Archive for the ‘web 2.0’ Category
I saw a very disappointing infographic this morning, via Dave Forde’s PR in Canada site. Produced by the Max Borges Agency, it chronicles the history of public relations. I was interested to scan it. And so I did. I invite you to do the same:
Okay. Notice something?
- Ben Franklin.
- Tom Paine.
- Ivy Lee advising John D. Rockefeller.
- Edward Bernays advising Coolidge on foreign affairs.
And what do we have representing the last 13 years, the 2000s?
- Taco Bell and the crash of Mir.
- A PR stunt for The Dictator, a movie that hasn’t even made its budget back yet.
- And Oreo tweeting about a power failure.
As entertaining as these entries are, are they telling us something? I think they are. PR practitioners should look at this and ask themselves on what side they fall. Are they contributing substance, or are they simply carrying out stunts? Are they using the tools of communication at their disposal (obviously including the suite of tools that make up “social media”) to make change, to influence people on important issues, or is it about a cookie or a taco?
And if we’re seeking to summarize our contributions to society, are those the best examples we can find? What about the role of Twitter in the Iranian demonstrations? What about the ability of people to organize using social media to create events like Twestival? What about the Tylenol crisis? I could go on.
If public relations is to be considered a serious discipline, doesn’t it makes sense that we take on serious work, and talk about serious issues? And talk about them in public? Sometimes I think I oughtta find a new career.
In a fit of perversity, I decided to submit a proposal to the 2013 Social Capital Conference with the title “Why you are Stupid.” I wanted to talk about some of the things that we social media people do that are… stupid. Generally speaking, I was thinking of:
- Stupid offensive
- Stupid boring
- Stupid and poor (budgetwise)
I decided that I thought I’d see if I could turn the crowd (assuming there WAS one) away and then try to pull them back in.
Here’s how I promoted the session:
I THINK I did okay at living up to the billing. But I’ll leave that for the audience to decide, and perhaps share. You can chime in based on the slides here:
More importantly than my own presentation is the success of the conference. Lara Wellman and Karen Wilson of the eponymous Wellman Wilson Communications led the organization with many other volunteers, and they pulled off a great conference. Why did I enjoy it so much? Here are a few reasons:
- Keynotes. I got the opportunity to see friend Danny Brown do a keynote for the first time. And I got a totally different sense of why he’s so smart from seeing him in that context. Made me proud to be friends with him. The other keynote was delivered by Gini Dietrich, who for me existed in that odd world of having been friends for literally YEARS online without ever having met. I told someone yesterday that before Gini and her colleague Lindsay Bell-Wheeler arrived at a Friday night reception, I was literally a bundle of nerves inside, desperately hoping that I wouldn’t be too much of a dork in their presence. That jury may still be out, but there’s no doubt that Gini is a charming and polished and top-notch speaker, and that Lindsay just might prove the sayings about the relative depth of the Atlantic Canadian gene pool. She feels like a sister after just one meeting. Which is likely bad news for her, since that just means more insults.
- Collaboration. When Danny was confirmed as keynote, I really wanted to do something to celebrate the launch of Influence Marketing, the book he just published with Sam Fiorella. So I got in touch with Caitlin Kealey at MediaStyle, another Ottawa communications consultancy, and they jumped in with both feet, putting together (with some help from me) a super fun event called Gin and Talkin‘. MediaStyle President Ian Capstick interviewed Danny, there was great food and better drink, and several dozen people ended up with complementary copies of the book, courtesy of Translucid and of MediaStyle. It was a great kickoff to a hectic weekend. And I never could have put together an event that good on my own.
- Connection. While it’s rewarding to go to events like #socapott and reconnect with the people you already know, it’s just as exciting to meet new people and learn from them and discover what makes them cool. While I was a bit limited in doing that due to a family wedding in the middle of all this, I got to know a number of people at the conference that I hope to know better in the future.
Oh, and one bonus:
- Karaoke. A group of us decided on post-conference festivities at Ottawa’s legendary Shanghai Restaurant, home to Saturday night Karaoke with the one and only China Doll. We got there to discover two bachelorette parties already heating up the mics, and then China Doll made a late appearance to show off Ottawa’s best to some locals and out of towners.
If I can leave you with one takeaway from my presentation, it’s this:
Raise your own expectations is a double-edged sword. If you expect your own work to be better, to be smarter, you will spread that expectation to others. Your boss, your clients, your friends will expect you to be that good NORMALLY. That’s intimidating, but it’s also necessary. Push beyond the stupid and the easy.
That’s one of the things that I’m going to try to do. Might not be a bad idea to take my own advice.
I was asked by the organizers of next week’s Social Capital Conference to join organizer Lara Wellman on the local CTV morning show to talk about the conference, keying in on a tart little infographic they published recently: 10 Ways to Suck at Social Media (I’ve put the infographic at the end of the post, if you want to check it out).
The interview, done with cohost Jeff Hopper, reminded me that live TV interviews are a unique experience for even experienced interviewees. Cameras (in this case, one robotic and one human-operated), lights, a computer monitor behind us — distraction is easy and time is short. In this case, I think (THINK – always hard to KNOW) the interview went well, in great part because Jeff Hopper was already knowledgeable about social media, and because he had an obvious personal interest in the topic.
So here’s my tip for today. When you’re doing a live interview, either on TV or radio, KEEP TALKING. The host will find his or her way into your chatter to ask questions, get clarification, or take the interview in a new direction. What lies behind the dictum KEEP TALKING means you should be conversant enough with your topic to theoretically deliver a monologue for the length of the interview.
The easy way to KEEP TALKING is to have a set of key messages in your head and ceaselessly repeat them. This is not ideal. People know “key messages” when they hear them, thanks to politicians who seem to think we won’t notice them robotically repeating them. Here’s probably the most egregious example ever, courtesy of ex-Member of Parliament Peter Penashue:
The key here is to balance out your ability to KEEP TALKING with your ability to be a gracious part of a conversation. It’s a skill that takes practice to develop.
I won’t be talking about media training at Social Capital, but I’m happy to talk to you about it, or to meet you at the Social Capital conference, where I’ll be doing a talk on “Why You Are Stupid.” (pssst: The “You” in my title also includes me.) It’s not too late to register and hear from some truly un-dumb people, including Gini Dietrich (Chicago-based owner of Arment Dietrich and co-author of Marketing in the Round), and Danny Brown (cofounder of ARCompany and author of the hot off the press book Influence Marketing) (affiliate links).
And if this is something you need heavy-duty help with, you might want to check out Brad Phillips, a New York-based media trainer, and his Mr. Media Training blog. He has tons of great tips, techniques and case studies that he updates pretty much daily on his site.
UPDATE: Here’s the interview, as uploaded by CTV Ottawa Morning Live.
And here’s the infographic:
That is simply too big.
800 megs of images? Really?
Whatever your role within an organization, you need to be a tireless advocate for websites that balance features, design, and SPEED. Don’t bog your users down in endless (well, perceptually endless) waits for content to load. The chances of those users going somewhere else are just too high.
If you’re feeling confused by this post, perhaps a visit to Now Make it Mobile, a site by Vancouver shop Mobify will help. They have tons of tips on making great mobile web sites.
I’ve been more and more interested in smaller organizations lately. Many small businesses and associations are using social media very well. But many others — among them people who I’ve worked with or who I’ve taught social media courses at Algonquin College — find social media to be a perplexing challenge.
I think one of the biggest parts of the social media challenge for small businesses and not-for-profits is to create a strategy that allows them to be confident they can meet the demands that social media place on an organization. I think it’s crucial that organizations without giant budgets or staff have a chance to create and maintain an effective social media presence.
You’ll have a chance to learn how to create a content strategy as part of a small organization from… well, me, this August. I will be part of the Summer Think Tank Series presented by SocialFish and CommPartners. This series of webinars is bound to be useful for people working in associations, not-for-profits, or any small organization. Maddie Grant has led the development of this series of webinars, and she has done a pretty impressive job.
Check out this lineup:
- July 12: David Svet and Heidi Hancock will talk Pinterest for nonprofits
- July 26: Debra Askanase and Shelly Kramer will present on Google+ for nonprofits
- August 16 (my birthday!) I’m in the middle with Your New Content Strategy
- August 30: Gini Dietrich will talk how nonprofits can apply the lessons of her new book Marketing in the Round
- September 13: Amy Vernon will talk about Creating Content that Works.
Each of the webinars costs $129 US, and the whole series can be purchased for $499 US. And if you drop me an email, I might even have a discount code for you.
It’s a real honour to be in the lineup with these talented communicators who I like and respect. And I’m looking forward to finishing the presentation and doing it online, hopefully with you in attendance.
There are as many different social media tools out there as you can imagine. If you don’t believe me, check out the “conversation prism” that Brian Solis created:
Confused yet? Good. That’s what keeps people like me in business!
When you’re engaging with your audiences using one or more of these tools, one thing to keep in mind is the timeframe for your message. I was reminded of this recently when I was listening to a podcast (WTF with Marc Maron, if you must know). The podcast was great, but there was a sponsor who was pushing a Christmas special. (I’m writing this in June).
Different social media have different shelf lives. Twitter is (arguably) ephemeral. It’s here, then it’s gone. Facebook pages, less so. Blogs, semi-permanent. Things like podcasts live on forever; despite the fact that my Stephen King podcast is currently on hiatus, I still see thousands of downloads each month.
So when you’re working out strategies for social media, keep in mind that each tool will have its own sense of time. Why advertise for Mother’s Day when people will still be hitting that note in November? Key your messages to take into account the shelf life of the medium.
(This is post number seven in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)
(PS: Sorry for the late post; I should have pre-written for the Friday, but I didn’t, and I was driving to Boston yesterday. With a quick stop here.)
From Google Analytics to SocialMention to Bitly to Facebook Page Insights and onward, there are a host of great tools out there that let you do everything from finetune your online ad copy and images to make the search engine bots happy and welcome on your page to understand who’s coming to your site and how they get there.
Of course, the next step in understanding how people are coming to your site is to start thinking about whether you can fine-tune the content you’re producing — whether that’s blog posts, videos, images, infographics, or whatever — to attract more of the people you want and increase the spreadability of your stuff.
However… don’t get so focused on the mechanics of what you’re doing that you forget the humanity.
Some people hire search engine optimization (SEO) consultants or SEO companies that do some questionable things. Some companies hide links back to their own companies in the websites they work on, they use link farms, they will fill a sub-page on a website with links back to the home page… all of these things are bad.
But sometimes the temptation to use what we can learn from the Google Keyword Tool, Compete, Google Insights, and the like can overpower the basic truth. What is that basic truth? Brace yourself. It’s going to ROCK YOUR WORLD:
If you do the basic stuff (metatags, add title text, use categories and tags on blog posts, put alt text on images) right, if you engage with the community you want to be part of, if you are generous in sharing links, praising, discussing, and advancing discussions, and you write or produce great content… that’s easily as important as feverishly reading every SEO book, blog, and white paper out there.
Keep it simple. Build a strong foundation, then do good work. Good things will happen.
(This is post number four in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)
This week, I’m going to give you a few tips about how to deal with online criticisms of your business.
No business pleases everyone. And now, displeased customers can complain in public. Sometimes with lots of people watching. And when that happens, what do you do?!
Shockingly enough, many companies are choosing to ignore online complaints. Look at this blog post by Jay Baer, based on research published in September 2011. According to that research, less than a third of complaints on Twitter were responded to by the company being complained about. According to Baer,
Brands must look at these new channels as the “social telephone” and ignoring these 140-character cries for help is a flawed decision.”
There are a few options. First thing is to assess the validity of the complaint. If Jane Bloggs is saying you screwed up the delivery and the product was broken when it finally got delivered… is she right? If so, did you know about her dissatisfcation and attempt to make things right? You need to have as complete a picture of what happened as you can get, so you can know where you stand and decide on a response.
It might be that this person is not a customer at all. And that’s good to know too. It might be rare, but some people do enjoy causing trouble by making up stories.
Assuming Jane Bloggs is real, then reach out using the same means she did to voice her complaint. Did she tweet it? Then @ her. Did she use Yelp? Then comment on her post, and try to engage her.
Use neutral language. Acknowledge her feelings. Show that you’re listening. And try to move the discussion into a more private place, like email, or even better, the phone. Human contact trumps electronic contact when it comes to resolving conflict.
If you’re able to mollify her and resolve the issues which got her mad, then thank her for being reasonable and promise to do better in the future. And do.
If you aren’t, do your best, and explain why you can’t help any more than you can.
I’ve adapted this chart from the US Air Force’s chart of how they respond to bloggers. And thanks to Jeremiah Owyang, we’ve all had a chance to see that classic piece of work.
Don’t ignore complaints. You’re only hurting yourself.
I tend to end up volunteering for a lot of stuff. Part of it is because I have a hard time saying no to good causes, part of it because I enjoy doing the work, part of it because it makes me feel good to help, part of it because often it’s friends asking, and part of it because I might learn something or hang out with cool people.
One of the things I think has been changed most fundamentally by social media is the relationship between not-for-profit organizations and people wishing to do good things for them.
Back in the day, charities and not-for-profits relied on long-term relationships with volunteers and donors. Every year, Jane Bloggs would “collect” for the Heart Foundation, the March of Dimes, or the Cancer Society (Of course, this still happens.) Every year, people would write cheques (as my parents still do, in memory of my brother) to the local children’s hospital. Memorial donations.
And not-for-profits would have committees which would provide muscle and brainpower to organize events and fundraisers. Need a fashion show? A charity tea? Casino night? Strike a committee, likely with one or more of the same people who canvassed and knitted and hosted the dinner etc… and the event comes together.
I suspect that in many ways, there was even a parallel thing happening with genders. Men would join “service clubs” like Rotary, Kinsmen, and the like, and women would have parallel clubs (in Canada, the IODE or the Catholic Women’s League).
But things are changing. Traditional service clubs are declining in popularity, as noted both by media and by club believers. But at the same time, there are good things happening too. And that’s where social media comes in.
The ability for people to self-organize and act via social media is awe-inspiring. Let me give you a bunch of examples:
- Twestival‘s remarkable success (nearly $2M raised in three years) comes to mind (and I feel justifiably proud in pointing to Ottawa’s superbly done Twestival event last year, organized by Stéphanie Montreuil and a gang of other smart people).
- The recent example of Caine’s Arcade is another heartwarming story, especially now that in addition to providing Caine with the world’s first crowdsourced scholarship (I’m guessing), a foundation has paired up to match those funds and help other kids like Caine.
- Hélène Campbell, a young woman from Ottawa, took her diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and turned it into a campaign for organ donation that took the province of Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network by surprise — when she got celebrities such as Jann Arden, Justin Bieber, and Ellen Degeneres involved in urging organ donation, their registrations went from about 50 per day up to hundreds per day. She bumped the whole province’s registration number by two percent — nearly 250,000!
- 12for12K was a campaign organized by Danny Brown back in 2008, which raised more than $100,000 for a number of charities.
- And a couple of years ago, this was brought home to me when I found myself raising money and collecting goods for a local women’s shelter that had suffered a terrible fire.
So what makes all this different? A few things:
- People don’t have the same sort of connection to the organization they’re working on behalf of.
I didn’t know Cornerstone from a hole in the ground beforehand. I’m not a woman. I’ve never had to live in a shelter. I didn’t know any of the staff or volunteers. I just got riled up by the fire. I don’t think Hélène Campbell was involved in organ donation before she got sick. This sort of spontaneous engagement has good and bad implications. First, it can be an unexpected and serendipitous boon. Yay. Second, it can create unexpected work for charity staff or established volunteers. Not exactly Boo, but uh-oh.
- Not-for-profits can sometimes do best by staying out of the way
Organizations that aren’t familiar with the ad-hoc, high-energy, short-term nature of these movements might stifle them with excessive bureaucracy, caution, or general wet-blanketing. That in no way means you let people run with a valuable brand. But you don’t want to oversee and second-guess every decision.
- Trying to court these folks into becoming longtime donors or volunteers may not work, or even backfire.
The irony of these “flash-givers” is that while they may well believe in your cause, be willing to use social media, traditional media, public relations, and the like to boost it, and make a big difference… it may be a one-night stand. They may feel little to no long-term interest in the organization, and may well be too busy or lack the long-term interest to come back to the organization, volunteer, join a board, etc.
- Use this new energy to leverage your organization.
In the media relations game, ”earned media” implies a third-party endorsement of an organization. Well, someone coming out of the blue to support your organization financially or with an event is an EXPLICIT endorsement of what you do. Use them (with their permission and support) to solidify or expand your organization’s brand in the media, to increase your website’s Google juice, or to further promote your own social media initiatives. All parties will benefit.
- Smart charities and NFPs will figure out ways of encouraging and supporting these flash-gives.
Just as you could stifle an initiative with too much “management”, you can fan the flames with some judicious support. Ask how you can help. Have resources ready for them — logos, sound bites, etc. Be ready to include news about them in your organization’s online presence. Work your existing networks to help the new folks achieve their goals, or at least offer to.
As the old ways of cultivating and managing volunteers become less effective, the NFP sector needs to find ways to harness this somewhat anarchic force. Those who do can reap great benefits.
Some great resources for not-for-profits:
I was unplugging a phone charger this morning, when I looked at the outlet. What did I see?
One of those. Except mine was full. Then I realized that most of my outlets, instead of just having two things plugged into them, had one of these plugged in, so I could plug SIX things into them. In some cases, one of those might be a power bar, meaning there might be 11 separate things going into that electrical outlet (by the way, did you know that the standard electrical outlet, with its three prongs, is called a NEMA 5? Specifically a NEMA 5-15R? Me either). And thankfully, the picture of a truly epic (and stupid) cable octopus is NOT taken in my house.
It made me think about two things. First, the houses we live in. We still build houses with the standard two-outlet (called a twin-duplex) configuration. Most new houses have more outlets than older houses. But they’re still the same old outlets.
I think the difficulty with managing electrical outlets in older houses can tell us a lot about the change in the way we live.So we maximize their use for our computers, stereos, home theatres, routers, portable hard drives, telephone chargers, battery chargers, and on and on and on… If you live in an old house, you know just how hard it can be to manage electrical outlets. And that’s especially important for folks like me, who spend a lot of their work time in their house. My home office has a lot of devices plugged in. My computer might draw 50 watts, not like a clothes dryer or my electric oven. But put all those little drains together, and we’re using lots of power.
The second thing it made me think of was my brain. Huh? Think of the devices in your life. The phone, the tablet, the laptop, the digital camera the desktop, the TV, the iPod, the stereo, the clock radio, the landline, the office phone… Think of all the things we plug in, and that we can’t imagine living without. Each of those is as much a drain on our consciousness as their corded counterpart on is on our electrical service.
And with each new media creation — radio, gramophone, telephone, mobile phone, television, internet — we’ve increased the demand in our brain for places to plug all this stuff in. But we still have two eyes, and two ears, just like those old outlets. How much power drain do we experience from the multitasking?
I’m not saying UNPLUG EVERYTHING! here. Most of the time, I love the things that all this connectivity has allowed us to do. Social media, increased opportunities for individuals and businesses to communicate with each other and share information and content: that is good, and powerful .
But it’s worth thinking about a bit more conscious management of the cables and plugs that bind our devices to our houses — and our brain.