, stupid!

Today’s guest post is by  Nicole Newby and Samantha Bruno, Peppercomm’s Intern Committee Co-Coordinators.

twitter_battle_a_l (1)We all have horror stories about roommates, classmates, colleagues, the guy sitting next to us on the bus…the list goes on. But we never thought to vent our frustrations on Twitter. We aren’t Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. We prefer to address our quibbles in person. Jessica and Nikki, though, identified more with the latter.

Jessica and Nikki were roommates at Penn State who clearly did not pass any kind of compatibility test. Nikki took to Twitter first to air some of her grievances. Jessica later found the tweets and posted a few of her own, which escalated the roommate arguments to a global level, even inviting police involvement.

When Steve Cody asked if we would hire either of them as interns, our collective initial reaction was: “No way!” Simply put, we would never hire someone who blatantly can’t get along with other people for a position that relies so heavily on teamwork.

But upon further thinking, we took a step back. This situation is a microcosm for exactly what we do every day in the office—crisis management. Sure, none of our clients (at the moment) are in the hot seat for something as ridiculous as tweeting a screenshot of other tweets about their annoying coworker’s desk lamp or drug habits, but they are dealing with mistakes and facing public scrutiny for them. One of the most important points we always emphasize with clients in crisis situations really stood out to us while reading the article: You won’t be judged on the crisis. You will be judged by how you respond to it.

That means that right NOW is the critical moment for both Jessica and Nikki. Let’s take a quick look at how they’ve reacted so far:

  • Jessica: Adding fuel to the fire, she gives an interview to the Washington Post and allows them to use her last name.
  • Nikki: Recognizing the repercussions on her reputation, she refuses to continue engaging in the situation.

They have both acted on extreme ends of the spectrum, but has either issued an apology and taken responsibility for their actions?

The jury is still out on this one. We’re waiting to see how they work to rectify the situation to improve their personal brand. If either one can do this successfully, we would absolutely consider hiring her. There’s no better way to exemplify your value as a PR and communications professional than single-handedly managing a public crisis.

A side bar PSA to all the high school and college students out there before we sign off – As the power of social media grows, so does the breadth of available channels for individuals to communicate their every thought and movement.

We are not sure that young people fully understand the repercussions of that. Perspective employers, including us, utilize Google during the hiring process, so think twice before you air out all of your dirty laundry. While a post may seem to have a short lifespan and anonymity on social media, don’t fall asleep under a false sense of security. What you put out there, could come back to haunt you, jeopardizing future professional opportunities. That may not be your top priority in high school, but it should at least be on the list.  Trust us when we say, most of the time, we’d much rather just read about what you ate for dinner.


4 thoughts on “It’s your reaction, stupid!

  1. Even if either person here issues an apology and takes responsibility for their actions, I would never hire them. Never. They have exemplified value erosion. I’m sorry. Now, hances are these are people who are guilty of nothing more than mistakes of youth. First time independence leads to challenges like this, and all humans respond in unique ways. People make incorrect decisions and learn lessons. Jessica and Nikki are entitled to that. But. They took a personal issue and each flagrantly created a public nuisance. When we retain new employees they are our ambassadors to clients, future new hires, journalists, and lots of stakeholders that will judge our company based on that interaction. Why take the risk? Even if they prove great skills in crisis management, why would we bring on people at any level who have a history of dysfunctional communication? There are too many other suitable candidates that did not use public information forums repeatedly to air out personal dirty laundry. And incidentally, there are certain crises – based not on corporate failure but personal indiscretion (no need to cite recent examples)… where one will be based on BOTH the crisis and how they respond. I’m sure that as future Penn State grads they will move on to have productive lives and careers, irrespective of how Twitter Roommate gets resolved. But that doesn’t mean they have to work here, or should.

    • Thanks for your comment, Michael. You make some excellent points, and I completely agree. This was my initial reaction when Steve asked if we would hire either of them. As the situation currently stands, my answer would still be a firm, “No.” You’re right; it’s not just about issuing an apology or taking responsibility (which they still haven’t done). Effectively managing a crisis goes beyond just acknowledging the mistake. It also includes forward-thinking and proactive efforts to prevent similar instances from occurring again–and communicating those efforts to help transform their current public image. Global brands have earned back consumer trust after major crises, so it is possible for these women to do the same. If they could accomplish that, I wouldn’t mind taking a look at their resumes.

  2. Fortunately I grew up in an age where I was free to do stupid things in my youth without feeling big brother was looking on. With the increase in use of domestic CCTV it won\’t be long before all the silly but fun things that kids do when they are young are captured on camera to be aired in front of the world…with or without permission. If prospective employers cannot forgive the behaviour of adolescence then it will be a sad and restricted world we grow up in where spontaneity and creativity is nipped in the bud just in case someone is watching! Horrible thought.