Gillian McKeith vs. Ben Goldacre
In case watching people sifting through poo with their fingers isn’t your bag, Gillian McKeith was the presenter of Channel 4′s “You Are What You Eat” between 2004 and 2007.
During the peak years of the fad for self-improvement TV shows, she could be seen taking a regular schmo with a weight problem each week and dissecting their diet via the novel idea of catching their crap in a sieve and looking through it. As a result of this fecular oraclery, she would create a new improved diet for the poor schlub who would then become a new person and yada yada.
Her nemesis is Dr. Ben Goldacre – author of a regular column with The Guardian, the awesome Bad Science blog and now a book about misleading health claims and ‘science’ in the media. In 2007, it was a reader of his blog who appealed to the Advertising Standards Agency on the basis that McKeith – billed as a ‘Dr’ and a ‘clinical nutritionist’ by Channel 4 – did not have any medical qualifications (full story here).
Needless to say, the resulting publicity and scrutiny of her credentials seemed to put a big dent in McKeith’s public profile and she faded from the airwaves. Nontheless, she is still working as a nutritionist and clearly bears ill-will towards Goldacre.
Now I’m not here to play Devil’s Advocate about whether this animosity is misplaced or not, but McKeith is a celebrity in her own right and is discovering that her Twitter feed – no doubt sold to her as a ‘great way to engage with your fan base’ by some agency or other – is a double edged sword. She’s now found herself embroiled in what will undoubtedly prove to be an embarrassing episode that she would have done well to avoid.
HOW NOT TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Step 1 – describe Ben Goldacre’s book as “lies”
Your Twitter feed is, unless locked, publically available for anyone to read. Say anything defamatory, libellous or illegal and you are subject to the same laws as anywhere else in what you say in public. And hey – maybe even the person you’re making accusations against will see it almost instantly.
Step 2 – try to deny that you’re the official Twitter feed
Remember when the kids used to say “Oh… as if I’d ever…”? Here is the modern Twitter version of this classic non-denial.
Step 3 – delete the link to your Twitter feed from your *VERY* official website
Hmm… is there something missing from that design – what do you think…?
Step 4 - leave the link in the source code for all to see
it’s kind of irrelevant anyway because there’s the miracle of Google caching, which will freeze your page in aspic as it was, for all to see. Even so… whoops!
Oh – and you could leave the link on your other properties, such as your official YouTube channel.
Step 5 – discover the hard way that someone somewhere can always find what you’ve been up to
Step 6 - take away some very painful lessons.
In the open era of the internet, secrets are hard to hard to keep and covering your tracks is next to impossible. If you’re going to engage with social media then you have to be both honest and on your best behaviour – and if your reputation is already compromised in some way by a publicity problem, then that counts for double.