The Double-Edged YouTube Sword

Events in Ontario’s political world brought the effects of new media on public relations into focus yesterday.

Up front: Once again, this isn’t a political blog – I value my job. So, I’m not going to comment on the specifics of this. You can find the two sides to the story here and here, and the video here (I’m not embedding it for the same reason).

What I find interesting is that one comment by John Tory, caught on camera, completely shifted the focus of his campaign for a time. From being on the offensive, John Tory has been forced onto the defensive, issuing an apology and stating that the video was out of context.

This is a great example of the effect of social media on public figures. This wasn’t an official video, but then again neither was George Allen’s ‘macaca moment‘ (video) down in Virginia, which crippled his campaign (note: I’m not comparing the incidents in terms of content). Regardless, within a few hours this video was up on YouTube and at time of writing has been viewed 430 times.

Everything you say, regardless of the situation, may now end up on record. As a public figure, you’re under the microscope 24/7.

Whether for good or bad, you’re accountable for everything you say. Innocent comments can look inappropriate when taken out of context, and funny asides can come back to haunt you.

YouTube can be an incredible positive force when used well, but remember – it can define you in a negative way, too.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.