The higher you climb, the more fans you get. Subsequently, the higher you climb, the more people are there to point out flaws in your arguments. Openly calling someone out for misinformation has always been a practice. Whether through poetry as was popular in the 1700s or through the internet as is popular today, you can’t amass an enormous following without amassing watchdogs there to make sure your ego doesn’t climb too high.
The Set Up
Such is how it recently happened in an exchange between businessman Mark Cuban and writer Amy Vernon. In a recently published article for Inc., Vernon targeted Cuban’s new bid for wealth, an app known as Cyber Dust, systematically pointing out all of the flaws in Cuban’s argument as presented in an exclusive Inc. video. In it, Cuban paints the picture of the privacy breach we’re all scared of. After all, everything we post online is accessible by everyone, can be screen captured by everyone and, according to Cuban, will be used by companies to profile potential hires. This means who you follow, who you retweet and everyone you come into contact with online is a potential threat. Immediately following this, he goes on to describe his new app and how it will protect your information when “30 seconds after they [the receiver] open it, the message disappears.”
While a great idea in theory, Vernon caught on to a few mistakes in the video and wrote her article breaking apart the weaknesses piece by piece. In it, she’s quick to point out that “Cyber Dust absolves itself of any responsibility if a message is not removed or deleted” in addition to the company not being responsible for screen captures. She also brings up the argument that Cuban’s advice to delete past tweets is a poor decision because “if you delete them and someone has a screenshot and doctors it, you have no way of proving it’s doctored.” All in all, it was not a slanderous post so much as a warning to those quickly jumping on to an app that purported to do things it cannot.
The ball was now in Cuban’s court. As much of a personality and figurehead as he is, it would be poor PR to simply ignore the holes poked in the argument he presented for his app project. What came next was a very simple personal branding lesson on maintaining professionalism during such socially broadcasted spats. The same day the article was posted, the response war began in earnest. Amongst truly interested parties and diehard fans of both names, the two engaged in a battle of words and facts. By the time the dust settled, it became clear that Vernon was the real winner.
While frustrating to both sides, Vernon maintained a calm, collected voice for the debate, never slipping into emotionally charged comments. She didn’t respond much on Twitter but did so when good questions came up. All in all, her main focus remained on the questions she had raised, nothing more. Her opponent, on the other hand, did his best to provide answers but ended up taking a childish route, insulting Vernon with, “Amy the next time you do any actual research on this topic will be your first time”.
The Lesson for Your Personal Brand
Arguments will inevitably happen. Not everyone can agree on everything and that’s okay. The most important thing you can take away from this exchange is the fact that professionalism is the key to protecting your brand through anything. Though Vernon’s article was not inflammatory and merely brought inconsistencies in the presentation of the product, you may very well find yourself against far more slanderous opponents unopposed to writing articles that are derogatory in nature.
Keep Your Cool
The person who gets emotional about it loses the respect of those looking or listening in.
In your business or work environment, keeping a calm demeanor will be beneficial to you. Often, individuals try to rally the crowd especially when they feel the other person is wrong. Yet, if you try to do that by being negative or insulting to the other person you will end up losing. That negativity clings to you and ends up tainting what ever you are saying. When you get personal with direct attacks, it reflects negatively on you, personally.
Utilize Your Resources
Using facts, statistics and quotes can help support your findings or “side” and if you’re not an expert on the topic then do bring in resources who are and can speak to it.
Bringing subject matter experts into the conversation, causes everyone to listen carefully. Instead of listening to reply, they are truly listening to each of the points of information shared.
When you can use logic and known experts or expert resources to support you, then not only do you elevate the discussion, you elevate your personal brand.
Keep Communication Open
Communication and debates between two people lend themselves to keeping the lines of communication open since each person involved in the conversation is trying to convince the other person and share enough pertinent information that they may concede their point.
When the argument has an audience, on Twitter, or other social sites, then the theatrics of belittling your adversary can come into play. Keep them out if you want your personal brand to be viewed as professional.
Ridiculing your adversary attracts the same reaction as name calling and in the court of public opinion can quickly categorize you as a “bully”.
Whatever it is you’re up against, always go back to Debate 101 rules. Stick to the facts, apologize when necessary and never, ever resort to emotions. When all eyes are on you and how you’ll react to a challenger, everyone, whether they support you or not, is waiting for you to slip up by getting emotional. Through denying this, you deny your opponent any leverage against you, making you the victor. Those watching will see the person offending you as being in the wrong, and you’ll be able to continue onward without having lost support. And, you’ll keep your personal brand professional.
Vernon, A. (2015, 11 June). What Mark Cuban Gets Wrong About Social Media. Retrieved from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/amy-vernon/mark-cuban-is-wrong.html