Posts tagged ‘used car salesman’

November 1, 2010

Six Degrees of Separation: John Mellencamp, Public Relations, and Used-Car Salesmen.

You’ve heard of the game “Six Degrees of Separation“, based on the concept that any individual is, at most, six steps away from any other individual on planet earth through a series of “friend of a friend of a friend” connections. Tonight, I’ll find those six degrees between John Mellencamp, public relations and used car salesmen.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a John Mellencamp concert. [Fun fact: Mellencamp’s last concert at IU was in 1984…I wasn’t even born in 1984!] My older sister traveled in from out of town for the occasion, and my brother, sister and I made a full night of it. [Second fun fact: It was a GREAT concert!]

As we waited for the Cougar to take the stage, in our usual fashion, we ridiculed each other relentlessly (the way siblings do). In some roundabout way, perhaps while ironing out our after-show techniques for meeting John (it didn’t happen, but we saw him outside), we began critiquing one another’s communication skills. Now, let me digress for just a moment to mention one thing: I have the innate, unteachable ability to literally talk to anyone about anything. Really. I should have Ellen DeGeneres’ job. You don’t relocate your entire life and not pick up skills on how to talk to just about anyone. A NASA scientist, a fourth grader, a nun, or a grocery store bag boy…I will find something to talk to them about and it will be entertaining.

I think all too often, public relations professionals get a bad wrap. We, for whatever reason, are assumed to be glamorized used-car salesmen; insincere, deceitful manipulators. And while we certainly must exercise a certain verbal and behavior finesse, we typically maintain objectivity.

In an article entitled “How to Schmooze Your Way to Business Success“, Steve Tobak examines the art of schmoozing and its role in the workplace. Let me just interject this one point: I don’t believe the role of a true, ethical and upstanding public relations professional is to schmooze. Tobak attempts to equate schmoozing with objective communication, but I must disagree. Used car salesmen schmooze, public relations practitioners don’t. He says to schmooze is “to converse informally, to chat, or to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business, or connections.”

I could debate the essence of the schmooze until I’m blue in the face, but its irrelevant to much of Tobak’s message. Below are just a few of the ten tips for becoming a great schmoozer:

Don’t BS. Let’s get one thing straight. BSing destroys credibility. If you want to become a successful executive or leader, don’t BS. Period. It doesn’t matter how smart others think you are, just how smart you really are.

Don’t overdo it. Next to BSing and trying to be someone you’re not, trying too hard is the biggest schmoozing pitfall. Pushing too hard will backfire.

Don’t talk at people. Nobody likes to be talked at. They like to be engaged. They like to be listened to. There’s a big difference. Just remember: give a little, get a little.

What do you think: do successful public relations practitioners schmooze, or should we leave it to the used-car salesmen?

Note: Greetings to any and all used-car salesmen reading this blog!