December 3, 2007 by Colin
Hey peeps. It’s a winter wonderland here in Ottawa, with eight inches on the ground and another dozen forecast for today.
I had a chance to have dinner with Richard, Joe, Ian, Keelan and others last night. It was a great time and I learned a lot. I’d tell you more, but that was the first conversation I’ve ever had where someone explicitly told me “this isn’t bloggable.”
Richard’s appearance is part of the Third Tuesday series of speaking events, even if it is on the first Monday.
The details, as always, are on Meetup.
December 1, 2007 by Colin
A surprise appearance over at Todd Defren’s blog from one of the co-producers of the viral marketing masterpiece of 1999 – the Blair Witch Project. Todd’s post and the comment have spun out of continuing discussion of the tactics behind building a “viral buzz” and magnifying community interest in an initiative or idea.
“…But probably the biggest difference is that Blair Witch was constructed in a way that you didn’t identify or invest in Heather, Mike and Josh as people — they were already dead and the audience was piecing together a mystery that already took place. The fans of LonelyGirl felt they had a relationship with the character, they communicated to her and she responded back to them. They were all part of a community, so when it was revealed that she was a fiction, people felt betrayed because they were emotionally invested in her….” (comment on Pr Squared)
As Todd sums up in a post the following day: “Community investment is key to understanding community reaction.”
And it seems like a lot of people (normal people, not people who follow esoteric debates about SEO, viral marketing and social news releases) think that marketers, SEO agencies and online public relations specialists are on a par with car salesmen.
You have to walk on to a lot, because most of us need a car. But you just know the salesman is there to screw you. Screw you on the MSRP, screw you on the extended warranty, slap on the “admin fee,” add up the “prep fee.”
While the entire transaction makes sense, is necessary, and eventually meets your aesthetic and practical needs, you as the consumer know that a half dozen people put their hands in your pocket before you walked off the lot.
No wonder that a whole segment of specialists are building a separate identity as community managers, community liaisons, or even community curators. There’s more of a hint of social work in their functions and goals, and less of an emphasis on moving product.
[tags] Blair Witch, Lonely Girl, SEO, astroturfing, community manager [/tags]
November 27, 2007 by Colin
Keith, the new honcho at com.motion*, was kind enough to send over the results of their exclusive survey of 444 senior managers and marketers. As Sean pointed out, it’s always helpful to have detailed public opinion research on any aspect of our little marketing and public relations world – especially social media.
Especially when the results seem to expose senior executives lying about their familiarity with social media. To be fair, they could be glaringly unaware how little they know about new technology. Or, they could be underestimating the extent of their clients’ knowledge.
Even worse – senior communications advisors revealing – rather embarassingly – that they are falling behind the curve. As specialists, they should be AHEAD of the curve.
Later on in the poll, it seems that the long tail only applies to online activities. Overall, an intention to increase spending on social media does mean an overall increase in budgets, but some managers and marketers responded that they would cut back on direct marketing costs. That makes sense – abandon the tried-and-true targeted marketing for the shiny and new.
* not this com.motion.
November 24, 2007 by Colin
Remember the Age of Conversation? 103 authors from across the marketing, public relations, interactive media and community manager disciplines? It’s still on sale at lulu.com – but only for another week.
Gavin and Drew’s little idea has pulled in over $11k for Variety Village, but the idea is to expand the possibility of people coming across the book.
So, starting November 30, the book will be available on Amazon.com.
There’s a dirty little secret, though. The price will be going from $16.95 to $30. And you wondered how Jeff Bezos can pay for all those distribution centres and free holiday shipping!
Still considering a purchase? StickyFigure can give you a quick taste of many of the authors. Or you can read their blogs:
Gavin Heaton Drew McLellan CK Valeria Maltoni Emily Reed Katie Chatfield Greg Verdino Mack Collier Lewis Green Ann Handley Mike Sansone Paul McEnany Roger von Oech Anna Farmery David Armano Bob Glaza Mark Goren Matt Dickman Scott Monty Richard Huntington Cam Beck David Reich Luc Debaisieux Sean Howard Tim Jackson Patrick Schaber Roberta Rosenberg Uwe Hook Tony D. Clark Todd Andrlik Toby Bloomberg Steve Woodruff Steve Bannister Steve Roesler Stanley Johnson Spike Jones Nathan Snell Simon Payn Ryan Rasmussen Ron Shevlin Roger Anderson Robert Hruzek Rishi Desai Phil Gerbyshak Peter Corbett Pete Deutschman Nick Rice Nick Wright Michael Morton Mark Earls Mark Blair Mario Vellandi Lori Magno Kristin Gorski Kris Hoet G.Kofi Annan Kimberly Dawn Wells Karl Long Julie Fleischer Jordan Behan John La Grou Joe Raasch Jim Kukral Jessica Hagy Janet Green Jamey Shiels Dr. Graham Hill Gia Facchini Geert Desager Gaurav Mishra Gary Schoeniger Gareth Kay Faris Yakob Emily Clasper Ed Cotton Dustin Jacobsen Tom Clifford David Polinchock David Koopmans David Brazeal David Berkowitz Carolyn Manning Craig Wilson Cord Silverstein Connie Reece Colin McKay Chris Newlan Chris Corrigan Cedric Giorgi Brian Reich Becky Carroll Arun Rajagopal Andy Nulman Amy Jussel AJ James Kim Klaver Sandy Renshaw Susan Bird Ryan Barrett Troy Worman CB Whittemore S. Neil Vineberg
[tags] Age of Conversation [/tags]
November 15, 2007 by Colin
After spending all that time building intricately detailed and personal profiles in closed-off social networks, how in the world do you bridge between identities?
When you’re cruising so successfully in your tight slacks, how do you alert the world to the vast repository of flixster reviews, TV trivia team scores, thrown sheep and ironic 70s profile photos just a few keystrokes away?
With Open Social?
No – with the “are you social” t-shirt, designed by Aram Bartholl!
Just scroll through the dozens of social networks displayed on the front of the shirt and check off each one you belong to.
Now, those unsuspecting young women at the campus bar won’t have to spend endless minutes wondering exactly when you’ll abandon the polite chit chat and start discussing one of five things:
- the size of your “friend” network
- your progress on World of Warcraft
- the “open relationship” you have with your Bebo girlfriend
- how you and Tom Byron use Orkut to pick up Brazilian chicks, and
- Padma or Leia?
Life could be a lot easier, though. You could just print up a tshirt with your Facebook profile on it.
In all seriousness. Both of these tshirt ideas poses a tremendous risk to your personal information and the security of your identity.
You might as well have a bumper sticker on your car that reads “I keep my driver’s licence in the glove compartment.”
via Dino and Valleywag.
[tags] Facebook, Bebo, Orkut, privacy, identity, social network [/tags]
November 14, 2007 by Colin
It’s that time again. The Third Tuesday extravaganza, where you get to meet and mingle with the public relations, marketing, digital design and web marketing.
Next week, November 19, I’ll be under the spotlight. I’ll be talking about encouraging the adoption of social media and new technologies as a government communicator.
Judging from the reception I received at a CPRS session today, I may try to build on my “social media is like a water slide” analogy as well.
It’s sure to be a fun, informative and imaginative time.
You can find the details on Meetup.
And thanks to Joe for the kind words.
[tags] Third Tuesday, government communications, government blogging [/tags]
November 9, 2007 by Colin
Remember the faux news conference put on by FEMA last month to brief about the response to the California wildfires?
The Department of Homeland Security has completed an “internal investigation,” and some people have fallen under the bus.
Apparently, some poor decisions were taken in deciding to hold a news conference at short notice, then, when reporters could not make it in time, have agency communications staff substitute for reporters by lobbing questions at the Deputy Administrator.
“Much like in an airline crash or automobile accident that was reconstructed, there were several different points leading up to the press conference where, had a single decision been made differently, the event itself could have been averted,” [DHS spokesperson Russ] Knocke said Thursday (AP, via TPM)
Wow. We get a pretty clear impression of what Knocke thinks of how the news conference rolled out. All it needs is a soundtrack. And Gil Grissom.
There have been repurcussions. The man who was FEMA’s press secretary (read his Potomac Flacks profile) will be working for a public relations agency in Utah (For those of you keeping track at home, that’s Washington to Utah in three weeks). The Director of External Relations had been scheduled to take up a new job with Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That job fell through.
There’s a couple of hints in the AP story that the FEMA staffers fell victim, in part, to a predetermined PR strategy and poor communications between the press shops at FEMA and DHS:
- DHS had asked the agency to hold a press conference before the DHS Secretary and the FEMA Administrator landed in California that day; and
- FEMA’s press secretary had sent an email to his boss and the DHS official responsible for communications, asking for more time – but only 43 minutes before the scheduled start of the news conference.
In the end, the comms shop had about 75 minutes to put the news conference together. Which makes you wonder why they didn’t just allow callers on the teleconference call to ask questions.
And, to top it off, the FEMA Administrator seems to imply that the career civil servants could have prevented their bosses from pursuing this course of action:
“Those are career people. They should have stepped up and said something, they really should have. But their bosses said ‘Do this,’ and they did it — some reluctantly, but there’s no excuses for that,” Paulison said. He called the impact on FEMA’s credibility “devastating.” (Washington Post)
This is what happens when you try to throw a media briefing together very quickly – and execute your strategy rather strangely. Unfortunately, the execution has coloured our impression of FEMA’s attempts to get information about the California wildfires out quickly.
And that hits to the heart of effective crisis communications.
[tags] FEMA, puppet theatre, DHS [/tags]
November 1, 2007 by Colin
The premise, as posited by Jeremiah, Kami, Kevin and others: content generators need to develop materials and vehicles that communicate effectively with “media snackers,” those new economy animals who bounce from medium to medium picking up information and filtering it.
That means short blog posts, interactive web tools, podcasts of varying lengths, videos, Twitter streams and anything else that two guys withs seed capital can think up.
I see a strategic weakness in this premise, however: just because people want their media quick, easily digestible and interactive doesn’t mean we should abandon context and overlook longer term tactics.
That’s because I’m an old school media snacker. Not as old enough to be a Reader’s Digest subscriber, let’s get that out of the way.* But old enough to know how to follow Usenet threads. Old enough to have thought PointCast was going to revolutionize our world.
I think we run the risk of over-simplifying our tactics and under-estimating our readers/listeners/viewers: they don’t come to the dim sum buffet for the individual dish, they see ach piece as part of a larger meal.
You see, I’m not a media snacker, I’m a media aggregator. I may bounce from source to source and from one format to another, but I have one (or several) topics that I’m tracking.
I am picking up tidbits, thoughts and observations, and integrating them into internal narratives, or adding them to databases on issues I am following, or marking them as useful for work I am doing at the office.
The danger with the “snacker” meme is that we may see our readers in too simplistic a manner: as someone dropping by for a visit, or someone not really engaged in the process.
We have to make sure, as communicators, marketers, public relations hacks or community builders, that we integrate our “snack media” into a more comprehensive communications and marketing plan.
And that doesn’t mean a cool splashpage made in flash.
It means some sort of community hub, where all these snacks can be displayed on a big buffet table (or, given that most “media snacks” are ephemeral in time and place, a warming table). A touchstone for your “lifestream,” so to speak.
And then our reader, community member, stakeholder – whatever – can pick and choose the tactic that most suits them.
*You realise, of course, that Reader’s Digest was the original media snacker’s resource.
[Tags] media snacker, twitter, meme, community, interstitial, lifestream [/tags]
October 24, 2007 by Colin
Depending upon the topic, it seems that people define the role of public relations practitioner, corporate communicator, and marketing fairly loosely. What exactly is the difference between the three distinct professions?
This graphic tries to separate them by indicating specific “benefits” of working in marketing communications (like travelling on business, having access to Super Bowl tickets) and then presenting the proportional odds of that benefit being available to one or all of the professions.
[tags] marketing, communicator, corporate communications, public relations, schwag [/tags]
October 18, 2007 by Colin
A really meta-meta-meta moment: Luke Burbank, one of the hosts of NPR’s Bryant Park, really felt that an interview with Sigur Ros, the gifted but notoriously distant band from Iceland, went badly. Very badly.
That’s because it did. It was painful. Why would Burbank have booked the band? Because a public relations hack called him up and suggested it. That’s right – this train wreck was recommended to him.
Maybe Burbank just didn’t prep well enough. I’m a suburban dad from Canada, and I knew Sigur Ros were a hard interview. Just take a look at this excerpt from an interview in the Guardian – from 2005:
“…On their astounding new album, Takk … , titles are back and most of the lyrics are in Icelandic. This spirit of glasnost also animates their interviews, which were once a barren tundra of single-word answers. In 2001, one journalist came away with just three usable quotes, one of which was “Yeah, yeah”. They’ll still admit that, given the choice, they would never talk to the press. “It would be nice, yes, if that was possible,” says guitarist and keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson. “That’s something I used to talk about, but I’m getting older and,” he laughs, “weaker. I used to be really sceptical about these things and not really trust anybody.”
Or maybe the flack had recently seen them give good interviews. The evidence seems overwhelmingly negative. They are not an “up with people” band.
It’s clear that the original interview did not make good radio. Jancee, the journalist, is blunt in her assessment of the interview and offers some brief insight into the process of interviewing musicians (like the suggestion, late in the video, that a sock puppet could interview David Lee Roth). Still, some of her commentary is amusing:
“I really do zero in on the drummer. Look at his yearning expression, it’s saying “ask me a question. I’ll answer it. I’m friendly. Over here!” … And really, the other band mates, they really will be puzzled, then they’ll be upset and then they’ll kind of jump in, usually, after a while.”
Jake McKee pointed to this NPR piece and held it up as an example of “turning that frown upside down.” When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Take the critical energy being directed at you, and turn it into a learning experience.
I agree that this is an interesting way to respond to criticism and defuse the situation. He was even-handed in his assessment of his own performance, as well as that of the band. Unfortunately, I found the technique just a little too coy: running a display-in-display critique of his own interview, with the help of a colour commentator.
All that was missing was the Madden Telestrator.
****Added feature: one commenter on the NPR blog suggested Tom Sndyer’s 1980 interview with Johnny Rotten as far worse. I don’t know if I can agree: at least Rotten was engaged and animated.
[tags] NPR, Bryant Park, Sigur Ros, interview techniques [/tags]
October 11, 2007 by Colin
Let’s stop this facade, okay? Public relations is not dead. For the vast majority of the world – in terms of population AND landmass – public relations practitioners still have another five, ten or fifteen years of holding back information, constructing media events and counseling executives and technical experts to “stay on message” and “bridge” from uncomfortable questions.
The “PR is Dead” theme is really a variant of a larger philosophy: information is free, and each citizen is capable of interpreting information as he/she sees fit.
It’s a lovely idea. Too bad it depends on three (or more) economic and social factors:
- intensive broadband penetration
- media integration across platforms
- computer literacy
Oh, and the money to buy a computer, a job stable and well-paying enough to free up the time necessary to sort your own information, and a cultural predisposition to questioning authority and information sources.
If we define our profession so simplistically, we certainly CAN be replaced by a good search engine optimization program – but only once the rest of the world has caught up to the technical sophistication of Silicon Valley.
Until then, the community of social media advocates is being pretty presumptuous about the capacity or willingness of large swaths of the earth’s population to jump on board with their ideas and innovations.
[tags] PR is dead, PR 2.0, Web 2.0, SEO [/tags]
October 3, 2007 by Colin
… but I’ve written some interesting posts over at my other blog, sosaidthe.org. They tend to concentrate on government communications, so I’ve stopped posting these sorts of ideas here at canuckflack. Still, I think they’re worth a gander:
- New recruits stumble on Facebook: how much embarrassment can your new employees bring to the office?
- Is blogger outreach a timebomb in your work plan?
- Conferences: the crucible of government communications.
[tags] Facebook, employee communications, blogger relations [/tags]
September 25, 2007 by Colin
What’s the link between social media and skateboarding? Sometimes, social media experts will strike really poor bargains for their services – just like the early boarders who performed for stickers, decks and gas money.
I mean, in what other industry would thought leaders trade their hard-built reputation for a free camera, cellphone, iPhone or a free laptop?
In skateboarding, there’s a lot of people who have jumped on a deck and found a new image or sense of group identity. There are a few boarders that have developed the skills – on the deck and in the office – to build strong identities in the sport and personalities that are eagerly sought out by marketers.
Sure, skateboarding has always had a distinctly commercial element. Even with its roots in home-made equipment and the growing legends of local or regional skaters, the continuing perception of skateboarding as an underground industry is largely manufactured. Today, it is part of a mainstream image industry.
Social media, as a profession for consultants, marketers and public relations hacks, is growing into a mainstream industry. For every mis-step amplified by bloggers and journalists, there are countless small improvements being accomplished in large and small businesses, not-for-profits, community organizations and local governments.
Still, I’m really growing tired of leading bloggers, authors and consultants crowing about how they scored some more schwag. Let’s keep this in perspective, people. Even community-access television can score $500 for a month’s sponsorship.
At some point, we’ve got to stop behaving like the stoners at the back of the school. Even skateboarders figured out that pocket change was poor compensation for their brilliant footwork.
Image above from a 70s era Skate Safety video.
[tags] blogger outreach, schwag, social media, payola [/tags]
September 18, 2007 by Colin
Another season of Third Tuesday Ottawa social media get-togethers opens with a sought-after star: Mitch Joel. You may know Mitch from such previous work as his Six Pixels of Separation podcast or his Twist Image blog.Mitch will kick off this year’s Third Tuesday Ottawa season on September 25. A kick you in the ass kind of speaker, Mitch will discuss marketing, social media and web 2.0.
Free registration can be found over on the Third Tuesday Ottawa Social Media Meetup group.
September 14, 2007 by Colin
Some say skill is a gift; some say it’s learned; others say it’s earned. In my case, it’s all osmosis. I picked up everything I know about marketing, communications and public relations by watching movies.
School of Rock – never let a lack of formal education or professional accreditation keep you from seeking employment in your chosen field. Especially if your clients are gullible and misinformed.
Single White Female – you can operate a virtual consultancy for fun and profit, but always hold a vital piece of the client’s work hostage through deception and encryption.
Pretty In Pink – Quirky marketing and gimmicks are the key to successful independent retail.
Repo Man – no matter how crappy the job, a false sense of confidence and a poorly conceived personal ideology can carry you.
Trading Places – dress for success. It’s half the battle. The other half is family money and going to a good school.
Trop belle pour toi – you don’t have to be traditionally handsome to make new friends.
Wall Street – never walk around without an elevator pitch.
Chuckie – it’s NEVER child’s play.
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle – don’t be led by material needs. And avoid Neil Patrick Harris.
Crying Game – always be ready for surprises.
Star Wars – conformity stifles creativity and innovation in large organizations.
High Fidelity – every one can find their niche in the market, even compulsive obsessives.
Wedding Crashers – a good line of patter will break the ice in almost every situation.
Apocalypse Now – no matter how charismatic the leader, keep looking for the crazy eyes.
Bill and Ted’s Wild Adventure – you can always learn from the past.
Bullit – a gruff attitude, distrust for authority and a basic wardrobe of khakis and hearty sweaters convey authority.