Down with fluff! (But how will it affect my job?)

February 1, 2010 at 6:43 AM 15 comments

I had an interesting conversation with Len Kendall a couple weeks ago about fluff after he wrote a guest post for Arik Hanson about creative ways to use new geolocation tools. It was an amazing post which offered a full-fledged example as to how tools like Foursquare can be used by marketers.

My reaction to this post was something along the lines of, “I can’t believe he shared a specific example with the whole world!”

After I told Len this, he said something that really struck me:

“As much as I hate giving away ideas that could be used at work…it needed to be done. Way to much fluff out there with no real world apps.”

And you know what? He’s so totally right. I’m guilty of this as much as anyone. I know that many times I try to make a point but I don’t use a specific example for fear of sharing too much about my professional work. It’s a fine line to walk between sharing too much and writing pure fluff.

To this point, I have tried to err on the side of caution and write much more fluff than detailed, actionable examples for fear that it would give away secrets about my employer. But have I stopped walking the line and set up camp on the fluff side?

I think it’s tricky to walk this line, especially if you blog about what you do in a professional setting. So how do you balance writing non-fluff with not sharing more than is appropriate?

Len made the point that it’s always possible to write about ideas that would not apply to your employer while still sticking to that which you love. But if I write about a detailed and specific measurement program, could you use the knowledge that my employer does not do said program to better compete? Am I thinking too much about this?

Where do you draw the line? How much do you share and how much fluff do you add to keep employer secrets (and your job)?

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Entry filed under: Life as an AAE, Social Media. Tags: , .

My Top 25 Before 25 DR. WHAW? – February 1, 2010

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Arik Hanson  |  February 1, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    In the solo consulting world, it’s an even bigger issue because clients could sometimes take your initial proposal and execute themselves. However, I’m learning to use this concept as a marketing tool because I happen to think Len is dead on here.

    While there are plenty of case studies now to review, dissect and analyze, there are fewer of the posts Len wrote where he offered up new, specific ideas. I’m starting a new series dubbed “What would you do if you were… ‘s digital strategist.” for this very reason. For me, it’s fun to come up with new ideas for a brand I enjoy or admire in town. But, on the flip side, it’s marketing strategy, too, because I’m demonstrating my thinking to potential clients.

    @arikhanson

    Reply
    • 2. Rebecca Denison  |  February 1, 2010 at 8:34 AM

      Arik, I am so glad that you commented on this! I was about to share it with you when I saw you’d beat me to it!

      I appreciate that in the consulting world it’s a great marketing tool to be able to share your insights and show a tangible example of what you may be able to provide as a solution for potential clients. But I’m still unsure that it’s to my personal benefit, you know? As an employee, I must be careful what I share in part because it’s part of the contract I signed! There are definitely times that I wish I could share specific examples so I could feedback from y’all, but boy, I know that would get me in trouble at work.

      I think there is something to be said for even someone like me providing marketing for Edelman by providing actionable examples on my blog. But who do I convince of this? How do I go about making the argument that it will benefit Edelman in the long run?

      Reply
  • 3. Len Kendall  |  February 1, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    RD,

    Like you say above, there is a fine line.

    Specific pricing, client data, or people = NO.

    Realistic hypotheticals and variables = YES!

    I’m glad our conversation turned into this blog post. Really honored. I think all the great agencies out there are “giving away information for free.” It’s a solid investment in proving your knowledge.

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    • 4. Rebecca Denison  |  February 1, 2010 at 11:11 AM

      You really made me stop and think, and I thought that deserved a shout out. 🙂

      I like that you make the distinction between hypotheticals and variables, and specific details like pricing and client data. There is something to be said for including one without revealing the other!

      Reply
  • 5. Daniel Prager  |  February 1, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    Definitely agree with Len that the great agencies out there are giving stuff away for free, but that’s because they can afford to do it.

    As someone who works at a smaller agency, it’s a tough call. Just this year, we provided a lot of specific twitter strategy to a restaurant here in Chicago. They took the ideas we provided in the initial meeting and then didn’t hire us– but their Twitter marketing is doing great!

    There is no way to gain credibility if you don’t provide specific and actionable content. However, people pay for our ideas and strategy. So what do we do?

    I think for smaller agencies and solo consultants focusing on case studies, trend reports with solid examples, and commentary on the “free content” of bigger agencies is the best way to show your expertise.

    This is a tough issue, and this was absolutely a long winded way of saying that I agree with both Len and Arik. Ha.

    Reply
    • 6. Rebecca Denison  |  February 1, 2010 at 11:16 AM

      I love long-winded. 🙂

      Thanks for your thought, I think I’m in the same place you are, but for different reasons. Edelman is a very large agency, but I’m just one little person, one little piece of that agency. And one thing I struggle with is that what I do is still developing both within our company and in other places, and I don’t think I’m clear as to what will be appropriate to share. Also because I am so new to the gig, I am always afraid of sharing something without understanding all of repercussions.

      Reply
  • 7. Tim Jahn  |  February 1, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    This is a GREAT topic Rebecca, and I’m loving that I find myself on your blog more and more often!

    Overall, I’m with Len. We NEED more examples, case studies, real world applications. I, for one, am really sick of all these bloggers writing super long posts on amazing theories and ideas – and having no evidence or proof to back any of it up.

    But, as discussed here, everybody’s situation allows them different parameters when it comes to providing case studies.

    I’m more familiar with the small business/solo consultant situations, as that’s what I’ve always been a part of. And I totally understand what Danny and Arik are saying about clients running away with ideas from the initial strategy meeting, because it happens all the time!

    I’m not sure of the right answer here. I think the best you can do is provide as much real world data as you can up to your (contractual) limit. If you’re a solo consultant, it’s tough to gauge where that limit is (ie, where the client will just steal your strategy ideas).

    Reply
    • 8. Rebecca Denison  |  February 1, 2010 at 3:16 PM

      I am so glad to see you coming back! I always value your opinion, and you never fail to bring unique insights.

      I guess what I need to do is sit down with my boss one day and figure out exactly where my limits are or run posts I’ve written by her to see what she thinks. It’s definitely a learning curve on this end.

      Reply
  • 9. @jaykeith  |  February 2, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    I’ve thought about this topic for a long time, and I think I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve actually seen a “real life” example of a way to do things in marketing/pr/social media. Granted I don’t have a blog of my own so in some ways I shouldn’t be throwing stones, but even when I was interviewed for a blog last week, I gave a very specific example of the interaction between PR and SM and how they compliment one another, from a campaign we ran at VP.

    I know that people are hesitant to share real true life ideas, but there are ways around it without compromising valued info. For example, you can simply wait until a campaign has finished and then let the world know how it worked out, and of course you can speak in somewhat general terms. No one has to know the intricate details, but sharing some basic examples gives all of us something to chew on, and then run with. Let others figure out how it will work for them, but the basics of the campaign will always be of interest.

    Why people are so hesitant is beyond me, it really is. We’re all in this to help one another, and the people that “fluff” are going to be found out sooner rather than later. While they might have some impact short term, in the long run, the cream rises to the top.

    Great topic and love the discussion.

    Reply
    • 10. Rebecca Denison  |  February 2, 2010 at 3:02 PM

      I think that’s a really good strategy. Offer examples and case studies after a program or campaign is finished! That’s brilliant because it can provide real examples and also highlight work that you’re already done (win-win, right?).

      My biggest issue is that work that I do does not tend to get published externally. I do reports for internal use mostly, and a lot of projects are ongoing. So how do I provide measurement or monitoring examples without giving away our process? And also, it may be silly, but I even have to be careful about appearing to give away the process, you know?

      Reply
  • 11. Jeannette Baer  |  February 2, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    and a fine line it is! we’re all walking this fine line since we find more and more engaged in the conversation with Twitter, Facebook pages, etc. You want to share your daily professional activities yet it is impossible without (in my field) talk about, clients, projects, proposals, jobs awarded, etc. But where do you stop? How much should you share? names? size of projects? amounts?

    It becomes tricky, I’m not sure a client wants you talk about a project that he’s not ready to announce yet!
    In this Social Media world we are all sharing now, as we speak we might have to start thinking about liabilities, competition, etc.

    So, while I don’t have an answer, I do want to confirm ‘that fine line’..

    Reply
    • 12. Rebecca Denison  |  February 2, 2010 at 3:04 PM

      Exactly! To provide an example, it’s often necessary to provide those small details (that are probably private!) to make the example clear. I think we all need to learn by doing and dive in, like you said, we’re all in this to learn together!

      Reply
      • 13. Jeannette Baer  |  February 3, 2010 at 10:14 AM

        Rebecca, I would like to make reference to this post at our Tweetup Group meeting. I thought I get your permission first to use this.
        I think we are not the only ones wondering where we stand with this things, will be interesting to hear other peoples point of view!

        Thanks,

      • 14. Rebecca Denison  |  February 3, 2010 at 10:15 AM

        Of course you have my permission! When are you meeting and where? If there is any chance I can attend, I would love to be part of that conversation. 🙂

      • 15. Jeannette Baer  |  February 3, 2010 at 11:10 AM

        we are in Gainesville, Florida. I would love to have you attend via Skype if possible. We meet Friday 5th -noon.
        If this is possible, send me (you have my email address) your contact info and we can arrange details…
        Thanks!

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