Over the past several days we at Red Banyan Group have been asked repeatedly what we make of the imbroglio involving fired public relations executive Justine Sacco.

For those not familiar with the details, Sacco sent a short and highly offensive tweet from her personal Twitter account before boarding a 12-hour flight to Africa during which she had no internet access. By the time Sacco landed, the level of fury over her tweet had reached an astounding level and she had lost her job.

Sacco is someone who we do not know personally.  In fact, we had never heard of her until we read the articles about her in various PR trade publications.  Given that fact, we will not be passing any judgment (positive or negative) on her.  Only she knows what lies in her heart.

What we can say with certainty is that everyone makes mistakes.  And that social media is a double edged sword which can amplify your messages–for the better and (in her case) for the worse.

Sacco must have known better. She and other public relations professionals are paid to understand that words matter very much.

What anyone and everyone should take away from this incident is the same advice our top PR firm gives our clients.  If you aren’t comfortable having your words posted in the front page of the newspaper then don’t say them.  Don’t utter them aloud, don’t mention them to reporters and definitely don’t post them voluntarily to the web using social media.

Justine Sacco is living proof that there can be a very serious price to pay for recklessly communicating via social media.  In short: look before you leap, and think before you tweet.