Laura Ingraham claimed at the beginning of the week that politically motivated "Stalinist" opponents were out to silence her. The reason: those remarks about Parkland survivor and anti-gun activist David Hogg.

What set off her response was the continued steady exodus of advertisers from her show, The Ingraham Angle. Maybe she read the Roy Cohn Book of Responses and thinks lashing out is an effective way to fight back. It's not. The problem isn't Stalinism, but capitalism, and the boycott effect can hit any brand.

As a reminder, Stalinism refers to the operating preferences of Joseph Stalin, a brutal and oppressive murderer (credited with the deaths of tens of millions) who insisted that everyone do and think as he said. Crediting a boycott like the one Hogg called for as Stalinist in nature is almost beyond hyperbole.

However, the boycott is a demonstration of capitalism's potentially rougher side. People with political views will try to use market powers to punish brands they think stand for something they don't like. That should come as no surprise to Ingraham, who has advocated similar actions, like a boycott of singing group The Dixie Chicks over remarks about then-President George W. Bush. And Ingraham has frequently called for people in entertainment like LeBron James to "shut up" and do whatever their specific position calls them to do when they express a political view with which she doesn't approve.

That's capitalism, and it works both ways.

Hypocritically complaints about your treatment when you've been happy to dish it out to others might be effective to further bond with a loyal audience or customer base. But it plays poorly with advertisers. Those brands want to reach people without the perception of participation in controversy and will run away from forums that make them look bad. That, too, is capitalism. And as her own personal brand in entertainment and media, Ingraham should have realized the problem.

Markets giveth and taketh away. Complaints about fairness are ludicrous. Markets and the masses of people that form them are capricious and illogical. They respond to feeling -- that's how marketing works.

Feelings eventually blow over, and often faster than anyone realizes. The attempted boycott of Chick-Fil-A largely went nowhere. The CEO learned not to make public pronouncements over social issues and the net result was nothing.

Sony is another example. When its PlayStation Network suffered a large breach, the Ponemon Institute monitored consumer sentiment. After regular checks for six months, people had forgotten all about the issue.

Problems are an inherent part of capitalism. If you expect a business will always go smoothly, you are not ready to run one. If you don't recognize the damage you can do to your own brand, it's time to become worldlier.

Crisis communications is well-studied and understood. Get a professional involved and listen to an experienced view. Do not decide to come out swinging and take care of everything yourself. The results are likely to be disappointing at best.

And if a resolution requires an apology, learn how to offer one. Accept responsibility, acknowledge the damage you did someone, say you're sorry, and have a plan to avoid similar behavior in the future. Don't make it sound as though your religion is driving you to be magnanimous. You're the one who needs to make the apology, not God.

Published on: Apr 11, 2018
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