Tag Archive: Luddite

Quite frankly, families are overrated.

Now, I appreciate that some will instinctively and vehemently disagree with me. That’s just dandy. Keep in mind that I have come to this conclusion as a result of years of agonizing experience with my own dysfunctional family, and also through a litany of discussions with others that suffer through the holidays just like me.

Naturally when I was a tadpole, I used to adore the holidays. Heck, Santa was coming down the chimney. He was bringing (or at least I hoped so), a James Bond attaché case with all kinds of neat Sean Connery gadgets to play with. I didn’t have to worry about preparing the meals, much less mediating the alcohol-influenced disputes among the blood relatives and in-laws. I was in my own little world, thank you very much.


Fast forward to the present era and I still want that attaché case, but this time with a real throwing knife, piano wire and exploding talcum powder just like the one used by OO7 in his life-and-death struggle against Red Grant (Robert Shaw) in From Russia with Love. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Russia_with_Love_(film)

Or how about Rose Klebb’s (Lotte Lenya) poison-spiked shoe in the same movie? Yes, that could do wonders when one generation of the family bypasses another generation to lecture a third generation, thus drawing the wrath of the middle generation. Do you follow me?

And what happens if downsizing an annoying in-law is simply not an option, particularly one that worries about anything and everything. “What if it rains?” “What if there is fog?” “What if the hotel is full?” “What if the restaurant is crowded?”…Gee, what if the sun slams into the earth or vice versa? I guess we will all fry and die.

What happens in the 21st Century workplace, if a key employee simply takes a Luddite stance and steadfastly refuses to learn new technologies? Well that person wouldn’t last very long in the job and most likely would be replaced by a younger, more eager worker who readily embraces new ways of doing things. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with stubborn family members.

To be fair, some technologies can be intimidating. The manuals for these gadgets are in most cases (the Apple iPod is a refreshing exception) are written by gear-heads for gear-heads. The tech support guy (or female of the species) from India has to follow the script, “We are so sorry that you are having problems with…” Before you know it, you have spent two-to-four hours on the phone and you almost forgot why you called in the first place.

In the case of my family, they have a habit of discovering the usefulness of a technologies one decade too late: color TV in the 1980s; microwaves in the 1990s; PCs in the 2000s etc. And what happens when you purchase a certain in-law a cell phone (adding him to your own plan) and then he won’t wear the damn thing because it may give him cancer. What? Will it make you go blind as well? Sorry that is caused by playing with another gadget.


As we began our welcome 200-mile drive home the day after Xmas, my sympathetic daughter looked over and said “Dad, you seem so tense. Why are you so tense?”

The answer is that no one gave me my real-to-life James Bond attaché case or at least an Aston Martin with an ejector seat…God that would have come in handy with certain members of the family.

“With iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.  So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.” – Barack Obama, Hampton University Commencement, May 9, 2010. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-hampton-university-commencement

The good news for the Leader of the Free World is that he has a 12-year-old daughter (Malia) and a nine-year-old daughter (Sasha) to provide in-(White) house tech support when it comes to using iPods, Xboxes and PlayStations.

Senior public relations practitioners may not be so lucky. Which brings up an interesting question, why are so many in our profession so reluctant about and so resistant to social media, including blogging and podcasting? Deep down is there an inner Luddite that makes many of us resistant to technological change? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite

The Economist www.economist.com in its latest iteration has a fascinating commentary, “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” that says that distrust of new technology goes back to the days of Socrates (469 BC to 399 BC) and his fear of writing, which would “create forgetfulness in the learner’s souls.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates

During my decade working with engineers at LSI Logic www.lsi.com, I asked them one-by-one why they chose to become technologists (as opposed to journalists and PR hacks). The answer usually went back to the family radio or television. Future senior communicators listened to and/or watched these devices. The future geeks in turn took them apart and checked out the vacuum tubes, the dials, the knobs, the wires and then tried to put them back together again…sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Certainly there are communicators who have been quick to embrace social media and digital tools with gusto. They have more than talked-the-talk, they have become evangelists about blogging, podcasting, webcasting, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Ding, Dang and whatever is next.

And yet there are timid souls in our ranks (you know who you are) that our desperately clinging to and only relying on (gasp) 20th Century approaches to all PR issues. Consider that they…

● Insist on staging pre-briefings followed by actual on-site briefings with the dwindling number of business and trade reporters and editors, despite the downward trajectory of their readership and the ascension of digital media.

● Devote full-time employees to writing abstracts and contributed articles, drafting “white papers” and op-eds for submittal to publications in decline, thus producing a lower ROI with each cycle.

● Sift through the ed-cals or editorial calendars and then try to devise a pitch that somehow, someway comes reasonably close (at least passing the “giggle test”) to the journalist’s topic. In this case, who is setting the agenda: the journalist or the company?

● Write “press releases,” hold “press conferences” and even invite conventional and digital media to surf their “press” page on their websites. Gee, why don’t they exhume Johannes Gutenberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg to make a presentation of his new invention, the printing press, at the next “press” conference?

● Devise a myriad of excuses for not embracing the blogosphere, and not just the self-publishing of conversational marketing pieces that bolster brand and spread the message, but even monitoring what bloggers are actually writing about a given company or its industry.

● Demonstrate a total disinterest in preparing Wikipedia.org copy about their company, association, organization etc., either leaving a blank canvass in its place or allowing others to take a shot at depositioning their employers.

I can fully appreciate that some may take issue with my prose when it comes to exposing the inner Luddite. Having said that, there is one point that can be made with impunity: More and more publicly traded and privately held companies, trade associations, universities and colleges, non-profits and others will sooner or later spend countless hours figuring out how to make money and/or spread their influence via digital tools. They will also be increasingly interested in harnessing these same technologies to build brand and to get out the good news. This will not be the time or the place for Inner Luddites.

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