Friday, August 06, 2004

Penguin Publishing, Lawyers and Fun

I read this story earlier this week in The Register, and have been mulling it over how to blog about it. There are many sides of the story, and it's a story that needs to be handled in a sensitive manner. So, here it goes.

The story is as follows: Penguin publishes a book titled Katie.com which is about a 13-year old girl that was preyed upon by an older man she met online. It's a very serious topic, parents need to pay more attention to what is going on with their children when they are online, and yes, there are predators out there.

Problem is that Katie.com is owned by someone else, and has been before the book was published. The young woman who wrote the book has her own Website at KatieT.com.

Katie T has expanded from beyond the book, and will be launching school courses (all a very good thing). But, the business is expanding by using the Katie.com name (not a very good thing).

The story has been getting big publicity in Slashdot here and here, with various reports that an attorney had misrepresented herself, then more or less threatened Katie to hand over her domain name, as noted in this interview.

Penguin, coming to its senses, today announced that they are changing the name of the book in a press release (warning, it's a PDF).

What turned into a public relations disaster could have been a non-issue, if the original publisher had gone with a different title, or at least with KatieT.com as the title of the book. Instead, the Register grabbed onto the story, then the blogosphere jumped on it, then the Slashdot folks went nuts, and then ... well, then the attorney acted like an attorney and really messed things up.

There are lessons here: The little person can take on a corporation. Information spreads faster nowadays with the Internet and blogs. Public Relations is more than just media relations - it's community relations, and if you offend the community's senses, things can quickly go downhill.


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