I get my share of PR spam. Most of it goes right into the deleted file. But recently I gave one a second look.
It was a survey on media influencers. It asked what influencers influenced me. Brand influencers? Nonprofit influencers? In-house company influencers? Or freelance influencers?
I didn’t take the survey. I don’t know much about influencers. I understand you find them on YouTube and Facebook. And sometimes on Twitter. I think they just sit at their laptops and talk about stuff. And sell stuff.
They nudge you to buy things. And because they have so much influence, people run out and buy things.
That’s my understanding. The only influencer I’ve seen is the GEICO gecko. As geckos go, he’s probably pretty influential. But I didn’t run out and buy his insurance.
Now if somebody pitched a product while holding a puppy, I might be influenced.
I think my own dog would make a good influencer. Maggie’s cute in a Shih Tzuish sort of way. I’d put glasses on her and dress her in a tweed coat. She’d be an influencer for newspapers.
She’d talk (sounding a lot like me).
“I read newspapers every morning. Real newspapers for real dogs. My favorite is the bulldog edition.”
She’d accept payment in tummy rubs.
I wouldn’t put myself on. I’m not what you’d call media savvy. I’d probably just sit in front my laptop holding a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
“I get cranky sometimes. You might see me out yelling at kids on my lawn. Or yelling at the TV. Or just yelling and shaking my fist. That’s when I go for the Pepto-Bismol. A few swigs and I’m no longer old and cranky. Just old.”
With my own family, I’ve fallen short as an influencer. I remember trying to get my then baby daughter to eat green stuff. Stuff I wouldn’t myself. I told this once to a famous baby doctor I was interviewing.
T. Berry Brazelton was soft-spoken, a true gentleman. But when I told him I couldn’t get my kid to eat the green stuff, he became quite serious: “Stop it. Stop it right now,” he said.
He was most influential. I stopped it.
As Sarah grew up, I suggested we eat at the dinner table, as a family. Sarah liked eating in front of the TV. So did her mother, for that matter. So I drew up a chart. Certain nights for TV. And certain nights at the dinner table.
It turned out to be short on influence. Every meal came with a TV show.
Later, when my daughter started high school, I suggested she try out for softball. She was not the least bit influenced. She tried out for theater instead. She got a part as a witch in “Macbeth.” She said, “Double, double, toil and trouble,” along with a few other witch lines.
Lady Macbeth, it happens, was one of literature’s all-time great influencers.
Here’s the CliffsNotes version.
Macbeth: “I don’t know. There might be repercussions.”
Lady Macbeth: “What a wimp. Just do the stabby thing. Do it now.”
Macbeth: “OK, if you say so.”
He did the stabby thing, though he was right about the repercussions.
Sarah went on to play Juliet in school. She also won a regional Shakespeare contest and traveled to New York City. So theater worked out better than softball.
When Sarah turned 21, we had a brief conversation about my influence.
“Now you can’t tell me what to do anymore,” she said, ribbing me.
“I could have told you what do?” I asked. “If only I had known.”
Sarah’s now working on her second Master of Fine Arts degree. This one in creative writing. She turned out to be a very good adult. Kind. Intelligent. And able to fend for herself. Her mother was a great influence.
Now in my Silver Sneaker years, I’m still working on my influencer chops. I don’t have many followers as yet. There are the two dogs, the cat and my wife, Cindy. Forget about the cat. And Cindy, it turns out, is not easily influenced.
She doesn’t like camping. No amount of influence will change that. I tried. She won’t eat anything having to do with noodles. That goes back to her childhood. Her own mother made her eat macaroni and cheese. The way Cindy tells it, it was like a culinary waterboarding.
But I have my own food taboos. I don’t eat anything green and cooked, outside of peppers. And Dr. Brazelton would have my back, if he were alive today.
But influence probably works best when somebody’s ready to try something they’re inclined to like anyway. When I want my dogs to get some exercise, I just hold up a leash and say: “Walkies!”
They run for the door. Talk about influence.