Booty from l’affaire Lefevre a ‘Liar’s Jackpot’

In today’s edition, The New York Times weighed in on l’affaire John Lefevre, taking a significant swat at the self-proclaimed fly on the walls of Wall Street’s most admired or reviled elevators. As reported here in All that Twitters is not Goldman, Lefevre was outed earlier this week as the author of Twitter’s GS Elevator Gossip, @GSElevator, which chronicles “things heard in Goldman Sachs elevators.”

GS Elevator Gossip Profile (GSElevator) on TwitterDeclaring Mr. Lefevre’s lucrative six-figure book contract a “Liar’s Jackpot,” The Grey Lady’s Editorial Board likened the booty from Mr. Lefevre’s fictitious tweets “about the tasteless, boorish, smug and reliably funny things he overhears from rich bankers” to The Wolf of Wall Street, which it described as the “most debauched – and highest grossing – movie of Martin Scorsese’s career.”

Sparing no question of approval, the Board concluded: “Who needs truth when there’s a cultural moment to cash in on?”

Since Tuesday, media coverage of Mr. Lefevre and @GSElevator helped attract 9,000 new Twitter followers. Otherwise it remains to be seen how this new twist affects him, Simon & Schuster and other interested parties.

But there is no doubt that there are lessons to be learned for communications professionals who counsel clients, companies and individual executives on how to build and protect their reputations.

Interestingly, Mr. Lefevre’s book, titled Straight to Hell: True and Glorious Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion Dollar Deals will be labeled nonfiction, The Times reports.

What do you think?


The power of reflection

Call it emotional intelligence, EQ, likability or just plain humility, reflecting periodically on one’s life can do wonders for a reputation.

Privilege: A User’s Guide

Perspective is an amazing thing. Success may be helped by one’s class, social status, ethnic background or other factors, but it rarely happens without hard work and perseverance. Likewise, smart, passionate and well-connected people sometimes fail in their ambitions.

Life clearly is easier for some than others, and keeping that in mind when interacting with diverse people ensures we put our true — and best — selves forward, even when we may not be at our best.

Success is often sharedFor those of us who know success and relative prosperity, INSEAD professor Gianpiero Petriglieri’s blog for the Harvard Business Review examines the impact of Privilege and offers advice on how to share one’s individual privileges, no matter how large or small, with the world.

Thanks to Marvin Webb ( and @marvinwebb) for bringing this to my attention.

What do you think?


We professional communicators have long known that using third-party influencers can be instrumental to building credibility with media and other stakeholders and catapulting your message, product or service to a new level.

This Story Stinks, an article from Sunday’s The New York Times about a study of the increasingly common “readers comments” feature on journalistic web sites and blogs, is frightening in its own way.

To quote the authors, “The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.”

What do you think? Do “nasty reader comments” affect your perceptions of an article? If so, in what way? Negatively or positively?


Life in the cloud

Conversation CloudIn a world increasingly influenced by social media — the 21st century equivalent of the elusive perpetual motion machine — connected people face a continuous barrage of comments, observations, images and opinions.

Tweets, LinkedIn updates, Facebook postings, text messages, old-fashioned e-mails, web sites, Google searches and numerous other sources of information in the ether that us 30- and 40-somethings haven’t yet discovered from the young ‘uns. There is no shortage of stimulation to shape (cloud?) our interpretations of modern life.

Without question, there are benefits to having this smorgasbord of content at our fingertips — and the immediacy is incredibly gratifying.

We no longer have to guess whether some famous person is dead or alive (a friend’s 1991 idea of “1-800-Who-Dead?” seems amazingly anachronistic today), which athlete was the “best” in her sport by various statistical measures, whether Donna Summer or Patti LaBelle was the bigger disco diva in 1977. Each of us can be an expert in the moment!

Yet, the stakes increase as we collectively shift to broadcasting our own content through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and others, commenting on other people’s posts and engaging in very public conversations instead of simply pulling information from vast databases in the cloud — Wikipedia, IMDB, journalistic sites.

Perhaps better informed, those clouded conversations about dead celebrities, sports stars and disco divas are no longer private. Indeed, the interactions represent an endless trail of bread crumbs that potentially misrepresent who we truly are, making social media a very real threat to our reputations.

Consider: A friend asks you in a crowded bar to “Name a city in Washington that does not have an ‘e.'” Without giving it much thought, you quickly answer “Portland,” mistaking the state for Oregon or Maine. (Never mind that it is an odd question for a friend to ask in a crowded bar, but it’s especially common for friends to ask this of one another on Facebook.) Besides an immediate laugh, the mistake in this context follows you only to the extent that your friend chooses to remind you of your gaffe.

But online, that otherwise innocent error exists in perpetuity for anyone to see. And, when combined with other similarly innocuous examples or, worse, comments that border bad taste or seemingly “inside” jokes that lack the proper context or an accompanying wink, these online interactions potentially present an unflattering picture that follows — or precedes — you with friends and family, as well as prospective customers, clients and employers.

So, how can you live in the cloud without clouding your judgement?

First, remove your finger from the hair-trigger. Some sites allow users to delete their comments and posts, but people still see them and they can always be retrieved. Better to avoid trouble all together by pre-empting the problem.

Second, keep your feet on the ground even if your head is in the clouds. Just as one should never respond immediately to an annoying e-mail, be deliberate about what you say when you tweet, post or check in. Consider this the social media’s “measure twice, cut once.”

Third, reread your post before clicking tweet, share, post or send, and make sure you’ve said what you mean and that you mean what you say. Being first to say something or the most clever poster in your posse is meaningless if it’s not authentic and reflective of the true you.

A paradox of life in the cloud is that most of us live on the ground. As a result, it’s important to remember that our physical and online lives intersect eventually.

The goal for social media should be to create an online identity that complements the real-world you, so that friends, business prospects and other people you meet in the cloud recognize you when you cross paths on the ground.

What do you think? Continue the conversation….


Oh say can you sing

Did she? Or didn’t she? That was the question.

“Much ado about nothing,” wrote the folks at The PR Verdict, rightly declaring Beyoncé Knowles’s performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the presidential inauguration a non-event and conferring a “There’s no ‘There’ There” PR Award on the “scandal.”

After all, lip-syncing, faux-fingering and their musical equivalents are practically de rigueur nowadays when real-world conditions make truly live performances inconvenient.

Miss Whitney Houston herself, who set the bar so high with her standard-setting rendition of the sporting-event standard, sang live to a dead microphone while her pre-recorded version of the national anthem was broadcast across the globe. And, at President Obama’s 2008 inauguration, classically trained cellist Yo-Yo Ma deliberately decided to do the symphonic synonym for his inaugural performance in sub-freezing weather to preempt sprung strings, cracked instruments or intonation problems with the musicians accompanying him.

Still, tongues wagged about Beyoncé’s inaugural performance. “Was it live or was it Memorex,” Milli or Vanilli?, people pondered. Until the week before the Super Bowl, that is, when Beyoncé disabused her detractors by tackling the anthem a capella during a press conference to promote her upcoming half-time performance.

Both performances — the impromptu star-spangled singing and her subsequent Super Bowl show — dazzled, leaving no doubt that the lady, she can sing.

But what allows Beyoncé, Whitney Houston and Yo-Yo Ma to perform another day while Milli and Vanilli vanished into the vapor?

One of the attractions of live events is the unexpected, and the tension and drama that unfolds as all-too-human things happen to people who are too-often labeled superhuman.

To turn R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry’s phrase, everybody stumbles sometimes. So fans are more forgiving when otherwise reliable performers like Beyoncé and Mr. Ma do less than their best.

With that in mind, the lesson for mere-mortals is to remain true to yourselves. Stick to the things that make you, you.

If you’re naturally confident, street smart and can take care of yourself — like Beyoncé — trust your instincts, and diligently and diplomatically defend the true you. Just contain that confidence to avoid crossing a fine line and becoming cocky.

If your talent is unquestioned and you want to ward off performance demons — like Mr. Ma — dutifully disclose your decision without being unnecessarily apologetic or falling on your, er, bow.

Be self aware. Act quickly. Ask for feedback from a (brutally) honest friend if you fear you misstepped. Explain — don’t excuse — your actions and apologize if you’re remotely wrong. Respond simply and honestly.

As Watergate and numerous events since have proven, the cover up is always worse than the lie. A timely “I’m sorry” can easily and effectively build trust, allowing you and the people you lead to look ahead and focus on other, more important things.

What do you think? Continue the conversation….