Tell me your secrets…or maybe don’t

I recently clicked through from an email I’d received, in order to read a “revelation” from an author I’m interested in.

C’mon, who doesn’t want to know about deep secrets?

You probably guessed it—there weren’t any. It was a minimally confessional story designed to elicit me-too empathy and rah-rah let-me-buy-from-someone-who-understands-me sales. Ho-hum.

I was pulled in by an email intended to get me to click through, with a not-very-fresh story behind it, that probably got exactly the reaction he was going for in folks who haven’t seen it dozens of times as I have.

Now the cold truth is, good business writing can be designed to do exactly what the email did—get me to click in a hurry!—so I exactly can’t fault him for it. (But I’m about to…)

And it’s worth remembering that nobody twisted my arm. I was voluntarily suckered in, interested in reading his supposedly shocking news (which wasn’t shocking, and wasn’t news). He lost my respect with the ploy, but I was following this person as a fellow businessperson to learn from, not a potential customer of his, so my Experience isn’t the one he’s worried about.

What did I learn from him?

We love dirt. Even those of us who pretend we’re above such things…. Well, I’ll just speak for myself. The only shocking news to me was how easily the prospect of seeing someone else’s freak flag flying got me to click on a link.

If we write to that too-human instinct, we should do so only sparingly, and doggone it, we’d better follow through. All the way. So save it ‘til you’ve really got to confess.

And maybe, as responsible businesspeople, maybe we shouldn’t do it at all. It’s one thing to admit flaws, difficulties, or problems we’ve had to show solidarity, to shine light on larger issues, or to suggest solutions people can try in their own lives or businesses. I have seen it done beautifully in the past.

It’s another thing entirely to play on (potentially vulnerable, potentially gullible) people’s sympathies in order to pry their dollars away from them.


I must apologize, dear reader, as I know this would be much juicier with a bit of detail regarding who sent this email and what on Earth he revealed.

To confess about someone else’s confessions? That’s just not my style.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson