Seems like thunder, looks like rain

Thunder

1. No doubt you have read about the sorry tale of one company by the name of Sky Handling Partner, who have made threats against our own Damien Mulley. I guess it is much easier to send a nasty legal letter than to apologise or simply to do the decent thing, whatever that may be. This is a storm, and it has caused no amount of negative publicity (not to mention Google juice) for said company. I hope Damien kicks their sorry asses around the airport. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? (As it happens, the Tom Raftery, Tim O’Reilly and Web 2.0 story was around this time last year. Lesson: don’t mess with Irish bloggers)

2. The life of a critic is hard – all that food/opera/reading/gigs/insert your pleasure here. A few cases have come together, relating to food critics and defamation law (Eoin’s post contains over a hundred links and is already a Wiki-like key jumping-off point for any further research on the topic). Today, a Court of Appeal decision in the UK relating to a particularly stinking review of an opera (summary from Roy Greenslade | full text via Bailii) gives some good news (for a change) to would-be reviewers. Lesson: has the fat lady sung, or is she just waiting for her main course?

Rain

The above incidents, though, could be characterised as thunderstorms. Dramatic, sudden, hard to miss while they are happening, but ultimately blowing over (hopefully for Damien, the sooner the better!). I think that it’s the consistent strategies adopted by businesses (and others, but mostly ‘corporations’ as we would say, spitting out the word), though, that concern me more – without taking away from the seriousness of the thunderstorms (especially for those involved), it’s the constant rain that will get us in the end. (I’m struggling with this weather structure for two reasons: first of all, I had to buy a new umbrella today – the day after midsummer; secondly, the post title is a lyric from Shaun Davey’s Granuaile, which I saw performed in (soggy) Dublin tonight)

For now, I’ll highlight two particular manifestations of this trend. (Obviously, those familiar with SLAPPs and so on know that this is far from a new issue). The first is the way that companies are encouraged to take the ‘danger’ of the world wild web seriously, and to react aggressively. I could not ask for a better demonstration than this article (subscription probably required), Holding Companies to Account in Cyberspace: The Threat Posed by Internet-based, Anti-corporate Campaigners by Tom Burns of Aberdeen. It essentially is a how-to manual for dealing with your critics – covering legal and non-legal responses, and with helpful hints on things like where to sue for defamation (England, obviously) and setting up a ‘lockbox blog’ (to be released after some kind of crisis). The second is the outsourcing of this sort of defensive strategy – ReputationDefender being the clear example, although primarily geared towards individuals (who pay a fee, of course). Wired news report, recent slashdotting. They have a premium service for businesses (MyEdge) where they will counter negative publicity (apparently by creating lots of positive comments etc – should they talk to Sky Handling Partners?)

Is the flood coming? Or are we already drowning? And what’s that noise?

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