Friday, 28. May 2010 8:51
Everybody’s doing it, doing it, doing it…
Suddenly – and presumably because Baby Boomers are now tweeting – the broadsheets and ‘serious’ news outlets are all in a lather about social networking. And for them, this means Twitter and Facebook. Don’t ask them about Foursquare.
What’s becoming apparent in recent media flare-ups is the extent to which users of these sites are still operating with old-fashioned concepts of online communication:
- Anonymity: some users think that, even though it’s plain to everyone who they actually are, they remain somehow hidden in this online world
- Alternate persona: it seems that some users – even celebrities – think that they can operate using a different persona or voice to the one they maintain in real life.
Be who you are
One of the key messages I deliver to clients is that when you’re online, everything you do is ‘publishing’. And, as any comms professional knows, to communicate effectively (online or off), you need to know who your audience is and – importantly here – who you are:
- Are you just you?
- Are you a representative of an organisation?
- Are you a fictional or exaggerated character?
Deciding this and then being it consistently is vital. Otherwise, your message can be too easily misunderstood.
The sad tale of Catherine Deveny
Look at poor Catherine Deveny. She was until recently a writer of intentionally-controversial opinion pieces in the Age, Melbourne’s apparently more-reputable newspaper. While watching the local TV awards, she tweeted a few things that were – depending on your perspective – funny, stupid or just plain mean and inappropriate.
The next day she was told by the Age that her column was cancelled. She had crossed a line and her public ‘voice’ was not deemed approriate for the Age or its readers, apparently.
Two things here:
1) “Sacked”: Catherine Deveny then spent some days in the media descibing how she was “sacked and heartbroken”. Deveny decried the Age for “dragging my corpse through their paper for hits and circulation while I am on the phone cancelling the trip to Wet’n’Wild I’d promised the kids”. It’s pretty sad. I really liked her columns.
But she wasn’t sacked. She was never employed. She had no contract. She is a freelance writer, and publications have a right to publish what they want. She lives all the time with the threat of unemployment. All freelancers do.
Deveny has the right to say what she wants too. I hope she finds a new outlet better suited to her forthright style. But the Age did nothing wrong. Perhaps Deveny was the one at fault, selling her wares to them in the first place?
I wrote for the first 99 editions of Australia’s Big Issue magazine, with about 400 articles published. My submissions for issue 100 went unpublished, and I never had anything in that magazine again. Sure, I was a bit disappointed. But I never complained about being sacked. It’s up to the editor. That’s as it should be. I got another job.
2) Who was she? Catherine Deveny needed to decide who she was. Was she a freelance controversialist (a personal brand)? Was she an Age columnist? With a clear public identity, publishing decisions (including tweets) become more obvious. And they have predictable outcomes too. A freelance controversialist would have ‘tweeted and be damned’. A high-profile Age columnist wouldn’t have tweeted in the first place. Or, if they had, wouldn’t have been surprised by the fallout.
Kyle and consistency
While Kyle Sandilands might actually be a good bloke (his friends say he is) it doesn’t really matter. The fact it that all of his public behaviours demonstrate a consistent, nasty, boorish personality.
So props to Kyle: at least he’s consistent. He knows who his audience is. And he knows who he is, as far as his public persona goes. A Sandilands tweet from last September: “having trouble paying attention perhaps I need to go to a concentration camp?”. Just terrific Kyle.
Sadly, Sandilands has joined the ranks of celebrity Twitter quitters (Helen Razer, Ricky Gervais, Miley Cyris, that hilarious fake Stephen Conroy guy and more…). Why, I wonder? No self control? Or the result of misunderstanding its purpose, power and reach?
Tellingly, and thankfully, Catherine Deveny still tweets regularly.