It’s All a Blur

Posted on May 31, 2011 by Marian Salzman

In a world gone blurry (work/life, life/work and back again), what’s a PR or marketing professional to do in terms of messaging? Maybe you’ve noticed, as I have, the fantastic confusion pertaining to transparency these days, in an age of SarbOx gone mad. Take my household’s morning routine: We’re big banana eaters, but I’m afraid to reference our morning cereal topper because Chiquita is a client. Even such a simple act is vexing in this era of not just “tell it like it is” but also “tell it like it is, isn’t and could be.”

Welcome to a world in which everything we tweet about, status update or blog about is audited to the nth power. Sure, it’s cool to speak your mind, but be prepared for people to read between the lines, even if there is nothing there. (#nothingtoseeherefolks)

These days, are our personal lives being held under the same lens as our professional ones? As more and more businesses come under scrutiny for each and every move they make and “core values” is more than just a statement carefully crafted by a B-school grad, do we also need to be hypersensitive in our outside-of-work lives? How can we pave our way through everyone’s judgments, thoughts and criticisms? And if real stories are unfolding in the comments section of blogs and Facebook, how can we be in control of what we are trying to say, anyway? (#itsnotyouitsme)

I feel as if today’s social media is very much like declaring items in customs. It’s best to be upfront about all the items you’ve purchased overseas; hiding a Chanel purse in your already-heaving suitcase is always done at your own risk. Think of today’s digital “declarations” as subject to the same fines and penalties (in the form of online cruelty) as that overpriced purse. And, fashion aside, the stakes are even higher online, because the things you say there live forever and will be sliced and diced and dissected more than a high school science project. (#dontshootthemessenger)

I’ve seen friends of mine get reprimanded for reposting work they have produced or created because many see this as shameless promoting. How dare they post recent work right after they talk about a new recipe or relationship. I tend to disagree. If work is such a huge part of our 24/7/365 connected lives, why can’t we proudly talk about the stuff that takes up a huge part of our days (and nights)? (#notaselloutjustexcited)

And further, is social media supposed to be “safe” anyway? Why can’t we simply observe and not read too deeply into what is happening in our own lives as well as the lives of those whose feeds we follow? Maybe having a banana is simply having a banana; eating a six-inch sub with provolone, no oil, but extra vinegar, is just chowing lunch on the fly; and hanging with a friend (who also happens to be a client) is just that. When I was growing up, the thought of “selling out” was an abomination. All the prehistoric version of hipsters were fully up in arms every time a perceived “indie” band became too commercial—and I’m thinking about the Police, Metallica and R.E.M. specifically, but there were plenty more. It was simply not cool to mix celebrity with corporate culture. (#wearethe80s)

But cut to now, when we are our own brands, and our own social circle is our fans, and aligning with brands is not so much of a no-no anymore. And in true curation of Brand Me, it’s important to realize that although we are more empowered than ever to “share,” it’s just as easy to unfriend, unsubcribe or simply hit Delete. We all have a choice about whom to listen to in the digital world, and in this era of instant fame and “selling out” being a sign of success (@kimkardashian), how can we truly know what’s authentic and what’s for sale? Maybe this is just the world we live in and, like it or not, the notion of sharing is more important in many ways than the actual meaning of the message. (#justgetitoutthere)

And like most things in life, perhaps all this messaging is about balance—the delicate tango of promotional/corporate tweets and updates versus more personal, and conversational, notes. Just be prepared for the haters, because it has never been more apparent that if you don’t have something nice to say, you should comment on someone’s social media offerings. It’s all a chance you take when navigating the murky waters of social media, where you might start the conversation but it certainly doesn’t end with you. (#tweetandlearn)

Oh, and here’s a good lesson to note (remember Groupon and its disastrous Super Bowl ads?): If the joke needs to be explained, it’s simply not funny. (#epicfail)

Keep that in mind when you’re trying to be quippy and cute in 140 characters or less, or crafting an expensive 30-second spot for the big game. We are living in a truly social age, but be careful not to get lost in translation—although is that really for the messenger to decide? (#wavethewhiteflag)

Photo credit: creative commons/ by flatworldsedge

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