Watch What You Say When the World is Listening

I try to communicate the importance of online language and “presence” to my students – in class and as an adviser. The basics of spelling and grammar aside, a recent inappropriate post on Jeff Jarvis’ well-regarded blog, BuzzMachine, brings the point home once again.

An individual named Chris (no last name) recently posted a rather obnoxious comment. Jeff has had some trouble with Dell, as in Dell Computers, which he’s documented in his blog. I loved PR Guru Richard Edelman’s take on this saga. He makes some outstanding points.

My take is this – when you are representing a company, whether you are a summer intern (as “Chris” turned out to be) or you’re the executive of the company, you must conduct yourself online as if the whole world is listening. Chris, I’m sure, has spent his high school and college days learning to communicate online through such sites as MySpace and FaceBook. And the type of comment that Chris left for Jeff may have been acceptable in that realm when talking to friends. But it was wholly inappropriate for dealing with a professional writer.

I’m often amazed at how horribly unprofessional emails from students can be. This is an excerpt from a recent email (name withheld):

I’m sorry about not telling U ahead of time about my unplanned absence. Like
I mentioned I didn’t know that I was gonna be absent that day until the day
of. Our plans were to com back the night before and that just didn’t work
out some how.
I’m really sorry that I walk in late a lot. It’s just really hard for me to
catch the bus on time. I live pretty far out & I know that parking is
impossible on campus. On top of not having a license.
I was wondering if our quiz was a scantron quia or a write in answer or a
paragraph? If it’s a scantron do we need to bring out own? Thanx a ton!

If you were Dell, or even the corner coffee shop, would you want Ms. -xoxo representing you. Is this the way she would pitch an editor?

PRos in training, please remember that what you write in email or online is a representation of who you are and what you have to offer an employer, etc – and – that the whole world may indeed be listening.

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