SXSWi2009: Surviving Scandal: How to Manage Negative Attention in the Internet Age

Moderator – Megan McCarthy – was at Valleywag, now with Techmeme

This is a Core Conversation – I think more of an unconference, discussion approach. But the topic is certainly relevant to my library! So I’m attending, and we’ll see what transpires (hee – I used the word “transpires”).

#scandal is the hashtag

Megan has a few points to make:

– don’t panic. That’s the worst thing to do. It’s probably not really as bad as it seems. With Valleywag, people were upset – but it was only bad for an hour or two – people simply moved on. People’s mean reactionary comments made it worse than if they’d simply ignored it.

– what types of scandals are we talking about? People giving examples of different types of scandals that happened to them. Someone wrote a sex book, wanted to stay anonymous … the press took that anonymity away. Her point – people forget this touches real people’s lives. She took control of the situation by holding an interview wither the Guardian – all the tabloids then decided there was no story anymore and stopped bothering her.

when to respond, when to ignore.

Someone in the audience was on the Real World show. Getting her perspective. It happened 10 years ago, she’s still getting people coming up to her and commenting on it (I think she was hit or something – hard to hear). She left the show early. Lovely. She was hit, and all the stupid camera people did was keep on filming. Nice.

Someone claiming some people want scandal – because they want to be noticed.

Some scandal is good – Sarah Lacy from last year’s SXSW for example. She achieved scandal … most people didn’t know her before that – most of the tech community knew her afterwards … and since her book was coming out, it helped sales. It wasn’t a planned thing, but possibly was ultimately a good thing.

Another guy disagreeing – people don’t want the scandal.

Some scandal starts as an accident or mistake. A problem then is not admitting it – it’s better to be transparent and say “I was wrong.”

A webhoster talking about basic customer service stuff, ie., let the customer yell until they’re done, then say “I undersntand” etc – yay! Finally soemthing that us public librarians do lots and understand…. :-)

Best way is face-to-face, then phone, then twitter, comments, etc. If you send an email, assume it will get published. Watch what you say, no exclamation points, say as little as possible, spell-check, etc.

at can you do to prepare yourself? Don’t panic. This too will pass. No one notices your scandal as much as you do – especially on the internet.

Interesting stuff to think about… thankfully I don’t personally experience this!