This is one of an occasional series featuring direct marketing leaders who will share five key insights they have learned from their career in marketing and advertising. Recently your Friday Forecaster sat down with Petra Gopfert, VP of Retail Operations for New York-based Meltzer Media.
A native of Germany, Petra has a keen understanding of the human condition with a career that has spanned being a nurse, inventor, restauranteur, case worker assisting the developmentally challenged, advertising agency service provider, and direct response marketer. Below are five insights culled from a spirited discussion we had about social media, the way that it has changed society’s discourse, and its implications for how all of us conduct business.
1. Know When to Speak and When to Listen
“Knowing when to speak and when not to speak is a lost art. I’m not a big fan of social media because we haven’t really learned how to speak to one another and when to listen; people are more interested in pushing their own ideas than listening to the perspectives of others. Everyone has become an expert. Think about how the world was pre-social media. You would get to know someone and, slowly, over time, understand, say, their politics or tastes. Now everything is shared immediately and people get categorized, dismissed, and unfriended. In the process, we risk losing the ability to have a circle of people in our lives with divergent views. Even worse, people can hide in anonymity behind a picture of their dog or cat and go after one another with a lack of civility they would never exhibit were they face to face with someone. I think we need to take a step back and choose our words and actions with greater care instead of acting on every impulse.”
2. Know When to Sell and When to Stop Selling
“One of the challenges of this tendency to over-communicate is that people – even those who are ‘selling’ their ideas – don’t know when to stop selling. That’s bound to have an effect on marketers, especially when everyone is scratching and clawing to have influence. But, as I stated, it’s important to know when to stop selling and start listening. When marketers oversell they can create second guessing and doubt that ultimately undoes the sell. There is a time and place for everything, including having the patience to be quiet, take a pause, and allow someone to consider what it is you are trying to convince them of.”
3. It’s a Not-So-Brave New World
“With Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has created a new planet, but I do not feel like he is taking any responsibility for it. As a business owner, isn’t it my job to set a tone for the company? There is too much mystery and complexity and not enough transparency around what is appearing in one’s feed. I’m all for freedom of speech, but too much of social media is lacking ground rules or, if there are rules, for example for the sake of keeping dialogue civil, they are not regularly enforced. The result can be chaotic and mean-spirited.”
4. Everyone Has the Right to Speak Their Voice
“At the same time, everyone has the right to speak their voice. I don’t understand it when people criticize celebrities for speaking their mind. They are people too, and have the right to express their political views or support causes they believe in. In some respects, social media is about fame – even within a small sphere of influence – and regular people certainly see fit to express their opinions within their given sphere. What defines a celebrity these days isn’t necessarily someone with a rare talent. It can be a reality star, a YouTube celebrity, you name it. Every one of them has a right to a share of voice, just like you and I do.”
5. Advertisers Should be Free to Advertise
“Similarly, I don’t understand it when consumers criticize companies for advertising on websites or programming that they happen to not agree with. For example, I don’t like what Breitbart reports, but I don’t think an advertiser like Amazon should be pressured to not advertise there. Just because I might personally like to see it go away doesn’t mean that their audience doesn’t have the right to hear a marketer’s message. What some may consider a form of corporate stewardship, may instead be nothing more than another form of censorship.”
Petra concludes, “I like substance. That’s why I do research instead of taking every opinion at face value. But, unfortunately, with so much information and judgment coming at people these days, that is often not the norm. As marketers and as human beings, our long-term success and happiness is ultimately determined not by the thinness of our content, but the content of our character.”
Rick Petry is a direct marketing veteran of over 25 years who has been involved with campaigns that have generated over $1 billion in sales. He provides creative services to both B2C and B2B marketing campaigns and recent projects have included Actegy/Revitive, Education Connection, GOLO, Joybird, and OYO. The author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, Petry has a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema/Television from the University of Southern California and an MBA with a Concentration in Marketing and Sales from Marylhurst University.