Being the “No” Man

This blogging thing is hard work. 

The huge amount of respect I had for the established bloggers (both PR and otherwise) is rapidly growing as I seek to feed the content beast.

I get about four or five lines into a potential post and the excitement and passion I had for the point I was so tenuously trying to make has all but evaporated.  I’m sick to death of Word asking me if I want to save changes to “Document 1”.  And the answer is always no!

But I think I’ve got some good stuff for you guys now!

On Across The Sound today, Jaffe covered his first job and how he started off in advertising.  This really struck a chord with me and made me remember that not all of us are lucky enough to be born into a job that we develop into a lifetime career. 

I’ve always had to work.  I went door to door selling wall cladding when I was 15.  I baked muffins at 6am when I was 16.  I pulled pints and sold stereos when I was 18 and I worked in a running store to fund my university career.

Working in the service industry really prepared me really well for Public Relations – it taught me to work around problems that faced my clients, how to make even the most unreasonable request work out.  It’s amazing what someone can do when faced with some adversity.  When you’re looking down the barrel of a gun, you can motivate yourself to do just about anything.

But it didn’t teach me to say no.  It taught me to give the best advice I could give, within the confines of a customer, sales assistant relationship.  Which is great for the start of your career when your AD asks for a mountain of clippings to be processed or for a report to be written ASAP.

But it’s not great when you’re being asked to give strategic advice as a senior consultant to a client.  If I get asked “Will this press release work?”  I still, instinctively, want to say yes, because I know that every news release that we issue means extra revenue.  Because I want to be able to satisfy their need and to be able to think outside the box to find a way to make it work. 

And sometimes saying yes is absolutely the wrong thing to do! A good, strategic “no” will be respected far more than a lapdog’s “yes”.  I’ve never been taught to say “no” before and it got me into a campaign that was doomed from the outset – thankfully it was cancelled before it had a chance to really screw things up!

And that’s what this era of transparency and openness is teaching me.  Honesty is always the best policy in the long term and that’s what our clients are paying us for.  Honest advice.

It’s honest actions that build brands with PR, it’s honest advice that builds our industry’s reputation and it’s honest advice that builds our personal brands.

I’ll be saying yes a lot less readily from now on and conversely, that’s what’s I’m afraid of.  No one wants to be the guy who always says “no” (probably why we say yes so easily) but that’s what the social media evangelists may have to be for a while.

While the rest of the agency is lagging behind in the social media stakes, it’ll be our job to say “no” to a lot of people with outrageous ideas of what social media can do.  Maybe they read the Stormhoek case study and want to double their sales through bloggers and think every blogger relations campaign will do that for their brand.

But when we say “no”, we also have to give that sound, honest advice on what the capabilities of this new tool box are.  And we’re not entirely sure what they are either!So maybe the best thing is not to say “yes”, or to say “no” but to say “why not”.

Link Twice – Celine Dion

Sell Without Selling Your Soul – The best work is always for a client you believe in.  True.  Always true.

Top 16 Lies of CEOs – My top two lies, in no particular order are “yes” and “no”.

Breaking the Rules – Whatever anyone’s saying, sometimes it’s best to break the rules!  Road to Forbes is an interesting blog that I’ve been following recently and one that’s definitely worth a look.


3 Responses to Being the “No” Man

  1. Great post, Ed.
    Giving an objective viewpoint — even if it means less immediate revenue for the agency — is one of the best values/services you can offer a client. Yes, it’s not easy to say no. We want to really believe we can accomplish anything.

    Being honest and truly providing the best counsel will result in the best long-term results for the client, and our employer.

  2. Chris Clarke says:

    Indeed, a good post. Linking to it today, as it’s something for everyone.

  3. […] Blogging Me, Blogging You: It’s hard to say “no” when you’ve become so used to saying “Yes!”, is it? I’ll soon find out. The mesh Conference podcasts are coming. Anyone you’re looking forward to hearing or hearing again? “Steve Rubel: Space Cadet” – the name says it all, yet says nothing at all. Jeremy Pepper gives his blog a new look and talks about tricks. Allan Jenkins goes historical on Steve Rubel. I can’t help but appreciate Rubel’s comment from last month even more after Allan Jenkins essentially said “Steve doesn’t do comments anymore.” Bill Gates sits down for a chat. […]

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