On the afternoon of Sunday, March 24, 2013 I sent a generic email to my entire LinkedIn network.
Close to 1800 people received this email. Its overarching intent was to ‘ask’ for their support. (click here to read it)
As some of you might know, I recently published my first book. Excited doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about both the book and becoming a rookie published author. My Dad told me a story once when I was a wee lad about his aspirations to become either an author or a journalist. Back in the day, and the day being the 1950’s in England, my father wasn’t given the choice to choose his career. His own father — the town mayor no less — informed my Dad he was to become an electrical engineer and to forget about a career using Gutenberg’s device of wonder.
Of course when it was time for me to decide what to do with my life, my father acted as a sounding board not the actual speaker of selection. He was a true ‘guide on the side’ not a ‘parental drone with a megaphone’.
Which brings me back to my decision to release an email to 1800 LinkedIn contacts informing them of the availability of Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.
I debated whether to do it. I truly did. I knew there would be people who simply deleted it and said to themselves, “whatever.” I took that risk. I knew there would be people who might even get annoyed with what they might brand as ‘spam’. I also hoped there would be those that saw the intent of the message which was to simply consider my ask to make others aware of the book.
I got a truckload of positive emails, texts, DM’s and even phone calls and face-to-face high fives to last a lifetime. Many from people I haven’t directly heard from in years.
Since the beginning of 2013, I have tried to do things ‘differently’ with the launch of the book. For example, I created a self-made video for each of the 13 chapters — and released one per week — as a way to provide additional insight into the book. I forbid the back cover to include any recommendations or quotations from others. I didn’t even want an official launch party.
There are reasons to my author idiosyncrasies.
And then on March 24th I sent a direct email to anyone in my LinkedIn network.
There were other actions planned — including press releases / interviews / articles / reviews — but I still believe the direct email to my LinkedIn network was an act of communication and not SPAM.
But there were going to be some who disagreed with me. I’m not naïve; it was inevitable.
This included an individual who is both in the acknowledgments and showcased in the book itself. I consider this individual a true interlocutor and an intellect.
The email I received from this individual started out, in my opinion, as an attack but it swiftly and gently moved into a “here is what I’ve learned from my experience” to a “I think you can do better” denouement.
The attack was as follows:
I feel that spamming me and others with a generic message sent via LinkedIn, in the hopes of getting help with spreading word about the book is the wrong tone considering you’re promoting a body of work you’ve created that dares to help organizations understand “social” for use inside the organization. As an act, this message feels so much like a violation of that.
At first, I said to myself, “Where is the unLinkedIn button” but then I read on.
The email concluded with the following:
I don’t think you really want people to spread awareness of your book. I think you want to build a motivated, self-directed army of fans who feel a kinship with what you have to say, Dan, find it empowering and useful… and ultimately see it as a vehicle to move whatever big rocks they have forward. Don’t give into the seduction of what’s easy. Get personal, where it’s messy, complicated and hard.
And it’s there where I really appreciated the advice, feedback and experience.
For those that believed I may have overstepped email boundaries with a direct yet generic email informing you of the release of Flat Army and asking you to inform your network, I don’t apologize.
That’s right, I don’t.
I asked my entire LinkedIn network for help. I see nothing wrong with that. Aren’t we connected in the first place to support one another?
LinkedIn, at least in my opinion, is the new business card networking machine in our professional world and I would have done the same in 1995 if LinkedIn were around then.
Where I erred, however, was the cadence in which I sent my email communication notices.
What you don’t know is that I had always intended to send a personal note of appreciation and thanks to everyone (and there are over 150 people I signal out in the acknowledgments) a few weeks into the launch of the book. My rationale was to give them some time to see I actually put them in the book versus spoiling the surprise.
So, in rookie author honesty, I think I messed up with those in my network whom actually make up my ‘direct professional ties’. For even sweeter irony, Chapter 7 — The Participative Leader Framework — is written with the point of direct network ties throughout. Ouch.
Those direct and personalized notes were always coming but I now agree with my friend who sent me the response which, in part, you read above. I should have sent those notes earlier and personalized the launch of Flat Army for this important audience.
I even sent the acknowledgments to Jane Bozarth in advance of the launch for her to read only to realize I forgot to include her. It turns out “to err is human” is one of my finer qualities or I’m simply an arse.
My Dad never had the chance to be an author.
Now that I am and I have vanquished what I believe was a parental mistake on the part of my Granddad, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Equally important was my belief in the thesis of the book that I was comfortable enough asking 1800 people for their help. My ask remains my ask. My thanks to the many who did something about my ask. (Flat Army reached #3 in Canada and #8 in the USA last week in the Amazon Kindle charts for Leadership. There is no way that happens unless the network is spreading the news.)
But, as I often say, Ancora Imparo.