Several years ago, when I lived in Columbus, OH, I went to visit COSI (Center of Science and Industry) and saw a presentation by a kid who was maybe 15.
This guy was good. He was interactive and engaging. I was so impressed that, after the presentation was over, I went to talk to him.
Totally different kid. He was nice, buy very shy. And it was obvious to me at that time that his presentation was largely scripted and he was working at a different level of comfort on-stage than off-stage.
I can’t tell you how many comics and musicians I’ve met who are the same way. And podcasters are often this way as well.
Many people find it easier to read a script than do something on-the-fly.
I saw a video being passed around social media that I found to be very impressive. It was bold and took chances, calling out a well-known “marketing guru” on certain things regarding race that, to some people, including me, came off as tone-deaf and out-of-touch.
I agreed with the message and wanted to help spread it. But as a white guy, I’m not the best messenger, so I wrote the author via Twitter...
Here’s the followup email I sent:
Subject: INTERVIEW REQUEST - RED Podcast
Hey, [REMOVED] -
I sent you a tweet just now and am following up here...
Loved the video. I have a podcast for experts and would love to do an interview with you to talk more about how people with platforms can step up in a better, non-[REMOVED] type way.
Let me know if you're up for it and I'll send you my calendar. I'd need about an hour with you.
My name is [REMOVED], I'm [REMOVED]'s EA. We've received your message on Twitter and now here, but I just wanted to pass along [REMOVED]'s post from FB on Monday. Please don’t invite her to speak on your platform in her DMs. She's been here doing the work for 10 years. If you’ve known her name and what she's about but didn’t invite her before don’t invite her now.
As [REMOVED] put it "It feels like you are trying to put me on your platform to signal to Black people that you are safe for us, that you are a true ally. Unless I knew you as an ally before this past weekend, I don’t know if you’re an ally so I’m not gonna put my face on your work and name you an ally. Do the work of being an ally, then we’ll all know and you won’t need my word.
If you want to support me, tell your clients and friends and subscribers about me. Direct them to my podcast, my mailing list, my membership community ([REMOVED]), my social media channels.
Take yourself and the way you would benefit out of it. That’s how you can truly support me."
Please let me know if you have any questions,
I was a bit shocked, to say the least. Maybe it was a form letter, as what she was saying didn’t really connect with my intentions or what I had asked her. Or maybe I wasn’t clear with my original messages.
So I wrote this in response...
I didn't send a DM. I sent a public reply via Twitter and followed up with an email via her site. And nothing about either message was me trying to benefit or put up a "signal for Black people."
I run a podcast for experts. My listeners have their own platforms and I think it's important that we use those platforms to change the world for the better and make a real difference in the lives of the people who hear us. I contacted [REMOVED] because, as a 47-year-old white man, I'm not the best guy to comment on many of the issues coming to light right now. I wanted to yield my platform to her.
It's a big world. She didn't know me and I didn't know her. I approached her as somebody with a good message, not as a "celebrity" with credibility I can borrow. She and her ideas would be exposed to MY audience, not the other way around.
[REMOVED] talked about getting messy and this is what that looks like. We're all in this together and, if we're going to move forward we're going to have to start having real conversations, not just preaching to the choir on social media. My hope was to have a real conversation with her that would introduce her ideas to new people, who would then introduce those same ideas to their audiences.
I didn’t send it.
Real Discussions Get Messy
It’s easy to sit on your mountain have a “one-way conversation” with the people below, whether that be via your podcast, a book, a blog, or a social media video. Having real conversations – the kind that actually change the minds of people – is much more difficult.
It’s easy to “talk.” Real discussion, when you have to listen, pivot, and go “off-script” because not everything is planned out ahead of time, is messy.
One makes you feel like you’re doing something good, the other actually creates change and has impact. And as a bonus, it makes all the “talk” you’ve done more powerful, because listeners who hear your discussion around it, connect to you and your message in a different and deeper way.
Would you trust somebody like this?
Check out this quote from a well-known blogger...
If you’re reading this website, and you feel the urge to contact me with your feedback, question, proposal, etc., don’t do it. If that bothers you, well… I suppose you’ll have to get used to disappointment. I don’t even care to receive typo reports — people will still be able to figure out the message, despite the Typo Gremlin’s mischief.
It’s direct, which I appreciate, but at the same time, you can be direct without being harsh. And why would you reject a message from somebody who is trying to help you do a better job of spreading your message? That’s stupid.
What would Seth Godin do?
A few years ago, I attended an event he organized on the subject of book publishing. It was limited to 100 people and everybody there had the opportunity to get their questions answered.
I asked him, “What do you do when, because of your published work, people think they know you and they feel like they have a relationship with you, but you have no idea who they are?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “I’m still trying to figure that out.”
Like Seth Godin, I’m still trying to figure this out as well. But I do know that every time somebody reaches out to us because of our work, we have an opportunity to build community around it and spread the messages we think are important.
We also have the opportunity to shut down a relationship and squelch the very messages we’re looking to amplify.
The Podcaster Paradox
As podcasters, we love being able to get behind a mic, speak something once, and reach a lot of people with that message. And it’s easy to feel like we’re making real change when we look at download numbers or see responses from people who have listened to us speak.
But speaking into a mic is only the start of making real impact with your message – we can go deeper. As powerful as words are, their message and impact can fade quickly. And this is especially true when you hit with a “viral video” or something similar that blows up in a big way and without you, your deeper personality, and your other work connected to it.
Your message (and its impact) sticks largely because your attachment to it, so if that matters to you, do what you can to stay connected to it. Say yes to opportunities to talk more about your message when you can, even if your execution or the situation isn’t perfect – don’t blow it off.