“But it’s not fair!”

As children, we cling to the notion that life is fair. It is how we, as children, can make sense of a world. After all, if there are 3 candies and 3 kids – fairness helps kids know what they can expect.

This notion of fairness unfortunately is not how life often works. Long ago I abandoned my childish attachment to fairness and replaced it with a more mature devotion to balance.

While superficially “balance” just seems to be another word for “fairness” – they are really quite different.

Fairness is used to manage expectations, like 3 candies – 3 kids. Everyone knows who gets what. But it is also a passive, static activity. The principles of fairness drive the action and the participants are subjugated to the rules of fairness.

Balance, on the other hand is a created thing. The participants are the ones who create the energy of equilibrium creating the balanced state. And balance is always shifting – never static.

This week I was reminded of this lesson and how it pertains to emarketing. Stuff happens in the big city. Sometimes in marketing great stuff happens – you get a great review from an important publication. But sometimes – you get a bad review because the editor did not understand your solution. How unfair you rage.  On first instinct you want to call the editor and appeal to his sense of fairness.  You want to scream into virtual cyberspace … “But it’s not fair…”

I had the chance to relearn this lesson when we recently got an unfair review by a reporter for a desktop security solution. Sophisticated technology can take a bit of time to fully understand and it would be easy to overlook a feature. And that’s what happened here. The editor just got his facts wrong. And based on wrong facts this editor posted a blog entry on his popular technology blog declaring our product unreliable. Not good for a security product.

Not good at all and I immediately launched into my instinctive crisis management action plan. Get to the editor, show him the error of his ways and then I imagined, he would change his posts to be “fair” to our solution.  

But I was able to observe that crisis management in the online world isn’t about fairness. I learned this week that crisis management in the online world is about balance. It is about owning the trajectory of the balance that is to be created. The party that drives pace of the equilibrium is the one that wins the emarketing war.

That translates into closely monitoring how the incorrect blog cascades through the blog-o-sphere and responding to the incorrect assumptions. That translates into being very vocal and very candid about your concerns in public. That translates into being sure that your point of view is visibly out there.

It’s not a perfect science. How far do you push? But the fundamentals are straightforward. Quickly get your perspective out in as many places and ways as you can. Control the conversation so you can create the balanced state.

Fairness won’t win an emarketing battle – balance will.

Judy Shapiro

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