Expert Thoughts

The Internet Rewards the Meanest People Most

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I’ve been reading this post by Sam Biddle at Gawker over and over and it never stops being extremely odd. Biddle is, a year after the fact, looking back at the storm he in part caused around a tweet by PR practitioner Justine Sacco. Sacco, you may remember, tweeted something horribly inappropriate before getting on a plane to South Africa, a tweet that Biddle and others picked up. Over the course of her flight, then, everyone watched and waited for her to land and face the consequences – which eventually included her being fired – of what she said.

The point of the post is, as some have described, a “mea culpa” for his role in the affair and he recounts his meeting Sacco for drinks and such to apologize in person. But here’s the key graf that I keep struggling with:

It was a natural post. Twitter disasters are the quickest source of outrage, and outrage is traffic. I didn’t think about whether or not I might be ruining Sacco’s life. The tweet was a bad tweet, and seeing it would make people feel good and angry—a simple social and emotional transaction that had happened before and would happen again and again. The minimal post set off a 48-hour paroxysm of fury, an eruption of internet vindictiveness. Read More

Off the Media

Is Google’s Product Strategy Dumb, Brave or Both?


There’s no question we live in one of the harshest media environments in history. Not that it’s necessarily always critical but rather, if you’re someone doing something in the public eye, you face a million media outlets all shouting to be louder than the others, publishing in real time, with little editing, little fact checking, and complete subjectivity.

In other words, it’s the mob. Read More


Airbnb CEO Issues Mild Response Case of the Homewrecking Guest, Its Biggest Public Relations Crisis Yet

Airbnb's reputation.

The terrifying blog post that blew up on Hacker News yesterday–we saw it via Jason Kottke, which shows you it was making the rounds even though it was a month old–about what happens when Airbnb guests go bad, is by far Airbnb’s worst public relations crisis yet. Worse than the Craigslist spam; worse than the possibility that the service in some cases technically violates a New York City law.

While the victim may have been a bit overdramatic in her retelling of the story, and also appears to have been remiss during the due diligence phase, we expected Airbnb–the company that sold Obama-themed cereal while it was bootstrapping and whose CEO spent a year homeless so he could use the service all around San Francisco–we expected such a creative, marketing-minded start-up to bend over backwards to fix this woman’s life. $1 billion valuation? Get this woman a house! Read More

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Facebook Beefs Up Its New York PR Staff With a Former Journo


In what looks like the logical extension of its recent lobbying efforts in Washington, Facebook is ramping up its PR staff in both New York and California. Influencing politicians? Check! Influencing the media? Give us a minute.

Like its “dream lobbying team” in DC, Facebooks’s new PR hires have a strong background in politics. Sarah Feinberg, a former assistant to President Obama, joined its communications team in Palo Alto where her new boss is none other than Clinton-era White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart. But it looks like Facebook is also looking at the media itself as a potential PR talent pool–Mr. Lockhart worked for NBC in Washington. And Facebook’s newest hire is Jennifer Yuille, who will be based in New York–a former producer for MSNBC and CNN. She left her gig as a producer for Katie Couric at the CBS Evening News last year to join Silicon Valley start-up Polyvore.

All Facebook says, “As the company continues to grow and it faces the usual pressures from competitors, regulators, politicians, and the like, Facebook will need professionals schooled in crisis communications and rapid response to react to a 24/7 news cycle.” But we think there might be another motivating factor. Read More