Ten Things I Hate

My own Top Ten list of things I hate.

I’ve seen so many Top Ten lists lately that I needed to do one of my own. I was sitting at The Office (aka Sparrows), thinking, when one table of loud talkers got me thinking. Here are the things that make my “Ten Things I Hate” list:

  1. Coconut: I’ve never liked it. It’s not as much the flavor as the chewy consistency. So, no Mounds bar for me, thanks.  No chocolate cake with white icing sprinkled with coconut (it’ll just get scraped off). The funny thing is that my mom was born and raised in Indonesia (she’s dutch) and coconut was a big ingredient in Indonesian food, some of which she made for us.  I wasn’t buying into it.
  2. Inappropriate Loud Talkers: This is especially true at a quiet coffee shop where 98% of the patrons are quietly surfing on their laptops or engaged in pleasant, quiet conversation. Enter the loud ones. Especially when one person is talking excitedly and the other two are screeching in appreciative laughter. I have nothing against loud talking or loud screeching laughter. It’s just that there’s a time and place for everything.
  3. Unnecessary/Gratuitous Cursing:  It’s my upbringing, I know, but loosely dropping the F-bomb into conversation just grates against my sensibilities and makes my shoulders slightly rise and my neck to get tense. Frankly, that reaction makes use of the F-bomb very effective when trying to get someone’s (my) attention, but that reaction lessens if you use it all the time, right? I don’t want to become immune to the F-bomb.  I want it to remain a very effective tool in the hands of those who might like to pull it out once in awhile to get my full attention.  Also, I think it makes the F-bomb user seem unsophisticated, at times uneducated, and typically lacking in self-control. That’s especially a problem when they’re hanging out with my kids.
  4. Bureaucracy:  I’ve had so many experiences with bureaucracy that it almost makes me want to escape to some cabin in Montana and live off the land and off the grid. I’m a Canadian, which means I’ve dealt with the Immigration & Naturalization Service to live here in the states. It needs to be done, I know, but man is it a drag. My favorite (not) experience was driving to Detroit super early in the morning (I checked online first to make sure it was the place I needed to go) and, upon arrival, they said the place I needed to go was two blocks away.  So, I entered another long line  there (my earliness wasted) and, after finally getting to speak with someone inside, they asked why I didn’t just go to the INS office in Grand Rapids. “WHAT! I checked online!” I exclaimed.  “Oh, they’re about a half year behind on updating the web site,” said the INS official. 
  5. Naysayers:  It’s always a drag when that one person (you know which one) responds that whatever plan you’ve come up with cannot be done. Either there’s not enough money or not enough time or not enough expertise or not enough support or … well, something. It’s especially annoying when the “can’t be done” comes out quickly and without even exploration of ways it *could* be done. Pretty soon, that spirit of negativity permeates everyone and the creative fires have been extinguished.
  6. Pollyannas:  This one pairs up well with the previous dislike.  Being a Pollyanna (ala the lead character of a 1913 book and 1960 Disney movie of that name) is to be overly optimistic. I’m not against optimism by any means. I truly appreciate positivity and a great attitude. I really, really do, and I try to practice it in my life. But you still have to deal with very real issues and, sometimes, that means getting your hands dirty.  Pollyannas are too often blind-sided because they refuse to acknowledge and deal with issues. Optimism doesn’t mean abandonment of pragmatism or understanding the hurdles that exist.  
  7. Corporate Gamesmanship:  This one, based on experience, is based on manipulating people and systems to “get ahead,” perhaps at a pace not in keeping with actual talent. Many might disagree and say the work world is just a big game and those who play it the best win. I agree with that statement, actually.  Talented and hard-working individuals should win!  Not because they worked the system better, but because they did their jobs better and were recognized by those in charge.  Given human nature, I don’t think this will ever go away.  There is a huge waste of productivity that comes with all the gamesmanship going on in corporate America, however.
  8. Political Extremists:  I believe in ideals. But ideals don’t help you get things done because there often are others with opposing ideals fighting for their own agendas.  Along with your beliefs about what would be ideal, you need to be able to sacrifice some of your vision to achieve solutions that work for people on opposite sides of an issue.  Otherwise there’s a societal standoff, like the way the U.S. is currently divided as Red Nation/Blue Nation. I come to dread the election period because of all the vitriol. There is no civil dialog about opposing ideas anymore. Both sides insist they’re 100% right and neither will give an inch.  At least, both “extreme” sides (the ones that get all the press) are that way.
  9. “Top Ten” Lists:  Does everything come in tens? What’s the fascination with coming up with 10 things to include in a list. Why not Top Nine lists? I guess using the 10 as the basis for our lists is very metric.
  10. Hate:  And, my biggest dislike is “hate.” Hate is so extreme. It is so squinty-eyed and snarling. It is hard to come back from hate. It is hard to be about love and peace and unity and collaboration and togetherness and community and all the things we call “good” when hate is given free reign.  

So, there you have the Ten Things I Hate.  Lots of inconsistencies, I know. Like, why 10 things when that annoys me? Why hate, when I’m opposed.  I probably have some extreme views and know for a fact that I’ve been referred to as a naysayer (was secretly nicknamed Eeyore by a few marketers because I opposed the blackhat SEO practices they wanted) and a Pollyanna for being so optimistic. I know my wife has shushed me many times for talking too loud. I’ve even cursed inappropriately before. Yes, me.

I will stand firm on coconut, though. I really, really don’t like it.

The Ad Men of Mad Men Turn to PR?

AMC’s Mad Men returns to television tomorrow night. Looks like the ad guys of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce need some PR help!

No, I haven’t seen an advance script of tomorrow night’s season premiere of Mad Men, but I’m going to make some educated prognostications based on the brief description of the episode and its title, “Public Relations.”

Back in the ’60s, PR was much less “developed” as a profession. Today, nearly 50 years later, Public Relations is still less defined than I’d like, based on the fact that its practitioners come from a myriad of backgrounds and are asked by their organizations to practice in a myriad of manners. Typically, however, communicating with public audiences with a heavy emphasis on earned media are part of the profession. Also, there is that tendency to turn to PR when a crisis strikes (as opposed to using good PR practices to all along to earn trust and goodwill).

AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.
AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.

SO, how are Don Draper and cohorts going to use Public Relations? Sounds like the agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in some trouble after a Draper gaffe and, just guessing, they need some PR help.  I’m hoping the agency actually hires a new PR person (need some new characters!) and they start to demonstrate integrated marketing campaigns. That would be novel (and way ahead of the times)! 

I’m guessing, however, that the firm has a “public relations crisis” that affects client confidence and Don and crew fix it themselves. There’s nothing those ad guys can’t do, right?

Burmese Tiger Pit Diggers & PR Pros

Companies are hiring social media managers. I hope they’re more like public relations professionals and less like Burmese tiger pit diggers.

According to a BusinessWeek article, companies are scrambling to hire “social media managers.”  Moreover, they’re doing so with little understanding of what that means, and creating new job titles to describe these new positions.

I’d like to contend, again, that these organizations probably already have social media managers on staff. They’re called “public relations professionals.”  I do understand that social media isn’t just another media channel.  I also understand that you can’t take PR people who have primarily done media relations all their life and magically make them social media savvy.  But I don’t think we need to create a whole new silo within organizations; we need to effectively use the disciplines we have in place!  Marketers can be engaged in the conversation online about their brands. And if they want to create new conversations with key publics (i.e., social media users) about their products or their businesses, they should turn to their PR staff because that’s what they already do!

When I left my last job and started positioning myself for clients, I was told I should market myself as “social media.” To me, that’s like marketing myself as “television” or “talking.” Social media is one way to talk to your key audiences, but not the only way (and not always the right way). That said, I believe it’s vital for PR practitioners to know how to create social media programs to leverage their brands’ assets. PR is about influencing and the game of influence is definitely gaining a social media flavor.

I’ve been involved in creating social media programs for a billion-dollar sales company and for smaller organizations. It requires 1) approval from top execs and legal, with understandings in place about what will and will not be discussed, 2) a commitment to be honest, open and transparent in all communications (HOT comms) with your audiences, and 3) resources equipped, capable, and empowered to communicate on behalf of the organization/brand. 

This is not a time to place the brand conversation in the tweeting hands of an intern. They can help, for sure, but a community isn’t going to magically develop around an anemic effort by the company.  Consumers want to talk to representatives who are truly knowledgeable AND who also have the ability to carry messages back to decision-makers within the organization.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  People won’t sign up just to hear your messages; they also want to be heard

PR is the discipline trained and paid to engage publics in a dialog. Let them do it!  That dialog leads to support for your organization/brand.  Some execs want the social media “managers” to go out and create Burmese tiger pits, where unsuspecting passersby fall into a trap and are then expected to make a purchase.  Creating tweet “teasers” and Facebook contests might generate traffic and maybe a very small percentage will make a purchase, thereby justifying the expense.  There’s room for this kind of activity, but that’s not community. Once the giveaways go away, so do the followers. Community involves creating something better, together.

SO, I hope the “social media managers” being hired turn out to be PR people with a different title rather than Burmese tiger pit diggers. Otherwise companies are just wasting their money (again).