When a republican mum waded into the highly emotive and important #MeToo discussion to complain that her son was afraid to go on dates due to the risk of false accusations of sexual assault, Twitter was outraged 😱 (while quietly rubbing its hands with glee).
This post had everything.
1) It plugged directly into Donald Trump’s outrageous claims that this is a ‘very scary time’ for young men, as women are increasingly coming forward to discuss their experiences of sexual assault (I imagine that the vast majority of respectful young men were very perplexed by this comment! 🙄). It also arrived in the aftermath of Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed as Supreme Court Justice despite an enormously high profile sexual assault allegation, the accuser of whom Trump had openly mocked with his ‘she doesn’t remember’ performance. 🖕🏼🤬 This highly charged issue is arguably the most prominent and important discussion of the moment and something that people across ages, genders and political leanings rightly feel passionately about.
2) The guy in the photo was doing a really embarrassing pose in his navy uniform. 🙈😂
It’s no wonder then that Twitter began tumbling over itself to post hilarious memes. Here are some pretty good ones:
So suddenly, the son in question, Pieter Hanson, is the subject of an internet meme. Thanks mom! 😂
But it’s what happened next that is arguably the most interesting aspect of this story. He responded with the following post and, seemingly, won the Internet. Well done Pieter! 🙌🏻
Here are three reasons why I think his response was so 👌🏼 and what others, including businesses who find themselves at the centre of an embarrassing Twitter storm, can learn from him.
1. He responded, when it would have been easier not to
Pieter was suddenly and unexpectedly made ‘internet famous’ by his mum. Imagine that! You’re in the middle of an exam when your phone starts buzzing with messages from friends letting you know you’re now something of a villain on Twitter. And you don’t even have a Twitter account!
Looking at the posts by that stage, his role was cast. He was a spoilt, entitled, republican misogynist. We didn’t need his response, it was clear as day. So it would have been very easy for Pieter to conclude that there was little he could do here and so the best course of action would probably be to keep his head down and wait for it to blow over. However, it seems Pieter has a little more courage and character than that. He got himself a Twitter – going straight to the source of the discussion – and jumped right in. By doing so he took control of the conversation, changing its tone and the direction of the narrative. He changed people’s perception of him – often a PR goal – and he did it by engaging in the discussion.
2. He didn’t slag anyone else off
No one. Not the trolls, not the cause, not even his mum – who of course started all this! In fact he was incredibly gracious 😇 He let us know that while his mum had misrepresented him, she didn’t mean it and he loved her. He let us know his positive position as an ally of women. And he applauded Twitter for its memes. It’s hard not to admire someone who stays so calm in the face of public criticism, who applauds the good humour of those critics and who joins in, rather than shouts down, conversations. His President could learn a thing or two from him…
3. He had a sense of humour about it all
There’s no doubt Pieter’s mum’s post made him look like a bit of a 🔧 . There was all the stuff she said, but there was also the photo and that pose. Reminding us a little of the David Brent ‘maybe if you just sit down’ scene, it only served to reinforce the idea that this guy was a bit of an odd-bod. So what better way for Pieter to respond than to include a nod to the ridiculousness of the photo by recreating it in normal clothes for his response post. Describing himself as a cat dad and applauding the memes might not be LOL funny but it shows a lightness of touch and that he doesn’t take himself too seriously – the cardinal sin of the internet age. He was self-deprecating, amusing and entirely appropriate for the situation and discussion point. Nice work Pieter!
What a whirlwind few days it has been for Pieter Hanson. From complete unknown, to spoilt villain to global hero. Or something like that. His mum put him in a difficult situation but he got himself out of it brilliantly. Apparently he was feeling too afraid to go on dates before, but judging by the response to his post, he might well get a few more offers now. 👫❤️