The history of reputational damage is littered with the debris of bad choices, poorly worded tweets and terrible articles. It’s a field smothered in words that have come from statements, letters, Facebook posts and emails. Social media and digital have made anyone into a commentator, regardless of who they are or their understanding of a person or subject. Within these realms like misunderstanding, doubt, hate and anger, and it’s time to find ways of communicating that limit the negative and engage the positive.
At the moment of typing something on social or email, the sentiment may be hilarious, but the reality is that it can be interpreted through a thousand different moods, personalities, cultures and moments. In only one of those scenarios is the comment genuinely funny.
“We make multiple statements every day but social, racial and religious history often create an environment that’s afraid and humourless,” Howard Feldman explained at the Jewish Literary Festival in Cape Town. “We live in a post humour society and we need to understand the dangers of political correctness without being racist or prejudiced.”
In his course, Feldman examined the impact of culture and creed on comment and social commentary and looked to how individuals and institutions can navigate the waters without damaging reputations. It’s not easy, nor should it be. History is too complex and issues too relevant for it to be a simple task. But understanding the landscape and how to work within it is essential.
“You can be funny without appropriating culture,” he adds. “It just takes self-awareness and the ability to engage with others openly while setting your own personal issues aside.”