It’s been a rough go for Johnny Manziel. The NFL quarterback has been slammed with a barrage of criticism following a catastrophic misfire by his attorney, who accidentally sent errant texts to an Associated Press reporter.
Just how bad were these texts, which were meant for another lawyer on the case?
The subject matter was about as damaging as you can imagine: Implications that Manziel is grappling with drug use? Check. Disclosing the quarterback’s confidential legal strategy. Check. The revelation that the 22-year-old may have spent more than $1,000 at a smoke shop? Check.
An NFL contract may not hang in the balance, but we all have something to lose by texting and emailing recklessly in our personal and professional lives.
The good news is that protecting yourself, your company and your clients from a catastrophic communications faux pas is easy if you go about your daily interactions the right way:
1. Think analog, not digital: Technology has made communicating at the speed of light second-nature, but there’s still something to be said for hiring couriers, using certified mail and hand-delivering highly sensitive information.
2. Don’t rely on disclaimers: Those bulky blocks of fine print at the bottom of corporate emails may protect you in a court of law, but you don’t stand a chance in the court of public opinion once damaging information gets out. Though Manziel’s attorney had the unfortunate luck of accidentally sending his text to a reporter, we’re all just a Re-Tweet, screenshot or forwarded email away from trouble if our correspondence gets in the wrong hands.
3. Take your time: This sounds simple, but living in a fast-paced world where information travels between continents in seconds means taking nothing for granted. Double-check email addresses and attachments, think twice before composing important notes from your phone while on the go, and don’t be afraid to save your email or tweet as a “draft” if it’s not ready for prime-time.
4. Buy some E&O insurance: Nobody gets excited about purchasing commercial insurance, but an errors and omissions policy (also called professional liability insurance) can be a life-saver when a misstep occurs. These policies are especially valuable to professional services firms that deal with high volumes of paperwork (and the corresponding risk).
5. Suck it up and make the call: You’re bound to make a mistake; it’s human nature. Rather than doubling down on impersonal correspondence by apologizing via text or email, do yourself a favor and pick up the phone. A simply explanation and “I’m sorry” takes courage, and the person on the other end of the line will appreciate the gesture.
These tips may seem like common sense, but changing technology and the rise of social media has empowered individual employees to the point where companies can’t take anything for granted. Savvy businesses are educating their employees and putting company-wide communications protocols into place before problems occur.
It’s only a matter of time until you or a colleague end up on the wrong side of a wayward tweet, text or email. Always remember that smarts — not speed — can go a long way toward protecting yourself, your brand and your business.
Aaron Gordon is a partner at Schwartz Media Strategies, a public relations and digital media firm.