telling your own story

Going Negative is Bad PR

North Korea's threats against The Interview backfired and turned a silly satire into a cause celebre and a case study of why going negative is bad PR. [Credit – Reuters] 

North Korea's threats against The Interview backfired and turned a silly satire into a cause celebre and a case study of why going negative is bad PR. [Credit – Reuters] 

North Korea, perhaps unwittingly, has proven once again the danger of poking the eye of your opponent. The results often boomerang, giving what you despise the publicity it needs to succeed.

The Interview, the satirical movie about two journalists recruited to assassinate North Korea's Kim Jong Un, drew sharp rebuke from the isolated, often angry North Koreans, which was followed by the hacking of Sony Pictures' computer network. North Korea denied any involvement, but the hackers threatened terrorist acts if The Interview was aired in American movie theaters.

The threats, compounded by movie theater owners refusing to show the movie, aroused First Amendment sympathies from President Obama to the people who buy movie tickets. Before you knew it, The Interview was a cause celebre and streaming on iPads. All the North Koreans and the hackers accomplished was to embarrass Sony Pictures with leaked emails and to promote a picture that may have been a flash in the pan.

As a PR campaign, this may be without parallel. As a smart move, it may go down in annals as one of the dumbest.

It certainly is a neon reminder of the risks inherent in negative attacks. Veering from your own narrative to criticize is an open invitation for the attacked to respond. What you are doing is essentially laying down a red carpet for the other side to tell its story. 

Even if your criticism is warranted, the upshot of voicing it may not be worth the rush of righteous indignation you feel. [China dryly observed that while America values free speech, other countries don't. It might have added that countries like North Korea value suppressing information it doesn't like. In North Korea, no one was likely to see the movie anyway.]

The best advice is to stick to your story, even if the other side is taking shots at you. Once you turn negative, you lose control of your own story and that never is a good thing.

Blogs: Telling Your Own Story

If you want customers or stakeholders to know and trust you, you need to give them a reason. You need to tell your story convincingly and interestingly — and a blog is a perfect venue to tell it.

Great blogs share information unavailable anywhere else. That can include pictures, videos, tips on new products and back-stories. You can showcase individual employees or teams, share insider insights and create infographics that describe product or service innovations.

Companies and organizations with smart blogs personalize their content. They may hand over the keys to the blog to an individual or small group to act as the voice. They may concentrate their content on subjects intended to engage readers, instead of just informing them.

While some complain about the time it takes to brainstorm and produce content for blogs, the truth is blogging makes organizations more aware of themselves at a human level. You have to look around to find good stories, and they are inevitably all around you to find.

Blogging demands keen observation, like any other form of writing. You take notice of what's different or special in your operation or of a coworker who went the extra mile for a customer or client.

A blog is a license to unleash your imagination — and your curiosity. It would have been fascinating, for example, if Marty Cooper of Motorola had blogged about the thought process he and his fellow workers pursued in untethering phones from homes, offices and even cars, 40 years ago. It would be equally interesting if Cooper, who continues at age 85 to imagine the mobile phone as an extension of human capability with applications in medicine and education, could explain how he sees the future unfolding.