Not the first time in my life I've been asked that question. In this case, my fictional interrogator is referring no doubt to the recent rash of guest posts that contain references to one of my favorite TV shows, Doctor Who.
Those who have been paying attention for the long haul know this is not really a recent development at all, since I sneak both subtle and not-so-subtle references to the show in wherever I can. Even Nate unknowingly referenced the Doctor in his post about injecting humanity into the digital world. It didn't take more than thirty seconds of me disguising my delight upon seeing that classic cyberman photo before he realized what he'd done.
What he'd done was unleash the geek. Because that's what I am when it comes to all things related to Doctor Who. An unashamed geek.
The Doctor is the top of my list of favorite fictional characters. It's difficult to articulate why. It's also difficult to defend any expectation that you should care.
But over here in reality, where most of us live, I have another list of people that I consider my favorite on the planet. Among them, a certain Carla Harris is known to speak about bringing your full self to the table. One of her anecdotes involves her love of singing and her identification as a singer. Is there place for a singer on wall street? As Carla has proven, emphatically, yes there is.
New story: When I first met Nate, I found out really fast that the man loves road trips. Looooooooves 'em. I mean, give him a choice between a million bucks and a road trip, he'll take the million bucks and hit the road, methinks. Unless the deal is if you take the million bucks you CAN NEVER DRIVE OR RIDE AGAIN. Then it would have to be a no. Pretty strange terms, really, but I digress... For Nate, road trips are meditation. They're cleansing. Spiritual, even. In my humble position as his marketing assistant for TheFilmSchool, I must have copied/pasted the following sentences a thousand times: Nate Wright is a marketing expert and self-professed road trip addict. When he's not helping small business owners make more money, he can be found on the road with his daughter, Anna.
Road trips are cool. I get it. I wasn't sure what it had to do with marketing a film school, though, so after I scratched my head for a while I finally asked "What the hell, Nate?"
His response: "Nobody cares about robots. Nobody wants to listen to them, and nobody wants to talk to them. We're not robots."
I'm almost certainly paraphrasing Nate there, but you loyal readers already know that injecting humanity back into digital marketing/business/everyday life has been a shared obsession of our for a long time now. In the years since, Nate has penned different bios for different situations for himself, and he still sneaks a road-trip reference in there given half a chance.
Here's another story: My phone has been ringing every two business days, around noon, like clockwork. The caller's name is Austin-with-American-Express-OPEN. No offence to Austin here, the man's doing his job, but what started out two weeks ago as a pretty decent conversation with him swiftly devolved into a by the book sales call, at which point, still trying to have some compassion for the guy, I shut him down. Not interested. He asked if he could call the following week. I told him to try again in six months. I also let him know that if he could get me in touch with the editor of the AmEx OPEN blog, I'd be happy to talk to him a lot sooner.
Obviously, a guy in a call center doesn't have the time or resources to provide me with that information, and he told me as much. Those were the last words we exchanged as humans. After that, the robots took over and now I get to look forward to ignoring Austin's call and deleting his un-listened voice mail two or three times a week.
What the hell, Austin? Perhaps it would be better to say, what the hell, American Express? By insisting on such a rigid sales script/schedule, they have tipped their hand. They do not regard me as a human. I am a data point on their spreadsheet. I am a potential source of revenue (read: likelihood of overspending, incurring fees). For that matter, they surely do not regard Austin as a human. He's in the same boat as me. Data point/potential source of revenue, with the added bonus that he is also an expense for them, a replaceable one if doesn't perform up to their standards.
Which is why, AmEx OPEN blog editor, if you happen to stumble across this, my pitch for a guest post on your blog is this: "What the hell, America?" a blog post in which I examine the cultural and economic forces that drive some businesses to deny that humans actually exist, why we let them get away with it, how this affects our general happiness and behavior towards one another, and why it's a mistake for which we are all responsible. It will be a spiritual odyssey of epic proportions.
Key points may include:
So many stories. I like stories. Many humans do, but we all have work to do so I'll try to wrap it up here with ONE LAST STORY:
I added "Doctor Who references not required, but will earn you bonus points with this editor" to my guest post guidelines for no other reason than it's true. I'll happily read the most boring article all the way through if there's a promise of one Doctor related in-joke at the end.
Turns out, it's an incredibly effective tool for sorting the robots from the humans. Before you ask, yes, literal robots started submitting guest posts immediately after our guest post guidelines page went live, because they were the first to know. There is also a grey area, posts that are authored by humans but come off as robotic. References to the Doctor, or lack thereof, help me filter those out as well. It's the green M&M effect, with the added bonus that while
I don't care one way or another what color my M&M's are, I love Doctor Who.
Am I biased against articles that don't mention Doctor Who? Absolutely not. I am biased against articles that state the obvious, take no risks, and regurgitate the same stale hype that's making the rounds at the moment. I've had enough of articles that fit the "when do we get to the part where I care" bill. They arrive in my inbox, not as prospective posts, but as posts already published and subsequently added to a newsletter by well known marketing experts.
Guest bloggers, be advised: I sincerely appreciate each and every entry that an honest human sends me, whether I publish it or not. However, here at SBT, we aren't trying to ape anyone's style, and I would really prefer it if you didn't either. You do you, that's all I ask. Does it have to be Doctor Who? Heavens no. Whatever brings out your geek beast, your nerd alert, pour that passion into your writing and it'll be that much more interesting to your, and my, readers.
So how 'bout it readers? Am I wrong? Do random tangents and references distract you, or do they make the article more read-able. Did you give up on any shred of decent marketing advice in this article long ago and stop reading? Did you keep reading in spite of the apparent lack of any useful advice? Are you mad I didn't put a tl;dr warning at the top saying simply: NERD/GEEK/ SAYS NOTHING IN 2000 WORDS. Let me know in the comments. I read every comment, even the ones from robots.
Oh, and just for good measure: tl;dr: Don't crib someone else's style. You do you, and do it proud. This applies to business; it applies to your life. Life is too short to spend the whole time talking about dead presidents. Feel me?