The Meanness of Strangers

The link between sales and marketing is undeniable. So I think it’s time that working adults accept that their communications behavior—whether in email, on the phone or online—is a direct reflection of the brand they’re representing. And if you’re rude to me, I don’t want to do business with you—ever.
I first noticed bad behavior in an email. It was from a person I didn’t know, so I didn’t feel compelled to open it or read it. And, if I did, I certainly didn’t feel that I had to acknowledge receipt by responding, even to express my disinterest in the product/service.

I guess I deleted his emails from my in-box several times, because his fifth attempt got a little contemptuous.

“I made you a pretty incredible offer on a really good video 3 or 4 times over the past
couple of months, but you never responded …” he complained, “I NEED TO HEAR BACK FROM YOU NOW.” (Yes, it was all in caps).

I admit I hit the “Delete” button without a moment’s hesitation. I resented being shouted at by this stranger. And needless to say, if I needed to produce a really good video, this would NOT be my go-to guy.

The next event was a little more irksome. I was interested in a LinkedIn Discussion Group topic on the World’s most awarded print ad. By the time I joined the discussion, 55 people had already commented before me, and the comments had turned to the relationship between ad creativity and sales. Participants were musing as to whether great creative (as defined by all the awards it won) should be considered great if it doesn’t generate sales for the product.

As an ambassador for the DMA’s Echo Awards, I chimed in that the Echo Awards celebrate the combination of strategy, creative and results. And in my book, it’s the most meaningful award because it acknowledges the difficult and creatively brilliant ways marketing folks are able to position a product in a meaningful way that drives measurable results. I thought it was a fairly innocuous comment, but apparently not.

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time.

Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations.

You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

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Comments
  • Dawn Meigs

    Bravo!! I think we all have had the poison pen pointed at us.

  • Jeanne Flatland

    I just had to add to the discussion as I am currently being "stalked" by a salesperson I met at a conference last week. Multiple calls and emails everyday this week. This behavior is only making me not want to engage with him or his company.

  • Ed Personius

    I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU PEOPLE WOULD HAVE A PROBLEM!!! I NEED YOUR ATTENTION AND YOUR MONEY RIGHT NOW AND YOU NEED TO RESPOND IMMEDIATELY! (just kidding!)

  • Jared McCarthy

    I could not possibly agree more.

    Thank you!
    (Hope that didn’t offend anyone.)

  • Anon E. Mouse

    I agree that it’s far easier to post a negative comment anonymously, though I certainly not one to shy away from posting and using my real name. Sometimes, like this: you read a web log you’ve never visited before. You want to comment. So, you write up something. Then when you hit submit, you get a message along the lines of "You must register to comment or post as anonymous." So, rather than go through the whole annoying registration process, you just take the easy way out and post as anonymous.

    As to the LinkedIn comment you spoke of, those kinds of people I like to have fun with when they come back at me with comments like that. I’ll typically treat them as though I thought they were serious. I might answer back, "No congratulations necessary. And by the way, why do you think all awards shows are meaningless?" Essentially, I turn it back on them.

    Keep up the good work, Ms. Goodman!

  • cherylayres

    That’s the kind of event that causes people not to speak up. I experienced it quite a bit when I was younger and developed a tendency not to verbally participate. I’m over 50 now and am just finding my voice again. Don’t let this kind of behavior get to you – hopefully more people will chime in dilute it. Discussion is good.

  • jaymielynnie

    Oh, I’m definitely not buying anything from the marketer on Twitter who blasted me for retweeting someone who retweeted him and removing his name for space because I thought it was originally from the other account (did anyone other than me follow that?).

    As you said, someone immediately jumped in to say "of course it was a mistake; I’ve done that before too" so I didn’t have to add my two cents.

    But you can bet I unfollowed him quickly!

  • Thomas (Tom) Smith, III

    Carolyn:

    I think it’s Scott Stratten who suggests not feeding the trolls. As such, I think you are on point just deleting spammers and negative responders who refuse to identify themselves.

    I like to think that most business professionals, by now, understand that whatever they post online will be there forever and that everything they say or do represents their personal brand, as well as the brand of their employer.

    There are a number of examples of where people posted something personal on a business site. As long as you own up to the mistake and apologize for it, I believe most folks will forgive you.

    Deny it, or try to hide from it and you’re going to hurt your brand.

    Don’t take anything personally. Sadly there are folks out there who don’t know, or care, about business etiquette or the value of their personal brand.

    Those people are hurting themselves. Not you.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Coleen Sterns Leith

    I agree with you – and also won’t do business with rude folks. We even have a sign in our office that reads, "Be Nice or Leave". Life is too short to waste energies on negativity.

  • CariSultanik

    Carolyn,

    I have always been an advocate of basic human courtesy and manners in social media, email, and marketing in general. It’s amazing how many people forget that they are speaking to other *people* who have real feelings and genuine visceral responses to shouting, name-calling, and general rudeness.

    Thanks for posting this. It’s not terribly different from teenagers who are mean via text, Facebook, etc. when you see grown-ups, who should know better, forgetting to mind their manners online. I hope it gives a few people pause for thought before they post.

    Cheers!

    Cari

  • Tom Duchene

    Carolyn:
    I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the general tenor of discourse these days, whether on email marketing, blog postings, twitter or Facebook/LinkedIn. It’s as if people don’t know that their electronic postings will follow them around for-ever!

    What ever happened to Grandma’s admonition that "if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all"? Somehow in the immediacy of communication today people seem to forget that perhaps they should think before they open their electronic mouth. Or perhaps what passes for rudeness is just the "new real" of who we are.

    I for one would like to see blogs and other forms of electronic communication somehow enact the policy that most newspapers employ…no unattributed or anonymous posts. If you don’t have the courage to identify yourself your comments should go unpublished!

    Thanks for sharing and for encouraging a bit more civility in our social discourse.

    Tom Duchene

  • Kathy Hays

    Thank you Carolyn, for reminding us that online, in-person, over the phone, oftentimes it’s now what you say but how you say it that is key. Great post.

  • Brenda Johns

    amen

  • Peter Johnston

    We as marketers have trained people to be like this. We send millions of emails every day from no-reply email addresses. We make it as hard as possible for people to respond, even to tell us we’ve made a mistake.

    If we made it easier for people to make their point and respond to us politely (even better if they got a response), perhaps we’d find they are less angry and prone to flaming us!

  • zagcapades

    Apologies,

    While the actions described in the first complaint related are completely reprehensible, the "problem" with the response to the discussion group comment is much more suspect.

    Based on the description of the second exchange, one "slap across [the] face" was simply returned by another. Stepping back it’s easy to imagine why someone might take offense to an otherwise innocuous comment that uses a superlative like "most meaninful," especially when it comes from a self-styled ambassador of a particular product, brand, or association. Usage like this does imply (by comparison) the inferiority of all other awards, and, subsequently, makes it easy (if not correct) for a reader to infer that your intent was to passive-aggressively denigrate any award-winning work product that happens to not be a DMA award winner.

    The sword here cuts both ways. Yes, the discussion group commenter probably over-reacted, zipped out a comment in anger, and hit the post button. By the same token, it’s probably safe to say that the original post, regardless of intent, could be perceived as a bit thoughtless and self-serving. (Note that it’s _really_ difficult to make any such determination because you have dutifully quoted the anonymous "troll" who hurt your feelings, while we’ve only seen a paraphrase of the original post.) Any post thought of as "innocuous," "rote," or "self-evident" should send up an immediate red flag. Whoever’s writing it isn’t thinking about what they are saying or how they are saying it.

    Combine this kind of carelessness of thought with the immediacy (and anonymity) of social media, and you’ve got a recipe for hurt feelings all around. So, at this point, who, metaphorically speaking, is the chicken, and who is the egg? You as the arrogant, egotistical original poster, or the other guy as the oversensitive, reactionary commenter? They are flip sides of the same coin.

    You’re probably both at fault. But, there is one important thing to note. Whereas the commenter has, in all likelihood, moved on, won’t expend valuable energy remembering the exchange, and wouldn’t remember you even if you did end up working together, you’ve succeeded in memorializing the incident forever and turning it into a vendetta-cum-commentary. It’s all quite noble, so many congratulations to you! Excellent and productive use of a bully pulpit. I think you deserve a DMA Echo Award, and extra kudos for getting in one good disdainful dig at all the world’s "freelancers" too. Or, was that supposed to be innocuous as well? (Isn’t is so easy to misconstrue tone on this darned thing?)

    Stay safe out there on the Interwebs, and,remember, it’s not always the other person who’s got the problem.

  • HeatherReporter

    Carolyn: I put you up as the blog of the week, here: http://lnkd.in/BtuD96

  • Debbie Carson (Yacuk)

    Wow! So true. I can’t tell you how many emails I receive with the sender telling me I need to call them back that they’ve tried to reach me, etc. I look back trhough my emails and caller ID log, and go, hmmm… nope.. must have been someone else. Then, I too, hit Delete… You only get once chance to make a first impression! Whether in person, online or in a comments section. :-) Great article!