Gini Dietrich

Executives and the Ostrich Syndrome

By: Gini Dietrich | May 10, 2011 | 
100

This first ran on DIY Blogger, Dino Dogan’s blog, during his Fear of Marketing week. If you don’t know Dino, DIY Blogger, or what he and Dan Cristo are doing with Triberr, I suggest you check it all out! And, if you read this over there, just move to the comments. We all know that’s where the real action is anyway.

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.

Fear of change. Fear of loss of control. Fear of marketing.

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 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.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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100 Comments on "Executives and the Ostrich Syndrome"

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M_Koehler
M_Koehler
5 years 2 months ago
Seriously, people still use the excuse that my customer isn’t online? The internet has been around for how long now? At least 14 years if my Anniversary has anything to say about it and a LOT has happened in those 14 years. (I know its been longer but anything prior to about 1995 is a bit hazy). The group that I work with fights point #2 daily. We constantly hear stay off FB or Twitter or any websites all the time during work hours. Sometimes you have spare downtime. Would you rather me get up and start bothering others who… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@M_Koehler They seriously do still say that. It’s crazy! I don’t see the social networks any differently than the phone, email, or doing online banking. If you haven’t hired adults who can control their online time when they have a job to do, the problem isn’t them.

burgessct
burgessct
5 years 2 months ago
Thanks for reposting this one. I had a conversation via twitter on how much angst change causes folks; and the angst isn’t artificial change is hard, takes work and is going to happen. The CEO’s decision is am I going to take advantage of the opportunity presented and be an early player (and yes I posit in 2011 it is still early or am I going to miss opportunity. An example I recently used during a trip to China about goods and services being online – the Social Security Administration services are 100% online – if that dinosaur can migrate… Read more »
HerzogIND
HerzogIND
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @M_Koehler

BestRoofer
BestRoofer
5 years 2 months ago

Not all Vistage CEO’s have their head in the sand. (I wanted to say some of them have it elsewhere), but all of the Vistage CEO’s that I know are great people. Still very few of the ones that I know have embraced social media at the level that could benefit them. Keep doing your talk and I hope that one day you get to my group.

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg
5 years 2 months ago
You are right, the last two years have been rough. We are finding that more and more companies who have survived the last two years are begrudgingly getting online or expanding their presence. We have been very busy helping them do it! We hear a lot of I want to be ready, I need to continue to survive and to do it I need to expand my online efforts. However, we are still hearing from people who after a consult & quote back off saying, well my clients are not really online I dont want to spend the money right… Read more »
LukeCoburn
5 years 2 months ago
I think that the major issue is the loss of control. Execs understand that people can say whatever they want to online, but they don’t like it. So, rather than putting themselves out there and engaging their clients and potential community, they act like it just isn’t happening. What they don’t understand though, is that’s going to just spur their clients to be frustrated with their customer service or recognize that the checkout, registration, or information gathering process is too difficult, which means that the individual just never becomes a client in the first place. This creates exactly what Mr.… Read more »
arminda
5 years 2 months ago

Shout it from the rooftops! Amen! What Dino said! Whew. Now, how do you share this message with the very people who need it the most, but aren’t online to “get it”?

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 2 months ago
@ginidietrich @M_Koehler I hear this all the time. And I remind them that my mostly computer illiterate 77 year old mother is online. She no longer uses the yellow pages. She Googles things. And Gini, as for the second part of that, I was speaking to a group one time when one person told me they couldn’t let their employees online during the day because they didn’t trust them. I looked the guy square in the eye and said “Who hired them?” I think I made an enemy that day, but also got the attention of a lot of people!… Read more »
KDillabough
KDillabough
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @M_Koehler Amen to that! And I love @KenMueller comment “Who hired them?” It’s sad when employers dis-empower the people they should most empower to get the job(s) done.

KDillabough
KDillabough
5 years 2 months ago
I’ve run a business Mentoring Group for 7 years now, pairing early-growth entrepreneurs with seasoned entrepreneurs, and the topic of “social media” is always on the table. You’d think that it would be the “young puppies” that would be embracing online, but it’s often the over-50’s, iphone and ipad in hand, that are adopting the tools quicker than the young’uns. I hear all the same excuses, especially the “my customer isn’t online”…eegads! Or the really rich one: I don’t have time…double eegads! I emphasize the importance of staying on customers’ radar screen ESPECIALLY during difficult times, because when the tide… Read more »
adamtoporek
adamtoporek
5 years 2 months ago
Hi Gini. Former ostrich here. I’m still shaking the sand out of my ears. (Great picture, btw!) Your bullet points on the reasons why execs are avoiding social media are dead on. Most really do come down to fear and misunderstanding, and I think the only one that has some sound basis as a business concern is ROI. Large businesses really have no excuse at this point; social media can scale pretty well cost-wise for them. I think SMB leaders are the ones sticking their head in the sand and hoping when they pull their head out social media will… Read more »
JamesDBurrell2
5 years 2 months ago
Burying one’s head in the sand or forging up the beach through the head winds of uncertainty both yield in a little stinging sand in the eyes. But one will never discover a new harbor while remaining stationary on the beach head. Truth be told, these past few months we (Eco-Protective Products) have limited our pursuit of new business, opting instead to focus on deepening our relationship with existing customers. On one hand, we have succeeded in growing in both raw sales numbers and in profitability, on the other, I feel that I’ve missed countless opportunities in the wake of… Read more »
KDillabough
KDillabough
5 years 2 months ago

@adamtoporek What a great comment Adam, and bravo to you for the honesty. Gini did indeed sum it all up with “people want to be talked with, not talked at.” Passing you Qtips as we speak:)

T60Productions
5 years 2 months ago

Hi Gini… good one today. From a video perspective, I’m always trying to pump up executives. This is such a great time to produce video because the web provides a way to get it to people.

No more producing videos cassettes and sending them via the mail. Whether it’s social media or email blasts, you can get your video out into the world faster and cheaper than ever!

–Tony Gnau

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

We are thinking of upgrading from adding machines to calculators this year but I am getting push back from the CEO.

I have like a trillion examples of this from my work history and AT LEAST a quadrillion from the business news for examples of the Ostrich Syndrome. And history is littered with the corpses of huge companies that die from this.

It’s so sad. But if you text 12345 to Save the Ostriches you can donate $10 by phone.

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 2 months ago

@HowieSPM dude…EVERYONE is using abacuses (abaci?) these days. I’m thinking of getting the new iAbacus…because if Apple made it, it must be the best.

KDillabough
KDillabough
5 years 2 months ago

@HowieSPM Oh my gosh, you made my day with this one! Sad but true, true but sad that I’m laughing this hard. Texting as I write to Save those Ostriches:)

KDillabough
KDillabough
5 years 2 months ago

@KenMueller @HowieSPM Ken, can you put me in line for that new iAbacus?

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 2 months ago

@KDillabough @HowieSPM I’m sorry, they’re already sold out. You’ll have to wait for the iAbacus 2

bdorman264
bdorman264
5 years 2 months ago
I think it’s one thing to be told how to do it and it’s quite the opposite to just jump in and ‘really’ do it. As my organization is trying to figure out there place in this arena we are still somewhat fragmented with a handful of us ‘all in’ and everyone else looking in from the outside. Having said that, you certainly want a strategy instead of just some willy nilly effort. In addition to running your core business you have to plan when and how you put together your social media platform. You are aware of the post… Read more »
bdorman264
bdorman264
5 years 2 months ago

@HowieSPM Can we have your adding machines? I’m trying to validate myself and bring value to the bottom line. This would be a real ‘win’ for me if I could secure a significant capital improvement at a good price.

bdorman264
bdorman264
5 years 2 months ago

@KDillabough @KenMueller @HowieSPM Nope, I’ve already made a request. Me and Howie are buds……

Petya
Petya
5 years 2 months ago

First of all, the photo made me lol! 🙂 Second, I couldn’t agree more with you that there is huge fear from social media among some executives. The bad news from those people: online conversation is happening with or without their interaction and activities, so they can’t stop it but take an action. This is the best for them in the long-term…

Thanks for the great post, Gini – it’s inspiring as usual!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@Petya Ha! I just told kmueller62 the photo makes me laugh! Great minds!

That’s exactly what we discuss when I speak…the conversation is happening. Wouldn’t you rather know what people are saying? It’s funny to hear them say things like complaints and employee’s use is a social media problem. Um, if a customer is complaining or your employees aren’t getting their jobs done. that’s an OPERATIONS problem.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@KDillabough @KenMueller We’ve talked about this before, but isn’t it funny how ALL executives are fearful of the same things? They think they’re unique. Nope. People just don’t like change.

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @Petya some of this is getting me fired up. This post will be quoted heavily in a post for Thursday on my blog. We need to start a “People are Stupid” club.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@burgessct If that dinosaur can migrate… SO TRUE! And you’re right- they’re fearful of change. Of having to do things differently than they’ve always done them. I see a lot of Baby Boomers who have the mentality that they’re going to exit the business world before they have to deal with all of this. Sigh…

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@BestRoofer LOL! Some of them have it elsewhere. That’s funny! Haven’t you guys already had a social media speaker? If not, I’ll see if I can get myself there!

How was the ride in this morning??

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@sydcon_mktg The funny thing is that something like 96 percent of Americans are online. So, while they may not be looking for YOU online, they’re there and that provides a HUGE opportunity!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@LukeCoburn Totally agree, hence the head in the sand image. I always tell them that people are going to complain…now they have the chance to listen and do something about it. Talk about the power that gives you! If you have a company where you can learn from what people are saying, fix it, and stay in business, isn’t that better than burying your head?!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@arminda Oh I have my ways! 🙂 I’ll send it carrier pigeon, if I have to!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@KDillabough I love it when I hear, “But I close business by looking at the whites of someone’s eyeballs.” Great! So continue to close business that way. But qualify and nurture your leads online. It makes you more efficient and gives you broader reach than, say, an afternoon on the golf course. And, sometimes, it’s just as much fun.

Your point about the over 50s with the new toys is a good one…but most still need the 20-somethings to teach them how to use it. 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@adamtoporek LOL! The image of you shaking sand out of your ears is very funny to me! It’s FANTASTIC that you’re on board. It will put you eons ahead of your competitors.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@JamesDBurrell2 OMG! A comment AND you played your turn?! ALL IN ONE MORNING?!?

You’re a smart business leader, Jamey. It IS better to jump in and learn to swim. We’re all busy. It’s hard to keep up. But it’s worth it.

NancyD68
5 years 2 months ago
This is so near and dear to my heart. First of all, had a sit down with one of my bosses yesterday, and I was told point blank to let the other boss “like” whatever he wants on Facebook! (talk about sticking your head in the sand) We have a client who is “too busy” for social media. When I began asking why, i got spoken to about it. I was told “just deal with it.” I wanted to ask why is he not on there? He has a publicly held company whose stock is not even worth a penny,… Read more »
TheJackB
TheJackB
5 years 2 months ago

@HowieSPM The Abacus will never be replaced. Excuse me, my pocket protector needs to be adjusted.

TheJackB
TheJackB
5 years 2 months ago

If you never use Twitter, Blogs or FB it is easy to assume that it is just children screwing around online. This is one of those things that I think that has to be experienced to really understand how big it is and just how many people are talking.

jonbuscall
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich Fear of losing control is something I come up against on a daily basis. I think the only way to approach this is to teach them that the notion of control is not really applicable to the web.

A CEO I occasionally work for recently declined my suggestion that she blog about an article in a national Swedish newspaper that mentioned her. She was afraid that if she did a swarm of disgruntled employees would leave comments on the article.

Mark_Harai
5 years 2 months ago

I hear you loud and clear Gini!

For some businesses, the social web will be a boon… for others the nail in the coffin – simply because they can’t or won’t get past the ostrich syndrome.

Many won’t even see it coming because they are too busy believing their in control of things. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Fear is at the core of most bad business decisions – long before the social web was one them.

Mark_Harai
5 years 2 months ago

They’re – JEEZ!

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich Right, and when they do start looking for “you” and your not there…guess what, they will find the next person who can help…sales lost!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@T60Productions Video cassettes?! That’s so 1990!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@TheJackB @HowieSPM @KDillabough @bdorman264 @KenMueller I have nothing to add to this conversation.

therealkazia
5 years 2 months ago
You nailed it! It’s about feeling out of control. My firm primarily works with small, small businesses (under 10 employees) and these owners are really scared to get online too. They’ve built their business from the ground up and have done and been in control of every single aspect of their business. So the idea of getting past the basic brochure as web site makes them very uncomfortable, it’s not something they feel empowered by. But once people understand that the fundamentals haven’t changed, it’s just the medium, they tend to relax and begin to let down that wall of… Read more »
janbeery
janbeery
5 years 2 months ago
I call this Cranial Rectal Inversion! aka Head stuck up the Behinder! (Oh Lord, Katie is going to tag me for another blog on this!) In the medical industry, people long thought and still think if they hold their cards close, no one will know what’s going on. EXACTLY! That’s the point! This is definitely like herding cats. A necessary task in our chosen field but some days, my brain just hurts and the Vino here at KBK gets cracked mid afternoon! You are spot on Gini. We will just keep on preaching and sharing success stories. At the end… Read more »
janbeery
janbeery
5 years 2 months ago

@KenMueller @ginidietrich @Petya AMEN!

janbeery
janbeery
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @T60Productions Hey, I still have a bunch, don’t knock a good thing! My 8 tracks are gone though!

dino_dogan
5 years 2 months ago
This problem is systemic. Research shows that knowledge workers who routinely forward good news upstream and ONLY good news are way more likely (figures escape me now) to get promoted than workers/executives forward reality upstream. In other words, these CEO’s live in pink houses wearing rose-tinted glasses. They have NO idea whats going on for real. No to mention the frustration they must feel for being powerless to effect change in any major way (generalization). The Board (Borg? 🙂 has to be pleased and CEO’s job is to do that, not to effect change. I could go on and on….thnx… Read more »
Lisa Gerber
5 years 2 months ago

@janbeery seriously you need to trademark that!!! I LOVE it. 🙂 clearly the KBK culture is similar to the Spin Sucks offices. (picture empty wine bottles strewn about)

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