A Twist on Crisis Planning: When Allies Attack

You’ve heard the adage “Familiarity breeds contempt,” and arguably, there’s no place it’s more true than in the realm of online opinion.  Today at SXSW, a session titled “Breaking the Mold: What to Do When Allies Turn” tackled the subject of frangible online alliances, and what to do when things go south.  The discussion was lead by:

  • Jehmu Greene, TV Commentator & Media Trainer at Fox News (@jehmu)
  • Joanne Bamberger, Editor/Publisher, Broad Side Strategies (@jlcbamberger)
  • Sally Kohn, Writer & TV Commentator, Movement Vision (@sallykohn)
Mmes Kohn, Bamberger and Greene.

Mmes Kohn, Bamberger and Greene. (Sally, thanks for making sure I knew who you were, but I recognized you from Crossfire. Just saying.)

Dealing with blowback is never fun, but when people or organizations that were you thought were in your corner turn the tables and attack, working through the situation can be demoralizing.

Kohn advised getting in front of potential problems by building credibility and goodwill within your community.  While goodwill won’t insulate you from online attackers,  building a credible and engaged network is a way to develop virtual comrades-in-arms.

When haters go “all sharknado” on you, it’s important to remember their motives, advised Bamberger.

“Haters are all about control,” Bamberger advised. “It’s not about you, it’s about them trying to stake out their territory.”

Kohn referenced the “Disapproval Matrix” created by Ann Friedman as a guide for discerning the difference between critics and haters.

Sussing out the difference between critics and haters is an important tactic in managing online attacks.  Critics care about the issue, and on some level are offering constructive feedback.  Haters, on the other hand, care more about themselves.  Embrace critics, and try to tune out the haters.

Planning for controversy is also crucial, all three agreed.  Anticipate reactions and have your facts locked down.

When dealing with rampant haters – the avalanches of nasty tweets and relentless evil e-mails – all three offered tips while also acknowledging the fact that meanness stings.

“Laughing at them takes their power away,” said Kohn.

” If you step in it, remember that $#*^ can be wiped off a shoe.” Greene agreed.

Ultimately, if everyone is agreeing with you, you’re not making an impact Greene reminded us.  Challenging conventional wisdom is leadership, and Kohn noted that sometimes, being liked isn’t part of that equation.

“You can’t worry about being liked,” summarized Kohn. “Negative blowback is one of the costs of leadership.”
Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

3 responses to “A Twist on Crisis Planning: When Allies Attack

  1. This is a great article, great things to keep in mind. So speaking of critics- just gotta point out a teeny tiny little mistake in your last paragraph where you left out “with” in the “agreeing with you” part. Very friendly point-out! <3

  2. Pingback: CNN Column: I Went To SXSW And Ended Up In Jail - Sally Kohn — columnist. activist. pundit. etc.

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