When I worked on cruise ships, the bigger ones in particular, we were constantly having our photos taken – by the ship’s photographers, passengers and friends. Some of the people you had your arms around you barely knew – staged camaraderie for the folks at home. (Which is how so many politicians end up shaking terrorists’ hands at fundraising dinners.)
I am reminded of this because I have been doing a lot of hard thinking (and chewing) on marketing these days: selling, being a platform speaker, writing marketing copy for myself and others. There are various components that I am gnawing on that I will address in future posts. One is whether or not you have to make hyperbolic claims to sell. Another is whether or not people really want truth in marketing or do they want to be sold a dream. And today I am thinking about cross-promoting, joint ventures and really, endorsing others.
More and more I am asked to do “send outs” to my list to promote people’s events. Some people I know personally; I know their work and I have no problem recommending that people go to their events. Others I may know peripherally or maybe they have attended one or two of my events. Still others I have not met at all – they are on the “circuit” and promoting someone will give you a chip to cash in when you need something promoted. And finally, probably what got me started on this rant today, are the people who I just think either bring nothing to the table or who are hucksters or both.
I can be endorsed by some of the biggest names in the book/speaking business if I write a big enough check. I can write a chapter in their next bestselling book. I have seen these people endorse just about anybody and anything, from truly poorly written work to just flat out stupid theories. I’ve also seen them endorse some good work, too. But at this point, any time I see certain names attached to a launch, my eyes roll back in my head and my B.S. detector goes into overdrive. They have no credibility with me. But (and here’s the rub and not a good massage-y kind of rub but a “don’t touch my second-degree sunburn” kind of rub) millions of people still believe in them, buy their books and the products they recommend.
So do you close your eyes and think of England and jump into bed with these people, rationalizing it by telling yourself that you are putting out quality work and this will help get the word out to the people who need it? Do you keep marketing slow and steadily, never getting into the inner, higher circles because you don’t want to play the game? Do you sit there in your humble home with your five year old car and pile of monthly bills saying, “Well, at least I can sleep at night.” The truth is that these people are extremely successful, they make a lot of money and even if their credibility is eventually shot (which is doubtful because it’s a great big world) they still are living an extraordinary lifestyle and yes, they are very happy. They have no problem sleeping at night.
I know this is marketing. I’m not stupid or naïve, but there has to be a certain level of truth in what you say to the general public, whether it is policed by the FTC or not. Where do you draw the line between creative marketing and outright lies? At what point does the fat of the steak become the sizzle? Who do you endorse and whose email do you pretend you never received? And am I the only one stupid enough to be worrying about this stuff?