When did it come to this? One we were grizzled editors, who gleefully slouched through trade shows, press conferences and the like. We never expected to be on-screen personalities. We were wordsmiths, wearing ratty corduroy coats and attacking buffets at trade shows using time tested techniques such as meatball stacking and the old standby shrimp macrame. After a day or two at the show, we were often indistinguishable from the lobby furniture, that's how natty.
And then IT hit! Social media! Now they point cameras at us, and like frightened gerbils (all right, frightened gerbils who shop at the Big and Tall Shops), we accept our fate. We sit in front of a bland background devoid of soul or color and blink into the light like awakening coma victims. Once we were editors, scribbling away in the safety of our dens. Now we are social media personalities.
Sure times change, but we unkempt guardians of the English language are suddenly required to chirp into the camera like trained parakeets. Untrained as media personalities, we often sound like small business owners who insist on making their own commercials. "Hi, I'm Bert, the Awning Man and I want to tell you in a loud, irritating voice about the deals at Bert's Awesome Awnings!"
The marketing folks often act as directors, though they, too, are new at this and have absolutely no training as directors. The camera operator is also a rookie, who one day was designing the company web site and the next is fiddling with buttons, tripods and lights. With that setup, what could possibly go wrong?
"Okay," the director says in a soothing voice suitable for coaxing woodland creatures from their dens, "let's try a take."
The lights blaze on. The cameraman randomly pushes buttons until the camera comes to life. The editor's pupils shrink to zombie-like pinpoints and he speaks.
"Hi I…uh..am..uh…Ed Grizzleman and I want to share a few thoughts on low-power design. Today's looper deens…"
"Cut," the director sighs, "just be natural, Ed. Think of the camera as a fellow editor and you're just chatting about the latest design trends. Okay? And…action!"
"I'm Ed Grizzleman and I want to talk to you about low-power design. With today's green movement and the need for green technology to make green devices with green tools enabling green, low poor, uh, lie power…looper deen…damn!"
"Maybe we should hire some professionals to help with this," the director groans. "I know of some agencies that could help with diction, delivery and directing. Maybe we can stop this whole thing from looking like out-takes from Gilligan's Island."
Soon enough the "pros" show up. They are all dreaming of walking down the red carpet some day, but for now they have the haughty, bored aura of stars that have just walked the beige rug.
"Okay, people," the hired director says. "First let's look at the talent," There's a brief pause as Grizzleman is introduced. "My Gawd," the director hisses, "you look like you're wearing a coat left over from 'The Grapes of Wrath!' Wardrobe!"
The director now looks over the equipment, background and the borrowed desk that has been requisitioned for the shoot.
"Heavens!" shrieks the photographer. "I thought we were doing a high-tech social media statement. This room looks like it's set up for a Midas Muffler commercial! I want this room to say 'Dancing with the Stars,' not 'Lawrence Welk'."
Grizzleman is soon gussied up like a news anchor on a third-rate TV station, some borrowed props make the room sparkle like a disco ball and Grizzleman is ready for his close up. After many takes, tantrums and "tsks," the director calls it a wrap. Grizzleman goes off to the local watering hole to brag of his new-found fame and knock back a few cold ones with his editor pals, who are also spiffed up from their social media adventures. The marketing person is nearly catatonic while numbly popping Reese's Pieces into her mouth. The web designer is pushing his mouse in tiny circles as he stares at his computer with a hollow, traumatized gaze. He rocks back and forth and hums the Barney theme. Social media is here!
Someday maybe we'll even have social media awards. I suggest calling them "The Socies." In the technical category, the prize statuette could be modeled after the scales of justice figure. It could depict an androgynous editor, blindfolded and holding a scale with a camera on one side and an array of toothsome treats that used to be served at editorial dinners on the other. On close examination, however, you might see that the blindfold is slightly lifted on one side. There, a baleful eye sadly ogles the snacks.
By Mike Donlin.
Mike does technical, marketing and creative writing for The Write Solution, his freelance business. He can help your company wend its way through the vagaries of the English language, and prides himself on his intimate knowledge of gerunds, semicolons and dipthongs. If you'd like Mike to pen a tome on a timely technical topic, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-889-4955.