Columnists follow the very same approach. Which is why, when I was fortunate enough to be named a weekly columnist by Inc. Magazine in November, I spent a considerable amount of time reading other columns and engaging in lengthy conversations with my editor. I wanted to make sure I understood my readers.
And, I'm pleased to report that my columns have been moderately successful. One, in fact, generated so many re-tweets, direct e-mails and glowing praise, that I momentarily felt quite humbled. The operative word in the preceding sentence is momentarily.
The column in question was entitled, 'You don't know Jack about PR.' It addressed a common misperception among many Inc. readers: small business owners don't grasp the fundamental differences between advertising and PR. So, I penned a PR 101 column and the blogosphere positively lit up with accolades.
That is, until the column spread to the wonderful world of public relations. That's when a good friend, superb professional and mediocre cyclist named Gini Dietrich decided to write a blog that shredded my column.
The gist of Gini's 'Spin Sucks' blog was this: my analysis was equal parts myopic and parochial, and did PR a disservice by speaking solely to the difference between paid advertising and media relations. She rightfully pointed out that PR is much, much more than clippings. And, many of her readers agreed. And, so do I.
But, Gini made a fundamental mistake in slamming my column. She either forgot (of chose to forget) that the column wasn't written with PR people in mind. It was penned for busy owners of small companies who also worry about payroll, overhead expenses, sales, human resources, inventory, and god knows what else. If I'd waxed poetic about the intricacies of PR, one of two things would have happened:
-My editor would have rejected it out of hand as being too dense for readers
-My readers' eyes would have glazed over as I rambled on about crisis communications, social media content, event planning, etc.
Gini was obviously well intentioned, but she drew her gun and fired too quickly. I posted a comment to that effect saying, 'While I applaud your POV, I ask that next time you pause before shooting the messenger and think first about his intended audience.'
That said, my gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Gini the Kid was a GREAT learning lesson about the unintended consequences of content creation.
When one crafts a blog, Tweet, FB post or, in my case, a column that strikes a nerve, it will be spread far and near. And, sometimes it can be spread to an audience you weren't addressing in the first place. And, that my friends, is when a vigilante such as Gini will pull out her six-shooters and begin blazing away.