Saturday, February 19, 2011

Titillating is not the same as interesting

There is a set of buzzwords in business that I'm tired of. You see them in conference session titles, in books, in tag lines, and in business names. Naked. Sexy. Toilet. Sucks. Bitch. Ass. Shit. Douchebag. Fuck.

It's like we're all a bunch of junior high kids, giggling every time some one says, "girdle." We're supposed to be impressed when someone says a bad word or offers something titillating.

Deb Brown said, "I think titillating might be related to unnecessary." And she is getting close to my point. If you are relying on being titillating, you probably are not that interesting or necessary underneath.

For every Julien Smith who is authentic and true to himself including cursing, there are dozens of others for whom it's an affectation, trying to get attention.

Some of the titillators will find a certain audience, even a loyal or profitable one. And that is what is misleading: when one person gains traction as the Don Rickles of business advice, others think they should follow. And they work on honing their insults instead of their business skills.

It's not the shtick that makes it work; it's the quality of the person behind it.

I curse like a damn sailor in real life, but I still hold to some standards in my business dealings and public communications. I'm not against slipping a curse word into a speech or post when appropriate (certainly this post is a testament to that). But I don't recommend trying to build your career on a propensity to a potty mouth. Build on your own character instead.

There is such a thing as integrity. Self respect. Respect for others. This level of character is about doing something interesting and valuable.


  1. Amen! You can totally tell when things are said to create a reaction, similar to when we were kids trying to get a reaction out our parents.

    Other than sounding crass and sophomoric, I think people end up sounding lazy (e.g., You really couldn't come up with a better word than that?) I love my curse words for the moments that couldn't be described in any other way. However, those moments are rare when I'm working one-on-one with a client and how I present myself publicly. Knowing when it's appropriate and when it's not is the mark of a true professional.

  2. :)

    Words are such interesting creatures! I love playing with them, making them bend to my will...and often, English is too flat and new of a language to fully express what I'm attempting to say. I await the day when we shall speak heart to heart, with no interference of humanity...

  3. I swear like mad in real life but dont in my professional posts because somehow it looks too harsh in electronic format.

    Personally I think content is the main thing and if people want shock value fine but if it doesnt amount to anything it was not worth reading in the first place shock or no shock.

  4. Thank-you for writing this. I certainty can't see myself doing business with anyone who thinks and talks with words that make me uncomfortable.

  5. Interesting perspective. I work with radio station brands of all sorts. On some rock stations, titillating works. On other types of stations, it fails miserably.
    But even on those edgy rock stations that titillate, they fail if that's all they do. They need to be interesting and necessary at their core to be successful.

  6. Becky, this topic has been on my mind for a long time. You had the guts to talk about it and I'm so glad you did. I still feel that, even if you're famous and have written a best-selling book, rude language is not appropriate. You're going to turn off a lot more important people in the long run. It might be "cool" for awhile, but the fact is people will tire of the pointless rants and cheap language and unsubscribe. I don't think true business people who make buying decisions are going to put up with this for long. Also, keep in mind your Internet footprint is permanent. I don't think its something a lot of us would be proud to show upcoming generations. Its the dumbing down of America en force. Only time will tell if these people's rise to the top can be sustained by shock and awe.