Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Learn from Those Who Chase the Spotlight

It’s our job to help people and companies monitor media attention or manage potentially harmful coverage, so when somebody seems to crave the public eye for all the wrong reasons, it piques our interest.

The latest dubious episode of shamelessly courting the spotlight is the couple now known as the White House party crashers. Tareq and Michaele Salahi claim they were invited guests to the exclusive state dinner. The White House says otherwise.

In recent months, it seems self-imposed public embarrassment has reached new extremes. First there was Jon and Kate, willing to expose their questionable parenting and marital skills to a national audience. Then there was the infamous “balloon boy” saga, which brought bad parenting for the sake of fame to new heights. And now, there are the White House “Don’t Call Us Party Crashers” party crashers.

As the e-mails between a White House representative and the Salahis come to light, it is still uncertain how an uninvited couple could arrive and be admitted to a high-security, invite-only event. The lines of truth are blurry. Could they have been confused about being welcomed at the event? Is this just a reality television stunt for Bravo’s show “Real Housewives of D.C.”?

What these people, so eager for attention, seem to overlook is how uncomfortable and potentially incriminating it is to find oneself caught in a lie. It’s not very becoming – or legal, for that matter – to come uninvited to a White House dinner or to make your child lie to officials after pretending all day that he was stuck in a balloon when you knew perfectly well he was safe at home.

We think of these episodes as good teaching moments for our clients and blog readers. Not that we expect anybody we know to pretend that his kid is in a balloon 7,000 feet in the air or sneak into President Obama’s parties. But on a smaller level, these fiascos are still relevant. Remember that video, images and audio recordings can all be transmitted much more easily these days than they used to be. If you think you’re leaving a private voicemail to a colleague or friend’s phone, think again. It can always be made public with the click of a button. The line between public and private grows blurrier by the day. Something you might want your friends only to know about (say, a slightly embarrassing photograph of you on Facebook), could easily slip out of your control and end up in the public sphere. Just ask Tiger Woods.

Posted by Hillary Rhodes

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Even the Anti-Social Need to Pay Attention to Social Media

Blogging, twittering, facebooking, it can be a bit overwhelming.

But every day we’re reminded how these new communication tools are taking a leadership role in driving dialogue, nationally and locally. Not just dialogue about movie stars, fashion or special sales - but also about important issues like healthcare, the war in Afghanistan and our economy.
For corporations and individuals who carefully guard their reputations, ignoring the “social” media can be devastating.

Take the Friday after Thanksgiving Day blog post about the reputed “black screen of death.” It accused Microsoft of releasing a faulty security program with its new Windows 7 that caused computers to go black and crash.

Posted on Friday November 27 by an obscure computer security company, and allowed to flourish unanswered, the “black screen of death” claim spread with alarming speed.

By Monday morning the blog post had morphed into a news story picked up by wires, PC World, ComputerWorld, CNN and MSNBC. With each repetition the story gained credibility. And with each hour the story was repeated by dozens of additional publications each quoting the other. Mind you, there was still no substantiated connection between Microsoft and the “black screen of death”.

Finally, ZDNet’s Ed Bott tracked down the destructive roots of the story, the sloppy journalism and sluggish public relations that allowed it to flourish.

By Monday afternoon- as a few good journalists got around to asking Microsoft for comment- the headlines turned... but only slightly. As Bott notes the new headlines didn’t help much:

“Microsoft is investigating… Microsoft is probing… Microsoft is looking into the problem… And then, finally, on Tuesday afternoon: Microsoft denies blame for ‘black screens of death’. Oh, really? By the time your name appears in “So-and-so denies…” headlines, you are toast. Ask Tiger Woods.”

Used to be you’d have more time before turning into toast- at least a couple of news cycles. Now it happens in a matter of hours, or even minutes, at the speed of one quick key stroke.

For those who have yet to dive into the “social” media- the “anti-social” among us- there are quick and easy ways to get started. Our basic advice as you put your toe in the water: get an interactive website, set up a blog, sign up for Twitter and establish an e-newsletter. This is your basic communication network, which will allow you to quickly reach your key audiences with accurate, up to the minute information. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it can be reputation saving.

Oh and about the black screen of death? Debatable on whether it even exists. But a couple of things do exist- a new “safety patch” sold by the obscure company that posted the first blog and of course out there in cyberspace- just waiting for a Google search- the hundreds of headlines, news stories and posts on the topic that sprouted up and left unchecked, ran rampant.

Posted by Dyana Koelsch