Recently there was a minor spat on the internet. Yes I know – fighting on the internet, who would have thought?
Still this fight was a bit of a strange one.
A blogger, commenting on another blogger’s post, made her own post about her opinion of a certain situation. That would all seem straight forward. Commenters agreed, disagreed and generally chewed a delicious piece of gristle that revolves around one of those “no-one can really win” situations.
All went quiet and then about a month later that same blogger was sent an “open” email from the subject of the previous post. She elected to post it on her blog.
Now this is where things get a little weird.
The email was full of testimonials form the staff of the organisation that was under discussion about what a great guy their boss was and how he we was not a chauvinist pig at all.
*sound of scratching record*
What? What did chauvinist have to do with anything?
Still most people took it at face value when the boss of the organisation commented in the blog comments he was at the brunt of a lot of abuse for being sexist . Conversation was feisty and I couldn’t help but wonder what was really the motivation for that email (and why it was publicly posted).
See, I checked Google for what I thought I had missed. These days your (and business) profile depends on your social profile and what people are saying about you in blogs, Twitter and other publicly accessible places.
So I searched for name + chavinist and all I came up with was a tweet comment from a woman saying she would have liked to have seen more female names on a list. The response from the boss was I am many things but not a chauvinist. Hmm so the only public mention of the boss linked to the word chauvinist was made by the boss himself.
So sure there could have been a barrage of emails coming in, or carrier pigeons, or some other method that was being organised somewhere that was not visible on the internet.God Google didn’t know about it and no-one who was commenting on the that blog post was aware either.
There was no request from this boss for the email to be taken down, that they wished it to be kept a private matter, and that it was never meant to be published. So a “private” issue was being taken public by enlisting a blogger to post an email that was basically a marketing letter for a profile.
So what was going on here?
Yesterday i was listening to the cricket on the radio and discussion turned to one of the flamboyant umpires and how he had completely put a bowler off his game by being overly noticeable. The commentators speculated that the actions of this umpire were not for the good of the game, but to keep the umpire’s name in the public view. That rather than talking about the cricket game that was happening, the papers, tv and commentators were all talking about this umpire.
We could also chat about the “oh look over there!” method of turning public scrutiny from one issue that WILL be damaging to one that is controversial but less damaging.
The company this boss fronts is having a pretty dismal PR problem at the moment. They have promised goods that haven’t arrived, billed people after they requested they cancel their order, and have not really explained to people that in joining up for a continuity program it is up for the individual to stop the paypal automatic payments. (the confusion there is kind of understandable as getting people to unsubscribe is not in your primary interest…but I digress)
There is a saying that goes something like “don’t choose an intelligent source for an event when there is any possibility human stupidity can be the cause’, and while that may sound a little harsh, it may well be the case here. This email may not be part of some marketing effort, there may not be a direct link between the email being posted and the owner of the blog being used as a patsy (or worse in collusion all along). It might have really genuinely “seemed like a good idea at the time.
Lessons to be learned are, if you want to raise your profile in a positive way, don’t link your name to a negative concept.
Trying to distract people from a negative issue by creating controversy elsewhere is just plain dumb. The internet expects transparency, the internet cannot abide duplicity, and old style smoke and mirrors won’t work as well as it used to on unread, inexperienced users.