So you put on a conference, and manage to land a great number of A-list speakers, albeit some were doing it as a “favor” and others wanted to be able to write off a trip to Miami, but well-known pseudo celebrity speakers in the industry. The conference – Interactivity Digital in South Beach Miami – actually took place in May earlier this year, so it’s quite a feat to manage to piss off nearly every speaker there months after the fact. But that is precisely what Gary Henderson decided to do when Interactivity Digital created a video titled “Shit Digital Marketers Say”, which took bits and pieces of presentations, COMPLETELY out of context, to make all those speakers sound like arrogant assholes. Definitely a great way to say how much you appreciated them making your conference a success.
The subtitle was just as horrible – “The Men of South Beach #ID2013”, which raises the question of what the hell did he have planned for the video of the women status conference? I shudder to imagine.
Rand Fishkin: “I visit Silicon Valley quite a bit”
Marty Weintraub: “We’re hiring, Duluth is amazing”
Simon Heseltine: “I teach at Georgetown University”
Bill Hunt: “Do we suck less or do we suck more than our competitors?”
Peter Shankman “How many of you have ever been in a relationship. Like offline, like an actual physical relationship with a person?”
I could go on, but you can watch it in all its cringeworthy goodness here.
Now, at the time of the event, and they did a blog post with 25 different tips from all the same speakers that they are now making look ridiculous. So definitely wasn’t like they didn’t have some great content to pick and choose from, these speakers had some kick ass quotes, but they decide to put out things that make them look like assholes? Smart move. If he actually did the video with these kickass quotes, he would have gotten a ton of views and a ton of shares, but no, he went for pissing off (and on) the speakers instead.
Simon Heseltine was the first person to point out the video (you must be friends with Simon to view it unfortunately and at 125 comments and counting, it was too long to post multiple screen shots here) and the horrible impression it gave when he said “So you manage to get a bunch of good industry speakers to your first show. You did a good job, we did a good job. Now you trash us with a disrespectful, taken out of context video and article. It’s a good job you’ve cancelled your follow up show or I would have pulled out of speaking at it today.” And it didn’t take long for people to call out the conference and Gary who actually made some responses to the controversy. You know how they say you can calm a social media storm with great comments? Obviously his company doesn’t follow that social media practice based on his responses.
So after Gary Henderson ruffled all those feathers, did he grovel and apologize to those speakers he pissed off? Pffft, of course not. He bitched about the people complaining instead.
Gary Henderson decided to send a private message to at least one of those complainers, Miranda Miller, and told her “Stop being a drama queen and find something worthwhile to do.” Sorry Gary, the drama queen certainly isn’t the person standing up for what’s right, its the person who insists nothing was wrong.
Yep, definitely the way to smooth those ruffled feathers, when she was simply standing up for what she saw was the total mistreatment of her friends by this guy who deemed her a drama queen. He also chided her – in a public thread about the video – “You don’t talk bad about people you don’t know in public. People make mistakes, apologize to the person they upset and delete the post. Let it be.” My bad, wasn’t that essentially what he was doing in his video, making all those speakers look like douches?
Good thing he cancelled his big party at Pubcon. He cancelled his next conference that was set for December (not surprisingly, he stated he only sold 6 tickets) and then cancelled the Pubcon party. Although I know that if the party was still going on, everyone who matters would rather pay for drinks in the bar than the open bar promised at their party.
A public apology for the wrong impression the video gave, and groveling to those offended would have gone a long way to repairing relationships and smoothing out those feathers. But instead he decided to berate those who had an issue with it when a heartfelt “my bad, we screwed up” would have worked wonders and we all would move on to the next SEO scandal and I wouldn’t have bothered writing about it. And enough industry professionals who were in the original video would have held it up as “sometimes we get bad ideas, here is what one company did and how they made it right”, instead of us talking about how he made it worse.