Business leaders need to go over their yearbooks

Politicians aren’t the only people who need to do a forensic analysis of their pre-digital footprint.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, executives and business owners would be wise to know what potentially offensive photos, audio recordings and writing attributed to them in their younger days is still out there and could potentially come to light, career coaches and crisis management professionals say.

As the scandal engulfing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam shows, old yearbooks don’t simply gather dust on bookshelves. Photos taken before the days of Facebook and Twitter can be easily uploaded to the web and go viral.

Potentially offensive and damaging images and writing could involve race, gender, sexual orientation and sexual acts, among other things, experts say. Recent incidents increase the urgency for executive search firms and human resource departments to improve their due diligence, said Steve Cody, chief executive of public relations agency Peppercomm and chairman of the Institute for Public Relations.

“The advice of ‘Get it all out there’ is a pre-social media phenomenon. Any morsel of info you give will be savaged,” he says.

Instead, the best option is to think through whether there’s a way to explain the incident if it does come out, as well as whom to turn to—such as an old friend or classmate—who could provide helpful context. Read the full story.  

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