Seven weeks ago today this blog published a careful study of the social media bona fides of 'thought leader' and author Deborah Perry Piscione. A generous helping of frisson was helpfully added by Ms Perry Piscione herself, in fact, by attempting to quash the post with a threat of legal action. To be exact, two emails from Ms Perry Piscione's aide were sent promising your correspondent a 'cease and desist letter' and possible legal action if the post was published. Awfully rum, eh?
Feeling rather put out by this maneuver, the invitation to meekly withdraw the post was firmly resisted. Casting aside all fears of landing in the legal soup, I forged ahead and even broadened the scope of my inquiry (with much success). In this update I shall do my best to chronicle the aftermath of the post's publication, and the various other events which have happened since. Borrowing a phrase young Alice Lidell coined not long after she plunged down the rabbit hole, this affair grows 'curiouser and curiouser,' chaps.
As one might expect, the response to the post from the general reader was decidedly electric. To date it has received in excess of 3,300 page views and 341 social shares (both figures still climbing steadily), making it by far the most popular post to date on this blog. The post also received a mention on the Social Media Show (hosted by the excellent Eric Swain and Ann Hawkins), and led to an invitation from the Drum to pen a guest opinion piece on the matter (which was for some time the most viewed content on their very popular website - see here for evidence).
All rather bracing stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Boosting career and profile and all that. But what of our subject, Ms Perry Piscione? How has she weathered what must have seemed a dreadful PR storm at her end?
A prominent school of thought in 'crisis management' PR argues that unwanted attention should always be met with total silence. Responding to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune merely makes them penetrate more deeply, so to speak. One should keep schtum in the face of a controversy to starve it of the oxygen of publicity, and all that. As a proponent of this particular style, Ms Perry Piscione can now claim the title of Grand Master. She has remained silent with a thoroughness and panache that would have eluded a less practiced media commentator. Here are the highlights from this tour de force of taciturnity:
- Despite the hundreds of times Ms Perry Piscione was mentioned on Twitter following the post, she has steadfastly ignored the matter across all social media platforms. She did not go to ground altogether, of course. She continued to push links to content with tenuous similarities to her recently published book, the Secrets of Silicon Valley, as if nothing else of importance was happening. A rather breathtaking and admirable display of resolve, in my opinion.
- A few days after the post appeared, her Twitter account setting was mysteriously changed to 'private.' This was a decidedly unexpected move for a public figure such as Ms Perry Piscione to take. Having previously granted an interview with a Seattle newspaper to discuss her husband's lack of employment, and subjected her parenting skills to scrutiny on a CNN show entitled 'Extreme Parenting', one would be forgiven from thinking Ms Perry Piscione was a firm believer in the mantra 'there's no such thing as bad publicity.' Alas, she wavered from this course when it came to her Twitter account. Of course, setting her account to private did prevent readers of this blog from checking her followers themselves, and from getting the latest stats on her account from Status People's fake follower checker (as I suggested they might do in the post). As a motive, this would require a large dose of cynicism, however, and so must be rejected. Ms Perry Piscione's sunny media personality has never betrayed anything but the best of qualities, and we must give her the benefit of the doubt. Whatever her reasons, a few weeks later the account was reset to its previous public setting.
- After the second email promising a cease and desist letter in mid-May, all correspondence from Ms Perry Piscione or her representatives dried up (including the much promised cease and desist letter). Further emails I have sent have all gone unanswered. This included an offer to publish a response by Ms Perry Piscione either as part of a larger post, or possibly even as a standalone post. In essence, I offered Ms Perry Piscione a guest blogging slot - an honour that has never been extended to any other author before. Following previous form, however, she failed to even grace this attempt at even-handedness with a reply.
For not the first time, I would argue that Ms Perry Piscione has miss-stepped PR-wise. The 'silence is golden' wheeze has its place, but it works best when confronted with frivolous, subjective claims. The post in question instead made no claims whatsoever. It merely stated a series of facts without drawing conclusions. Failing to address uncomfortable facts simply makes the facts more sticky.
Whatever one's personal opinion on the matter, there can be no doubting that the MarketingChap.com post will continue to haunt Ms Perry Piscione for some time. Much to my own surprise, current searches for 'Deborah Perry Piscione' on google.com will bring up the post in third position (see below), and in second position on google.co.uk!
From a personal branding perspective then, the threat of legal action followed by resolute silence appears to have backfired spectacularly. Considering how many mentions and reviews Ms Perry Piscione has managed in widely-read publications, the high ranking of this blog on Google is nothing short of flabbergasting.
But what of Ms Perry Piscione's social media following, which was of course the subject of the original post?
For chaps who are firmly in the Perry Piscione camp and maintain that her 18,270 Twitter followers represented a grassroots swell of support for her recent publication, the post-blog-post era has been an unmitigated disaster. Followers have been deserting Ms Perry Piscione's Twitter account like the proverbial rats from a sinking ship. As of writing she has a mere 4,141 remaining, making the overall loss in the last seven weeks a devastating 14,129 souls. Other than this blog (and the Drum opinion piece), there has been no other unflattering publicity for Ms Perry Piscione over the same period. Could this imbroglio alone have triggered such a mass exodus?
One should always dig deeply into these affairs, of course, and one need only turn the spade once or twice to find a more plausible explanation. Much of Ms Perry Piscione's following appears not to have unfollowed in the traditional manner, but rather to have disappeared into the ether. The sample followers mentioned in the previous post (Christin Riff - twitter name @Kristine14798, Zenaida Colver - twitter name @Gabriella95392, Lia Cotrell - twitter name @Sherril_pqsb, and Marry Mongan - twitter name @Tabathadytuy) have all had their accounts suspended. Exceedingly rum luck? It would be, considering how inactive these accounts were. They could hardly be accused of violating Terms of Service on account of their tweets, as none of them ever tweeted. Twitter must have found some other reason to suspend them instead. Perhaps they were, so to speak, 'reality challenged?' One can only speculate.
One need not speculate in the case of one follower in particular, however. My account was blocked from following hers on the same day her account was set to private. A rather unsporting gesture, but then one must be prepared to rise above these things.
Whatever the cause, losing 77% of one's followers is never good news. Fortunately the news from Facebook is far less distressing. The trend on fans is still downward, but less dramatically so (having slipped a mere eleven fans to 3,749). Engagement remains low, but as Ms Perry Piscione has been inactive on both Facebook and Twitter for nearly two weeks this is inevitable. Thought leaders do not always have time for this sort of thing when there are public appearances to be made.
Speaking of public appearances, there is an especially exciting one scheduled for Ms Perry Piscione in coming days: a public lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE) this Monday 8 July at 6:30pm. The event is free and open to all with no ticket required (so pile in chaps! -see here for details). As you may know, the LSE recently had its fingers burned associating itself with some controversial characters. This booking is an encouraging sign that the august institution's appetite for tackling contentious issues has not been blunted. Bravo!
Although it is not explicitly stated in the LSE write-up, attendees might have some hope of snagging a free copy of Ms Perry Piscione's book. According to her website, Ms Perry Piscione's advertised $10,000 - $15,000 speaking fee also comes with 250 free copies of the Secrets of Silicon Valley. No doubt, the assembled brain trust from the LSE will all trouser a copy each, but there may be the odd unclaimed volume floating about for the quick-of-hand to secure.
As a side note, I must compliment Ms Perry Piscione's foresight in stockpiling so many copies of her New York Times bestselling book. She must have acquired thousands! Unlike the scant 250 allotted for live appearances, webinars come with 500 copies a pop! Giving away up to $13,500 worth of her wit and wisdom takes much of the sting out of the hefty speaking fee, doesn't it? An excellent sales strategy, but then we would expect no less.
Best be running now, chaps, as my Auntie Beatrice wants a word on the blower. I am eager to attend the LSE lecture myself on Monday but she is insisting I co-host one of her dreadful soirees that evening instead. A frightful row is in the offing I fear, but sometimes a chap simply must take a stand.