Posted by: Kristen Ridley | February 18, 2011

And the “golden doofus” goes to. . .

DoofusIf you aren’t an awards show addict like me, that is, you have a real life you’re busy living, you may be unaware that we’re in the thick of awards show season, with the “Superbowl” of awards shows – the Oscars – just a week away. [I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m actually “counting sleeps” until it gets here!!]

These days it seems like everybody and his brother has awards: there’s the Oscars, the Screen Actors Guild awards, the TV actors have the Emmys, the Hollywood foreign press have the Golden Globes, there’s the People’s Choice awards, heck, even Blockbuster gives out those silly golden popcorn tubs!! Well, I think it’s high time the corporate communicators implemented awards for our constituency too!

Just to be clear though, these are not awards to the communicators – no, no, these are the awards I would LIKE to give to some of the people whom communicators everywhere have at one time or another had to work with, and for. You know, those folks who really just don’t seem to “get” communications, and frequently the things they say and do create . . . well, let’s be kind and call them “frustrations” for us.

So, I’ve listed my list of the awards below. Take a read, and then you can add in any additional awards I may have missed. Okay, here goes:

The “I’m freakin’ Hemingway” award
This award goes to the individual who displays ability well-beyond the average standard of self-congratulation and mistaken belief that they can write for the business’s needs without the assistance of the communications team. These individuals – typically oblivious to the very existence of basic punctuation, unable to conjugate a verb to save their life, or have a hope in hell of understanding when to use “it’s” and “its” correctly – nevertheless feel qualified to attempt to write the company newsletter, the website content or the annual report content.

This individual forces the communicator to continuously come up with tactful ways to explain that the cute comments from their 3 year-old aren’t really going to work for the company’s newsletter article on the business objectives. I often wish this individual actually WAS Hemingway, because then I could just distract him or her with copious amounts of alcohol, and when he/she passed out, I could go ahead and do the communications the way they’re supposed to be done in peace and quiet.

The “in my spare time I edit the New York Times” award
In contrast to the Hemingway award-winner, who wants to WRITE the organization’s comms., this paragon of self-importance is far, far to busy to actually create any messaging, but he/she is more than magnanimous enough to correct YOUR communications!

Indeed, this individual, despite the critical responsibilities they are dealing with in their own job, feels it their duty to send you suggestions or edits, or – how can we EVER thank you enough?! – critiques of the already completed communications you’ve sent out to the organization. Things like words the dear colleague didn’t particularly like, or suggestions for “punching up the impact” of your prose [that, as other communicators will of course know, means the “editor” adds about 12 unnecessary – and, frequently incorrect – adjectives or adverbs to every other sentence]. Sigh . . .

Describing the impact of the humanitarian efforts of this person simply cannot be put properly into words [actually, I DO have words to describe my reaction to this sort of help, two of them, in fact, but as this is a PG-rated blog, I can’t use them here. I bet you can guess though, if you are a communicator 😉 ]

The “I’m a schizophrenic two-year-old” award
This person has several issues that can cause some angst for the communicator. He or she tends to be a frequent user of the communication team’s support, coming to us with virtually every communication his/her team needs to put out [“Thanks for asking, really, but I unfortunately won’t be able to review your personal emails for you before you send them. I do recommend using spell-check though, as our company does “public” relations outreach not “pubic” Yes, certainly, that could have happened to anyone!” Insert eye-roll here].

This person appears to be a big believer in the services of team communications team, and they probably are. The issue happens because this person doesn’t really have any idea when they ask for communications support, what the objectives are, or what tactic might be effective. And that would be fine – those are areas, after all, where we communicators can, and should provide assistance – if this person would actually listen to, consider, and, at least occasionally, take our advice!

But no, this person would – if we’d let him or her, monopolize 125% of our time going back-and-forth, and back-and-forth with options, and meetings, and reviews and round-table votes ad nauseam. This individual deserves an award if for no other reason, than because they manage to outdo everyone else in their requests for communication support, when all they REALLY want is to be the centre of someone else’s universe. If ONLY we could use “time-outs” in corporate!!!

The “IT Run Amok” award
I should say right up front, that I have great respect for IT! They have a job that’s almost as challenging as the communicators, because nobody in the organization truly understands exactly what’s involved in doing what they do. And, I might feel sympathy and camaraderie with them because of that, except, they use their powers for evil instead of for good!

I mean, let’s be honest, we both know that when I ask you to assist in putting a video the CEO made onto the corporate website – and let me clarify that I battled with said CEO . . . and the subsidiary minions! to ensure that the video was as brief and sharp as possible, and that it was compressed to minimize its file size – and you tell me that it will take $75,000 and 125 business days to do that, well, let me reiterate for what seems like the 1,000,000th time [if I was on a spam website, I’d win a fabulous prize!] I did NOT just fall off a turnip truck!

Really, I take great pains to try to understand and acknowledge the challenges YOU face. It sure would be nice if you tech wizards would, just occasionally, meet me half-way.

The “I’m an Olympian God” award
Most communicators provide assistance to one or more executives in the course of their work. And I’ve personally been fortunate enough to have worked with some fantastically collaborative, intelligent and appreciative execs., but this particular award will NOT be for recognizing those leaders [for award eligibility for this type of leader please see the final award category below].

On the contrary, there are also leaders out there who have been allowed to cultivate the belief that they are the reincarnation of Zeus [or in the alternate gender case, Hera] and can therefore sit on Olympus and randomly smite people.

This type of executive is a rough row to hoe for the communicator, because they generally refuse to interact with the communicator in any way [well, after all, the Gods don’t speak with mere mortals!! Bad for the image, don’t you know?] and trying to create responsive, effective communications on behalf of someone you’ve never even SEEN in person, let alone communicated with, is somewhat of a challenge, to say the least.

And of course, despite the refusal of this highly placed leader to give you an inkling of what they want the communication to say or do, they absolutely expect that you will nevertheless create a perfectly aligned message for them, and that you’ll do so in about 35 minutes. Hence the communicator’s propensity to buy chocolates and send flowers to executive assistants on any given day, in the hope that said assistants will take pity on us, and show us any communications the executive has liked in the past so we can have a hope of coming up with something that will be what the executive wants. Honestly, it’s not like we expect you to invite us to your place in Aspen for the weekend! We just want a hint or two about WHAT THE HELL YOU NEED TO SAY!! You can email it, leave it on our voice-mail, heck send us morse-code if you like, just help us to help you, okay???

The “Shining Star” award
I always feel it’s only fair, when I good-naturedly tease our colleagues and business partners about their foibles, to also acknowledge what the beloved Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story”. The Shining Star is the delightful type of colleague who balances out the scales for the tongue-in-cheek awards above.

The Shining Star is that colleague who thoroughly and truly “gets” communication. This individual understands that the communicator needs a few minutes of their time and some basic information to effectively and efficiently meet the business unit’s needs, and – Halleluia!! – they actually give it to us!

The Shining Star also realizes that it’s only fair, when they’ve asked for a communication, to then review the communication in a timely fashion, providing their edits and/or questions with plenty of time for the communicator to make the requested changes and still meet the delivery deadline.

Above all else, the Shining Star colleague says thank-you to the communications team for the work they did and the support they delivered in helping the business unit do what it needed to do. When we get really lucky, these colleagues talk up the contributions of the communications team to other colleagues and senior leaders in the organization, which is pretty much “Communicator Nirvana” because sometimes the only way communications is realistically recognized for the work we do is when that work is acknowledged by a third-party.

Of course, it wouldn’t be appropriate to give the Shining Star the same award as the other recipients of the “Golden Doofus”, so, much like the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award given by the Emmys, we’ve created a special trophy for this most special and treasured of colleagues. Basically, the statuette depicts a communicator [you can tell by the ink stained-fingers and the look of exhaustion] on their knees kissing the feet of a colleague who has a golden star on their forehead.

I could go on, but I thought it would be fun to throw it open to you to add in any “Golden Doofus” categories that are YOUR particular favourites. I’m sure there are plenty of others that I’ve missed, so let’s hear it – who would you like to give an award to???

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Responses

  1. Of course I was rolodexing through several people in my career who I could have gave each of these awards to and a couple that deserved multiple honors.

    The one award I can add to this is:

    The “Your Idea Is Garbage And I Don’t Care To Hear It In Detail So Shut Up And Listen To My Infinite Wisdom” Award (may have a tough time fitting that one on the placard). This is awarded to every colleague, executive, boss, etc. I have worked for in the past who never lets you finish a sentence or a thought without interrupting you incessantly with a wave of the hand in dismissal of your “puny idea” over their superior cerebral mind.

    You have no idea how many times I have wanted to smack someone across their smug face for cutting me off even before I had finished a thought or justified a reason for a means, message or mode of communication. Of course this would peg me as a violent person which I am not except for sudden urges to smack people when they cut me off as I am talking.

    Great post Kristen!

  2. John – that kind of behaviour is just plain rude! But I like your addition, and thanks for commenting!


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