Rostand’s classic play Cyrano de Bergerac (as with many movies that have been based on it) often gets boiled down to the wrong simple synopsis: Ugly guy who is good with words helps good-looking-but-tongue-tied guy get the girl.
Yes, this occurs in the story—but that recap misses the essence of Cyrano. His enduring quality was not his fluency or vocabulary. Words alone do not melt hearts, expressions that capture and provoke emotion do. Even when given words to say, the handsome suitor Christian cannot figure out how to express them properly to Roxane.
So if Cyrano is not about the magic of having the right words, what is it about? And what does this have to do with social media? Excellent questions. Fittingly, Cyrano answers them in his final breath.
As he dies, Rostand’s Cyrano declares his personal brand aloud to the stars of the darkening sky. Not his words (though he was eloquent). Not his skill with a sword (though he was fearless and fearsome). Not his large nose (his sole distinguishing physical characteristic). Instead, he declares that there is something so “him” that it will always be his: panache.
Panache. Style. What the kids these days are calling swagger. Panache is rising above the functional and factual doing of some task in such a way that the style of it eclipses the substance.
Cyrano bested an opponent in a sword fight? Who cares— happens every hour of every day somewhere. Wait, he did so while artfully composing poetry aloud that belittled his foe as he dueled?! That’s a story for the ages that spreads quickly by all who are drawn to tales of human drama.
Pedestrian social media is nothing special. It happens every hour of every day all over the world. Creating artful social media with panache—taking risks with style and subject matter—is so rare that when it happens, it spreads quickly. And keeps spreading.
Take a look, for instance, at the work of Joe Petruccio, an artist I first discovered at KnicksNow.com. He’s doing a recap of every Knicks game this season in a visual style unlike any sports reporting I’ve ever seen:
I’m not even a Knicks fan—but I look forward to every new painting Joe produces because of the uniqueness of his expression. It’s moving. It’s bold. It’s different. And he’s definitely earned my R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
What would courageous social media look like for you or your company? Don’t hope for pass-along, inspire it. Post with panache.
Alan Beard (SC ’94, SPP ’99) is an adjunct professor of marketing strategy at Pepperdine University, principal at social media agency McBeard Media, and co-author of Random House best-seller Historical Tweets: The Completely Unabridged and Ridiculously Brief History of the World.