Does Arrogance Build Trust in the Social Media World?

Picture 1This has been brewing in my head for a while, and to be honest, I’ve been a little hesitant to write about it, but when I saw the description of the session that Chris Brogan is going to be leading at IZEAFEST, I decided (after some advice from a few folks at Copyblogger) to speak my mind. Now,  I have no idea who wrote the description, but regardless of whether Brogan wrote it himself or someone wrote it for him,  it really rubbed me the wrong way. I know Chris Brogan is a “Trust Agent” and all, and maybe it’s supposed to be funny or edgy or something, but I find it simply arrogant, complete with the intense close up photo of Brogan looking like an angry daddy about to tell the kids to go to their room.

Here’s the copy from the site:

“If you’re dipping your toe into social media, blogging, and all the other tools related to content marketing, either ‘jump in or get the Hell outta my water!’
Businesses are ready NOW, and they want professional treatment in bridging the gap between how they USED to do online marketing and advertising and how they will in the coming months.
Join Chris Brogan for a cuss-out, and a set of next steps to take home to your teams.”

This bothers me on multiple levels:

1. “If you’re dipping your toe into social media, blogging, and all the other tools related to content marketing, either ‘jump in or get the Hell outta my water!’”…Excuse me, but whose water is it that people are supposed to either jump into or get the hell out of?  The last time I checked, no one actually owned the vast ocean that we call social media.
2. “Businesses are ready NOW and they want professional treatment” …This implies that they are ready but everyone except for Chris Brogan is not prepared now to guide them or treat them professionally.
3. “Join Chris Brogan for a cuss-out” ….Hmm, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t spend a sizable chunk of change to attend a conference to be cussed out by a Trust Agent.
4. “a set of steps to take home to your teams” …. Let’s all hope that everyone there takes copious notes so that they can all follow Chris Brogan’s steps to success. Everyone has his or her own way of working and thinking. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.

I had been a subscriber to Brogan’s blog, but the straw that broke it for me was a recent post of his that detailed the minutiae of his day, right down to what he ate for breakfast. There are people who apparently care about that, because he got many comments and RTs for that post, exclaiming amazement at just how busy he is, but instead of impressing me or building trust in me, it had the opposite effect and I unsubscribed.

Arrogance is very unappealing to me. I have never been one to blindly follow or believe everything I hear, even if it is from an expert. I don’t think anyone should. I listen to all kinds of people, all kinds of ideas and take a wide range of thinking into consideration when I form my opinions and methods of doing things. But in my opinion this time, arrogance does not build trust or respect. What do you think?

screen shot from izeafest.com

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19 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. Brian Clark

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 8:28 am

    That copy is a bit bizarre… it doesn’t “sound” like Chris, but I have no idea if he wrote it or not.

    I can tell you that “in real life,” Brogan is anything but arrogant. He’s a very genuine, giving person, so take this stuff with a grain of salt if possible.

    And good for you for speaking your mind. I can respect that, even when you’re criticizing friends of mine. ;-)

  2. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Thanks for your input Brian. I don’t know Chris, so my impression has to come from what I see and read. That’s one of the reasons why I was hesitant to write it. I have my mother standing on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” But my mama isn’t always right either! Maybe Chris is a fine, humble, stand up kind of guy, but it drives home a point that when you write, you have to keep in mind that not everyone that reads what you write knows you personally, and you may need at times to step back and read your words as a stranger would to see how it sounds to someone looking in.

  3. Cheryl B

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Well said, Cheryl A. I have read about your dilemma on CopyBlogger, so I was curious about what you had to say. (I’m sure you didn’t intend it to be, but it’s a good way to get people to check out your blog. It worked for me!)

    I understand now why you had to name names, but I don’t see this as a personal attack; I see it as a protest against arrogance and insensitivity. Some of us are new to blogging and haven’t learned how to swim as well as others, so of course, we’re still in the wading pool!

    I don’t know Chris Brogan, nor have I been on his site, but if he is a humble and giving person, he’ll be surprised that he came across that way and should be glad you spoke up.

  4. Chris Brogan...

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I didn’t write the copy.

    Am I arrogant? Hmm. I have a hard time judging, but if I went by most people’s reported impressions of me, I’m going to say no. (I think I’m a bit arrogant, but then, we’re always our worst critics, right?)

    Matt Fagioli’s take after I was there the day before yesterday:

    http://newmediaatlanta.com/updates/who-can-be-brogan

    It’s not my copy. I don’t tend to write that way. I can be edgy, but always in the positive of wanting people to move matters to the next level.

    I’m in the business of teaching people how to rehumanize business. Doesn’t seem like it’d be a good idea to be human.

    Hope this helps. Thanks for blogging about it instead of asking me. Makes it more fun.

  5. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Cheryl B. – I’m glad to hear you say that what I’ve written doesn’t come off as a personal attack, because that was not my intention at all. I know in blogging, or anything for that matter, it’s impossible to please everyone. But this was bugging me and wouldn’t go away, so I had to clear it out of my head! Thanks for taking an interest in my dilemma and adding your thoughts.

  6. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Chris,
    Thanks for stopping by and adding your perspective. Part of the copy is in quotes (the part about jumping in or getting the hell out), so it appears to a reader that those were your words even if they were not. Maybe it would be a good idea to review promo material before it’s posted or printed, especially if as in this case, it apparently misrepresents your style, approach and methods. It’s part of your brand, so if it doesn’t represent you accurately, maybe you should offer a rewrite because otherwise, it might leave the wrong impression with people who don’t know you personally.

  7. Becky

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Sorry, Mr. Brogan, but, I think all of these comments are right on the money. It is your company & your brand. Shouldn’t you edit & approve all messaging that portrays your brand before it goes live to the general public? If this was not your intent, I’m curious whether you will retract the copy that is currently promoting your upcoming event? I am a start-up company that is getting my feet wet in the social media world + this kind of (Brogan) marketing troubles me.

  8. Chris Brogan...

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for letting me know how I should conduct myself.

    Becky – no worries. Maybe I’m not really your cup of tea. The world if full of all kinds.

    It’s not MY upcoming event. I’m a speaker at the event. Are you coming by any chance? Maybe you can judge for yourself.

    It’s kind of funny that you’re all crapping on a speaking announcement. There are millions of links about me all over the web. If that one speaking writeup is how you’re judging my body of work, I’m curious if my version of anything would be worth explaining.

    Snap to judgment much?

    My last comment. I just wanted to be clear that it’s a bit silly to judge in this way. You feel differently. Big world.

  9. Jeffrey Tang

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Hmm, I’m not really getting the arrogance vibe from that speaking announcement. Do I think the copy could have been better? Yes. Arrogant? Not to me.

    No offense, Cheryl, but I don’t see how things like “a set of steps to take home to your teams” comes off as arrogant. True, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but giving specific, actionable steps seems more helpful than arrogant.

    Yeah, the copy is promotional. And yeah, there are other people out there besides Chris Brogan who know social media. But it’s a speaking announcement -for- Chris Brogan … what’s wrong with being promotional?

    I also have to agree with Chris here … one piece of copy doesn’t seem like much on which to make an entire judgment of character. Perhaps the launch (and subsequent promotion of) Trust Agents is really what’s rubbing you the wrong way?

  10. Chris Anderson

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Honestly Cheryl, I think you missed the intended (although poorly placed for the masses) humor in the description. It really doesn’t appear to me to have been meant to be taken seriously. There is a shortage of humor in the business world in my experience and I think that was what IZEA was after here. Perhaps Mr. Murphy will reconsider tongue-in-cheek descriptions moving forward and will stick to tongue-hanging-out appearances he’s usually presenting.It’s obvious it wasn’t funny, but if you ever do meet Mr. Brogan or hear him speak in person I promise you’ll laugh.Perhaps you need it?

  11. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Jeffrey,
    I have no problem with being promotional at all. I’ve done quite a bit of promotional copywriting myself. It was the tone of the copy that bothered me and I guess if it was supposed to be funny, it didn’t come off that way with me. And no, I am not judging him from this one snippet of copy, I made reference to his recent post as well. (and those two things were not the only ones). It was just, to me, that someone who calls himself a trust agent might not want to have himself presented in that way. My opinion, I guess we disagree, and that’s A-OK. By the way, I have no issues with the launch of his book. He deserves to be congratulated for the successful promotion, not an easy task. That’s not what is at issue here. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

  12. Chris Anderson

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Why was my comment deleted?

  13. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Not deleted Chris, just missed it in my inbox…and I do have a pretty good sense of humor. (I guess that’s why I didn’t think it was funny). Thanks for offering your thoughts.

  14. Greg Satell

    wrote on September 28, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Cheryl,

    I feel a bit uncomfortable, because Chris Brogan really does seem to try hard to be a nice guy, but that isn’t really the point, is it? He has chosen to make this his profession, so should be treated as any other business.

    There is a saying, “Everybody has a right to their opinion,” and I guess that’s true, but nobody ever really means it that way. What they usually mean is that everybody ELSE has an obligation to take their opinion seriously. What’s more, if one expects to get paid for their opinion, they have a responsibility to get it right.

    I read lately that Chris Brogan was getting paid for reviewing some products and people were angry. His response to the criticism (and I apologize if I misquote) was something to the effect that he is a blogger by profession and has a right to make a living.

    Here’s where I start getting annoyed: Chris Brogan, who expects to make a living by offering his opinion about how other people should run their businesses, seems to take offense when he is treated like …A business!

    In “Old Media” there are very strict protocols about keeping business interests and editorial separate. The integrity of the brand is held sacred. If there is a business relationship with a company being reviewed (or even commented on) disclosure is required. Clearly “New Media” should be, and will be. held to the same standard.

    The same goes for PR. Whether or not Chris Brogan wrote the copy or not, it was published to further his business interests and was there by his consent, actual or implied. He must have known they were going to publicize his appearance and if he was being represented in a way he didn’t want to be, then it is still his responsibility and he should be held accountable.

    Whether he approved of the copy or he didn’t, either way it’s his fault. That’s why brands pay PR people.

    If he really objects to the way he is being portrayed, he should refuse to speak at the conference. If he’s okay with it, than he should be held accountable.

    I don’t think it’s fair to single Chris out. Erik Qualman (who also seems to be a nice guy) has been known to have some trouble keeping control of his message. I wrote about it here:

    http://www.digitaltonto.com/archives/314

    In closing, I would like to say something directly to Chris (since he seems to be paying attention).

    People like you and Erik Qualman seem to be doing well, and that’s great. I really am very happy for you. However, now people are starting to take you seriously and that means that the rules change for you.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    - Greg

  15. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on September 29, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Greg,
    Thanks for your take on this. I think people getting all up in arms because I suggest that this presentation of the Chris Brogan brand presents him as arrogant is a little ironic. I agree with you that it is irrelevant that he didn’t write the copy or that he is a nice guy or that a lot of people think he’s great; the point here is that is not how this piece (or his post detailing his busy day) portrays him. If this were someone’s first introduction to Chris Brogan, I would suspect that they would come away thinking he’s arrogant. This is a piece promoting a speaking engagement, and his brand is himself, so I would think it would be important to monitor promotional material about his brand. Clearly Chris monitors the messages that he can’t control in and around social media. I suggest that it’s just as important, if not more to monitor PR messages about his brand because whether or not the message was created by him, because it’s promotional, one would assume that it was.

  16. Becky

    wrote on September 29, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Based on Mr. Brogan’s snippy comments to everyone, it seems that he only wants to be accountable for the warm fuzzy brand that he has, no doubt, earned and created in the social media world. However, by deflecting the feedback and saying, “It wasn’t me,” he has missed an opportunity to gain more trust. So, this newcomer is moving on and no, Mr. Brogan, I do not plan on attending your speech. I heard enough in your response (to me). Your message is loud and clear: It’s my way.

  17. Walter

    wrote on October 2, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    There is nothing to be gained from arrogance. Some people have made the mistake of taking it as an “attitude” to call the attention of many. Respect can never be earned this way. :-)

  18. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on October 3, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Hi Walter,
    Right there with you on that! Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on November 30, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Update on this debate:
    Interestingly enough, even though there was quite a bit of defensiveness about the copy in this promo piece, it was changed. Not sure when that happened, but apparently my point was taken and the copy and the title of the session “Go deep or go home” was found to be worthy of changing. Click on the link and you now will see completely different copy minus the arrogance. Interesting.

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