Posts Tagged ‘Malina Saval’


This Week’s Shot of Fresh: Google Might Get You Arrested, Never Compare Fans to Muftis, and a Doff to Jargon

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Shot of Fresh: our roundup of this week’s Fresh Ideas content.

flickr user StuartWebster
flickr user StuartWebster

Gmail Changes = Time to Revisit Your Online Settings

Now Google Plus users can send you an email on your Gmail account even if they don’t have your email address. And if someone takes out a restraining order on you, they probably shouldn’t be part of your Google circle.

Outlander and the Power of the Fan Base

A Variety reporter pens a poorly-worded synopsis of Outander, a new show on Starz, fans respond in droves, and in a tweet the journalist compares fans to muftis issuing fatwas a la Salman Rushdie and the Ayatollah. PR, ur doin it rong.

Jargonology, Episode 1: Hashtagectomy

Jargon: Love it, hate it, ignore it completely, it’s not going anywhere. And so we created Jargonology, our grand gesture to the maligned corporate lexicon. Sit back, relax, and take 27 seconds out of your day to learn the latest in tongue-in-cheek vocabulary.

Outlander and the Power of the Fan Base

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
flickr user Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

flickr user Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

The digital age has given fan bases and brand advocates the tools to unite with unprecedented speed and volume, something Variety no doubt learned this weekend when one of their writers incited a fan firestorm.

The Television Critics Association winter press tour began last week, and naturally, television critics were covering it in force, one of them being Malina Saval, associate features editor at Variety. In her article, “12 Cable Shows That TCA Convinced Us to Watch,” Saval mentioned Starz’s upcoming series Outlander. Here’s how she described it:

“This new series is based on the internationally bestselling novels by Diana Gabaldon that bored middle-age housewives have been going absolutely bananas over. It’s set in the 1700′s, involves time travel and sexy period-piece costumes, and its Harlequin Romance-esque plot is sure to fuel breathy playground chatter for the next year. “

A few months back, we noted how successful Starz’s viral campaign became even before the shooting began. That success was – and still is – due in large part to a vast and very dedicated fan base. A few people in that fan base saw Saval’s article, posted it to online fan groups, and some of the fans mobilized. Variety’s articles usually get comments in the single digits, but Saval’s article has nearly 500 comments at the time of posting, every single one of which refutes Saval’s characterization of Outlander and its fan base.

I’m a fan of the books (and, if it matters, neither middle-aged nor housewife). But I don’t have to be to see that Saval’s comments were incorrect (the books are not genre romance novels, and ergo cannot be Harlequin) and, more importantly, misogynist; Saval not only implied that female tastes are inherently “frivolous,”* but that by virtue of the series being popular with women, it’s not to be taken seriously. This synopsis also did nothing to endear the many men who enjoy the series.

My first instinct was to think that Saval had inadvertently caused the flurry of comments with a flippant two-sentence synopsis. But let’s also acknowledge that journalists are in a tough spot: in a contracting profession with heavy emphasis on digital presence, there’s pressure to get high traffic and rankings. So it’s conceivable that, in trying to garner page views with a segment that is not Variety’s primary audience, Saval, knowing the strength of the Outlander fan base, phrased her synopsis as she did in a bid to reap comments and page views. Machiavellian? Yes. Effective? Very.

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the whole situation was the 48 hours of silence from Variety and Saval. Engagement – with your fans, your readers, even with your badvocates – is one of the top credos of modern-day PR, and the comments went unacknowledged until yesterday afternoon, when Saval tweeted:

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 9.45.14 PM

If Saval’s comments weren’t intentionally provocative, her response certainly was. Comparing fans’ responses to a fatwa isn’t engagement – it’s on the verge of trolling, and is a pretty great example of how not to respond if you actually want to engage. And while PR bandies the word “engage” around a lot, we need to recognize that it goes far beyond making a melodramatic comparison to political persecution; it’s about reaching out to those who have had a negative response and acknowledging their experience. Community is about the conversation; it’s what makes the comment sections important in online media.

If the tone of her initial synopsis wasn’t intentional, Saval unwittingly turned herself into a classic example of one of the tenets of PR: don’t underestimate the power of a fan base. It doesn’t matter if it’s your base or someone else’s fan base, because there will be backlash.

That’s why engaging your fan base is so incredibly vital: Your fans and advocates are crucial to your success. One of the reasons the Outlander television series has almost every fan on board is because the main cast, writers, producers, author, and even the costume designer continually engage with fans on Twitter. They make the fans a part of the brand they already love, and respect them for who they are. When you nurture your audience like that, they come to your defense in force; when you ignore them, they’re left with a bitter taste and negative feelings.

*Quotation marks connoting not that Saval said such tastes are frivolous, but that “chick lit” and romance novels get the (undeserved) reputation of being frivolous