Be careful who you hire to market your law firm. You may get a boat load of the wrong type of exposure.
In terms of pure marketing, any decent marketing practitioner will assert that it isn’t enough to get exposure. You have to make sure that those people who become aware of you are at the same time making the right kinds of associations with your brand.
In some ways, you can control this. In other ways you become the victim of unintended consequences because you developed an association with someone who clearly depletes the value of your brand.
I introduce you to Patrick Zarrelli.
The reason is simple: Some people talk a good game but have absolute nothing to back it up.
I wrote an article about an online interaction between Scott Greenfield and another attorney, Gary Ostrow. In it, I describe a situation where Scott wrote a blog post about the advertising tactics used by Gary.
Gary apparently wasn’t too pleased about the article and confronted Scott, which in the end, only inspired Scott to write more articles.
The problem in all of this, as I described in the article, is that Scott’s blog is loved by Google. So much so that if he writes a blog about you, and uses your name in the title, you can be sure it is going to be on the first page of a search anyone conducts about you.
In the case of a search for “Gary Ostrow”, two articles are now showing up on page one of the search results. Both are written by Scott Greenfield, and neither of them are flattering.
The second article, titled “Did Gary Ostrow Hit Bottom? Enter Patrick Zarrelli @Kidchronic32” is an article written literally a day before this article I am writing now. In fact, the article showed up on the search results less than a day after it was published.
And why was the article about Patrick Zarrelli and Gary Ostrow written? Well, it appears that Gary, in a quest to improve his reputation, hired this guy named Patrick Zarrelli, who markets himself as a web reputation management expert, among other things. He must have thought that Patrick could persuade lawyers who Gary himself couldn’t persuade to take down the articles.
In hiring Patrick though, Gary made things worse, a lot worse. He went all in in an effort to clean up his online presence, and likely, for the mid to long term, will be associated with a truly incompetent “internet marketer”.
Doubling Down Turns to All In
I follow Scott for a number of reasons. One of them is because he writes a blog that forces you to think through some pretty important issues of the day. The other is that he is actually, in spite of his grumpy demeanor, hilariously funny. One of the things about him that makes me laugh is when he refers to someone doubling down on stupid.
What he means, generally, is that a situation is made infinitely worse the more someone aggressively tries to fix it. In the case of Gary Ostrow, he not only doubled down, he threw all his assets into the middle of the table and proclaimed “I am all in!”
How did this come about?
First, he hired Patrick. Then, as part of his service to Gary, Patrick called two attorneys who wrote articles about Gary’s advertising campaigns. One of them was Mark W Bennett, the other was Scott Greenfield.
The Reputation Killer: Patrick Zarrelli
Apparently, instead of approaching either Mark or Scott in a professional manner (not that it would have mattered much), Patrick went after them both with threats of litigation if they were not willing to immediately take down their posts.
Unfortunately for Patrick, Mark is an expert in free speech, and the online version of a navy seal. In other words, Mark Bennett is a prick of the highest magnitude, but he is also an extremely intelligent attorney specializing in what? Yes, free speech, of all things.
So, in the service of Gary Ostrow, and with the end goal of cleaning up the web of all bad things said about Gary, Patrick irritated two of the most listened to legal experts on the web, who are also, both, not the type of lawyers who take kindly to erroneous legal threats.
The phone call threats were bad enough to illicit a few funny tweets. But neither Mark nor Scott had done much more than that.
Patrick, who would have gotten away with just a negative tweet or two, decided he was going to throw all his assets, and his first born child into the middle of the table, sitting right next to Gary.
Patrick Zarrelli literally went to his Facebook page and decided to post that he was going to make an example of the “lawyers” who he thought were treating him and his client unfairly.
The result. Well, a tweet by Scott sums it up pretty nicely.
Challenge accepted. https://t.co/DnTlE4eTgn
— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) October 29, 2015
So, with a few calls, some really poorly executed voicemails, and a completely short sighted Facebook post,PatrickZarrelli sealed the fate of not only his client, but himself.
Oh, and if the Facebook post itself wasn’t bad enough, he added some commentary in the comments that really poured the gas onto the flames.
So, as I said, and as Scott indicated, the challenge was indeed accepted, and the fun kicked off with a hilariously scathing review of Patrick Zarrellis work as a reputation management expert.
Scott Greenfield, his esteemed colleague Mark Bennett, and a few other lawyers, also took to Twitter and their blogs to make an example out of a kid who really went into a bar filled with mix martial arts experts and threaten to kick their asses.
Wrong move. Seriously, bad bad bad.
What Happened Next?
Well, you already saw Scott’s article about Patrick Zarrelli and Gary Ostrow in the search results.
Of particularly disastrous results was a tweet by one of the three legal amigos, Scott, Mark and Brian Tannebaum.
Here is the voicemail threat Patrick Zarrelli left me at 10:29 p.m. last night https://t.co/ooP7S71Plz
— Brian Tannebaum (@btannebaum) October 30, 2015
In the tweet, Brian links to a voicemail that Patrick Zarrelli left on Brians phone basically threatening him with legal action. Sadly, for Patrick, and ultimately for Gary, Brian is not just a vicious defense attorney with mad skills.
He is a defense attorney FOR attorneys who are accused of breaking the law. My point is, Brian, if no one else on planet earth, knows quite a bit about what is or is not acceptable behavior for a lawyer.
But, that didn’t stop Patrick , who, because his family has legal ties to mayors of big cities, felt empowered enough to publicly, and privately, threaten an attorney who generally isn’t much more of a pushover than Mark Bennett is.
And in a shockingly public display of his own lack of skill, Patrick Zarelli tweets back to Brian Tannebaum and asks that he leave him alone, that enough damage has been done to his reputation.
@btannebaum please just leave me alone, i think you guys have done enough damage to my reputation and business tonight.
— Patrick Zarrelli (@KidChronic32) October 30, 2015
Seriously think that through for a moment. Patrick, much like a lot of other professional marketers, markets himself as an expert. In this case, an expert at online reputation management. In fact, he is so good at it, that he can’t even manage his own, falling prey to three attorneys who up until only a few days ago, didn’t know him at all, and largely, had forgotten about Patricks client, Gary Ostrow.
What Did We Learn?
I hate to walk away from this saga without making a list of some of the things that not only I learned, but that we can all learn from what Patrick and Gary did. The list includes:
- If someone has a blog article about you, and it shows up on the first page of the search results when your name is searched for, trust that they have a popular blog, and govern your response to them accordingly.
- If you find that someone has said something about you that you don’t like, and wish would be gone from the internet, see The Streisand Effect, and then govern your response accordingly.
- Don’t leave voicemails demonstrating your lack of a complete grasp of reality. This is particularly true when leaving voicemails for people with popular blogs who you know will blog about your voicemail. (And in this case, share the actual voicemail)
- Don’t antagonize criminal defense attorneys, ever, for any reason, online or off. These people get paid to argue life and death situations. It’s likely that you will not walk away without blood letting.
- Arguing on the internet with people who are clearly smarter than you, defense lawyer or not, is the absolute worst way to manage either your own reputation of the reputation of someone who is aligned with you. Even if they are wrong, walk away.
- Grammar check anyone who claims to be a webmaster or a marketer. While most are not grammar experts, some, including yours truly, make every effort to avoid the most basic grammatical mistakes. Those who don’t should not be hired to do anything related to your business, unless you are a mob boss and need a hit man.
- Just because you are angry doesn’t mean you have a legitimate legal cause for action. In fact, the people who would most likely know whether what they do is or isn’t against the law are criminal defense lawyers. So don’t threaten them with legal action if you have absolutely zero to stand on.
I think Tim Cushing says it best when he says…
“A professional in the reputation management business might have performed a little due diligence before threatening lawyers who a) know the law and b) are used to being threatened by stupid people. Someone who claims to know the SEO world inside and out might have realized attacking influential blogs and websites is about the worst thing you can do for a client’s “reputation.””
The reason I wrote this article is not because I don’t like Patrick Zarrelli or Gary Ostrow. I don’t know either of them well enough to conclude one way or another.
I am also not suggesting that I agree with Scott Greenfield and the other lawyers who made a mockery of Patrick, his work and this entire situation.(well, yes I do, because I do)
No, the reason I wrote this article is because I am sick and tired of seeing completely incompetent people (see what Tim said above) in the marketing field get paid for services they dont know how to perform.
Maybe this is an unusual case. Maybe Patrick is talented but failed to demonstrate any of it during the unfolding of this saga.
None of that matters. In the end, Gary Ostrow paid, hopefully short money, to fix his reputation, and in the end, made his situation exponentially worse.
Could I or a competent reputation management expert have made a difference for Gary? Hard to tell as it is hard to know what Mark and Scott would have done if they were approached in a different way. I can assure you this, I would have not gone after either of them in a way that would incur more of their wrath. Why? Well, even though Patrick Zarrelli claims to be a webmaster, expert in all things internet, he failed to pause for a moment and consider that he is in this situation for one reason and one reason only. Scott’s blog about Gary shows up whenever you search for Gary. You don’t have to be a webmaster to know that anything else Scott might write on his blog will also show up.
As it turns out, now both Gary and Patrick are forever linked, for the world to see, any time anyone searches for either of them online.
You are correct Patrick Zarrelli when you suggested that the internet is governed by no one (unless you live in China). This means that your work resulted in the absolute destruction of both your and your client’s reputation, and will survive as long as Google keeps loving dudes like Scott and Mark.
Not bad for a days work champ.
Other Related Articles
- As of October 31, 2015, three of the results on page one of a Google Search for “Patrick Zarrelli” are articles documenting his approach to reputation management that are not flattering in any sense of the word.
- The Power of a Link – I don’t much care about ranking this post, but it is interesting to note that a day or two after I posted this article, I was on page two of the search results for “Patrick Zarrelli”. After a week or so went by, for whatever reason, Scott H Greenfield linked to my post. Additionally, Eric Turkowitz, another prominent NYC lawyer, linked to my article as well. As a result, I this article is now on page 1 of a search for “Patrick Zarrelli. I have no idea how long my article will stay on page one, but it is interesting to see how a couple of links from some bloggers who have loads of online authority can affect your ranking. It is also important to note from a reputation management perspective that the impact of bad behavior online can compound exponentially if even only a few people with decent blogs weigh in.
- Patrick Zarrelli has opted to make his Twitter profile opt-in only. In other words, in order to defend himself against himself, he has made his Twitter profile private. I feel bad for him, but still want folks to know that when you behave like this, and the internet records it, the impact on your ability to present yourself as a competent professional is massive.
- I don’t know if this is Patrick Zarrelli’s version of internet humor or not, but the kidchronic has decided to open up more doors of stupidity. He apparently sent a package of sorts to techdirt, claiming to have filed criminal charges against Tim Cushing and a series of lawyers who he claims defamed his character using blogs and twitter.