What Spiderman Teaches Executives In Crisis

You have to feel a bit sorry for the producers of Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.”

Set to open next month, the show has been plagued with a seemingly endless string of highly-publicized setbacks.
The original opening date was pushed back almost a year. The first dress rehearsal was canceled due to technical problems. And three actors have been badly injured, with one breaking both wrists and another suffering a concussion.

Conan O’Brien recently mocked the production by putting together a low-budget alternative to “Spider-Man” (the show is the most expensive ever produced on Broadway). And on Saturday, it was Saturday Night Live’s turn to make fun of Spidey:

The producers of “Spider-Man” are surely stressed, and could be forgiven for a defensive or short-tempered response.

Instead, the show’s producers sent Conan O’Brien this clever note, along with a bouquet of flowers:

“We hope you enjoy the flowers. It was cheaper than a cease-and-desist.”

Producers responded similarly to Saturday Night Live. According to The New York Times, “Spider-Man” Spokesperson Rick Miramontez said in an email:

“…the musical’s production team has been sending floral bouquets to the comedy shows that have been spoofing “Spider-Man.” [He] wrote, “The flowers that Conan received were sent with affection and admiration. They were expensive! If the Spider-Man company sends Seth and the ‘S.N.L.’ team a floral tribute, it might even be bigger!”

The “Spider-Man’” team handled the negative publicity perfectly. If they had released a standard-issue statement declaring that producers “stood behind the show” and were “proud of the work,” they would have looked defensive and out of touch. Instead, they displayed grace by playing along with the jabs – even the winking “cease and desist” joke comes across more wry than angry.

When greeted with negative publicity, executives often react by going on the offensive. That approach has its merits, and is occasionally the right thing to do. But some publicity crises, particularly those without innocent victims, can be opportunities to display humor – and enhance your public reputation in the process.