Sabrina Corgatelli, Idaho State and Social Media

The luring and killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe  started an online frenzy against big game hunters.  Within hours of the story going public Minnesota Dentist Walter J. Palmer was no longer a free man. The outrage of people commenting on social media spurred a frenzy of activity which resulted in closing down his dental practice and petitions to the White House to extradite Palmer to Zimbabwe.

Just a few days later an accountant at Idaho State University, Sabrina Corgatelli got in on the game.  While it seemed Walter Palmer was trying to fly under the radar, Corgatelli did anything but.  She set up a Facebook page especially for the hunt along with posting on Instagram.  Was she looking for her fifteen minutes of fame?  Her photos and comments revel in the game kills she has made and taunts the “haters” as she calls them.  One of these posts was accompanied by an image of a smiling Leonardo DiCaprio in his role as the Great Gatsby, captioned: ‘To all the haters – stay tuned, you’re gonna have so much more to be p***ed about.’ But the picture that outraged most people is one of her next to the giraffe she killed.

Her employer Idaho State University has been eerily quiet. In one twitter post someone posted that ISU stated that Corgatelli’s actions have nothing to do with the University. While that is unconfirmed, let me remind all employers that there is very little separation between personal and professional when an internet outrage is sparked.  All it tells me for sure is that Idaho State has no idea how to handle this crisis.  I put in a call to Dr. Adrienne King who is shown on the ISU website as the person in charge of crisis communications.

Dr. King called me back and I asked her why there was no official response from the University.  She told me that they did post a full statement on the Idaho State University Facebook page on August 4. I asked her how the University reacted to Corgatelli’s actions and again I was referred to their Facebook page. These responses were not in keeping with an organization who knows how to deal with an online crisis.  I asked if the University had a Social Media policy and she admitted that they don’t.  “I imagine that we will have discussions towards that now” she replied.

Social media policies, however, cannot be the only cornerstone that determines if an organization is going to take action or not.  Is it in the best interest of any organization to keep an employee who caused such an international stir and flaunts killing of big game in our faces?  Is trial and conviction by internet a viable precursor for a corporation to take action?  In some instances that has been so.

Remember Justine Sacco? The woman who tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding I’m white!” She tweeted this out to her 170 followers just before her fight took  off and didn’t even think anyone would repy. But by the time her flight landed the Twittersphere exploded with outrage.  Her employer fired her by the time she landed in Cape Town.  I think she was the last to know.

Then this past January UK stockbroker Rahan Qadar was fired after a tweet joking about hitting a cyclist. “Think I just hit a cyclist. But I’m late for work so had to drive off lol”. He went by the name @RayQ18.  He told police he was joking but his employer Hargreaves Lansdown did not take the joke lightly and terminated Qadar’s employment

Both hunters declared that what they were doing was legal – as if that is the barometer for what is right. Just because it is legal doesn’t make it right.  I still can’t find Idaho State University’s official statement regarding Sabrina Corgatelli on their Facebook page.  They have set up a forum that allows you to post your comments but it is in a hidden away space with no replies to those posting.  Again, not very transparent and not engaging to rebuild public confidence of the stance; moral or otherwise that the University is taking regarding Corgatelli.

Justine Sacco and Rahan Qadar were fired for posting inappropriate comments on twitter. Both companies put out official statements stating they did not condone the behavior of their employees and saw no other option but to terminate employment.  Sabrina Corgatelli boasts about her kills online and Idaho State stands idly by.

Nejolla Korris is an expert in Linguistic Lie Detection and Social Media Risk.  She teaches seminars on these topics throughout North America, Africa, SE Asia and Europe.  Miss Korris received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her international work in lie detection.

Reputation Risk and Social Media: Where personal and professional worlds collide

Social media has become the murky water where personal and professional reputations are shared, liked, posted and sometimes annihilated. The ability to share anything on the spot has become the bane of many an organization and the people who work for them.

Just a week ago a young veterinarian Kristen Lindsey was fired for posting and boasting about  a picture of herself with a cat that she had killed with a bow and arrow.  While police couldn’t charge Lindsey until they determined if the picture was real or not, her employer didn’t hesitate to take action. The Washington Animal Clinic issued a statement on their website.  “We are absolutely appalled, shocked, upset, and disgusted by the conduct,” a spokesperson for the clinic wrote in a statement. “We condemn it in the strongest possible manner.”

Does a social media gaff have to have this type of shock factor in order to be noticed? The answer is no.  If your corporation only measures social media violations based on how far reaching they are, then stand by because the shock wave will come.

A couple of years ago, we conducted an exercise where one corporation wanted to measure the online footprint of some of their senior executives.  Everyone of the individuals bought into the exercise and were sure that their online footprints were essentially clean…..but, there’s always that one….  We had a look at some online dating sites and we stumbled upon one where people are looking for affairs.  We  put in a series of search criteria; location, age range (because everybody lies about it), height, hair color, eye color etc. Lo and behold a picture loads and it is the professional picture of one of our executives and it is the same picture used on the corporate website.

As you can imagine, this opened up a huge can of worms. The executive claimed his private life was private. The corporation claimed “not when you use the picture we own of you”.  It is so easy to see how these worlds can collide. I’m not at liberty to say what happened to this executive, but let’s just say the point was made.  Anyone, anywhere can make the connection between an individual and where they work.

When I read posts on social media I always look at who is making them. Especially those that threaten or break ethical boundaries. And each and everyday I am shocked at those who do not have a filter or a thought that what they might be posting is inappropriate for their positions.  But it makes for interesting reading, research and eventually fodder for my classes. When teaching in house sessions on social media risk I am always amused at the participants madly deleting posts and pictures throughout the duration of the class.

Some tips to keep your personal & professional reputations intact:

1)  Distance your personal and professional social media profiles.                                      If you have a professional reputation to protect then maybe don’t mention where                  you work on your personal social media profiles.

2) Think before you post.                                                                                                              If you think that your opinion or actions can come back and bite you professionally –            don’t post them. (And PS how many times have I seen someone make an                            inappropriate post and then claim their accounts were hacked? – nope don’t buy it)

3)  Disclaimers on social media mean nothing.                                                                         Those posts of “views are my own and don’t reflect the view of my employer” mean              absolutely nothing.  This will not prevent people from associating you with your                    employer, in fact, it usually draws people to look into who your employer is.

4)  Understand your social media policy and code of conduct                                               Remember that you only have one reputation.

As long as HR & Ethics departments think that what a person posts on their social media profiles is personal, then they do nothing to mitigate the risks involved for the corporation. There is no such thing as personal or private as long as a person uses social media. Worlds collide and merge as one – either like a good marriage or a bad one.

Nejolla provides training to corporations on social media risk and social engineering.  

CJ Adams: Missing and Found – What now?

CJ Adams is a friend of mine. She went missing from Boise, Idaho after a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday morning. On Thursday, her mother posted on FB that she was gone and asked her to come home. She was found on Saturday morning in Clara, Mississippi.

The most crucial time in locating a missing person is the first 48 hours. But in this case just like so many others, the police told family that they couldn’t issue a missing person’s report until those 48 hours had passed.

CJ had been on medical treatment, left home without clothes, without her medication and without her service dog Harry. Already those realities gave all the signs that things were not normal.  In the first 24 hours gone, she had also used her debit card twice to purchase gas in Wyoming. Was CJ on the road alone or did someone get her card and her vehicle? Questions nobody could answer at that point.

The police in Boise told her family that they had to wait 48 hours before issuing the missing persons report.  They also stated there was no criminal activity so no need to rush. I’d really like to know who surmised that conclusion? I have worked on a few missing persons cases in my time and grand statements like this irk me.  There was no evidence to suggest anything to the contrary either. The police also told her husband to cancel her debit card to entice her to contact home. When I heard that my heart sank. That debit card was a lifeline and the only thing we had that could inform us in real time where it was being used and where she might be headed.   Too many people think we live in a world of real time CSI and that pinging her phone would just miraculously tell everyone where she was.  Well policing doesn’t work like that. Boise police would have to go to her cell phone provider and get a warrant to access her information and whereabouts.

At that point five of us decided to do what we could to help find CJ. Naomi, Jude, Trudi, Lisa and I started our campaign. We posted notices on Facebook, talked to her mom, asked friends in Boise to go over to the house, posted on twitter, contacted trucker organizations and put up a help find link on my website. We tried to predict a couple of driving routes and contacted police departments along those routes, emailed media and spread the word whatever way we could. Within hours there were so many others offering support and resources.

For the most part media wasn’t that interested in the story at that time. The Idaho Statesman sent us an email where they said the police downplayed the disappearance and said there was no criminal activity  so this disappearance was being treated like many others…”a dime a dozen”.  The Statesman’s business reporter interviewed her husband and wrote what I perceive to be a scathing piece…of course with much taken out of context.   His report of her being found was even more defamatory.  Six years ago, CJ suffered severe head trauma in a white water rafting accident.

I’m writing this now as I watched a few media outlets report on CJ winding up in Clara Mississippi with a ton of misinformation. What you don’t know is since she was found CJ has spent the past few days in a no name hospital in Mississippi where the nurses have not even given her the courtesy of a shower.  Her family is on their way to get her and a friend of ours went to visit her.

I also need to stop and think how devastating this could be to any family in the United States. The astronomical medical bills, a stay in a hospital that might not be covered by  insurance and the unknown medical reason that would cause this type of amnesia. The irreparable harm caused by a rookie journalist who cared more about sensation than good reporting labelled it a mental breakdown. It’s now time to stand up and help.

I want to acknowledge two unknown truckers that helped CJ in her journey. They gave her a safe place to sleep for the night and the next day they nestled her truck in between theirs and guided her to Mississippi. She remembers your help and is grateful.

To our group of five who embraced this journey of finding CJ and all of the others who helped out, I salute you.  Without the dedication and persistence of people working to help CJ and praying for her safety, who knows what could have happened. I am proud to know you all and am thrilled you are my friends. Thank you Naomi, Lisa, Jude and Trudi.

~Nejolla~

PS Where would we be without our dachshunds?