What to do about "Boaty McBoatface"
"Spin" gets a bad reputation. Spin-doctoring tends to be seen as the domain of only villains or the incredibly rare "3 hit wonder."
I think "spin" can be used in a positive way as well though. Take for example the "Boaty McBoatface" ordeal in the UK. The current situation is the National Environment Research Council put it out to the public to help choose a name for it's new £200 million research ship. The NERC suggested that they “would like the name to be inspirational and about environmental and polar science, to help tell everyone about the amazing work the ship does.” So... of course... this being the internet... the overwhelming frontrunner for naming rights to this beautiful vessel is "Boaty McBoatface."
Of course, as expected we're now seeing articles suggesting that the NERC will likely overrule the popular vote.
Well crap... oh well... it was fun while it lasted. But wait?! Does anyone else see this as a huuuuuuuuuge missed opportunity?
The goal of any marketing is to get your business/organization noticed. The #NameOurBoat social media campaign launched by the NERC received a massive and unexpected surge from unwanted internet lunacy. It'd be easy to take your dolls and aquatic research facilities and go home. But, that would be an incredible waste of a lot of public attention. Your campaign worked. It just didn't work the way you expected it to. Pull your head out of your hands and make it work for you while you still have the spotlight! Spin it. If you still have the Spin Doctors video playing in the background pause it, because here's where it gets good.
Here's what I would do.
Clearly the NERC would like more attention from the public on the values of their research. I think the absolute worst thing they can do right now is thumb their noses at the process that they suggested. Some people would scoff, some would be happy, and some wouldn't care whatsoever. The whole situation would slip away like Leo after Kate REFUSED TO SHARE HER GODDAMN WRECKAGE FLOAT!
Ride the internet wave and create something good while you're at it. I would call a press conference to address the situation. Everyone would expect this to be the point where you put "Boaty McBoatface" to rest only to pick some name that elicits no emotion in anyone. Nobody would blame you. But, nobody would care either. Instead, harness this opportunity and accept the name. This is a great chance to show people how fun and approachable science can be. You don't have to praise the process as if it was something you hoped would happen. Face it head on and say "we put ourselves in this situation. We all had a good laugh while it was going viral and we decided to give the people their wish."
If you leave it here, people will probably look at you differently. But, they also may think you're stupid. Here's how you win everyone over.
Make a toy and sell it.
You want the public to take oceanic research seriously. You have the chance to do that now while looking extremely awesome. Produce a "Boaty McBoatface" toy complete with a big damn smiling face on it (try not to get sued by Theodore the Tugboat and his pals from 90's Canadian television...)
Tell everyone that the toy will be made available online and in stores. All profits from the "Boaty McBoatface" toy will go towards arctic oceanic research. Then brace yourself as the tsunami of internet love floods over your organization. You'll look affable, you'll promote your cause, and you'll fill your funnel with plenty of brand new school aged scientists. Isn't that everything you could wish for? Now cross your fingers and pray you never see this headline on CNN...
It's called spin. Remember it the next time you think your business is in a bad situation. You might just end up being thankful for your predicament.