How To Trash Your PR At The Touch Of A Button: Of Holosync, Bill Harris, and Silencing Critics
“You will literally meditate like a Zen monk at the touch of a button!!”
That’s one of the oft repeated sales pitches for the Holosync system, a set of binaural-beat brainwave entrainment CDs from Bill Harris’s CenterPointe Research Institute. According to the rest of the sales material, it slices, it dices, enlightens and happifies, fixes you buttered toast, and offers you fresh squeezed orange juice. Organic, I’m sure.
Ok, I made a lot of that up.
Still, the actual benefits claimed for Holosync are both pretty darn vague and pretty darn sensational. CenterPointe’s head honcho has quite a rep for hard-core (and some would say obnoxious) marketing practices, so vague and sensational are to be expected. It’s a methodology that drives some people away, turns others into True Fans, and generally makes a heck of a lot of money in the process.
But back to that trashing your PR thing…
This past month, Bill Harris, made a mistake – a pretty surprising mistake for someone so widely recognized for his business & sales skills.
He (allegedly*!) tried to silence a blogger.
*pauses to let the gasps of shock die down*
I say allegedly, not because I actually doubt what happened, but because I don’t feel like risking any defamation lawsuits myself. So I’m just reporting on what others allege is going on. You see?
Now, those of you familiar with the blogosphere know that there’s one thing a big-wig, multi-millionaire or corporate type never, ever wants to do… it’s threaten bloggers with legal action after they criticize you.
It just never turns out well.
It doesn’t matter if you’re right. It doesn’t matter if you have the money to pursue it until hell freezes over, and that the blogger will probably have to rely on pro-bono legal help. It doesn’t matter if you eventually win the lawsuit, and make the blogger’s life miserable.
You will lose in the court of public opinion, because you’re not really dealing with the ONE small blogger, but the entire blogosphere. See, threatening a lawsuit against a blogger is like, well…
It’s like pushing a big red button that releases a pack of rabid hounds.
A pack of rabid hounds that races wildly around the countryside unchecked, braying about it at the top of their lungs until EVERYBODY knows.
It’s not pretty. It’s very slobbery. It’s wildly infectious.
And it’s very, very bad PR.
Once bloggers have the scent of blood, they tend to spread the very material you wanted to suppress far and wide. It becomes “news”, and passes through blogging networks, bookmarking sites, and Twitter. It elevates the status and traffic of the accused blogger, guarantees that the damaging post in question will be reposted and archived on multiple sites, discussed, Tweeted and debated into infinity. The whole thing will rise in the search rankings of Google, meaning that even non-blog-readers who are looking for product info will stumble upon the controversy.
It’s a serious marketing fail.
And it makes you look like a bully.
Here’s how the button got pushed. Allegedly.
Over on BeyondGrowth, Duff McDuffee has a habit of poking at personal development gurus with a big stick (something I’ve been known to do in my spare time, as well). In November, Duff was poking at James Ray, the fellow whose Arizona sweat lodge went so tragically wrong, left three of his clients dead, and sent another 17 to the hospital.
Somewhere along the way, Duff uncovered links between James Ray and Bill Harris of Holosync. Now Duff and Bill had previously shared a few heated words here and there, and neither seemed fond of each other. It’s totally understandable, really – I mean, after all, one of them is a personal development guru, and the other one pokes at personal development gurus with a big stick. I wouldn’t expect them to form a mutual admiration society, you know?
So Duff writes a post specifically poking at Bill, filled with lots of criticisms and some pretty harsh words. (The post just happens to quote me, by the way. Check it out if you’re curious.)
Apparently Bill didn’t like being poked at.
And sure, Bill talks a lot about enlightenment and personal development and dealing with personal “shadows” (which, I gather, is pretty much just heavy baggage that makes you have knee-jerk angry and prejudicial reactions) and overcoming them but come on…
It was a REALLY BIG POINTY STICK!
Even the Dalai Lama would have slapped Duff around for it. Ok, maybe not the Dalai Lama. He’d probably have just smiled and patted Duff on the head.
But you get my point. Even if it’s not on a stick.
Anyway, here’s where Bill manages to trash his PR “at the touch of a button”; instead of opening a conversation with Duff, asking nicely, or even just refuting the information in Duff’s comment section or with a post of his own… Bill (allegedly!) threatens Duff with a defamation lawsuit.
The story (allegedly!) goes something like this:
Bill has his lawyers draft a Cease & Desist letter, threatening a defamation lawsuit unless the pointy-post is removed, the claims prominently retracted, and Duff promises to never, ever again say bad things about Bill, CenterPointe, or it’s products.
Chilling, isn’t it?
But Bill’s lawyers accidentally sent it to the wrong address, so it didn’t have the desired chilling effect. (Oops.) Bill himself did manage to email Duff about the matter, informing him of the pending litigation and just how it would ruin his life if he didn’t comply.
You can see the full text of THAT letter here, about midway through this post on SaltyDroid. And I must say, the tone is not at all what I’d expect from a personal development guru. Er… quick correction: It’s not what I’d *HOPE* for from a personal development guru. It is, however, pretty much what I expect from one these days.
Now, to me, that letter it feels very threatening. But maybe it would seem different if I were a personal development guru with an enlightened and elevated perspective. Maybe I would see it as a kind, simple explanatory letter urging caution. Maybe Bill didn’t even write the letter, and it’s all a figment of someone’s overactive imagination. Allegedly!
The whole thing makes Harris looks like a bully.
Who can’t take criticism.
Which really isn’t very good for his image as a personal development leader.
So for all of you big-wig, multi-millionaire personal development gurus out there, just itching to throw your weight around by trying to silence your blogging critics?
Before you push auto-dial on your smartphone to reach your lawyers, before you push “send” in your email program… take a time out. Calm down.
Then open a line of communication. Consider playing nice with the critic in question. Recruit other bloggers to tell your side of the story.
And maybe, just maybe, you can keep from trashing your PR at the touch of a button.
As an added bonus, you won’t have to pay your lawyers to read through meandering posts from multiple bloggers like me, who are reporting on the whole slobbery mess for our own amusement.
(And yes, I know… none of the graphics lived up to the promise of the first one. I ran out of inspiration. And IStock credits. Because some of us aren’t multi-millionaires)
(Oh, and here’s the previous post of mine that is quoted in the Ceased & Desisted post of Duff’s: Review Of The Holosync Demo Raises Ethics Questions. Just in case you feel like reading it.)
2010/10/5 An alert reader pointed out to me a concern about this post and my current affiliate partnership with Transparent Corp, which sells a sort of DIY brainwave software and can conceivably be seen as competing with Holosync. They’d wondered if I’d written this to intentionally divert search engine traffic to try and sell competing products. That’s not the case, and I would, in fact, consider that unethical, making the whole thing humorously and annoyingly ironic.
So, in the interests of transparency, yes, I’m an affiliate for a product line that has an overlapping market with Holosync. But affiliate commissions were not a factor in penning this post; the motivating factor was a love of free speech. I’m neither a fan, nor a foe of Holosync and Bill Harris, and I’m more than a little befuddled about why I rank so high for those keywords. Holosync affiliates, ya’ll SERIOUSLY need to do a better job!