You know the story. Back in 2011 University of California, Davis campus police officer Lieutenant John Pike was videotaped and photographed casually pepper-spraying students peacefully protesting tuition hikes. It quickly turned into a meme:
Nevins & Associates proposed:
- Launch an aggressive and comprehensive online campaign to eliminate the negative search results for UC Davis and the Chancellor through strategic modifications to existing and future content and generating original content as needed
- […] Advise and support UC Davis’ adoption of Google platforms to expedite the eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google for the university and the Chancellor […]
They have failed miserably as a quick search of Google Images illustrates:
(Sidebar: I’m dying to see one of the monthly reports they promised to deliver the university, measuring the progress of their efforts.)
Not only that, but they’ve made the situation vastly worse because the attempt to stifle free speech in the name of sanitizing the reputation of the Chancellor and the university has erupted into a firestorm. As I write this, the Wikipedia page for UC Davis is already in the process of being updated with the details about the attempt to scrub references to the incident:
I’m completely dumbfounded that Nevins & Associates actually claimed they could deliver this result. I’m loathe to criticize colleagues in PR/digital, but this is the kind of behavior that gives digital professionals a bad name.
They should have told UC Davis the cold truth: you can’t erase anything online – and trying to do so inevitably worsens the situation AND alerts more of the public to it. There’s actually a name for this type of situation: the Streisand Effect.
Had they proposed that they would try to MINIMIZE the impact of the wealth of content about the pepper spray incident by amplifying positive messages, that would be fine. But words like “eliminate” and “scrub” should not be in the vocabulary of anyone who works in the digital world.
I’m also agog that the (presumably) college-educated leadership of UC Davis actually thought this was possible. Moreover, that they thought a firm with such a small digital footprint itself was capable of making it happen:
If your organization faces a crisis of perception, the only path to follow are Arthur W. Page’s principles. The radically transparent era we live in has made them more relevant now than they were decades ago when he published them. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is not serving you well.
Thanks to everyone who attended the session at the 2015 WMPRSA Nonprofit Workshop. Make sure you apply to be WMPRSA’s PR4Good client. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them in the comments section below.
Happy Lost Day Everyone! Here’s my (oddly-popular) review of the Lost series finale from 2010. Spoiler alert, obvs.
[Update: If you haven’t seen this video, you need to check it out (I’m not the only one that feels this way).]
I was really disappointed by the Lost season finale.
From the start, Lost thrived on setting up curious questions and then answering them in a way that only posed more questions. Not only was that the theme for the show – but the entire social media-driven marketing apparatus around the show catered to that aspect:
- the creators set up fake show-related websites and 800 numbers (grabbed by astute fans who analyzed screen captures from the show that flashed by business cards or papers tacked to walls) with curious pre-recorded messages – all of which were part of two separate alternate reality games (The Lost Experience and Find 815).
- the network’s website for the show (laden with hidden multimedia content) was filled with seething, writhing fan…
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Without fail, photos emerge every Halloween of caucasian partygoers in blackface. To help mitigate the damage this moronic ritual causes both to cultural relations in the US and the personal reputations of the people who inexplicably think it’s a good idea, I’ve put together this handy decision tree to advise my fellow crackers on the prudent course of action for this year’s costuming.