8 Reasons Why Introverts Rule the Interactive Age

After spending the 20th century in relative silence, introverts are poised to rule the Interactive Age.

Social media has changed the way we communicate. The extroverted approach to communication in the 20th century—one-size-fits-all programming, in-your-face advertising, and dictatorial monologues—has been replaced by a more thoughtful and empathetic discourse that involves listening to the ideas of others, engaging in dialogue, offering comments and opinions, and sharing interesting content.

And no one is better prepared for this communication revolution than introverts. Here are the eight reasons why introverts will rule the Interactive Age:

Candor-intuitive: 7 tips to help you become your authentic, imperfect self

If it isn't already abundantly clear, let me spell it out for you: it’s time to loosen the tie, unclench the fake smile and start being real. Here are seven simple things you can do right now to get back the authenticity you spent your entire career trying to hide:

A Return to Honesty? Or Honor?

Every time I run across a mention of The Honest Company or Honest Tea, I’m impressed by the savvy Integrity, Honesty, Honormarketing that went into their names. They're straightforward and appeal to a public disillusioned by immoral corporations. But I also wonder: in a world where transparency is no longer optional, is honesty still a virtue? Or is it just self-interest, given the high cost (and high likelihood) of being exposed as a liar?

Perhaps a more apt name would have been “The Honorable Company.” After all, Merriam-Webster defines “honor” as:

  • respect that is given to someone who is admired
  • good reputation : good quality or character as judged by other people
  • high moral standards of behavior

What do you think? Is honesty now ante? Does corporate honor pay off?

7 rules to help you survive your imminent cultural disruption

"I suspect I'll be just fine. They gimme a guitar and taught me how to box." Learning how to tweet to prepare for the Interactive Age is like learning how to box to prepare for war. It might come in handy but it won’t keep you alive.

That’s not to say that mastering Twitter and other social media tools isn’t important. It’s critical, which is why the American Society of Association Executives will feature such breakout sessions as “Tweet Like a Pro,” “Link Up with LinkedIn,” and “Hot Trends in Association Social Tools” at its annual convention in Nashville next month. In fact, nearly one in four of ASAE’s 136 “Learning Labs” is dedicated to social media issues.

This is significant. ASAE is the voice of the association profession. The fact that they are allocating so much bandwidth to social media shows just how much of an impact the Internet is having on that industry.

But among the positive breakout sessions there are several others that examine how social media is threatening to upset the industry’s decades-old model, specifically

  • “[T]he top disruptive trends with major implications for associations,”
  • “[E]merging trends … that challenge the traditional notion of associations as the knowledge gatekeepers of their industry,”
  • The fact that “disruptive innovations abound—and some are fundamentally changing the way [associations] do business.”

The trade association industry, it seems, may well be the next sector of the 20th century information-industrial complex to be critically disrupted by the Internet.

To survive this impending disruption, association execs need more than just Internet-weapons training. They need to understand how thoroughly social media has transformed the way we communicate and interact with each other. And they need to integrate the customs and mores of this brave new world into every facet of their organization.

To get that process started, we've compiled the Seven Rules of the Internet Age that all organizations should follow if they hope to benefit from—or simply survive—the cultural tectonic-plate shifts that the Internet has triggered.

Collaborate. Don’t dominate. If the 20th century was a winner-take-all poker game played with a stacked deck, the Interactive Age is parachute day in gym class. You only “win” if everyone plays together to achieve shared goals.

You’ve got to give to receive. In the 20th century, nobody but bakery shop owners and drug dealers gave away samples of their best products. But in the Interactive Age, giving is the first step in relationship building. The information you once sold is now shared. Its value—and your organization’s—will increase only as that information is, in turn, shared with others.

Authority is earned, not bought. Nobody takes their lead from four-out-of-five-dentists anymore. The days of advertising your way to “expert” status are gone. That honorific can only be earned … and that process starts when you give away that useful information.

The reach of your message is trumped by the reaction to your message. Getting a sound bite on NPR will always be a treat. But if it doesn’t ignite a reaction among the communities that care about your issues then it has no value … except maybe to your mother. (And she could be lying, too.) Smaller passionate audiences beat massive docile audiences every time.

Be transparent. With all due respect to New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner, “on the Internet, everybody knows you’re a dog.” The Internet has made it damned near impossible to get away with deception. Act accordingly. You can still lie, cheat, and deceive. You just can’t do all that and expect stay in business.

Flatten the org chart. Your organization is linked to countless vibrant communities that care about your issues and it is bursting with the social media expertise needed to capitalize on those connections. But those resources are locked in the minds and cell phones of staff members whose names you sometimes remember. Unlock the social-media power of your entire team.

Be empathetic. The audience now determines which content has value and which gets deleted. To capture the attention and win the approval of your audiences, you must replace proclamations in press releases with sincere engagement in the form of comments, dialogue, info-sharing, and genuine receptivity to their thoughts and opinions.

It’s a safe bet that ASAE’s breakout sessions on social media will be informative and thought-provoking. But one session—“Are You Ready to Build a Digital Engagement Team?"—promises to be particularly enlightening, if the promo is any indication:

“Most associations have traditional departments of technology, marketing, and communications … Within five years these teams as we know them today will be obsolete. … Your organization has to be agile and responsive like never before. Are you ready?”

An excellent question.

What's IN and what's OUT in the Interactive Age

"I now command all of you to ignore me henceforth. See what I did there?"

The 20th century was the Golden Age of managed messaging. Media moguls, corporate executives, and elected officials controlled and monopolized virtually every aspect of mass communication. But the Internet flipped that model on its head, and now we—the former “target demographic” of the Information Age—are calling the shots.

The transition from the Information Age to the Interactive Age has been so swift and so decisive that you can almost hear cigars exploding in board rooms around the globe as the former Masters of the Universe frantically apply 20th century solutions to 21st century challenges.

To help you avoid their fate, we’ve gathered a handy list of what’s IN and what’s OUT in the Interactive Age.


The Big Three TV Networks

Zero-sum game

Mass marketing

Watching your favorite show

Press event


Paid advertising

Stuffing envelopes with newsletters


Corporate sponsors

Press releases

Public relations


Outbound marketing

Self-centered extroverts


“It’s about me.”

Target market


Commercial breaks

Powerful CEO



Limitless free online networks

Givers Gain

Mass Relevance

Producing your favorite show

Event marketing


Free advice

Pushing the envelope with content




Personal relationships


Inbound marketing

Empathetic introverts


“It’s about them.”


Collective intelligence


Power of SEO















Lessons from Zombie Boy: Heart-tugging campaigns--like beauty--are often only skin deep.

"Baby Jesus, please make Zombie Boy pretty like the rest of us so we can accept him as he should be, no matter what it does to his acting career."  After every outdoor recess my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Yaroschuk, would make us boys wash our hands in the boys’ room and then march single-file past her desk to show her that we got the job done right.

I, unfortunately, had inherited a mild skin condition that would flare up at the most inopportune times—like just before opening day of the 1969 Outdoor Recess Season.

This condition manifested itself as a crescent of very dry skin that ran from the base of my index fingers to the first knuckle of my thumbs. When that skin got dirty—which was always since it was attached to the hands of a nine-year-old boy—it stayed dirty. I couldn’t wash it away no matter how hard I scrubbed.

Mrs. Yaroschuk, even more unfortunately, did not know about this condition and demanded to know why I refused to wash my hands. When I tried to explain sotto voce—since, at this point, we had captured the collective attention of the entire class—she declared to the class that I was lying.

Then, in the middle of hand-inspection time, she grabbed my arm and dragged me into the boys’ room so she could “get that dirt off your hands myself, believe you me!”

She did try, I’ll give her that. But after about two or three minutes of rubbing my hands under hot tap water with coarse brown paper towels slathered in industrial-strength liquid soap, it dawned on her that I was telling the truth.

Today there are a number of products on the market that would prevent such humiliations (mine and Mrs. Yaroschuk’s). And one of those products—Dermablend—is currently taking its turn as an Internet darling with a contrived video campaign called “The Camo Confession,” created by Agence Tuxedo, an ad agency in Montreal.

The premise is clever: A beautiful person sits before a camera, tells you something wonderful about herself, and then makes her “confession” by wiping the Dermablend foundation from her face and revealing a striking skin condition. It’s fascinating, really, when you see that these “normal” people are actually suffering from rather extreme skin conditions caused by things like lupus, severe acne, and vitiligo, a skin disorder that causes the loss of skin color in patches.

The reveal, and each person’s story, makes a powerful case for why some people feel strongly that they need to use Dermablend when they’re out in public, and why—were it not for our reactions—they really wouldn’t have to.

Real feel-good stuff … until you meet Rico. Rico, you see, suffers from … well, let’s let him tell his story.

“Many people would say that I’m different just because of my skin, but I don’t feel that way. In many ways, I’m just the same as anyone else. I am accepted by a lot of people who are … who are different, and in the same position as I am.

“No matter what you’re faced with in life, always feel proud of who you are, for what you are and not to let others’ judgments get in your way. Today, I feel proud. I did what I had to do. And look at me now.”

Yes, Rico is suffering from … tattoos. Hideous, debilitating tattoos that he presumably paid people to etch over his entire body. But did he let that self-inflicted affliction slow him down? Quite the contrary! Rick “Rico” Genest, aka Zombie Boy, is a DJ, an actor, and a model … not in spite of his skin condition, but because of it.

God bless him.

According to Agence Tuxedo, “Above all, you wear a Tuxedo to make an impression.” Well, guys, the impression I hget from that video is Rico in a tuxedo T-shirt, because it says, “I want to be pitiable, but I’m here to party.”


How to Survive Stage-Floor Brain Lock

Brain lock during public speaking If you took any delight in movie director Michael Bay’s recent key-note meltdown you’ve probably never experienced the pain and humiliation of stage-floor brain lock.

Brain lock is a rare and debilitating disorder that occurs when one’s train of thought is completely derailed by an unexpected turn in the tracks, usually in middle of a speech. It is not to be confused with the awkward moment of silence that follows a teleprompter malfunction, clinically known as the Obama-mum phenomenon.

In fact, rather than being rendered speechless by a lack of an original thought, brain-lock sufferers are actually bombarded by countless thoughts shoving and bouncing off each other in a futile effort to become the first words out of the mouth. In Bay’s case, this neurological logjam set off a system-wide alarm that triggered, among many other reactions, the deployment of the automated “charm offensive” and a mustering of the crew on the fight-or-flight deck.

Ordinarily, these two self-preservation systems aren’t activated simultaneously. (There’s actually a locking mechanism built into newer brains that makes this virtually impossible.) But in those rare instances that it does happen, the dissonance between these two very different survival mechanisms actually affects the host body. Once this happens, recovery is extremely unlikely and total, system-wide humiliation is almost a certainty.

You can actually see it happen to Bay. His charm offensive is immediately hampered by a voice tremor, involuntary deep breathing, and a rapidly drying mouth. Meanwhile his flight off the stage is literally thrown into a tail spin as the back—in a selfless effort to save the face—struggles to turn itself to the audience while the legs remain locked facing the audience, hell bent on completing the charm offensive.

Ultimately Bay’s head literally dragged his body off the stage, while his automated charm offensive repeated “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” in a monotone not unlike that of the dying HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was not pretty.

How do I know he went through all this? Because it happened to me.

Just as I was finishing up speech recently, I realized I was coming in for a landing way ahead of schedule. Like Michael Bay, I tried to ad lib some charming dialogue to chew up the clock, but my voice had other plans.

Meanwhile, my brain had gone into full escape mode, desperately shaking the door knobs of every possible escape route. (Do I fake a seizure as I have occasionally asked my daughters to do to get us out of church? Can I set off the fire alarm without anyone noticing? How about a coughing fit?)

By then it was too late; my body was starting to deconstruct. Like clockwork, blood rushed to my face to signal to the other primates in the room that I was, indeed, quite embarrassed. This rush of blood pushed every rational thought out of my head and every drop of saliva out of my mouth, sending most of it to my armpits where it poured out as flop sweat. Sensing that we were in full-blown flight mode, my bladder was about to release its cargo when I was finally able to get myself back the pilot’s seat.

And it was then that I learned the cure to this horrible situation: I stopped everything, took off my jacket, loosened my tie, started rolling up my sleeves and said to the audience, “Sorry folks, but I just started having a panic attack. Let me tell you why …”

And they listened, and they nodded, and they silently thanked God it was me and not them. It’s interesting to note that my brush with reputational death actually brought us closer to each other. While it certainly wasn’t my best speech, a lot of people came up to me, grasped my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “I enjoyed your presentation,” while their eyes were saying, “Damn, I thought we lost you there, boy. Good to have you back.”

So tuck this helpful tip in your back pocket. But remember: as with any effective prophylactic, you only want to use it once.


Rich Little does Pablo Picasso: The dangers of giving the "wrong impression"

"Sorry, folks. We gotta take this back. We gave you the wrong one." This is kind of peculiar. Twenty-four hours after a senior executive at Ford acknowledges—with a good deal of specificity—that the company is tracking our movements via our onboard GPS systems, he does a high-speed bootleg turn and apologizes for giving us “the wrong impression.”

On Wednesday Ford’s marketing chief Jim Farley told the audience at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.” On Thursday, he was on CNBC trying to convince us that his vague wording may have given us the wrong impression.

Jim, old friend, when you tell us, “We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing,” you’re not giving us an impression. You’re stating a fact.

But what is striking about this messaging hit-and-run is that GM did exactly the same thing three years ago.

Here is the write up I did of GM’s amazing disappearing act back then.


For a brief moment, I was able to stare into the eyes of Big Brother. Then GM took down her video.

In a bizarre attempt to calm their former OnStar customers' justifiable rage that GM spied on them and sold the resulting data, the gov't-funded car maker posted a three-minute video of Subscriber Services VP Joanne Finnorn gamely trying to convince us that tracking our moves was good for GM and good for America(ns).

Her "Ignorance Is Strength" clip was utterly fascinating. You could almost hear her whispering above the canned text, "It's my job! I have no choice. And my oss-bay is standing right behind the amera-kay."

Fortunately for her, as of this morning that video never existed. It was disappeared the moment GM announced Operation OffStar.

It's a shame, really, because you will miss some of the greatest failures in corporate spin in recent memory. For instance:

"When it comes to location and speed, uh ... we're very careful to tell our customers that we do not continuously or routinely ... um ... monitor the location or speed of their vehicle."

I'll let the true meaning of that one sink in. Next clip.

"We've not sold personalized information about our customers in the past and we really don't have any plans to do anything like that in the future."

Really? No plans yet? Keep us posted if you change your mind, hmm-k?

"When it comes to sensitive information such as location information, for example, we want to make sure that we handle that information with the utmost care and that we use the information only as required to provide the safety, security, and convenient services that our customers value."

So, you're required to "use" the location data if my airgbag deploys, or if I'm heading toward a war zone, or if one of your clients wants the info to develop a convenient service that I would value? Hmm.

Lesson: It's a brave new world. You can't fight a 21st-century communications crisis with 20th-century paternalism. It will backfire. Communication is no longer a monolithic monologue. You want to communicate, you need to connect. Everything else is just noise.





Motivational Tweaking: Why motive matters when telling your story

"Why are you tryin' to harsh my mellow, bra? The dude was a lawyer! From New Jersey!!" You can commit treason, rob a corporation of billions in potential revenue, and even try to beat a man to death with a hatchet and the public will still love you … as long as they think your motives are pure—or pure as they define it. But God help you if the public thinks you misled them. Consider:

Caleb “Kai” McGillvary became an Internet celebrity after he stopped a crazed maniac from killing some guy by smashing a hatchet into his skull. (“Smash, smash, suh-MASH,” as Kai recalled it.) But when he was arrested and charged with beating a New Jersey lawyer—this time to death—the fickle public quickly stopped the clock on Kai's 15 minutes of fame.

When Edward Snowden figuratively outed ol’ Uncle Sam as a crazed creeper who had naked pictures of every one of us hidden in his underwear drawer, many hailed him as a hero and a patriot. Ironically, his halo lost its shine when he revealed his egomaniacal messiah complex with such quotes as, “I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”

And now comes the fall of the evad3rs, a merry band of hackers who gained Robin Hood-like cult status last January when they released a “jailbreak” code that allowed iPhone and iPad owners to override Apple’s many security features and buy apps somewhere other than Apple’s iTunes store.

But the Huzzahs! turned into “hand me that pitchfork” last month when people downloaded evad3rs’ latest jailbreak and found that it automatically uploaded a Chinese app store onto their devices. Worse still, this digital Walmart known only as Taig sold pirated software. The fact that this auto-upload only happened on devices preset with the Chinese language did nothing to calm the enraged mob.

Rumors that Taig paid evad3rs to be bundled into their hackware forced the assiduously low-profile hackers to come up out of their mom’s basement and post not one, but two strikingly unconvincing letters explaining how they had gotten themselves into this mess.

Now consider Ducks Unlimited. The sportsmen’s group boasts of being “the world's leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation,” which is true. And, as a result, “Ducks Unlimited does more than any other organization to put ducks in the sky,” which is also true. But they also shoot more ducks out of the sky than any other organization.

There are relatively few organizations that are going to publicly support an organization dedicated to blasting birds out of the sky. But a number of groups—from environmental activists to bird-watching societies—find the quest to preserve wetlands and waterfowl appealing and worthy of support.

So what can we learn from all this? It’s fine to have a self-serving motive tucked just behind your public-facing motive as long as it is palatable to the public … and you’re candid about it.


Twitter Rage in the Twitter Age: How intoxicating anonymity can derail your career

"No, John, you may NOT use 'I got kissed by a priest' as one of your sins. Do I make myself clear?

It is a fascinating paradox of human nature that we would gladly hold open a tavern door for the person we just tried to kill in a moment of blinding road rage on our way to that tavern.

A lot of our rage behind the wheel is attributed to the anonymity that we enjoy in our cars—that and the fact that this jackhole has been driving 55 in the left lane with his blinker on for the last two miles and I swear to God if I ever get in front of him …

But I digress.

Social media is having much the same effect on our frontal lobes, allowing us to engage in behavior so unsociable that we wouldn’t even confess it to our priest.*

* Another quick digression. Before Monsignor Bulman excommunicated my mom from St. Mary’s for having the gall to find herself divorced(!) from her philandering husband, she used to help us make up sins on the way to confession. It was only a two-mile ride so there was a lot of frantic horse trading in the back of our station wagon.

“I don’t want ‘hitting.’ I didn’t hit anybody!”

“OK, I’ll take ‘hitting,’ Mary Beth. But you gotta take ‘being disrespectful’ and ‘skipping your prayers.’ ”

“But I didn’t skip my prayers.”

“Fine. We’ll give that to Marnie. She needs some more sins anyway. But then you gotta take ‘not sharing.’”

“But I always share!”

And although we never said it out loud, we all knew that making up sins to confess to the priest definitely qualified as one of the sins we should fess up to.

The most recent example of unsocial media that resulted in “career Twittercide” involves one Jofi Joseph, aka @natsecwonk, who was an Obama political appointee to the National Security Council. Protected by the anonymity of his Twitter account, Joseph engaged in a self-described “series of inappropriate and mean-spirited comments” for more than two years.

When he was finally outed as the culprit in a sting orchestrated by White House officials, he was promptly fired, an administrative action that was confirmed by White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Not a good day for Jofi. Not good at all.

So what can we learn from this, kids? Right. If you need to make snarky comments about your co-workers, your boss, or your employer, don’t do it online, especially if you're a presidential appointee to the freakin' NSC. If you must complain, do it the old-fashioned way—in drunken slurs slumped over your your seventh Jameson’s neat in your favorite neighborhood tavern.