PR Blowback: Value Your Community — Or Else


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Business Week has a terrific piece up (“Sony: The Company That Kicked the Hornet’s Nest“) on how the now-embattled gaming giant did much to create its own crisis — not just by inadequately monitoring network security, but by utterly failing to connect with, shall we say, the black sheep of its community. Spot-on analysis, and yet more proof that all the brains in the world won’t save you from a lack of common sense.

I wrote about this story myself a few weeks ago, chastising Sony for the short-sightedness of suing a bright young hacker, rather than bringing him into the fold (as those paragons of openness, Microsoft and Google, do). Net, net, Sony went on the (extremely defensive) offensive, and by the time they were inking a settlement and declaring victory, someone was already testing their network for exploitable weakness. Suffice it to say that the young, sharp hacker community wasn’t feeling the Sony love.

There’s a tremendous lesson in here about the very real, very unintended consequences of old-school strong-arm tactics in a world of jailbreaking, crowdsourcing, and frighteningly talented kids. Sony’s initial hacking problems — like so many other tech PR crises this year — could have been headed off at the pass by inclusive communication in place of lawsuits.

Maybe their gaming network would still have come under attack (maybe not), but the feeling of the situation wouldn’t be the digital genii vs. Sony. They could have been partners instead.

By taking a stand against device unlocking and homemade games, Sony no doubt believed that they were only taking the responsible corporate stance — but it was a good move for a different time. Now, instead of looking justified and professional, Sony looked petulant and made itself a big, attractive, and obviously vulnerable target.

It’s an interesting twist, actually, on the Japanese proverb, “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down.” If Sony hadn’t been blustering about the size of its hammer, it might have seen the rain of blows coming.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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