The More You Hide It, the Juicier It Is When I Find It


naughty toddlerThe Vice President of your company was just caught falling down a flight of stairs. Your CEO got confused in a speech and had an epic Miss South Carolina moment. Your financial advisor misplaced a decimal point and sent a mass emailing touting totally wrong numbers to current clients.

What do you do?

You own it and spend the next week making fun of yourself to holy hell. You pray that someone got it on video. You submit the news write up to all the social networks yourself. You find an interesting way to play off the attention and use it to generate buzz. You show people that you’re a good sport, you’re human and that you’re not afraid to make fun of yourself when silly things happen. And you do it all while putting yourself in control of the spread.

You don’t pull a LeBron James.

Earlier this week, LeBron James and his massive ego were two-handed dunked on by a college sophomore during a pickup basketball game in Ohio. And to make it even more awesome, the whole thing was captured on video. Kind of silly, right? Big time NBA sensation being schooled in full view? Absolutely. And that’s all it ever would have been had LeBron not pulled a lebron, threw a hissyfit and demanded Nike confiscate the video of the dunk.Now, instead of us laughing and complimenting LeBron for being a good sport about it all, a legend was created, one that will haunt LeBron James throughout the rest of his arrogant career.

…by censoring the tape, LeBron turns the dunk into a legend. On video, it’s just a dunk. Without video, the jam can reach mythic proportions. Because nobody can see it, the story of the dunk will grow in stature with each telling. Today, it was a simple two-handed slam. In a few days, it will be a 360-degree windmill. By the time Crawford makes his Xavier debut in October, he will have jumped off LeBron’s shoulders, flipped in the air, slammed the ball home with his left pinkie and then handed LeBron $3.99 for his dry cleaning.


But as much fun as it is to laugh at LeBron (he’s a jerk, he deserves it), ask yourself, are you pulling a lebron in your own company?

I’ve watched a lot of companies spend thousands of dollars trying to “save face”. They’re afraid an embarrassing story will surface, so instead of just owning it and taking control, they run massive campaigns to try and hide it. Only it doesn’t work. Because it’s the Internet and the story comes out anyway. Only now its way juicier because someone else ratted them out. Now it’s gossip. And everyone loves gossip.

megaphoneTruthfully, most online reputation management disasters are rooted in misunderstandings or devolve from situations where a company tried to hide something. They’re over issues that could have been resolved with one email, one apology or one phone call. But instead of just owning up to the goof, the company tries to hide it, to ignore it, or to will it away because they’re too proud to admit they made a mistake. And then the damn thing explodes on the Internet.

When you make a mistake, especially when it’s harmless, own up to it and have fun. Don’t sit in your hole waiting for it to blow over. Get loud about it. Promote it. Show people you have a sense of humor and that you can make fun of yourself. Let them see there are real people behind that company, real people who sometimes slam themselves in the face with a car door (I may have a scar over my right eye). People trust companies who can admit they’re not perfect.

Had LeBron James taken that video and promoted it himself, he would have earned a million years worth of goodwill for being the NBA star brave enough to admit he got dunked on. People would have always remembered that one act. They would have laughed with him, instead of at him, and the story would have blown over in a week. Now, because he tried to hide what happened at a harmless pickup game, the legend of LeBron being dunked on by a kid will live on forever. And to be honest, considering LeBron already has an online reputation issue for being a spoiled, arrogant player who pouts when things don’t go his way, he could have used the goodwill.

Don’t be a LeBron. When your company does something stupid, own up to it and own up to it loud. Promote the content yourself. Spread it as far as you can and keep your company in the story. Showing people you screwed up and that you’re secure enough to admit it lets them know you have nothing to hide and that you’re human. Customers like working with companies “just like them”. What they don’t like are companies that are too proud to admit mistakes or who get shady and try to hide little white lies.  If you’ll hide a simple video of someone dunking on you, what else are you hiding?

This is the Internet. The truth is going to come out. You may as well put it out there yourself. At least that way you can control it and earn some “just like you” points.


Your Comments

  • Nick

    I just read about that! Unbelievable. So a kid from Xavier dunked on you, so what? Take it like a man and move on!

  • Ben Cook

    Lisa while I agree it was a dumb move to try and censor the tape of the dunk, I think saying “don’t pull a Lebron” & “don’t be a Lebron” is just foolish.

    He’s the biggest star in the game & cultivated an image that is no doubt worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I’m guessing we’d all love to “pull a Lebron.”

  • Kaila S | Vertical Measures

    A coworker and I were talking about the Labron thing yesterday. It’s amazing the ego’s of some people. Ha!

  • Lisa Barone

    Ben: This may be a personal thing, but I don’t care how big his contract is, LeBron James is an arrogant player with known bad sportsmanship, and this latest stunt is just another example of his arrogance coming into play. So, I actually stand by advising companies not to be a LeBron. He has a bad habit of overshadowing what he does on the court with his selfish and bad antics off it. He could also learn to pass the ball a bit more.

    Doesn’t matter how talented you are or how good your product is, if you’re a jerk, no one is going to put up with you.

  • Johanna Sardinha

    “This is the Internet. The truth is going to come out.” Well said, we are living in an age where the truth is easily accessed and quickly. So you might as well take charge of that truth and go with it.

  • Ben Cook

    Lisa, maybe I’m overlooking something since I’m a fan of LBJ, but aside from this incident & his walking off the court w/o shaking hands this last post-season, I haven’t heard anything about him being a bad sport.

    And, plenty of people put up with jerks because they’re talented. Barry Bonds, Kobe, ARod, a huge number of celebrities & musicians, the list goes on and on.

    That being said, we’re debating a pretty minor point of the overall article. Hiding things only makes them bigger & worse when they come out (and they always come out). That message I wholeheartedly agree with.

  • Lisa Barone

    Ben: Yeah, perhaps debating the sportsmanship and character of LeBron James’ basketball career isn’t the most on-topic convo for an SEO blog. I’ll take responsibility for that, though. :)

  • Nick Gowdy

    I wish I was little bit taller,
    I wish I was a baller,
    I wish I had a million dollar sponsor,
    I would holler.

  • Lisa Barone

    haha damn you for making me go YouTube that.


  • Stuart Foster

    Proactive honesty is an awesome thing. It allows you to shape the dialogue and have the conversation you want to have. No surprises and you usually don’t come out looking like a douche.

    A video exists of me dunking on LeBron but they confiscated that one as well for obvious reasons.

  • Anthony Verre


    I’m going to have to agree with Ben (aka “skitzzo”) on this one. I think the LeBron metaphor is apt as far as owning up to your actions and letting the issue simmer. But, to call out one of the classier athletes in sports is quite another.

    I don’t want to make this about sports, but he’s a pretty young kid still. Thrust into the spotlight early and often, and up until the last three incidents (you left out the Trevor Ariza botch) he’s been nothing but admirable and good-humored under pressure most people can’t possibly fathom.

    Maybe if he’d had you whispering in his ear at these crucial moments, these could have been avoided. And, on that note, I think that metaphor extends more completely, that good online rep management is a must and can help you save some face.

  • Lisa Barone

    Anthony: If you’re calling LeBron James one of the classiest people in sports…then we should just agree to disagree on that. :)

  • jlbraaten

    I love this post, Lisa. If only you could expose the person who wrote the Google regulation piece on TechCrunch this morning. I’d pay to read that post.

  • Lisa Barone

    I actually received a few DMs asking if I was the mysterious author behind that post. Apparently there was a similar degree of snark to my own posts. I didn’t personally read it. I only read posts where the author isn’t took chickenshit to reveal their own name. :)

  • Rebecca Kelley

    Awesome post. I thought the exact same thing when I read about the dunk censoring. I like Lebron James but this is pretty douchey.

  • Dan

    I don’t think you understand the NBA well enough to call out LeBron James. Pass the ball more? The man was 9th in the NBA in assists last year – while still being 2nd in points, 27th in rebounds, and having no solid second fiddle to help him out.

    And you have no idea what Nike is doing with that video, do you? Has the thought that maybe they’re waiting for this kid to go pro, so that they can sign him to a contract and use this video for marketing purposes, ever entered your mind?