Tag Archives: relationship

Aaron Brazell

Passion, Relationships and Thought Leadership

Back in the bad old days of blogging, the way to get attention was simple. Flame someone long enough and hard enough and they would take notice and respond in comments, or otherwise. Bloggers realized their power for change and took their platforms seriously, calling into question media accounts in politics, public relations nightmares such as Edelman’s Walmart stunt and other such things.

On this blog, I’ve taken this tack in the past flaming my friend Duncan Riley and earning my place, for a time, in the Google hierarchy as #3 for “How to be a whore”.

Yes, I was ranked #3 for how to be a whore. Classy, as always.

With my platform, I took HP to task for jerking a customer around and turned around a PR disaster into an amazing demonstration of customer service in the social web world.

I took to Twitter and established a “personal brand”, whatever that is, for being a no-bullshit czar and calling people to task when they were presenting stories or thoughts in a way that I felt was disingenuous.

For whatever hard-nosed approaches I took to relationships in the web world, I also encouraged and linked to and cited those who I felt were thought leaders. I shared blog posts in Google Reader and FriendFeed and linked people prolifically on Twitter.

The world still operates in much the same way online as it does in any other area of life. Business, politics, technology, personal relationships – they are all the same. You will never agree with everyone else, nor should you. If everyone looked at the world the same way, we’d live in a very boring world.

When it comes to passion, it is the thing that drives people to be better than what they would otherwise be. It makes them thought leaders and brings about change. Always.

The things is, the change is sometimes good and bad and that’s where passion gets you into trouble. When passion drives you to be unbending and, for lack of a better word, bigoted or dogmatic, then passion runs the risk of getting in the way and interfering.

Truth is, particularly in the blogosphere where everyone has a voice and everyone can potentially affect dramatic change, is that passion often has to be tempered in favor of relationship. Passion may drive you to make sweeping accusations, or lump different groups of people into the same bucket with the premise that “you know what I mean”.

This is harmful. Very, very harmful. This destroys relationships, and relationships are the balance.

Relationships looks at the world and say, “what you and I are together is more important and more powerful than what you and I are apart.”

In the Great Depression (and by the way, I have a bunch of Great Depression stories coming soon), the United States entered what can only be described as a period of long winter. During that winter, people could not rely on their government, their businesses, their ways of life. All they had was each other. Families hunkered down with families. Friends built deeper relationships. All they had was each other, and those relationships formed a core foundation for the generation that would come. To this day, that generation is known as the Greatest Generation.

Passion fuels the fire, drive and ambition and is the catalyst for so many great things in history. Passion is also the catalyst for the greatest failures in history.

Thought leaders are the ones who know how to tap into passion to accelerate their goals, but know when to tap the brake and fall back on relationships to enhance their goals.

Be careful not to sacrifice relationships on the altar of passion.

Aaron Brazell

Comments About Sarah Lacy, SXSW and the "Apology of the Century"

Last night at the Twin Tech Party in DC, Sarah Lacy of Business Week and I had a chance to meet for the first time. What transpired has been spun unbelievably out of control by attendees of the party. Phrases like “Battle of the Titans”, the “Apology of the Century” and labels of me being her “arch-nemesis” have been bandied around.

I personally think it’s all a bit much and want to explain what happened last night with a brief history on what happened involving Sarah and I at SXSW.

Sarah had the opportunity to interview Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder at SXSW. This came within a few months of the Facebook Beacon advertising and privacy fiasco which we covered here. Zuck is not known for public access and this was one of those few times where many in the room had an opportunity to talk to him. It wasn’t really planned that the audience would talk all that much. Handlers ensured that, if rumors are to be believed.

In the heat of the moment, and admittedly some egging on by folks on Twitter who know that I’ll say anything, anywhere (sometimes without thinking through ramifications), I heckled Zuckerberg with “Beacon Sucks“, the first of what would be many heckles from the crowd in that keynote. Get that, though? I heckled Zuckerberg.

This heckle lives on in infamy and everywhere I go, people laugh about it. “Oh, you’re that guy?”

I admit, it was pretty funny and I benefitted from the wave of infamy that went with it. But I want to be clear, I heckled Zuckerberg, not Sarah Lacy. Later in the Keynote, the audience turned on Sarah, but that was not me.

Last night, I spoke with Sarah one on one about the incident. A Flickr photoset was dedicated to the encounter, which I find slightly amusing.

Picture 8.png

Sarah was genuinely interesting, but she was naturally a little defensive when we first began chatting about the incident. I hope that the message I was trying to convey made it through: I was heckling Mark, not Sarah, and though I don’t apologize for the content of the heckle (Beacon does suck and still does), I do apologize for the unprofessional conveying of that message.

Personally, I hope that the entire incident can be put behind us. I don’t mind if the Beacon Sucks heckling incident never gets brought up again, but I may be wishing too much. In case the message didn’t translate, ” I’m sorry, for my part, in making you uncomfortable on stage, Sarah. While it was not the best interview, my message was for Mark, and not you. Hopefully you can forgive me and next time we see each other, it will be easier to laugh about the whole thing.”

And by the way, the Twin Tech Party rocked.

Update: Though it’s difficult to hear, here is a video taken at the event of this alleged “apology of the century”.

Update 2: Sarah says, “I do” – Umm, as in, she forgives me. :)

Aaron Brazell

Play to Strengths

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Jeremy Schoemaker is a rockstar in SEO. Darren Rowse is a rockstar in making money online. Erin is a rockstar among women bloggers. Thomas Hawk is a rockstar photographer. Brad Feld (a Lijit investor) is a rockstar VC. Chris Brogan is a rockstar people person. Alex Hillman is a rockstar community man. Jody is a rockstar musician.

I’m telling you, everyone is a rockstar in their own right and no one can take away their strength. As Micah puts it, no one can do your job better than you can.

The problem comes when you are not confident in what you do and you let a different kind of rockstar dictate your behavior.

We’ve all seen it. Someone of stature arrives on the scene and the person who knows the space and environment best gets star struck or intimidated by the presence of the rockstar and suddenly doesn’t know how to behave, act or represent themselves.

Confidence is so important. Confidence is sexy. Confidence displays your rockstarness and communicates that you own the place and people should stick by you. Confidence draws people in and causes them to get lost in YOU.

We all need someone else and no one can do it alone.

For myself, I know I have certain qualities and abilities that command the respect of others. I also know that I need people (such as all the people above, to name a few) to teach me something about their environments. Alex, in fact, was the one who gave me inspiration and motivation, not to mention pointers, on beginning the small co-working community we have here in Maryland.

Thomas taught me (via Scoble) a thing or two about lenses for my camera.

And so on.

Who are you learning from? Who inspires you? What are you teaching others?

(See, Chris Brogan taught me how to end posts with questions ;-) )

Aaron Brazell

Getting Back To Human

Last week, I attended the Vocus users conference here in DC. It was an interesting time for me based on my history with PR both as a blogger who can’t stand PR and a blogger who wants to see PR do well in social media.

There was one session, in particular, where an audience member asked a speaker talking about software that is currently monitoring only main stream media outlets, “What do we do about monitoring and responding to bloggers?”

The response blew me away. “We don’t do anything about bloggers because we haven’t figured them out yet. Until we do, we won’t be doing anything about them.”

The context here being, of course, the software product.

Software developers understand that software is built on complex sets of logic. If this happens, then we do that. If a user clicks here, then this thing is going to happen. The speaker was saying that until bloggers could be broken down into a logical algorithm, the software won’t incorporate blogs.

My snarky response, expressed only in my own mind, is, “We’re human. If you can’t figure out how to approach us as humans instead of machines, maybe you should get out of the public relations business.”

On Friday, Chris Brogan wrote the same thing from the opposite side:

I have an anti-robot stance on Twitter. By that, I mean to say that I don’t want to follow things that aren’t people (with all due respect to Bruce Sterling’s spimes). I just don’t need to add something automated into a place that’s inherently human.

He goes on to say that his anti-robot stance is being challenged because someone who is using an automated posting system is actually offering something of use and now he has a crisis of conscience.

Folks, we’re unnecessarily complicating our lives. Sometimes a bit of common sense is needed to overrule our warped sense of logical rules. PR folks should look at blogger coverage, not in some automated way that has to fit into specific guidelines in order for them to know how to respond. And Chris needs to stop worrying about artificial rules he has created for himself. You made the rule, you can break it.

I have rules on Twitter too. I don’t follow sex-bots. I don’t follow spammy people. I don’t follow people that have disparate ratios of followers-followees. Except for the sexbot rule, I’ve broken every one if I needed to.

I’ve done the same thing with LinkedIn and Facebook.

Rules are made to be broken by sound human rationalization.

Aaron Brazell

Relationship in the Internet World

shashibI have a friend. Up until about a month ago, I only knew him as shashib. I didn’t know much about shashib, except what I observed about him on Twitter. As I observed shashib and interacted with him, I realized he was from the DC metropolitan area and that he was in social media. We had something in common right from the start and so more and more, I engaged shashib as not only a colleague but as a friend. We laughed, joked all in 140 characters or less.

Sometime last month, I met shashib for the first time in person. It was at Social Media Club in Falls Church, Virginia where Jim Long, the cameraman from NBC and the White House Press pool turned social-media mogul, was speaking to the SMC.

After the meeting was over, I introduced myself to shashib and discovered what he does. He works at Network Solutions, the 20th century era domain registrar that still charges $35 for a domain for a year. I don’t particularly like NetSol, but the fact that he worked there didn’t affect my opinion of Shashi (his real name is Shashi Bellamkonda) because he was my friend.

I don’t mean “friend” in the sense of what most of social media has turned into where “friend” is a status symbol of yet another person who you have chosen to follow or who has decided to follow you. I mean, friend, in the 20th century or earlier sense of the world – two humans having common interests and sharing a common bond.

I’ve given Shashi plenty of grief about Network Solutions. How the perception to me is that it is an overpriced solution that doesn’t offer much more than what you can get much cheaper elsewhere. I even gave him grief over last weeks kerfuffle about NetSol’s domain “holding” practice. I did, however, complement NetSol on their domain administration interface, something I have not used in years and is much improved and much more fluid than any other competitor’s that I have experience with.

But this is not about Network Solutions. This is about relationships.

Since last month, I have seen Shashi in person a handful of other times and he is as genuine today as he was before I knew what he did. It’s about relationship, and Shashi is my friend.

Marketing and communications in the internet world today has somewhere gotten lost. Somehow, it has become more about deceptive practices than it has about relationship. It’s become about trying to get you to believe something, regardless of whether it is true. Where is the integrity?

In real life, I wouldn’t expect someone who is a friend to try to deceive me. I would not expect lying or backstabbing. Not from a friend. The solution then for communications professionals to step back and determine what the best ROI for marketing. Is it a deceptive sales pitch, or is it “friendship evangelism”?

If Shashi started trying to sell me on NetSol out of the gate, chances are that today, we would not be friends. Instead, he established a friendship with me and has me seriously considering a little known service of NetSol. How’s that for evangelism?

* Photo Credit to Schmoozing