I remember the day it happened. The day our internal marketing director, Jennifer, called me up and cheerily said, “Terry, we’d like you to write a company blog.”
You could literally hear the smile in her voice… or was that some kind of devilish glee she was getting in asking an old dog to perform a new trick. Just give us a few words of wisdom — “what you’re thinking right now, or what you’re reading.” I didn’t know whether to swell a little with pride or to swear under my breath at this new “opportunity.” I sure as hell knew the blog wouldn’t be what I was thinking about, unless people might be interested to know more about Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of the big island of Hawai’i.
My thoughts often turn to this idyllic scene as the winter starts to bear down on Chicagoland. As for the eclectic titles that litter my home/office/bathroom reading areas, well, see there, you’ve already been given too much information!
But in that instant—the moment those words left her lips—I knew my world was about to change. I was being called on the carpet. I was being called to put up or shut up; take your own medicine; follow your own advice…find a cliché and stick it here. Hmm, this quite possibly was not going to be good.
As I reflect on those first few months of planning with Jennifer and our social media team, I am reminded that in our business and in our company, in particular, no man is an island. I wasn’t alone, simply working in a vacuum. I had all kinds of people encouraging me. We had brainstorming meetings about objectives, topics, tone, metrics… and still, in the end, my thought was for heaven’s sake people, no one is going to care what I have to say! “Google will,” I was assured. Somehow, that didn’t feel so satisfying. And yet, somewhere in my marketing brain, I knew that those words held some truth.
And so, here we are, at the beginning, working within a personal paradox where so many things come together, like one giant atom-smashing experiment. My age, this era of technology, the slow death of good communication skills, the internet, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Reddit – so many ways to provide your opinion, especially when society’s collective opinion is that no one really cares what your opinion is, unless of course, they agree with your opinion!
But I digress.
Writing was a huge part of my degree in college. My major was Journalism with an emphasis in PR/Advertising. Note: just because I have a degree in journalism does not guarantee that I will write while following all the “rules” of good grammar. I have enough rebel in me to recognize that in advertising we have the wonderful ability to take license and liberties with what might otherwise be considered proper English. And while I’m generally a rule follower, I do not always like to follow the rules of good grammar. Which is why I will occasionally start a sentence with “and” or “so.” And while I’ve had any number of clients, coworkers and friends tell me they enjoy my writing over the years, sitting down and just vomiting out my thoughts on nothing in particular has never been something I’ve been interested in doing.
I write for fun. I write to communicate an idea. A well-crafted thought, written with an economy of words (not generally my strong suit) is partly my career, partly a passion. I don’t do it for others, necessarily. But rather, I do it for myself along with the gratitude of a few select clients. And now, apparently, I do it for you…or Google. Let’s pretend Google doesn’t exist, though. Writing to just you will be a bit more satisfying.
But that leads me to the thought of other “leaders” out there – particularly those in their 50s, 60s and 70s – who may be struggling with the same request from their own teams. These are quite likely men and women who grew up crafting memos, writing letters, using the mimeograph machine, before there was the copier, the fax machine, email, Instant Messenger, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit and a hundred others!
Never before has it been more possible, or more likely that your words, your memo or letter would be instantaneously transmitted around the globe to people or an audience intended to read your thoughts – and in all likelihood perhaps to an audience that shouldn’t. Quite possibly you or some leader around you has been asked to do this same thing – write a blog about your business, or some other topic you are an expert on. That kind of flattery can cause heart palpitations, even in those of us who enjoy putting our thoughts down on paper.
But what’s the point, you may ask? (Particularly if you’re one of those shy individuals who’s been asked to pen a few words about your particular industry or expertise.)
It’s all about the story. People love stories. From novels to Facebook posts, we are intrigued with other people’s stories — their experiences, their insights, their learnings, their failures and ultimately, their successes. We live, partly, through others’ stories. These stories enrich our lives – personally and professionally. They allow us to “connect” in ways that weren’t possible just a short time ago. No one in leadership gets to be where they are by being a hermit nor by being timid.
So, I’m going to invite you to come with me on a journey of discovery, of sorts. If you’ve been asked to write a blog or a FB post or some other form of communication to the outside world, let me hear from you. Let’s do this together. Let’s see what we can learn about our truly amazing world of marketing, advertising and communication, and perhaps we’ll learn a little bit about one another along the way!
And if you really want to know more about that beautiful bay in Hawai’i, just let me know. I’ve even got pictures!
— musings from the T-Suite
@16.5004° S, 151.7415° W