PR COG'S GEAR GRINDINGS

August 10, 2009

“Man Up” (Woman up works as well)…

Or, let’s stop stroking each other

This post was originally going to be about how often it seems we’re stroking each other’s egos in the industry — can we all really think all of our friends’ blog posts are that fantastic that we’re retweeting them to everyone and commenting?

Of course not, but we’re there supporting each other in the industry and trying to provide new and insightful commentary.  Of course much of what we say has been said before, perhaps not as well, by others and we’re just adding our own spin to it.  While not necessarily academic, it is supportive, and given what I’ve seen lately probably for the best.

Now, as far as “Man(ning) Up” …

Over the last several weeks (and the last week in particular) I’ve seen a number of negative, condescending, passive aggressive and/or half-assed tweets directed at campaigns or individuals.  Some of the campaigns being run by our brethren (or at least their clients). (No I’m not naming names or linking tweets, no need to call anyone out).

Seriously folks — we’ve got the world at our disposal to get our ideas out there – twitter, blogs, podcasts, video blogs, etc.

If you’re going to muster up the energy to type in 140 characters or less being negative or objecting to someone’s content (whether it’s a campaign, blog post, or twitter stream) at least “Man Up,” put on the track suit and run the race (This is particularly true if the receiving party calls you on (what is likely) your BS).

If you’re (considered) a thought leader in our field, or actually do have deep  thoughts about these things (and simply don’t have the 5-figure fanbase), you owe it to your listeners to give them more than 140 characters on your groundbreaking, cutting edge, revolutionary [how many more horrible press release words can I use] theory/conclusion.

A Campaign sucks? Tell anyone who will listen why in a full blog post or podcast – talk to them about branding, how the LCD (lowest common denominator – i.e. the great majority of the populace) will view the campaign, how it damages the company’s prior reputation or image in the sector where they were the leader.

A twitterer’s stream bothering you? Tell ’em why and offer advice on how they can fix it to your liking, not just to ‘stop.’ Or, when they respond, engage in what we call dialogue and perhaps you’ll find a meeting of the minds, or at the very least a more thorough understanding of each other.

Whether or not the advice is taken at least at that point you’re providing a real opinion, (hopefully) backed up by coherent thought, logic, perhaps even case studies or the like.  Not firing off a half-assed, extraordinarily brief, (non-rebuttable since there’s nothing to respond to but a conclusion) attack on their work in the public sphere.  We’re all professional communicators (heaven help us), don’t we owe it to each other, and those that learn from us, to give it our best each and every time we try to express a professional thought?

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16 Comments

  1. Snazzy new design! WordPress definitely has a way of brightening up a blog.

    Leave it to you to tell people to cut the crap :) I think it’s ironic when people praise Twitter for all the new communication channels it has opened up while also using it as a way to hide behind 140 characters. I especially liked your point about us being professional communicators- what’s the point of having that “skill” if we don’t use it?

    Comment by Jessica Greco — August 10, 2009 @ 2:14 am

  2. Totally agree – especially with your point about twitter stream criticism. If you can’t say anything constructive, step away from the keyboard!

    Comment by mat churchill — August 10, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  3. Great points Mr. Cog. It’s easy to be negative – how about finding the positive in the report / blog post / news feature, etc, and build from there. Say what you liked and why you liked, and then what didn’t sit too well with you (and again, why not). The world’s full of cynics – why not be different?

    Comment by Danny Brown — August 10, 2009 @ 10:17 am

    • Good point…I (not surprisingly) hadn’t considered the part of the glass that is half-full. :)

      Comment by prcog — August 10, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  4. Everybody is correct on the Internet, no? We all see stuff that we don’t like and Twitter is a great new public forum to be snarky/pseudo-witty/analytical/whatever. So, we vent there and whoever wants to listens. But this is the great thing about social media — it’s opt-in. If I don’t like somebody’s tweet stream, I’ll unfollow. And I have.

    But, Mr. Cog, you’re engaging in the solution. Expand upon your thoughts and offer constructive criticism. Or, as all of our mothers have said “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    Comment by Geekgiant — August 10, 2009 @ 10:44 am

  5. First things first, I like the new WordPress get-up. Well done.

    Secondly, regarding stoking each others egos: I have often thought we PR folk are each others best cheerleaders. Our jobs have their “downs” so let us lament together and make each other feel better by saying such things as “great post, I totally agree!” But I recently had a fantastic discussion with a fellow PR tweeter (who shall remain unnamed) about how much more we can benefit from constructive criticism and opposing points of view. Does everyone really think each post they comment on is that fantastic? Are we just being sheep (pardon the harsh word usage)? I’m all about the positive (@ssmirnov once told me something to the effect of “stop being so happy, you are making the rest of us look bad.” Ha! And I love her for that. She rocks.), but it’s ok to be a contrarian (just don’t be a jerk and back your argument up…more below). It’s a free country.

    Lastly, I agree, Cog…passive aggressive tendencies frustrate me. If you are going to make a point that you do not like a campaign, aren’t loving someone’s tweets (IMHO, just un-follow, it’s the simplest action), etc. say it in more than 140 characters and most definitely more eloquently than 140 characters allows: “Whether or not the advice is taken at least at that point you’re providing a real opinion, (hopefully) backed up by coherent thought, logic, perhaps even case studies or the like.” Pardon the praise (tee hee), but it’s said quite well here.

    I just made a point about not agreeing…and I agreed…ugh. #fail

    @kottavio

    Comment by Kate Ottavio — August 10, 2009 @ 11:35 am

    • Kate, when I’m #passiveaggressive towards you, it’s meant in a lolacious way. Just throwing that out there, in case no one gets our little tough-love jokes!

      Comment by TJ Dietderich — August 10, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  6. I’ve always been a fan of constructive criticism – especially from a friend. More often than not, they’ve got your best interest at heart. Plus, in my humble opninion, it gets you closer to your buddies…cause you see a bit more vulnerability from both ends.

    Great reminder, Peter! And a Great Post!

    Comment by narciso17 — August 10, 2009 @ 11:46 am

  7. It’s interesting that this post is coming from you, Cog, as you arguably have less to lose going out on a limb and being critical of others as your persona is (semi) anonymous.

    I think it’s a good thing that most of us in PR/Social Media own up to our comments and use our real names when commenting on posts. I look at the vitriol that’s spewed anonymously across most newspaper blogs and it makes me feel very fortunate that we all stand behind our opinions with a name and an avatar.

    What’s really bothersome to me, though, is the lemming mentality. It’s almost like we don’t actually have any original opinions to stand behind anymore. There are certain people who have become “untouchable” in the social media realm. Someone amasses thousands of followers and has a popular blog and suddenly they can do no wrong. Everything they write is considered gospel, even if it’s crap; every time they tweet it’s RT around the globe, even if it makes no sense; and everyone is too terrified to call them out (even tactfully, as you propose).

    And really, there’s no benefit in doing so. If someone is so popular that they have thousands of lemmings (or sheep, as @KOttavio put it) to rush to their defense without thinking, then as the criticizer all you’ve done is set yourself up to be labeled mean, cranky, grouchy, contrarian, or “that person who attacked so-and-so.” So instead, what we end up with is a handful of anointed ones and thousands of head-bobbers agreeing and retweeting and showering them with love (sometimes deserved, but oftentimes not). And no one bothers to stop and say, “Hey, wait a sec, that’s bunk. Why are we fawning over this?”

    So, I think it’s somewhat good to see tweets that are critical, like the ones you’ve noticed recently. It means that people are finally (hopefully) breaking from the lemming mentality and giving some thought to whether posts, campaigns, etc. are worthwhile or successful. There’s a way to do it without being downright nasty, as you say, and I absolutely concur that folks should not simply use Twitter to just label something a FAIL and leave it at that. It’s more constructive to have to layout a reasoned argument for your view on a topic, and the mere exercise of doing so may lead us to discover that our initial knee-jerk Twitter response isn’t really what we actually think.

    Honest, critical and thought-provoking debate will be much more effective in helping us move forward instead of just saying “I agree!” constantly. It’s absolutely possible to have respectful relationships with people without agreeing with them all the time. Some may think that the lemming mentality is a way for them to quickly ingratiate themselves with some sort of in-crowd, but in the end I have more respect for people who challenge opinions and cause us all to stop and think a little harder.

    Comment by amymengel — August 10, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  8. i always said there is a flip side to PR and this post is it. we don’t have to be critical, but if we do, let’s be constructive. i understand why you stay anonymous. it gives you the freedom to say it like it is. authentic and real observations even if it comes from someone no one knows in real life. it shows that the content (what you have to say) is more important than the author (who says it). thanks for your assistance.

    Comment by Joe Vasquez — August 10, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  9. Thanks for raising the issue, Cog. As long as opinions are being expressed with respect and professionalism — on Twitter or elsewhere — I’m all for open and honest conversations. I’ve learned some valuable lessons in the social media space, one of which is: if you critique someone by tweet, you should take the time to expand on your criticism via comment at that person’s post. If someone disagrees with me and wants to engage, I’d much rather do it in the long form of blog commentary than in 140 characters. Too much is lost in translation. The other lesson I’ve learned is don’t snark about a fellow PR practitioner’s work for snark’s sake. Offer helpful insight, suggest a different way the work could have been executed, comment on the campaign and not the person. I guess I feel that PR people are so often the brunt of ridicule in the blogosphere and twitterverse (sometimes warranted, sometimes not)that we should try to avoid attacking from within. And yes, I’m a hypocrite because I will happily snark on a crappy ad campaign. (Burger King, I’m talking to you. I will never forgive you for that 7″ sandwich thing in Singapore. You are dead to me.)

    Comment by ssmirnov — August 10, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  10. Why does it apply to PR alone? Doesn’t this apply to everything else vented out on Twitter? Bruno was massacred on Twitter…how many people blogged about it with detailed reasoning (not that Bruno deserves one :-)). Most movies or new music titles are concluded in 140 characters after so much effort from artists. Why pick on PR industry alone?

    The point is on the brevity Twitter allows (demands?) – everything tweeted isn’t full of context and is mostly just the crux of it. Get used to it and perhaps evolve…to respond in 140 characters.

    Comment by Karthik S — August 11, 2009 @ 1:52 am

    • Thanks for your note Karthik. They are indeed interesting (and valid) points.

      I spun my post to PR since it’s what I do, what I pay most attention to on twitter, most of those I follow are in PR, and most that follow me (excluding spam accounts) are in PR. I wouldn’t want to overgeneralize to other industries.

      That part, that most of us (in my self-selected limited demographic) are professional communicators and some use (or as noted by other commenters hide behind) the 140 char limit, when trying to be thought leaders is bothersome. Less “influential” practitioners (or those who aren’t idolized) look up to these folks for guidance and to get something as short as (fictional example), “ABC Toys’ latest campaign makes me want a pacifier” is inexcusable.

      Do I think tweets like “Bruno wasn’t funny. Don’t waste your money” or “The hot dog stand on 42nd and 6th serves stale buns” from non-professionals needs explanation – not necessarily. (Disclaimer: That hot dog one is fictional as well…I don’t need a lawsuit)

      However, if the comment comes from a professional movie or food reviewer I would expect more.

      In our current media structure we look to those, who have survived and moved up in their own sectors through natural selection (i.e. not being fired and moving to larger markets and along the way gaining influence), to provide insight, not just conclusions. Let me know how you got to your conclusion and I’ve learned something about you and what you’re telling me about. To just tell me your conclusion treats me like a 1 year old incapable of analytic thought, just taking instruction [sheep/lemming] and running (and probably ReTweeting) it.

      Using the food example, even in a character limited tweet you can provide sufficient detail to give some insight. Consider:

      “The marinara at XYZ restaurant is lousy.” vs. “The marinara at XYZ restaurant is lousy — it has too much oregano.”

      If I adore oregano I know to potentially dismiss, or at least factor that into how I value the comment. Some comments just need more than an “Oregano disclaimer” (or 140 chars) to explain themselves fully and in an industry based on communications I don’t consider it that difficult to make the extra effort.

      Comment by prcog — August 11, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  11. […] Read­ m­o­re fro­m­ the o­rig­inal s­o­urc­e: “M­a­n­ Up” (Wom­a­n­ up works­ a­s­ we­ll)…… […]

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  13. […] a few side comments, or using his opinion as a springboard for my own posts, I let his rhetoric slide by – no harm, no foul IMHO and I had more pressing issues to […]

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