After reading an article from PR News about Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s head of communications, choosing to out his frustration with tech writer David Pouge via Twitter, I was happily reminded of an oft used quote my old boss used to say: “Don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” (Small World: Funnily enough I was reminded of the saying by an old colleague from the same era, Ford Kanzler, who commented on the post!)
Several people have already taken on the idea of figuring out what that means today when paper and ink are not the medium there were. I like these inspired ideas:
Peter Lewis blogged in early 2012 that you should:
Never pick a fight with someone who …
a) gets more than a million uniques a month
b) has a black belt in SEO techniques
c) has more than 500,000 Twitter followers (Pogue has 1.5M, Frank Shaw 18.5K)
Miranda Adams quickly followed with some additions of her own on Media Bistro:
- Never pick a fight with someone who has a camera and a Twitter following
- Never pick a fight with someone who collectively goes by Anonymous
- Never pick a fight with someone who knows how to use the Internet better than you
- Never pick a fight with someone who isn’t above hacking into your voicemail for a scoop
- Never pick a fight with someone who has compromising photos, video or audio you
- Never pick a fight with someone who has access to Google to prove you wrong immediately
When it comes to corporate PR, I’d say never pick a fight – period! It gains you little and risk a lot. You can and often should dispute the claim or clarify the issues, but always do it by taking the high road. And remember, even if the antagonist is not David Pogue, every critic out there can potentially have a huge voice. Remember my post on the worker whose video of her sassy resignation went viral? She got 16.5M views. Her former company’s great response netted an additional 4M. They took the high road and won big.
I don’t necessarily blame Shaw. It can be frustrating when a reporter chooses a certain tone or is outright hostile when getting their opinions across in an article on your company, But, when you represent one of the biggest kids on the block, you have to get used to reporters trying to take you down a peg. Doing that successfully with both patience and class is your first order of business. You won’t get David Pogue to stop writing on you by starting a public feud (most of us would kill to have him write on our company just once!), nor will you likely change his opinion. If that happens to your company, its best to face it and move on. There are dozens of other equally great reporters, that will tell your story in a balanced way.