September 29, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

That Rulebook Thing

That Rulebook Thing

My commentary about [Throwing Out the Social Media Rulebook]( certainly drew a strong reaction. I can’t say I didn’t expect it, of course, though it was not *intentionally* “[link bait](” The column comes from a very strong conviction I have after participating for many years in the social media space as a blogger, podcaster, entrepreneur, and advisor.
What has surprised me a bit has been the amount of agreement that my comments and observations have garnered. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been criticism; that was anticipated and there’s been a mound of it, some fairly harsh. That’s good. I’m not fan of writing “Amen chorus” pieces, but would rather provoke thought and discussion.
Some have chosen a direct line of attack. [Stowe Boyd]( commented quite succinctly: “Chip Griffin is an idiot, proven by having Amanda Chapel, that sock puppet, applauding as the first comment to this screed.” Not exactly constructive feedback, but that’s fine, too. Geoff Livingston, whose book I just [reviewed]( for *Media Bullseye*, takes me to task for being a “[vapor guru](” Fair enough. The new media space is young enough that few of us qualify as gurus, and fewer still hold ourselves out as such. Me? Not a guru, just an active participant and keen observer.
Others have offered more thoughtful reactions. Neville Hobson created a ( where he agreed in part and disagreed a bit as well (“I agree with Chip that we must ditch such rigid rules. In any event, things are rarely so black and white but instead come in shades of grey.”). His partner in podcasting, Shel Holtz, responded in writing a very [detailed and thoughtful post]( Edelman’s [Phil Gomes]( takes it point by point, as does [Brian Solis](, each noting some agreement and disagreement.
Fellow FIR podcast contributor [Lee Hopkins]( says that “Chip argues persuasively for the ‘throwing out’ of the ‘rules’ we leading-edge social mediarists have sometimes insisted be followed.” Unfortunately, he disagrees with me entirely: “Ask any developmental psychologist how to raise happy and secure children; near the top of the list will be supportive rules and boundaries. Learners learn better when they have boundaries to lean on. But let’s not pretend that society works better without rules. Freeform too easily equals anarchy, not self-correction.”
I encourage you to read my original commentary along with all of the [comments]( and blog posts discussing it. There’s a lot of good stuff there and it’s well worth your time to see what others think.
I had initially planned a single commentary addressing some of the concerns raised, but because of the volume and quality of the feedback, I’m going to address it in several themes. But I do want to take a moment to speak to some of the overarching concerns raised.
**I Am Not Advocating Ignoring the “Rules.”** RSS and comments are good things, as are many of the other things on the list I wrote about. Having a dialogue with customers and readers can be a very powerful tool, as can be seen by this single commentary on *Media Bullseye*. Someone suggested that I should disable comments and RSS on *Media Bullseye* if I really believe what I’m saying. But that wasn’t my point. There is a considerable difference between steadfast adherence to rules and using them as helpful advice.
**Reinforce the Positive, Rather than Nitpick the Shortcomings.** I’m looking for those of us who might be perceived as evangelists, advocates, experts, or — God forbid — gurus to be more supportive and less critical of individuals, companies, and organizations who join our world. People will make mistakes and there’s a tendency of many (not all) in our space to be hypercritical rather than serving as friendly ambassadors.
**Maybe Child Psychology is Appropriate, After All, Lee Hopkins.** As my children have learned to talk and walk, they have made many missteps and mispronunciations. Yet my wife and I don’t yell at them and tell them that they are walking and talking incorrectly — or that they aren’t even “walking” or “talking” since they are doing it wrong. We encourage their attempts while also showing them how to do it right — largely by example. That’s the model I’d like to see followed in social media, but I believe that too often that isn’t the approach that many take.
**Not Everyone Thinks and Acts the Same.** As we have seen from the reaction to my original commentary, there are many who agree with my views and many who don’t. My intention was not to say that *everyone* professes the rules, just that many do. Some have suggested that *nobody* actually believes that the “rules” I enumerate exist, yet every one of them is something that I have heard professed at one point or another. Someone suggested I name names, but I don’t intend to do that. If there’s something on the list you’ve never heard someone express, that’s great. The less we hear it, the better.
**There Are Absolutely Shades of Gray/Grey.** Just as Neville Hobson and I spell the word “gray”/”grey” differently, we all perceive things uniquely and hold individual beliefs. I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s not just one way to do things, and that’s really key to my original argument. The “rules” that are out there suggest that things are black and white.
**We Should All Offer Advice and Guidance.** Anyone who has spent any time in the social media arena has likely learned a lot. That’s why it’s so easy to be perceived as an “expert” even if one doesn’t hold oneself out as such. Newcomers will certainly benefit from our experiences, and we should not hesitate to share our suggestions. That’s not what my original commentary was about, but rather about abandoning the orthodoxy that I believe so often unnerves those just beginning to explore the space.
Stay tuned for thematic commentaries in the coming days and weeks to address some of the specific concerns I have about the individual rules discussed. I suspect it may result in more thoughtful discussion. In the meantime, I welcome continued feedback in the form of comments or blog posts.

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About The Author

Chip Griffin is the Founder of CustomScoop. He writes and speaks frequently about data-driven public relations. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.

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    Dave Fleet

    Excellent post, Chip. I found it hard to agree with your previous post given its harshness, but with this layered on top I can’t help but agree with you.
    From my perspective the ‘rules’ you threw out are useful guidelines which, as Lee Hopkins suggested, newcomers can use as supports when starting out.
    Support should be an ongoing theme in this community. We should celebrate the baby steps that companies take down the “long road” (as Mitch Joel calls it).
    Looking forward to your upcoming posts.

    Amanda Chapel

    Who’s Stowe Boyd? Is that that guy with the hat?
    Listen Chip: You said all the right things. Those that offered objection are variously threatened. This whole Web 2.0 charade has turned out to be a ruse and they got nothin’ else. It was all a virus (see ); and they’re still sneezing.
    Keep up the good work. Think. Question everything.
    – Amanda

    Eric Weaver

    Chip: congrats on a very thoughtful commentary. I totally dig your original post as well as this follow-up. To me, your intentions and attitude seemed very positive and clear, not harsh nor as mere link-baiting. It’s unfortunate that even carefully stating one’s opinion can draw incredibly negative responses.
    One point I’d add to the discussion is about the customer being in control of the relationship. What’s more reasonable is the idea that, as in a marriage or other real-life relationship, neither the customer nor the communicator are in “control” of a relationship but both certainly co-direct the relationship, for better or worse. Customers vote with their wallets but they don’t hold the manufacturer/brand/marketer hostage. Takes two to play in the sandbox in any relationship, online or off.
    Both posts have given me a lot to think about. Thanks.

    Scott Monty

    One last comment on comments – I agree that the “it’s not a blog without comments rule” is not steadfast, but directional. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your blog. And if a company doesn’t care to listen to its audience, so be it. They’ll soon know the consequences.
    I ran across a column on today by Andrew Ferguson, who was talking about the attitude at the old New Yorker magazine:
    ‘One reason the old New Yorker magazine–the one with A.J. Liebling and E.B. White–was so unusual was that it refused to print letters to the editor at all, thus making the editor’s disdain utterly transparent. (The magazine didn’t run corrections, either.) The message was unmistakable, and you could almost hear it through the lockjaw of that foppish, monocle-wearing Eustace Tilley on the cover: “It seems scarcely possible, dear reader, that any letter you write could be of any interest to us whatsoever. We write, you read.” So just be still and go back to that eight-part series on glaciers.’
    So again, it just comes back to understanding your goal and being comfortable with the results.
    Sorry to beat a dead horse here, but the quote was too good to omit.

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