Five tips to avoid downfall by social media
This week YouTube claimed the scalp of Malcolm Turnbull staffer Thomas Tudehope after he allegedly helped disseminate a Hitler parody video in which Federal MP Alex Hawke is portrayed as an irate Adolf Hitler.
It didn’t take long for the supposedly anonymous Downfall meme to catch the media’s attention, and by then it was only a matter of time before the creative talent behind it was exposed. Not helped in any way by a comprehensive email chain leaked to the media linking Tudehope and another Liberal staffer Charles Perrottet to the short film.
But with revelations that Tudehope had to resign over the issue, maybe it’s time for a little lesson for young staffers, press secretaries and politico wannabes out there who seem to think Web 2.0 is all fun and no responsibility. Sure it’s all a bit of a lark now and then, but when pre-selections, votes and political cred are at stake, there’s nowhere to hide. And seriously, who wants to lose their job in this economic climate?
So here are some tips on how to avoid downfall when you’re a political staffer in the modern media age.
1. Avoid any reference to Hitler.
Case in point, the Alex Hawke Downfall meme. Sure it’s hilarious, and what average voter out there is going to take the time to understand the subtle nuances and in-jokes of a Western Sydney pre-selection battle? But it doesn’t look good when you’re supposed to working hard for the future former leader of the Liberal Party, and instead you’re wasting taxpayer’s time by posting inane stuff on YouTube.
2. Actually, avoid any reference to Nazis, Jews and the Holocaust whatsoever.
Waverley Councillor Rose Jackson learnt this lesson at the 2007 election, after she posted a throwaway comment to an online chat group, which happened to oppose the creation of a Jewish state. At the time she was campaign manager for Labor candidate George Newhouse, in the heavily Jewish electorate of Wentworth. Needless to say her minor outburst made the front page of The Australian.
As an aside, it’s also good to keep in mind that going as a Nazi to a fancy-dress party is completely off limits. Just ask Prince Harry who had a Prince Phillip moment when he wore a swastika while skolling a voddie at a party one time. Next day he’s on the front page of The Sun. And more recently singer Taylor Swift was called a “Jew Hater” for hugging some random with a swastika on his shirt. That’s a sure-fire way to destroy your squeaky clean image.
3. Keep your Facebook page clean.
Speaking of image, there’s nothing worse than having the journos scour through your Facebook page, a prime resource for photos (just ask Stephanie Rice) and cringe-worthy status updates. I’ve heard the staffers at State Parliament aren’t allowed to keep Facebook pages (probably wise) and my colleagues and I have been urged not to post anything relating to binge drinking, recreational drugs or WorkChoices on our Facebook pages. My boss cited CFMEU media advisor Jesse Dean as an example, who not only referenced drugs on her Facebook page but also lamented the task of putting lipstick on pigs each day. This one turned up on Vex News – not as bad as The Oz, but once it’s out there, it’s out there.
4. Don’t get drunk and take photos in compromising positions and then post them on the net.
Never a good idea, but particularly a bad idea when you’re Barack Obama’s speech writer wiz-kid Jon Favreau. This oratory genius had a blonde moment when he thought it would be a good idea to grope the chest of Obama’s rival Hillary Clinton. Even though it was a cut-out version of the former First Lady, it’s still not classy. And it’s something that’s sure to haunt you long after the mixers and frat parties fade away.
5. Don’t make political statements while on the job.
It’s probably a good idea to be professional at all times, even when your boss’s adversary is making a speech you think is lame. It seemed Kevin Rudd’s press secretary Lachlan Harris and advisor Tim Gleason could do no wrong, until they turned their backs on Brendan Nelson during his Sorry Speech . Not only did they look like amateurs, but they pissed Kevin off too. Rule number one for press secretaries: never become the story.
So what have we learnt? For any media advisor/staffer/press secretary, it’s OK to make mistakes, but much better to learn from the mistakes of others. Because once it’s been captured, tweeted, posted or uploaded – it’s online. Forever.
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