Once again, we find ourselves dealing with someone who dropped the f-bomb in a public forum. In this case, it was an employee at New Media Strategies, a social media firm representing Chrysler. The individual was apparently in the middle of a mind-numbing drive into work and jumped onto Twitter to express his or her explicit frustration:
"I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*¢king drive." (this blogger substituted * and ¢)
In this person’s haste, he or she failed to check the handle to ensure he or she was logged into his or her personal account. The perp wasn’t, and the tweet went out under the Chrysler Twitter account, @chryslerautos. It wasn’t long before the mistake was realized and the tweet was deleted, but not before it was retweeted…and retweeted…and retweeted…and covered in blogs, taking it completely out of the company’s control.
And that was all she (or he) wrote. Literally. The offending individual was fired by New Media Strategies. Chrysler acted swiftly as well, firing NMS.
As of this writing, over 100 readers have weighed in. The majority of the early responses completely lacked any intellectual content; most merely seized the opportunity to use the offending term themselves in very banal and predictable one-liners:
”This is f*¢king unbelievable!”
”This is f*¢king throwing the baby out with the f*¢king bath water.”
Deep stuff guys. Is it any surprise the authors of these rich comments are all male? There’s something real macho about using the f-bomb, and it’s probably a real thrill to do so professionally amongst your peers in your industry’s premier magazine and shamelessly publish your name alongside it.
I’m not here to debate the merits of Chrysler’s decision. I’m here to take issue with advertising, marketing communications and social media professionals who think it’s acceptable, and perhaps essential, to use profane language online and undoubtedly, at work in constructive, creative and contentious discourse.
As expressed by a few thoughtful Ad Age readers, swearing has no place in corporate and marketing communications. The medium (even Twitter) and the audience (even Gen Y) do not make a difference. Profanity reflects poorly on the individual and the company. It does absolutely nothing to enhance the brand or build customer affinity.
Borrowing from an earlier post, descending to such base language smacks of a lack of respect for your client, their customers, your colleagues and yourself. It’s highly insensitive. Profanity makes many people uncomfortable. It isn’t cool and it won’t win admirers or new business. There isn’t a single argument someone can present that will convince me otherwise.
Communications professionals are to be held to a higher standard. We should possess a supreme command of the language and an expansive vocabulary. Any emotion we deem to express can and should be effectively articulated with well chosen power words.
If you are so de-sensitized to profanity that nothing shocks you and you find yourself apathetic toward the subject, then consider one irrefutable risk: as an Ad Age reader presented, in the public domain there may be legal ramifications for profane utterances for the utterer and those they represent. It is incumbent upon the communications professional and agency to protect their client. If you can’t (or won’t) discipline yourself for your own self-respect, that reason itself must prevail.