Tag Archive | "PR"

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Why Don’t Social Media Companies Have Good Blogs?


For all the talk of how every person is a brand that needs a blog, how
marketers need to be part of the conversation, and how even the White
House needs to be more authentic and transparent and participatory, it
strikes me that one major group of organizations is not really like
that at all – the social media companies.

Why aren’t companies like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, StumbleUpon,
MySpace, YouTube, and so forth blogging? Why don’t they have short
podcasts or vlogs that are must-watch and generate lots of word of
mouth? Isn’t that the “new marketing” I keep hearing about? I guess
Kevin Rose of Digg has Diggnation; I’ll give that credit as a
corporate-branded video blog. But where are the others? Seriously,
how much would people love a once-a-week post from Zuckerburg? Or
someone walking around Twitter with a Flip doing quick interviews?

No, I think the people that control the very tools that empower us to
be open and transparent communicators are themselves largely closed
and obscured from the public. What are the implications of that for
us? And who am I missing? Which social media companies have truly
informative, transparent, valuable blogs for their communities?

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Match Message to Medium: Talks Are Bigger Than Tweets


Learn one thing about Twitter: it is a unique medium of 140 character
or less communications. It’s like the haiku of the real-time Web. If
what you have to say is often longer than those 140 characters, maybe
you’re using the wrong medium.

Dig this. When you’re at a large conference with (say) 20 people live
tweeting every interesting sentence from every speaker, are you
thinking about your audience? I seriously hope not, because you’re
often delivering them a bundle of jumbled thoughts. And when you start
retweeting each other, and then people not at the conference start
retweeting *that* everything stops being real-time and becomes
wrong-time. We don’t yet have filters and interfaces that can make
sense of this stuff.

Dig this too. There are alternatives. While celebrations of YouTube
and Twitter happen at dedicated events, you’re overlooking less-used
social technologies with great features, like Viddler and Posterous.
Look at my last few Posterous posts: they were from a conference I
attended. But instead of burying my nose in my BlackBerry for two
days, I listened and took notes, and when I saw something worthy of
250 or so words, I wrote a short post for Posterous and pushed the
info to Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Xanga, Plurk, and more. What’s up.

Experiment with Web 2.0 technologies. Think about your audience. Do
what’s valuable for your community. Engage.

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Amtrak Irresponsibility at Washington DC’s Union Station


Today, I’m taking a train to Williamsburg, VA from Washington, DC to attend a conference. Train #99, in fact, which was scheduled to depart Union Station at 5pm. In fact, it didn’t. As I type this we’re late, and still not moving.

Oh, I’m not writing about how an Amtrak regional train was late; I’ve been experiencing that pleasure since about 1993. What was interesting to observe was the way computer technology interacted with the actual train being late.

You see, a few weeks ago, someon installed new screens around Union Station that give gates and updated information about trains You know, “On Time,” “Boarding,” and so forth. They’re nice screens. You can find summary boards around the train station, and individual boards near the gates. They’re coordinated, and most likely run by some central software.

Sounds great, right? Well, anyone who’s taken trains knows that the big board says “On Time” until the second they switch it to something like “30 min late” (how can they not see that coming?). This doesn’t really happen with the Acela trains, but for the longer, slower regionals, they’re often off by a few minutes at least.

As we were running a few minutes late to board train #99 to Newport News, VA, the automatic screen at the gate (where I was standing at the front of the line) switched from “On Time” to “Boarding.”. Except we weren’t boarding at all. The attendant said it would be just a few minutes, and the door was shut with a fabric rope in from of that.

The attendant went in the back with his walkie talkie to check on something and we quietly stood by the gate, about a hundred of us. Jumbled. You know how these train lines go.

Suddenly, we hear a shriek. A middle-aged woman is running at us, yelling a bit about how her train is boarding, hurdling over people and their bags. “Where’s the train to Newport News?! My train is boarding!!” Before anyone could say two words to her, she quickly glanced at the sign that said “Boarding,” tore off the fabric barrier, barged through the door, and started running towards the escalator to the train.

Now, she bumped into the Amtrak attendant quickly, and he calmed her down and walked her back to us, and we all boarded a few minutes later. But what if this had happened on (say) October 15th, 2001? Would we have not taken this more seriously? Everyone was totally complacent today.

More importantly, this is a good example of how updated technology not only can be merely a cosmetic improvement (I don’t recall people asking for help reading the boards, or wandering aimlessly looking for gate E, before the new signs.) but also can be harmful when used improperly. In this case, Amtrak personnel clearly knew we were not boarding, yet the signs said we were.

In the minds of people these days, virtual boarding is as good as the truth, and we saw this with the middle-aged woman, who ran by a hundred people waiting to board because a digital display convinced her that her train was boarding. (We all must have been waiting for something else, maybe Balloon Boy?) This is a similar problem to the “celebrity death hoax” phenomena whereby Kanye West or a similar high-profile person is declared “RIP” by an enterprising Twitter user – and the information spreads like wildfire. Being dead on Twitter is now equivalent to actually being dead, unless you literally “resurrect” yourself via a YouTube video (Zach Braff) or a late-night TV appearance (Jeff Goldblum). How can we blame this pleasant woman for thinking she was going to miss her train?

So, I don’t know if Amtrak, Union Station, or some third party is working these signs, and I don’t care (It is a good question for a local journalist, though.). What I do know is that whomever is running this system doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing, or even worse, does know what they’re doing but is too lazt to give a shit. After all, it’s just a Sunday afternoon; football’s on…what could possibly happen?

Amtrak is not totally immune from blame. Even if they’re not working the software running the signs, they have employees standing right next to them. Is checking the signs for accuracy in anybody’s job description? Today’s incident could have been prevented in a number of ways. It was very minor, but it serves as an example of what happens when half-assed technology is involuntarily injected into our daily lives by people we don’t know, who don’t care about us.

Boarding 10 minutes late may not seem like a lot, but to that woman it was. If we don’t have standards about making digital information match reality, where does that logically leave society? Working bathrooms declared closed? Incorrect pricing on lattes? Misleading highway directions during an emergency?

What I want to know is: Who’s going to be in charge of coordinating the digital and the real as our country moves toward a more technocratic future?

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Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: Crooked Monkey Style


T-shirtI 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!

This post originally appeared on Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 site.

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GovLoop Hires Government 2.0 Evangelist for Community Management as it Hits 20,000 Members


Following the recent major news of its acquisition by Minnesota-based GovDelivery, Inc., the premier social network for the government community, GovLoop.com will annouce tomorrow that it has filled a key leadership position – that of community manager.  And it has hired a visionary, tireless advocate for the application of social networking tools in the government – Andrew Krzmarzick.

Andy (He’s casual! Tweet him at @krazykriz or email him at andrew@govloop.com) will be responsible for encouraging outreach, partnership, and engagement to help the GovLoop community grow and deliver greater value to its members.  The expansion of GovLoop’s team reinforces its momentum of this so-called “Facebook for Government” and puts it heads and tails above any competition – including most of the government’s own internal tools, which often don’t cross between levels of government or different agencies within the same government.

In the last four months, GovLoop has added 10,000 new members, bringing the total over 20,000 – that’s more people than the Department of Energy employs, or more people than can fit into Boston’s TD Garden (you know, where the Celtics play).  It’s possible they might have over 100,000 members by next year at that rate!

Andy related, “I’ve watched with admiration…as the [GovLoop] community has grown and the members have connected with one another to share information and ideas generously.  I see its potential as a place where people in and around government can turn in real time to get linked with the people and information they need to perform their jobs more effectively.”

The president of GovLoop, Steve Ressler, has known Andy for quite some time, and when you can work with people you mutually admire, that can be a very strong move.  Since I know and admire both of them, I think this is a great move by the world leader in government-to-citizen communications solutions GovDelivery, Inc. (and GovLoop) and I expect great things from this social network for govies moving into 2010.  I have been a member of GovLoop.com for a long time, and you should be one too!

See also coverage of this story at Dorobek Insider.

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Conversations Are Intelligence, Not Invitation


Fox’s recent experiment of overlaying live tweets on an episode of Fringe was an epic failure unwelcome to Twitter enthusiasts and traditional viewers alike.  It’s hard to imagine anyone who understands social technology thinking that this was a good idea. It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone working in entertainment thinking that this would add to, and not detract from, a fictional television drama. Conversations that happen via social media are not necessarily an invitation for businesses to join them. They are, however, business intelligence that can be collected, analyzed, and adapted to. In one of the best simple articles I’ve read on this topic, media and entertainment entrepreneur Patricia Handschiegel writes that,

If TV wants to have a presence online or integrate its offerings online, it needs to think like a user. Not BE a user, not be “part of the conversation,” but understand what is valuable to the user and deliver it. You all should be on Twitter telling us when your shows are going to air and what we can expect, showing trailers, driving us to YOUR website for contests, special footage, etc…Your job is to entertain and inform your audience. Nobody cares what people think of your shows but you, and nobody cares what people have to say about your shows but you… Just because you can “hear” the direct conversations about your brand via the web today doesn’t mean you have to go bananas with it. Listen, use it for insight, adapt your offerings around it, etc. Brands of all kinds are taking all of this way, way too seriously. Your message has always been reshaped and shared among people — the only difference now is that you can see and hear it. This is not something to be afraid of. This is something to use to your advantage.

This is related to what I’ve previously written about on O’Reilly Radar how for businesses and brands (including personal brands) Twitter should mainly be viewed not as a conversation to be involved in, but as a mechanism for providing great content to people. This can be derided by critics as “broadcasting” but there is a happy medium between being in a multiplex chatroom “engaging” with people and merely broadcasting. Listening, understanding, and some interacting is important – but it is not an end goal in itself. This is also related to what I’ve recently written about on PR 2.0, something I call proactive social media (or offensive social media) – filling the information space with great content that people will find if they’re looking for information about your area of expertise or your business sector. This is the strategy that I am beginning to talk about with individuals, government employees, and large and small companies that ask for my advice about how they should best be using social media to interact with the public.

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Jeremiah Owyang, We Hardly Knew Thee Brand


jermiah-owyang

Numerous people have now written, and written well, about high-profile Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 analyst Jeremiah Owyang leaving Forrester Research.  Many people look forward to seeing what his next endeavor is.

Marketing expert Dave Meerman Scott blogged about the interesting, modern conflict and cooperation between personal brands working at corporations, and corporate brands that benefit from their people.  There are no current answers.

But I heard Howard Kurtz say something to the effect of “we reported it, so the public should know” on his CNN show this weekend.  No, sorry.  The way most people learn now is not by watching a television channel like CNN (just look at the ratings of your average news show), but by talking to someone who talked with someone who had an opinion derived from watching one.  News, and all information, is now commonly filtered through our social networks before it gets to us.  That’s right – we don’t find the news, the news finds us.

Owyang is influential because he provides value and generates tremendous word of mouth, and empowers his information to find us.  He doesn’t broadcast and expect you to find it so much as consider himself part of a community that he wants to help.  To some degree, this is how entrepreneurs can beat the big dogs.  He is someone to emulate.

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Happy Birthday, Dear…Somebody


I use Facebook a lot for networking these days.  There’s over 100 million users, which means a lot of old friends, new friends, work contacts, local acquaintances, and more are on there posting information about what they’re doing and where.

It’s certainly impossible to keep track of what all your contacts are doing. Just on Facebook, I have about 2,000 “friends.” But there’s a bunch of people you don’t talk to very much that are still very important from time to time…if you’re on their radar.

One “trick” I use is to scan the list of who’s having a birthday every morning. If there are people having a birthday whose names I recognize, but haven’t talked to in a while, I definitely go to their Wall and post a “Happy Birthday” and maybe add a little extra. Seems small, but a little bit of meaningful interaction is better than zero. And who’s going to complain??

Everyone wants to see who wished them a happy birthday. Use it as a small gesture to keep the small pieces of your social graph loosely joined.

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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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First Impressions: Why Would Someone Want to be VP of Social Media at Ketchum?


Today I saw Twitter pushed past its professional limits. Pamela Rocco Von Lehmden, a Senior VP at Ketchum (a well-known PR firm) tweeted the following: “Ketchum seeking VP of Social Media. Interested? DM me @pamelavl.” This might appear like social media outreach, except for the fact that Ms. Von Lehnden is relatively inaccessible.

Someone like me, or in fact most anyone who would read her tweet, cannot DM (”direct message”) Ms. Von Lehnden because she doesn’t “follow” me on Twitter.  In order to DM someone, they must be following you. In the case of @pamelavl, she only follows 113 people (at the time of writing) so her “outreach” effectively goes to the 113 people she knows best. What she did wasn’t “wrong” but it doesn’t make any sense.

It gets a little worse. Before the tweet above, she sent another one that included a link to a job description, which would be awesome except that the link just goes to a page where you can search for jobs at Ketchum. Then, she re-tweeted her own tweet (for no apparent reason). Not very helpful. Maybe an intern or recent college grad would ignore all of this and jump through these hoops of social media mishaps for a great summer job, but would a highly-qualified social media expert at the VP level? Ironically, the true maven they’re looking for may be turned off from applying.

This follows on the heels of a completely different Ketchum social media mishap involving a certain employee  (Mr. Andrews) who tweeted some negative thoughts about Memphis when he was on a business trip there to deal with a big client, FedEx (which is headquartered there). This turned into a bit of a scandal about the blurred lines between personal and professional that I won’t relive here – but suffice it to say that this incident reflected poorly on Ketchum.

The career section of the Ketchum website claims that, “Clients who choose Ketchum ultiamtely choose us for only one reason – our people.” If that’s the case, I hope that the behaviors Ms. Von Lehmden and Mr. Andrews have exhibited are not representative of that of the company’s employees.

Wal-Mart or GM or Mass General Hospital or Hermes or Cadbury or Borders could be forgiven for having some employees screw up their tweets or other social media outreach. It happens. But a lauded public relations firm whose entire job is relating to the public? Not that I’m applying for the position, but were I to be recruited into the job of Ketchum’s future VP of Social Media, I’d expand my portfolio to include an educational agenda with the goal of protecting the rest of Ketchum’s employees from embarrassing themselves and the company. Sophistication perceived is sophistication achieved.

Cross-posted at True/Slant.

Update: Cam Burley asked via Twitter if there was a job description available. Response from Von Lehmden? The same link that goes to a generic Ketchum job search site.

Update 2: Here is a link to the job description (on a non-Ketchum site).

Update 3: Nicholas Tolson has some interesting additional analysis below in his comment.

Update 4: James Andrews, mentioned above, a former Ketchum VP and Director of Interactive, very recently left Ketchum to form his own firm.

Update 5: According to Wikipedia, Ketchum is no stranger to scandal within the public relations industry.

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