A Response to Cathryn Sloane

Dear Cathryn,

I suspect it’s been a rough couple of days for you.

While it is tempting to pile on, let me step back and offer a couple of observations and some advice.  First the observations:

1. You made some excellent points in your message.

  • The idea that your generation has much to offer as it relates to the use of social media tools, is a valid one.
  • Youth and creativity and energy have always gone together.
  • This time is similar to the Internet explosion in the 90′s.  Back then, the “kids” who had grown up with a variety of programming talents were hired for their skill, expertise and energy (albeit not as CIO on day one).
  • The concept of new blood with new ideas is NOT a new one, but is still a good one.

2. Your message delivery was terrible.

  • The tone was inflammatory and detracted from the actual message.  Maybe it was linkbait, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.
  • The fact that you did not see this coming (from a mile away) leads me to believe that you DON’T actually know how to handle, let alone manage Social Media.
  • Moreover, you have not taken any steps to publicly address the fallout and backlash, again providing more evidence for disproving your hypothesis.
  • Professionals with experience (those over 25 or even–heaven forbid–35) understand what it means to deal with a crisis.  We have been through it.  We have the scars to prove it.  Most importantly, we know how to deal with it.

Now the advice:

1. Use this as an opportunity to learn about crisis management.  Whatever your chosen career path, understanding communication in a crisis is important.  Jason Falls wrote a great post on dealing with detractors.  I suggest you use it as a framework.

2. Use this as an opportunity to learn about humility.  As you get “old” you will come to understand that the world appreciates humility.  There is nothing quite as attractive in a potential employee, business partner or consultant as a quiet confidence.  You will come to understand that those people make the best leaders.

I would advise you to compose another post and address the firestorm head-on.  Using Jason’s framework, you should:

a. Acknowledge. It is your firestorm.  Own it.

b. Apologize. Not for the idea that your generation “gets” Social Media, but rather for positing that anyone older than you does not.

c. Clarify. Illustrate you point better (e.g. We grew up with it.  We get it.  With time and experience, imagine how valuable we will be.)

d. Thank people. A lot of people spent a lot of time responding to this.  Thank them for all the free education you have received in a short period of time.

Like most of these Social Media dustups, this too will fade quickly.  However, with a little humility and understanding, you can go a long way toward determining how you will be remembered after this passes.   We have all said and done stupid things, it’s how we handle it that matters.

I wish you the best.


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