The communications tools available in the modern age grant individuals and companies more direct power and visibility than ever before. Never has this been more evident than the recent turn of events with anti-virus software founder, John McAfee.
McAfee’s neighbor and Florida businessman Gregory Faull was found shot to death on November 11, 2013. McAfee admits that the two had past disagreements over McAfee’s dogs, which were poisoned shortly before Faull’s killing, but says he was not involved in the murder. Belize police listed McAfee as a “person of interest” and asked him to turn himself in for questioning.
Claiming police “harassment”, McAfee, 67, is now on the run from law enforcement with his 20-year-old girlfriend, Samantha. Since November 17th, McAfee has been sharing the details of his life on the lam in his new blog “The Hinterland.”
Although he has given a few interviews via email and phone, McAfee is in large bypassing traditional media to instead write his own raw, unvarnished version of the facts. In his very first blog post, McAfee discusses past experiences with several tech media outlets. He details his unhappiness with their portrayal of him and is not shy in taking personal aim at the writers.
The subsequent blog entries are just as revealing and sometimes bizarre, detailing his relationships with younger women and providing wandering anecdotes about his press and police dealings. While he is certainly getting his story out, he is also potentially irrevocably damaging his reputation as these posts are not painting him in the most stable light.
McAfee seems determined to choose his own fate now that he is on the run. He has certainly decided to control his story by choosing to blog as opposed to routing it through the media. However, the press is going to cover the story with or without his input. By choosing to not engage with the media as well as personally antagonizing them on his blog, he is certainly not doing himself any favors in terms of how he will be portrayed.
At Red Banyan Group, we regularly utilize direct communication outlets such as blogs and social media to engage with key publics. However, it is critical to exercise caution when dispensing information through these channels, particularly in crisis PR situations. While powerful, these tools are merely tactical pieces that should be part of a bigger, strategic communications plan.