Forget Klout. Use your clout.

you, the columnist

By Dave Lieber
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

 

Are you familiar with Klout.com? The website says it rates your “online influence” on a scale of 1 to 100 “based on your ability to drive action in social networks. We process this data on a daily basis to give you an updated Klout score each morning.”

I hear you sighing: “Not another stupid social media time waster!”

Wait. This is not about how important your Klout score is and how you need to boost it. It’s about using your clout as a columnist.

But first, I want to show you how your online Klout score is becoming more prominent in the real world. The New York Times, in a November 2011 piece by Beth Landman, described how guests waiting in line to enter a swanky event in an “upscale Miami neighborhood” were miffed when they saw others glide through “a separate velvet-roped V.I.P. area.”

Landman wrote, “A privileged few shared one denominator: each guest had accumulated a Klout score above 40.”

Landman also described how only bloggers with a Klout score above 50 were invited to a show at Lincoln Center.

Of course, after reading this, I checked my score. A measly 38. No Miami swanky event for me. But after linking my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, within a few days, my score jumped to 43. Swanky event V.I.P. line yes; Lincoln Center, er, no.

Then I realized how stupid this is. People wanting high clout scores really want to be us. So I suggest to you, the columnist, the following: forget your Klout score and concentrate on using your clout as a columnist to make things happen. Change the world. Fix something. Kick some butt.

Here’s one way how: solve somebody’s problem. Expose a wrongdoing and teach others how to avoid the same problem. And do it all in one column.

As my newspaper’s Watchdog columnist, I do it 100 times a year. In addition to exposing corruption in businesses and government, I also chase after corporate stupidity, or worse, corporate thuggery. It’s amazing how easy it is.

Here’s a little secret: a columnist is really the last line of defense against an unsavory world. Take an elderly lady who has called the phone company a dozen times trying to get her bill straightened out. The customer service reps at the New Delhi call center blow her off every time. But then she writes me, I simply send a copy of her letter to the company and within a day, the “victim” gets the red carpet treatment, and I’m her hero.

Corporations are terrified of bad publicity. A media relations officer will jump through hoops to fix almost any problem in record time to lessen the effects of negative publicity. Newspapers still matter.

I do this so much I don’t even bother to put most of these success stories in the newspaper. But when I do print them, the public stands and cheers. “Way to go, Dave. Keep kicking the electric company’s butt! You’re our only hope!”

Try it. I’m sure you don’t write this kind of watchdog column, but it doesn’t matter. You’re still a columnist. If you write a humor column, do it funny. If you write a feature column, do it featury. Find someone with a nasty problem. (It’s not hard in today’s world.) Then do a Google search for “Company XYZ media relations” to find the person responsible for handling people like us. Send a description of the victim’s problem to that person (their email is usually on their website) along with the victim’s name, address, account number and phone number so they can look up the account.

Tell the company rep that you’re on a deadline and they need to get back to you pronto. Believe me, they know the drill.

Then when the matter is cleared up, let ‘er rip, baby. Write the heck out of it. Show the world how columnists matter. Whether you realize it or not, you truly are the last line of defense.

It’s not about Klout, but about your clout. You, the columnist, still have it. Whether you realize it or not, you matter. Don’t waste your clout by not using it.

Dave Lieber is founder of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Education Foundation. Read Chapter One of his critically-acclaimed new book at BadDadBook.com.

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