Yesterday, we read the rather sordid (and frankly, mildly depressing) article about a boneheaded PR/Marketing guy who sent a nasty email response to a customer of his client’s, an interesting video game control manufacturer called N-Control. The customer, appropriately offended, responded to the rep, one Mr. Paul Christophoro, and CCed several influential gaming blogs, including Kotaku and Penny Arcade.
If you have the time and inclination, you can read a summary of the shenanigans here and the original article on Penny Arcade here, but to summarize, Christophoro proceeded to send even more cringe-worthy emails attempting to bully the customer AND the game blogs, merrily digging his own grave, unaware of such a thing called The Internet that would allow his embarrassing emails to live on in infamy.
Appropriately, Mr. Christophoro has since become a much-maligned Internet meme, and has since lost the client he was representing. It’s certainly disappointing to hear that he and his family are being harassed. The wrath of the Internet community is vicious and often, unnecessary. We ourselves have made many professional mistakes, for sure. And we don’t want anyone to be crucified for mistakes that any one of us can make, especially if they are sincerely apologetic. But Christophoro hardly made a mistake. He acted like a jerk with no instigation. That’s not a mistake. That’s a personality flaw. That’s just a poor human being.
The lesson here isn’t from Christophoro, though (uh, don’t act like a bullying jerk). The lesson is that a company like N-Control, and any other company, should think twice before hiring bully PR firms or individuals. It’s not a secret when someone is a bully PR person or a firm reeks of a certain negative aggression. The overly aggressive approach, the promises and guarantees of PR success, the name-dropping, perhaps the typo-ridden emails? Those should all be major detectors that the person you’re dealing with isn’t the right person to be dealing with your public image.
Given the massive verbal and grammatical atrocities committed by Mr. Christophoro in his emails to the customer and Penny Arcade, there is no doubt in our minds that he must have sent similarly poorly-constructed and written emails to his client. Yet they hired him nonetheless. Your PR/Marketing person can’t spell “marketing” properly and you hire them? To quote Penny Arcade, “Just wow.”
If you hire a bully PR firm, the blame lies with you, too. It’s easy to blame them (and yes, they do deserve the bulk of the blame), but you are also the one who entrusted them with your valuable public image, knowing that you were unleashing a loose cannon out there. Sure, hindsight is 20/20 and no one can predict someone’s behavior, but there had to have been signs that Christophoro was not who he professed to be (again, we’re going to say it again, the typo-ridden emails should have been the first and only clue!).
Many people like an aggressive approach; no one likes a bully. They have no place in business, and they shouldn’t be supported by your company’s dollars. Take the responsibility in ensuring that the people you are hiring to represent your public face, communicating with your customers, and pitching your respective media, is not a bullying jerk. They’re easy to spot.