Customer Relationship Management,

Thank You Trey Pennington

Some shocking news this morning, hearing of the unexpected death of Trey Pennington. In March, Trey and Jay asked me to be on their radio show, Open for Business. It was a great conversation about the continued popularity of blogging and Trey truly gave me the spotlight throughout the show. If you read his Facebook wall, you’ll find that selflessness was pretty common throughout the messages that his followers and friends left.

I don’t know any of the details but it appears that Trey took his own life. That makes it quite a shock. Some of Trey’s network is urging people to seek help if they have any thoughts of taking their own life. I’d, of course, encourage that, too.

There’s another underlying concern for me, though. Trey’s online persona was amazing. He traveled frequently and was totally engaged with his network. His twitter page is an unending stream of tweets that encouraged, thanked and promoted others. The concern for me was that this incredible network of people wasn’t enough. As transparent as we are, we still develop personas online that don’t always match our offline challenges.

The economy sucks right now. Some people say to ignore it and just keep pushing onward… but I have some grave concerns as a business owner. In a time where my agency is seeing continued success, we’re still challenged. Instead of putting in 100% for our clients, we’re finding ourselves putting in 150% for them… and sometimes that’s not enough – the demands continue to pour in. While we’re working harder and our clients are growing, they’re having issues that impact their cashflow… and that’s something that always impacts those of us upstream.

To win in this industry, you have to grow. In order to grow, you have to be engaged and relentlessly promote one another. As your network grows larger, the expectations grow as well. Every speech you provide needs to be better than the last. Every book you write has to be a best-seller. Every blog post has to go viral. Everytime someone contacts you, you have to contact them in return… or else you’re either seen as a hypocrite or some kind of elitist. The fact is, the demands put on professionals in this industry are pretty overwhelming.

I’m reading more and more about some of the leaders of the social media industry cutting themselves off, hiring staff to put between them and their network and autoresponding to requests with notices of unavailability. My friends joke with me about not being able to call me or get a hold of me. Some of the less understanding people leave me frustrated messages, then tweet me, then contact me on Facebook… then get downright pissed that I’m not responsive.

Earlier this week, I left my phone on vibrate and it vibrated non-stop with a new call every few minutes. I finally turned it off (as I often do). While I used to work every weekend, now I take time for friends and family – regardless of the workload or the unanswered messages. I simply can’t keep up with running a business, executing the work, marketing my business AND responding to every request from my network. When I need time, communication with my network falters.

I’m not complaining. This is the world I’ve chosen to adopt and work within, and I love it. I’m just asking those of you who benefit from the work online professionals do to take a minute, thank them… and be understanding that we’re doing the best we can.

Trey Pennington had four times the following that I have. I could not imagine the demands on him. We were hoping to get Trey on our radio show soon as a thanks for his support of me… I’m sorry that we won’t get that opportunity. But I am thankful to Trey for the opportunity he gave me to communicate with his network. That’s the kind of guy he was. And I’m thankful for our time together online.

16 Comments

  1. 1
  2. 3

    Less than a year ago, our congregation lost a very dear friend to suicide. It was a shock and the same questions as the ones you raised in your post came up and we had to organize a grieving counselling session to address the complex questions of suicide and depression. I learnt a lot in this instance. Hearing of the death of Trey Pennington reenacted some painful feelings and questions, that now I am more at peace with than past fall.

    What you bring up about pressure and demands is certainly a good point. The human soul needs some respite and cannot endure too much pain.

    My thoughts and condolences go to Trey’s family and friends. May his legacy be always for a blessing and may all find soon comfort if possible.

    • 4

      Hi Otir,

      I lost another friend like this a couple years ago and it was a wake-up call. It also made me think to those days and whether it had any impact on my behavior. I’m sure Trey’s legacy will prevail as an incredible source of inspiration. I, too, pray for his family and friends during this terrible time.

      Doug

  3. 5

    I just learned of Trey this morning through tweets from the DC social media community. Very sad. His death so underscores that people in the most pain are often deflecting the focus from themselves, if he was always cheerleading others, as you indicate here (and which I’ve read elsewhere.) I speak as a chronic depression sufferer. It’s so much easier to support other people than to ask for help. It’s a good (and really meaningful!) way to feel or even to appear stronger. And we live in such a fast-moving culture that doesn’t always allow us the time or strength to reach out, as connected as we are.

    I feel for his friends and family, and for him. One must be in unimaginable pain to make the choice to end his life. I hope that others in similar straits will be inspired to reach out.

    • 6

      Depression is such a devious killer, Laurie. You’re so right regarding help. In fact, I’d say that sometimes the joy in helping others often helps to push aside the angst that others suffer from. If anyone is reading these comments and struggling, I surely hope they go for help. Nothing is so hopeless… we can get help and we can find joy again.

  4. 7

    Great post Douglas. There are 2 points you make that were a concern for me:

    1) “As transparent as we are, we still develop personas online that don’t always match our offline challenges.” <= So true and guilty as charged. The irony is that even though I do this, I forget that others probably are too. So when you look on Facebook and you see status updates from friends about all the success they're experiencing, all the 'fun' they're having, it makes me feel even more depressed and boring, lol.

    2) "My friends joke with me about not being able to call me or get a hold of me." <= I have come to terms with this myself. Even when it comes to responding to inquiries from your network. The truth is that talking to friends during the work day and responding to some queries, is not an income-generating activity. And when it comes down to it, you really have to guard your time and yes, hire gatekeepers to handle and distinguish between the queries that need your attention right away and those that don't. I have been slowly restricting inbound calls lately and it seems harsh but it is something that I have to do, as a solopreneur to maximize my time and bring home the bacon.

    Definitely sorry to hear about Trey Pennington though. Was not familiar with his work. From all the tweets I am reading, he seemed to have been a great guy who made a great contribution to the social media and marketing industry.

    • 8

      Those are such great points, Stephanie. It makes me wonder how valuable these networks are sometimes. 🙂 I’m glad that you are in mine! Don’t hesitate to reach out when you need a pick me up!

  5. 9

    Great post Douglas. There are 2 points you make that were a concern for me:

    1) “As transparent as we are, we still develop personas online that don’t always match our offline challenges.” <= So true and guilty as charged. The irony is that even though I do this, I forget that others probably are too. So when you look on Facebook and you see status updates from friends about all the success they're experiencing, all the 'fun' they're having, it makes me feel even more depressed and boring, lol.

    2) "My friends joke with me about not being able to call me or get a hold of me." <= I have come to terms with this myself. Even when it comes to responding to inquiries from your network. The truth is that talking to friends during the work day and responding to some queries, is not an income-generating activity. And when it comes down to it, you really have to guard your time and yes, hire gatekeepers to handle and distinguish between the queries that need your attention right away and those that don't. I have been slowly restricting inbound calls lately and it seems harsh but it is something that I have to do, as a solopreneur to maximize my time and bring home the bacon.

    Definitely sorry to hear about Trey Pennington though. Was not familiar with his work. From all the tweets I am reading, he seemed to have been a great guy who made a great contribution to the social media and marketing industry.

  6. 10

    Great post Douglas. There are 2 points you make that were a concern for me:

    1) “As transparent as we are, we still develop personas online that don’t always match our offline challenges.” <= So true and guilty as charged. The irony is that even though I do this, I forget that others probably are too. So when you look on Facebook and you see status updates from friends about all the success they're experiencing, all the 'fun' they're having, it makes me feel even more depressed and boring, lol.

    2) "My friends joke with me about not being able to call me or get a hold of me." <= I have come to terms with this myself. Even when it comes to responding to inquiries from your network. The truth is that talking to friends during the work day and responding to some queries, is not an income-generating activity. And when it comes down to it, you really have to guard your time and yes, hire gatekeepers to handle and distinguish between the queries that need your attention right away and those that don't. I have been slowly restricting inbound calls lately and it seems harsh but it is something that I have to do, as a solopreneur to maximize my time and bring home the bacon.

    Definitely sorry to hear about Trey Pennington though. Was not familiar with his work. From all the tweets I am reading, he seemed to have been a great guy who made a great contribution to the social media and marketing industry.

  7. 11

    A very heart-felt and passionate post that really speaks to me. As someone who started her own agency following the bankruptcy of my former employer (in homebuilding) and a former agency exec, I know the same pressures.

    I’ve wrestled with myself many times trying to provide myself the justification to take a day off; to work fewer than 13 hours every day, to charge for the 50th “free” item that a client has requested and to grow our business. We have grown through the recession and have wonderful clients, but still, the demands are exactly as you’ve outlined them.

  8. 12

    A very heart-felt and passionate post that really speaks to me. As someone who started her own agency following the bankruptcy of my former employer (in homebuilding) and a former agency exec, I know the same pressures.

    I’ve wrestled with myself many times trying to provide myself the justification to take a day off; to work fewer than 13 hours every day, to charge for the 50th “free” item that a client has requested and to grow our business. We have grown through the recession and have wonderful clients, but still, the demands are exactly as you’ve outlined them.

  9. 13

    Douglas he was one an awesome friend. Two a great guest I had him on last year, he was so kind it was my first live remote broadcast and I felt like I was yelling just to hear myself.

    I agree people’s expectations need to be dialed back a notch.

    As far as folks saying our online personas not matching our offline line ones I disagree. Trey was that giving person in person too. We as public people/personas are not willing to put our every bit of personal lives online. Why should we it is no one’s business.

    So what would you have us share on our social communications?

    What I choose to take from this is “How will I be with other’s because of my relationship with Trey?”

    I will continue to be a cheerleader and I will continue to have trusted network privately for times I need to vent.

    My love and prayers go out to Trey’s children as I know ho devastating it was when my parents divorced after 25 years marriage, I can only imagine how painful it is to have one commit suicide because of a divorce.

    • 14

      Thanks for the kind words, Michele. I agree that I don’t want people knowing my personal business. On the other hand, though, followers need to know when that those they are following have many of the same challenges (public and private). There’s no such thing as superman or superwoman and I think we need to dial back these perfect personas – or else we’re simply all lying to ourselves about ‘transparency’, aren’t we?

      Trey’s friends and family are in my prayers – what an awful, awful tragedy.

  10. 15

    Douglas he was one an awesome friend. Two a great guest I had him on last year, he was so kind it was my first live remote broadcast and I felt like I was yelling just to hear myself.

    I agree people’s expectations need to be dialed back a notch.

    As far as folks saying our online personas not matching our offline line ones I disagree. Trey was that giving person in person too. We as public people/personas are not willing to put our every bit of personal lives online. Why should we it is no one’s business.

    So what would you have us share on our social communications?

    What I choose to take from this is “How will I be with other’s because of my relationship with Trey?”

    I will continue to be a cheerleader and I will continue to have trusted network privately for times I need to vent.

    My love and prayers go out to Trey’s children as I know ho devastating it was when my parents divorced after 25 years marriage, I can only imagine how painful it is to have one commit suicide because of a divorce.

  11. 16

    Great point Doug! I have many of the same struggles. I’m always told I need to do more online, but I’m pretty busy most days just getting my client work done. Try as we might, no one is perfect so where you shine in one place, you’re likely to have flaws in others. It’s very sad what happened to Trey. Our personal family life is far more important than our extended network, and when the foundation gets shaky it can easily feel like it’s all going to collapse. Blessings to you! My sympathies to all of Trey’s family and friends.

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