Last week Rush Limbaugh said some hateful things on the radio and now he's paying the price with a loss of advertisers and pressure on local stations to drop his syndicated show from those who've always wanted to silence his voice and now sense he's given them the perfect opportunity.
While I doubt any marketer would ever be stupid enough to use words as inappropriate as Mr. Limbaugh, blogging, social media and interactive communications require that you have an opinion to be interesting. And, if you're doing it right people will disagree with you.
So how do you put your opinions out there in a way that won't create a firestorm of negativity when others challenge you?
Mr. Limbaugh clearly did not do his research on Ms. Fluke's testimony. So not only was his argument offensive, it was inaccurate. Because of this any subsequent apology was weakened by the fact that he had to try to explain why he didn't know what he was talking about.
Think beyond your target.
The Dittoheads ate up the attack on Ms. Fluke. They got Mr. Limbaugh's special brand of "satire." Unfortunately for him, the rest of the world saw it as an ignorant, hateful rant. By not understanding that people may have found his mischaracterization of Ms. Fluke offensive, he energized a group much larger than his base.
Constantly monitor and respond to feedback.
Reaction to Mr. Limbaugh's on air tirade was swift. He, however, was slow to listen and respond. It wasn't until three days after the event started that he issued an apology. And, his apology reads like someone who wasn't listening to the criticism. That (and the politics that are baked deep into this controversy) are why so many are slow to accept it.
Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
Speak as though those you are communicating with are in the room with you. Just because there's a microphone, camera, Twitter feed or Facebook wall between you and your audience, doesn't mean they're not human and won't react emotionally. The golden rule of online marketing applies here. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't say it online.
It's not often we get so public and obvious a teaching moment. My thanks to Mr. Limbaugh for making my job easy this morning.