Don’t Be a Jerk – Why Communication and Common Sense Count

In the borderless world of social media, every single piece of communication matters. No matter what your business or brand is. As a long-time vlogger/blogger, I can attest to the fact that being consistently friendly, open and polite can open entire new worlds. It sounds like common sense. It is common sense. However, a recent series of business communications compel me to share this advice with you. If you’re short on time, the essence of this post boils down to four words – Don’t be a jerk.

Now, for those of you with time to read all the way through, let me say up front that I do not for a minute believe that any regular reader of this site is a jerk. But, recognizing and avoiding jerks is something that benefits us all. As I walk you through the chain of events that led me to “my jerk,” my hope is that you’ll recognize the potential importance of every single piece of email you send. It all counts if you want to be successful.

I have channeled my love of travel into a series of lifestyle and travel videos that run on Thursdays. I post the videos on my family channel, Maker TV and also at FanaticTourist, where I blog. Given the large audiences and wide range of demographics on these sites, I will sometimes reach out to local businesses at my destination that might make an interesting story. Not long ago, I met with my agent for coffee. She not only represents me, she sometimes helps me connect with people and businesses on my travels. Shark11We were discussing my upcoming trip to the Bahamas. I told her about my interest in doing a shark dive. When she finished shuddering and shrieking, my agent suggested reaching out to a few Bahamian shark diving companies to see if they’d be interested in the marketing exposure I could offer.

Her plan was to contact a few companies with a brief email outlining the marketing potential for them. The email included which channels the video will reach, the number of subscribers and followers and their basic demographics. Between our popular family YouTube channel, FanaticTourist and Maker TV, the right company stands to gain quite a bit of exposure. Additionally, my agent asked for a media rate. (A media rate is a discount or a complimentary service from the company in exchange for the exposure you provide.) This is a pretty standard request – many businesses even state that they will offer media rates directly on their websites.

There are three types of responses to this type of email. (Remember, as a brand myself, I often get these kinds of requests.):

  1. Hi Ms. Smith, Thanks for your email. Right now, we don’t have a budget for working with Laura but thank you for contacting us.
    You could even take this email one step further by adding: “Though we can’t offer a discount, we would love to help Laura plan a memorable dive with us if she is still interested in having this experience.” 
  2. Hi Ms. Smith, Thank you for thinking of us! We are pleased to offer Laura a xx% discount off the dive experience. We would be delighted to have her promote our company! 
  3. Hi Ms. Smith, We would be happy to offer Laura a shark dive in exchange for a video promotion of our company. We would like to ask: here is where they name their terms – logo in video, link to website, two social media shout-outs, etc.

These are all reasonable, polite responses that leave favorable impressions whether the company offered anything or not.

And, if we had received responses similar to the above examples, I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you not to be a jerk! Let’s look at the responses my agent received to the email she sent to three companies.

  1. Company One: …crickets… That’s right, no response. Aside from the fact this is incredibly rude, it’s also unprofessional. A quick “Thanks but, no thanks,” is all it takes. Ignoring an email leaves me thinking “That guy is a jerk.” And I know they respond to emails because my vacation partner emailed them to ask for more information on their services and she got a response back the same day.
  2. Company Two: “Thank you for reaching out, please tell us more about how you see us working together. We’d love to come up with something that is suitable for both of us.” Ahhhh . . . don’t you just want to let these people throw you in the water with sharks? They are professional, direct and courteous. The email we sent included a question asking each company “How do you differ from other companies that offer the same service?” These guys not only told us how great they were BUT they never once disparaged their competition. WILD APPLAUSE Putting down your competition only makes you look small.
  3. Company Three: excerpt: “while we would be interested in collaboration with another YouTuber, having someone do a single dive with a GoPro camera in February could not adequately represent the Bahamas, our company or the sharks. This is a very last minute request, which does not leave much time for planning even the smallest of videos. As to how our company differs from the others, it is hard to say without sounding like a jerk, which I probably already do.”  kick me when I'm downWOW! He’s right. He does sound like a jerk. In fact, he sounds like he is deliberately trying to sabotage his company. A short and sweet “Thanks but, no thanks,” would have sufficed here and I would not be left with a terrible impression of him and his company. (And, for sure I will be asking Company Two why February is a terrible month for diving – do sharks generally take February off in the Bahamas? Maybe they vacation in Florida?)

If this little demonstration has not struck a chord with you, I will leave you with a personal story. When I was first starting out in business, a blogger who had a mommy newsletter contacted me. In exchange for a free baby signing class, she offered to share her experience with her 5,000 subscribers. At the time, the classes were $140. However, it wasn’t like I had to give her $140 to make this exchange. In fact, I had to do nothing to make this deal – the class was already set to go, allowing her to take the class and write about it hurt me in no way.

As it turned out, one of this blogger’s subscribers happened to be a reporter with the Globe & Mail. He wrote a three-part article on me that ran in the business section. This was no fluffy, lifestyle article about baby signing – it was an article about me and my business model. I received tremendous exposure just when my business most needed it – all for allowing a blogger to fill a vacant seat in one of my classes!!

Not only did the article give my brand a tremendous boost, when I applied to be on Dragon’s Den (like the show Shark Tank in the U.S.), one of the producers had read about my company in the Globe & Mail article and saw that I was an up-and-coming success. I’m fairly certain it helped me get selected to be on the show.

Moral of the story? Be nice. You never know what opportunities will spring from your actions. You never know who a person is connected to. By taking the time to be civil, you might be making the first step toward something tremendous. Now, get out there – and don’t be a jerk!