Information Management Gone Wrong: Sex & Politics

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Information Management is an integral part of communication. What is being revealed to the public can mean the difference between a politician’s successful career and an untimely resignation or the climb to Fortune 500 and filing for bankruptcy.

History knows many examples of poor information management, but I’d like to focus on the more recent ones and especially those involving politicians and facilitated by the Internet.

The Internet was nowhere near as powerful in 1998 when Monicagate broke out in the States, leading to the impeachment of President Clinton, and social media was just gaining momentum in 2008 when NY governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal. What those 2 cases have in common is that both politicians were being investigated by federal agencies before being charged, which essentially means that they were way past any hopes of using information management to save their careers. Of course, when their wrongdoings became public, both stories received wide media coverage.

But what do New Jersey Democrat Louis Magazzu, and Congressmen Chris Lee and Anthony Weiner have in common? Their careers ended in the wake of sex revelations on the Internet, and in Weiner’s case – the scandal was made public by a blogger.

Weinergate, as it came to be known, has become somewhat of a case study when it comes to unintelligent use of social media. The former New York representative posted nude pictures on Twitter of all places, and was subsequently forced out of office by Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.

Lee was also alleged by a blog-like site – Gawker.com – for attempting to seduce a woman on Craiglist by posting shirtless pictures.

And finally, Magazzu lost his job when a rival GOP activist site published naked pictures that he sent to a woman via email.

Now, some would argue that these cases are not representative of information management per se, but in an age when image is increasingly becoming as, if not more, important as policies, perhaps it is worth discussing whether these scandals could have been prevented if more care was taken when these pictures were being disseminated via the Internet. Moreover, what is a conservative blogger and a GOP activist site exposing Democrat politicians if not information management used by a rival political organisation to discredit an opponent?

There is no doubt in my mind that these politicians deserved what they got, but is there something that a PR practitioner could have done to “spin” them out of trouble? The answer is probably “No”, although virtuosos like Alistair Campbell will likely disagree.

Unfortunately, that would only mean that people care more about who slept with whom, rather than the wrongful invasion of a sovereign country.

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