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October 26, 2014
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Don’t Mess With Deadspin: A Public Relations Lesson of What Not To Do

Unless you’re looking for your messages to be publicly mocked online and/or have your email inbox obliterated, I would encourage not attempting to persuade the editors of Deadspin.com to censor their writing.  Especially if you, or the company you keep, are not well respected by said editors.

The short, but amusing and precautionary, story begins with a report by Deadspin – a Gawker-owned sports website that has carved itself a solid off-beat reporting niche – on the International Trade Union Confederation’s release estimating that more than 4,000 migrant workers in Qatar will die before the country’s 2022 World Cup due to the poor living and working conditions.  About 1.4 million migrant, mostly Nepalese and Indian nationals, are in Qatar building the infrastructure necessary to host the world’s biggest soccer tournament and hundreds have already died (at least 717 Indian migrants) according to reporting by The Guardian.  It’s a pretty horrid situation.

Shortly after Deadspin’s account of the ITUC report, editor Tommy Craggs received an email from Paul Hughes, the head of international media relations for Qatar’s Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy (a title in itself – essentially the organizing committee for the 2022 games).  The email refuted the number of deaths – past and estimated – by the ITUC and ended with a implied threat of legal action (“In the meantime, I suggest you re-visit the headline.  It is currently being reviewed by our legal team.”)  You would think that a public relations expert would know better.

Craggs responded by apparently passing on the email to the author of the report in “contention,” Tom Ley, who published the email it is entirety in a subsequent post on the website for all Deadspin readers to see.  It even provoked a snarky reader-produced response article ridiculing Hughes’ public relations savvy, which is fun reading.

Hughes’ misery doesn’t end there, however.

Meanwhile, a massive email “reply all” chain was well under way after Deadspin created a reader NCAA tournament pool on CBS.com, which listed the group email address, rather than the administrator’s address on the page, so that an email sent to the given address was sent to every single person in the massive group.  This (of course) incited a massive chain, which I unfortunately was a part of (having naively joined the group) among readers of purposively nonsensical emails and flooding everyone’s inbox.

Soon after Deadspin published Hughes’ email in their website, Craggs forwarded the email to the group address, right into the midst of the email chain, and endless critical (as well as more nonsensical) emails from its members.  One can only assume that Paul Hughes’ inbox is a claustrophobe’s nightmare.

The lesson here being: probably do some research as a public relations official on an organization’s editorial approach before trying to contact them questioning their standards or credibility if you don’t want to drown in a flood of sarcastic emails.

Or even better, don’t associate with a corrupt organization that explicitly disregards human life and international labor laws in the first place.