Online Reputation: Why Jane Corwin’s Social Media Person Should be Waterboarded

Politics is a mean, nasty, filthy business.  Trust me, I know – I have been around it most of my working life.  Much of the process of getting elected is pushing your candidate’s positives while attempting to raise the negatives of your opponent.  But a Cardinal rule is don’t help the person opposing you by doing something stupid (read: don’t be Michael Dukakis riding in a tank).

As I have stated again and again in this space, the first rule of crisis communications is to avoid the crisis to begin with. Anticipate contingencies.  Plan for FUBARs.  Don’t step in it.

And above all, don’t leave yourself open to attack – and don’t shoot yourself in the foot.  And all of this is why Congressional candidate Jane Corwin’s social media person should be waterboarded.

Jane is running for Congress in New York’s 26th district special election.  Good for her.  She has a pretty nice looking Web site that, when you get past the usual campaign-speak is attractive and fairly informative.

Done, right?


One of Jane opponents must have did a little background research of his own and discovered that the campaign’s social media person neglected to register all of the possible domains, leaving them exposed to a parody site.  And that’s exactly what happened.  The campaign staffer registered .com, not .org.

Hence, meet the parody site,  Consider that this URL is just a hair from being the URL of the campaign site – AND – many campaign sites have .org domains because they are not considered companies.

Both sites have a virtually identical look and feel and navigation, so if one is not paying attention, until you carefully read the copy, it’s hard to tell them apart.  Here are some comparisons:

On the campaign site:

  • “Challenging the status quo and protecting your tax dollars.”

Parody site:

  • “Protecting the status quo and taking your tax dollars.”

And it goes on and on.  You can read all about the real campaign site here, but the embarrassing and (to be honest) gut-bustingly funny items on the parody site include:

  • The welcome pop-up screen:  “Together, we can make delicious soup from the bones of the poor. Sign up now to be served by Jane Corwin.”
  • The lead campaign news item on the home page: “In response to her heroic support for Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which would end Medicare in favor of an innovative program called ‘widespread human suffering,’ Jane Corwin has been given an award by Pat Boone, spokesman for the 60-Plus association. Boone was a famous singer in the days before it was learned that music could convey human emotions.”
  • Instead of “volunteer,” “donate now” and “contact” on the campaign site, the parody site lists “surrender,” “give us your money,” or “get brain implant.”

Finally, the real campaign site does, in fact, integrate Facebook.   As I write this, 809 “like” Jane.  On the parody site, instead of the “like” button, it is replaced by “coronate,” and those who like Jane include Kim Jong Il, Donald Trump and Muamar Gadaffi.

Yes, this is funnier than hell, but it’s serious too.  When someone sent me this article, I got curious to see how much coverage this has gotten beyond Jane’s district.  Jane:  ouch.

No less than the online version of Time magazine wrote about the parody site on May 6, calling it “ruthless,” but nonetheless, quoting some of the funnier lines.    The Atlantic wrote about it, calling it “…in fact, a parody site that rips the state assemblywoman as a corporate shill and hilariously mocks the stock photography and conventional political imagery on her campaign’s actual website,”

Double ouch.  And the irony is no lost on me that this special election is taking place to replace Rep. Chris Lee (R), who resigned from Congress in February after half-naked photos of him surfaced on Craigslist.

Going back to my original point, the best way to carry out crisis communciations is to avoid the crisis to begin with.  I mean, it’s what, like $39 bucks a year to register a domain?  When I was in the agency world, we once spent about $2,000 registering all possible domains (and I mean ALL) for the company, it’s senior executives, and even those that could represent acronyms.  Any time that a client balked, I would ask if they have business insurance.  The answer was inevitably “yes,” and I would tell them that while they cannot stop web sites that attack them, they can make it harder for people to quickly and easily find the negative information.  That’s your online reputation management insurance.

So dear social media person at Jane Corwin’s campaign:  your mistake to spend maybe an extra $150 bucks got your candidate lampooned online and created an echo chamber in Time magazine, the Atlantic, as well as others.

As for punishment, here’s my idea: there have to be some out-of-work waterboarders just hanging around the faucets at Guantanamo – and – information to whack Osama may have come from one of the enhanced interrogation techniques, so why not waterboard the idiot whose neglect caused this flap?  Negative aqua-reinforcement.  Or have “.com, .org, .net., .info. and .tv” tatooed on his/her forehead.

Just think: we could video it and make it into a parody site.




  1. WHAT a fantastic post, Story*time.

    And so very true!! I’d write more but there are so many people I need to share this with that I don’t have time.

    Great job. And hopefully people will be paying attention!!


  2. “But there is no such thing as bad publicity.”

  3. Amazing that people still need to be reminded of this.
    But here’s the rub: you also need to register all user names that could be used as parodies on
    – Twitter (@BPGlobalPR, anyone?)
    – Facebook
    – YouTube
    – Flickr
    … and the list could go on.
    It’s a lot harder to build, manage and protect your brand these days, isn’t it?

  4. Since when do Social Media directors register domain names? This is a blunder by the communications director/strategist or the PR director.

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