Wednesday, July 10, 2013

monkeys can do this

There was a minor story this week that is probably of no interest to anyone outside of the Australian communications business, but is worthy of a brief bit of commentary here.

The Sydney arm of PR agency Porter Novelli ran a 'job ad' via Twitter, they were looking to hire an account director.

Applicants had to tweet their 'application' as a cute one-liner and tag it #socialcv.

Predictably the hashtag got hijacked and turned into a joke.

Mumbrella (Aussie comms industry news site) have captured the story as it unfolded.

Here's a link.

While recognising the relative unimportance of this in the grand scheme of things I'm compelled to comment that, while it was not the smartest thing Porter Novelli will ever do, that's not the main story.

The comms industry as a whole seems to be infatuated with youth, and a result the assumption that 'youth' are best placed to manage social media comms simply because they know how to operate the tools and are 'digital native' or whatever is rife.

The cliche of 'social media strategy' being the domain of the hapless intern is a cliche for the simple reason that it is still very common.

As you will notice if you follow the story, finally towards the end of the day some grown-ups at Porter Novelli seem to have intervened and have been able to flip it and save some face.


Theres a quote from Don Draper in season 2 of Mad Men that came immediately to mind.

In this scene the young (and still aspiring) copywriter Peggy Olsen glibly described one of her ad concepts to Don with the clarification that 'Sex sells'.

Don retorts 'Who says that?

Just so you know, the people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this...

...they can’t do what we do, and they hate us for it.

Stunts such as this one really mean that the joke is on us, as a whole communications industry.

To the outside looking in,we all look like those monkeys that Don Draper describes. If social media PR and and digitally driven comms in general is going to continue to have any credibility in business then we need to do much better than this.

Leaving children in charge of the shop is bad strategy.

And, in general, the idea that an industry publicly communicates that a candidate able to manage a clients business is likely to reveal themselves by their ability to tweet something funny doesn't say much about the likely quality of the thinking that clients are paying for.

In psychology they call this the 'effort reduction framework' and attribute substitution - a human cognitive bias which enables us to answer difficult questions by substituting the original question with an easier one.

This process is useful when choosing one kind of baked beans over another but choosing candidates to guide a clients business seems to me to be something that requires a bit more critical thinking, or else it's true.

Monkeys can do this.

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