Was Removing the “Quiet Wadhwa” Episode a #PRFail?

Was Removing the “Quiet Wadhwa” Episode a #PRFail?

‘Women in tech’ is a hot topic that has focused a lot of attention on Silicon Valley and women in leadership roles, especially as of late. But, over the last week, the subject has received renewed attention following Amelia Greenhall’s February 3rd blog post that attacked Vivek Wadhwa’s support for women in technology.

Here’s a quick recap of the succession of events that has sparked a flood of comments and social media activity:

  1. Greenhall wrote the blog post “Quiet Ladies. @Wadhwa is Speaking Now” in which she noted how Wadhwa, “by appointing himself the unwanted spokesman for women in tech, has kept actual, qualified women’s voices from being heard widely in the mainstream media.”
  2. WNYC’s On The Media show, TLDR, recorded a podcast with Amelia on the topic
  3. Vivek Wadhwa vaguely threatened libel and the “Quiet Wadhwa” episode was taken down
  4. On The Media took down the episode page after just five days

Greenhall blogged that On The Media is working on a piece to replace TLDR episode 45 in which “Vivek Wadhwa will be given an opportunity to comment,” which was then replaced with a note that the upcoming replacement episode will include “a range of views on advocacy for women in technology.” But, the damage has already been done and it’s getting widespread attention.

Even though Wadhwa claims he wants the podcast back online, GigaOM contributor James Urquhart noted in a tweet that having the podcast taken down was a “huge PR blunder” on Wadhwa’s part.

James Tweet

Whatever your stance on the matter, from a PR standpoint, we’ve seen time and time again that removing criticism is a sure way to incite more criticism. Plus, can you ever really completely remove something from the Web these days? With everyone’s ability to capture, repost and self-publish through social networks, blogs and comments, it seems that nothing can ever truly be erased from the online world we live in.

March Communications Managing Partner Cheryl Gale notes that, “Response over removal is often the best course of action when dealing with something negative or critical. Removing the offending item – whether a blog post, tweet, podcast or whatever it may be – usually just fuels the fire and prolongs the crisis.”

And, GigaOM Senior Writer Matthew Ingram seems to agree that the podcast should have been left published as he notes in his tweet that the episode was, “an expression of one woman’s opinion on the topic, and her impressions of your contributions. Fair comment.”

Matt Tweet

With the post still published, Wadawha would have had a more mainstream reference and jumping off point to respond to any “lies” or “falsehoods.” But, with plenty of other reference points, like Greenhall’s blog for one, it’ll be interesting to see how Wadhwa plans to respond and perhaps put an end to the escalating situation.

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