by Paula on June 2, 2011

We have entered a new age. One where we can follow the President on Twitter. Where we can keep up to date with goings-on at the Palace via Facebook. Where we can feel like we are privy to the chats and daily goings on of famous faces such as Lord Sugar and Stephen Fry. Where we can converse directly with a business to complain or share our delight at a product, and we are likely to get a response.

So where does this leave those who aren’t using Social Media to bridge this communication gap with their audience or clients? There is no doubt we are becoming more demanding, and have higher expectations of those who before were un-reachable. But, are those expectations realistic and what is it doing for the reputation of those who are not prepared to engage?

Clare Balding

Having never previously made any attempt to contact with a celebrity, 2 years ago I found myself in a position where I wanted to email someone in the public eye. This person was Clare Balding. I had no real knowledge of her previously but sat at home, in a state of anxiety having had the results of a biopsy on a lump on my neck and coming to terms with an impending operation to remove my thyroid, I came across an online article detailing that she was going through exactly the same thing. I knew no-one else in my “real life” who had had this and I wanted to reach out to her and say “I know what you’re going through, me too, let’s support each other, let’s talk” etc etc. In my mind I thought perhaps she was struggling with it too and it might help us both to be in contact. So, I found an email address for her and I sent her an email. I opened up about how I felt and asked about her. I then sent it and wondered if I’d ever hear back.

The very next day I got an email. To summarise it said, “Thank you for your good wishes, Clare will be fine, she can’t respond to individual emails but appreciates that you are thinking of her at this time”

How did I feel….?

  • Hurt that I had reached out and opened up to someone and had it ignored?
  • Pleased that at least the email had been acknowledged (even in such an automated way), rather than hearing nothing back?
  • Annoyed at the careless way the person sending these automated emails had not taken the time to scan through them to make the sure email was appropriate?

A bit of all 3 to be honest.

Steve Backshall

Those of you who have been following my life on Twitter recently will know I have been planning (and have now had) a Deadly 60 party for my son. I thought it would be lovely if I could have something a bit special to go with the assembled treasure hunt clues, spider cakes, predator masks and assorted animals I had home-made so I contacted Steve Backshall via Twitter to see if there was any chance of a signed photo. No response.

I then emailed his agent via his website explaining I realise they might have lots of requests so no worries if not possible, but if there’s any chance of a sticker or a photo or anything it would be very much appreciated. No answer. I emailed again. No answer.

How did I feel?

  • Disappointed not to be able to get any response?
  • Angry at an agent representing the individual not even bothering to send an automated “Thanks but not possible” email?
  • Wondering if Steve himself knew that his fans were being ignored like this and whether that was acceptable to him?

Again the answer is all of them. Except this time instead of being left with a feeling of “Never mind, at least they bothered to respond“, I’m left with a bad impression.

(Luckily a friend who works at the BBC came good for me and we got signed photos and stickers from the CBBC office which made my son’s day!)

So is the moral of this story that we have to adapt with the times and if people’s expectations of contact are raised then we have to raise the bar to meet them?

Or as consumers and audiences are our expectations now at a level that is just unattainable for business and celebrity alike?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Addition to Blog 14/09/2011. I have found since writing this blog that people often come across it when Googling “Deadly 60 Party”. I therefore wanted to add a few things to those of you who found me this way :-) Firstly, I did eventually hear from Steve Backshall’s office with a couple of signed postcards, albeit 2 months after my son’s Birthday – but hey, I got through eventually! Also, I wrote a small piece for a competition on Mums the Blog about what I did for the Deadly 60 party if you’re looking for ideas, I’m the 4th entry down here. And don’t forget the spider cakes – the kids loved these! Happy Birthday to your little Deadly 60 fan! Paula 


Kevin June 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm

My view is that there is an expectation that a celebrity will not respond, at least in person, purely because of the numbers of followers and therefore incoming communications they must receive.

Would I feel upset by an automated thanks but no thanks response? Probably not because it would be no more than I would expect.

Would I be upset by a personal rebuttal? Probably, because if you are going to the trouble of employing somebody then there must be a reason for employing somebody. Perhaps this would be to filter incoming communications so that the recipient can deal with those that he wants to deal with and ignore the rest.

That would make me feel devalued because I would see myself as being treated as less worthy than those who had been selected to receive a personal response.

paula June 6, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Hi Kevin. Thanks for the response. I think that with the increase in contact and visibility of celebrities via Social Media then the ones who have nothing in place to deal with enquiries will stand out more and more from those who do. I would not expect personal responses but the value of having someone filter and respond goes a long way in increasing profile and respect of the individual. It’s where someone has been employed to do this and doesn’t that it looks bad!

Paula Luke June 3, 2011 at 6:18 pm

There is certainly nothing worse than the automated -‘thanks but no thanks ” type of response that many celebrities use to cope with what must be a veritable deluge of comments and contacts. Many people feel they should be ‘involved, linked up, visible’ and celebrities are no different. In reality they do not have the time, or maybe the inclination, to use these forums in the way we (as general Joe Public) would like them to. We expect our friends/contacts and followers to comment or retweet or reply. They follow us because they are interested or engaged with us. As far as celebrities are concerned we are all strangers. So when I recently contacted the ‘online persona’ of a celebrity in the hope they would support the work of one of my clients – I was not surprised that the response was an automatic – ‘thanks but not today’. I assume that the person in question has not even read my request. Was I disappointed? Not really because I had only the vaguest hope that this particular individual would reply. Do I have a bad impression of this person? No. I know they have an online persona because they ‘ought to’ or ‘need to’ not because they have the slightest intention of using it as a channel of communication. Will this stop me using social media for this purpose again – of course not!

paula June 3, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Hi Paula. Thanks for your comment :-) I agree that it is too much to expect a response from the celebrity but I can’t help thinking that when they employ an agent then the role of this person is to ensure people are responded to… I still think I’d rather have an automated reply than nothing… Still pondering that one! :-)

Previous post:

Next post: