Talking in your sleep

Angry-Computer-GuyOftentimes, it’s not so much what you say but rather how you say it.

It’s an important lesson for all of us, but especially important for those who aspire to be our leaders. Think: “Social Security is Welfare

Earlier today, I was interviewed for a locally produced talk show in my community. I was pitched for this idea several weeks ago, and my first instinct was to decline the invitation. But the host was persistent, and he wanted to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart: strategic communication.

As I prepared for the 25-minute taping, I paused to think about some words that I routinely take for granted.  After all, I am a strategic communications consultant; my job makes sense to me but I wondered if it made sense to anyone else.

stra-te-gic \strƏ-tē-jik\ adj 1. of, relating to, or marked by strategy. 2. necessary to or important in the initiation, conduct or completion of a strategic plan.

com-mu-ni-ca-tions\ kә-myὕ-nә-kā-shәns\ n. 1. an act or instance of transmitting; 2. process by which information is exchanged between individuals.

con-sul-tant \kәn-sәlt-nt\ n. 1. one who gives professional advice or services: expert

Thinking more deeply about those words led me to a basic conclusion: Despite the rapid and sometimes overwhelming advance of technology, the basic fundamentals of good communication skills haven’t changed much.

In fact, I quickly recalled a lesson that my late uncle drilled into my head during my teenage years: God gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately.

Human beings have always had the need and desire to communicate. Our ancestors used hieroglyphics (an earlier version of SnapChat) before sharing stories around campfires and passing those tales and lessons from one generation to the next. From there, we moved on to the invention of the printing press, the telegraph, telephone, television  – – all the way into our brave new world of Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

But as the speed of our communication increases exponentially, it becomes increasingly important to remember my uncle’s Golden Rule of Communication: take the time to listen and think before you speak, post or tweet.

If you want to learn a little bit more about my professional life (how I feed my family): check out this relatively short video clip.

In the meantime, remember that social media tools are power tools and require caution and a firm understanding of the consequences of making one wrong move that can happen in an instant without warning.

As always, I encourage your feedback. You can contact me by clicking this link.





Why can’t we be friends?

“We are reckless in our use of the lovely word, friend.” –Romain Rolland

If he were alive today, I wonder what Mr. Rolland, a French journalist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915, would think about Facebook and its use of the word “friend.”

How many “friends” do you have?

According to the most recent stats on my Facebook page, I have 285 friends.

That’s a lot of friends . . . or is it?

Without friends no one would choose to live, even if he had all other goods,” wrote Aristotle…but what did he know? I tried following him on Twitter, but I kept getting tweets back from Ashton Kutcher.

So, how do you define the word friend?

Personally, I have one simple criterion for the people I describe as my “friends,” and there are only four people who fit into this category, if we exclude relatives.

A friend is someone you can call at 2:34 a.m., and then ask them to drive 16 miles to post bail so that you don’t have to spend the rest of the night in the county lock-up.

With a real “friend” you can do this even when you are slightly intoxicated and can’t quite remember how you got to jail in the first place.

I have to stay out of trouble because of my four “real friends” one lives in Nashville; another lives in Eugene, Oregon. The other two both live in Maine, but one of them has young children; and the other is a very sound sleeper.

But considering the onslaught of social media networking and its impact on my professional life, my definition of the word friend seems quaint, if not entirely useless in the digital age that brought us both Farmville and the word “un-friend” simultaneously.

If you think social media is just a fad or something that can be ignored by those of us who have moved beyond repeated bouts of acne and anxiety about our SAT scores, think again. In fact, check this link.

Like it or not, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become an essential part of our modern communication infrastructure. Every presidential campaign in 2012 will use all three of these platforms. Nearly every bank in Maine has a Facebook page and you can even let the whole world know what brand of whipped cream you prefer by clicking “Like” on the Cool Whip page.

I don’t mind Facebook, but it can become a time vacuum and very labor intensive if you are managing a page or multiple pages as part of an integrated communications strategy.

It’s just the casual use of the word friend that I find offensive.

Furthermore, it seems that some people are a bit less discriminating when it comes to choosing their friends.

As an experiment, I created a fictitious Facebook account. My alter ego was a woman in her mid 30s and she set about finding “friends.” It took less than 48 hours for this non-existent person to rack up more than 75 friends, including two U.S. senators, four television news reporters, three newspaper reporters and seven state legislators.

More disturbing: A recent poll showed that more than 80 percent of people in Maine still receive their news across traditional platforms, such as newspapers, television shows and radio broadcasts. But the media and the small number of policy leaders who chart local, state and national policy are all sharing Tweets and checking their Facebook pages on a regular basis. They are “in the loop,” while the other 80 percent of residents are not.

Thus, you’re nobody until somebody “Likes” you.

But what is the value of more than four or five friends?

Could you really handle having several hundred friends?

Seriously. Think about it. You would spend the rest of your days attending funerals, weddings and anniversary parties. Your Christmas shopping list would need to be underwritten by Goldman-Sachs. You would never get a good night’s sleep nor have a moment when you could just relax.

Unfortunately, the number of friends on a Facebook page has become a quantitative measure of modern-day success; a metrics of accountability and an insatiable need to be more connected while isolated in front of a computer screen.

Check your friends list. How many of them would take a call from you at 2:30 a.m.? If your answer exceeds the number 2, congratulations. You are luckier than you can imagine.

The rest is just an illusion. . .sort of like Farmville.