April 3, 2008 by Colin
There are four rules that dominate the quantity and quality of your blog content:
1: when in a rut, drive readership and SEO love by creating a numbered list;
2: the more disappointing your actual paying job, the more you will write and post. This does not mean your blog will be any better – just busier;
3: the closer the relationship between the subject of your blog and a day job you love, the better the content; and,
4: the busier your day job becomes, the less time and inclination you will find to blog.
I had an executive coach who told me that being an executive was a lot like spinning plates: you had to make sure your passel of plates continued spinning at the end of their poles, and that none hit the floor.
At the moment, I am filling two executive positions.
My office is running the danger of looking like a suburban banquet hall after a Greek wedding.
March 19, 2008 by Colin
You know, I’m beginning to think we’re due for a big shakeout – and untested social media tactics will be the first things to be thrown off the boat.
The economic indicators are there. Credit crunch. Everyone running to the security of gold. Drops in same store sales. The convergence of climate change worries with $100 oil.
When consumers decide to moderate their spending, where will companies cut their expenses? Bodies.
Bodies that do not have a quantifiable impact on sales.
Have any of your pitches included “starting a conversation” as a goal lately?
Are you REALLY looking for input from your consumers and stakeholders? Or does your idea of consumer generated content really just mean getting internet geeks to design edgy YouTube videos for you?
In a recession, co-creation can be another way to hose your ad, marketing and public relations agencies.
I’m arguing that companies under the gun, facing the knife, don’t really give a f*ck about what the public has to say.
They just want you to buy jars of tomato sauce, BeDazzlers and environmentally friendly printer paper.*
Sure, they’ll play along – but only to avoid product safety claims, grief about shift firings and to avoid repaying tax concessions granted when they built the local plant.
Consumer contact will revert to market-testing, sampling and insincere gladhandling on the shop floor.
Oh – and if you’re a new hire in a PR firm, I hope you’ve been developing a diverse skill set. It would suck to be the new “social media star” that gets thrown out with the bathwater.
*if you believe that there’s any such thing as enivronmentally friendly printer paper, you’re an idiot and a sucker.
[tags] conversation, cluetrain, customer service, recession, economic downturn [/tags]
March 15, 2008 by Colin
Well, I’ve finished work on it. A handy little guide for exploring the world of social media and building support for social media in a large organization.
I think the advice in this 23 page guide to secretly implementing social media in organizations could be equally useful for any government employee looking to try out new technologies – I’m pretty certain on that point, since I’m a government employee in real life.
You can find the guide at this link, and please feel free to share it with your friends, colleagues and bosses.
Here’s an excerpt, from the introduction:
How do you do it? How do you bring a spirit of innovation and experimentation to the communications shop of a large organization?
I’ve worked in a large organization – the government – for the last ten years. You can find bright, creative and resourceful people around every corner, in every department.
During the course of their careers, many of these people have thought of a move that could improve their work or their environment.
From experience, we all know that small changes in process or presentation are easily won. After all, it’s just another line on an approval sheet, or a tweak on the website.
Large organizations can also be convinced to launch a large-scale overhaul of their systems – whether it’s a supply chain, assembly process or online order system.
But it’s a real pain to get them to rethink their relationship with humans outside the security fence. After all, our customer service reps seem to be doing a good job, right? That sales force really does have a handle on the needs of the community, doesn’t it?
In speaking to hundreds of workers and managers for large organizations (government and private sector), I’ve been asked the same questions, over and over:
• How do you convince your boss to even experiment with social media?
• Doesn’t it mean a lot of extra work?
• Isn’t this sort of stuff blocked by our organizational policies?
This Secret Underground Guide to Social Media for Organizations is meant to help you answer some of those questions.
[tags] guide to social media, instruction, dummies guide, introduction, organizations, government [/tags]
March 1, 2008 by Colin
Finally. A tenuous reason to link to Russell’s splendid blog, eggbaconchipsandbeans – where he provides reviews and photos of the tasty grub prepared by local snack shops across the UK.
And the far less splendid, but somewhat entralling Grocery Eats. Deep fried White Castle Slider. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.
Euan Ferguson, writing in the Guardian, takes a light hearted look at the relationship between food and the senses, building off the ideas of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, in particular his loaded manifesto on “futurist cooking.”
[Marinetti, in a remarkable move for an Italian, suggested there were many more things better to eat than dried pasta]
Ferguson harkens back to his own memories – and the feeling of comfort brought on by otherwise boring and even unhealthy food:
“… A Ginsters sausage roll has to be accompanied by the sound of the M25, the feel of a crappy rental plastic gearstick, the gaze into rain, the smell of a cigarette to annoy the rubbish rental company and also because you cannot physically eat a Ginsters without smoking; the sound of the suburbs.
My favourite being-down meal, macaroni cheese with sweetcorn with an egg beaten into it, is best (trust me) accompanied by the feel of the remote, the opening bars of Armageddon, the smell of fresh-drying clothes, the sight of my kicked-off boots …” (Guardian Observer)
photo courtesy of DavidRLewis
[tags] Marinetti, futurist cooking, service centres, Ginsters [/tags]
February 14, 2008 by Colin
Cross-promotion in support of a cross-promotion campaign!
The gist of this lengthy post: take a negative, add some humour and ingenuity and make it a positive!
Canuckflack, Oh Canuckflack,
How we all love Colin McKay
So we’re writing him this romantic note
Because it’s Saint Valentine’s day!
His quirky take on the marketing world
Fills our lives with daily mirth
Which is why he is without dispute
The most gorgeous blogger on Earth…
You’ll always be our classic rock
As you guide us through what’s new
The communications industry has found itself
A poster boy in you.
Colin – a man like you, who knows his stuff
And can talk all things social media
Fills our minds with many naughty thoughts
About how we want to feed ‘ya…
So we’d like you to try new Lovers’ Marmite,
Which is laced with a bit of Champagne
You should have fellow citizens wondering
About that nice smell on the O-Train…
And so when you’re chomping on your morning toast
Before you head out to Uppertown
Don’t forget to reach for the Marmite jar
But you don’t have to put the butter down
Happy Valentine’s Day from Marmite
You’re our perfect date
Thanks for showing us some love
Instead of choosing to hate!
What cross-promotion, you may ask?
The fabulous Paddington Bear preferring Marmite over Marmalade ad:
But what’s the second level of cross-promotion?
Some little thing called “Lover’s Marmite” – a special blend of Marmite and Champagne only available for a limited time, with a special label on the back. A label where you can write the name of your special darling, as you hand them a jar of yeast extract that says “I Love You” on the front.
The only thing better would be used undergarments from your solo vacation to Thailand.
If that image wasn’t disturbing enough, take a look at the advert for “Lover’s Marmite”:
Honestly, I don’t know why I obsess over Marmite (the product), but Marmite (the marketer) has bowled me over twice in six months!
[tags] marmite, blogger relations, blogger outreach, Lover’s Marmite [/tags]
February 10, 2008 by Colin
Mitch has nailed it. A lot of companies being slammed by online controversies – like Hasbro – just aren’t used to dealing with emotional, irrational and impetuous humans.
Their relationship with the marketplace is framed by the work of their distributors, an import/export firm, or a licence holder.
The issues involved are often complex, with plenty of lawyers involved. Corporate positions frequently cannot be distilled into blogger-friendly language without affecting corporate interests in liability, finance or intellectual property.
Any corporate public relations pro will recognize their dilemma.
As Mitch points out, it’s hard for a company built to a fifty year-old model to adapt to a new business flow chock full of eddies, breakers and dangerous rapids.
The transformation of the corporation demands participation and understanding at many levels – not just in the marketing and communications department.
As Doug Walker points out in a comment to Mitch’s post, the simplest point of contact may just be the customer service representative – if finance, facilities and human resources help you expand your CSR force to deal with the pressures that can be generated by social media.
And that means finance, facilities, human resources, and the call centre manager will all have to understand the needs and challenges of playing in social media.
Oh – and Mitch’s other point, about bloggers demonstrating the same qualities they demand from corporations? I agree as well.
Anyone can build a bully pulpit, whether they’re a fascinating storyteller or simply a demagogue.
It takes a level of dedication and transparency to actually maintain relationships and effect change in a community – small or large.
February 6, 2008 by Colin
What are the desirable qualities of an designer? How about a creative generalist? How about an unceasing appetite for information, for synergy, for identifying relationships?
Here are two takes: a short answer from Steve Portigal, and a long exposition by Steve Hardy, the Creative Generalist.
What is it that makes a great design strategist?
A great design strategist may not see themselves as a design strategist. They’re probably someone who has had a few different professional identities and gets excited by the spaces where disciplines, schools of thought, and methods overlap. They are curious and easily intrigued: they like to observe what’s going on around them and they’re good at listening to people.
And they know how to use all this data to synthesize new patterns and communicate them clearly to a range of audiences. Charlie Stross, in the sci-fi book Accelerando, describes the profession of a “meme broker” and the intense amount of content they have to assimilate every day in order to do this.
Bruce Sterling calls this activity “scanning“ looking at all the sources one can and constantly asking what does this mean for my clients. Being able to work through all those data sources and pull out the implications is crucial for design strategy.” (Influx interviews Steve Portigal)
And here is the nub of Steve Hardy’s long but fantastic post:
I’ve identified five core areas at which Creative Generalists excel. They are:
• Wander & Wonder – finding possibility
• Synthesize & Summarize – presenting information
• Link & Leap – generating ideas
• Mix & Match – connecting people
• Experience & Empathize – understanding worldview
February 4, 2008 by Colin
“Act like you just quit” – fantastic advice from Advertising for Peanuts.
That’s doesn’t mean flip your boss the bird, or burn down the Initech division where you work.
Instead, challenge the conventions, the traditions, the ingrained habits that have held you back.
Do you have a great idea gnawing away at your soul? Are there business processes you are certain can be improved?
Or do you just feel disaffected and detached from your work? Chances are, your colleagues and boss have noticed as well.
Think about that period between an old job and a new one. What’s your normal behaviour? You:
- immediately forget all the petty interpersonal conflicts that took up your workday
- begin forecasting the work environment, work projects and personal relationships you want to develop at your new job
- maybe even take a stab at career planning – imagining two or three steps into the future
That’s right. You embrace the opportunity to change, the opportunity to abandon all your old habits and your less-than-favourable practices.
Why not do that now? Change does not require packing boxes. It just demands a level of confidence and a willingness to risk the status quo.
You’ll be surprised by how others welcome your willingness to change your life and your performance.
Quitters may be dismissed out of hand, but you’re rarely faulted for trying your hardest.
February 2, 2008 by Colin
Public relations, as a profession, has an identity crisis. Not really a surprise, is it? Is it a touchy-feely trade that can only be learned through practice or a cold-hearted discipline informed by social science and buttressed by research? Are we a homogenous enough group that we can speak with one voice, or are we really an agglomeration of egos and anxieties craving attention and monthly retainers?
And who in the world can speak for us? Can we turn to an Alliance, an Association, or a Chartered Institute? Or must our identities be boiled down to more realistic descriptions: investor relations, health marketing, internal comms, or, dare I say it, blogger outreach?
For most PR pros, this isn’t really a crisis. They’re spending far too much time actually churning out tepid fact sheets, internal newsletters, lame untargeted media pitches, spending far too much time on twitter or thinking up new bizdev gimmicks.
The real identity crisis occurs every Thanksgiving when the extended family asks “how things are going in the job,” all the while giving you the stink eye. You know from experience that they have a stereotype of your work firmly stuck in their mind, and it’s not positive.
For instance, your older cousins could be thinking of Mike Damone, the scalper from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Your Aunt could be flashing back to Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixon’s spokesperson. And that young niece? She’s thinking Billy Mays.
Wow. Scamsters. Hucksters. Second story men, the lot.
This is a baffling state of affairs because PR pros are surprisingly self-confident and certain of our own capabilities. Otherwise we wouldn’t be in PR – we’d be in journalism.
Unfortunately, no voluntary code, industry standards or charter will change that perception. There will always be a cheap, dirty and dishonest alternative willing to “do PR” for a client.
Which is why we can only hang our hat as public relations professionals on our own record of experience, professionalism and results. It’s a profession that revolves around the name brand, the free agent on the rise, and the personal connection.
January 15, 2008 by Colin
Last week, three separate publications asked me for a headshot (because I’m a spokeshead, not because I’m a popular blogger with an extremely photogenic mug). I have several options available, and I found myself flipping between the professional and the amateurish: a headshot prepared by a professional photographer, and a handful of profile pictures snapped with a number of camera phones.
You see, I’ve been in public relations long enough to remember when professional photo shoots were required for all your spokespeople. You always had to have a ready selection of half grinning/mildly worried looks on hand, just in case.
As I was sorting through my options, though, I realized that the bar had moved. The public no longer expects a formal upright, slightly angled shouldered look to their authority figures. In fact, I had to screw around with my headshot in Photoshop before sending it off to one publications.
A co-worker of Jason Oke has noticed that the younger generations do not have a problem finding a headshot – in fact, there seems to be
“… an age-related gap on social networking sites like Facebook in personal photo quality – anyone under 25 looks really good in all of their pictures, while the rest of us look pudgy and a bit stunned.
His theory is that it’s because those of us of a certain age grew up with pictures being taken mostly on special occasions like birthdays and holidays, and usually with some warning of “say cheese.”
We never really learned how to have our picture properly taken. But with ubiquitous casual digital photography, the young ‘uns grew up being used to taking and seeing many more photos of themselves, and have learned to quickly throw a pose in any situation. They are photo-literate.”
Me? I can’t quite pull of the casual concentration look. I don’t really like Starbucks, so I’m never at ease enough to pull off the “working in casual luxury while sitting on a loveseat” look. And every time I try the “you caught me in mid-action” pose, I look like an out-take from a Sears catalogue.
[tags] photography, headshot, publicity still, corporate look, spokesperson [/tags]
January 5, 2008 by Colin
And there I thought pageants had already taken a great leap into modernity with the hiring of Billy Bush.
Last night, Miss America:Reality Check hit the airwaves. I think it may be just the radical revamp this old dame needed. The formula is tired and familiar to us all: a disparate (and maybe desperate) group of girls settles into cramped quarters with too few bathrooms.
They form heartfelt but ultimately shallow and dishonest relationships where they claim friendship and are quick to criticize any demonstration of disloyalty or competitiveness. The show’s producers attempt to create artificial divisions among the pageant queens by separating the teams by age and physical characteristics (only on this show would a 24 year-old be considered a “senior”).
The appeal comes from the incredible contrast between the plastic and highly manufactured contests of the past, and the new hurdles facing the contestants today.
Like a reality check from the tag team of Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. Or the faux cinema verite segment where the contestants appear to discuss whether teens (and Miss American contestants) actually practice abstinence. Some of those young ladies actually appeared grief-stricken at the thought of deviating from their practiced stage patter.
“I favour harsher jail sentences for parole violators … and world peace.”
Finally, I could swear that the “challenges” between teams are held in a converted horse paddock behind the communal house.
All I could imagine was Miss Ellie from Dallas, cheering on Miss Texas.
[tags] Miss America, reality TV, beauty pageant [/tags]
January 3, 2008 by Colin
Some of you may know, during the day I work with a great bunch of privacy advocates. So I’ve got some opinions about the Scroble scraping issue of the day.
Just ask yourself: let’s say large consumer product company X had created a fan group in Facebook. This morning, they decided to launch a new promotional campaign aimed at just these fans, but needed the contact information. Finding Plaxo’s cool new tool, they then simply scraped the name, addy and preferences of all their “fans.”
Would that be acceptable? No. Damien Mulley has it right. It could be considered data theft.
And we would all be justifiably outraged about it.
It’s the idea of scale. You move the information of your 20, 50, 100 or 200 close personal and business contacts, you’re only maintaining your records.
You move 1,000 or more – you’re maintaining a mailing list.
The idea of data portability is that users, consumers, geeks have control of their OWN data. In this case, users entered into a relationship with another user (Scoble) where they shared access to their mutual Facebook profiles.
Facebook, for all its weaknesses and commercial impulses, does have a limited level of privacy protection. The embedding of personal email addys in an image is one. If you want to send me an email from outside the walled garden, you have to take the time to copy the addy by hand.
It’s one protection FOR ME to avoid having my addy scraped and sold off.
So when Plaxo tells Jeremiah Owyang that their new tool is all about data portability – they’re full of crap. It’s all about data collection. Here is an excerpt from a quick interview Jeremiah conducted with Plaxo today:
“…What else should we know? In 2008, data portability thrust is where we want to head, we want to turn the model upside down, so instead of widgets going to the social graph, we would like to make the social graph very portable. This is an area where Plaxo as more depth than anyone else.” (Jeremiah)
In the comments that follow, there is a good discussion of the social contract between “friends” when exchanging access rights and personal information.
Part of this contract, in this case, involves the privacy protections and restrictions put in place by Facebook. Facebook is a wide-open app with a lot of publicly available information, but that doesn’t mean that informed users don’t expect a level of considered behaviour on the part of their “friends.”
When you decide Facebook isn’t the most appropriate tool for you, you can’t attempt to migrate your mass of friends by breaking those protections and restrictions.
Sorry that it’s inconvenient, but that’s the playground you chose to play in.
And if you’re a commercial company that develops a tool designed to rip personal information out of proprietary social networks, don’t tell me you’re doing it in the name of the freedom for information to flow freely. There’s a commercial application behind the motivation.
[tags] data portability, data protection, identity theft, Facebook, Plaxo [/tags]
December 14, 2007 by Colin
For a long time, people told Chicken Little that he was too much of a downer, that he only saw the glass as half-full. He was always telling prospective clients that they had to get ready for the next big problem, that life was about to deal their shareholders a swift kick in the ‘nads.
But then the plucky little communications professional found his niche: preparing unsuspecting businesses to battle the inevitable online assault on their reputation.
His elevator pitch was very 2005:
“Do you have ten minutes to discuss the unfortunate story of Kryptonite?”
You know the rest of the story: open source solutions presented as proprietary, per diems, markups on technical suppliers, teleconferences, and a credenza full of lucite plaques, quills, pens, and awards of merit.
Oh, and a rough carpet of astroturf everywhere.
[tags] identity, social media consultancy, crisis, social media expert, astroturf [/tags]
December 14, 2007 by ColinBeen there, done that. Got the VHS tape from the media relations team of me being there, doing that. Also called my parents after having been there, having been shown doing that.[tags] Hugh Macleod, twitter, media relations [/tags]
December 7, 2007 by Colin
You know, a blog council is just like a big, fuzzy, comfortable blankie. In a moment of uncertainty and perhaps confusion, a blankie can be a touchstone, an easy gateway to a simpler and more secure time.
Especially if that blankie smells like your mommie, or good times in the park with all your friends.
Which explains the need for a blog council dedicated solely to the problems and achievements of large corporations entering the social media space. Some social media evangelists have jumped on the idea as too rigid or naiive, dismissing the idea that a large corporations could benefit from such an arrangement.
What they don’t seem to understand is that a “council” is an easy concept for senior executives to buy into. These people already belong to industry councils, economic councils and foreign policy councils. They understand the framework, they understand the cost structure and they understand the potential benefits.
And THIS is where our colleagues are right to question the impulse to create a council. Brian Solis moves around this idea in his post.
Councils are not created to convene coffee klatches and an excuse to fly into a new resort once a month.
THAT is called a seminar.
Councils are not pulled together to discuss common process challenges and develop best practices.
THAT is called a working group.
A council of senior executives, united in a common goal, is created to share influence. To increase the authority of council members in what can seem to be a fractured environment with little real leadership.
Even a Parent-Teacher Council dreams of expanded influence and increased authority, if only expressed through reams of volunteer lists and pizza orders.
I’m probably unnecessarily aggrandizing the influence that could be wielded by the Blog Council.
Still, the “benefits” a generic membership often include:
- customized public opinion research,
- specialized academic and industry research to support council positions,
- a centralized secretariat to coordinate joint positions on breaking issues,
- custom white papers designed to influence and sway regulators, and
- formal representation at legislative hearings and regulatory town halls.
As I look at the children’s playground of competing cliques in social media, a council of Fortune 500 companies that happen to blog seems to be a good idea.
An idea that, if managed effectively, could influence how fundamental decisions are made about the role of blogs, podcasts, vidcasts and ephemeral communications like Twitter in regulated environments like:
- financial communications,
- investor relations,
- federally mandated sustainability reporting,
- corporate PAC support for candidates and their increasingly 2.0 campaigns, and
- integrated behavioural marketing campaigns, which are increasingly under scrutiny from authorities like the FTC.
Which might be of some concern to a social media universe currently obsessed with nodes rather than the network as a whole.
Or I might have taken too many poli.sci. courses in university.
[tags] Blog Council, corporate blogging [/tags]