30 June 2014

"They called me Mister Glass"...

So, I'm occasionally given to incoherent, controversial outbursts. Here's another. Possibly unfair. But it's been bothering me.

A few days ago, I decided to unfollow Comms Hero on twitter. I did so publicly, partly through my usual egomania, and partly because I actually wanted to let them know why I had. 

It's not personal. I don't really know who is behind Comms Hero. I know people who appear to be associated with it and they all either seem to be, or are, lovely. It's about the behaviours.

I told @CommsHero that (and I know I am far from alone in feeling this - people have told me they agree via twitter and in person) the whole #CommsHero campaign had begun to seem spammy at the very least. 

I said: "Am going to unfollow @commshero Sorry. Lovely idea, but an incessant bandwagon-jumping, credit-taking sales attack is simply becoming spam."

Actually it had seemed to me for a while that at worst it can a bit of a manipulative power play. But it had, frankly, also just been getting on my nerves.

The final straws that night were tweets aimed at, around and through the Digital Leaders awards and Helen Reynolds. Helen had won one. Much deserved and wholly under her own steam. To me, the Comms Hero account seemed to bombard it all with their own branding; claiming a winner (Helen) as one of their very own. I have not discussed this at all with Helen, who may feel very differently, but it offended me a bit that they pitched in to her success. 

Success by association. Brand enforcement. Sales. It felt like a kind of hijacking. A kind of tweet-bombing.

And there's just a bit of that. Lots of busy-bee bombardment of tweeps, hashtags, events with the Comms Hero 'brand'. This weekend it happened again with the lunch provision at The Big Yak, for Heaven's sake.

"@theICcrowd: Lunch is served at #thebigyak pic.twitter.com/o56h7M8rKy" ++ a meal fit for #CommsHero types. Hope it's a good day so far

That's nice. A lovely sentiment. 

Was the branding REALLY necessary?

I expect CommsCamp to be similarly 'associated'. It's a big sales opportunity.

I need to be clearer. I first expressed my concerns at Comms Hero before their first event. It felt, just, y'know, wrong. Couldn't put my finger on it. But wrong somehow.

I was a bit gobsmacked at how quickly they announced their second.

Here's my latest feel for that wrong:

I don't want to be a hero. I never have. I hope to lead and manage a team of communications people who feel safe in their jobs, confident in their creativity, properly supported in their work and skills and satisfied in making a difference. 

don't think we're heroes at all, even if we do all that. Look, I know that many, and probably most, of us have been through some really tough times, and Comms Hero is designed to make us feel good about ourselves again, and maybe this all makes me a miserable old sod. I am a miserable old sod. But what we do isn't actually about us at all. It's about the people whose lives we're seeking to improve. The people we serve. The people we need to find relevant, resonant, persuasive messages for. The people we need to engage and inform.

I don't know how capes, and school hymns and a load of lovely, but pricey-looking, branded business cards (for people whom I assume already either have business cards or have chosen not to have business cards) helps us with that. I don't know how we justify branded donuts, while we cut the money we spend on comms: while we cut jobs. The core message of Comms Hero, deliberate or not, conscious or not, seems to me to be that product is lovely. I don't think what we do ishould be much about product. 

Sometimes, possibly, maybe I could be persuaded. Maybe. When product is appropriate and effective and needed and affordable. But not to make us feel good about ourselves, surely?

For me the heroic posture is all wrong. The outcomes, insofar as I can see them, are badly aimed. The messages are skewed. It makes it all about us. And all about product. For money

These are good people and the learning opportunity is undoubtedly important. But CommsCamp doesn't seem to need paid for capes and branded donuts and individually prepared and printed superhero cards, and theme tunes. Perhaps we could go there instead.

So here's a question or two: I don't know this, but who is getting paid for all that product anyway? Who is getting paid for the (quite pleasing) individualised design work? How can we justify the costs of that to a family living on ten quid a day?

Ach. Enough. I'm ranting again.

Probably not the most popular position I've ever taken. 

Tin hat on.