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What if someone says something bad about us

February 3, 2009

Sometimes it’s interesting to look back in order to look ahead. In 1998, Howard Stern sidekick Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf won People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Person in the World online poll.

Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf
Image via Wikipedia

The New York Times ran an article opined about what Hank’s win means:

“But many of the electronic campaigners themselves insist their message is more sophisticated — an attempt to use the new media to challenge the cultural hegemony of the old media. It is an expression of cultural pluralism, these grass-roots guerrillas contend, that People’s parent, the media giant Time Warner Inc., may not be particularly eager to embrace.”

The article goes on:

“One of the many postmodern aspects of the Hank phenomenon is that although the Internet is owned by nobody, the site on which all the supposed subversion is taking place is most definitely the property of Time Warner. When the get-out-the-Hank-vote effort overloaded the company’s server computers last week, the Web site’s staff alienated Net denizens by accusing them of writing computer programs to automatically log thousands of votes.”

This was either an elaborate goof, or proof that the internet’s rules didn’t apply. Either idea a scary notion for brands entering the internet in the hopes of having another outlet to push their carefully crafted message.

Eleven years later, the biggest question I get asked from people in charge of brands is: “What if someone says something bad about us?”

Eleven years later, the ghost of Hank haunts that question. The fear is that someone will hijack the brand, or worse.

But it’s a fear that can be expunged with this question asked right back:

“What do you mean ‘something bad’?”

And that’s the difference a decade makes. What was a goof, and/or a political statement about People then, is a legitimate question that might be asked on many blogs today. In social media, people talk about things that are legitimate because in general, they are known. If they post this bad thing on their blog, it better be a well thought out bad things and not some off the cuff statement like “Brand X sucks!”

But again, the question is, what do the people who ask me that question mean by bad? Because if it’s a legitimate problem with the product or service, then one would like to know that. And fix it.

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