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1 post from July 2015

Outrage On Internet Over Lion-Killing Shuts Down Dentist's Website And Office, Hammers Him on Yelp, more...

Www flickr com photos psg3 14429454372

There's a communications crisis happening right now on the Internet that should be of interest to anyone involved in PR / marketing / communications. As you are by now probably aware, a Minnesota dentist apparently paid $55,000 to go big game hunting in Zimbabwe and wound up killing a lion named "Cecil" that was popular with locals and tourists. The dentist admitted that he killed the lion and issued a statement expressing his regret.

The outcry globally has been extremely fierce. Consider this:

  • the Yelp page for the dentistry practice is full of all sorts of negative reviews.
  • the company's website was sluggish earlier yesterday (July 29) and has been completely offline since mid-day yesterday.
  • the company's Facebook page seems to have been taken down (perhaps by the company itself?)
  • videos from the company on YouTube are being slammed full of negative comments.

And a great amount of venom has been spewed at the dentist and his company in many other forums all across the Internet. (Ex. over 6,300 comments in a Reddit thread!) As a result, the dentist has now closed his office, putting his staff out of work and referring all his patients to other nearby dentists. Protests are happening at his office - and all over the Internet.

It seems like the company is trying to react on Twitter:

but I am admittedly a bit suspicious because:

  1. The Twitter account misspells "Bluff" with only one F.
  2. The Twitter account seems to have no tweets before yesterday and has only 59 tweets (at the time I write this).

However, I thought I got to that Twitter account from the dentist office's website when I could still get there after first learning about this story yesterday morning. And the account is tweeting out positive things about the company. Which makes me think it is real...

Either way, we are currently seeing a serious level of retribution for this action.

While I personally can't understand why someone would go and kill a lion - and do understand the outrage felt by so many, I do wonder about the scale of the retribution directed at this dentist.

From my own experiences with dentist offices, they typically do involve a number of different people who just work there. All of those employees (plus the patients) - who had nothing to do with the killing of the lion - are affected by the actions of the outraged people across the Internet who are shutting down this business.

As communicators, are you ready for something like this?

If the actions of an employee, or owner in this case, were to generate this level of outrage on the Internet, do you have a plan to cope with it?

And can you implement that plan on Internet speed?

Realizing, of course, that there are very few ways to know if you'd be truly ready to cope, but there are things you can do both technically (ex. have a CDN in front of your website) and from a process point of view (ex. have a plan!).

As Christopher Penn said today in a post inside of Facebook "Mob rule is scary." Indeed it is.

What would you do if your company or organization found itself in the cross-hairs of global outrage?

P.S. You can discuss this in the FIR Podcast Community on Google+.

Photo credit: a cropped version of this photo from Peter Glenday on Flickr. (I don't actually know that it is "Cecil" outside of the fact that it is tagged with that name and was taken in Zimbabwe.)