I want you to read this blog post I found earlier today (highlighted in red). You may agree with it, or you may not… It doesn’t really matter either way. What’s important is that you read it and make up your own mind.
(Having said that, it kind of reminds me of this, which I think is pretty sad.)
“Here’s what I don’t like about the “professional” blogging space. And by “professional,” I don’t mean people who get paid to blog – I mean people who claim to be professionals in a certain professional field (say, marketing, identity development, customer experiences or WOMM).
Some of them are completely full of BS. They go on and on and on about what makes great companies and how to inspire greatness in your employees and customer experiences… but they have no real-life, hands-on experience to back it up. Nothing. Or, at the most, a very small, kind-of, draw a very weak line to success that suddenly makes them an expert in an entire category. And until you dig down and find out what really does or does not make them an “expert,” then you just don’t know.
I’m thankful there are the John Moore’s, Jackie Huba’s and a handful of others in the world who have real experience backing them up when they speak in public or on their blog. I listen to them because I know that they know what they’re talking about. They’ve lived it.
As I learned back when I was a copywriter: everyone’s a writer. And a lot of them can sound like they know what they’re talking about – especially when they write these very long, very verbose, paragraph after paragraph pontifications that sound smart. And maybe the writer is smart. But untested theories are just that until they are proven in the real world. With real clients. And real customers. But there’s no way of telling if they’re legit without asking.”
– Spike Jones
Very few people out here in the blogosphere claim to be experts, yet a lot of them (not just a handful) have very interesting things to say. Just look at my blogroll: It’s huge and it is going to continue to grow. Why? Because I discover fantastic new marketing blogs every week. Some of them are written by consultants and marketing professionals with impressive credentials, while others are written by code warriors, retail clerks and engineers who have zero formal experience in marketing. Interestingly, they’re all good.
What’s amazing to me is that the more blogs I discover, the more I realize that no single person has all the answers. (Okay… maybe Guy Kawasaki comes close, but whatever.) As a matter of fact, the more blogs I discover, the more genuine voices I run into, the more points of view I get exposed to, the clearer things become.
It’s absolutely brilliant.
On any given day, I can choose to read the thoughts and ideas of dozens of people whose cultural, professional, and economic experiences are completely different from my own. They aren’t all experts, but that’s the point. Sometimes, the most relevant questions aren’t asked by the PhD’s. They’re asked by the janitor or the mid-level manager or the first-time customer.
Sometimes, the most relevant observations come from the most unlikely places, which is precisely why they are so fascinating: They come from the trenches, not the board room. They come from people whose purpose in making them has nothing to do with profits or strategy or ego. These observations are real. Raw. Honest. There’s no spin. They’re our own experiences, only exposed by complete strangers. It’s refreshing, empowering and validating. Finally, everyone has a voice: Customers, interns, students, observers, everyone… and the questions they are asking should have been answered twenty years ago. By the “experts”.
Based on Spike’s mode of thinking, I guess that “only a handful” of professional politicians should really be allowed to blog about politics. Only former Secretaries of State should be allowed to blog about international affairs. Maybe Nasa should put together a qualifying program for anyone wanting to blog about space travel or astronomy.
The new snob mantra: Only “experts” should have a voice.
I don’t really see how working in advertising (or being a consultant, for that matter) has ever made anyone an expert in customer experience design, word-of-mouth-this, or identity-development-that. If anything, retail clerks and avid shoppers are the only real experts when it comes to the subject of customer experience. High-school kids are the only real experts when it comes to WOM. Here’s the thing: Being an “expert” comes at a price – Most of your time has to be spent doing the very thing that makes you an expert, which means that you can’t really become a professional expert: The more time you devote to talking about it, the less time you can devote to actually doing it. There is an opportunity cost there. If your job becomes talking rather than doing, then your expertise begins to shift.
This is why so many consultants become experts at being consultants rather than in the fields they get paid to be experts in. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
In other words, the “experts” aren’t necessarily who you think they are.
Ultimately, when it comes to blogs, the number of plaques someone has on their wall, how many initials and periods fall after their name, how many VP-this and client list-that their CV sports… none of those things really matter. What matters is the relevance of their message. That’s it. Punto finale.
Blogging isn’t about status or titles. Blogging is about sharing ideas. It doesn’t matter if you’re a ten-year-old kid in Sarajevo, a retired contractor in New Delhi, a mystery shopper in Toronto, or the founder of Google. Great ideas, observations and insights can come from anywhere, at any time.
Not only can they, they should. That’s both the point and the beauty of this medium.
That is why it is always disappointing to run into self-righteous bloggers who think that their professional background or experience somehow entitles them to criticize other bloggers. Especially when they themselves don’t know much at all about who they are throwing stones at to begin with. I just don’t get it. It’s the kind of myopic snobbism that just reeks of insecurity, ignorance and prejudice. (It kind of reminds me of those annoying “holier-than-thou” Bible-beaters who think that you and everyone but their little clique are going straight to hell… and looooooove telling you all about it.)
I’m not sure what fueled Spike’s unfortunate rant. Maybe he is annoyed by the fact that he has to compete against an increasing number of bloggers whose posts might be better received than his. Maybe all that “noise” from bloggers without the right “qualifications” is interfering with his site’s Technorati rankings? (Since Spike’s blog serves the purpose of trying to sell something – not that there’s anything wrong with it, perhaps he has more at stake than those of us whose only purpose in blogging is to… well… just share ideas. Especially the good ones.)
Or maybe it’s just an ego thing. Who knows.
Here’s what I do know: If you want real answers, you have to live and work in the real world. You can’t just come down from your A-list wannabe’s creative ivory tower once in a while and stick your nose up at what you don’t like or fully understand. It just isn’t very productive.
Just like it isn’t very productive to tell people what they can or can’t blog about.
But the great thing about the blogosphere is that he has the opportunity to speak his mind. He will even find people who will agree with him, and although I completely disagree with him on this particular point, I think it’s great that he gets a chance to share his bile with the world. Heck, I am devoting this monster post just to him, purposely to put it in front of more eyeballs. How great is that?!
What Spike probably doesn’t know, is that most of us who have been working out here in the real world of marketing – not just the hip world of marketing services agencies – have been getting face time with thousands of shoppers, product users, assembly line workers, after-market service specialists, delivery people, customer service reps, retailers, government bodies and every type of customer imaginable for years. We haven’t looked at projects just from two or three angles. We’ve looked at them from every angle. We’ve followed products from the designers’ cocktail napkin sketches, all the way to the recycling centers. We’ve listened to thousands upon thousands of people’s reactions, perceptions, opinions and suggestions about everything from branding and expectations, to website usability and the customer-friendliness of product return policies. We’ve looked at the effect that different invoice designs have on how quickly payments are made. It’s pretty interesting stuff.
While some people were busy focusing on how to sell their companies’ creative services from the comfortable confines of their hip little headquarters, some of us were busy studying why and how companies fail, and why they succeed. In the field. Not just here, but overseas as well. And guess what? We’ll still be doing it in some way shape or form in another ten years, and another ten, and another ten after that.
People like us don’t strive to be experts. We simply strive to understand, learn, and share all of our observations and insights with whomever might benefit from even a sliver of what we’ve learned. Because it’s in our blood, we tend to do it for free. (And maybe that’s the rub.)
The term “expert” obviously means different things to different people, but all in all, we all pick and choose our own experts based on how well they fit our own experience and expectations. It’s a highly subjective thing… like crowning your favorite guitarist as “the best guitarist” or your favorite painter as “the best painter”. One man’s “expert” is another man’s… “who?” For people like Spike, “experts” seem to simply serve the purpose of validating his own views. (I believe “X”, so if this respected superconsultant preaches “X”, they’re my expert of record.)
There are tons of other great voices out there, and most aren’t “experts.” That’s a good thing, because it tends to take the ego out of the equation.
In the world of blogging, and increasingly in the business world in general, “experts” are finally starting to become irrelevant. Thank goodness for small miracles. Anyone with an opinion and decent research to back it up can be an expert. There’s very little value there. What we need more of are well-rounded generalists whose intellectual scope isn’t limited to… the same exact thing they have been doing every day for the last ten years.
When it comes to blogs, I couldn’t care less if a blogger is a homemaker, a forty-year veteran of the conference circuit or the hippest CMO on the planet. If what they have to say rings true, if it is relevant, if it inspires readers to make positive changes in their organizations (0r their lives, even), if it challenges them to consider new ways of thinking about their business, if it opens new doors for them, then this big blogging experiment has been a success. Case in point: even a copywriter-turned-new business hound can make relevant posts about customer experience issues and WOMM. Aren’t blogs grand?
Everyone has real experience to back up what they write about on their blogs… or discuss with their friends. Everyone. Anyone. That’s the point.
There are no “untested theories” when it comes to marketing. Only case studies waiting to be discovered and shared. Some of us are out there doing the work. Others are simply content to wait for brilliant folks like John Moore and Jackie Huba to hold their hand and lead them safely there. The beauty of the blogosphere is that whichever path works best for you, you won’t be left out if you don’t want to be. Even here, all roads lead to Rome.
Maybe with time, Spike’s horizons will broaden enough to help him gain a better appreciation for this medium and all that it has to offer. That would be swell. Until then, I guess the rest of us nobodies will just have to find the courage to go on blogging without his expert stamp of approval.
The world is an imperfect place, but we’ll try to manage.