P.J. Crowley and Gilbert Gottfried were fired this week because of insensitive and tasteless tweets.
These aren’t ordinary men. Crowley served as press secretary at the U.S. Department of State, and Gottfried was the voice of the duck in TV commercials for the American Family Life Assurance Company (more commonly known as Aflac).
Crowley’s tweets must be approved by the State Department. This one was not and was subsequently cited across the wires in poor reflection of the Obama Administration:
“We have been watching a hopeful tsunami sweep across the Middle East. Now we are seeing a tsunami of a different kind sweep across Japan.”
Gottfried wrote a series of tasteless tweets, archived at this page of his 10 worst about Japan (some of them are not safe for work).
Both men are hardly alone. They are not the first to be fired and they won’t be the last.
Chrysler saw itself in heavy oil last week when an individual tweeted an improper message and that person was subsequently fired. And last month the American Red Cross confessed on their blog after an unintentional tweet was sent. While it was an honest mistake and nobody was fired, the takeaway is one that strikes every person representing every organization on the planet.
The role of a spokesperson extends beyond the 9-5 hours of each day. Tweets and other media communicated by a spokesperson will always reflect the organization whether or not disclosure exists. Marking your Twitter account as “personal” is no excuse for bad behavior. Perception is reality, and these three words I recognize every day in my role as an elected city councilor. It’s a shame that Crowley and Gottfried got fired in this down economy, but they should have known better.