Posts Tagged op-ed

Know your audience

Posted by on Wednesday, 19 March, 2014

unlovable_dalepartridgeIt seems like such simple and straightforward advice, doesn’t it? Knowing who you are talking to isn’t much of a stretch, most of us think we know exactly who we are talking to via social media, but do we really?

Your audience may or may not be who you think they are.  For some blogs, the distinction of a particular audience may be clearly defined, for others an audience may bleed over into many differing perspectives and entry points for your content. The sooner, and more clearly you can identify the audience for your blog, the better your posts may become.

By way of example, I want to talk about a particular post which a friend of mine shared a day or so back. This post has some good advice, but the author missed the audience, and by doing so has likely alienated a larger swath of people:

“5 steps for loving the unlovable”

Dale’s post starts out simply enough: the intent is to help us all be better people by loving those who least deserve it. Good, solid advice to help us all improve our culture and become a more understanding and cohesive society. But, I’m having some difficulty in reconciling his second point with the title of the piece. In it Dale states:

  “Don’t Reinforce Their Brokenness – As a broken person myself, it’s rare that I don’t recognize my own brokenness. Talk about their strengths. Broken people need less awareness, and more healing.”

Yet, the title of the article “5 steps for loving the unlovable” clearly reinforces the idea that broken people are concretely unlovable. Dale’s voice here seems to be talking directly to people who don’t consider themselves as ‘broken’, and by virtue of this contradiction between advice and title, seems to assume that broken people won’t be reading his post. In fact, his voice generates an “us” and “them” focus that undermines his larger point.

But how would knowing his audience have improved his post? Let’s start with the assumption that those reading Dale’s post are both types of people as defined in his post: those who are ‘broken”, and everyone else. Not a huge stretch here as most people can identify as broken at one point in their lives, if not presently so. With this single, simple understanding that his audience comprises both types, I would expect a more focused choice of words to show compassion and love, rather than the subtle tone of superiority and conflicting messages present in the article as written.

A change in voice is a simple way to adjust for the audience. Given his recognition of being broken himself, rather than using “them” and “their”, a shift to “us” and “we” immediately changes the tone of the article to be more welcoming and inclusive as well as generating a feeling of deeper compassion and connectedness. With that single change, Dale could both drive home the overarching point of his article, while also combating the polarizing effects of the us versus them mindset which permeates our internet culture today. The recognition of an audience that is also broken would have guided Dale’s word choice to more effectively deliver his message.

Knowing your audience doesn’t mean you have to write directly to every different perspective. Rather, knowing your audience means understanding and acknowledging the differing perspectives and allowing those perspectives to help guide you as you create; leading you to the right word choices will do wonders to improve your following and reduce the potential for alienating a previously unknown audience segment.

My top 5 strengths; Or, how this was a completely different post until I went to write it

Posted by on Thursday, 17 January, 2013

gallup_top5Command and control attitudes and strategies don’t help protect you or you company. Instead they produce pain and frustration between your employees and clients, often to the point of causing them to simply give up and abandon the very task in which you want them to engage.

Case in point:

Today I was going to blog about my top 5 strengths as identified through the Gallup Strengths Finder assessment. I’d spent the $10 early last December to take the test and get my “custom” report based on my identified strengths. Having identified them, I was looking forward to blogging about them and what they mean, then moving on to how I can lead using my strengths. Instead, it seems Gallup is trying to prevent me from doing so. Because of their terms of use, I am wholly unable to post any of the descriptions of my 5 top strengths which renders any discussion or understanding of what these 5 terms mean to be completely irrelevant and any blog post to foster conversation a waste of time. Honestly, can you tell me what the 5 terms to the left actually mean?

I understand the need to protect intellectual property, but there comes a point when openly sharing the right information will lead to further growth and opportunity. Presently, the share and tweet buttons on their site will post my top 5 strengths as show to the left here, but the link provided takes the reader to a very generic home page where the only action a reader can take is to learn more about the overall program or purchase their own assessment. A pure marketing ploy if ever there was one. Without context and a bit more information to help the reader understand the value, I’d be shocked if Gallup ever sold a single license from this page.

Now, let’s imagine the same home page and same sales links, but with the simple addition of my top 5 identified strengths AND their descriptions. Now I have context and information to share that shows more value to you, perhaps even enough to prompt you to buy your own assessment based on how accurate you perceive mine to be (which by the by, appears to be quite accurate from my own perspective).  Simply allowing me to provide deeper context and meaning to my identified strengths would not only allow me to engage in good social conversation given a shared understanding of the terms, but it would ultimately help with Gallup’s marketing of the program by allowing it to be shared virally.

Instead, I am here telling you that my top 5 strengths were: Relator, Intellection, Empathy, Command, and Deliberative, but have no way to connect with you and show you how they really apply without breaking Gallup’s terms of service and explaining what they each mean. Rather than helping me be a great marketing vehicle for their program, they have instead made me a detractor providing negative social sentiment about the program and how it is overly controlled. (Ironically, my own Command strength has noting to do with command and control attitudes, but rather to do with taking charge of situations.)

People love taking tests like this and learning about themselves as evidenced by the glut of internet memes that are so similar in nature to these types of assessments. Imagine how different this post would have been had Gallup been just a bit more open and transparent with what they allow to be shared publicly. Their program inherently has a greater amount of trust and weight behind it given their reputation… even given the $10 price tag, I can imagine a far larger uptick in purchases would be seen if only potential customers could have some better understanding of the terms being shared by those who have taken the assessments already.


 *Update: 1-17-2013 at 1pm PST: Thanks to my business partner @coreybowers, it seems Gallup does indeed post the definitions elsewhere  causing more of a confusion of business strategies than outright command and control: and a PDF here:
So, I may yet be able to make the post I’d intended to and provide some context to the terms. Time will tell as I investigate the possibility of sharing the information on either of those two sites.

YOU are a community manager

Posted by on Wednesday, 22 August, 2012

Yes, you.

Ok, ok , ok…. *maybe* you aren’t, but I have a feeling that you probably are even if you don’t think so. Hang in here with me for a bit as I explain why I’m nearly certain you actually *are* a community manager.

It isn’t JUST you, of course; we are all community managers if we’re playing in social spaces. What I am specifically referring to is the idea that we each own responsibility for the content we post in social spaces, and in turn we own responsibility for the comments generated by (and added to) those posts. As active members in social networks, we create our own ad hoc communities every time we post content, be it a status updated about what we had for lunch or a longer missive on a facet of today’s society. In each case, we own the responsibility of managing these ad hoc communities just like a ‘formal’ community manager would. Likewise, when we comment on other’s posts, we are engaging as a member of their  community and have the responsibility to act accordingly.

The example is clear: If you make a post to Facebook or any other social site, you own that ad hoc community generated by the comments. Likewise, if you comment on someone else’s post, you own responsibility to add value to the conversation and respect their ad hoc community as well.

With today’s accelerated shift to social platforms, the role of community manager is increasingly important but the definition needs to be expanded to include not only the formalized and structured communities, but also the unstructured, ad hoc, fluid communities. We are all community managers to some extent now, and need to manage not only our own posts, but the threads of conversation which they generate.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time on any of my social channels you’ve likely heard me espouse the brilliance of IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines. While I may be biased, I do believe that even if I weren’t an IBMer, I’d still be highlighting the SCG as a work of genius when it comes to corporate policy to guide employees in social business. But it goes even beyond that… these are wonderful guidelines beyond the immediate intended audience of IBMers… (I’ve cherry picked the ones which are really universal):

  • Be who you are.
  • Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks.
  • Respect copyright and fair use laws.
  • Respect your audience and your coworkers.
  • Add value.
  • Don’t pick fights.
  • Be the first to respond to your own mistakes.
  • Adopt a warm, open and approachable tone.
  • Use your best judgment.

Aren’t those genius in their simplicity?

As we look with new eyes on our own social communities, we can all benefit from the simple guidance put forth above, as these bits are relevant as universal truths to social interaction. Now that we can recognize our own responsibilities for the communities we’ve built around us, we need now (more than ever) the tools to help guide us through some of those inevitable missteps we will make (or have made) along the way.

This is the new universal truth. Gone are the early days of the internet where we were just participants in one huge community. Now we are all individually responsible for managing our spaces and ensuring our formal and ad hoc communities are adding value to the spaces. As we join in these new and upcoming realms of conversation, we all need to recognize the responsibilities we have and gauge whether or not we are ready to take on that extra burden that comes with participating in social discussions.

If you are posting content to any social channel, you are already managing your communities, whether you realize it or not. It is upon us as individual contributors to ensure we are bringing value to and taking ownership of the spaces in which we play. Our successes depend upon it.


(Orignally posted May 18th, 2012 at Notes from Rational Support)