The Problem with The Gatekeepers

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If you have ever tried to get in contact with someone important or famous you have undoubtedly run into someone’s whose job is not only to inform the person of whom they need to contact, but to keep unwanted contact from them as well. This is understandable for many reasons. Consider that every day we all get spam, in our e-mail and even in the mail. We get unsolicited calls and sometimes people even showing up at our home.

Think how you feel when that happens. Even if you are at work, seeing an already filled inbox bloated even further with e-mail that has nothing to do with you or your job can get on your nerves. Ever been bothered in public, say someone wants to try and sell you something, ask for money or even someone you might have met at a business function that you really rather not have a conversation with outside of business. Now take that and magnify it by a thousand.

I myself am a weird mix between being a people person and being a very private person. I like to meet people, but if I am not in the mood to be friendly I rather everyone stay away. However, even before writing and the website, I knew that even if you rather just be alone you have to get out there and meet people and be open to people wanting to meet you. This is even more important is business. Contacts are huge and if your business relies on them or if you need to promote yourself then you have to be much more open even if it is against your nature.

I think about when I first started writing and when I first began working with Ignacio on Obsolete Gamer. As a new writer you constantly want feedback and you have to get your work out there which means submitting to everywhere you can. When launching a website, particularly in gaming, you have to reach out to developers, publishers, public relations people and marketing professionals. For Obsolete Gamer, since I created Gamer Profiles, we had the added goal of finding celebrities of all types to get profiles for.

So you start with places and people you think you can get and if you have friends or existing contacts you being there. Nobody wants to be first, so when trying to get someone to put their name on your site, for whatever reason, they want to see other people have first. When sending out your writing it can be rejected for a thousand reasons and most of the time you will never find out which one it was. Also, people have their own ideas of what they think is good, what fits with their site and what their own goals are. Believe me, you can have your work rejected because someone just doesn’t like you or believes your work is bad even if later others say it is good.

So what happens when you begin to get positive responses, you want to build on that. You write more and you contact more people. The good thing is you can use your previous publications to get new ones and by the same token show previous gamer profiles to get new ones. Specifically with gamer profiles, when certain people see you got a certain type of person to respond they now feel as if they should be there or at least that it is a positive for them.

You can’t be bitter if you want to keep moving forward. Also, you have to remember that the higher you go the less likely the real person you are trying to reach even saw your requests. This is one of the first problems with the gatekeepers.

It does not matter if you are A list or D list. Once you get on the smallest radar people will come out the woodwork asking for things. If you are at a point where you have someone as your filter it is up to you to decide what your filter criteria will be and how much oversight you will do.  This is where the second issue comes in. It is clear if you are going after an A lister that you are not sending e-mails directly to them. In most cases, it is going to be a quite a few layers before you get to them. As you go down that can vary and some people outsource to a firm who may or may not really take time to consider who they turn down and who they don’t.

Obviously you cannot commit to everything and sometimes something that might seem easy to you could cause issues for them. The problem is you never know and if the person responding to you does not know how to properly deliver that message then you can be left with a sour taste in your mouth.

I see both sides. When asking for a gamer profile I consider that it should be one of the easiest things to answer. There is almost no controversy and it only takes a moment to do. On the other hand, being a writer and working in other pursuits even my name which is far below even the D list is just enough to get e-mailed for some of the silliest things you have ever heard of. I have ignored e-mails of people writing me, not fans, but random people asking for stuff and I had to decide if it was worth replying too. We are talking a small number, nothing compared to the amount some of the people I e-mail must receive.

However, the issue is not with the person turning you down, that happen and is a fact of the business you have to learn to deal with. The problem is when the gatekeeper appears to be making all of the decisions or leading you on. When it comes to e-mails this can be worse because you know they have seen it, but the art of replying even to say they are not interested is a lost one. We are more likely to delete or mark as spam. I rather have that however, than receive a reply and the led along for months only to come up empty.

Remember don’t call us, we’ll call you. This is magnified by infinity with e-mails. See, growing up in an office environment I was used to following up. If I sent an e-mail and you said to follow up, I will do so, again and again, weekly if I have to until I get an answer. It seems some gatekeepers have an issue with that. Why did they ask you to follow up? Perhaps you should have been able to translate the code and never respond when told to follow up except that in the media business that bears fruit all the time and I personally have had it happen so many times.

A bad gatekeeper can make you look bad. This is especially so if you rely on a community for support, for fans, for business and/or to make a living. You should never have to bow to your fan-base or the media, but if someone on your team is unprofessional, it could lead to some backlash. For the most part, those of us in media know not to hold the real person you were trying to contact responsible. It’s like getting a bad receptionist. Sure, they hired her, but they should not really be punished for her issues.

Now I do hold a person responsible when it comes to social media. I find it in bad taste to have someone running your twitter feed or fan page other than yourself. I am talking about personal ones here not a company. If all you do is hire someone to post about whenever you are appearing somewhere or releasing something, but cannot interact with the people posting there then you should shut it down. Make a website for that, send out press releases to media outlets, but I believe when you are on Facebook and Twitter and the page has your name on it, it should be you sending out the information. Otherwise, in all honestly, we are following a PR person. If I ever become too busy to post then that is my responsibility. Any PR or Marketing person can do their job without using a tool that, in a perfect world, social media should be used mostly for personal communications.

One of the worst aspects of the gatekeeper is when they are willing to communicate with you and answer promptly when they need something from you. Once that is done and you ask for something you go back on ignore. It is like having a friend who only calls you when they need a ride to the airport and when you ask for a ride he or she doesn’t even answer his phone. Sometimes you make a contact with a nice gatekeeper and build on that only for that person to quit or be fired and the new gatekeeper doesn’t know you from Spambot 2000 and treats you as such. You would think part of their job would be to know about existing contacts, but I am sure fame works the other way as well.

A lot of the time it is about what you can do for them. Does their name being on your site, or they appearing on your podcast help them? You will meet those who do it for the love. We have had a lot of people work with us even when we had a small reader base because they loved classic games and really loved interacting with people.

Gatekeepers are often a necessary evil and one day you may find yourself going from dealing with them to having one of your own. My advice if that happens is check their work. You never know who you are interacting with. The unknown you ignored today can be the superstar tomorrow and the famous person today may become the forgotten tomorrow. Remember, you can burn bridges, even over the internet.

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    J.A. Laraque Written by:

    J.A. Laraque is a freelance writer and novelist. His passion for writing mixed with a comedic style and intelligent commentary has brought him success in his various endeavors. Whatever the subject, J.A. has an opinion on it and will present it in writing with an insight and flair that is both refreshing and informative.

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