How to Survive Blackmail by Dick Pic

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Bad Publicity_ How to Survive Blackmail

Full Written Transcript of The Episode

How to Survive Blackmail by Dick Pic

MATT: How would you handle humiliation and embarrassment on a public stage? What would you do if your business was suddenly on the local news but for all the wrong reasons? How should you handle or manage hundreds of hate-filled internet trolls attacking your reputation?

Negative publicity is simply not something that most entrepreneurs are trained or prepared for, but it can quickly become a company killer if we aren’t equipped to handle it.

Publicity is a part of marketing that often gets overlooked. So today we’ll be featuring the first of a series of episodes throughout the season that will equip you with the publicity skill sets you hope you’ll never need, but will be very thankful for if you ever do. In today’s episode, I’m going to share my own painfully embarrassing story of public humiliation on a gigantic stage. It’s a story that involves blackmail, a heritage morning radio show, and unfortunately, a dick pic.

From the past.

MATT: Hello and welcome back to Midwest Mindset, the podcast that makes marketing simple. The Midwest mindset is helping others without expecting anything in return.

And this is what fuels our passion in every episode. To give you the marketing tips, techniques, and insights that your business needs not just to survive, but thrive. We believe every business deserves affordable and effective marketing because marketing is the only way to get more customers, make more money and see your business succeed. I’m your host, Matt Tompkins of two Brothers Creative, and on today’s episode I am Oh, I’m really not looking forward to this, but I’m going to share my own painfully embarrassing story of public humiliation.

Now, there was a time that national celebrities were the only ones who had to worry about public humiliation, tabloid shame, online haters. But today, social media is the nation’s mainstream tabloid magazine. This means that each and every one of us can quickly and easily fall victim with the odds increasing with every post that we make.

As business owners, no one really prepares us for these moments of public humiliation, embarrassment, which is why most of us work so hard to maintain the facade, if you will. Our avatar is on on Instagram and Facebook. Everything is great. Yes. Don’t look behind the curtain to see how things really are. You know, hosting a popular morning radio show with tens of thousands of listeners every morning is a very bizarre experience for the uninitiated. I spent a little over 17 years in radio and television, so for me it was a weird life.

MATT: Guess that just kind of felt normal. It really did. From day one, it just felt like home. It fit. But I know it’s pretty weird to the outside world. I mean, you’re literally sitting in a room by yourself talking to yourself. That’s your job. But loved it. One morning, though, it all came crashing down and probably the most embarrassing way possible.

So I was hosting the morning show on a heritage radio station in Omaha on Sweet 98 five at the time, and I was also still hosting and producing what was the final season of Omaha Live, which was at the time, number one in its time slot, had a sizable viewership on its own as well.

So it all sounds like fun and games, right? Until you get blackmailed in the most humiliating way possible. There was a time. When my phone was hacked and I was blackmailed. For $15,000 over a photo of my privates that I don’t even remember taking. I know that sounds like a cop out, but it’s true. I don’t to this day know or remember. So what’s this have to do with business?

Well, like it or not, as business owners, we are putting ourselves out there in the public eye to a degree. And this makes the fear of public embarrassment and failure terrifying. It is enhanced. I think this is why most people work so hard to maintain those those online avatars I mentioned, you know, with perfectly crafted photos and the right poses to control how we want to be portrayed or seen.

MATT: We try and maintain the perception, which often times probably most of the time does not align with the reality behind the scenes. Even something like the nightmare of simply going out of business, which we know over half of all businesses will fail, they will go out of business in their first five years. That is pretty embarrassing. It’s pretty devastating when it all plays out across social media channels as if it was, you know, reality TV. The people who always had something against you, they they bask in your humiliation.

You know, the rumors go around. Can you believe it? I can’t. I mean, it’s sucks. The righteous people remind you that they told you this wouldn’t work. You know, sometimes even our family and closest friends can fail to support us as the burden of public loss and failure. It really it does become a bit too much for us to carry forward. And I think unfortunately for myself and a lot of people, we internalize that it affects our long term mental health. And too many people, myself included, turn to.

Ways to numb the pain and the suffering. By that I mean we turn to drinking and alcohol and drugs and other substances or eating, binge eating or binge watching TV. How many entrepreneurs, how many business owners are drinking heavily every single night? Why is that? But here’s the craziest thing that happens when we embrace our failures and we face down our greatest fears, our greatest humiliations.

MATT: We find out that there is really nothing to be afraid of in the first place. And that’s why I think I’m able to share this story today. While it’s I mean, it’s not like the episode I really wanted to do or was looking forward to doing here, but I’m sharing it with you because the experience and other experiences that I’ve had, you know, my recovery from addiction and all these different things, it it really shapes who you are. And it does. I hope it does help you in some way to not be afraid to embrace the pain. Right? So I’ll never forget.

The morning that this happened. So I started out I got a message on Facebook from some random account. I didn’t know him, and they told me that they had a picture of my privates, which they didn’t put it that eloquently. Yes, it’s commonly referred to as a dick pic. All right. That makes this sound like so just. I get it right. I didn’t want to have to talk about this because of that. Just the name alone.

But, you know, hey, if it happens to Brett Favre, it can happen to any of us, right? So anyhow, this anonymous sender alleged that they had more than just my embarrassing photo from my phone.

MATT: They said they had downloaded all of my contacts. They said they had hacked my email. They had the phone numbers of my friends and family, and they threatened that they would send out this humiliating, career ending photo to all of them, to everyone I know, unless I pay them $15,000. I panicked at first.

Obviously they sent me the photo, but I didn’t see everything. In other words, I didn’t see the, you know, the goods. But it was obvious that they were in the full photo. Um, and I panicked. I was still working at radio at the time, you know, in fact, we were still on the air. We were in the final hour of the morning show on Sweet 95 when I got this message. So at first I ignored them. I’m like, okay, I’m not even going to respond. Maybe they’ll go away.

But they were pretty relentless. I changed my passwords on my social media accounts. I blocked them on Facebook, but then they started texting me. And not just from one number, but from multiple numbers. So I don’t know if I was in denial. I honestly couldn’t even remember taking a nude pic like this in the first place. I never really understood the point behind taking and sending out naked selfies. I’ve never been that just person. No judgment on those people who like to do that in their relationships. I just never got it, you know? I mean, the way I looked at it, who on earth would want to see that in the first place? All right.

MATT: If I don’t and my wife doesn’t, I guess I don’t know if anybody else would either want to see that. So in my mind, I’m like brushing this off. I’m trying to at least. But again, they had sent me that image and it was like now they sent me the second time. It was like a blurred close up with the goods. They’re pixelated.

And I was like, Yes, that’s definitely me in the photo. And yes, it was the top half of the photo. I was standing in a random basement with a ridiculously bright yellow puffy winter vest. It was like I mean, I looked like a complete idiot in this picture. It was like this giant, like Marty McFly, yellow puffy vest. And I’m revealing my, you know. Yeah. So I did indeed, at some point take a nude self-portrait of myself.

Now, before you judge my momentary lack of, I don’t know, cell phone etiquette, I think it’s important to remember that, you know, I have battled severe addiction to opiates for for eight long years. And I mean, when I started this, I mean, I was just a couple of years into my sobriety. I was still in the early years of recovery, which is just a whole nother step. You know, you get sober, you’re not in recovery. It takes years. I’m still working on it today.

MATT: So my memory of that time period, though, when I was taking opiates, it was very it gets very foggy. It’s very difficult to look back because there are so many cherished memories. I mean, memories would be cherished if I could remember them. There are events I can, you know, barely piece together memories of.

We we actually held a second wedding ceremony for Wendy and I in 2018 because. I couldn’t remember much of our original wedding day. And that’s very, very sad. You know, today, as I look back, I don’t remember my brother’s best man speech. That’s part of the that’s the cost of living high. Now, I’m grateful that I survived, obviously, because it could have been far worse. I’m thankful that I was able to get sober. I’m thrilled to be working on eight years in recovery.

It’s still work every every single day. It still is work. You know, But to simply be alive, to share this awkwardly embarrassing story with you today. I’m, you know, begrudgingly grateful. So even though I couldn’t remember taking it, it was on that fateful morning when I. I guess my past finally caught up with me. I did something stupid when I was high.

I don’t remember doing it. And I don’t. Here’s the weird part. I don’t. I didn’t send it to anybody, so I don’t know. I must have been out of my mind. Took this thing to do what? I don’t know. Maybe it was for myself to.

MATT: But I didn’t send it to anybody, so I responded to their messages finally. I mean, I felt completely defeated. The blackmailers, they demanded 15 grand. I told them I didn’t have anywhere close to $15,000. I told them I work in radio. No one in radio has 15 grand just lying around. So then they dropped it down. They’re like, oh, 1500, which I think was a. They’re not very good at negotiating, but. All right, 1500. I’m like, that seems great, but I don’t have $1,500 either. Again, I worked in radio. I had no money. So at this point, they got angry. They threatened to leak this photo to everyone, my family, my friends, work colleagues at 2:00 pm that afternoon, unless I paid up. So I did at this point what I think anybody would do, and I Googled, what do you do if you’re being blackmailed? And I read about the horrors of revenge porn, which at the time I didn’t know that’s what this was. I don’t know.

I read about cyberbullying. I bet I read about how online blackmail is commonly used to terrorize people. And most people do not ever say anything about it. That’s why we don’t hear about it. Because it’s humiliating.

It’s embarrassing. I mean, I’m talking about it now. I mean, who else have you ever heard that admits to being bamboozled, hoodwinked, blackmailed, let alone let alone over something like this? It’s like the ultimate embarrassing form of blackmail.

MATT: So anyhow, I did find a company online that actually negotiates blackmail situations just like this. So I drove around town. I don’t remember where I was. I parked in like a it was like a park somewhere. I just pulled over and I’m talking to this guy on the phone. After an hour on the phone with him, he says they would handle the entire thing.

They would make it go away entirely. I’m like, whew, Thank God. Yes. For 1000 hundred dollars. Yes. They’re trying to charge me the same rate. I’m like, I don’t have $1,500. So he ended the call and I’ll never forget this. He reminded me, he said, Listen, I just want to be clear. They are going to send that photo out. They are going to do what they say. I’m like, great. Fantastic. So I went home and at this point, I had to tell my wife, Wendy, everything that was happening. So I started by first I started by asking if she had $5,000, we could hire this company and make it go away.

But she literally laughed out loud at that situation. Um, I apologized. I remember I felt as if I had done something wrong that, you know, because I thought I was going to impact her and I didn’t want to humiliate her. And just I felt horrible. But she was eerily calm and unmoved by this whole situation. Now, she had worked in publicity herself. She wrote her graduate paper about reporters managing crisis situations like, you know, the Von Marshall shooting here in Omaha.

MATT: And so maybe I thought, well, maybe it’s because she’s more familiar with this than me. So I said, listen, I don’t get it. Like, how are you not pissed off about this? Her response was, What do I have to worry about?

It’s not my dick in the photo. This is your problem to deal with, not mine. So, like. Okay. I mean, I guess it was kind of a small win because I’m like, at least, you know, it’s not going to impact her like I thought it was. It’s just me going down on this, you know, flaming dumpster fire.

So I called the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, who humored me for about an hour on the phone, taking my report down. At the end, I asked, Well, what are you going to do about it? He chuckled out loud, too. He said, Oh, there’s nothing we can do, man. Sorry. Yeah, he’s going to have to deal with it.

By the way, they’re going to send the pic out. I’m like, Great. Now I got two people telling me it’s going to happen.

You’re going to go down in flames. So this is when it sunk in that the only way to fix this problem was to simply embrace it. Yeah, I decided I had to let go. I had to own up to it. I had to accept that I did not have control over the outcome.

MATT: I could only control how I reacted to it. And I think this is one of the major takeaways here, I hope from this episode is when negative publicity is happening to you, when you are being humiliated, when it’s your business in the public spotlight. And it doesn’t have to be something that is is odd and embarrassing is my particular story. But it could be anything, right? We have to embrace it. We can’t just deny it.

We can’t live in denial. We can’t pretend. We can’t ignore it. We have to embrace it. So that’s what I did. So first step was I had to call my general manager at the radio station to fill him in on every detail too, because this may affect the radio station in the show and everything.

So that was not fun to explain to him because then he said, All right, yeah, this is weird, this sucks. But you know, we’re going to have to get air on the phone here and you’re going to have to do this again.

So then I had to explain it again to our HR for the whole company. This woman is like an attorney for the company. Explain the whole thing to her with him again there. So now two times I’ve explained this, I then messaged everyone in my extended family to warn them not to look at any photos sent to them that day, that reference their nephew or their cousin Matt, which I’m sure piqued interest.

MATT: Like, what the hell did you do? I mean, there’s nothing like telling your grandma not to look at any messages that she has sent today or she’ll never view her grandson in the same way again.

So now my social media accounts were all deactivated. I took them down my work colleagues. I told them, along with my parents, my family, my friends. And I felt about as small as you could possibly be. I felt humiliated. I felt belittled. It was sucked, but I had to accept it. I finally, after all this reached a point, I think, where you have clarity because I simply didn’t care anymore. I knew I couldn’t stop them from sending out this photo.

Just like if you’re in a situation where you’re facing negative publicity, you can’t control it. You have to accept it. You can’t stop it.

You can only deal with it. Right? And it’s how you deal with it that is the deciding factor in how things unfold moving forward. So I decided I was going to take back control. I was going to, I don’t know, just try and respond in a way that if I’m going to go down, you know, I want to go down in style, I guess.

So I started calling these blackmailers back on the phone and surprisingly, they answered, but nervously hung up right away. So I kept calling them. I thought, Well, this is weird.

MATT: This is like some kid pranking me. What is going on here? So then they start texting me. They say, We’re going to send out the photo, we’re going to send it out Now. It was close to 2 p.m. and sure enough, at 2 p.m. after I told them, I’m not paying up, you’re going to have to send the photo out. They sent out the photo. They sent it to the social media accounts of every radio station in our building.

Now, fortunately for me, and I think this is another important takeaway, be prepared. So when tragedy, I guess it could have been maybe it’s not tragedy yet when public humiliation, embarrassment on a public scale like this happens, you know, be prepared. And I was prepared. I was managing all of these social media accounts. And so I told everybody, I’m going to manage these for the rest of the day. And I was able to remove the photo and block the sender’s accounts before any real damage was done.

So to this day, no one in my family has ever mentioned that they received the photo, although I do I do acknowledge that they probably wouldn’t want to say anything if they did receive it, you know, I think. For obvious reasons. Oh, hey, nephew. Matt. I’ve seen your. Your privates. When I finally had a moment because they sent the photo to the accounts and I remember like grabbing it, screenshot of it, I downloaded it and I had it on my phone.

MATT: I remember I got home and I was nervous to look at it, right, Because this was like the full the full Monty, if you will. And when I finally got a chance to look at it for the first time. This photo. I still have no recollection of ever taking the self portrait and I just sat and stared at it for a while.

And I’ll never forget how this concluded here. They sent me a text message again and they threatened that they were going to take this photo and now they were going to post it on social media and tag everyone that I know can up their game.

They were like, I guess maybe reveling in their victory. They asked me if it was worth the humiliation, if I was finally going to pay up. Staring at this picture, I told them, I said, If you want to send this photo out to anyone and everyone around, I’m totally fine with that.

And now this is going to sound vain and superficial. But I looked at my wife and she’s she’s like, why are you okay with them sending this out? And I said because it’s actually kind of a flattering photo. Now, I don’t know if it was the lighting or the angle or just pure dumb luck, but I was finally able to accept the one that good selfie I’ve ever taken at least. And I don’t remember it. I hope it’s the only one.

MATT: Now, that sounds funny, but they were kind of it put them off. They’re like, what? Really? Like? Yeah, go ahead. You know.

Humiliation and embarrassment. It will likely happen to each and every one of us at some point. And, you know, I had to accept that I would have to eat a lot of crow. You know, in the end, looking back, like I probably didn’t have to call my general manager or the HR lady or tell my whole family because it didn’t end up being as bad as I as I thought it was going to be. Right. But I think I intervened, You know, I kind of prevented a lot of that by simply just embracing it and confronting it. In my own way, but that’s what I did. And I feel like that’s what we have to do.

You know, we feel embarrassed. We feel humiliated. But on the other side of it, I realized how insignificant it all really was in the grand scheme of things, you know? We’re all going to have to deal with bad publicity, costly mistakes, bad calls, regrets, pure flukes of bad luck, none of which we can control. But we can survive it and how we get through these crucibles in life. We’ll define us as people, as leaders and as successful entrepreneurs.

So we have for you these five. Steps, this checklist for handling public humiliation and a crisis like this, because this these are the five things that I learned from this experience, aside from the obvious, which is don’t take photos like that one.

MATT: Accept the situation as soon as possible so you can work towards a solution without delay to be transparent and authentic to yourself.

Honesty leads to acceptance, forgiveness and repair. Three Be comprehensive and prepared. You know, a piecemeal approach. It’s only going to make the symptoms and the cause of the issue worse. Number four, determine if it’s even worth it to respond. This is good for social media.

You know, sometimes we get punched in the gut and our impulse is to respond immediately. Well, we don’t think it through. You know, I’ve made this mistake before, too. I think we all have with text messages to, you know, social media comments and posts. And number five, you want to review, edit and pause before you post. All right.

Don’t just throw out your long term strategy by being too reactive. So we want to help you with our five step checklist. To manage bad publicity, you can get this PDF. It is free to download. The link is in the show notes. Thanks so much for joining us here today on Midwest Mindset. I hope you don’t look at me differently from this point forward, but honestly, if you do, that’s okay. All right. I have to embrace my failures, just like we all do. Thanks so much for joining us, and we’ll see you on the next episode.