Thursday, February 19, 2009

Public Relations: The Bane of Warlordry

Public Relations issues are my least favorite part of being the Overlord. But hating them doesn't make them go away, and they can make or break your career. So, I've got a few general tips, and then an overview of just some of the people you'll see out there.

The First Good Idea (tm) of Public Relations as the Overlord is to never act in a way that can be used against you. Before telling someone off, consider the wisdom of it, and choose your words carefully. If one of my troops is constantly in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing, I can tell him "Hey Name! You need to fall in line and listen to instruction! I will remove you from the Warband if necesary!" What I shouldn't say is "Hey Name! Stop being stupid and do what what you're told!" Just telling a soldier he's an idiot makes me look like a jerk, burns my bridges (he'll never listen to me again), and doesn't create a consequence for further disobedience. However, the first statement shows that I care about the performance of the team, and that he needs to shape up to be on it—it's not a personal attack.

The First Good Idea (tm) ties in well with the Second Good Idea (tm), which is to instruct, not criticize. Back in the WoW days, I started off working with a guildmate. She was old enough to be my grandma, and she would willingly admit that her eyes would glaze over after a sentence or two of technical talk. I could have criticized her for being a slow learner (honestly though, I just thought it was cool that she was even playing the game. How many of YOUR grandparents play MMO's?). But I didn't. Instead, I just patiently instructed. In the end, it paid off—big time. Not only was I able to continue a friendship with her, she was also the most reliable and effective Subcommander I ever had the pleasure of working with. So, yes, being a Warlord with good PR can require epic patience. But by seeing yourself as an Instructor instead of a Punisher, you'll retain many more soldiers to fight by your side.

The Third Good Idea (tm) is to never forget the Silent Majority. The Silent Majority of players are looking for some good, clean fun, where they can be treated with respect and enjoy some wholesome enemy-bashing entertainment. They won't say much, and they won't be very obvious. But the critical thing to remember is that they form the core and the backbone of your army. One of my rules back when I ran AV raids was that swearing was to be kept to a minimum, and we are to treat everyone else we were with with respect. I cannot tell you how many times I had someone I didn't even recognize whisper me to tell me that my raids were the only raids they would join. It just happened that often. So remember: when you decide to be a foulmouthed twerp, you will suddenly find yourself without half your warband, and you will have to move heaven and earth to gain them back.

People You'll See
Into every Warlord's career, some pain must fall. Lots of times, this comes in the form of the people you have to deal with. That's right kids! Not only do you have to strategize, organize, and do other things that end in ize, you have to deal with people on your own team intentionally or unintentionally bringing you down! Comes in many different flavors! And if you know of one I've forgotten, feel free to share in the comments!

The Repressed Teenager
His parents don't allow him to talk about "adult subjects" or swear in real life, so he's decided to get all of it out in YOUR Warband.

Danger: Turns an otherwise productive warband into a gibbering pile of foul language and "that's what she said" comments. Let it continue, and you're in grave danger of losing the backing of your Silent Majority.

How not to Handle it: Treat him like the child he is, and he'll shrug you off just like his parents.

Best Choices for Handling it: A friendly comment like, "Hey, let's keep it civil in here, guys!" can do a world of good. If that doesn't work, a whisper can also be effective: "I would personally appreciate it if you could hold off on the curses when it's not really necessary." The point is to appeal to his ego: by putting the ball in his court, you've treated him as an adult, and he'll often respect you for it.

Grumbles and Mutters (personal experience =P): I've known quite a few of these. They don't HAVE to be teenagers, but most are. And they don't HAVE to be repressed—it could just be that they act this way all the time. However, I've been able to convince a good number of them to hold off on the strong language and dirty jokes simply by asking nicely. Since they respected me as a good Commander, it worked. A lot of times, they aren't bad people, but just have the wrong idea for when you should tell which jokes and say what things.

The "Special Requirement"
Despite how many times you say to "/join Zaukther", this person just keeps saying "invite me! invite me!!1!" On the off chance he actually manages to get in my group, he'll want special attention and personal instruction.

Danger: We love as many people as we can get to fight at our side, right? Right! But although the Special Requirement by himself isn't bad, what happens when you have two? What about three? What about seven, or eight? The danger here is that you lose all your time catering to special needs, and have no time left to properly strategize or consult with scouts, other warlords, and advisors.

How Not to Handle it: Don't coddle the Special Requirement. I know we hate saying no, but if every general consulted with every private before every advance, the army would never move.

Best Choices for Handling it: Depending on the aptitude of the person, you may be able to salvage this to your benefit. If the person is intelligent, but just likes the attention of the Overlord, see if you can convince them to scout for you, or lead one of the other roles. Often times the Special Requirement is someone with actual leadership potential. Who knew? Other times, the Special Requirement is just someone who simply doesn't get it. Either they don't understand how to listen to your orders through warband or region chat, or they don't understand that you cannot personally respond to every person. You're a great guy, but you only have two hands and one mind, and those are busy strategizing, organizing, and collaborating! In this case, offer them the option to leave with no hard feelings—we like them, but we have an army to run.

Grumbles and Mutters: My most recent personal experience with this was not only someone who didn't understand that I'm already stretched thin as it is, but someone with a chip on their shoulder to boot! Ack! This person felt slighted because I would not repeat my orders in another chat channel. Worst of all, it was an alt of one of our 40 guildmates (I was leading a tier 3 Army at the time). Not only was I unable to convince the poor guy that I really do like him, and it's not personal that I can't repeat everything, I got frustrated with the situation and snapped at my Warbands. Fortunately, they gave me the feedback I needed—"We didn't deserve that!" Oh...right. They didn't deserve to have me snap at them. I ended up apologizing to my Warbands for what I said, and apologizing personally to the other Warlord I had been overbearing with. It was a tiring night, but a couple good lessons there: 1) Don't let frustration get to you, because it will hurt your ability and reputation as a warlord. 2) When you mess up, apologize. When you get egg on your face, pretending it isn't there and moving on doesn't make your face any cleaner. Better to be seen as imperfect than unreasonable.

The Talented Up and Coming Warlord
Now hold up a minute! This is MY tur—NO.

This person is NOT a problem. As much as we like to be Overlords, it is not "our turf." We are here to WIN, not to have power. If another Warlord is leading the battle and doing well when you arrive, you are not there to dethrone him and take his place. Sometimes, we like to think of the position of power as ours by right, but WAR is a meritocracy—if someone else can do the job just as well as you or I can, it's time we had a little humility and acted the lesser parts. You still want your side to win, right? Then play the Underlord, or the Scout. Try something new for a change, and play to win.

Now, when the person already in command has little tactical sense, THEN is the time to make the case to go somewhere else. A classic blunder is to continue assaulting a heavily defended keep when there are five others you could take. I know—sometimes, you NEED that keep, and it's the only keep you have to choose from. But otherwise, situations like this are a good cause to usurp. But seriously, unless you have a better plan than the guy already in charge (even if he "took your place" while you were out at dinner), there's no need to undermine his authority.

The Newbie
Often found in droves in Pick-up warbands, the Newbie isn't a bad player or a dumb person. They're just new to this tier or just getting into ORVR, and need a little extra help.

Danger: You give an order, and mass chaos erupts. What's BFP? What on earth is a t4 elf N BO? These are the folks that aren't clear on the lingo.

How Not to Handle it: Don't assume that just because someone is in an ORVR Warband they know what they're doing. Don't give orders with acronyms, shortened versions, or code.

Best Choices for Handling it: If you're going to, say, Gnol Baraz in Black Fire Pass in Tier 3 Dwarf, say THAT instead of saying "We're going to GB!" Some people will think you're going to Green Bay. Only YOU can prevent Newbies from becoming the Special Requirement—spay and neu...wait, wrong line. Ah, right! Give clear, full, and oft-repeated directions in the proper chat channel!

Grumbles and Mutters: Not too much Grumbling and Muttering here. Something I learned early on as a Warlord, and it's something I've held on to. It's a critical aspect of Warlordry, you know.

Remember, if you've seen, heard about, or (heaven forbid, BEEN) one of these or others, feel free to tell us about it in the comments!

Ironbreaker Insight: When in doubt with a public relations fiasco, nicely AX the person to leave.

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