Lets have fewer ninjas and rockstars, and more people helping each other

—Truly great marketing today comes from groups of people working together, helping each other out, sharing ideas and just talking. Unfortunately, we don’t do much of that anymore, says JED SCHNEIDERMAN. Next time someone calls to introduce themselves, say ‘Great to meet you. How can I help?’ Only good things can happen—

On April 25, 2003, 13-year old Natalie Gilbert was singing the U.S. national anthem before an NBA playoff game.

Things got off to a good start, but about 20 seconds in, she forgot the words. She struggled to remember in front of thousands of spectators, but couldn’t recall the next line.

Then, Maurice Cheeks, the head coach of the Portland Trailblazers, approached the struggling singer. He put his arm around Gilbert and said “Come on, come on” and helped her with the lines. By the time the anthem concluded, the whole arena had joined in and gave both a standing ovation.

So, why did Cheeks help out? “Once I saw it, I did not want her to be standing in the middle of all those people and not know the words. So, I just kind of reacted. I don’t even know why.”

That moment—what Cheeks did and what he said—holds an important lesson for marketing today.

There used to be a time when our instinct was to help—when society was oriented towards a strong family and strong community. We needed our community to survive, to ensure that we were fed and that we had shelter and safety.

But over the years we have moved away from strong communities. This is true across society, and I have seen it occur in this industry, too.

We have become fascinated with strong individuals: Ninjas, rockstars and 30 under 30s. We hail unicorns and disruptors, and we mock those on the decline as dinosaurs or people who couldn’t see the writing on the wall. Celebrating individual achievements is fine, but when we forget about the importance of community, I believe we all suffer in two ways.

First, it takes a lot of people to deliver truly great marketing campaigns today. Too many people think they can do it on their own, and they can’t. We need to care less about personal titles and personal honours, and care more about doing the type of truly great work that is only possible from groups of people doing hard work together across organizations.

Second, a loss of community means people simply don’t talk to each other as much. They don’t discuss ideas and new opportunities—the kinds of discussions that can only ever lead to positive outcomes. If someone calls and asks to pick your brain, that is a good thing. It builds trust between people, and builds relationships that solve problems for the greater good.

This happens more in the U.S. than it does here. In the U.S. if you call someone and say “I have an idea that will help your business,” they will take the call. In Canada, they want 10 examples of you having done it before and 15 references, or they won’t take the call.

Trust me, take the call.

If anything, this is more important than it once was. There have been many alarming headlines about job losses in marketing, media, advertising and more. This is a period of great change, and while great change creates great opportunity, it seems a lot of people are being left behind. The need for community building has never been greater.

So how do we do that? Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Help people find work: Share a job posting. There are lots floating around, and sometimes an opportunity can be hard to spot. Recommend a qualified candidate. Personal recommendations can always get a resume to the top of a pile.
  • Create a networking opportunity: Bring someone to an event. Even better, ask your boss to buy an extra ticket and then give it away.
  • Focus on deep help over shallow: Shallow help is liking someone’s post on LinkedIn, and wishing them a happy birthday. Deep help is spending two hours with someone to fix their resume; it is combing through your network and connecting people to new opportunities.
  • Care more about competence and less about status: Let’s focus on people who get the job done, and those who treat others with respect. Help those who need a break—people who are competent but might not get noticed. It’s the “mature” workers who built a career in old-media, or someone who “took a break” for personal reasons and still knows how to solve problems.
  • Build Trust: We build trust when we are honest—with ourselves and with others. When someone says “I don’t know” or “Can you help me?” they are making themselves vulnerable, and this is how trust is built. So let’s cut out “know-it-all” syndrome and eliminate “rock-star” labels. By admitting we don’t know, we facilitate honest conversations and build trust, which builds relationships.

Whenever someone reaches out to me, on Linkedin or otherwise, I will say “Great to meet you. How can I help you?” And that is my challenge to you.

Lets start to rebuild the community, to work together to find new solutions and to make better campaigns and build stronger brands. To help each other when we are stuck. To be slightly more humble and slightly less concerned about personal brands; to encourage collisions of ideas and knowledge spillover from random discussions.

I’m not saying make bad business decisions, I’m saying take a call.

And say “It’s great to meet you. How can I help you.”

Jed Schneiderman is the EVP, growth and marketing at EQ Works. He is also the co-founder of M2T Collective (www.m2tcollective.com) a full-time, year-long opportunity to work with four companies within the marketing, media and technology space. Prior to this, Schneiderman was the president and co-founder of Tapped Mobile, and has held director and senior roles at Microsoft, Bell Media and Procter & Gamble.


David Brown