Stunning PR

May 4th, 2010

He was 17.  He was at a baseball game.  He did something stupid.  He got tased. And Philadelphia once again ended up in national headlines.

The act of using a taser gun, for whatever reason, has become a national fascination.  Ever since a University of Florida student yelled “Don’t tase me, bro!” at a speech by Senator John Kerry, something about tasing always sets off a firestorm in the media.  Consider this, when the phrase was first uttered, it had the following impact:

    –The term hovered between 9th and 11th place as the most searched for term on   Google for Wednesday, according to Google Trends.

    –The above video has been the number 1 Viral Video for the past 24 hours, according to Unruly Media, an online marketing firm in London that tracks viral video activity on the Web. The Meyer arrest video has received 2.6 million views and almost 40,000 new comments since Monday.

    –In contrast, the much-talked about’s “Betrayal of Trust,” anti-Rudy Giuliani ad received just over 171 thousand views and 59 new blog posts. And John Edwards’ rebuttal to President Bush’s progress report on the Iraq war received 114 thousand views and 43 new posts.

    Many of the leading opinion shapers on both the left and the right, as well as newspaper blogs, offered their thoughts and insights on the incident.

    –Television pundits across the dial offered their opinions, and those opinions were archived for posterity on YouTube.

    –Several enterprising individuals have even snapped up variations of the spelling of the phrase as Web addresses. One of them points to a Wikipedia entry for the University of Florida.

    Mashups are proliferating on the Web.

    –A couple of t-shirt designs, and bumper stickers have emerged.

    –Dozens of people have felt compelled to record their own video responses in a YouTube forum discussion on the matter.

      Remember this video of a grandmother being tased?  The good folks at the Today Show certainly do.  They did a whole series of interviews on the topic over the course of a few weeks.  Now, a quick search for “Phillies, tase” shows well over 400 results in Google News.  It’s likely to get bigger before it goes away.

      The plain fact is that tasing never equals good PR.  Just like coal is never a good Christmas gift and “No comment” means guilty.  In the end, it just means that the police are defenseless in the public conversation.  Which may not be worth the kid’s 15 seconds of fame on the field.

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