Considered at the current time probably the most nefarious and infamous person on Twitter and maybe the internet in general, Paul Christoforo is a surprisingly easy guy to talk to. Luckily, I was able to steal a good half hour of his time to get to know him a bit better.
Paul Fleck: How did you start into the whole gaming PR/marketing role?
Paul Christoforo: My story is pretty long but I’ve been gaming since I was a kid. I bartended for awhile in Boston, moved to Miami to teach SCUBA diving, got into real estate and moved to California doing some telemarketing sales for some friends that owned a company. Basically, those guys didn’t have a website and weren’t marketing their health insurance website properly so I volunteered to build them a new site even though they said they didn’t want it. I built it anyways and gave it to them anyways and the company made a turn around, started making some money and I got into a little bit of social media marketing and reputation management. I had some good success with that, picked up some social media clients and I opened a social media marketing company, which is what Ocean Marketing is. From there I started building websites and wasn’t marketing that much anymore; I did some pay per click campaigns and stuff like that here and there but mostly built websites.
I’ve been gaming since Pong and have wanted to get into the gaming industry. I got my first shot going to CES last January (2011); it was my first “big” electronics show and at the show I remember seeing the Avenger controller on a flyer. I was dying to check it out so I went over to the booth and he was talking to another buyer. I introduced myself, looked at the controller and left. When I got home I decided this was my opportunity to bust into the industry and sent off a couple of emails. The rest is history.
[Due to what I believe is either exhaustion of repetition or simply wanting to get away from the incident, Paul was reluctant to answer any questions about his former employer and their relations. Since this can be found in various other major publications anyways, I didn’t push for more as I was more interested in hearing the aftermath and his side of the backlash received.]
PF: What were some of the main factors, in your opinion, that contributed to this situation with Dave?
PC: Basically, we got a street date for the PlayStation3 controller of early December. Whatever happened with the manufacturer or anything with the controller I honestly have no idea, I was given a street date of the 17th. Dave was just looking for his product, and you can see from the emails the exchange started alright even though I didn’t answer his questions as thoroughly as I should have. I took on the responsibility of emails and phone calls to help out and due to the volume I tried to keep everything as short and fast as possible with each customer to go to the next one and focus on what I was good at; sales, talking to my distributors and making sure the product was moving. So Dave asked where his controller was and I told him as I was updated. I put in an update in the website on the 17th thanking people for their patience and that their product was in the United States ready to go and offered $10 off their next purchase. I probably could have worded it better but I feel that’s where this issue really started, with Dave feeling shafted and I handled it poorly and said some inappropriate things. Basically said shit I shouldn’t have said.
PF: I don’t want to go into what happened because there’s easily 100 news stories on the situation andpeople can read the emails themselves, but I am interested in how have you handled the backlash and attacks you’ve faced as a result.
PC: Doesn’t bother me anymore, it bothered me for the first 48 hours. After that I kind of embraced it because I realized there was nothing I could do to change it. Haters are going to hate me but I’ve met some really cool people, some people helping me with PR, I’m writing a book, I’ve gotten on television, I’ve talked to Forbes magazine, I have a wiki page, memes, etc. Yeah, there are some things that shouldn’t have been put out there and some false information but I’m doing alright. I’m having some fun with it now. I don’t mind the haters, most people are pretty respectful but when people start saying stuff about my kid and my wife I just block them. The point is that people are interested in me and as long as I keep them interested I can do some good whether it’s good or bad celebrity I have, whether it’s make some money or do something good or even just stand as an example for customer service and what NOT to do.
PF: So you’re a follow of the idea that bad press is good press?
PC: Press is press, whether it’s good or bad. Would anyone have known who Paul Christoforo was a couple of weeks ago? Probably not. Would I be writing a book a couple weeks ago? Nope. I mean ultimately yeah there are people who will make fun of me and keep following me but if bad press is bad and I’m the laughing stock of the internet and gaming community, why are people still following me? Are they still interested in what happened or are they just seeing what I can do to make a fool of myself next? If this didn’t happen, no one would know who I am at all and in the marketing world press is important. I made the last twitter change just today to @paulchristoforo because that’s what everyone knows now, not Ocean Marketing.
PC: I would have given me an opportunity to really know who he was and to apologize. If he didn’t agree with the email where I name-dropped his show I think he should have sent me an email saying something like “Listen, this is Mike. I run PAX East and West. I own a website called Penny-Arcade with over 4 million followers and if you don’t believe who I am look me up. I believe the emails you sent to Dave have been unprofessional and that you owe Dave an apology. If you don’t apologize I’m going to ban you from our show this year”. I would have Googled his name and looked him up and ultimately I would have apologized to Dave anyways; I would have realized that I was a prick and write him to apologize and offer some free stuff. Unfortunately Mike didn’t see that way and instead got a lynch mob after me.
PF: How has your personal brand stood up to all of this?
PC: Ultimately, I’m not a marketing company anymore so my site is coming down and I’m going to be doing a distribution company which will not be public and won’t be on Twitter or Facebook. As far as my clients I still have, it’s going okay. I’m still working at it, still making some money. That’s pretty much where I’m at… I plan on moving forward with my plans for a distribution company.
PF: Just to close up, do you still use an Avenger controller?
PC: Yeah man, I’ve got two! They never come off… I use them for every game! It really is a great product.
PF: Is there anything you’d like to close out on or say to the people reading this interview?
PC: I mean, I’ve apologized what seems like a million times and know that something like this would never happen again. What happened was a lapse in judgment and customer service and hope you can let it go. The rest that people keep attacking me on is just press so keep following ‘The Paul Show’, there’s more to come!
PF: Sounds good to me, thanks for taking time out to talk to me.
Recorded Jan. 17, 2012
Transcribed Jan. 19, 2012