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March 25, 2008

The Art of Sucking Up

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There is an art to sucking up. Done too blatantly it will backfire. Done too weakly, you won't get what you want. The perfect suck up contains the following elements:

  • Credibility. No matter how good you suck up, if you don't meet the requirements for placement, a job, an interview, whatever, it won't matter, so you need to show why you deserve what you're asking for.

  • Empathy. Who can resist a little play on emotion? "Please help me...we're just a little company trying to make a go of it." Actually, I'll tell you who can resist this: buttheads that aren't worth sucking up to.

  • Utility. The best suck-ups are mutually beneficial. You are not only getting something, you are also providing something of value. Or, if you're in no position to do it right away, that you will provide something of value in the future. Great suck-ups are always a win-win situation.

  • Gratitude. If you're trying to get something, express gratitude for what you already have. This works much better than acting pissed off and wronged. Confrontion is not part of the art of sucking up because you can seldom bludgeon someone into helping you.

  • Obligation. According to The Man, Robert Cialdini, if someone does something for you, you're pretty much compelled to do something in return. For example, if you've already done something useful for me, how can I resist doing something for you?

  • Fluidity. If you're going to ask someone to do something, make it a friction-free effort. You've probably got one shot, so assume the answer will be a "yes" and provide the action items. For example, if you want us to list your site in Alltop, provide the feed--don't force us to go look for it.

  • Flattery. You might think that this is the most important element in a suck up, but it isn't. This is because most of the people you'll be sucking up to are frequently flattered (deserved or not), so don't make this a central part of your pitch. One sentence at the beginning is enough, then focus on credible reasons why the person should help you.

Here is an example of a great suck-up. It was in response to this question in the About Alltop FAQ:

Q. How, as a site owner, do I get my site (or blog) moved up the page?
A. Send us a persuasive email [email protected]>. FYI, telling your readers about Alltop and blogrolling is particularly persuasive.

Here it goes. My name is Brad Ward, a co-founder with Matt Herzberger of www.bloghighed.org, which is featured in your Education section on Alltop.com. Right now, we’re all alone, hanging out on the bottom row. We are very appreciative and excited to be included, but with a FAQ question like that, we couldn’t resist attempting to move ourselves up the totem pole.

We’re pretty cool though, trust us. Here’s what we do at bloghighed.org: we are aggregating 20 of the best higher education Bloggers out there, from webmasters to marketers to admission counselors to vendors to consultants and more. Sound familiar? We’re like Alltop’s little brother or something. So how about a little love? We’ve already given you some: here and here.

Truth be told, we’re not The Chronicle. We’re not Inside Higher Ed or the Washington Post. And we never will be. But you know who we are? We are the ones who are taking the leaps and advances that make these, these, these and these happen. We’re the ones brainstorming and figuring out how we are going to implement this stuff months before it hits the press. We’re presenting a combined 100+ times a year at conferences. We write for University Business. We run eduStyle.net. We run TargetX. We are accomplished campus photographers. We are keynote speakers (both of them, in this instance). We combine for thousands of RSS subscribers.

Above all, we are a community, deeply committed to each other and the greater good of higher education, and even more to the success of BlogHighEd.org. Have no doubt that we’ll stick around and continue to grow. We don’t make money from blogging. No ads, no fluff. We’re doing it after the 8-5, on the weekends, and over lunch (like right now). And if that isn’t awesome enough to move us to the top of the Education section, I’m not sure what is.

Thanks for your time

Brad


Or,

If these elements are too subtle for you, you could always erect (no pun intended) a statue to the person in your front lawn and go from there. As you can see above, Laura Mayes, one of the co-founders of Sk*rt, did this after my post about Sk*rt in gratitude, but it would have been a highly effective suck-up in advance.

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