How we can learn from Pewdiepie's recent media blowout

As someone who spends far too much time online, I often end up reading about media stories that have nothing to do with my business or work. But one particular issue that recently hit the headlines over the past week has made me want to write this blog post.

If you haven't heard, Pewdiepie, Youtube's most successful star, was caught in a controversy that had everyone from Wall Street Journal to J.K. Rowling commenting on him.

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about the use of antisemitic material in Pewdiepie's videos. The WSJ accompanied their article with their own video which cut and cropped small snippets of Pewdiepie's content to make a montage; showing he used Nazi imagery and other anti-Semitic content frequently in his videos.

The end result was that Pewdiepie lost his sponsorship with Disney and his YouTube Red show was cancelled (where over 100 people had worked on it). Every other media website covered the issue and lots of Youtubers aired their voices on the subject about who was in the wrong and who wasn't.

You can view Pewdiepie's response below:

He apologizes for his jokes but he also lambasted the media for taking things out of context just to get clicks. Whether you agree with him or not, the damage had already been done. Losing a sponsorship and Youtube endorsements would have cost Pewdiepie heavily.

Of course, for Pewdiepie the money doesn't really matter too much; he himself has proclaimed he has made multiple millions of dollars from his videos. As long as his channel doesn't get shut down, he can still make plenty through monetisation and you can bet another sponsor will be eager to get Pewdiepie onboard.

But what got me really thinking was: could my own business survive something like this? I really doubt it. When you get this much negative coverage, you have to be at the top of your game to really to be able to withstand it. Pewdiepie also had the backing of his millions of fans- they (like him) blamed the media for misconstruing his videos and taking his content out of context. In fact, this whole episode has probably increased the exposure for his videos.

But for a small-time business to get caught up in such negativity, it can have a long-lasting effect. It reminds me of when football pundits say racist or inappropriate comments on live television; this usually ends with their careers being left in tatters and banished to the world of small irrelevant media in other countries where no one knows them.

It serves as a good reminder that what you say, what opinions you air in public and how you treat other people can have an impact on your own business. There's so many ways to interact with people online that it's almost too easy to get involved in some kind of confrontation. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and the hundreds of other social media sites, your next argument is really just a click away. Once you put something on the internet, it's very hard to get rid of it.

A very infamous example of what can go wrong when saying the wrong things is of a man named Gerald Ratner. He owned a popular high-street jewellery chain store in England, estimated to once have over 50% of the market share. At a conference he made several comments regarding the worthlessness of his own products; one in particular was a comment that a Mark's and Spencer's Prawn Sandwich would last longer than some of the jewellery he sold.

You can guess what happened next. Almost overnight he went out of business; customers were offended and decided his stores no longer deserved their hard-earned money.

It took him a decade to build his company and within a year he was fired; all because the owner showed zero respect to his paying customers.

I often have to interact with many clients each day; sometimes english is not their native language and sometimes they can be very young, so communication can be difficult. Every now and then I will get someone who is very frustrated and demand I help them immediately, in all sorts of disrespectful ways. A lot of young entrepreneurs will gladly tell these customers to get lost; in fact, some seasoned veterans make a point of not helping these types of customers.

The problem is, especially if it's done publicly (like on a forum or comment support system) other potential buyers will see your replies. For a customer who doesn't know your brand or product, their impressions are going to be made on how you interact with other customers. If someone sees you reply with a professional attitude to a client who is raging, even if they are spouting absolute nonsense, they will be more inclined to take your side.

You have to be very careful with your public image because it's so easy to offend someone. We all have our own opinions on the world; freedom of speech allows us to freely express our beliefs in something without persecution. But it also means your customers can choose to shop elsewhere if they feel offended. For business, you want to be able to reach the biggest markets possible to maximise profits.

It all comes down to trying to be understanding and professional. Even as a one person team, you can still show that you have great respect for everyone and your customers, even if they come across as rude and unpleasant. Your customers and clients are the key to having a successful business.

You might think it makes a business boring when they have no "personality" or "character", but you can have those attributes without being offensive. I suppose that if Pewdiepie was an unknown Youtuber, very few people would have made a comment about it. But since he's in the spotlight, his words and actions are put under a microscope. As a business, yours are too. In an age where reviews and ratings are key, you want to make sure yours are filled with glowing remarks and professionalism.

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