We know, don’t we (?) that communication is a two way thing. It requires a listener as well as a speaker. So if you go to all the effort of writing stuff, it makes good sense to actually share it.
So why, oh why, when I read Neil Patel’s excellent piece on content marketing: “11 Things to Do After You’ve Published a Post” , does my stomach churn so very churnishly.
His piece contains really great advice such as:
=> Monitoring the conversation on topics you care about.
=> Building connections and ‘friendships’ within communities who talk about those things.
=> Making sure people can find your content by labelling it appropriately.
=> Feeding the (online) editors and summarisers who can give it a wider airing.
It’s all good common-sense stuff. And we should all do it more rigorously – for our clients as well as ourselves.
And yet, I flinch.
I just can’t help feeling that something is lost in all of this. Communication – this visceral, subtle, beautiful human thing that we do to construct meaning in the world together – is mechanised. Fuzzy logic replaces fuzzy feelings. I feel somehow robotised, threatened, and somehow devalued, by this ‘n’-step process of content targeting.
This is the modern reality, though, in which ‘soft’ communication skills of PR-style storytelling merge with the sort of ‘hard’ skills traditionally associated with direct marketing.
Influential communication should increasingly be planned according to an engineering blueprint, and our your corporate and fundraising propositions increasingly behave as ‘linkbait’, it can feel, emotionally threatening. We have a choice to make – fight, flight – or ‘fold’.
By folding, in this situation, I don’t mean throwing in the chips, but something more akin to the bending of a reed in Buddhist thinking. Folding, here, most especially means casting off our old assumptions about the way we relate to the world, and flexing to taking on a new behaviour – in this case ‘hybrid’ or ‘hard-soft’ communication.
At a behavioural level, it means change. And that requires us to shed an emotional attachment to a past narrative or identity. To personalise for a second, in my case it’s a very British sense that light is much better kept under a bushel. And also that at some level “I am a creative person, godammit” and I really shouldn’t have to do this. Sad I know. But real. The change requires shedding one successful way of being, to adopt an even, more effective one.
In this case we need to ditch the wholly imaginary conflict between “robotic vs creative’ communication and instead start to relate to the internet as a sort of ‘Bionic’ implant for relating ‘at scale’.
By facing up to my personal anxiety, pinpointing its source and finding a new narrative, I can move forward, and hopefully ‘just say it’.
The internet commentator and facilitation expert Johnnie Moore writes really well about this difficulty of Getting over ourselves when we try to change. Change is hard. But thinking too much about it only makes it worse. Just share!
Tim Kitchin is client service director and director of consulting at Copper, the digital marketing agency.