On June 11, 2015, I was scheduled to have an event titled MENtoring: The Man’s Perspective. I had to cancel the event on June 9, 2015 because of the consequences the controversy caused my sponsors and me. Although some people got an idea of what exactly happened that Tuesday afternoon, many people still inquire and are confused about the series of events. Therefore, I’ve decided to outline exactly what happened to avoid any confusion or misrepresentation that may exist out in the internet world as it can sometimes take on a mind of its own.
The Tweet That Started It All
Little did I know that more than 700 “retweets” means that something going viral is now your reality. On June 9, 2015, a feminist in Austin, TX voiced her negative opinions to her 15,000 followers about my MENtoring Event via Twitter and attached the flyer associated with the event. To put it in perspective, Oprah Winfrey’s tweets get an average of 100-200 retweets (sometimes). So yes, almost 800 retweets regarding the MENtoring Event was a lot.
As they say, the rest is history…
The notifications on my phone lit up like a Christmas tree and I suddenly went from planning last-minute details regarding the event to a PR damage control expert. “Putting out fires” became my middle name for the next 72 hours.
Addressing the Women that Spearheaded the Twitter Controversy
It didn’t take long for me to realize the magnitude of the situation. I was getting phone calls from not only my event sponsors but, the panelists as well. Unfortunately, people on social media did not only attack me; they went after those involved with the event, too. This did not only include attacking the panelists. They also made sure to mention their respective businesses.
I decided to address as many people as I could personally once this began to unravel. However, some were willing to talk to me on the phone while others were not. By explaining who I was and what my intentions were, I was able to diffuse the situation and even connect on a positive level with many of the women that were spearheading the Twitter controversy.
What I learned was that I had a huge messaging problem. If you have to constantly explain who you are and what the context of the event is, you’re not doing a good job at conveying that information through the associated collateral. Addressing many of those that were upset also helped me understand the pain that many gender-related circumstances has caused women of all ages. In the end, being transparent and willing to talk to strangers about an uncomfortable situation turned out to be the best decision I made that day.
Realizing the Controversy was also about Women Hating Men
When the situation on Twitter got out of hand, I initially went into a state of shock and panic. Primarily because I knew my intention was to have a panel of men that were willing to answer any questions from our guests (mostly women). It was apparent that most of the people I was up against hadn’t bothered to do a simple Google search about the WOWW Campaign. Those that were affiliated with the controversy can be categorized in one of two groups:
1. People that misinterpreted the purpose of the event because of context/messaging mistakes
2. People that thought an all-male panel is unacceptable under any circumstance
While I understand and empathize (a lot) with many of the women that expressed their concerns, I simply cannot dislike an entire group of people. In my opinion, to dislike all men because I’ve been disrespected by a few would not be fair. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me as you can see by these screen shots displayed below.
Why I Decided to Cancel the MENtoring Event
Once my sponsors and I began to receive threats and individuals’ livelihoods were at stake, I made the decision to cancel the event on June 10, 2015 and submit ticket refunds for anyone that had RSVP’d. Men and women threatened to show up and disrupt the peace, which in my opinion, would have been unfair to those attending. At one point, I was in a meeting and the individual across from me told me there were large organizations encouraging these activists to continue the controversy. And it’d be in my best interest to align myself with them in order to eliminate the chaos.
After that meeting, I became more aware that I was up against something much larger than the Twitter noise. I had to build my credibility and address my audience as if I were speaking on a national platform in order to decrease the chances of any future controversies.
Because of the confusion the WOWW Campaign caused, I was forced to take a closer look at our messaging and branding. Now, we’re happy to announce that we’re improving who we are and how we represent ourselves as a result of what happened. The WOWW Campaign is in the process of redesigning its logo and all marketing collateral associated with the brand. In the future, I want to eliminate confusion regarding who we are and what we wish to accomplish in the community.
The next time someone asks “what is the WOWW Campaign?” We want people everywhere to respond immediately with: “the WOWW Campaign is an online publication that is dedicated to sharing the stories of women in an effort to inspire and encourage others to overcome their personal and professional challenges.”