Chicago 2012: A Little Perspective

Welcome to the Chicago Auto Show
All photos by Randy Stern

Every year, there is an attempt to capture more of an event than ever. As an automotive writer/journalist/whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-me, these attempts can either be beneficial for you, dear reader. Or, it would a complete waste of bandwidth full of saccharine and moose turd.

However, this year's Chicago Auto Show became more of another steppingstone towards building a career out of talking about the automobile. I chose this path to create more beneficial material that is entertaining, informative and worth clicking on this site (or the Lavender magazine site). To do so, you set the stage through collaboration and relationships in order to deliver the goods.

The core tasks of working these shows is to find the right mix of vehicle launches, follow-ups from prior introductions and review subjects throughout the year, connecting with industry folks and fellow scribes/photographers and establishing a plan for the upcoming year. Compared to last year, this Chicago Auto Show yielded more than I ever expected in this work. I wished I had more time to accomplish a lot more than what has already been published.

There were some highlights from the two days at McCormick Place.

VOTY '11 Handoff at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show
Photo by Tyler Mallory/General Motors

On Wednesday, I presented the Vehicle of the Year award to Tony DiSalle, Vice President of Marketing for Buick and GMC. The idea of making an award came from last year's Chicago Auto Show as I felt embarrassed just saying they won the VOTY without anything concrete to show it. A certificate was made as the award. It was framed and packed in my luggage to Chicago. For a simply made certificate, its weight resonated with the folks at General Motors. Compared to, say, a larger publication or organization, V&R's certificate may be a bit of a throwaway award. In the eyes of General Motors, it wasn't.

The reason why the VOTY was not considered a "throwaway award" stems from another debate amongst new and social media folks – who is considered an influencer these days? I asked several experts about influencers and found a surprising fact – I am being seen as one by at least two automobile manufacturers. It would depend on your definition of an influencer. The numbers of readers of the outlets you write for determine the potential of influencing by both the subject producer and the audience.

This would easily stoke the ego, but I believe in humility before being a jerk about it. However, in these conversations about influencers, one theme was made clear: To be successful as one, you have to promote the work you do without making a complete fool of yourself. Also, you have to find a balance between ego and humility. To do this work and bring more followers to your outlets, it takes confidence along with a consistent message to maintain an influential position in the media. Even if you are not the "perfect" messenger visually, you can still influence with the words you use online.

Being considered an influencer comes from creating the work that drives readers and followers to the outlets where the art appears. In my case, I would attribute this influencer status to the work I executed in Victory & Reseda, through social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and my presence on Lavender magazine. It is not as easy as one thinks, yet it is a necessary path to take in order to gain traction in today's expansive coverage of the automotive industry.

To understand my role in this larger scheme of things, I had to change the way I looked at who exactly made up my readership. There were moments when I shook my first at the subcultures I identified with in gay male society – bears and chubs/chasers – in thinking they would be my primary support for my efforts. To consider them a demographic would a very limiting, but it also gave me some grounding towards a starting point for some perspective. I had no choice but to change my vision as to whom would benefit from reading this work.

Through Lavender, my goal is to reach out to every aspect of the LGBT community in the magazine's footprint of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Iowa and Wisconsin. This is where a bulk of my vehicle reviews will appear first. I welcome all to the conversation as long as they understand that what I do is a mix of consumer information and automotive enthusiasm. For Victory & Reseda readers, I am tasked to deliver elements that automotive people love – history and some perspective on this industry being a huge driver these days on this site. As I participate in Twitter chats and engage elsewhere in social media, I am grateful for the reach this work to automotive enthusiasts in Edmonton and Southwest Ontario to my high school friends in Southern California – and everyone else in-between.

At the Chicago Auto Show, I added as much live tweeting for the Motorama LIVE team and its followers as possible. I am grateful for the Motorama LIVE team for having me bring McCormick Place closer to the twitterverse. It falls into my philosophy to help other outlets when needed if I can provide my perspective to meet their mission, vision and goals.

As much work that goes into doing all of this, I'd like to have a bit of fun. It's all in good spirit and with a lot of love for the people I care a lot about (bro-love, not…you know what I mean…I think). If I did not have a sense of humor – thanks to hours of Richard Pryor and Robin Williams on vinyl, comedy on SiriusXM, and YouTube – this work would be quite boring. The healthiest thing a person can do is to laugh – even at poorly executed humor. The worst thing anyone should do is hate. This is my philosophy behind V&R and everything I do in this arena.

This is why I come to McCormick Place every year. To expand this work, find perspective in the subject matter and to build upon the energy for an entire year.

In all, I am glad to have made the connections with my fellow automotive writers, photographers, social media influencers and users, great people from the automotive industry and the fans and enthusiasts that support the work of V&R, Lavender and the multitude of outlets covering the automotive world.

I'm not done, yet. There’s more to accomplish: More events to cover, more automobiles to review, more history to cover, and more news to disseminate and analyze. There are more laughs to be had.

Thank you, Chicago. See you again next February!

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