Things to Think About: The Reality of the First Amendment and Branding

“I am a citizen of the United States. I am protected by the First Amendment. I can say what ever I want, where ever I want without repercussion!”

Really? No you aren’t and no you can’t. There is such a thing as unintended consequences.

All the First Amendment promises us is freedom from Government interference.  No where does it state we are free from the repercussions of our employers or our customers. Remember the Chic Fil a fiasco?  I’m not saying I agree or disagree with his statements, what I am saying is our customers pay attention to what we say every place we say it. Christians cried “persecution” when a select group of customers called for a boycott. Even as a Christian myself, I find the cry hypocritical as the SBC boycotts Disney. Where Mr. Cathy’s first amendment rights were violated is when government officials started putting sanctions on his place of business in Boston and other cities. Lesson learned in that is customers watch everything we say and do in regards to our company brands.

So do our employers. 

A friend of mine from Atlanta brought this story to my attention today: Woman fired for using the N-word on her Facebook page. Apparently a young gal who works for a medical office used the N-Word on her “private” Facebook wall on Tuesday night referring to our President. Then she called somebody else that same word. Her posts went viral by morning. Because she works for a medical facility, people expressed concern : One email to 11Alive asked, “Are African-Americans safe at this office? Does this young lady care for African-Americans as she does all patients?”  These posts were brought to the attention of her employer and she was terminated immediately.

I don’t blame them. She hurt their image. Right or wrong, she gave people the impression that their medical care was in jeopardy. They really had no choice in the matter.

Reputations are hard-earned and easily lost. 

There is no such thing as a PRIVATE SOCIAL NETWORK. Everything we type via Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, has the potential to be an international broadcast.

I remember the days of working in IT and email was the newest big thing. Everyone thought their email accounts were their private matter. Boy were they shocked when people started getting fired over the inflammatory remarks made against management. People were also shocked to discover that emails are legal documents and can be used in courts of law. Emails created on company servers belong to the company not the individual. The same goes for every social network we use.


Is that fair? Some would argue no. Is it reality? A thousand times yes. I’m married to a corporate vice president. Several of his employees and co-workers have access to my blog, my twitter even my Facebook – a lot of us are on the same racing team. I am part of my husband’s “brand.” Knowing that, I need to be mindful of everything I type and post (this includes photographs). I honestly blow it some days and have to go back and clean it up. Even so I do my best to keep his audience (employer) in mind when I post.

I also choose to be a performer today, that makes me a commodity, which brings me to Branding. I have my own brand that I am growing and protecting. As is true with most performers, I can be a drama queen. Everything I post has the potential to grow or hurt my career. The First Amendment does not protect me from the unintentional consequences of customer perception. Customers, past and present will and do look at everything I say and do on the internet and they will decide for themselves whether or not they want to do business with me. That is their choice and their right. That is not bad news.

I have full control over my internet reputation.

So do you. We, as business owners and artists need to filter what we do on the web through our brand. Will this post help or hurt my business? That’s not being a hypocrite, it’s being a good business person. Remember every thing we do has the potential to go international. Got a strong political or religious opinion, a fetish, a yen for world domination, unless it’s part of your Brand save that stuff for private conversations with your real inner circle. Keep it off the net. Very few artists get away with extreme brands. Even people like Anne Lammot and Brad Stine pay a price for their views. It works for them. Their political views are part of their brand. They can afford it, most of us cannot.

Literally, every point-of-contact is an opportunity to create a positive brand impression—if you are intentional. — Michael Hyatt

My little slice of cyberspace isn’t big enough to write everything I know about branding and freedom of speech and while I do not intend this post to be a commercial, I am going to refer you to the man who taught me everything I know about branding today — Micheal Hyatt spoke at our Christian Comedy Association conference in June of 2012. He’s written a new book called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. 

Leaders are platform builders.

We need to take ownership of our business reputations and platforms. This book will help.

Now go out there. Have fun, and remember you aren’t paranoid, everyone really is watching. 

FCC Relationship Disclosure. I have no personal relationship with Mr Michael Hyatt, author of Platform. No goods or services have been given to me in exchange for this endorsement. I am simply sharing a resource that I use and think is beneficial to my readership.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The 5 First Amendment Freedoms
  1. Speech – The First Amendment says that people have the right to speak freely without government interference.
  2. Press – The First Amendment gives the press the right to publish news, information and opinions without government interference. This also means people have the right to publish their own newspapers, newsletters, magazines, etc.
  3. Religion – The First Amendment prohibits government from establishing a religion and protects each person’s right to practice (or not practice) any faith without government interference.
  4. Petition -The First Amendment says that people have the right to appeal to government in favor of or against policies that affect them or that they feel strongly about. This freedom includes the right to gather signatures in support of a cause and to lobby legislative bodies for or against legislation.
  5. Assembly -The First Amendment says that people have the right to gather in public to march, protest, demonstrate, carry signs and otherwise express their views in a nonviolent way. It also means people can join and associate with groups and organizations without interference.

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