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A Case of the Bad Entrepreneur: How a Bad Ego & Not Staying on Top of Industry Trends Can Equal Missed Opportunity

An Overview

It’s been a while since my last post, but 2012 has been the busiest to-date for all of us over at Plastick Media (me included!), and 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger. With our expansion, we’ve had a lot of reasons to broaden our horizons into sponsored brand integration, especially with this year’s upcoming Sundance Film Festival, which is now one of the most star-studded event for the entertainment industry.

As a result of our amazing Sundance opportunities, we put together some unique integration concepts for high profile events that would benefit a variety of brands that wouldn’t normally be a fit with Sundance, but would allow for them to gain exposure and media activations in an authentic way. This, at the heart of our brand, is the Plastick Model. This meant reaching out to Publicists and PR Reps in industry sectors that we wouldn’t normally do business with, which unfortunately, also meant sometimes talking to people we didn’t know.

And what happens when you talk to people you don’t know? Sometimes you get some bad eggs. Fortunately, these bad eggs teach us a lot about what to do and not do in business. I hesitated, at first, to post this — but, of course, I couldn’t help but pass that information along in hopes that it helps someone in similar situations. This world is, in fact, all about learning, isn’t it?

The Case of the Bad Entrepreneur

For one of our packages, we were looking for a unique audio visual company to create a tailored listening room, so we reached out to a seemingly well-known publicist who represents some big brands in the a/v world. Our pitch was via Facebook, as we’ve gotten a lot more traction via Facebook than via email, Twitter, or LinkedIn. It was, very simply, an introduction to who we are, the Sundance opportunity, and more about us on a B2B level.


Publicist’s Response #1: A Case of the Bitters

We’ve only ever had one negative response to our email or social outreach, and this scenario was the first. The publicist in question responded to my head of Business Development with:

There’s no lazier, more unprofessional, impersonal and dehumanizing method of sales solicitation, that does more damage to a brand, than the half-assed, blind, attempted ’emailed in,’ ‘I’m a big fan of your clients’ email inquiry, especially through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts. You’ve just proven you’re a hack. Piss off or I’ll flag your account for Spam.


My Response #1: Sticking Up for your Colleagues

Normally, I would just let such an email go; it’s not worth responding, in most cases. This email, however, was so rude and derogatory that I couldn’t help but stick up for my colleague. So I emailed back:


Recently, my head of Business Development, Sean Reilly, reached out to you to connect on Facebook. We approached you at *** (names retracted for security purposes) because we know mutual clients in the industry (***, *** et. al, as I have long history in the music business), and I was also scheduled to be a speaker on the **** panel last year before it was cancelled.

While I understand that you may feel his outreach was “canned” and/or lazy, it most certainly was not. Regardless of how you took its origination, your response was beyond rude and unnecessary, and something that I do not tolerate in any communication. If you have no interest in furthering conversation with us, you can simply choose to ignore it. I would never send an email like that to anyone, nor would any of my colleagues; to be honest, I’m pretty appalled. Perhaps you’re conducive with conducting yourself online in that manner, but I will not tolerate my colleagues to be treated as such.

The world, in today’s craziness, is a difficult place. Communication via Twitter, Facebook, and email have significantly limited face-to-face interactions to a point where people feel they can treat people however they want because there’s no real face — just a computer screen and a keyboard. As a reminder, there is a face here, just like there’s a face (yours) reading this email. We are all human, and we are all people. It’s fine if you don’t like our method of interaction or communication, but I do implore you to remember that there’s no need to further hatred in a world already filled with it.

Good luck with your future endeavors.

Whew! Armed with a small sense of peace for dealing with a matter of importance to me, I went about my day. That is, until I received this extremely disheartening email and a barrage of notifications on our social monitoring platform.


Publicist Response #2: The First Threat

This email was a direct response to me. It was short, but to the point.

You simply have no clue, do you? Now I see where your poorly trained people get their attitude of ineptitude and entitlement. A) NO ONE with an ounce of credibility solicits business through social media accounts and B) You’re going to wish the following is something you never wrote and forwarded to me because C) the internet never forgets.


Publicist Response #3: Public Execution

As if that weren’t enough, said Publicist continued to post Tumblr Blogs, Tweets, and Facebook messages, tagging my business development colleague and me in a shockingly public manner. Here’s what he wrote:

So I deservedly spank a very lazy, half-assed sales rep, Sean Reilly, from a company called Plastick Media for possibly one of the most dumbed-down, invasive business solicitations EVER through our Facebook page and I get this from the founder of the company, Tori Kyes, a person who clearly has no business savvy whatsoever. I don’t suffer fools lightly and when I get solicited in such unprofessional, meaningless, half-hearted and time-wasting ways, I let those individuals know it. This is your cliche’ Los Angeles publicist personality. You know the type. The parody of the publicist everyone simply hates. Opinionated, condescending, arrogant, etc… I can go on. In a nutshell, she really thinks her sh-t doesn’t stink and all others should bow down to them for reasons that simply escape me. The self-entitlement from this, so called, ‘publicity professional,’ is staggering. If you invade our business uninvited, waste my time, and cost us money, like an insect, don’t be surprised if you get stomped on like an insect:

(followed by my original email, as well as a re-post of my personal cell phone, direct line, email address, and contact information)


My Response #2: Knowing When to Leave Well Enough Alone While Still Standing Your Ground

At some point, you have to recognize when belligerent folks who love confrontation are trying to bait you. With the previous actions, I recognized there wasn’t much to say to this individual. At the same time, however, I felt it was important to let the publicist know that his claims and posts were unreasonable, and that if they continued, I would pursue alternative action. The following is my response:

Dear ***,

1. We do business all the time via social media, hence why we are a social media agency.
2. I’ve taken screenshots of your threatening posts on our Facebook Page.
3. I’ve forwarded the screenshots and your threatening email to our legal counsel, and we will be on the look out for future libel material thanks to our proprietary social media monitoring platform.
4. This is the last correspondence you will receive from anyone at Plastick. The next correspondence will be from our legal counsel, if further provoked.

Have a wonderful evening.


Publicist Response #5: The Nail in the Coffin

But that wasn’t all, of course. He followed up with a final email.

Please have your legal counsel explain to you who’s doing the provoking and threatening! You’re going to be surprised by their professional advice, especially in the areas of libel, slander, and threatening behaviors. Why? I know. Because I actually have a legal background. Oh, and I am sure your (snicker) ‘proprietary social media monitoring platform’ (aka: Google alerts) will have you clued into the ‘threatening posts’, which are simply your own arrogant, belligerent and self destructive behavior and words thrown back at you, pretty soon.

You’re a comedic cornucopia of arrogance and self-entitlement that’s stunning, and a parody of the rank amateur behavior Sean displays so well. The guano doesn’t fall far from the bat…


Well, then.

Lessons to be Learned: A Look at Both Sides & How to Handle Situations Like This When They Arise

So what can we learn from this? Well, there are quite a few things. Let’s take this situation from both sides:

The Publicist

  1. Saying things in a public forum about people that are untrue and/or harassing is not only unprofessional, but it’s also illegal. If you’re going to post something of the magnitude that this person did, you’re opening yourself up to lawsuits. It’s most advisable to just let it go in the first place before you open yourself, your clients, and your business up to potential harm.
  2. Listing people’s personal, private contact information is considered bullying and is against most social platforms terms of use. If you’re going to post conversations, which is your right, be sure you do not include any personally identifiable information, and only quote the person instead.
  3. While posting hastily nasty things about people may make you feel good at first, it usually only makes you look like the jerk in the end. If a client, employer, or colleague gets word about the hateful things you say online about other people, it leaves you open to negative recourse for your actions.
  4. Always verify information before posting on public forums. Much of the publicists said claims against myself and/or my business are blatantly untrue. While this doesn’t matter much in the end, if people try to verify your claims and they turn out to not have merit, it dings your reputation, not theirs.
  5. Always be careful of the things you say, as you never know who you’re saying them to. Always maintain a respectful, courteous attitude, and you will minimize ill reactions to your responses.
  6. There is never a need to make personal attacks towards individuals.
  7. At the end of the day, this person’s ego got in the way of seeing a fantastic opportunity for their clients, and then blasted said interaction all over the web. Not only was he not doing what was best for his client, but he also burned a bridge and blasted it on the Internet. If a client were to see this, what would they think of their hired representative? Would you want your client to see this interaction?
  8. Ignoring social media as a medium of interacting with people and perpetuating business is a gross misnomer and proof of lack of understanding of the latest PR tactics and industry trends. (If you could see this individual’s website(s), it would perpetuate proof of this case, but I’ll refrain from sharing)

The Business Owner

  1. When receiving negative feedback, weigh your options before responding and be sure you’re willing to deal with the consequences.
  2. When responding to negative feedback, it’s always advisable to ensure you are wary about your tone. Minimizing aggression, accusations, and any language that may make the reader filter to the “offensive” is the best course of action.
  3. If there is no way to minimize the aggressive tone, you must choose your battle wisely. In most cases, it’s best to leave well enough alone. In many cases, a tailored response may work in your favor — but is it worth the ones that don’t?
  4. Don’t jump to legal conclusions too quickly. No one likes lawsuits. If you’re going to threaten with one, be prepared to do so. And f you’re going to sue, be sure it’s something worth fighting for.
  5. Minimize interactions with belligerent individuals as soon as you recognize they are one.
  6. Don’t allow yourself to be upset by personal jabs from belligerent individuals; they’re just trying to upset you. When you’re upset, you make foolish mistakes that will come back to haunt you. Don’t let emotion get the best of you.
  7. True PR representatives would never risk their reputation, or their clients reputation, to bully someone online in such an unprofessional manner. You shouldn’t either. As a result, use the opportunity to express the realities of the situation to the public at large in a positive way (like this blog).
  8. Mentioning names and companies only gives more traffic and mentions to said individuals. Don’t give them what they want.

How to Handle this Crisis and What You can do if you become the brunt of Cyber-Bullying / Harassment / Slander as a Business Owner

Cyber-bullying, harassment, and slander are serious offenses online. While the online world is still figuring out how to deal with these situations at large, there are things that you can do in this situation to minimize the effects:

  1. If on a social network, contact the powers that be of the offensive or offending tweets in an effort to create a paper trail and remove any sensitive data that shouldn’t be on the web. You can report offensive behavior via the following links for relevant sites:
    Tumblr: Email
    Facebook: Click Report on the Offensive Post

  3. If the abuse continues and is an immediate threat or harm to you, report it to the authorities. If it’s not urgent, do not use 911. Simply call the local Police Station.
  4. Not everyone has access to advanced social media metrics and monitoring tools like we do, so ensure you do a Google Search for your name or company to ensure it hasn’t risen to the top of search results. If there are no reports, set up a Google Alert to ensure you stay on top of it. If there are, look into hiring an SEO / Reputation Management Company (or learning to do it yourself) to push negative press down.
  5. Utilize your own social media channels to combat any negative criticism and to offer your own side of the story. Be sure, however, not to make it an equally negative post. This is your opportunity to show your differences.
  6. If abuse continues, hire a lawyer or forward to your existing legal counsel and ask their opinion on options to pursue.
  7. If possible, make nice by sending a care package in good will efforts to make amends
  8. Whatever you do, do not do anything drastic or emotionally driven. Do not email their clients, blast them equally on social media, or have your friends start harassing them online. This makes you no better than them, and just isn’t necessary.
  9. Don’t waste your time dealing with people who only want to destroy you. Spend your time working with people who want to build you up.

At the end of the day, I feel badly that an email I meant honestly got spun into a Tori-bashing session. However, it gave me a lot of insight into how to deal with crisis management, a better plan of action in the event that it happens, and a quality control filter on how to better pick and choose my battles as a business owner. While I’m still largely appalled by this person’s behavior, there’s nothing I can do but to find the silver lining, execute what I can to protect myself and my business, and employ methods that will allow me to not repeat any behavior that would duplicate this situation in the future. I hope this lesson came in equally as handy for you.

In gratitude,