Crisis Management for Lion Killers

The story of the Dr. “Lion Slayer” Palmer is all over the internet and people are outraged, for good reason. His dental practice is in limbo and he is in hiding after receiving death threats. Well done Internet… you have already surpassed the attention span of a #hashtag with this one.

I am conflicted on this story for many reasons. Big game hunting is deplorable, and there is no justification for it with licenses sold to the ultra-wealthy who are partaking in the experience for the sport of it. If the goal is herd management, have trained naturalists do the killing in a clinical manner and take advantage of the carcasses for research instead of skinning it and mounting the head as a trophy.

Here’s where my conflict hits a high pitch, the outrage that is being expressed by this story is disproportionate to the actual harm. In no small measure, this is due to the victim is an animal, a majestic animal rather than a deer or furry ground squirrel. African lions are threatened, not endangered, and the bulk of them live in a cluster of habitats like the one the one that was killed. Habitat destruction is a bigger threat to lions than hunting.

syrian atrocitiesHow do we square the universal outrage expressed about the killing of a lion with the antipathy to 200,000 people killed in Syria, including women and children gassed to death by the Assad regime? What about the near 8 million Syrians who have been forced to abandon their homes because of this civil war? Where can I post a satirical comment on Bashar al-Assad’s Yelp page?

The Internet is a marvelous creation that engages and connects people throughout the world. However, the unintended consequence of social media activism is that it is often a substitute for actual activism but with far less impressive results. We live in a world of #hashtags that create a false sense of engagement and deludes people into believing they made a difference. The half-life of a hashtag is hours; it is nothing more than an expression of vanity to attach your online personality to a cause… and then move on.

Where is the outrage about African countries selling the rights to kill these animals to the highest bidder? That, to me, is missing in focus here.

Here’s what I recommend that the Lion Slayer do to rehabilitate his image:

  1. Ride it out: We hit the crescendo of public outrage yesterday and by the end of the week the majority of people will have moved on. Making statements now does nothing to quell the firestorm and based on what he has already released, more damage is being done.
  2. Ignore the Zimbabwe authorities: This is a country run by a notorious thug, Robert Mugabe, who has ruined the economy and perpetuated many human rights abuses over his 33 year dictatorship. The U.S. ignores him, so should Palmer.
  3. Rebrand the clinic: River Bluff Dental is cooked, time to start over. He will have to actively manage the social media and review sites for NewCo. so plan on hiring a firm to do that over a protracted period of time.
  4. Focus on the local community: A dental practice is inherently local, it doesn’t matter what “Kim T. from San Gabriel, CA” thinks. Palmer needs to reach out to his local community and focus on the collective values of the practice, the people who rely on it for jobs, and the many people who have been served (apparently he is an accomplished dentist).
  5. Give up big game hunting: As already stated, it’s just immoral so give it up. Hunting is a big part of life in Minnesota so his local community will not object to hunting for local game. If he wants to go to Africa, take a camera instead of a bow.
  6. Take up animal conservation: His crime was in killing a majestic animal, the penance for that is supporting the preservation of majestic animals. I would recommend a strategy of donating a fixed percentage of revenue from the clinic to vetted causes, and being transparent about it.

If Michael Vick can rehabilitate his image after going to prison for dog fighting, I think Palmer has a good shot, no pun intended.

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Hitching Your Boat to Customer Advocacy

I recently wrote about how McDonald’s and RIM had flamed out with their #hashtag campaigns on Twitter. Not pretty.

However, I admit that I am somewhat conflicted about this because I completely subscribe to the notion that customer advocacy will drive successful companies to sustainable competitive leadership. Gone are the days when a company could rely on IT investments for productivity enhancements and supply chain management for lower cost of goods; those things are still necessary but they are also commoditized, your competitors can make the same backoffice investments and the effect will be nullification of any advantage you previously enjoyed.

Institutions of all stripes are at a crossroads when it comes to how they take advantage of the goodwill that is extended to them by customers who are happy with them. The old way would be for the company to productize customer testimonial and package it up through traditional channels… the problem is that this is like going to a zoo that features puppets and animatronics instead of actual animals. Customer testimonials don’t work because they are not believable, customers have figured out the game and aren’t playing along.

Esurance is doing something that is really worth watching, they have built an advertising campaign that comes down to a simple message, “go to our Facebook fan page and see for yourself”. They let it all roll out in, apparently, an unmoderated format and the effect is that the negative comments actually amplify the positive comments.

I like this a lot, no pun intended.

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Put Down the #Hashtag Campaign

McDonald’s recently had to endure the ignominy of a Twitter hashtag campaign that was hijacked for the purpose of highlighting what people don’t like about the Golden Arches. The #McDStories campaign blew up and even after McDonald’s tried to shut it down the hashtag lived on for days.

Today we have RIM, the company that can do no right… #BeBold is proving to be yet another lesson in why your company should not try to co-opt Twitter in an organized fashion unless you are absolutely certain that people love your brand.

RIM has denied that this is an ad campaign in a blog post that features a string of less than encouraging comments… which will be my next blog post, titled “turn off commenting if people don’t love your brand and you don’t care”.

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