Friday, October 29, 2010

Masking our Authentic Self

In life we wear masks. These masks are of all shapes and sizes and they hide our true, authentic self.

Think about it, everyday...

...a salesman is making a promise they know they can't deliver on.
...a company is re-branding just to re-brand (GAP). employee is working to build and promote a product they don't believe in.
...a printer is lying to themselves about the effects of e-readers on the printing industry and not taking steps today to adapt and change.
...someone is deceived by falling into a relationship built on lies.
...blame is assessed to an undeserving scapegoat because the fear of taking ownership of an issue or fixing the real problem overwhelms others. artist becomes a suit.
...a musician or band goes mainstream, moving on from their raving fans.
...a teacher is forced to adhere to a system of education as opposed to touching student lives on a daily basis with unique, thoughtful and tailored methods.
...the truth is hidden.

We wear these masks out of fear of reality. Sometimes we are forced to wear these masks to make a living while other times we wear them because the truth just doesn't seem profitable.

Halloween gives us the opportunity every year to dress up and wear a mask in a more obvious way. In some weird way, many of us represent our true, authentic selves on this holiday more than any other day of the year. As an adult, if I like to emulate a Will Ferrell character (Mugatu) on Halloween because it's fun and makes the other people around me laugh, why is it so hard bring that same honesty, energy and laughter to work on a daily basis?

As a sales rep and marketer, I struggle with this constantly. I'll get so caught up in coming across as professional and portraying a certain image, that it becomes easy to lose sight of who I really am. No one can expect perfection out of people and sometimes just being who you are makes more business sense than the mask that you think you should put on each day.

Long term relationships are build on the kind of tough honesty where people are willing to take off their mask.  However, being your true, authentic self means you are probably not standing in the middle on every issue. When you take a strong position or represent a more clear image of who you are, then you will certainly have more enemies but you'll also create bigger fans. Fans like this will stand behind you through thick and thin. Fans like this make it profitable to take off the mask.


  1. Interesting topic - so why does our industry try so hard then to hide these truths from clients?

    Being on the technical side rather than sales or admin, every week I have situations where it's best to contact a designer/agency/freelancer to get their job produced quickly and correctly. More often than not, the question raised by the CSR or salesperson is "Well, can't we just..." Substitute a font, dig back several jobs to find that logo/stock photo that wasn't supplied, fix those 48 pages that don't bleed quite right, etc. And of course, we "can" but should we? I try to advocate educating the client, move towards a better, more efficient solution (Industry compliant PDFs, direct submission through a web-portal) but there's never time or worse - the desire.

    It's a never-ending cycle that's been perpetrated for years. Printers afraid to charge for services, so they're performed for free. Clients who are done a serious disservice by not being informed by their print provider, and so it continues. I'd bet a fair sum of money that by the time most shops see those same clients go to another shop where they feel more "in touch" that it's too late, and before long the doors are shut. The blame gets placed on other factors, rising paper costs, general economic downturn, but in reality all it takes some times is simple and honest - communication.

  2. Great points and from the pre-press standpoint, I certainly see this happening all the time. I don't know if there is a perfect solution. You can be upfront with people concerning pre-press or other departmental expectations, but there is also a big need to create an easy to work with atmosphere for a client. I think if you push on every little issue and don't at least try to fix a few of the simple or quick adjustments internally, then your also sending a message that your internal rules and procedures supersede taking care of the client. From a sales perspective, we know that someone else is willing to do all that stuff. At the same time your are indeed doing those clients a disservice by not educating them on why it is important.

    I know exactly where you are coming from though as a sales rep might tell you to just take care of these things now and we'll have the client fix it on the next time. But you and me both know that once the job ships, then rarely does a meeting occur that the rep will have with the client to go over all the job and process and make it better for the next run. Everyone has moved on at that point and the opportunity is lost.

    Everything is moving so fast and buyers have so little time, that I truly believe they want to work with printers who will take care of their problems and make their lives easier. I think sales reps though at print shops take for granted that many of their clients want things done right too and really want to give us exactly what we need. So it really all boils down to when is the right time to have these discussions. If it is a true partnership, then anytime should be okay.

    For me personally, if someone at my shop puts something in terms of the customer it makes me more prone to approach a customer about a problem the art or job is creating or potential issues. Different departments have certain needs and expectations and putting those in terms of our customers is the easiest way to get the message to sales. Resistance happens though when a department puts an internal need in terms of themselves and not the customer.