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The tearful video became a viral phenomenon, prompting new conversation about bullies and their place in our society.
Of course, anyone that's decent had pretty much the same opinion: Bullying has to stop. There's no reason why this type of behavior should be tolerated in our schools.
A GoFundMe page was started with the intention of gathering funds to help Keaton and his family.
And it wasn't long before Keaton's viral video caught the attention of celebrities, such as "Stranger Things" actress Milly Bobby Brown, "Captain America" star Chris Evans, Snoop Dogg (Lion), and even Donald Trump, Jr.
And everything was wonderful. Keaton was universally supported for about 1.2 days.
But then, the internet.
As with all things in the 21st century............. the internet.
You see, the internet is a tricky place. Having access to the internet is a great privilege; but it's also a great responsibility. And if you don't know what you're doing, the internet can come back to bite you....
After the outpouring of sympathy and well-wishes and invitations to widely anticipated movie premiere dates, old Facebook posts from Keaton's mother began to surface. Many of these posts had racist undertones, and featured Kimberly Jones and her family proudly displaying the Confederate flag.
These revelations have now resulted in a media backlash that has sent many celebrities scrambling to see who can rescind their support the fastest - as well as the suspension of the GoFundMe drive for Keaton's family, which had raised in excess of $60,000.
So now I want to examine this situation from the view of a PR professional. Obviously I am anti-bullying and anti-racism, but I don't want to focus on those topics in this PR and marketing email blog. We're going to focus on a PR nightmare filled with twists and turns, "Good Morning America" interviews, and furious backpedaling.
We live in what I like to call, "The Era of Information". At any given time, we can log onto social media and give our opinions to the entire world. Knowledge is at our fingertips 24/7. And while these are incredible technological achievements, it seems that many of us don't realize the new dangers that lurk behind every webpage.
You see, Keaton Jones and his mom are a teachable moment for all of us who are entrepreneurs, business owners and media personalities living under the scrutiny of the public eye. This is a classic lesson: You must ALWAYS be careful of what you say and what you do and what you post; because there is always someone watching you - and remembering you.
Many of us take for granted that when we post statements on our social media pages in a moment of happiness, a moment of stress or a moment of anger, that those posts are easily forgotten afterwards.
Don't fool yourself. How many times have I had to have conversations with family and friends to let them know that once you put something on the internet, it's there forever. And in the court of public opinion, everything you say can and WILL be used against you; and the pitchforks of an angry mob don't follow the same rules of a courtroom.
You are not innocent until proven guilty. The race to public judgment, castigation and condemnation is swift. Forgiveness is slow, and in some cases, nonexistent.
Being in the public eye can be an unforgiving role. Bad news moves at the speed of light, and even if your name is cleared, there is no guarantee that people will pass that information along, or even accept it as fact.
So how do you protect yourself? Well the simple answer is: Don't do anything that could get you caught up. Don't be a racist, don't be a misogynist. Don't say anything that would make you uncomfortable if you hear it again. Don't say anything that could be potentially embarrassing, because public opinion is harsh and unforgiving.
The simple answer to avoiding a public relations crisis? Be a decent human being, and treat others the way you want to be treated.
Let's learn from these watershed moments. Unfortunately, I guarantee you that this won't be the last time we see something like this. But for right now, we all know the name of Keaton Jones, his mother Kimberly, and how a little boy's emotional plea became a PR nightmare.
Take note, people. You just never know when it might be your turn to be plastered on that Summer Jam screen.
Jamar Muhammad is a media specialist at Theatrical Harmony Media. He helps companies, entrepreneurs, brand owners and public figures create the perfect image for attracting customers and clientele by providing Public Relations, Branding & Marketing, Storytelling and Digital Marketing services. You can reach him at www.theatricalharmonymedia.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theatricalharmonymedia.
New Orleans, LA