The Expert Myth

I’ve written about this before, and I’m writing again because it’s important.  It’s what I’m calling The Expert Myth.

I hear almost every day that if you have a blog you are an expert in whatever topic you’re writing about – and nothing could be further from the truth.  Just because you have a point of view – and a platform on which to share it – doesn’t mean that people will, or should, consider you as an expert.  To position yourself without the necessary supporting evidence is misguided and misleading.  It’s also unnecessary.

Think about it.  Does being able to drive a car qualify you to drive in NASCAR? Having a blog doesn’t make you a journalist [or, in some cases, even a reporter].  Being able to fly a plane using MS Flight Simulator doesn’t quality you to be a commercial pilot… so why does writing about something on a blog or social network mean you become an expert on the subject?

Think about it… it doesn’t!  Expert status takes time and real-world experience.  In reality, the only people legally able to call themselves an expert are those that have been expert witnesses in a court of law.

Everybody talks about engagement as each new social platform launches, but how often do you ever see a conversation taking place?  Not as often as you should. Social Media has become a place for ‘experts’ and brands to tell you what they think, or why you should be interested in their latest product or service – it’s about me, not you.  “I’m the expert and you will be interested in what I have to say. Like this. Follow that. RT me… PLEASE”.

That isn’t, in my opinion, what social media – or, for that matter, public relations or marketing – is all about.  The purpose of public relations and marketing is the creation and management of a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and its publics [audiences] – I know this sounds old-fashioned, but it is still the definition used by our industry associations around the world – and the benefit of social media is in the open exchange of views in real-time.

So, how about it?  How about we start a conversation about public relations, the role and value of experts and the value of social media in building mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their audiences?

Other ‘expert’ posts

A message to all the social media ninjas, jedis, gurus, rockstars, wizards, concierges…

Is My Social Media Expert Really An Expert?

Beware False Experts

The Dark Side of Social Media

Social Media Has A Dark Side

Social Media, Dark Side, Jedi, Communications
Social Media has a dark side intent on playing jedi mind tricks

Who’d have thought it? The Social Media Jedi has a dark side.

Earlier in the week I was contacted by Gerry Moran about a post in which I’d called out something he’d written called Learn To Be A Social Media Jedi in 5 Steps as doing a disservice to the industry, potential customers and himself.  I’ve subsequently added more examples to illustrate my point because Gerry is not the only person behaving in this way.

Read my post – and Gerry’s comments – here: ‘An Open Letter To Social Media Ninjas, Jedis, Gurus, Wizards…

One thing that Gerry says in his comments is “Be nice and be a positive part of the community… especially with those that get it”.  What, I suspect, Gerry really means is,“don’t tell anybody that this is hogwash – I’m building a reputation based on it.” But, I’m tired of playing nice with people who keep spreading this nonsense – saying nothing means they continue to pollute the industry with this rubbish that makes it harder for companies to understand the value of doing it properly.

It’s not just social media, the public relations industry has been getting away with it for years, and I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of people thinking that awareness is what public relations and marketing is all about, in the same way as I’m tired of people telling entrepreneurs that they HAVE to be doing social media.  They don’t.  It’s just easier to play a numbers game than it is to actually deliver results based on communicating with a targeted message to a defined audience. In the same way as it’s easy to call yourself a Jedi or Ninja and charge somebody for updating a handful of social platforms without any specific plan.

Even Gerry isn’t convinced.  The strength of his message is diluted as you read the piece he wrote.  It goes from ‘Learn To Be A Social Media Jedi in 5 Steps to ‘5 Steps Toward Being A Social Media Jedi‘ within a handful of short paragraphs.

Social Media Jedi, Gerry Moran, Social Media, Marketing
Learn to Be A Social Media Jedi in 5 Steps? Not quite.

“Be nice and be a positive part of the community… especially with those that get it.” Not likely Gerry.  Not while I have an ounce of energy left in me… you and the Jedis, Ninjas, Gurus and Wizards make have the Facebook, but you are not a Jedi yet!

PR is about values! [Why Your Value Proposition Matters]

‘What’s your value proposition?’

It’s a question I ask almost every entrepreneur I meet.  I’m always surprised how few can articulate it well.  Some look at me with confusion.  I rephrase the question. “What problem are you solving for your target audience?” Again, I get way too many blank faces or, “I’m building an app/software that does X or Y”.

I want to respond with, “So What?”.  I rarely do, but perhaps I should do it more often because it’s the question that almost everybody that you meet as an entrepreneur wants to know the answer to.  Why should they care? Your value proposition is key to answering the ‘so what?’ question because it explains in a few short sentences why they should care; why they will want to purchase your product or service, or why they would want to invest in you.

Without a clearly defined value proposition it’s difficult to create a strong, valid, set of messages that form the basis of every good pitch deck, investor proposal, PR and marketing campaign and, most importantly, sales collateral.  Without these a business struggles to acquire early adopters, customers and investors.

And, without those a business struggles to survive.  So, what’s your value proposition?

The 80:20 Rule of PR and marketing

There’s a pretty established rule in business – that 80% of revenues comes from 20% of your customer base.  For many years the PR and marketing industry has misunderstood this – spending 80 percent of their effort attempting to communicate with the 80 percent,  in the hope of attracting the attention of the 20%, rather than focusing everything they do on the 20% that are likely to become customers.

PR has become nothing more than a numbers game that consumes agency hours on a standard process – that is the same irrespective of the audience, the product or service, the message and the desired outcome.  So, is there any wonder why most campaigns don’t deliver the results that businesses want?  Most PR and marketing campaigns, direct email and social media programs fail to deliver even a 5% conversion rate.

If you’re trying to deliver a message to an audience of thousands, in the hope of starting a conversation with a few tens of people, why not focus 80% percent of your efforts on delivering the right message to the 20%, at an appropriate time, via the right channel?

If you’re ready to think differently about PR and marketing come and find out how we can help your business establish long-term, rewarding relationships with your 20% get in touch.


How To Deal With Social Media Criticism

A couple of weeks ago I received a sales call from Sun Life wanting to set up a meeting with a sales person that was in the city the following day.  I explained that my day was already full – and that I already have a relationship with one of the company’s sales representatives as part of the networking events I go to and was in the process of setting up a meeting with her to discuss what they could do for me.  The caller however, asked me again when I was free the following day and, when I asked him if he’d understood what I’d said he hung up on me.

In the heat of the moment I took to twitter and tweeted my frustration with the company, including the @ handle.  I didn’t expect to hear anything back and I’d made my point in real-time -as an increasing number of people do these days.  Twenty minutes later I got a reply from Sun Life – they apologized and wanted to know more information… would I DM them an email address so they could get in touch.

Over the next few days I exchanged emails with one of the senior social media specialists – they apologized again, wanted to find out more specific information so that they could follow up internally.  I don’t know whether they did, or whether any action has been taken to ensure that the problem doesn’t happen again, but that’s not important.  [For the record, I suspect they have done whatever they can to stop the same thing happening again].

The reason for writing this is that it demonstrates how small businesses should respond to negative feedback online.  Sun Life didn’t ignore the problem.  They didn’t try and blame somebody else, and they didn’t try and turn it in to an opportunity for a smart-ass response. They started a conversation. They took it offline [because these conversations don’t need to be had in public], and they’ve turned it in to both a customer service opportunity and an opportunity to gather information that can be used to improve the sales process.

Most importantly they’ve ensured that an incident beyond the direct control of the company doesn’t negatively impact my perception of the company.  Does your business have a plan for dealing with negative feedback online?

Other posts on dealing with negative online feedback

5 things to do if you receive negative feedback online

How to get defamatory online posts removed

A message to all the social media ninjas, jedis, gurus, rockstars, wizards, concierges…

Social Media Ninja, Social Media Jedi, Social Media Wizard, Social Media Concierge

Stop it.  Please.  You’re doing yourself and the industry a disservice – and it has to stop.

Last week I met a social media ‘ninja’ who says he has just a year of social media experience – and admits he knows nothing about marketing or public relations.  He told me he can’t believe he gets paid for ‘doing a few updates on Facebook and Twitter’ and, having taken a look at his handiwork, neither can I.

Social Media Ninja, Social Media Jedi, Social Media Wizard, Social Media Concierge
A message to all the social media ninjas, jedi, concierges and wizards…

But, the problem is not him, or his colleagues in the fantasy world of social media [used as a verb]. It’s us.  We let them get away with it because we just laugh at them behind their backs – but when they start to do my industry a disservice then it’s no longer a joking matter.  It’s time we called them on it.  Humiliated them publicly.  Stated speaking to them with the contempt they deserve.  And, by wasting your money without checking that they know what they are talking about – you continue to feed the growing trend for mythical social animals and self-titled experts.  Ask yourself this question: would you get on a plane with an airplane wizard [with one year’s experience] at the controls, or have your car serviced by an automotive Jedi? Would you take an accountant seriously if they were a financial rockstar?!

Every time I see a social media Jedi I want to say, ‘Use twitter you must not’ or ‘Use the Facebook Luke… but use it wisely’.  I want to challenge the Ninjas to a battle with communications nunchucks!  I joke about it, but it’s a serious matter – these people need calling out and banishing to a Rakata Mind Prison for social eternity.  This includes the self-titled ‘experts’ and the people who should know better… like Gerry Moran – Head of Social Media for SAP in North America.  Gerry wrote this nonsense a couple of weeks ago about learning to be a social media Jedi in 5 steps.

To quote Yoda, “When you look at the dark side, careful you must be…for the dark side looks back.” Next time you encounter a social media ninja, guru, rockstar, wizard or expert ask them to prove it!


Earlier in the week I was contacted by Gerry Moran. You can read his comments and my responses below.  As promised, I’m adding others that claim to be able to help you become a social media ninja/wizard/guru or jedi! [when he’s not being a Social Media Jedi, Clive is the social media strategist for Philips Healthcare]

10-steps-to-becoming-a-jedi-master-of-social-media-stealth-marketing [Dave is an IT manager, technologist and keen fell runner in addition to being a social media jedi] [Andrew Beattie claims to have spent most of his career writing, editing and managing Web content in all its many forms. He is, it appears, especially interested in the future of search and the application of analytics to the business world. He does not, it appears, to have any formal marketing qualifications!]

Please do what I’m going to do in the next few days and contact each of these individuals and ask them for their qualifications, how they measure the success or failure of their advice, and what their conversion rates are.  I’ll let you know what, if any, responses I get.

Similar posts

Is My Social Media ‘expert’ an… Expert?

KLOUT – does it REALLY show how much influence you have?

Beware False Experts

Disclaimer: EVERYTHING you say is the view of your employer

10 things every entrepreneur should know about crisis communications

I wrote a few months ago about dealing with a crisis and I thought it would be worth posting the key points again today.  Here are a few tips on how to minimize the damage in a crisis.

It’s all about control.  If you don’t have it you’re at the mercy of the press, social media and speculation.  The sooner you regain control of the news agenda the better.

Have a plan.  Successful crisis communications is all about the planning, so do it before the problem happens.  You don’t want to be creating a strategy when the pressure is on – you want to be able to use it as soon as a crisis happens.

Get your side of the story on record as soon as you can. Otherwise the only story people hear is the accusations.  The longer you leave it, the harder it is to regain control of the situation.

Use holding statements if you need to – they can provide a valuable tool that buy you some time – but get your side of the story in to the public domain as soon as possible.  It’s important not to say something before you are ready, but if you have a plan you should be able to make a statement sooner rather than later.

Tell the truth. If you don’t it will come out and being seen to lie will only make the situation worse in the long run.  Honest mistakes [if that’s what they are] will likely be forgiven more quickly if they are taken responsibility for, than if your audience thinks you aren’t being honest.

If you have something to own up to, do it sooner rather than later.  If you’ve made a mistake acknowledging it, and apologizing, minimizes long-term damage to reputation.

If you aren’t guilty of the accusations being levelled against you or your business, be very clear that they are wrong [see my post on dealing with defamatory statements]

Apologize. Say sorry – if you need to – and mean it.

Don’t duck difficult questions.  It’ll look like you have something to hide.

Keep statements to the facts. Don’t comment on things that aren’t directly related to the crisis, and don’t get drawn into commenting on rumour or speculation.  If you don’t know the answer, say so.

In some cases a holding statement is the best strategy.  It’ll give you more time to  work on something more substantive, when you know more.  It’s also important that if you give assurances that a full investigation will be conducted and a more detailed statement given once this has been completed you must do so in a timely manner.

Know what you’re dealing with before you say anything. Make sure you have a full understanding of what did and did not happen so that you can be sure what you’re saying is accurate.  It’ll also ensure that you can’t be accused of misleading and allows you to avoid misunderstandings.

Understand the relative jurisdictions involved. Are there legal issues? Personal matters? It’s important to be clear what relates directly to your organization so that your communications strategy focuses on these issues and not on those that fall outside of your responsibility or sphere of expertise or legal jurisdiction.

If you have any questions about how to manage a crisis we’ll be happy to help you build a crisis management plan that will serve you well in the event that it is needed.

Google I/O shows the future of the web

Google Plus, Facelift, Google Book
A Facebook competitor? Google Plus gets a cleaner, more intuitive and user-friendly interface.

I attended one of the Google I/O extended events in Kitchener-Waterloo yesterday and got a glimpse of some of the developer tools that will shape the way we see and use the web. As a marketer there were some things that will make it easier for customers to find the business they are looking for, for businesses to target audiences with personal messaging and allow for richer conversations between businesses and their customers.

Location, mobile and video are all going to be huge – and yes, I know that’s not a great revelation, but, as I’ll write about in more detail in the coming days the opportunities to use each of these intelligently to differentiate your business are huge. Google Plus, generally seen as a far inferior platform to Facebook, got a major overhaul with a facelift and major back-end updates will likely encourage users to take another look at it.

A&F “plus size” comments are simply brand positioning

A lot has been made in the media recently about comments reportedly made by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries about plus size women’s clothing.  Aside from the fact that Jeffries doesn’t appear to have said anything specifically about plus-size clothes [I can find no evidence for him specifically using the words claimed and most stories appear to have come from an interview Retail Analyst and author Robin Lewis gave to Business Insider, and the fact that the interview being used by many media outlets to support their story was in a 2006 edition of Salon magazine, the companies focus on ‘the thin and beautiful’ appears to be little more than brand positioning.

Sure, Jeffries position on the type of customers he wants in store might be offensive and misplaced.  They might, ultimately, be bad for the company image as they transition to a high-end luxury brand targeting a wider demographic than their current customer base, but in reality, they are simply a brand positioning exercise – and marketers could do worse than follow Abercrombie’s example.

Abercrombie & Fitch brand positioning
Abercrombie & Fitch knows its customer demographic

Why? Because Jeffries clearly knows who his customers are – the so-called ‘thin and the beautiful’ – and his comments [albeit not those he’s accused by many of making] simply reinforce the company’s brand values [thin, and ‘beautiful’] to his target audience to those that already buy his clothes, and those that aspire to shop there – people who believe they are ‘thin and beautiful’.

You can argue his mis-guided definition of beautiful – I’m not suggesting Jeffries is accurate – but A&F’s is on display in every piece of marketing the company does.  As socially unacceptable as his comments might be he isn’t worried about upsetting the wider mass market, because they’re not likely to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch.  It’s actually smart brand positioning.

Other brands do exactly the same thing as A&F – just more subtly.  Ferrari produces $250,000 vehicles that it knows its core customer base will buy.  It does not make a $30k subcompact or a station wagon [OK, so it made one for the Sultan of Brunei]. Nor do you ever hear people complaining because they don’t make a car for the mass market.  Apple’s  core business for many years was high-end, high-priced personal computers for the semi- and professional customer… the list goes on.  Their brand positioning and marketing are also highly targeted to the people that buy its products and those that aspire to own them.

Mike Jeffries comments from 2006 are also a welcome reinforcement that in the era of the real-time internet, everything you say can be easily found and be revisited at any time and used against you.  This might cause the company problems if, as reports suggest, it has a plan to transition to a broader high-end luxury fashion brand with a broader potential customer base but, if he’s as skilled a brand manager as he appears, it’s unlikely.