In the new media world, everything is constantly changing. Sometimes, I feel that in the few hours it takes to write a post, my idea is already out of date. I have strong opinions, but I am never surprised when my opinions change. It’s not a matter of being unable to stand for something; it’s a matter of working in a wonderful, surprising, exciting industry that moves at a crazy pace and makes me all giddy to learn new things.
I say all of this because I want to talk to you about what I’m calling The New Media Trust Manifesto. Manifestos are usually long, grand statements of personal beliefs, often taking years to write and edit, but today this is not the case. I’m calling it a manifesto not because of it’s length, but because it is something that I so strongly believe that I think it will hold true not just tomorrow or next month or even next year. I think that if I live to be 500 years old, this will still be true. This isn’t a claim I make lightly, given my feelings that the new media world is constantly evolving and you have to evolve with it to survive.
The New Media Trust Manifesto is actually pretty simple and can be summarized in a single sentence: Hire the new media professionals you trust, not the ones who are the best for the job on paper.
I’ve written for several blogs over the years (not including the blogs I’ve run or am running myself). Some, like here at the BlogWorld blog, come attached with tons of freedom to choose my own topics and state my own opinions. Other clients give me a step by step list of what they want covered, when they want it covered, and how they want it covered. In every single case, without exception, the results are directly proportionate to the freedom I’ve given.
You might be thinking about hiring a new media professional to run your company’s Twitter account or become one of your bloggers or create ebooks for you. While the thought of giving complete control to someone else might make you shudder a little, having that trust is super important. It’s 100% better to hire someone you trust than someone who looks good on paper.
On paper, I’m not always the best candidate for every job. I’m relatively young and already have a lot on my plate. While I do think I’m a good writer, I’m also a horrible self-editor; proofreading is definitely not my forte and I don’t always catch even typo. I’m not an SEO expert. I’m not a social media expert.
Yet I can promise you this: I will always do the best job I can and I will go out of your way to represent your company well.
This isn’t about hiring me. I’m just using myself as an example. When you’re hiring a new media worker, that’s what you want – someone you can trust to represent your brand, even if they aren’t perfect. Joe Blogger who is an SEO expert and has a million Twitter followers might seem like the perfect candidate for the job, but ask yourself this: do you have to worry about him embarrassing your company? Does his personality fit your brand?
Story time: recently, one of my friends voiced an opinion about a company on Twitter. He didn’t say the company was bad or anything; he simply stated that he wasn’t personally a fan of their products, even though he thinks that others should check them out. In my opinion, that’s actually a good tweet – no product will be right for everyone, but you should be proud if someone who doesn’t like what you produce still thinks it’s high-quality enough to recommend to others who might have different tastes.
Unfortunately, their brand representative didn’t see it that way. He unfollowed my friend, but not only that – he publically announced on Twitter through his personal account AND the company account that he was unfollowing him. I was stunned when I saw that tweet. How utterly embarrassing for the company to have an employee that would overreact like that on Twitter.
Similarly, every year at conferences, there are a lot of people who misrepresent their employers by going out and partying hard. We talked about this on #BWEchat a few weeks ago, actually. If you want to have a few drinks, that’s fine. If you work for yourself and want to get wasted, go for it – you’re representing your own brand and you have the right to do that. But if someone is sponsoring you to be there and you’re dancing on the bar? How embarrassing for that company. Unless you’re representing a liquor company maybe!
And the fact of the matter is this: often times, I think “shame on *company name* for hiring that person” not “shame on that person.”
As a business who is hiring a new media professional, you have lots of tools available to help you determine whether or not you can trust a new employee as a brand representative. Check out their Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ profile. Look at the pictures they’ve posted online. Read their personal blog.
If you do some research on me, for example, you’ll find that I’m not by any means timid about voicing my opinions. You’ll also notice that I curse on personal sites/accounts but not when I’m writing for clients, that my hair has pink streaks, and I don’t own a business suit. If you were considering hiring me, these are all factors to take into consideration. For some companies, these things will be positive and for others they will be negative. That’s okay. All I’m saying is that it’s about more than asking for a sample of my writing to see if I’m a competent blogger.
I’d even take this a step farther and say that new media trust needs to extend to every single person you hire, whether they’re managing your Facebook page or doing tasks unrelated to social media. Everyone has the ability to have personal social media accounts, and most do; don’t act surprised if they mention your company. People talk about their jobs online all the time, and while I don’t think it is fair for you to require employees to only say positive things about you when they’re using their personal accounts, there’s a difference between voicing a negative opinion and embarrassing the company.
A good rule of thumb is this: pretend that you had a major company secret that you were announcing next week. Do you trust every single employee you’ve hired to know that secret today?
Another question to ask yourself: Do you trust your employees enough to send them to dinner with a potential investor?
The New Media Trust Manifesto is about hiring people who are an extension of you. Companies that don’t run the risk of hiring people who have the potential of being PR nightmares. Skills can be taught. Tact and maturity are things you either have or you do not.