I received lots of feedback on the post I wrote earlier in the week about controlling the message. Particularly for this section:
Can you teach experts how not to be douchbags? Or how not to fall victim to those who would want them to turn to that path? Or is that part of the cycle of propaganda?
I did not choose my words wisely, or explain the concept I wanted to discuss very well. I really do apologize y’all. Just to be super clear, I do not hate experts or evangelists. I don’t think any of the ones I know or follow are douchebags. I’m really sorry if you read those words and thought that is how I felt. It’s so opposite of what I think actually!
Here’s what I was trying to tease out:
Sometimes the power, attention, and perks of being an expert or an evangelist can go to one’s head. I’ve been on both sides of this. When you are the go-to person on a particular topic (i.e. “expert”) – by people you don’t know, who may be way above your pay grade – that can be very heady. The attention that you get is seductive; do you alter how or what you write to impress the powers that be so you continue getting the perks? Do you start to believe the hype people say about you? I found it hard to keep my perspective and to continuing to learn hone my expertise when I got all starry eyed and started becoming unbalanced.
On the other side, I’ve developed influencers with a goal of get them in front of my execs and top engineers. The reason: they tell you what you really think on technology issues, futures, and messaging. The best ones are the ones who don’t have a customer relationship with us. I think customers fell that if they are too ornery with execs there is a chance they will damage the relationship with their account execs. Independent influencers can ask the direct questions others won’t think to ask. Sometimes, these folks have come to expect certain perks – an evidence of the relationship becoming unbalanced.
It’s the lack of balance in the relationship of an expert|influencer|evangelist that has me worried.
I think the person who handles experts/influencers better than anyone in the industry is Stephen Foskett. His Tech Field Day events bring this influencer audience to the vendors, and he is very particular in who he allows to participate. I think this gives more experts the chance to influence vendors – which is awesome. (Full disclosure – in my role as a Product Marketer at Dell we’ve used this service, and hopefully will be able to do so again soon!).
I believe that we need to hear the voice of experts, especially now. Technology is changing so fast. I’m finding it hard to keep up with the changes. I depend on experts who chase down details to share their expertise. But just because tech is changing very rapidly doesn’t mean our ways of explaining it, messaging it, or selling it are. We’re in a place where remaining balanced is going to be difficult.
My question to marketers: what can we do to keep our experts balanced, so they aren’t seduced to just be a mouthpiece for our bidding, so they can benefit from the attention? How do we empower them to speak up when the message is off, not just to broadcast the same old tired stuff?
My question to experts: how do you stay balanced? Do you feel you are able to talk honestly and openly about the changes in tech, especially if may not be in line with the business direction of your company?
My question to everyone: what do y’all think?