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

July 9, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Reputation Management

The 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.

Truthfully, 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.


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