Monday, October 6, 2008

The Double Edged Sword of Suggestions . . .

NAVIGATING THE BUSINESS WORLD – 1/2/08 (posted to blog on 10-6-08)

Knowing the “RIGHT THING” to do in the business world is often a really tough thing to discern. Right now it’s the foggy arena of “Suggestions” that has my head and my heart battling it out for dominance.

Let me give you an example that happened at the office yesterday. I work in the sales department of a television station. My job is to generate revenue for the station, NOT to cover breaking news or strategize on ways to grow our audience numbers. Nonetheless, I’m also a viewer of the station I work for and I often notice things to a molecular level because I’m in the business.

Long story short: every television station in our market uses “e-blasts” to announce breaking news to their loyal viewers. E-blasts are only sent to those folks who SIGN UP for them / so the audience they reach is a very motivated and highly interested target. I subscribe to the three main television station’s “Breaking News” services and therefore received three different texts/emails last week for the same story.

In reviewing them side-by-side this morning I noticed the times. One station “scooped” the other two by zapping out the news story a full minute earlier than the other two. My station was a respectable “second place” in this race, but third place was just nano-seconds behind. Furthermore, I noticed that the first place finisher did something unique with their transmission. They gave it a customized SUBJECT LINE with a headline for the story inside. Both my station and the third place finisher just used their standard subject line of “WXXX Breaking News”. You had to open the email or text to see what the story was about.

Now being a team player, I’d like to alert the news director to the different approaches. This is not my job, but I figure it might be helpful if I point out the differences and then of course, let him decide what course of action (if any) he’d like to take. But my social skills start to kick into action and I realize that it might seem like I’m throwing our online news correspondent under the bus if I make it look like HE is not doing his job and putting custom SUBJECT lines on every email. Still, perhaps not since the third place station also used generic subject lines.

AND I don’t want to create a lot more work for my buddy who heads the online news correspondents desk. If adding a custom headline is a real pain in the a**, then I’m not sure it is worth it. Maybe I’d better ask him directly before I bring it to the attention of his boss. However, how arrogant is that? Me making suggestions to HIM. . . it might look like I’m trying to come off as a “know it all” and that is certainly not the case. I’m just trying to be helpful. But if he found out it was ME behind a change his boss suggested (that was indeed a lot more work for him – and perhaps needlessly – because who really bases their opinion of their favorite news station on something as trivial as a Subject line in an email anyways?) then he’d be peeved b/c I didn’t come to him directly and find out the fall-out for him if I made this suggestion.

And if MY own boss found out about this use of my time what would he think? This doesn’t advance revenue in any way and therefore is not a good use of my time. . . However, I’ve always thought that if it is a short diversion, and it enhances the product we sell overall, then I can justify the tangent because it’ll translate into more and happier viewers – which means better ratings – which means more sales and better revenue in the end, right?

Hell, maybe if I took the time to tell my buddy at the online desk, he’d be offended and I’d lose a friendship. Or maybe he’d be passive aggressive about it and not TELL me he’s peeved that I keep sticking my nose into his business and just stop taking my calls or reading my emails. Maybe he’s a lazy SOB who’ll PRETEND to appreciate the suggestion and then roll his eyes and shake his head as soon as I leave the room. Or maybe he’ll be truly appreciative and take some time to consider the suggestion and perhaps even make some changes. Or maybe he’ll really appreciate that I came to him first (instead of his boss) and confide to me that it would be a little bit more work to add the custom headline and between-me-and-you he just doesn’t feel like it at this point in his career .. . which makes me appreciate his honesty with me / but also wish that I’d just gone to his boss first (the real decision maker and enforcer in the mix).

And now I’ve spent all this time reviewing the possibly positive and negative outcomes of the situation and I am truly starting to feel guilty about taking so much time away from the revenue-generating responsibilities that I’m entrusted with so I just skip it altogether and move off the subject, content not to do ANYTHING about it at all.

But as I drove home from work last night I wondered if was happy in my job. Was I really stretching to be the best employee I can be? Was I in an environment where suggestions mattered and we all worked together to put out the best product we could? Maybe I needed to start looking for another job. Maybe I was letting myself and my coworkers down by over-analyzing stuff. Maybe I should leave the commercial work and go to work in the non-profit sector where egos weren’t so big you couldn’t make a harmless suggestion.


At October 7, 2008 at 1:47 PM , Blogger Caroline said...

So glad to see that you've moved off from generating revenue into updating your blog!!
By all means I would take your idea to your online friend. Going to his boss is a little too much unless you had something really important to say. For a minor improvement to the service, it's good to go to the guy making the change. His reaction will likely depend on the culture of the place. Regardless, that's his problem, not yours. As a former technology designer and developer, your change sounds like something he'd add to "the list of things for next time". Sometimes things like this are pretty straightforward and may be addressed easily the next time the code is broken open.
The bigger picture is more important. Your concern over every part of the business is sure to be recognized and it's vital to your becoming the station head some day. People in charge like to (or *should* like to) see people with a broader perspective for the business. If any higher-ups have a problem with your suggestions, you should consider your time there as limited.

At November 25, 2008 at 10:05 AM , Blogger Allan said...

Hi, my name's Adrienne, and I think waaaaaay too much.
If there is not a custom subject line, doesn't it just kill you to know what's inside? C'mon, it says BREAKING NEWS for crying out loud. You almost HAVE to open it to see what it says.

Ask the tech guy if he's ever thought of doing the custom subject. Maybe he's already been down that road with the higher ups and was shot down.

Alternately, go work for the other station :-)


At July 15, 2009 at 5:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad because I know you have GREAT ideas. And not a mean bone in your body. The worst part is that I also know from experience that the current place you are has no interest in your opinions. Inside that building are the most insecure group of people I have ever worked with. It's been my opinion that they do take offense to any 'good' ideas that are not their own. And the people that keep you employed would not like to have you 'waste' your time on something that does not bring $$$ into their pockets. Even though for sponsors (who have the $$$) it might generate more clicks/views.

It isn't about the client - it never has been in those halls! You on the other hand have mad skills and great ideas and I hope that one day they are able to appreciate that!

Just one person's opinion.

At July 16, 2009 at 9:38 AM , Blogger AC said...

Thx for the kudos "anonymous" - it's nice to feel like there are folks out there cheering me on.

I should point out though (now that my blog is getting a few more eyeballs) that it was written in 2007. . .

Thx for reading though!


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