Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the head of the pin you're dancing on

I just returned from some unofficial and offical meetings with colleagues in one of my national professional groups, one that mixes journalists and communicators united by a single topic. Here's what I found disturbing to watch: Strenuous efforts by my colleagues--who represent a wide variety of communications responsibilities and institutions--to carve themselves a secure place to stand on the head of a pin, and doing it by slamming the rest of the profession.

Most of the furor didn't make much sense, either.  A longtime university public affairs and public relations pro denounced marketers (as in, "I'd QUIT if they asked me to do MARKETING!"), then went around asking people to re-tweet a Twitter post.  Some insisted all they peddle is information or stories that they "tell," and decried "relations" of any kind: public, media, whatever, even as they bragged about their strong relationships and contacts, angled for lecture fees or put out flyers for their books and products.  Others sought to align themselves with journalists, as if that were the gold standard (and when they do much more).  In contrast, the journalists--who know rather acutely that their roles have already changed and will continue to do so--were less strident.  "We're all communicators, aren't we?" observed one, wryly.  "I still think of myself as a journalist, but I do a lot of writing that doesn't fit that category anymore," admitted another. 

Seth Godin's post about the doormat, the jerk and the lizard brain gets to part of what I was observing, especially where he points out that:
Fear is the driver here, it's fear that pushes people in either of these two directions. That's because in between the two extremes lies responsibility and opportunity and the requirement that you actually do work that matters.
Ah, there's the rub. I was seeing the fear of my colleagues that their work might no longer matter.

So--as one who's very happy with the work she's carved out for herself and who doesn't fit into a lot of predetermined labels--let me ask my colleagues to pipe down with the finger-pointing and labeling. We can tell you're trying to avoid doing anything new by objecting to it loudly.  No need to repeat.  Try recognizing that we all are in a time of flux and change.  Instead of screaming about who may have moved your cheese (have you looked over in marketing?), how about considering what you can contribute, and taking responsibility for rebooting your view of your job to fit today's audiences and technologies?  As Godin says, "Linchpins might be afraid, but they know precisely what they're afraid of. And then they do something constructive about it." Amen.

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