One Bad Apple Can Ruin the Whole Bunch
I am always reading blogs and Twitter feeds by reputable public relations professionals to learn new tips and tricks of the trade. Intermingled with those tidbits of useful information, I also make it a point to pay attention to idiotic moves by PR hacks. After a series of recent high-profile gaffes by executives and PR-noir agents, I started thinking about how the negative actions of a small set of people can seriously affect the perception of the larger group, not to mention the reputations of those individuals and their clients.
My boss, Jay Nichols –in his usual manner of impactful brevity– pretty much summed it up on his Twitter feed after the most recent in a series of PR blunders went viral:
PR pros, this is why we can’t have nice things – http://t.co/MXLrOjtn*
*The link directs to a series of emails between Paul Christoforo, president of Ocean Marketing, and a customer of Christoforo’s gaming client who markets an innovative controller attachment for the PlayStation 3. If you haven’t read the article, I would highly recommend it.
To make a VERY long story short, Christoforo received a routine question from a customer named Dave, who pre-ordered a game controller attachment from his client, N-control (Avenger Controller), which turned into a huge abusive ordeal, and ultimately ended up in the hands of Mike Krahulik, editor of gaming site Penny Arcade. Once Krahulik got hold of the exchange, he immediately began covering the story to expose the bad behavior of Christoforo, who achieved instant infamy once the emails were posted.
In the 24 hours following the debut of the story, numerous other outlets picked it up, and it went viral on Twitter and Facebook. After that, it was a cringe-worthy ride all the way to the bottom, as PR professionals watched the absolute annihilation of someone’s career and reputation. Granted, Christoforo’s behavior was appalling, but from a personal standpoint, it was still difficult to watch.
In the interest of brevity, I won’t go into a long explanation of the events that succeeded the story, but suffice it to say, the negative publicity received by Christoforo also had an adverse effect on N-control, and, to a lesser extent, the PR profession itself.
Whether the effect is temporary, or has long-standing ramifications for those involved, it is anyone’s guess, but that said, it got me thinking about the overarching reputation that our profession has earned because of these types of situations. In addition, I began thinking about how we control our personal reputations, and can destroy them in as much time as it takes to type “son Im 38 I wwebsite as on the internet when you were a ***** in your daddys ***** and before it was the internet.”
Thank you Paul Christoforo for reminding me that my –and my clients’– reputations are such fragile things.
So, while companies are judged not only by the quality of their products and how they interact with their customers and the media, they are also being judged by the quality of PR they retain. This is evidenced by the severe backlash N-control experienced after the personal assault on Christoforo died down a bit.
As an interesting side note, the company began making amends for the debacle by (1) stopping new orders of the Avenger controller until all current orders are filled, and (2) by making a $10,000 donation to Child’s Play, a charity organized by Penny Arcade.
The personal takeaway from this story, and others like it, is this: WHENEVER I am interacting via email, social media, phone, or in-person with other people in a professional capacity – on behalf of a client, my company, or myself – it is of the UTMOST importance that I conduct myself in a manner that positively reflects the values of everyone involved. I have lived by this philosophy throughout my career, so cases like Christoforo’s only serve to reinforce it.
Well… they do that, AND give me something to chuckle about when I am having a hard day on the job, because after all, it could ALWAYS be worse!