Monday, May 12, 2014

Fool Me Once?

I've been writing a lot about webinars lately. Okay, maybe not a lot, but the topic seems to keep popping up, largely because I'm still trying to wash away the bad taste of the last one I attended with large doses of chocolate and chai.

You see, I was spoiled. The first two webinars I attended were put on by last week's Friday Freebie guest, Suzanne Kuhn. As a novice, I assumed all webinars were as good as hers. Suzanne consults with authors to help them improve their promotional skills. She's lively, she's bubbly and never once did I feel as though the webinar was merely a cover for a sales pitch. (And as a Jersey girl, I have a pretty well-honed BS detector).

The last webinar I attended (definitely NOT one of Suzanne's) left me wishing I could have that portion of my life back. It was pretty much a 50-50 split -- half info, half promo -- and I could feel the presenter holding back during the information portion. It was only then that I saw it coming.

The webinar was a teaser for a sales pitch -- one that took up half the allotted time.

In retrospect, I should have figured it out sooner, but because my initial experiences with Suzanne had been so favorable, I went in with blinders on. And, because the provider was partnering with someone whose work and expertise I respected, I jumped at the opportunity, never expecting that the information was the shallow end of the pool.

And that's the point of this blog post. This isn't simply a rant (though it certainly would have been had I written this directly after the webinar). I did learn a valuable lesson that night, and it had nothing to do with the content of the event.

Be careful who you associate with.

Within five minutes of leaving the webinar (early -- I'd already OD'd on sales pitch), I had unfriended the presenter on Facebook and had unsubscribed from her emails. (I also felt the need to take a shower). I (successfully) fought the urge to plaster this person's name all over social media, warning everyone I knew not to take the bait. Tarnishing her reputation would only take me down with her.

Obviously, there's no love lost between me and this presenter. But the sad thing is, the lens through which I view the person who promoted her has been discolored, perhaps permanently. His was a name I shared regularly as a valuable resource on topics of importance to writers. Now, I hesitate to do so. For me, his credibility has been tainted by his association with the blatant self-promoter who ran the webinar he advertised.
As writers, we are asked daily to help promote the work of our colleagues. I have long believed in doing this, provided I can do so organically. If I love a book or a movie or a theatrical production, you will hear about it. No one will have to ask me. I have the kind of personality which renders me incapable of keeping my mouth shut when I think something is worth sharing.

And I don't have a double standard. I can honestly say I don't want someone promoting my work just because they know me -- I want them to promote my work because they think the work itself has value. Because when they finished reading it, they wanted to share it with someone else. This may mean I'll never hit 1,000 reviews on Amazon. But it will also mean that if there's a review of my work on Amazon, it's because the reader chose to put it there.

If we fail to adhere to this simply stated, but hard to follow guideline ("promote only that which is truly promotion-worthy"), we risk losing not just the time we spend, but the credibility we've spent years building and protecting.

Have I made mistakes? You bet. Can I cut my previously valued resource some slack, recognizing that he's only human, too, and therefore subject to mistakes? Of course. As the disappointment of his association with the presenter fades, I find myself more able to do just that.

But my BS-detector is set pretty high. I've bypassed a number of his posts because I thought I detected just the slightest whiff of something unsavory.

And therein lies lesson #2: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Because regardless of what we do for a living, the real prize on which we should be training our eyes is integrity.

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