Friday, April 12, 2013

After You Die, Life Goes on in the Digital World

Well, this is a bit of a morbid post for a Friday afternoon, but I’ve been reading the headlines about Google’s new Inactive Account Manager feature. It lets you decide what you want to happen if your account is inactive for a certain period of time, such as after you die. It sounds crazy to even think or worry about this sort of thing, but I have to say that it has been an issue with other social networks, especially Facebook.

I remember a few years ago when a colleague passed away, but his Facebook profile lived on. I kept getting “People You May Know” updates when I logged in and it was a constant reminder that he was no longer alive. At the time, Facebook didn’t have a very good solution for this. Unless someone had access to his password, they couldn’t take the page down or inform people that the person was deceased.

It looks like Facebook has since taken measures to deal with this issue, (see: Report a Deceased Person.) But, this brings to light some of the foresight that needs to go into launching and planning new social networking services. I’m sure the death of its members was the last thing Facebook worried about when they launched the social network several years ago, but it became a customer service issue and one that got more public attention then it needed to.

Now that so much of our lives are lived out online, we need to plan for this. Just like estate planning and living wills, we need to think about our digital life too and what happens to that after we die. I believe Google is taking a step in the right direction by being proactive with this new feature. I love having the option of being able to make my own decisions now about what happens to my information online when I die.

Since it is Friday and the weekend is almost here, I’ll quickly get off my soapbox on this topic and move on to more positive and happy thoughts of spending time with my family in real time. As for my digital life, I’ll make sure to get my plans in order soon, but let’s hope no one needs to implement them for a long time coming!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lie Strong: Can Lance Armstrong Save His Tarnished Brand?

The news of Lance Armstrong’s admission to using performance-enhancing drugs spread like wildfire today. Not only was it the top story on CNN, Armstrong was trending like crazy on the social networks with people sharing their opinion on the news. 

There is no doubt that Lance Armstrong is an amazing person. To battle testicular cancer and not only live to tell, but go on to become a professional cycling champion and raise millions for cancer research is no small task.  However, he not only broke the rules by taking performance enhancing drugs, he spent years lying about it.

So, can the general public overlook this and will Lance Armstrong rise again? My guess is yes, he will, just as some of the other famous public figures that have made unwise decisions in the past.

Armstrong’s story is a lesson in Crisis Communications 101.  The most fundamental rule is to be honest and not to cover up any details. The bottom line is that the truth will come out eventually and your reputation will suffer less damage if you are up front about the situation.   It is quite simple, admit fault, apologize, and explain what you will do to make up for any wrongdoing, and the sooner better.

We’ve seen so many other celebrities and public figures fall from grace by their actions. Despite the fact that we all see what happens when people try to cover things up, we are all human and don’t want to expose our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  Bill Clinton is a prime example. At first he denied any type of relationship with Monica Lewinsky and then once more evidence was disclosed, he later admitted that he did have inappropriate relations with her. Martha Stewart initially denied being involved in insider trading, only to admit it later and serve jail time.

As time passes, we seem to be more forgiving of these people. While these celebrities have managed to do a good deal of damage control, their images will remain tarnished forever.  No matter how great their contributions to our society and how, over time, people seem to forget, their past will always be there to haunt them.

Many are saying that Armstrong’s contributions to fighting cancer are his legacy and you can’t deny that he has not only raised awareness, but also millions of dollars to help this cause.  It will take time for him to rebuild his brand and gain the public's trust again, but in the end, I believe Armstrong will come out ahead.