Friday, June 26, 2009

FUMBLE: BEATEN BLOGGER BITES BACK

Veritas Team Huddle compiled by Lisa An.

Every year, the MuchMusic Video Awards attracts quite a bit of publicity, before and after the event, and this year was no exception. The drama at this year’s awards involved celebrity blogger Perez Hilton (real name Mario Lavanderia) who attended the event as a presenter and the hip-hop group Black-Eyed Peas. According to Hilton, he was allegedly assaulted by will.i.am, a member of the Peas, at an after party. Rather than calling the police following the altercation, Hilton posted a series of messages on his Twitter page requesting that readers contact the authorities for him. In response, will.i.am issued his own Twitter messages and a video statement shortly after the incident. Not to be outdone, Hilton responded to those messages with a 12-minute video statement on his website. Phew! Mud slinging aside from both parties, most of the Veritas team agree that Mr. Hilton Fumbled this play big time. Admittedly he stayed true to his brand—he is the king of smut, after all—and leveraged a number of communication channels, from radio to video to blogs, to get his message across. But Hilton’s downfall wasn’t so much the way he communicated but rather the timing and quality of his message. Compare Hilton’s video statement to will.i.am’s response. Hilton comes across as a histrionic, vitriolic individual compared to will.i.am’s calm demeanour. Integrity and professionalism is automatically awarded to will.i.am, and when criminal acts are involved credibility is especially important. At Veritas, we counsel people in these situations to let the police and courts do their jobs—that’s what they’re there for. By publicly renouncing will.i.am and his band in such a dramatic fashion, Hilton wildly colours public perception of the situation, either in support of him or against, which can backfire in a court of law. But more importantly (from a communications standpoint, at least), Hilton abused the immediacy of Twitter as a communications tool. Not only did he tie up police phone lines by issuing a Twitter distress signal to readers — arguably putting more important matters in jeopardy — but he further compromised his credibility when in fact — whoops! — charges were laid not against will.i.am but rather the band’s tour manager. As com.motion, our social media division, would say the timing of the message is just as important as the message itself, especially when it comes to the social media space. When firing accusations it’s important to get all the facts right the first time otherwise you run the risk of having public perception go against you. Which is exactly what Hilton is faced with right now: the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is denouncing Hilton for calling will.i.am a derogatory slur and several celebrities such as John Mayer and Pink have posted Twitter statements against Hilton.

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