Sage’s Dirty Little Secret

I’m a passionate guy. I believe in my business, my family, and my friends. I’ll defend them against anyone who tries to do or say anything negative about them.

This has been known to get me in trouble… I guess. Standing up for what you believe isn’t as easy as it sounds.

If you aren’t familiar with standing up for your beliefs, you likely won’t defend yourself well. You’ll leave holes in your arguments. And you might actually misrepresent facts. But if you do it often enough, you get better at it.

That being said, sometimes leaving gaps for people to attack you can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Jeremy Schoemaker recently took offense to one of my videos. He has this shtick he does where he talks about how SEOs suck and then his followers pretty much line up in agreement with whatever he says.

The thing is, he uses basic SEO principles all the time. Case in point is this article. He comes up for my company name, my personal name, and the phrase “Akron SEO.” It’s because the title of the article is: “Akron SEO Sage Lewis of Sagerock WTF?”

He optimized the hell out of it.

That article caused me a lot of stress. I was shocked by it. There were hundreds of comments. Everybody was out to get me. I still don’t actually like thinking about it in-depth. The people-pleaser in me makes me a little thin-skinned.

But here’s the thing… that was probably the best thing that ever happened to me online.

I received a lot of private support by people who saw it. They didn’t all come out on his blog. Maybe they were afraid they’d get a similar thrashing. So, that was nice.

I feel it elevated my status. Getting put up on Shoemoney’s blog is major exposure.

Also, I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong. He had a point of view and I had a point of view. He just tried his hardest to make me look incompetent and stupid.

His problem was that I was completely off his radar up until that point. While I had nowhere near the exposure he had, I wasn’t a complete nobody. So, he somewhat underestimated me. I was able to reference all my past videos and writings. As it turned out, I happened to know what I was talking about.

More often than not, most exposure is good exposure. That, however, falls down when you’re truly hiding something.

  • If Dominos really ran a place where it was acceptable to urinate in pizza, then this response would have been problematic.
  • If Amazon really hated gay people, then this would have been a real issue.
  • If Motrin really had it out for baby-sling wearing moms, then this campaign might cut into their market share.

But alas, none of that stuff is true at its heart.

Lean forward here. I’m about to tell you a dirty little secret: Part of an effective PR response to these kinds of things is to keep the controversy going.

When you get hit with one of these flare-ups, it’s a gift to not be wasted. You want to issue a response so it all stays in the news. Along the way, you turn the story that, in fact, you’re the good guy. You run an honorable business. You only want to do what is best for your customers.

Think about it like the comedy it is. You start on a high note. Everything is humming along fine. Then the controversy happens, which is the low dip. And finally, the hero prevails, pushing you out of the trough and back into the light.

That’s how every comedy you’ve ever seen happens. Tragedies happen in reverse. The high note is in the middle, not on the ends. This is the curve that real swindlers follow.

People want the resolution. They want a response. Not giving them one ruins the whole plot. While these kinds of things are stressful and painful, realize that they’re also rare treasures. So go forth and don’t be afraid to mix it up a little. It will keep things interesting, and you almost always come out better for it on the other side.

You can file this under both “Promotions” and “Link Building.”

Submissions are now open for the 2009 Search Engine Watch Awards. Enter your company or campaign before July 17, 2009. Winners will be announced at SES San Jose.

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