Boring Byte: Polishing Dull Stereotypes Into Social PR Gold

The 20-something research scientist and data team lead for Facebook, Jeff Hamerbacher, put it best: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

From Clay A. Johnson’s book, The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

Boring-Byte-Polishing-Dull-Stereotypes-Into-Social-PR-Gold-V3 copy

The Age of Boringness for social media

I’ve become increasingly frustrated when it comes to social media for business about the excitement generated by really small ideas and things, which become hyped (i.e., “marketed”) to the heavens—or maybe I should say the Cloud(s)—regarding innovation. From a public relations perspective, it’s particularly discouraging when these glorified (usually technology) products or services are designed for individual use, rather than a societal benefit or business focus.

I’m not alone in noticing this. Recently Nicholas Carr, journalist and (Pulitzer-nominated) author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains wrote an OpEd for The Wall Street Journal, Why Our Innovators Traffic in Trifles. Carr’s subsequent interview on CBC Radio’s Q ShowWhatever happened to big ideas? is listening time well spent about how and where 21st Century innovators and businesses should be spending their resources and energy.

Also making me social-business jaundiced and weary is the jostling for mind share, influence and thought leadership for what basically amounts to the inconsequential or the recycled (sometimes “borrowed” or riffed off without attribution to source) presented as original work. I addressed this, in part, in last month’s Nutrition Byte column.

If you spend the majority of your time online on non-traditional media sites you’ll find bubbles of seeming obliviousness about the things going on in the world that have a major impact on huge swaths of sectors, industries and various populace. For example, at present there are a lot of public relations practitioners not having an easy time of it in the banking and financial sectors….

And you’ll find Internet-famous personalities reigning supreme in social media, with lots of pithy sound bites and surface expertise, usually about marketing, but very little direct professional business and financial training, responsibility or accountability (especially at the C-suite level).

This is one of the hardest Bytes I’ve ever had to write.

Not because I consider its focus uninteresting or derivative, but rather because I feel so strongly about the subject matter’s importance. Basically, I have a concern that social businesses with “character” rather than personality—let’s say steak, rather than sizzle (maybe eggplant, rather than a zesty tomato sauce and fine cheese, to be inclusive of vegetarians)—are similarly getting discouraged; perhaps feeling like there’s no viable social media “public relations” presence and profile for them amongst the chattering, highly extroverted social business classes of sexy marketing promotions, shares and tons of engagement with champions (or detractors waiting to be won over) talking about various brands.

And that is so wrong. My ongoing resolve is to persuade self-doubters about the advantage of polishing what are perceived as dull businesses (and stereotypes) into social PR gold, by playing to your quiet strengths and attributes.

Opportunity

Think of it as your opportunity to capitalize on true expertise, originality, mind share, influence and thought leadership, which become accessible to a greater community through indexed and authoritative search.

Let’s all be Quiet…for a bit

Several months ago when I wrote in Profile Byte (linked to above) about “character” rather than “personality,” I had yet to read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

I’ve now read it.

Twice.

And I’m a big, big fan of not only her book, but how she’s grown my appreciation of how much value introverts provide to their businesses and society, as well as to family and friends. According to Cain, “Depending on which study you consult, one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts—in other words one out of every two or three people you know.” (Although this statistic references Americans, Cain’s book is full of introvert examples and subject experts drawn from around the globe.)

Okay, so I think Quiet is a great book. Yada yada yada. What exactly does this have to do with the intersection of public relations and social media for business?

Or perhaps a better question: is there a place for introverted business-types and businesses in social media?

Although the path to get here might be a bit convoluted, my hypothesis is simple:

Just as one-third to one-half of any given workforce is likely introverted*, I propose a similar percentage of businesses could be classified as being of an introverted variety. And in the (at least North American) Extroverted Ideal world, these businesses are probably considered boring by many (extroverts) when it comes to their socialized expression.

But just as the most-effective workplaces and businesses deliberately employ a significant percentage of introvert employees—and that includes the CEO, more often than you’d think—so can the online world accommodate and welcome businesses that may be less overtly exciting, but still have much to offer on the interwebs.

And as the “social” norm remains extroversion, an introverted business can actually be a valuable differential of a “quietly persistent” knowledge and sharing ecosystem, rather than loud marketing broadcasting and chattering.

In particular, I think this is a great strategy to develop: deliberate public relations for sectors and disciplines that have an inherently introverted bias. Think about it—reputation, value and relationship building can be tailored to the normative behaviours, needs and wants of significant segments of stakeholders—who likely comprise at least 30 per cent of businesspeople.

They may be in the technology, accounting, architecture, mathematics, science, engineering or writing fields. Many of the companies will likely be B2B, focus on communities of practice or be involved in some form of society building, health, welfare or infrastructures.

*Note: Even if your business is not of an introverted variety, if I was writing Employee Byte post-Quiet, I’d suggest deliberate inclusion of introverted employees into the cross-mentoring mix, because “…you’d want to make sure that important corporate decisions reflect the input of both kinds of people, not just one type.”

Social media platforms with an introverted bias

From a public relations perspective, I believe the most effective, external social media platforms for mind share, knowledge sharing and engagement of introverted businesses and individuals, in this order of current importance (and for different reasons), comprise:

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Company blog
  • YouTube

And I predict the major, third-party enterprise/social business player—particularly for B2B companies—will become Google+, likely at some expense to active LinkedIn participation (rather than Facebook), although I don’t believe LinkedIn is going anywhere, soon. Nor would I want it to.

The reason for this is simple: just like Microsoft’s (boring) Windows operating systems and Office productivity software, Google is developing the whole social enterprise external enchilada, based around Google+. Not only is almost every type of business option you need at hand—even if not always the most exciting version—just think about how your business core offerings and programs will be better noticed and served in regards to the world’s dominant search engine.

My favourite kind of social public relations is focusing the bulk of the time on quality online content and then letting search engines do most of the work.

The boring party poopers

I’ve noted that extroverted marketing individuals appear to enjoy bashing the boringness of both LinkedIn and Google+. That’s fine, introverted businesses. Let those extroverts have the majority of third-party sharecropping spaces on Facebook, Pinterest, Foursquare and Groupon, complete with all of those ads for clicking….

Guiding principle of Tim O’Reilly, publisher of O’Reilly Media:

Work on stuff that matters. Please, don’t let your entire career be about figuring out new ways to deliver advertisements. Even if it pays the bills, find an additional outlet to use your skills to make a difference. The Information Diet

A closer examination of boring Microsoft

As a technology company Microsoft is often compared, unfavourably, to Apple, when it comes to corporate culture and innovation, impact and influence. Yet if you’ve read Walter Isaacson’sbiography, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates comes across as the more reasonable, transparent, collaborative and caring business CEO and worldview individual. For example:

  1. (Like Google, but unlike Apple) he is an advocate of the open source philosophy regarding systems and software.
  2. Microsoft partners with many companies.
  3. Microsoft has a well-developed corporate social responsibility program and division (where my Irish public relations colleague and friend, Tom Murphy was recruited to play an important role, including in social media).
  4. Bill Gates voluntarily stepped down as CEO to devote himself full-time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where they are researching needs and allocating funds to worthy endeavours and thereby making a difference in numerous countries—monies derived from technology deliberately allocated to better the world.

Are these truly boring values and attributes?

In Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, Bill Gates makes several appearances as an introvert CEO role model of success. Ergo, despite its huge size and profitability, I would propose that Microsoft reflects its co-founder Gates in being an introverted business.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t innovative. Check out this recent article by respected independent technology analyst and journalist, Carmi Levy, Microsoft lost its cool with its Rolling Stones Start Me Up to Windows 95 launch. Is it regaining mojo? In particular, how Levy classifies Microsoft’s acquisition of internal enterprise social network, Yammer, as being incredibly forward thinking.

If yours is an introverted business, think what an incredible addition into the online enterprise system it will be, to have an internal social media communication platform like Yammer for (amongst other advantages) insourcing your social communications.

In Quiet, Susan Cain speaks to the disadvantage introverts have regarding business meetings, brainstorming sessions and various team-building exercises, except when it comes to online brainstorming:

“Groups brainstorming electronically, when properly managed, not only do better than individuals, research shows; the larger the group, the better it performs.

The same is true of academic research—professors, who work together electronically, from different physical locations, tend to produce research that is more influential than those either working alone or collaborating face-to-face.”

Cain indicates passive forms of [electronic] collaboration include things like e-mail, instant messaging and online chat tools.

Not-so-boring social platforms and businesses

So here we have boring companies like LinkedIn and Google+ providing excellent external platforms for social businesses based on communities of practice and knowledge sharing, and we have boring Microsoft (spending slightly more than what Facebook did to buy oh-so-fun Instagram) acquiring what most see as the current industry standard for internal social networking.

It makes you go Hmmm, doesn’t it? That’s not actually business boring; instead, it’s nonconforming to individuals and popularity-oriented social media norms.

From a public relations perspective, having a physical manifestation—whether externally or internally—of an introverted business’ online collaboration, knowledge sharing and thought leadership is a tremendous boon to the role—social gold. Why?

  1. Because the organizational narrative is being detailed through a variety of people—without overt prodding from corporate communication—both externally and internally.
  2. Relationships can be begun or solidified, online, by companies and individuals who wish to formalize a connection with your social business, based on the knowledge ecosystem and thought leadership witnessed.
  3. Much of the organizational narrative will be available, online, for “conscious consumption” by journalists and other stakeholders. In most cases it will be found through indexed and authoritative search rankings, which may or may not receive social shares.
  4. The profile and reputation of the social business will be dependent on the quality and originality of what is being produced or innovated—a meritocracy of ideas, rather than flashy presentation or slick marketing (areas that extroverted individuals and companies excel at).

Social PR gold case study

The plan was to point to an online case study (in interview format) about Geosoft Inc., a tech company with B2B clients around the world, which provides software and services that advance subsurface earth exploration and contribute to resource discovery. In 2006, Geosoft began publishing, Earth Explorer, as a way of connecting and giving back to its community by providing a place to profile the ideas, expertise and success of geoscientists and resource industry professionals as “earth explorers” making discoveries. The magazine hass moved from print to online over the years, with Earthexplorer.com now a rich, digital magazine (still sponsored by Geosoft) that’s become a hub of customer and community engagement and a powerful source of insight for the company’s content development. This online publication and community has moved the company to being considered a thought leader in its sector and various complementary industries, above and beyond its core software products and services.

That’s social PR gold!

I suspect both the tech company and the average geoscientist or geologist could be classified as introverted…yet Geosoft has now moved quickly and successfully into building an active and passionate online community through various social networks—at this stage I’m told its most effective channel is LinkedIn.

I’m hoping my interview with Geosoft Inc.’s director of corporate communications and editor, Earth Explorer Magazine (whom I heard speak at a Brainrider-sponsored #torontob2b Marketers Meetup V), will publish in August (or September) 2012 on PR Conversations.

Your turn; input appreciated on one or more of the following questions

What companies, organizations or occupations do you perceive as being inherently introverted, yet who have successfully implemented a social media presence? How did the organization do it?

Do you think digital public relations is harder or easier for an introverted business—which perhaps is quieter and less exciting in nature (albeit with great thoughtfulness and depths), but likely has less noisy and extroverted competition in the space?

Finally, do you think that social media for business increasingly is going to focus on relatively trivial ideas, things or advertising/marketing or will calls for change by individuals such as Nicholas Carr help to mature the landscape…and maybe help introverted businesses to truly shine?

Judy Gombita
This monthly Social Media and Public Relations column is contributed by Judy Gombita. Judy is a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning nonprofit sectors. She is the co-editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations. +Judy Gombita
Judy Gombita

@jgombita

Sr/hybrid (social) public relations & communication management strategist. Mindful curation @PRConversations. Heart: travel, film, theatre, opera, books & food.
By @KevanLee for the @buffer blog: 23 Seldom-Used Ideas for How to Use Twitter Lists http://t.co/DV9T6xGqKR h/t @maxOz - 8 hours ago
Judy Gombita
Social Media Marketing World

Comments

  1. says

    Judy, this is a really great article and there is a little of the boring introvert in many, if not all, of us. Certainly, many more can be found in the social business arena. Me? I’m sick of extroverts hogging all the space and the attention! We introverts also have important and thought provoking ideas to bring to the table! Thanks!

    • says

      Thanks, Craig. For a self-confessed little-bit-of-boring introvert, you were fast and passionate out of the gate. As I told you, offline, I’m interested in the category Susan Cain mentions, but does not explore further, in her book: the ambivert. I really do see myself in this category, in terms of my need for down time and preference for small-group socializing over larger ones. I can BE extroverted and “perform” in any size group when need be, but I definitely need introverted-style critical musing/thinking and recharging time on my own, especially in order to “make some noise” (or better yet, try to gain some mind share) at appropriate times in social media.

      Bring your ideas to the table. I promise you I will listen to your thoughts more than talk about them, as I think you have much to teach me, especially about your specialty, B2B sales. Plus you make me laugh, in a good way.

  2. says

    Great post Judy. I am reminded of European tech PR clients – especially the Scandinavian ones, they always seemed to be reluctant to beat their chests our draw too much intention. So, can count a many companies from these countries as being inherently introverted, although this might be changing.  In terms of US companies and industries that I have worked with, those in the high performance computing arena and also others focusing on the higher education and R & D markets seem to be introverted.

    • says

      It’s great to hear first-hand confirmation from someone who has international clients, Bob. Thank you. You know there is a school of thought that Canadians are more akin to Scandinavians than Americans—despite physical proximity—because of a Northern mindset: a bit more reserved, a drier sense of humour, more self-deprecating, etc. Of course I also think it’s the best of both worlds, as I’ve felt equally comfortable and welcomed in the generous and so-friendly extroverted States, as well as also at ease and wanted, albeit of a quieter, more introverted variety, in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Alas, I haven’t been to Norway…yet.

      What I think is interesting about the tech sector is that so many of the platforms and tools it creates are inherently extroverted and/or social, yet my experience has been that most of their creators/innovators are themselves introverted. Ergo, I’m not at all surprised to hear that you have high-performance clients in the computing arena that specialize in higher education and R & D.

      So, Bob, what do you consider your tech PR company and you to be: introverted or extroverted?

      • says

        Gulp, good question – you have heard of the saying “like the cobbler’s kids who don’t have shoes”?  I’d say we have been introverted but are coming out of our shell

  3. Joseph Ruiz says

    great post Judy so much to think about. I think the real advantage of social media is tapping into the internal and external resources. Patrick Lencioni describes this in his new book The Advantage. You make some excellent points about the attention extroverts tend to command. Personally I think the changing digital/social landscape will demand new business models for both extroverts and introverts. Being an Introvert I’m cheering for the steady persistence of adaptable change – both groups have a lot to offer most important is understanding the implications of Culture trumping strategy – Once we get our arms around that other changes will follow. Very thought provoking piece Have to get Quite and read it.
    Best
    Joe

    • says

      There you go again, Joe, suggesting MORE reading for me! As your earlier documents have all been great, I will put Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage on my list—although Thinking, Fast and Slow by economist Daniel Kahneman (which my PR Conversations co-editor, Heather Yaxley, recommended to me) and then Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, will be my next non-fiction reads.
       
      You know every time I write somewhat-derogatory remarks about marketers, I feel some pangs of guilt when I think about you and other enlightened marketers, because you don’t at all fit those stereotypes and I fear it might be perceived as a lumped-in assessment. I worked side-by-side for about five years with an introverted marketer and we were great work colleagues, accomplishing much and often going out for lunch together. I agree that the business landscape might be changing or evolving—it should, anyhow. Think of it this way: as an INTROVERTED marketer, you are well-positioned to offer thoughtful expertise and services to those 30-per-cent-plus introverted businesses, which would likely prefer your gentlemanly, quiet-and-gracious style of marketing. And who probably really enjoy doing a lot of tasks and communication through their mobile devices…..

      Please DO read Quiet. I would love to compare notes with you about the book. There are huge areas I didn’t get in to in this Boring Byte, such as the use of personal “flow,” the “pain of independent thinking” and so on.

      I do enjoy how you’ve embraced organizational culture as a concept and a healthy one as an ideal; your arms are already around it. Now start thinking about the individual cultures of extroverts and introverts, and how we can weave the best of both groups into social media for business and share those thoughts on Windmill Networking.

      • says

        Quite is loaded on the Kindle planning a road trip next week so hopefully I will have some extra reading time. Thanks for the thoughtful content and response. Let’s keep the dialogue going! 

  4. Davgraham says

    Reading your article, I am would place Deloitte into the introverted category you described. Amazingly, Deloitte uses the “boring” tools you mentioned (eg LinkedIn). We also use Yammer on a global basis for internal knowledge sharing. As always, an interesting and insightful article. Thank you!

    • says

      Of course Deloitte is an introverted business, David! Just like I had my favourite engineer-introvert Suchitra Mishra at the back of my head whilst writing, so did I have the effective and impactful work you are doing with The Mighty D gently swirling around; in particular, when I spoke about effective social media platforms (although I didn’t realize you were already using Yammer–cool beans!). Having worked in the accounting/financial sector myself, I honestly can say that you are great in your digital channels role.

      I believe you will very much enjoy my upcoming interview with Geosoft’s Carmela Burns, as I think the two of you are kindred spirits when it comes to thoughtful strategy and tactics regarding social business on an international scale.

      What I would be interested in knowing from you is whether “introverted” Deloitte, which is an international company, does manifest itself differently on social platforms depending on which country and/or individual is playing a part. In other words, are some countries, HQs and/or community manager, more extroverted than others?

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting, as well as your always-generous promotion of my columns. (I’ve noticed that your Deloitte colleagues around the world are huge fans of you and your work in social media–not that it surprises me.)

      • says

        Did someone mention me here ? Introvert that I am, I have been silently following the comments on this post :) – I am amazed at the diversity and the solid “content” in the comments. Judy – Your post absolutely deserves the great conversations ongoing here.
        Needless to say – this Byte is my favourite so far among all the Bytes you have published – pure gold.

        Regards,
        Suchitra

        • says

          Thanks for coming out to comment @suchimishra:disqus. Comments always mean a lot to me, particularly coming from introverts (who don’t tend to comment as often as the extroverts). And I’m very glad this one (unlike your Nutrition Byte one) didn’t get gobbled up in the ether.

          I’m very glad this Byte spoke to you, as I really was channelling your modus operandi, both in your online manifestation and what you’ve told me about “in real life” when writing this column. I’m very thankful to the interwebs for bringing you into my life.

  5. says

    Since when did Bill Gates do Open Source? Its totally against the whole ethos of Microsoft!
    Apple are no better, but both Microsoft and Apple used elements of BSD which is like open source, but you don’t have to share it!
    That simple error lost you all of any respect I had for the rest of the content of the article.
    It seems to me that online marketing is mostly about intense focus on niches or lots of numbers.
    However, what companies need to realise is that its all part of the mix, not a replacement!

    • says

      Hello 123db. Much of the Steve Jobs biography concerns the differences in opinion about the “open source” movement (with advocates from hackers and computer clubs like Homebrew–including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniuk) and the companies that also had that disposition. Apple (and by that I mean Steve Jobs, certainly not Woz) almost stood alone as not believing in it, focusing instead on its “vertical integration.”

      A quick search (on Google!) produced this page:
      Microsoft I Open Source
      http://www.microsoft.com/opensource/directory.aspx

      It’s unfortunate that you disagreeing with one aspect of my Boring Byte makes you lose “any respect [you] had for the rest of the content of the article,” most of which is quite far removed from the “open source” debate, anyhow. Still, as a “conscious consumer” of information it would definitely be your choice as to whether I am a reliable source and/or I persuade you.

      But please note that I write about PUBLIC RELATIONS and social media. Not marketing. And if you are simply “mixing” public relations into the marketing function, we are already at odds.

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your opinion. Cheers.

      • says

         Thanks for the detailed reply – and I am guilty of not seeing the difference between marketing and PR.
        Loved the way you highlighted your reply through Twitter – now that is a trick I am very impressed with! ;)

        • says

          :-) That’s a tactic, not a trick @twitter-260812751:disqus . I’m fond of working the connections across a variety of social channels, not just one.

          You will definitely find lots of great “marketing” for social business content here on Windmill Networking (from various colleagues in various areas), but my Bytes from the PR sphere column is not one of them. Well, except for where our disciplines overlap. Which is reasonably often.

          But in the words of Sean Williams ( on Twitter, @commAMMO:disqus ), whom I quote from in Nutrition Byte (from his PRoust Questionnaire, not this):

          “All marketing is communication, but not all communication [or public relations] is marketing.”

          Now, do I need to call out to you on Twitter, again, or did you think to sign up for all future Boring Byte comments? (Scroll to bottom.)

          Have a great rest of Tuesday. Go Team GB and Team Canada, eh?

  6. says

    Judy, a great post, though I humbly must point out that my role at Microsoft is certainly no more important than any of my colleagues – and of course I must also point out that when I look at what my employer is doing with Xbox, Kinect, Windows Phone and of course Windows 8, I certainly wouldn’t consider Microsoft boring :) Having said that I do get your point.

    I would also point out that in defense* of the boring, companies still have a long way to go in terms of telling compelling stories and conducting real engagement online. You can’t just blame the audience :) 

    This is a great topic for discussion because it gets to the social impact of social media.

    This insistence of chasing the new new thing (no matter how insignificant) is one of those intriguing, annoying and frustrating characteristics of the brave new online world.  Back in the early 00’s there was much made of how blogs (and as we’ve developed online: social media) meant that everyone can be a publisher.  There were many who compared the impact of these technologies to that of the Gutenberg press.

    Yet I’m not convinced we’ve made best use of this opportunity (yet).

    As you point out, small, relatively unimportant developments often dominate the online agenda. There’s a preponderance of hyperbole, but it goes beyond that.  When you think about the opportunity these tools provide, there’s nowhere near the quality of debate and discussion you’d expect.  Instead there’s a lot of people peddling their views and a lot of nodding heads.  Couple that with trolls and haters and it could be seen as an appalling vista.

    Of course I’m dealing in rash generalizations here.  Let’s not overstate it, there is great content, opinions and discussion online and let’s not forget that social networks have been incredible in connecting people and organizations.

    There remains an opportunity for more though, and hopefully over time we’ll move on and see a lot more thoughtful debate and discussion to supplement what we have today.

    • says

      Well you would say you aren’t more important than your colleagues, wouldn’t you, Tom? There’s a healthy introvert component to you, which I see as a quiet strength. I hope you’ve shared a link to Boring Byte with your (female!) boss and other colleagues…not to promote my post, but rather to show that your work is recognized, externally, by colleagues.

      And just to be clear, I’ve never thought Microsoft was or continues to be boring. This was just part of the column’s title hook, as well as my interpretation of conventional wisdom. Oh. And me contributing a wee bit to Microsoft’s organizational narrative. I hope you liked Carmi Levy’s article; I was going to share it with you beforehand, but thought I’d surprise you here, instead.

      I hear what you are saying about the shiny new supplanting the only recently-old blogs concept. Look at this group blog: it’s the collective contribution of a variety of individuals and their original thoughts and expertise, rather than something that screams innovation. But we’re telling our own stories and providing something here that I don’t think you find in many other places. And for me the comments I often receive are engagement manna, especially when commenters force me to think and defend or modify my original hypothesis. Kudos to Neal Schaffer for not being seduced by small ideas; perhaps we’re building the Microsoft of group blogs!

      I agree with you that the biggest advantage, by far, is how social media extends our reach. I mean, how else would a woman in Toronto “meet” and interview an Irish ex-pat working in Washington State at one of the world’s largest companies? The question is, how to move these personal connections into social business opportunities and advantage. Is the cloud the next great connection platform? Your company is apparently revolutionizing itself in that regard.

      Thank you for this extroverted visual:”… a lot of people peddling their views and a lot of nodding heads. Couple that with trolls and haters and it could be seen as an appalling vista.” You aren’t too shabby a writer yourself.

      I also appreciate our mainly offline thoughtful debates and discussion we’ve had about a variety of things public relations and social. One, in particular, helped to shape the Microsoft section of this Byte. You knew I was going to include your company, but you didn’t know what exactly or in which direction I’d head. Thank you for trusting me and not demanding a preview read.

  7. says

    Judy – this is another of those posts (frequently yours) that make me feel intellectually inadequate. Mighty hi-falutin’ stuff here!  The commenters, as well, offer quite excellent insights  — thanks for quoting me amid all of this smart-titude. 

    The introverted=extroverted question thumps along in many spaces, even bordering on stereotype to some degree.  The Myers-Briggs test takes a terribly complicated topic and reduces it, sometimes unintelligibly, to those four letters. But the lesson of MB is that we are comprised of many aspects in a single personality. We may be INTJ, but we’re able to play well with others when we need to; we’re ENFP (me) but can do more than come up with ideas, we can implement them too in many situations. 

    These characteristics are tendencies, not a ball and chain. So too for organizations — I believe (can’t recall the source) that there are, however, strong correlations between business performance and the personalities of organizational leadership. The introvert leaders rule. Matter of fact, there’s a thought that the banking crisis was precipitated by extroverts pushing bank cultures toward more risk — selling the strategy internally, one might say.

    As to conflict with marketers, we do need to get along. We’re in pursuit of the same objectives — supporting our organizational business objectives. We need to do a better job on both sides of realizing the value we bring — and not seek to profit at the other’s expense. 

    • says

      Sean, you were inspiring my thinking before we had even connected, online or IRL! Remember, I quoted from one of your IABC Café comments on one of my posts back in 2007, my first year on PR Conversations. That’s because you looked at something in a different way from the majority of people chiming in. Susan Cain would likely classify both of us as sometimes suffering from “the pain of independence.”

      It’s interesting that we’re only one letter apart in Myers-Briggs—I’m ENTP. Definitely there is a whole rainbow of personalities and motivations, both in introverts and extroverts. One of the most interesting sections—for me—of Quiet was the part that talked about introverts not being an inherently smarter breed than extroverts, but rather it was the idea of sticking with things longer and doing more thinking alone, rather than amongst the chattering crowd. This was towards the end of Quiet:

      “It’s not that I’m so smart,” said Einstein, who was a consummate introvert. “It’s that I stay with problems longer.”

      So that speaks to your comment that we need to work together and learn from one another. Whether in the office place or online, ensure that introverts are at the strategy end of things…and give them lots of alone time to think and develop it. And, when it’s presented to the extroverts, make sure they don’t take over, impose quickly thought-up ideas and/or take credit when it belongs to someone else. Especially when it comes to the important corporate decisions….

      I’ve said in numerous places that I have immense respect for smart-and-considerate marketers. Where I have the biggest problems, especially in the online sphere, is marketers who:

      a) see public relations as merely a promotional aspect of marketing—usually declaring our function reports TO marketing; and

      b) individuals who specialize in marketing (or SEO or brand management or advertising or customer service, etc.) who for some reason feel the need to say they are in public relations. Make up your mind what is your specialty and EMBRACE that title and skill set, I say…..

      Quiet does give examples of what makes for an effective introvert AND extroverted CEO. For example, an introverted CEO tends to work best with a high-performing employee base. He or she decides, develops, shapes and shares the vision and goals, but then entrusts the high performers to run with it and have direct responsibility and accountability. Highly extroverted CEOs (i.e., the bossy kind) tend to either inherit or turn their staff into a passive, low risk-taking and minimal contributing—in terms of suggestions—workforce. Sometimes this works, but more often than not the culture is toxic or afraid.

      Finally, per your comment about the banking sector, it’s spot on. Quiet actually gives some examples of introverted financial companies that weathered the 2008-90 meltdown better. Of course a lot of their clients left them too early, seduced by extroverted personalities, who promised them things would come out OK. And you might recognize the name of your country’s number one financial introvert: Warren Buffett…. He’s in Quiet a fair bit, too.

      And I do quietly heart your smart-titude!

  8. Fraser Likely says

    For decades I’ve been kicking myself about why I’m such an introvert. Continually over that period of time, I made decisions to do a complete self-examination, though I never got around to actually acting on those decisions. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that in doing such a detailed and heart-wrenching self examination I would be seeing myself from the outside. Being in that position would make me, by definition, an extrovert. Made me laugh to think that for all those years I risked an exit from the monotype life of being me. 

    Regarding identifying companies as either introverted and extroverted, that’s the same disease to which In Search of Excellence fell victim. (Most of Peters and Waterman’s citations were, by any yardstick, no longer excellent, if they ever were, a year or so later. Although, practices within, or even practice areas within, remained excellent or became excellent.) That is, the disease is thinking that companies or any organization are monogenetic or even monomorphic. An individual may be introverted or extraverted, mostly. Collectives are too complex to be categorized so finely and absolutely.

  9. says

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Fraser Likely! (Quite pleased that you found this blog and column, as it’s usually on PR Conversations that I see your thoughtful introvert commentary.)

    If you haven’t read Susan Cain’s book, yet, I’d recommend you do so. She goes through a number of motivational and business programs (including Harvard), speaking to researchers and subject experts about how truthful and/or effective they are, based on evidence. A particularly useful part of the book is about “brainstorming.” It turns out the vast majority of people produce better ideas in isolation than in a brainstorming group scenario–where introverts are at a particular disadvantage. The exception, which I use in this column, is online brainstorming platforms.

    I accept your criticism of trying to classify an organization as monogenetic or monomorphic, but please bear in mind that I am referring to the ONLINE manifestation of a business on social platforms, and whether it (i.e., the business) appears to be of an extroverted or introverted nature.

    I was really pleased to hear from Geosoft’s director of communication, Carmela Burns, that she agreed with all of my assessments. (Just like Tom Murphy of Microsoft, she was unaware that I would be pointing to Geosoft in this column.)

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