I live in America and therefore I can really only speak to what Americans do, but recently the notion has really been reinforced that America is a nation of overreactors. We take events that should really be mildly disturbing at best and turn them into headline (or near headline) news.
If you disagree with me let me bring up four examples from the last week/month. (if you do agree feel free to just skip the list and go to the takeaway)
- Michael Phelps smoking marijuana. This story has been covered on every news outlet from ESPN to the NY Times. People questioned whether he could face repercussions from the Olympics or whether his sponsors would drop him. My thought? Dude smoked pot at a college party… so? Do you have any idea how much pot has been smoked at college parties in this country? This isn’t crack, he wasn’t endangering himself or anyone else (like many who get arrested for DUI) and in a week and a half no ones going to care.
- Joe Torre’s book. You know what was creating a buzz? He said David Wells was a pain in the ass and A-rod acted like a fraud to try to fit in when he first got to NY. While some people said he broke a sacred trust of the locker room or that he’s saying some really salacious stuff my reaction: He didn’t tell anything we didn’t already know. Heck A-rod even knew people called him A-Fraud when he first got there.
- Porn during the Super Bowl. Apparently in Arizona a 10-30 second clip of porn was shown after Larry Fitzgerald had scored a touchdown. Some comments i read online were complete outrage, they wanted heads to roll (figuratively i assume, but some may quite literally have meant it). My reaction: it was a mistake it shouldn’t have happened, but unless it was intentional by someone or a frequent occurrence you move on. Those precious children we’re so worried about? Just tell them its adults doing adult things and move on. I’m no psychologist, but I don’t think they’re going to be scarred for life.
- Don’t mess with Memphis? A Social Media guy from Ketchum was going to Memphis to talk to Fedex and wrote on twitter he couldn’t stand Memphis. This set off a myriad of tweets, blog entries etc about what not to do with social media. Me? I just thought people trash talk NJ all the time. So while I agree the Ketchum fellow probably should have been smarter and more cautious, the Fedex people really need to examine why they’re so sensitive to criticism about Memphis.
So what should a smart person/company learn from these overreactions? React, but Don’t overreact.
Omega, Speedo and the rest of Michael Phelps sponsors realized it was not a serious story and stood by Phelps. They issued statements in reaction of it, but they stood by him. Why? because they know its in the better interest of their business.
Comcast and NBC if they’re smart will assess the situation figure out how it happened and move on. They’ll monitor the online conversation, make apologies to those who were offended, and send out an official statement of apology, but they’ll realize heads don’t need to roll in order to fix the situation.
Again, react but don’t overreact.