Musings on meshmarketing

Last week, I attended meshmarketing – a one-day gathering in Toronto highlighting social media case studies and best practices.

The event took place at CiRCA, a Toronto nightclub. And I have to say, I wasn’t ready for the stanchions, bouncer attitude and red carpet at 8 in the morning. In fact, it felt like I was entering a super-cool boutique hotel – dark and with plenty of attitude. I got the impression that many of the staff had not been on the job at that time of day in a long, long time.

However, my eyes (and attitude) adjusted before the sessions. Here are my Twitter-notes highlights:

Keynote Gaping Void/Hugh MacLeod:

– Human beings socialize around objects; we talk about them; share knowledge.
– Web 1.0 = search. Web 2.0 = share.
– Products don’t go viral just b/c you throw a lot of money behind them.

Facebook’s Elmer Sotto:

– Facebook thinks people want to interact with brands in much the same way as they connect with friends.
– Think about FB user experience, profile, compelling profile visual (doesn’t have to be logo) & thumbnail image.
– On FB brands should pace their posts, establish an ‘editorial’ calendar and [not] overdo it.

Measurement guru Katie Delahaye Paine:

– Measuring eyeballs shifting to measuring engagement; numbers go down but quality of dialogue goes up.
– People measure; computers count. You need people to analyse the results.
– Improve reputation by changing conversation: listen first then respond, and stop doing stupid things.

With one exception, the sessions offered useful tips and practical approach – the same high calibre as Mesh but in a change-of-intensity setting. And I liked that the level of information was aimed at people with a working knowledge of social media and not at the beginner level.

I also had a chance to record a couple of 4Qs for a future Inside PR podcasts.

If you were there, do you have any other nuggets to add?


Fixing what’s broken between journalism and PR

On Inside PR #173, my ‘-30-‘ comment, the short POV remarks we’re using to end the show, dealt with a few of the things we need to do to start fixing the pretty much broken relationship between journalism and PR.

This is something that must be done. And I think it’s up to our industry to take the lead and try improve the way we interact with each other; build trust, credibility and respect on both sides. I think the same applies to bloggers and other influencers, as well.

Part of the problem lies with the way our profession functions: trying to place stories, traditionally in MSM, for clients or organizations. We often feel under a lot of pressure to deliver results for which we have virtually no control.

Fine. That’s our reality and no one forced us into it. I’m proud to be a PR practitioner and this uncertainty is one of the things we just accept.

There are many media with whom I feel I have a good professional relationship. I define that as being able to approach a journalist/blogger with an idea they might be interested in, showing them why/how it works in a quick, efficient manner and having them say either say yes or no (or sometimes saving it for a future story).

However, I think that over the years we have made many repeated mis-steps that hurt the industry and our collective reputation.

And now, with social media and two-way conversations being embraced by both sides, this seems like a perfect time to make the change.

Here are 10 steps the PR profession can take right now:

  1. Always read a journalists or blogger’s past stories (and not just from last week). We need to do our research and know who’s covering or interested in which subjects.
  2. Know the difference between hard and soft news and position a story accordingly. It may seem big to us (or our client), but we have to step back and realize where our news fits into the grand scheme of things. I mean really fits.
  3. Be transparent and tell the truth.
  4. Stop writing in corporate-speak
  5. Strive to be helpful, not a pest.
  6. Understand that while our clients are a top priority for us, the reporter has many other priorities and we need to empathize more with them.
  7. Stop making media lists from databases. Go to the source: newspapers, broadcast outlets, blogs, online publications. See who’s writing about what. If we’re not passionate about media, why are we in PR?
  8. Never blast out an email to a large (or small) bcc list. We’ve all done that in the past. And some are still doing it. Really, this was a bad idea from the start. It turned us into broadcasters, something we’re not.
  9. Leave our PR egos at the door. It’s up to us to reach journalists. Stop griping if they don’t always call back when we want them to.
  10. Help journalists and bloggers understand the new FTC rules/principles so that we can continue to work together in a mutually beneficial way.

It sounds simple but we’ve got to make the first move.

What do you think?

CPRS Toronto gets connected

As many of you know, I’m the president of CPRS Toronto and, if you’re in the city, I’d encourage you to attend our first fall professional development event.

It’s a panel discussion on October 15 called ‘Get Connected: Building Virtual Relationships to Expand Communications’.

It features three savvy social media strategists, Michael O’Connor Clarke, Eden Spodek and William Young, talking about how we can use social media tools to engage and connect with our communities online and in real life.

I’ll be moderating the session.

If you’re interested, here’s some information on the event. Hope to see you there.

To tell or not to tell…

That seems to be the question these days. It follows on changes to the FTC’s rules requiring, among other things, that bloggers to disclose if they’ve received product samples for review.

There’s been a lot of discussion on the subject online and in MSM including a good piece in the Globe and Mail. There was also a lively Twitter debate between Jeff Jarvis and Mark Glazer (thanks Mathew Ingram).

And while the ruling doesn’t apply to Canada, the principles do.

For the record, I am in favour of disclosure. I think it’s always easier to be up-front, honest and transparent. Then, people know who you are and where you stand.

I think a lack of disclosure by some (many?) PR practitioners over the years, contributed to giving our profession a bad name.

However, I think Jeff Jarvis brings up a good point about fairness. Why should bloggers be singled out when MSM journalists receive product samples all the time? Shouldn’t both be held to the same standards? If not, the rules seem skewed in favour of companies over those with an individual voice.

I’d much rather have a level playing field with the same code of transparency, ethical behaviour and freedom of expression for all sides.

UPDATE: Here’s a good legal perspective on the new FTC regulation from the Council of PR Firms’ legal counsel, Davis and Gilbert LLP (by Michael Lasky).

How much is too much (social media, that is)?

That’s a question I was asked recently in my social media class. And it’s one that comes up a lot.

With the proliferation of social networking tools, how much time should we/can we spend on various sites?

I’d like to borrow my answer from a thoughtful post by Amber Naslund: ‘It depends’.

Actually, I think you need to look at the question from two perspectives.

The first has to do with the learning curve involved when you try to master anything new. And that can be fairly substantial including:
– Discovery
– Getting a handle on what a site is all about and how to use it intelligently
– Registering
– Testing
– Listening
– Engaging
– Participating

All this takes time. And it’s not something that can be accomplished in an eight-hour burst (though you sometimes need that sort of intensity to get started). It’s a long-term commitment; the same process that we go through when we learn anything new.

The second consideration is personal: What are you looking to get out of the site?

Here are a few things to ponder:
– Is this something you have to know/do as part of your job/class?
– How busy are you?
– What one thing that you’re currently enjoying would you be willing (and able) to scale back or give up?
– What are you looking for (fun, networking, business-building)?
– Will it obsess you (and not in a positive way)?
– Will adding it to your routine completely overwhelm you?
– How will it affect your real-life relationships?

Really, it comes down to a matter of self-awareness, personal and professional choices, your goals and commitment. And a willingness to experiment with something new.

And of course, if you don’t like it, you can always stop and try again later.

What do you think?