Necessity, the Mother of (Re)Invention

Posted on: August 31, 2010

I was in Columbus yesterday, the home of my alma mater, The Ohio State University.  As I drove around town there was quite a bit of chatter on the radio about proposed changes to the Big 10 football schedule when Nebraska joins the conference. The ardent discussion centered on the prospect of the Ohio State-Michigan game being moved from its current place at the end of the conference season (where it has been more or less since 1935) to somewhere in the middle, as part of a change that will split the conference into two divisions to accommodate all 12 teams that will comprise the Big 10.

Still with me?

Those who follow college football know that the Ohio State-Michigan game is one of the most long-standing, intense rivalries in the game. In 2000, ESPN called it the greatest sports rivalry at the end of the century. Some of my more vivid childhood memories are of the game and the antics of the legendary Coach Woody Hayes and his turncoat, former assistant, Bo Schembechler — and of the zealotry of the fans on both sides of the state line.

This is a game, mind you, that has been played 106 times – and has decided the conference champion between the two schools 22 of those times — so changing the date of The Game means seriously messing with tradition.

Ah, tradition.

I unquestionably appreciate the benefits of tradition – the sense of consistency and the feeling of belonging to something larger and more permanent than oneself that can come with ritual and custom. But, as I listened to the fans, I wondered if it isn’t time that the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry had a little shake-up — just like the rest of us.

Like many in the OSU class of ‘85, I consider myself relatively tech savvy – I am as addicted to texting, email on my BlackBerry and the morning paper on my Kindle as anyone else I see in my travels – but, man, the pace of disruptive change in the world of technology and media makes you afraid to blink.

Which is why, in a bow to “tradition,” I have been somewhat late to the social media party– and its myriad opportunities for connecting and sharing.  (Just look at the latest Pew Research study to see how big the party already is.)  After all, I rationalized, aren’t relationships best nurtured and maintained via phone calls and face-to-face get-togethers? Isn’t that why, as the leader of the agency, I’ve been racking up hundreds of thousands of miles all these years?

Until now.

Earlier this year I asked a few of the more digitally-oriented members of our team to plot a social media strategy for the agency as a way to promote our business.  Now, like any other 21st century marketing firm, we’re on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, and you’re reading my second post on our new blog.

And, thanks to the influence and helpful advice of such dedicated social media practitioners as Michael Gass, we (and I) have embraced the not-so-new as a way to give ourselves a voice and create opportunities for marketers to get to know us.

It is, however, a very long way from setting up a new Twitter account to making the words work in a way that says, “this is who we are” and “this is what makes us unique”.  The seeming ease of executing in social media belies the hard work it takes to do it well.
Being the perfectionist that I am, I know that we’ll do things that will make me cringe, but we’ll get it. We have to.

So, as much as I still believe strongly in the power of an in-person meeting (I’m definitely not giving up those miles!), I am genuinely enthusiastic about the power of digital media to broaden our reach and to get us to consider opportunities in places we’ve never been before.

It’s time we messed with tradition.


1 Response to "Necessity, the Mother of (Re)Invention"

Agree completely – but don’t mess with Ohio State/Michigan – and wanted to encourage you to keep working the blog. All the best.

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