PR blogger suspended by Orange

Inigo Wilson, community affairs manager for mobile phone company Orange, has written a lengthy racist article on ConservativeHome, one of the UK’s top political blogs.

The article which is meant to be a humorous ‘Lefty Lexicon’ includes such includes definitions such as “Islamophobic - anyone who objects to having their transport blown up on the way to work” and “Palestinians - archetype ‘victims’ no matter how many teenagers they murder in bars and fast food outlets. Never responsible for anything they do – or done in their name – because of ‘root causes’ or ‘legitimate grievances’.”

Orange has responded by suspending him and issuing the following statement (via Guido Fawkes as the Orange press office appears to just promote products and not the company’s reputation!):

Stuart Jackson
Head of UK Media Relations, Orange
STATEMENT REGARDING SUSPENSION OF AN EMPLOYEE

Orange has received a number of complaints regarding the content of an article written by an Orange employee and published on an independent website which has offended some of our customers.
We take the opinions of our customers very seriously and believe that this matter warrants further investigation. We have therefore suspended an employee while this investigation takes place.

You would think this is a sensible approach. The suspension enables the company to look into the matter properly. It is certainly what I would have counselled them to do. When the employee concerned has an official role as a corporate spokesperson for community affairs it was the only sensible course of action. To have done nothing would have implied that Orange endorsed Inigo Wilson’s views which displayed an ignorance of the very UK communities you would think it was his job to relate to. It’s not as if Wilson even tries to hide his affiliation as his blog post states that he “manages public affairs for a large telecoms company”. A quick Google search quickly reveals which one.

It is another example of why employers need to start thinking about social media and what employees are and aren’t allowed to do. If Wilson had simply blogged as himself then he would be free to say what he wanted. But he didn’t, he deliberately chose to highlight his employer. For a professional communicator to not understand the consequences shows either an amazing degree of ignorance or a wilfull disregard for the damage it could cause.

What has surprised me is the reaction of the Conservative blogs that are expressing outrage at Orange’s action and calling for people to lobby Orange to get Wilson reinstated. When this story moves beyond the blogosphere and into mainstream media this could cause trouble for David Cameron’s new caring Conservatives.

If Wilson is actually a Conservative Party member then the most sensible course of action would be to follow Orange’s lead and suspend Wilson’s membership until an investigation can be conducted.

To do otherwise would be to reveal the Conservative’s as racist, anti-Islamic bigots which is something Cameron can’t afford to happen. His best course of action would be to rapidly distance Wilson from the party and explain that his views do not reflect that of most mainstream Tories.

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About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://simoncollister.typepad.com/simonsays/2006/08/orange_suspends.html Simonsays

    Orange suspends blogger employee

    I saw this story on Guido Fawkes’s blog and was going to post about it, but Stuart Bruce has beaten me to it. In a nutshell, Inigo Wilson, a community affairs spokesman for telecoms firm, Orange, posted a supposedly tongue-in-cheek

  • http://www.petertdavis.net Peter Davis

    Brits can't handle a bit of parody?

  • http://www.accmanpro.com Dennis Howlett

    Even if he was writing in his own name, the fact he represents Orange links him to the company. That would have been picked up and he'd then have been labelled as such. So I don't agree with you on this one Stuart.

    Having said that, the man's an idiot for making such statements, regardless of whether he thought them funny. A lot of people didn't.

    I'm amazed that Orange didn't know about this person's racist views because my experience informs me they can rarely keep their mouths shut for very long on issues of colour – which is what we're really trlaking about.

  • http://simoncollister.typepad.com/simonsays/2006/08/orange_suspends.html Simonsays

    Orange suspends blogger employee

    I saw this story on Guido Fawkes’s blog and was going to post about it, but Stuart Bruce has beaten me to it. In a nutshell, Inigo Wilson, a community affairs spokesman for telecoms firm, Orange, posted a supposedly tongue-in-cheek

  • http://www.order-order.com Guido Fawkes

    I don't think cracking a joke about Islamaphobia makes him racist.

    I'd be careful hurling accusations around like that, if you directed that towards me I would see that as defamatory.

    It is bad enough, and incorrect, that you describe my blog as "Conservative".

  • busybody

    where is he now, I wonder? Oh yes. I remember. Reinstated.

  • http://www.artisanmc.co.uk Rob Artisan

    Stuart,

    it might be highly insensitive, stupid, crass or saying it how he thinks it is, but racist? No I agree with Dennis above.

    Bandying terms like racist around, unless they conclusively are simply devalues the word, a type of lexical inflation and it becomes meaningless.

    A boy at my college used to call everyone a "fascist" – the word meant nothing in the end, neither an insult or rebuke.

    Rob