Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stop Messaging Me!

I once had a boss who, whenever he spoke, made you feel like you’d just been “key messaged.” He always had a rehearsed line for everything -- crisp, clean and perfectly tuned for even the most mundane question. He was slick and buttery to the point where everyone was trying to read between his lines. It wasn’t natural, and I think eventually even clients caught on to his smarminess and constant word posturing.

But I didn’t blame him for being choosy with his words (radio host Don Imus taught us that lesson this week). After all, leaders are in the spotlight. When you’re off your game, say the wrong thing or show too much emotion, you could lose respect from those around you. Or worse, you could lose your job.

I understand the need for a key message track in our line of business. But when do you turn off the carefully crafted sound bites we’ve been conditioned to deliver and simply lay it on the line?

I think this is why I like the idea of blogging as a forum for genuine expression of thought. I assume that’s what a blog should be about. Are we to use our blogs for self-promotion and corporate messages? Isn’t that a turnoff? I think it was Shel Israel who said, “Corporations don’t blog. People do.” So shouldn’t we remove our corporate message hat, open our hearts, and say what’s honestly on our minds -- making that connection with our audience by being unabashedly genuine? I’m not saying corporate messages aren’t honest, but is that what people want to read all day? They can get that fodder from their own boss! I gravitate to blogs that let me into the inner sanctum of someone’s thinking and position – their position, not the company they work for.

Senior PR practitioners, I think, are the worst to simply let it all hang out there on a blog, yes, there are a few exceptions! After all, our clients could be reading this, as could potential employees, competitors, etc. We’ve been weaned on the message track mentality and, unfortunately, sometimes we forget that this is not the forum to get all tight-assed and commercial. I’ve stopped reading the blogs that simply want to tell me how perfect the grass is on the other side.

On his blog, Toronto PR guy Michael O’Connor Clarke listed a number of turn-offs when podcasting and the reasons why most podcasts are "rubbish." He came out swinging, and he’s right, but I think the same philosophy can be applied to blogs.

So here’s what I learned about blogging these last eight months: dump the business-style prose, type from the heart and tell it as you see it.

How’s that for a key message track?


bleeeeeeeeeeeeeee said...
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thornley said...

Right on Julie.

And you could add: Don't be afraid if people disagree with you. Listen to them and learn.

michaelo said...

Amen to that Julie.

And you're right - as the crusty ol' blogfather of the PR blogosphere, I'm sorry to say that much of what passes for blogging in the PR world is utter and complete pants. There are some notable exceptions, of course, but far too much recursive "look at me, I've got a blog, I'm all cool now" stuff.

Bah. I shouldn't be this cranky on a Friday afternoon. I need more sunlight, dammit - it's the weather that's got me all twisty, I'm sure.