Protecting Your Brand or Industry Image in the Media – Part 1

Protecting Your Brand or Industry Image in the Media, Part 1

A Brief Case Study, Plus Some Lessons Learned

A controversial opinion about Dynamo's levitation in London provided an opportunity to address brand misconceptions.
A controversial opinion about Dynamo’s levitation in London provided an opportunity to address brand misconceptions.
Several weeks ago an online video of a magician doing a levitation stunt in London went viral. After a brief flurry of activity, an opinion piece appeared on a targeted-audience news site in which one of their columnists cast some pretty serious accusations and aspersions on not just that performer, but all magical performers. I wrote an article in response, and somehow we both ended up on national radio.

Are you ready to engage in a public conversation that may involve accusations or misconceptions about you, your brand, or your industry? If the national media calls, are you prepared to make your case in a court of public opinion?

In this post and the next, I’ll share and discuss the original piece that started the discussion, my response, our subsequent radio interviews, and some of the brand management lessons I learned along the way.

One quick note: While this example involves some issues of faith and religion, there are important ideas here for brand management in any arena. I rarely insert my personal beliefs into my writing or speaking, but in this case I think the events are instructive beyond that specific content. So please don’t let your agreement, disagreement or disinterest in the topic dissuade you from the value of this experience. Likewise, let’s keep any comments on this post focused on brand and media management concerns rather than any religious content. Thanks in advance.
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Tips for Protecting Your Brand Image in the Media

1. Already be paying attention.

I saw the original video of the levitation. Then, due to maintaining social media connections with a wide range of people in my industry, I saw the critical and misinformed op-ed being shared and discussed.

This discussion was, as you would imagine, extremely negative. Comments on the original site became progressively more heated against my industry, while discussion among my industry colleagues became heated against many people of faith whether they agreed with the article or not. A good bit of anger and lack of understanding resulted from the original article, causing unnecessary heartache among people sympathetic to both groups. It also resulted in an exacerbated credibility gap, as the demonstrably false accusations came from a point of view that is already considered largely ignorant by a significant percentage of the industry under attack.

Before you take to the keys to write the strongly-worded "take them to the horse shed" rebuttal you want to send, consider how it will cause your brand to be perceived.
Before you take to the keys to write the strongly-worded “take them to the horse shed” rebuttal you want to send, consider how it will cause your brand to be perceived.
2. Respond, don’t rebut.

As the discussion within my industry continued, I was contacted by a fellow performer who had a connection to the original publication. He felt that I’d be an ideal person to write a rebuttal and contacted me to ask if I’d do it. I said I’d be willing to write a response, but I’d prefer not to frame it as a “rebuttal.” He recommended me to the publication.

Even when that publication called and asked me to write the piece, I declined to call it a rebuttal, preferring to eliminate or at least minimize any antagonistic connotations of the word. Instead, I looked for ways to frame my piece as simply “a contribution to the conversation.” Despite that intent, though, my first draft still had some pretty pointed criticism.

3. Consider coaching and advice based on its real value, not its source.

After submitting the article, the editor of the publication and his staff talked with me by phone. I was asked to consider eliminating part of the article that went very directly at the credibility the publication and of the original author. I was convinced by their argument that I had made my case sufficiently without it, and that their willingness to publish my piece was a testament to their credible intent to present multiple viewpoints. They had and wanted to maintain a long-term relationship with the other writer, and frankly they wanted to protect him to some degree.

If I had chosen to be obstinate or to resent input from the editors, my final piece would have had an angrier tone than I really intended. Even though the advice to cut some of it came from a source who was protecting a person whose work I was critiquing, the suggestion was correct. Legitimate, informed criticism – even from a source you don’t necessarily respect – deserves consideration. My response article was improved by my decision to take good advice.

What About You?

What about you? Have you had media experiences that caught you by surprise because you weren’t paying attention? Have you charged in, guns blazing, with a rebuttal instead of a response? Have you ignored good advice based on its source, and lived to regret it? What did you learn in that situation? Have you put that lesson into action since then? If so, how?

In the next post I’ll continue with another 5 lessons I learned in this recent adventure, and I’ll share the audio from the interview. Stay tuned!



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