How to Nip Controversy in the Bud (Plus Mob Justice.)

I came across a post the other day from the ultra-brilliant Seth Godin on mob justice and it got my gears turning – especially in light of the recent controversy in the sprint car world between two series’ and comments that were allegedly made to a reporter.

In this post from 2005, Godin lays out one of the side effects of media in which the readers can also comment back publicly:

1. Controversy is fun to write
2. Controversy is fun to read
3. Piling on is safe and fun
4. Undoing 1, 2 and 3 is no fun, hard work and easy to avoid.

Fueling controversy, he argues, is like ‘mob justice’ – when someone decides to “spread a rumor, a posse would appear, ask no questions, beat the crap out of you and move on.”

He continues:

“A friend of mine is now in a similar situation (and, as Arlo Guthrie famously said, “you may find yourself in a similar situation…”). And the question is, what should he do.

If he takes the time to point out to those bloggers that they’re wrong, that they’ve taken one data point and blown it out of proportion while ignoring the facts (and there are many facts that they’ve ignored) he’s just adding fuel to the fire. “Of course you’ll deny it,” they’ve said to him on the phone, “that just proves we’re right”.”

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Well that sucks!’ Then I’d have to agree with you and Seth. Because whether or not you said the thing or did the deed, you’ll be called a liar. There’s no difference in your defense when you’re being accused.

There is only your word.

Many people who are opposed to social media might say that social is the reason for this controversy. It fueled the fire.

But I would argue the opposite: an active social media presence could have nipped this controversy in the bud.

Building your character in a public place like social media gives you the opportunity to show people who you are long before there’s a controversy. It also gives you a platform, on which people already trust you – so important!, to get your message out.

Some people in our industry argue that social media will be the downfall of racing. Instead of combatting it, why not use it to let people get to know you, your team, your series, or your track before you need to tell them your very-important-message? Your competitors are.

By the time those without platforms catch up, it might not matter what’s truth and what’s just mob justice. And that sucks for them.


P.S. If you’re here reading this, I’m probably preaching to the (incredibly on-it) choir. Want to encourage your favorite track, series, racing business or teammate to see the value in a social presence beyond selfies? Feel free to hit the email button below to share this with them.

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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.