Chaos or Control – Get Smart with Social Media

By Rachael Duplisea

Max and 99 on shoephones

Get Smart was my favorite TV show when I watched reruns in the 1970s of the hilarious spy spoof produced from 1965 to 1970. Agent 99 was one of my first heroines and like everyone I couldn’t help but like inept Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, whose mastery of gadgets rivals my own with technology.  As little control as he managed to exert, Max was an agent of Control*, fighting the evil agents of Kaos and winning somehow in the most silly and hilarious ways.

Photo Source:

Agent 86 Maxwell Smart

As I adapt to the Web 2.0 and social media specifically, I realize that control is a key issue that we all struggle with to some extent; likely more so if you are old enough to have watched Get Smart in the Seventies and if a facility with techno-gadgetry is not in your DNA.

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The strength and beauty of social media is its interactivity and the fact that user-generated content is encouraged and users can engage with other users. Folks can find an audience, get feedback, respond kaos_logoto feedback (as Rob reminds us to do), include others in the conversation and build “relationships.” (Can’t seem to drop the quotation marks on this one yet.) But with that interactivity, that potential snowballing conversational effect, especially if you are working on the communications and media relations for an institution or project, the multi-directional, interactive, conversational dynamic is one of the key factors that engenders a loss of control. Not only are all of the comments and messages visible to anyone, from all sides, they can multiply very quickly and on numerous channels and many networks – chaos!

Photo KAOS logo credit Source:

Logo credit: Simon McKenzie

The professional communications team needs to have the resources to monitor and respond to all of the comments and feedback, correct misinformation, cultivate relationships, trust and credibility for the organization in order to keep on top of what is being communicated left, right and centre. The necessary resources include the technological mastery to follow and engage quickly and the messaging savvy and sensibility to appropriately and effectively engage and interact. Sought is the perfect marriage of the medium and the message; the elusive alloy that allies and aligns form and content in a quicksilver changing environment of chatter, substantial and less so.

Complete control in communications, like perfection in marriage, or in a person or an employee, is not truly possible (outgoing Prime Minister Harper has perhaps learned this lesson). Nonetheless, it is necessary to determine what you can control or influence – and how; what you can’t and how to best prepare for crises or control potential damage as the messages, information and impressions make their way through the various public and media networks. Most importantly, a measure of control and success can be achieved by keep your eye on the desired outcome and objective and learn to plan, strategize, manoeuver the levers, and master the tools and technology that will enable you to accomplish the set objective and prove that you have that you have accomplished the desired result.


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Source for Harper image:

So maintain sufficient control to achieve success in a noisy freeway network of ideas and information and stave off Kaos. And avoid being a control freak like Steven Harper or Max’s boss Chief in Get Smart showed, even in the days before social media, the Cone of Silence didn’t work.

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Copyright: Time-Life/HBO

*There was no logo for Control, the good-guy organization in Get Smart, a definite weakness in terms of their branding another funny bit of irony from the show given that Kaos did.

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