April 30, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Three options to address “pick my brain” exhaustion

Three options to address “pick my brain” exhaustion

Ah, social media. Where one person’s thought process and post can degenerate into name calling, accusations of arrogance, and my favorite scenario: dozens of people calling one another douchebags.

Fun.

For those who have missed the rapidly degenerating exchange, Peter Shankman, the founder and brains behind the deservedly popular “Help A Reporter Out” (HARO) site that matches up PR pros and reporters, posted a brief and I think exasperated tweet about constant demands on his time. It said, quite simply, “New Rule: If your email starts off with ‘I want to pick your brain,’ my reply starts off with ‘at $400 per hour.'”

This struck a nerve with Kami, who clearly was already thinking about popularity, money, and incivility on the Internet, as she used this example as a lead off to a blog post about arrogance that mentioned among other things people with business cards that say “Google me,” (seriously? – Gag.) and the Lebron James me-fest that was on TV.

You can predict what happens next. Peter posts an “Open Letter to Kami” response, and it turns into a Peter’s fans vs. Kami’s fans, all played out in the comments sections on both posts, and oh, look, we’re all back in middle school.

What struck me though, was a series of Tweets by Susan Getgood, pointing out that this (being asked to donate time, constant requests to “pick your brain,”) is a problem, and that “many are feeling this pain.” I know and respect Susan, she’s a very smart lady and strategist and it doesn’t surprise me at all that people are seeking her counsel. If she says it’s a problem, it is.

My mom always said:

If you have a problem, it’s because you haven’t made a decision.

To give credit where I believe it’s due, I think she got this from Dr. Leo Buscaglia. Over and over in my personal life, this has proven to be true. So, if we are to look first at the response that Shankman got from his original tweet–a number of people retweeted it, with a “right on” type of addition to the tweet–and then at Susan’s contribution, clearly there are a lot of people who feel taken advantage of. So what are their options?

Option 1

Say no. It’s that simple and yet so hard. How can one little word be so difficult? It’s because these are good people, who want to help. It’s hard to say no. So if you’re feeling taken advantage of, channel your inner J.D. Salinger, hunker down and say no.

The problem with this option is that if you’ve built a business around being social, constantly saying no will eventually have some ramifications for you business-wise. This was one of Kami’s points that managed to get completely lost in the resulting hue and cry.

Option 2

Change your attitude. In reading all of this “stuff” surrounding this kerfuffle, I immediately thought of Chip Griffin’s recent post, “Go Ahead: Pick My Brain.” Chip is one of the busiest people I know. He travels pretty much constantly, demands on his time are myriad, and yet he still manages to be cheerful and upbeat. It didn’t surprise me at all that his response to “pick my brain” is “go ahead.” But the big takeaway from his post is the way he chooses to view these exchanges:

The truth is that I usually get as much out of these sessions as I give.

Wow. Instead of conveying a feeling of being taken advantage of, he states he gets something out of them. You get what you give.

Option 3

Keep doing what you are doing. Unsatisfying, exhausting, and will likely lead to burnout. Perhaps. If this is the path you choose, do so consciously and don’t complain about being a victim.

Looking at all that is happening right now might make it feel like these demands on time will be never-ending, but this–the social media learning phase bubble–will eventually pop. When people start to get their own footing in this space, and as it becomes more ubiquitous, there will be less of a need to seek counsel. As Geoff Livingston aptly put it in the comments section of Kami’s post “success can be fleeting.”

So, another thing my mom always said comes into play: “this too, shall pass.”

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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