Online Marketing: 10 lessons from the James Ray incident

Many of you know I’m not a news watcher, so when my mastermind group shared the news about the James Ray ‘death lodge’ incident today, I was a bit taken aback, but not totally surprised.

I can’t begin to comment on the tragedy that occurred, nor on anything that Ray represents. That’s not what this post is about. Anytime someone dies unexpectedly – for any reason – there are questions, pain, and more suffering than anyone should ever have to endure.

I’ll save that for others better qualified than I to investigate.

This is not to negate or downplay ANYTHING that happened in Arizona. On the contrary, these 10 lessons are important for everyone in business to learn – and fast, regardless of the outcome of the investigation:

First, at least one major media outlet was compelled to include James’ twitter id in their article. James couldn’t be reached for comment, so the outlet ripped quotes from his twitter page regarding the incident.

Lesson one: Make sure what you’re sharing online is fit to print.
Lesson two: Even the media recognizes the marketing value of sites like twitter – and has no compunction about using it to THEIR advantage either!

At seeing his twitter id, I got curious – as I’m sure many others did. After a small amount of digging, I discovered that even after the news reports reaching national media, James’ follower count continues to increase – by nearly a hundred a day!

Lesson three: Even bad press can bring you new followers
Lesson four: It doesn’t mean those followers are quality – they could be waiting to watch you hang.

James has recently come under fire for his high-pressure sales tactics – in fact, many have alleged “brain washing” during this tragedy – to the extreme. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, our job is not to sell people stuff. Our job is to help people make informed decisions that will improve their lives.

Anything less than that, and we’re doing a disservice to our clients and to ourselves.

James, one of the featured ‘stars’ of “The Secret” has been delivering a message of profound impact for years. Just because the messenger “falls from grace” doesn’t make the message any less meaningful for the people it has impacted.

Often times we, as a society (even a global one) put a person on a pedestal that they do not rightly belong on. Remember, we are all fatally flawed. Again, this is not to downplay anything that happened in Arizona. But how often have we falling in love with the music of a singer, the athleticism of a pro ball player or the work of a master artist only to have our graven image of them dashed on the rocks when they inevitably mar our picture perfect image of them with some human error?

It doesn’t negate the beauty of the work, only the character of the person. I know several people that have been positively impacted by Ray’s message. The deep disappointment they are dealing with now, is difficult to navigate. AND there are fans of Ray’s that are defending him to the end.

Lesson five: Never place yourself above anyone else. You are no more, and no less than any other human on the planet.
Lesson six: When you do your job well, you will have die hard fans that will follow you to the ends of the earth and defend your honor in any situation.

In reading the reports, I read the name “Howard Bragman” as Ray’s Publicist. Bragman is considered one of the greatest PR guys in the industry. In fact, I just picked up his book “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?” at my local library last week, so I’m watching with interest to see how this shakes out. Jim Lampley said “When you’re on the ropes, you want Howard Bragman in your corner.” That’s a quote from the back cover of Bragman’s book.

No doubt, Bragman is keeping his client quiet until there’s time to sort through everything – which is smart. While many people are railing agains Ray’s silence, the WORST thing he could do is open his mouth and “insert his foot”.

As a business owner, everything he has is at stake here – and he knows it (along with the rest of the world). He may be dying inside to offer apologies, or tell his side of everything (or not), but even a well-intended apology could come off as a makehift admission of guilt if the media has an opportunity to spin it.

I’m reminded of the fortune cookie where it’s better to remain silent, than to open your mouth and “remove all doubt”. Innocence (or guilt) should be determined by qualified authorities – and I ain’t one of them.

Lesson seven: everything you say can be used against you in times of trouble. Make every word count
Lesson eight: even when you’re trying to do right, it can be misconstrued, and you’ll never make everyone happy.

We as a public, want answers. We as business owners need to look at this situation and learn.

Be proactive, remember we’re dealing with people’s lives – whether we sell shoes or inspiration. Whether we offer $.99 widgets or $10,000 week-long retreats. Whatever we’re doing needs to be focused on serving others, providing value and reaping the benefits of the work we’ve done. That implies the work must be done before the reward is received.

Coaches, trainers and speakers need to be on the offensive here. In just a few short hours since I’ve learned of this tragedy, already the barrage of “snake oil”, “shyster” and other epithets have already created a firestorm online. Let’s be sure we’re not slapping an unwarranted label on an entire industry just because things went awry. Should there be failsafes in place? Absolutely. Inasmuch as direct sellers have gotten a bum rap for the slimy, pushy salesmen that have weasled their way through our organizations, so too may we find the motivational industry likewise marred by this horriffic event.

Where’s the justice in that?

Lesson nine: those who paint with broad brush strokes make great white washers
Lesson ten: It takes great effort and much patience to work with a detailed hand.

Probably not the lessons you were expecting, but I’m known for my irreverence.

When I originally created this blog – as “Real Life Marketing” – the objective was to show how we could learn significant lessons for marketing our business from the everyday things that go on around us. While this is one event I hope never becomes an every day occurence, you can certainly see the lessons we can all walk away with from this tragedy. There are others, to be sure. As business owners, we need to be mindful, and ever ready to protect ourselves, our investment and our business.