4 Lessons We Learned From the Vicious 2017 News Cycle

— January 31, 2018

2017 was a nail-biter of a year for everyone, regardless of political or business affiliations. With a new president, booming social media, and constant shake-ups across industries, most of us could barely keep up.

Now that 2018 is here, though, smart business leaders are looking back on some of the big (and small) news stories of the past year to see what kinds of lessons they might offer.

A quick look at four of last year’s news stories reveals some great tips for entrepreneurs and business owners:

1. #NuggsForCarter

It wasn’t the biggest story of the year, but it might be the most illuminating for businesses. When a 16-year-old high school student tweeted at Wendy’s to ask how many retweets could earn him free nuggets for a year, the fast food chain responded, “18 million.”

Carter Wilkerson’s reply? “Consider it done.”

The teenager only had a few thousand followers when he wrote the original tweet, and yet, it’s the most retweeted tweet with more than 3.6 million retweets as of January. While a typical “brand strategy” might overlook someone so small, Wendy’s response gave the restaurant chain loads of free, positive press. It also made Wilkerson somewhat famous himself — he now has 114,000 followers.

Don’t ever forget the little guy in your marketing strategy. Your customers — and your customer’s customers — are the “little guy.”

In 2018, consider ways to engage non-influencers who don’t have millions of followers (yet) and who might not necessarily garner a lot of attention. You never know how small efforts might explode. As always, engaging with average customers is an organic way to foster powerful word-of-mouth advertising.

2. Michael Flynn Resigns

Of course, you want to avoid certain kinds of explosions. Take the story of Michael Flynn: Despite repeated warnings from multiple sources, President Donald Trump decided to appoint a national security advisor with a controversial reputation. A month later, Flynn “resigned” after lying to officials.

This fiasco was completely unnecessary and avoidable, and it serves as a reminder of a truth that most leaders know, but put up blinders to: When it comes to your leadership team, acting on personal feelings and ignoring the sentiments of others around you can lead to disaster. Hiring talent is always difficult, but sometimes the obvious wrong answer is staring you right in the face, if you’re willing to look.

3. Netflix Cuts Spacey

Many articles have been written about the sexual harassment, abuse, and assault allegations that continue to blow up Hollywood. For the sake of brevity, let’s look at a story that actually ended up better for the company involved.

When Netflix heard about the allegations against Kevin Spacey, its reaction was swift and no-nonsense; it cut ties, ended production, and moved on. The company didn’t try to leverage the negative press to spin the scandal into more story arcs or even attempt to profit by releasing more episodes. The show ended, and so did the bad press.

There are two ways to handle a PR crisis: the Uber way or the Netflix way. When Travis Kalanick experienced bad press this year, he apologized, called himself out — and thus perpetuated the news cycle. His bad press just never seemed to end, and his company likely suffered the repercussions of it.

When you’re suddenly thrown into damage control mode, take swift action to let go of the issue, shake it off, and keep moving. Everyone else will follow suit.

4. Shkreli Gets Greedy

This last story is a lesson in how everything that goes around comes around. Martin Shkreli hiked the price of a vital drug for AIDS patients from $ 13.50 to $ 750, which earned him widespread infamy. Legally, he didn’t really face the music until the FBI indicted him for securities fraud. Obviously, the same core issue led to both problems.

Although Shkreli’s price hike isn’t what got him into real trouble, it could be argued that putting profits ahead of people in such a grandiose and public manner is what put a magnifying glass on him in the first place — until someone was able to punish him for something. Now, he’s in jail.

When you put yourself first and piss people off in the process, you’re putting a target on your back. Here’s hoping more of us resolve to follow a greedless road to success.

Obviously, there are a million more stories we can learn from. As 2018 gets rolling, let’s reflect on our own 2017. What lessons have you learned — or could you learn — from the mistakes of others? Then, let’s go forward and conquer the new year.

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Author: Erik Huberman

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