Years ago, one of my mentors advised me that as a then public relations professional, I could not separate my private life from my public persona—so I had to be on my guard at all times.
There is timeless value in this advice and it is even more important as we live our lives under the microscope of social media in a deeply divided small state. The recent post by head of corporate communications at taxpayer-owned Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) was unfortunate and unnecessary.
Professionals know that actions on Facebook often end up in traditional media, so they must be wary of what is intended for public consumption. It is reported that Miss Dionne Ligoure said: “it will be unpretty when I start to pelt out facts and quote some of yuh high ranking officials…”
She is now reminded that approximately 350,000 taxpayers who contribute to her salary voted for the UNC, and, like the PNM supporters, there is an expectation of neutrality.
This expectation of political neutrality for public servants and persons employed in publicly-funded organisations is a long-standing tradition. In one action, Ligoure has brought attention to a deep flaw in our political system, which is the reality that some people believe that when their party is in charge they can do anything without consequences.
We have become accustomed to party supporters being appointed to boards but some of us still hope that executives and employees find their way into state corporations based on merit, and that they keep their jobs based on performance.
The reality though is that the long arms of politics reach into the bowels of organisations, resulting in some employees feeling the need to spout their partisan support for the world to know. Had this exact situation occurred in the private sector, I assure you that she would have had to explain herself to her supervisor—as former employee of US firm Franklin Templeton Amy Cooper found out, though not for political reasons.
Spouting your political views on your personal page is neither a smart nor strategic move. Bosses and others take note and wait for the opportunity to use your statements against you. They apply labels which are hard if not impossible to remove. They may even actively prevent you from benefiting from certain opportunities.
Carrying the title ‘head of corporate communications’ has tremendous responsibility. The incumbent plays a key role in shaping the perception of the company in the minds of shareholders, employees, customers and the general public. The reporting relationship is often to the Chief Executive Officer and the Board of Directors.
The communications professional is expected to help the company craft key messages and keep on the cutting edge of the field. These are not responsibilities to be taken lightly. They are also responsible for building customer loyalty, growing brand awareness and engaging stakeholders at different levels.
In one rant on social media, Ligoure has diminished her role and reputation amongst a large section of the population. She will be labelled as anti-UNC with an agenda to use information attained through her formal role to throw shade or even cause reputational damage to unsuspecting citizens.
Communications professionals develop trusting relationships with their stakeholders to foster mutual understanding—to act otherwise is to destroy countless years of hard work by persons who have gone before.
We must do better.