hypocritical : talking the talk without walking the walk

September 20, 2005

Every communication, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an opportunity

NOTE: I'm currently on a plane bound for Denver, Colorado. In the old days, when I was in this type of situation, it was highly likely that I would craft long-winded diatribes to my friends and co-workers. Filled with pithy verbiage and thought-provoking ideas, these missives would sit, quietly waiting for me to reconnect with my email server so that they could go flying out to their intended recipients.

Long story short, they told me to stop. They said that they were not impressed by my thoughts and that they were a little miffed to have to suffer through pages of my drivel just to serve as some receptacle for my bored midair ramblings.

Lucky you. You get it instead. And with that, on with our diatribe.


I may be overly sensitive. I'm willing to admit it. I like to think that it is that empathetic nature that makes me better at marketing. That makes me better at my job. That helps me consider, respect, and understand my audience.

And, being completely absorbed with myself as well as the proud owner of a good healthy dose of egotism, I also think of that empathy as a sort of intelligence. An emotional intelligence. A respect.

Unfortunately, I expect every intelligent person to have that same sensitivity. I expect every person with whom I attribute the moniker of "genius" carries that same sensitivity. But in reality, they don't. Some people excel and design and products and writing, but they're downright rude when it comes to communicating. And that is something that we all, as marketers, need to understand. Not everyone, my friend, cares as much about how they communicate as you and I.

Take, for example the following little email, where I lobbed an idea and some praise into a software developer for whom I have great deal of respect. Genius in terms of usability at this place. Impeccable design. Event good communications. Yet, this was the communication (with the identifying information stripped).

I sent this somewhat flowery and overly complimentary communiqu‚:


[NAME],

I've long been a fan of [YOUR COMPANY'S] work, from both a client-of-[YOUR PRODUCT]-users and a user's perspective. Thank you for all that you and your team have done to make my work more efficient, more intelligible, and more beautiful.

Unfortunately (for you), while I could continue to laud praise upon your team for pages and pages, I was actually contacting you with a much more selfish interest in mind.

Our corporate marketing/public relations/events team (internal and external) is desperately in search of a [PRODUCT] that would allow us to [DESCRIPTION OF PROPOSED FUNCTIONALITY].

Ideally, we would be able to share this resource with an untold number of users (ala the [FUNCTIONALITY]), perhaps even "publish" views to an Intranet.

"Sounds like [YOUR PRODUCT]," I'm sure your saying. It is, and it isn't. It's very similar to the [FUNCTIONALITY] tool found in [YOUR PRODUCT], but it lacks the [FUNCTIONALITY] aspect of [YOUR PRODUCT]. We're just looking for a broad-brush,[FUNCTIONALITY] kind of functionality.

So, I was wondering if your team had any plans to extract/extend the features of that [YOUR PRODUCT] component, similar to what you've done with [YOUR PRODUCT]? In my experience, this [FUNCTIONALITY] is a much needed tool for corporate marketing and public relations teams, an area in which typical [COMPETING PRODUCT] tools lack greatly, and a feature/product that could potentially extend the reach of [YOUR PRODUCT] into some different markets.

Hopefully, either I've overlooked functionality that is already there and you can tell me to RTFM, or you guys are already down this path. But if not, I'd be happy to discuss it further. In any case, I'd appreciate any guidance or advice you have to offer in this regard.

Thanks for your time. I look forward to your reply.

Thanks in advance,
Rick


Okay, perhaps a tad over the top, but all true. I wasn't being hyperbolic by any stretch of the imagination. That's exactly how I felt about the company and its products. That is, until I received this reply:


Hi Rick-

We don't have plans to build a [FUNCTIONALITY] tool, sorry.

-[NAME]


Hmm. Okay. Well, this isn't a big company. And they probably get thousands of messages from crackpots like me, every day. And they probably have to slog through them and respond to all of them. But, I have to be honest: I would have rather received a canned response from a bot than this "personal" response from the folks there.

Because this response damaged their brand. It altered my perception of their company. And it brought them down a few rungs, in my book.

Now, will this altered perception really affect them? Probably not. But, maybe if they had taken a couple more seconds to respond to my query with more than a "nope," maybe if they had run out to my car like the Les Schwab folks and showed some interest in what I was proposing-even if it was feigned interest-this blog entry would have been an entirely different entry.

One or two more sentences. They might have solidified my stance as one of their greatest proponents and most prolific champions.

But they didn't take the time to do that, because it didn't seem important. Because that empathy wasn't there. Because there wasn't a second thoguth about "how would I feel if I received this response."

Great design. Witty copy. Too bad that doesn't permeate everything they do.

Just something that reminded me that every communication is an opportunity. An opportunity to connect. An opportunity to motivate. An opportunity to win friends and influence people. And like any opportunity, if it's neglected, it's a missed opportunity.

And it reminds me that I, too, ever the hypocrite, miss these opportunities on a regular basis.

Am I overreacting? What do you think? Have you had a similar experience where one of your "heroes" burst your bubble? Tell me about it. That's why the comments are there. I look forward to your stories. And I look forward to your return.

 



Every communication, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an opportunity
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