Hey CEOs!!! Get Your Head Out of Your Ass

I spend a good amount of my speaking time with Vistage groups across the country.

Vistage, if you don’t know, is a CEO membership organization. Which means, in order to join, you have to be an entrepreneur or professional manager. Every month you sit around the table with 15 of your peers to discuss issues and challenges you can’t discuss at work.

One of the things they recognize in their members is they do not, in fact, know everything. So they bring speakers in every month on different topics: Leadership, communication, financials, HR, unions, law, etc.

My topic is doing business on the web through marketing, communication, advertising, HR, sales and customer service.

The Ostrich Syndrome

One would think by now, people would understand that doing business on the web is inevitable. Three years ago everyone told me it was a fad. Now they begrudgingly say “they get it”, but they still don’t want to be there.

I always begin these presentations with:

Let’s put all our baggage out there. Why aren’t you using the web for business growth?

They all think they’re so smart and no one else has their baggage. But I hear the following things in every single speech I give:

  • I don’t want people to say negative things about me or the company
  • If my employees are using social media, they won’t get their jobs done
  • This is for the kids and they aren’t in my business yet
  • My customer isn’t online (seriously, I STILL hear this)
  • I have no control over what is said online
  • It just takes too much time and I don’t understand the ROI
  • Is there an ROI? It seems like just a bunch of what you’re having for lunch
  • You can’t build relationships online

You know what all of this is?


Fear of change. Fear of loss of control. Fear of being in a committed relationship with your clients.

It’s sad, really.

The fact of the matter is that if people are going to say something negative about you online, they’re doing it offline too. If your employees aren’t getting their jobs done, it’s an operational issue not a social media challenge.

This isn’t just for kids; the fastest growing demographic online is older than 50. Your customers ARE using the web. They may not be looking for you, but what a great opportunity that provides!

Get Over It

The past two and a half years have been rough. Everyone cut their marketing budgets, and now they’re scrambling because business is still down. What do you expect? You stop communicating; people forget about you.

But not only that, the game has changed. No longer can you just throw stuff out there and see which 50 percent sticks. People want to be talked with, not talked at. They expect it.

And for those of you who are afraid people are going to say negative things about you, or that you can’t control the conversation, you’re going to be left behind.

Which company would you rather be?

The one that sticks its proverbial head in the sand and waits to see how all this digital stuff shakes out? Or the one that takes the bull by the horns, experiments with one or two technologies, deals with the negative conversations and leaves its competition in the dust?

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

More from Gini:

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc., and the author of Spin Sucks, a top 10 social media blog and an AdAge Power 150 blog. Gini also offers training for budding marketing professionals at Spin Sucks Pro.

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  • http://www.mylifestylemax.com Stacey Herbert

    Hi Gini, I really like what you said that ” your customers are using the web, that may not be looking for you, but what an opportunity that provide”. I’ve only spent minimal time working in the corporate world, but I know fear “is no respecter of persons”.
    If you have taken time to establish your company and reputation the old school way, quite possibly the idea of jumping into the pool with all the cool kids with their outlandish hair cuts and jargon, can be a bit intimidating. Especially when you think..I have jumpers older than you..what do you know about business.
    Sometimes people have to be solidly convinced of the gains to be had in doing something new..not that the internet is new..or you have to be a rocket scientist to see how valuable an asset it can be. But if you’ve been doing things a certain way for a while. Change can be challenging. Great post Gini…you are an inspirational woman.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      So true – change is scary and very challenging. And you typically don’t make change until you have a life-altering event (like the economy bottoming out). Really great point!

  • http://www.expatlifecoach.com/blog John Falchetto

    Gini, my customers are not online is the #1 reason I hear from entrepreneurs who don’t want to put an effort online.

    Speaking to company leaders I feel there is a serious resitance towards online and you are right they still think Facebook is for their daughter to post photos with her friends and Twitter is a waste of time.

    It’s interesting you come with this message from a PR background. Much of the resistance I see among business owners comes from old-school media agencies which still charge pretty hefty retainers for offline campaigns.

    So yes there is an attitude change that needs to happen with business owners but I think there is also a big chunk of the communication market which is making sure that this change doesn’t happen too fast.

    I speak to former colleagues who work for some big name agencies above the line, below the line, PR, and guess what? They are pretty clueless about online, granted they are not based in the US. Yes Europe and the Middle East is not at all at the same development stage as the US.
    But, they still seriously think that all this is a fad and interruption advertising is the way to go.

    So until the so-called communication ‘specialist’ get onboard, perhaps pointing the finger at the clients is a bit like blaming the victim.

    But you are right, at the end of the day the fear of the unknown is what keeps CEOs squarely in those big agencies retainers.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      You know, you’re right. And it’s in the U.S. too. The big agencies flocked, in 2009, to hire “social media gurus” to join their teams. Gurus who had built huge personal brands, but knew nothing about communication. We’re beginning to see some of those people leaving their agency jobs for something they actually are good at – and it’s not social media, in most cases. Hopefully the big agencies will figure out this whole online world. But, I had dinner with a friend who is at one of the big agencies and she said they’re not even talking about training their teams in the new world. That’s what Spin Sucks Pro will do! 🙂

  • http://resumecvservice.com/ professional resume

    feeeeeee….. what a disguisting photo! though article is no that bad after all…

  • http://www.doodlehaus.com Mark Anderson

    One solid response to “what if someone says something bad” is “would you rather not know?” Crazy that the same people will spend tons of money on focus groups where people are swayed by peer pressure rather than expose their product or service to real public scrutiny. Markets are conversations, control is dead (or nearly dead).

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Funny, huh? I know I’d much rather know so I can do something about it. But LOTS of people like to stick their head in the sand and pretend no one is saying anything bad about them.

  • http://markharai.com Mark Harai

    Hey Gini, The train has left the station. Many will miss it. The old will be replaced by the new and those who “get it” who didn’t take action will be kicking themselves in the butt.

    We live a connected world. More and more conversations are happening via the web. Thousands of businesses launch and tens of thousands of people are getting sucked in to the social/mobile web everyday. It is the communication platform of the future. Without a social presence and a mobile device, you may as well live under a rock.

    The biggest fear for business owners is going to overtake them for not taking action; they’re going to wake up one day and be totally irrelevant and that is not too far away.

    Cheers Gini : )

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      It’s so funny to hear people say, “Well, I still close a deal by shaking the person’s hand.” OK. So close the deal that way. But who’s to say you have to begin a relationship with a cold phone call? I will tell you that the conversation has changed a bit in the past three years. First it was, “this is a fad.” Now, at least they recognize that the world is a-changin’ and they might get left behind.

  • http://twitter.com/lisagerber Lisa Gerber

    OMG!!!!!!! I actually winced when I opened the page and saw that image!

    I’m going to say it: The lack of willingness to commit to the extra work and time, and the fear of the unknown, are both very frustrating and small-minded reasons to be online.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      LOL! I wish I could take credit, but it’s all Dino!

  • Anonymous

    For all the new technologies at our disposal right now, plenty of business people still imagine the Internet is a different kind of TV. Basically, TV was good because money bought you airtime, and with enough money, you could hog airtime.

    No-one can hog the Internet.

    No-one can silence dissenting voices on the Internet.

    I believe that’s what backward-looking CEOs are really afraid of.

    The Internet doesn’t just reinforce trollish behavior — it also provides this magnificent echo chamber for all the things that make us human, our likes and dislikes, and now more than ever, anyone can advertise their allegiances.
    You can’t control the crowd the way you did with TV. Those days are gone.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      “It also provides this magnificent echo chamber”

      So, so, so true!

      I think it’s also fear: Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of having to do one more thing. But it’s happening with or without you. I guess I’d just rather know what’s being said about me than not.

    • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

      I couldn’t have said it better.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Amen to that brother. The revolution! has begun! 🙂

      • http://www.itinerantentrepreneur.com/journal/ Robert Dempsey

        The revolution has been in progress for some time Dino, it’s just really starting to ramp up.

  • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

    Follow the money and you’ll find the fear and loathing.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      wow..thats a great saying….is that a Stanism or…?

      • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

        It is a Stanism. [grin]

  • http://kikolani.com/ Kristi Hines

    I think companies who allow their employees usage of social media, blogging, etc. are getting more done on their jobs because they are constantly learning about their industry. Companies that don’t encourage use of social media for their employees for professional use probably just have employees who are resentful of the rules and spend more time trying to cover up their activities on Farmville than to learn and grow.

  • http://www.solobizcoach.com SoloBizCoach

    You are right on about businesses fearing loss of control. I think that this is the number one reason business don’t embrace social media. And, the larger the business, the more they fear losing control.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      When someone tells me they’re afraid to lose control, I remind them they’ve never had it. All they’re losing is the perception of having that control.

  • http://smartboydesigns.com Christian Hollingsworth

    Sad really, to see so little spent communicating their offline presence with an online world. If they’d only choose to move maybe a tiny “percent” of their marketing budget towards the products you recommend – they’d be richly rewarded.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      I could not agree more! And it’s really just opening their minds enough to let their marketing pros take the bull by the horns.

  • http://www.getting-unstuck.com/http://fearlessdating.wordpress.com/http://www.getting-unstuck.com/ RILEY HARRISON

    Hi Gini,
    I just don’t know how anyone would think they could be competitive without a presence in the internet.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      I don’t get it, either, but we live in a world where Main Street businesses are mom and pop shops, blue-collar, and microbusinesses. So adding one more thing is scaaaary. My message, though, is always that the web makes you more efficient.

  • http://www.allisondevelopmentgroup.com Erica Allison

    Ok, that pic is seriously awkward. But, that’s signature Dino and one of the many reasons people come to this blog! Gini, thank goodness you’re sharing your knowledge with the Vistage members (must look into that) and slowly, but surely, spreading the gospel. Like John F mentions below, my new clients who are not online – socially- believe their clients are not online, or that it’s a waste of time and that it’s all about what someone ate for dinner, where they’re going on vacation, or annoying ‘living their lives out loud’ sort of stuff. I had the manager for an architecture and construction firm look at me and say “we’re not selling $2 widgets here” when I suggested they start a blog and begin tweeting. After about a half hour of educating them on who really is on twitter and what their demographic is, they agreed to consider it. But we have some work to do! It takes some consistent, concentrated efforts to move them towards the right social channel for them. Thanks!

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Isn’t it funny that everyone thinks they’re different yet they’re all saying the same, exact thing?!

  • http://www.itinerantentrepreneur.com/journal/ Robert Dempsey

    Having gone through an MBA and seeing how today’s managers are trained, I can say that the changes social media has brought about and are still in progress do not mesh with how managers are taught. And I’m talking pretty up-to-date education (graduated in late ’09).

    I’ve spoken with many people who tell me stories of companies that still don’t have brochure-level websites, and that’s not even below the price of entry online. Today’s company needs to be where their customers are, and that means on the general web (search engines), social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), niche forums, etc.

    Change is already in progress and the bar continues to be raised. Businesses need to understand it’s critical for them to be there making connections talking with the right people. The longer they wait the more likely their competition will overtake them. It’s only a matter of time.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Amen! And thanks for having me here today. I got A LOT of flack both for the image and the use of the word “ass” on Twitter. 🙂

      • http://www.itinerantentrepreneur.com/journal/ Robert Dempsey

        You won’t get that from me 🙂 And I think the picture totally fits.

      • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

        Did someone really give you a hard time about that? Good lord…dont let the thought police get the best of you 🙂 Besides, you are totally allowed to blame the whole thing on me 🙂

        • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

          Oh I totally blamed it on you. LOL!

  • http://billdorman.wordpress.com Bill Dorman

    Yes, fear and the fact that you are up to your butt in alligators with your core business and you don’t take the time to poke your head up out of the weeds to figure out how this can not only work for you, but make your life easier.

    It’s much easier to keep doing the same ol’ thing especially if change requires a lot of effort. The boat has been rocked so much lately, it’s like ‘just give me some Dramamine and leave me alone’.

    It’s still a huge learning curve for many but plenty of opportunity.

    Finally, how do I pay for this; let IT run w/ it part time; develop a strategy; hire outsiders? Shoot, we have to let 3 more people go to stay profitable, where am I going to find the money? Give me easy solutions, not more stuff on my plate to do.

    There are a lot of moving pieces out there and sometimes it might seem like an obvious decision, it’s still not an easy one.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Totally agree, Bill. But then there are people like you who are bucking the trend and fighting the 70 year old institutions to stay up (and in some cases, ahead) on the trends.

  • http://inklingmedia.net Ken Mueller

    This is the same list I see and hear every time. And it’s not like there’s a shortage of well thought out blog posts like this that don’t answer those objections. But…I guess they aren’t reading blogs…

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      They don’t read blogs. When I ask what they’re reading, I’m lucky to get the WSJ. Usually it’s sports pages in the local papers.

  • http://cashcampfire.com Christina Crowe

    Woah, I shuddered at that image. 😉 Awesome post Gini!

    It’s really surprising how many business owners STILL don’t take advantage of all the opportunities the Internet has to offer. And as a result, they miss out on sales, exposure, and leads. Because the fact of the matter is, all entrepreneurs can benefit by making a presence online. Even if they sell physical products, they can still attract targeted customers in their area if only they’d utilize the Web.

    And it can be hard to promote your business nowadays offline. If you depend on offline methods, that can often times shut you down if you’re not too careful.


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