You may not recognize the name Kelly Blazek, but she is the poster child for public image disaster. When people wonder how bad personal embarrassment can be, we now have Blazek as our code word for really, really bad.
Kelly Blazek is probably a decent human being, but what she will be remembered for is her moments of ‘Ms. Hyde’ behavior. She founded a job bank listing for marketing and public relations positions in the Cleveland, Ohio area. She had a WordPress blog and Twitter, LinkedIn accounts. Head hunter Blazek was also recognized as “Communicator of the Year.” by a local business group.
Within a matter of days she went from a leader in her field to a ghost. There is no blog site, no Twitter account, nor any trace of her other than a growing number of postmortems in blogs and news articles of her epic nasty responses to people who reached out to her.
The Blazek Syndrome
Her story is a step-by-step, what-not-to-do in business.
STEP ONE: Don’t let frustrations with the job spill over into your communications and interactions.
Among the most notorious of her responses, Blazek reacted to a college graduate seeking to connect with her as part of her job search. Her manner that can best be described as vile. Among the barrage of hateful statements were the following:
“I love the sense of entitlement in your generation. And therefore I enjoy Denying (sic) your invite…. (to connect on LinkedIn.)”
“I suggest you join the other Job Bank in town. Oh wait — there isn’t one.”
“You’re welcome for your humility lesson for the year.”
Everyone has a bad day, but any business person should know that what you write is what will save you or hang you. There is no excuse Blazek could offer for her verbal abuse of this job seeker.
STEP TWO: Making a mistake, even as massive as this one, does not mean it’s the final chapter. Life is not over and running and hiding will not help.
Blazek has compounded the crisis by trying to disappear. When sharks smell blood of a wounded fish they go into a frenzy. By disengaging from social media, people may lose interest, but what will remain is the public shame. The best time to do damage repair is while people are still paying attention
STEP THREE: Apologize over and over.
Instead of deleting social media accounts, use them. In a public image crisis people need to hear every possible sincere apology, but do NOT attempt to offer excuses.
STEP FOUR: Listen to what is being said and respond with humility.
Remember BP’s Tony Hayward remark, “I want my life back.” The public image crisis is over when people say its over, not when the disgraced person wants it to be over. Read what other people are saying and respond in a kind and humble way to as many people as you can. Make the story about the lesson learned.