Star Trek Online “Not Dying,” Nixon “Not a Crook”

Shiva H. Christ on a crutch, when will people learn?  How can you get so far and business and not know how this works… or at least not be working for EA?

Here is the process, step by step.

A corporate representative gives an interview in which they say something that seems like a “good thing.”

In this case we have Dan Stahl of Perfect World Entertainment who went to the Star Trek Online forums to try and spread some joy.  And so he wrote… which implies he thought about it in advance… the following:

Cryptic was sold because it was a profitable business and worth at least $50 million to Perfect WorldSTO is not dying by any means and continues to grow stronger. Just last month we took over as the top performing game for Perfect World in North America.

He probably wrote a lot more than that, but this is what got quoted in the press, so is all most of us are ever going to see.

His message was that STO was not only a valuable asset to Perfect World, it was their best performing game.  Great stuff!  The game lives!  Fans rejoice!

Then, of course, the gaming press gets wind of it.  I saw this reported over at Massively with the above quote.  And what is the headline of that article?

Cryptic producer: Star Trek Online ‘not dying by any means’

Hrmm… well, that does kind of emphasize the negative perception, doesn’t it?

But negative headlines draw in page views.  Nobody buys a paper when the headline is “Nothing Bad Happened.”  Likewise, a headline like “STO Worth $50 Million” or “STO is Perfect World’s Top Performer” do not grab attention… at least not like that “dying” quote does.

“Not dying by any means” smells of desperation.

You want to go take a look because there is something going on.  The headline is the smoke and you just have to see the fire.  After all, if he is denying the game is dying, then clearly somebody thinks it is on its last legs.  Time to go see how the company is rationalizing things.

And if we follow the link and go read the article, we will see the “not dying” quote in context.  But for most people, unless you have some investment in the positive side of the story… in this case, you play STO and want it to survive… the headline has already tainted your point of view.

You are very likely to come away from that article still thinking that STO is dying despite the value assigned to it and its position in Perfect World’s stable of games.  He might be trying to put a brave face on for his dying game.  And, frankly, maybe Perfect World is about to go down the tubes if a dying game is their top performer.

Now, you may argue that you are smarter than that.  But that is likely because you are already involved with the topic being discussed.  If something new comes up, the headline is very likely to set your perception.

Merrie Spaeth, a former White House director of media relations calls this “The Bimbo Moment.”  This is when you make a statement in the negative that becomes a headline and which reinforces the exact perception you meant to deflect.  One of the most famous is probably Nixon saying, “I am not a crook.”  Spaeth, being a staunch conservative, isn’t likely to name something negative after our 36th president.

So, instead, it was named for… well, I’ll just quote her site:

…memorializing the protest of a young lady whose tryst with a well-known evangelist some years ago made news around the world. Her comment, “I Am Not a Bimbo,” became the headline in scores of newspapers and made the cover of People Magazine in 1987.

I actually remember that Jessica Hahn quote.

And she just kinda ran with it…

Merrie Spaeth and her staff actually put out a monthly Bimbo Memo newsletter that points out ways in which quotes are taken, often out of context, and become headlines that simply reinforce the negative view the person saying them was trying to avoid.

If you deal with the public, you should probably read this.  It is both amusing and informative, even if it does slant to the right at times. (Merrie Spaeth does hate the Occupy movement to an almost unseemly degree.)

Anyway, you can sign up for the newsletter here (or get the somewhat less reliable RSS feed), or go through some of the past annual winners on the archive page.

In the mean time, live and learn.  Star Trek Online is THRIVING!

That is what you meant to say, right Dan?

10 thoughts on “Star Trek Online “Not Dying,” Nixon “Not a Crook”

  1. HarbingerZero

    Ha, public relations 101. Probably good for all of us to know.

    The game *is* going great. I actually considered picking up the lifetime sub when it was on sale for $200.


  2. Scott Hartsman

    Hey, thanks for writing this – I use The Nixon Example when talking to devs who talk on the record. Yours is a far better explanation to pass around instead of making them listen to me torture an analogy to death.


  3. KA

    Aaaaaahhhh, Jessica Hahn… I was just thinking about her this morning as I listened to Queensrÿche’s “Operation Mindcrime” on the drive to the office. That tawdry episode is a thinly-veiled reference in the “Revolution Calling” track:

    And all the shady preachers
    Begging for my cash
    Swiss bank accounts while giving their
    Secretaries the slam

    They’re all in Penthouse now
    Or Playboy magazine, million-dollar stories to tell
    I guess Warhol wasn’t wrong
    Fame fifteen minutes long
    Everyones using everybody, making the sale


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @icywiz – I did not have sexual relations with that woman!

    I remember that because it became a matter of hair splitting along with the definition of the word “is.”

    In the end, he said he had an “improper physical relationship” with her. Completely different.

    Additional great ones from the Spaeth site:

    I am not a witch
    It certainly wasn’t a sham
    I am not a crazy person


  5. Anonymous

    Well it can’t really be dying when it’s not even finished… only -very- recently have they added content/fixed bugs that have been in place since launch years ago. They still neglect to add portions of the game that were supposed to be included at launch, STO is just bringing in the milk money while they work on a seemingly unfinished game. They have still yet to even touch they’re horrid PVP system after years, if it doesn’t rake in Zen, it ends up at the absolute bottom of the priority list.


  6. Nonah

    They are releasing the same ships in the lockboxes they had since launch, maybe with a small skin change. They fired all the Star Trek writers – ‘sent them back to Paramount’ – as it was discribed to me. They will never release new content beyond new spider farm planets. The development of the game is over. Now it must serve as a cash cow, and bring in the suckers who buy $600 a month on lockboxes, on Daddy’s credit card. Those days will be over soon too. Once Perfect World milks it for ‘all it is worth’ they will either sell it, or kill it, or just keep it online as a near empty server, incase a new Star Trek fan logs in to enjoy the 2 months of gameplay, and buy lockboxes, too young to know that Gambling is a suckers game.


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