December 11, 2007 by Colin
Senator George Mitchell’s months-long investigation into the use of steroids, additives, clear and other enhancers is nearing an end, with reporters, bloggers and baseball fans eagerly expecting his report – and a long list of names.
Personally, I think baseball mascots are going to be the un-named co-conspirators in all this.
Just think about it. Heavy and poorly balanced costumes. Highly choreographed dances and 7th inning stretches. All that running up and down bleacher steps. The effective aim and discharge of hot dog and t-shirt cannons?
That’s a long list of ab, calf, hammy and tricep work. Mere hours on the Bowflex won’t prepare you for that sort of gruelling workday.
And don’t even get me started on the Milwaukee Sausage Race. If there’s anything the Tour de France has taught us, it’s that the French, Germans and Spaniards will do nearly anything to win an arduous race – including blood doping!
[tags] MLB, steroids, reputation management, crisis communications [/tags]
Original photo by Chad Davis
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]
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 18, 2007 by Colin
h/t to Sean at BuzzCanuck
[tags] viral, WOM, word of mouth [/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 13, 2007 by Colin
The BBC is rolling with news that cutbacks and layoffs are imminent, and significant television and radio personalities are speaking out about the impact on the hallowed institution.
The BBC is criticized for its split personality: a world class news gathering organization, and a melange of popular television and radio channels. Canada has a similar national network, albeit funded in part by commercial advertising.
In a moment of intense media scrutiny, a spokesperson can find himself fielding questions and interview requests from three different media (radio, television and internet) and five or more provinces – but all from the same network, the CBC.
Sort of like what the head of the BBC is experiencing:
“…In a particularly convenient moment of irony, BBC director general Mark Thompson notes that, after announcing the restructuring, he received 37 separate interview requests from various BBC news outlets.” (Toronto Star)
[tags] BBC, CBC, spokesperson, integrated newsroom, multi channel universe [/tags]
h/t to Judy.
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 6, 2007 by Colin
Yet another selection of snippets from my feed reader:
- The Booty Block – your guide to breaking into rollergirl competition.
- Rex Humbard, the original televangelist
- Dark Side of Brands – fantastic graphic, I’m kinda late to it.
- Stevie Ann covers Brit Brit’s Toxic in acoustic guitar – quite quite well – over at Coverville.
- Rules to live by in Advertising – from Richard via Craphammer.
- “We write ads or people die” – via MemeHuffer.
- Gladwell’s back – on the blog and in the magazine. And it seems he has a new book. Fire up the overhyping machine!
[tags] rollergirl, rollerderby, Britney, Brit Brit, Gladwell, advertising, televangelism [/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 25, 2007 by Colin
“…“Second Life, as a global community with residents from more than 100 countries, is an ideal venue to host a virtual launch of a report that compares how easy it is for people to start and operate a business in 178 economies,” Dahlia Khalifa said.
“Second Life is on the frontier of collaboration and technology. It brings people from around the world together by removing boundaries,” she added. …(news release)
It’s a noble effort and an example that the World Bank and its’ partners are looking for new ways to communicate their ideas – but Second Life has not proven its worth as a communication tool.
Earlier this year, Eric Kintz at HP argued why he still needed convincing about Second Life. Bandwidth and computing power were among the factors he identified for his reluctance to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak.
Those are very big issues for most government departments. Even OECD members have to evaluate the capacity of their network to deliver content over a service like Second Life – but also their network’s capacity to deliver that content back to their own employees.
I suspect that many organizations with outposts in Second Life (like Sweden) have set up separate networks and better equipment for their in-world representatives.
More on the event:
“…The event will be an open forum where policy makers and the public from around the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, can ask questions, challenge the findings, and contribute to a global business dialogue aimed at stimulating reforms that improve the business environment, and ultimately create more business startups, job opportunities, and economic growth.
Digital copies of the report’s overview, as well as World Bank–IFC virtual apparel and products, will be available to Second Life residents who attend the event.”
How are the clients of the World Bank – many of them living in remote corners of the internet – supposed to sign on for this report launch?
[tags] Second Life, World Bank, Doing Business, third world, international organizations, multilateral [/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 19, 2007 by Colin
Here it is , folks. One of the first effective media applications of Twitter.
Two BBC reporters covering the Rugby World Cup are using Twitter as part of their reporter’s tool kit.
And the BBC has done a very smart job of integrating their Twitter messages into the overall reporting package.
Twitter seems a perfect application for sports reporting, especially in a high profile game like the Rugby World Cup final. It’s:
- already part of the user’s media diet
- already used to convey emotion and a sense of place by users
- easily integrated into the larger reporting plan
As Robin Hamman, a voice from inside the BBC points out:
“…One of the most exciting things that the BBC Blogs seem to have done is to give programme and website producers the opportunity to innovate by adding additional services, from social bookmarking to social networking, to their pages – creating some compelling new content and new building audience communities in the process….” (Cybersoc)
h/t to Matthew at Data Mining.
[tags] twitter, rugby, bbc, integrated news rooms, social media [/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]