A wealthy seaside resort town. A prominent local businessman. A mysterious stranger. Drama, intrigue, and murder.
Sounds like a Hollywood script, doesn’t it? Well, there’s no murder involved — thank goodness — but all the other ingredients are part of a potboiler going on over at nytimes.com.
Last week I wrote about Bruce Buschel, a first-time restaurateur in the Hamptons who got zero media placements out of his $4,500-a-month PR firm. When Buschel blogged about his frustrations, his post generated nearly 80 responses — many of them angry missives from PR practitioners who accused him of being an ignorant, impossible client.
Buschel ended his original post hinting that his next entry would explain how Twitter turned around his PR woes. Well, he posted again yesterday, but it wasn’t the Twitter story his followers were looking forward to. Instead, Buschel reprinted an entire comment from a single, unknown critic, then proceeded to pick it apart line by line, justifying his own role in the PR fiasco and damning the industry that had let him down.
It was such a rambling, angry, self-destructive rant that I half expected him to mention his “tiger blood” or “Adonis DNA.”
I’ve been a longtime fan of Buschel and his blog, but this particular post could go down as a textbook case of the dangers of social media. If you’re an entrepreneur active with blogging, Twitter or Facebook, there are several important lessons here:
- Stay in control of your story. Buschel is a great blogger because his story is an adventure, a quest, an autobiography of a man taking a leap into the unknown. As readers, we can’t help hoping that he will overcome the odds and write a happy ending for his entrepreneurial story. But when he veers off-course for an ongoing debate with the PR industry, that storyline gets lost in all the back-and-forth sniping.
- Ignore the critics. When you open yourself up to comments, inevitably there will be some people who take pot-shots at you. Ignore them. They don’t matter. Your audience is emotionally invested in you, so they are predisposed to take your side. Their sympathy can even work in your favor, as long as you avoid getting down in the mud. Remember: The only critics that matter are your customers (and even then, a debate is almost always counter-productive).
- Proving a point doesn’t improve your business. Buschel just might be right in this debate, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. The state of the PR profession has absolutely nothing to do with the bottom line at Southfork Kitchen, and alienation is a high price to pay for vindication.
This whole saga proves again that the potential of social media is matched only by its pitfalls. As Uncle Ben told Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Use the power of social media wisely … or risk getting caught in a web of your own making.
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