You Won’t Get Answers, But You Need Questions

You Won’t Get Answers, But You Need Questions
October 30, 2014 Doug Haslam

By Doug Haslam, PRSA Boston member

 A version of this article originally appeared on

I have long been fond of the phrase “(Social media ‘guru’ name here) is Not Smarter Than You” as a way of encouraging folks to create their own content and get their own thoughts out there, rather than be intimidated by those who have gotten more public notoriety as thought leaders than they have.

I still believe that you, or I, are no less smart or able than the PR veterans and – ugh- “gurus” who show up frequently on industry podcasts, blogs and webinars. Why are they there and you are not? It likely has more to do with the need to hustle and stay visible to get consulting clients and the like than much else (OK, they need to feed egos too – why not?). You probably see podcast or event panels with names of “industry leaders” attached and think “those people are smarter and know more about the business than me.” If that were really true, why would you bother?

Here is why you should still bother:

This is not about cutting down people because they are good at self-promotion – it is, however, about the rest of us believing in our own abilities to strategize, consult, execute and think on issues.

This is about figuring out how to listen critically and still learn from anybody rather than considering it a waste of time to pursue industry reading and listening from people who, in reality, are your peers.

This is about valuing the questions and not (necessarily) the answers. I reminded myself of this recently as I listened to an episode of the marketing/advertising podcast Beancast, a weekly panel hosted by Bob Knorpp. I don’t always listen through depending on what is going on early in my week, but a recent episode had a segment on “Tackling Anemic Organic Engagement” that I thought would be relevant to my own current thinking and work. So I listened – were the answers enlightening? Some yes, some no – none were bad that I can recall, but I was struck by the questions: First some that I was thinking of and hoped would get asked, then by others I hadn’t thought of.

Another recent tech podcast featured a well-known technology pundit to whom I normally listen, but on this occasion he clearly wasn’t prepared on the topic, so I moved on. It happens to everyone. I choose to think that does make people less smart, but as a sign that sometimes you have as much to contribute; fallibility is no excuse for staying quiet.

It wasn’t the answers I needed. It was the new questions.

So it’s OK to think you’re as smart as everyone else. It doesn’t even matter if you’re wrong about that. It also doesn’t mean you can’t learn.


Image Credit: Oberazzi on Flickr

Post Author

Doug Haslam Doug Haslam is a Senior Consultant at Stone Temple Consulting, and a member of the PRSA Boston Board of Directors as well as the chapter’s Vice President of Social Media. He can be found, among other places, on Twitter (@DougH) and on his blog,


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