Tag Archive | "events"

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Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: Crooked Monkey Style


This post was originally published on BrianSolis.com on October 21, 2009.

Guest Post by Dr. Mark Drapeau – read his blog, follow him on Twitter


I hadn’t heard of the popular t-shirt company Crooked Monkey until I was invited to an exclusive party they recently held. You see, even though they get great press from actors wearing their shirts in movies and magazines talking about their fashion styles, Crooked Monkey is based in Washington, DC not widely known as the fashion capital of the country. And they wanted to do some local brand building.

This wasn’t just any party. Sure, there were attractive guests in a cool setting with great drinks and music all the usual stuff. It was what they did differently that made it the most memorable event Ive been to in a long time.

Lets start with how I even found out about the event a secretive email from someone I didn’t know telling me that my friend recommended me as a guest for the event. This is somewhere in between Facebook and Eyes Wide Shut.  Then, a request for my home address, to which was mailed a package containing an envelope with a paper invitation, and also a sparsely decorated white t-shirt, which I was required to save for the party two months later and bring with me to gain admittance. Finally, a bag of tart banana candies finished the package.

Further inspection revealed that the event was on a Sunday night (no night is safe from parties! ) at a secret location to be given to us later. Keep in mind that I dont know the person behind the party, nor the other guests, and now also not the location. Still later I discovered by email invitation that the event would be in a warehouse in a not-so-savory part of Washington, DC and that we MUST bring our white t-shirts because wed be doing something with them on the night of the event.

When the day of the event came, I really couldn’t stand not knowing anything! I texted the contacts I had for the event to ask questions, but they revealed little. I emailed some socialite friends to try to figure out who else would be there we knew it would be all tastemakers of different sorts, but no one really knew who was going, which was exciting. I used Google Maps to investigate the location of the warehouse. I stressed about what one wears to such events (I think I chose well! ).

Even the party itself was very engaging. An artist created a mural from our white t-shirts that we used for entry right in front of our eyes. An old-fashioned photo booth let us take pictures with each other, and the photo strips had (what else?) a Crooked Monkey logo on them.  Even the name of the event Photoshoot at the Warehouse gave the party an active quality.

Do you detect a pattern here? Crooked Monkey kept busy, elite attendees who get invited to tons of events mentally engaged with their event for weeks. They made us part of telling their story. They got us to talk about their brand before, during, and after the event.  And in the end, the event delivered with a cool venue, outstanding bar, fun atmosphere, and lots of fashion.

Photoshoot at the Warehouse is a great example of putting the public back in public relations and brand engagement. How great? Im writing an entire post about them – and I dont even like wearing t-shirts!

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Trashy Viral: Spreading Ideas That Don’t Matter


I’m coining the term Trashy Viral to describe the spread of thought-provoking let ultimately useless ideas.  These are memes that might be entertaining (like “chimpanzee riding on a Segway”) or just plain media-catchy with little underlying value (”Twitter is 40% useless babble”).

The aforementioned study by relatively unknown firm Pear Analytics went viral after a sensationalistic and completely uncritical Mashable story by Jennifer van Grove set the wheels in motion.   The incredibly unscientific, subjective study gave readers a list of unsatisfying out-of-context numbers that ultimately have no use to anyone with a serious interest – you know, like the color-coded Department of Homeland Security terror alert system.

Hey, good for the company – people like me are talking about them, I suppose.  And the blog and mainstream media love a controversial story that looks scientific, calls out something beloved, and has no concrete conclusions.  But if I were the CEO of a shop like Pear Analytics I would find this amount of negative criticism embarrassing rather than a “call for refinement of the research study.”  But I think there’s a mile of difference between something going viral because it’s deliberately useless and going viral because it’s accidentally so.

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Making Whuffie With Julia Allison


You can’t eat whuffie, but it’s getting harder to eat without it, as Tara Hunt says in The Whuffie Factor.  For the uninitiated, think of whuffie as an alternative to money – a reputation-based currency that started as a concept in a science fiction novel, now being applied to online business. Hunt’s interesting central thesis is that in order to successfully change social capital into market capital, company employees need to be authentic community members engaging in meaningful participation where their contributions often outweigh personal gains.

Typically, someone can raise whuffie by promoting something bigger than one’s own self-interests. This kind of community participation, as Solis and Breakenridge write in Putting the Public Back in Public Relations has become certral to marketing, branding, and influence: “Social media enables one to aggregate and promote your online brand while nurturing and managing important relationships.”

When I think of using online tools for public relations I often think of Julia Allison, who one year ago graced the cover of Wired ostensibly for her mastery of so-called “internet fame” and possibly translating it into real fame, and a profitable business. Since reading her relationships advice column in AM New York when I lived in Manhattan circa 2003, I’ve been familiar with Julia for a long time. More recently, with each of us shifting our interests to social technology, I’ve had the opportunity to hear her speak and meet with her. (Stealing a page from the fameball playbook, I even got the requisite photo with her and her dog during Internet Week 2008 – almost the same week of the Wired cover story.)

She is nothing if not a fascinating enigma; I believe we talked about the neuroscience of dating. So when pondering what I might write as a PR 2.0 guest column, I thought it would be interesting and instructive to look at the rise of Julia Allison as a “case study” in personal branding, and compare and contrast her career path with the tenets of raising whuffie.

Read the rest of this article at Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 blog.

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Strategic vs. Popular Event Attendance


People frequently ask me if I’m going to this or that event. Are you going to SXSW? Are you going to Gnomedex? And I often say no.

It’s okay to defy people’s expectations. Most people are followers and attend whatever events everyone else is attending, often without a great reason. When people ask me if I’m attending an event I don’t plan to attend, I do say “No” but then I usually ask, “Why should I go?” – and I usually don’t get a great answer.

To me that’s just more justification for not attending.

Everything starts with a strategy for you and your career. Don’t go to Gov 2.0 Summit or SXSW or Personal Democracy Forum or anything else without a great reason – and preferably more than one. You have to do what works for you. Events are just tools that help you complete your mission better. That’s all.

Personally, I mix small free events that are great for networking with some high profile events in my area where I can learn something new with academic conferences to think about things more abstractly with events outside my area to deliberately take me outside my element with conferences I speak at to get feedback about my ideas. That’s why I attend lots of events but any one person feels like they don’t see me very often.

This month I’ll speak to the Network of Entreprenurial Women in Washington, the World Tech Summit in New York, the Open Government & Innovations Conference back in Washington, then the 5th Annual National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. All different, all broadening who I am and how I think.

Pick and choose your events according to what works for you, not peer pressure. Sometimes the event that “everyone is going to” works for you, and sometimes it doesn’t. Buck the crowd sometimes – that’s what will enhance you and set you apart.

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Web 2.0 Throwdown: Print vs. Post


There is a tremendous amount of interest in emerging media technologies in 2009. They are disrupting many areas of great interest – advertising, publishing, job searching, professional networking, military recruiting, charity fundraising, and political campaigning, to name a few. And in this economy, in this seeming moment of change, it is more important to keep up with trends in communications technology than ever before; that knowledge may be the difference between winning or losing a job, a contract, or even the leadership of a country.

Kate Michael is hosting an event called PRINT VS. POST on Wed, May 13th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, in order to discuss some of these important issues with two great thought leaders: Andrew Keen of Berkeley, CA, and Peter Shankman from New York, NY.  Both are best-selling authors, both frequent keynote speakers, both incredibly outspoken and interesting, they will face off and discuss and debate issues related to new media and journalism, government, and politics for an hour. They’ll also be signing books and attending a charity after-party at local nightclub Lotus Lounge.

I’m really excited to be hosting such an important and timely event.  If you’re a writer, you need to attend. If you’re in public relations, you really need to attend. And if you’re a future 2010 Congressional campaign staffer, you super really need to attend, because now that the Obama campaign put new media on the radar, everybody wants in. And your knowledge will be useful. And from a learning and networking standpoint, getting a VIP ticketis the way to go – not only will you be able to attend the event in person, you’ll have a good chance of winning both of the author’s autographed books in a raffle, and will also gain access to the Newsbabes Bash for Breast Cancer afterwards, where you will see me, Kate, Andrew, Peter, and many media personalities having a great time!

Please click here and pick up a ticket before they’re all gone!!

Andrew Keen of Berkeley, CA has been called “the Antichrist of Silicon Valley” for his controversial views of Web 2.0 and its effects on society. His book The Cult of the Amateur is hated but well-read for its insight into how the democratization of data is changing everything about how we interact with one another and live our lives at their core. The demise of well-compensated experts, the influx of junk on the Web, and the accessibility of opinions over facts are just a few reasons that emerging Web 2.0 social technologies are destroying life as we know it.

Or are they? Peter Shankman from New York, NY is well known as a public relations maven from his days at AOL and his book Can We Do That? But more recently he has started the service best known as HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out. Peter makes a living by using social tools that connect people to effectively link up journalists with sources (a.k.a. “hacks and flacks”) – and keep reporters and writers in business. Leveraging old school email newsletters three times a day with new media like blogging and Twitter, HARO is a platform to keep experts around for a long time to come.

So which is it? Is Web 2.0 destroying our culture? Is it deconstructing the very nature of books, of words? What are the effects on the future of mainstream media, of newspapers, of television and radio? What should students be learning in journalism schools, and should they even bother going anymore? And how might these emerging technologies affect how the 2010 mid-term Congressional campaigns are conducted? And what’s unique about Twitter that’s making it so popular right now?

Keen and Shankman will face off in an hour long discussion moderated by Washington, DC’s very own Dr. Mark Drapeau, a prolific writer, animal behavior scientist, and strategic consultant to the government on social media issues. He knows these guys, he’s read their books, and he knows how to push their buttons. And he’ll get the most out of them for the audience in order to answer the questions above, and your unrehearsed questions too.

When: May 13, 2009, 6:00 – 7:00 PM
Where: National Press Club

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The Boy Who Cheered Wolf


Everyone has bad days, right?

Well, not everyone. There’s always that person who says every day should be the BEST EVER. They think that you’re a WINNER. They want you to SUCCEED. And all of their friends are AWESOME.

When you shower too much unconditional praise, it ceases to be meaningful. Not every party was the best ever, not every day is terrific, and not everyone you meet is interchangably awesome.

Use praise sparingly. Then, when you give someone a shoutout, they feel more special and your audience is more likely to pay attention to them. When you announce a great event, people are more likely to believe you, and register for it. And when you say that you’re having the BEST day of your life, everyone will help you to celebrate it.

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SXSW? Forget About It


You’re more forgetful than you might think.

Almost every bit of data you encounter daily is forgotten. You forget the exact number of dishes you left in your sink, you forget the number of paces you walked from your bed to your bathroom, you forget the car licence plates you see as you drive to work, you forget most of the words you read at work, and you forget precisely what everyone ordered at the office happy hour.

It turns out that this is true of most any animal. For example, since the early 1970s, fruit fly researchers have been using sophisticated behavioral, genetic, molecular, and neurobiological methods to dissect the brain’s mechanisms of the acquisition, storage, retrieval, decay, and yes, extinction of memories.

But why does our brain kill memories? Because, simply, if you remembered everything you’d quickly have information overload.

At the popular South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas this week, information overload is happening not only in real life but also online. As journalist Daniel Terdiman points out at CNET News, while Twitter has been useful for finding friends and event sessions and parties at SXSW in the past, the growth of both SXSW and Twitter has resulted in so many people using it at SXSW 2009 that it is hard to keep up with all the…information.

More information doesn’t mean better knowledge. Thus, as Clay Shirky famously quipped, “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure.”

We’re surrounded by information and filters. Colleges are filters for knowledge. Libraries are filters for books. Supermarkets are filters for food. Movie theatres are filters for films. NBC Nightly News is a filter for the mainstream headlines. RSS feeds are a filter for blogs.

Twitter is experiencing huge growth that shows no sign of abating soon. And as far back as two years ago there were international Twitter ‘clones’ – now there are many more. Yet, filter technology is lagging far behind microsharing technology.

Perhaps even more important is that while attending events people tend to filter on-the-go using mobile devices like Apple’s relatively powerful iPhone. But no one can keep up with over 1,000 tweets per hour while consciously attending an event in real life. So, when developing filter technologies, both the power user measuring public sentiment on an office computer and the mobile enthusiast on the road are important clients to keep in mind.

You can safely forget most of what happened at SXSW 2009. But how do you find the things worth remembering?

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Government 2.0: Ask What You Can Hack for Your Country


This post was originally published on Mashable on October 20, 2008.

“The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book, you either do it right or you get eliminated.”

- Gordon Gecko, Wall Street

Corporations exist in a continuously changing ecosystem, with behavior strategies, evolution, cooperation, competition, camouflage, mimicry, and yes, extinction. The environment is constantly changing; disequilibrium is the norm.

Similarly, the governments of countries exist in a complex global ecosystem of competition, trade, and war. Some countries are up, some are down, and many are in the middle – and these ranks evolve due to many factors. Even Gecko himself compares the fictional Teldar Paper to “that other malfunctioning corporation, the U.S. of A.”

If the federal government doesn’t want our country to go the way of the dodo, it needs to adapt to changing times – and changing technology, including the many emerging Web 2.0 tools. One Gecko-ish malfunction of government is that it collects a huge amount of data with which it does hardly anything truly useful. Crime statistics, labor trends, pothole locations and many other interesting bits haven’t often been easily accessible, and that strategy doesn’t serve the public well.

Information Innovation

No longer. Innovative people are finding interesting uses for government data. Witness just one example, SpotCrime, a comprehensive private sector mashup of crime reports and real-time interactive maps for not just every state in the U.S., but also many countries around the world.

Using SpotCrime-DC for about 5 minutes, I quickly learned of three recent robberies occurring very close to my home – all between 7:00 and 7:30 am. (Note to self, no morning jogs around the neighborhood.) No one is uninterested in this topic, whether you are protecting your family or just scoping out the competition – but without this simple to use mashup, the information would be overwhelming, confusing, and inaccessible (although technically it is “publicly available.”)

The U.S. government has more than just crime data, though. They have massive storehouses of geographic data, labor statistics, transportation information, census data, genealogies, environmental and ecological trends, economic indicators, and statistics on aging, to name a few. There is literally something for everyone.

Now, a lot of this data is already publicly available; but in what formats? Take this example of the top 100 growing counties in the U.S.. However, you have to download the data in an Excel spreadsheet or as a .CSV file – how many people even know what to do with a .CSV file? And what if you can’t afford Excel, or don’t have it handy when you want to use the public data?

Public Incentives, Private Competition

How can this data best be delivered to people? Here’s
one example. In what can only be described as a very hip initiative, the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer is collaborating with local interactive content agency iStrategyLabs to launch an innovation challenge called Apps for Democracy (disclosure: Mashable is a media sponsor).

This contest, open to absolutely anyone, aims primarily to visualize DC’s open, public data for the greater good of citizens, visitors, and local businesses. These public service developers will compete for both cash prizes and public recognition.

The District of Columbia is thinking very broadly about the products that will result from the innovation challenge – in play are Web applications, widgets, map mashups, iPhone apps, Facebook apps, and more. Unquestionably, this effort can serve as a model for the federal government to enhance its massive data stores by offering incentives for open-source efforts by outside developers.

Organizations like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) already have public, fun competitions like the Urban Challenge, so why not something similar to build widgets, games, and apps?

Finally, a good reason to hack the country.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is an Associate Research Fellow studying Social Software for Security (S3) at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy of the National Defense University in Washington DC. These views are his own and not the official policy or position of any part of the U.S. Government.

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How to Execute (Against) Your Resume


This post was originally published on Mashable on October 15, 2008.

Anyone who has pried opinions out of me (or seen my eyes glaze over) knows that I admire simple, clear language and despise buzzwords and jargon. Well, at a recent New York event , the wine entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk said one of the smartest and simplest things I have heard about incorporating emerging social tools into your life: “Execute against yourself.”

Sounds strange, right? But according to Gary and the people he was sharing the stage with, Julia Allison and Loren Feldman, you must first have a core business, purpose, or mission, and only then can you enhance that core using peripheral social tools for marketing and other purposes. As Gary puts it, “Content is King. But marketing is Queen, and she rules the house.”

Execute your resume

My personal “core” is using a scientific background to devise analytical approaches to strategic problems. But in the last six months or so I have developed a modest expertise with emerging social technologies that in principle can stand on its own. And so, logically, I have been thinking about how to display this newfound experience with social tools on my resume, given that I work largely in an area where those skills are peripheral but perhaps important to the main tasks. Are they computer skills? People skills? A relevant hobby?

With traditional media gatekeepers becoming decreasingly influential, it seems like everyone who is tech savvy is laying the groundwork for online personal and business branding. And I have heard more than once that “Google is the new resume.” You are your search results as far as anyone is concerned. So, someone could reasonably argue that the resume as we know it is dead. Resume, R.I.P.

Execute against your resume

But I say, long live the resume. Because simply saying that “Google is the new resume” is not entirely true. And here I disagree with authorities like author Brian Solis. Traditional careers like doctor, lawyer, scientist, architect, and so forth are not going anywhere. Even as social software tools become pervasive in society, people in such careers will simply figure out how to best add them (or not) into their work to add value. They will not entirely restructure how they carry out their lives; they will use them to enhance their existing lives. In Gary Vaynerchuk’s terminology, they will “execute against themselves.”

Hip to be elite

My strong suspicion is that people who travel in elite circles (went to Yale, had a Fulbright, worked at McKinsey) will not rely on event attendance and microblogging to sell themselves. At the same time, this does not mean that they cannot leverage social tools for their advantage. To the contrary, I predict that hip digital immigrants will gradually develop more powerful online presences than digital natives once they maximize the effect of combining old-school strengths with new media strategies.

So, if you are a handsome chef, a starving artist, a club promoter, or a professional blogger – maybe resumes are dead and you can rely on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and other sites to entirely promote your brand. But to the rest of the world, I say: long live the resume.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is an Associate Research Fellow studying Social Software for Security (S3) at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy of the National Defense University in Washington DC. These views are his own and not the official policy or position of any part of the U.S. Government. Email: markd [at] mashable.com

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Government 2.0: Where’s The Urgency?


This post was originally published on Mashable on October 1, 2008.

Recently I had the chance to attend an event called “Government 2.0 and Beyond… Harnessing Collective Intelligence,” which was hosted by the Department of Defense’s Information Resources Management College (IRMC). It had all the makings of a public relations boon: High-profile speakers like David Weinberger (who blogged from the event), corporate sponsorship, media coverage, and a new auditorium to show off. Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock, was even there. But what I didn’t see among the people in the room was urgency.

Much lip service was given to welcoming new technologies, openness, information sharing, transparency, and collaboration. But there was no talk of a strategy, a plan, or a roadmap. Frankly, there was no talk of anything concrete in the way of actual progress towards Government 2.0, as the title of the event would lead one to believe. And while I am certain that DOD Deputy CIO David Wennergren was genuine when he spoke about the future of command and control being a more agile system of “focus and converge,” I am also certain that people in my workplace have Dell laptops so old they have time for a power nap during boot up.

This is particularly embarrassing given that one of the speakers, Bruce Klein talked in detail about Cisco Connect, their “next-generation workforce environment” that includes an encyclopedia, feeds, blogs, chat, and virtual meetings. No one discussed why the Department of Defense didn’t have this capability, and no one asked. More embarrassing still, Cisco Connect is very similar in principle to something the government already has – the Intelligence Community-built INTELINK, that I have used and written about before; the word “INTELINK” was never uttered out loud.

As the event was winding down, I heard a line not unfamiliar to me at this point, about everyone in the room being an “agent of change” that had to help. I became a bit frustrated with this and Tweeted the following:

While it’s probably inappropriate to “benchmark our enemies” in a Mashable post, I think it’s safe to say that terrorist and criminal organizations don’t need pep talks in wood-paneled conference rooms to adopt new technologies and gain a competitive edge. In the battle of bloviating versus trial-and-error, who wins?

One of the panelists, the co-author of Wikinomics, Anthony Williams, quipped that “The Ontario Government blocked Facebook, so everyone moved to MySpace. It’s a futile exercise.” Many people in the audience snickered. I don’t know about them, but I still can’t access MySpace or YouTube from my work computer. This is not a complicated multinational treaty negotiation. If everyone is so aware of the problem, why can’t we just… fix it?

To be fair, the government has non-trivial security issues when it comes to information systems – they must function alone and with each other properly, cannot be infiltrated by outsiders, and they must provide trustworthy information (imagine hacking not to plant a computer virus, but rather false intelligence or misleading geographic coordinates). The big takeaway that federal officials had from DEFCON 16 in Las Vegas was that social software has created a “perfect storm” for hackers – lots of new software, largely untested security loopholes, and a changing definition of privacy in society. As part of my Social Software for Security (S3) research project at the National Defense University I am working with government “information assurance” professionals to determine which social technologies are {always, sometimes, never} safe to use with DOD systems.

Unfortunately, all of this is likely discouraging young people – digital natives, or the Gartner-dubbed “Generation V” – from choosing honorable work in public service as a profession, and it is encouraging bright people already in Washington, DC to move on to greener pastures. It may be appropriate that a group named “Foreigner” wrote the song I quoted at the beginning of this article, because from my standpoint “urgency” as it concerns adoption of social technology tools into the defense establishment is thus far largely a foreign concept.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is an Associate Research Fellow at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy of the National Defense University in Washington, DC. These views are his own and not the official policy or position of any part of the U.S. Government.

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