The Best Advice For Getting Yourself Out A PR Nightmare

Don’t get in one to begin with.

Seriously. The best way to salvage your brand from the public relations nightmare that erupts when you resort to name calling and bullying on the Internetz is to avoid stepping into that flame war from the very start. It’s the most sensible piece of advice one blogger can offer to another and yet it’s one of the hardest rules to follow.

Michael Arrington did an awesome job recapping the blogosphere war that erupted this weekend when veteran blogger Shel Israel took some harsh criticism from Loren Feldman (a man I never want to cross) too much to heart and react personally.

After Shel Israel published a painful video interview with social media expert Jeremiah Owyang where he showed off some crappy framing, heavy breathing, his near choking of Jeremiah with a microphone and an odd vignette with an owl, Loren Feldman issued Shel a pretty hard (and hilarious) lashing. We even got faux Shel Israel interview videos starring puppets! I’ll let Michael recap what happened from there:

"Israel became enraged at the puppet videos and went on the attack, writing multiple personal attacks against Feldman. He called Feldman a racist and a pornographer , and talked about hiring lawyers and private investigators , to go after Feldman. He also made other vaguely threatening remarks . The blogosphere reacted , predictably taking sides with Feldman. Israel responded , but it was too late. The damage was done."

Yes, the damage has been done. You would think Shel Israel, the man who co-wrote Naked Conversations with Robert Scoble, would know better than to lower himself to personal attacks and threats via the blogosphere, but apparently he’s just as human as the rest of us.

Let’s be honest here, Bruce gives me a pretty long leash over here on the Bruce Clay blog. He doesn’t demand to know what I’m going to write about, what side of the fence I’m going to sit on or try to monitor who I’m linking to. I’m given a ridiculous amount of freedom in my right to say what I want to say about virtually whatever I want. For some reason, Bruce has decided to trust me and trust in the fact that I will not purposely bankrupt his company. All that he asks is that I pretend to listen to Susan every once in awhile and follow two simple rules. They go something like this:

  1. Refrain from personal attacks. At all costs. There are no exceptions.
  2. Refrain from responding to personal attacks. At all costs. There are no exceptions.

It’s the best piece of blogging advice I’ve ever received. It’s also one of the hardest things to hold true to. But you absolutely have to.

Realize now that going personal in an argument will never help you. Whether it’s online or face to face. Giving someone an intelligent dissertation on why you believe what you do and why you think their logic faults and then ending it with "and your baby is ugly!" will not help your cause. It’s only going to negate every intelligent thing you have just said and make you sound like a jerk.

At the same rate, I also don’t see the use of responding to flaming. As a general rule, if your hands are shaking after you have finished typing out your five page rebuttal to their argument, DO NOT PRESS PUBLISH. Go for a run. Eat an entire pizza. [Yay, pizza! –Susan] Go kick your dog in the face. Do whatever you have to do, but don’t hit publish. Don’t go there. Adding fuel to a lit fire doesn’t contain things or put them out. It only makes things worse, where no amount of reason, logic or apologies later on will help you. If someone is attacking you on personal merits, don’t respond. Let your supporters do it for you. You always gain more from taking the high road than playing in the mud.

Not that it’s easy.

When I first started blogging it took everything I had not to go crazy every time someone called me out. I still have the scars on my wrists from all the times I had to shove my entire fist in my mouth to prevent myself from making "bad decisions". But it worked. And when the moment of rage passes, you realize that it was a really good idea for you not to call out that blogger for being the biggest waste of space ever and explaining all the bad things you’d like to do to them. Like pushing him or her off a building. And onto a bed of nails. That would go through their entire being. And not kill them so they could spend every day of their life reliving the stupid mistake that got them there. Yey! (My therapist says I am making excellent progress and next month we can reduce the meds! Some of them, anyways.)

As bloggers, we want to react. We want to have an opinion. And be edgy. And make sure that everyone else knows just how cool and edgy we are. But sometimes, it really is in our best interest to just shut up. In the best cases, we learn this little life lesson before landing on TechCrunch.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (5)
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5 Replies to “The Best Advice For Getting Yourself Out A PR Nightmare”

This article was excellent! So good I subscribed and put you in my “read it” folder instead of the “browse while on a con all” folder! :-0)

I also wrote a blog post about it (*cough* self promotion *cough*) and no dogs were harmed in my post!


Lisa, great advice. In the old days, PR professionals were told: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” These days, that should be updated: “Never pick a fight with bloggers who update their blogs regularly.” And, according to Technorati, “Bloggers update their blogs regularly to the tune of over 1.6 million posts per day, or over 18 updates a second.”


Let me sincerely apologize for my inappropriate comment. Clearly, I didn’t mean any harm, nor do I advocate hurting animals, but it was still said in poor taste, and for that I’m sorry. I will try to be more sensitive in the future.

I hope you’ll continue to visit the blog and that I haven’t tainted your experience!

Again, my very sincere apologies.


I’ve only recently found your blog, but I’ve really come to enjoy it. You state your points (and they’re good ones) rationally and sanely and generally make a huge amount of sense.
Then you wrote these unfortunate words: “Go kick your dog in the face.”
I know you’re not serious. I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t actually do it. At least I really hope that you wouldn’t.
Point is, I don’t care. It was a horrible, tasteless thing to say.
I was enjoying this post, but after those words I don’t actually know what you said. My mind balked at any additional information.
Maybe I’m an oversensitive animal rights activist. Whatever.
Ironic considering your topic.


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