Making Sense out of a Mess

    August 21, 2007

It’s funny, after several years, countless projects, big successes and humbling failures, I still to this day stumble and stutter when casually asked: "so what do you do?"

ThemessymiddleIt’s pathetic, I know and a bit ironic too, because I actually have a very clear understanding of what I do, and maybe more important, an appreciation for why I do it. The problem with explaining it is that, well, it’s just kind’a messy.

You see, I work in and out of this place that goes by so many different names: PR 2.0, Web Strategy, Edgework, Social Media Marketing, and countless others. To me, all of these concepts are equally right in both their spirit and definition, and have each grown from the same kernel, the same source — what I’ll simply call the "messy middle."

The messy middle is where several historically disparate business disciplines are intersecting; it’s the place where marketers, communicators, product developers, customer support folks, and arguably other arms of an organization all meet and mix to maximize their efforts, thanks to the social web.

I used to think the messy middle was this franken-field, built from the best parts of other disciplines, that would in time evolve and displace all the tired modes and models of business, particularly PR and marketing. You know, the "one ring" school of world domination. The longer I stay in this, however, doing what I do, the less confidence I have that this will ever really happen.

The truth is, a lot of folks visit, pick and pull from the messy middle as they see fit, based on how best it applies to what they do – the funny thing is, fundamentally, they each keep doing what they’ve always done.

Case in point, the customer support folks continue to look for ways to improve the customer experience. Today, among other things, this includes monitoring and responding to customer blogs. Likewise, the product dev folks continue to seek and understand what their customers want, and again, today, among other things, this includes reading tons of comments and reviews, and encouraging opinion and feedback. And the communication and marketing folks, well, what can I say, read the last 3+ years of blog posts here, that ought’a cover things.

All this being said, I suppose the answer to the "what do you do question" gets a whole lot easier when you consider the "what" part hasn’t really changed that much. Now, just pray they don’t ask how…