Charlene Li on leading without control – sxsw

Most people would agree that the Groundswell is here in full force.  And while many organizations embraced it, there is still some resistance – fear, perhaps – from companies afraid to leave their comfort zone and cede control.

According to Charlene Li, social technologies are no longer ‘an alien race’ ; that bright shiny object to gawk at.  But in order to adapt to the changing landscape, businesses will need to move from command and control to a culture of sharing.  She calls this approach Open Leadership (the subject for her forthcoming book).  The SXSW hashtag is: #openleadership.

Li contends open leadership can only happen when people have the confidence and humility to give up the need for control, yet still remain in command.  It’s based on a fresh and more transparent approach to relationships and requires that new structures/processes be put in place.

She suggested five ways companies can become more open:

  1. Align openness with strategic goals. Start with a plan and select goals where being open and social can have an impact.
  2. Understand the upside. What’s the value of a relationship and can you quantify that in business terms? Right now, that’s still a challenge to measure.
  3. Consider a new formula for customer lifetime value (CLV). The old formula is: CLV = value of purchase – cost of acquisition. The new formula could be: CLV = value of purchase – cost of acquisition + value of new customers from referrals + value of insights + support +customer ideas.
  4. Develop open leadership. Leaders should be realist-optimists, who combine an openness to change with a strategic understanding of what needs to be done to make it work. Risk can be managed with ‘sandbox covenants’; a process for sharing with clear rules of engagement.
  5. Embrace failure. Keep a failure file in order to learn from your mistakes and move on.

Tips for creating and distributing viral videos – sxsw

Surprise, have a big reveal, be positive, know your audience.

These are some of the tips presented in the SXSW panel: How to Create a Viral Video, featuring Margaret Gould Stewart from YouTube/Google, Damian Kulas from the band OK Go and Jason Wishnow from TED.  The SXSW hashtag is: # howtocreateviral.

The group began with definitions of what makes a video viral:

Damian: A video is viral if a significant part of the viewership wants to distribute it. Or if it has anything to do with with ‘boobs and kittens’.

Margaret:  It’s all about showing something human, love, laughter, sex…  Lots of videos go viral by accident.

Content matters
Jason: TED Talks tries to spread ideas and its videos – essentially taped lectures – have been viewed 230 million times.  He attributes TED’s success to the fact that they begin all the videos with a bang and incorporate professional, high production values; HD video shot from multiple angles with many cameras.

Damian: Know your audience and what they’re looking for – sometimes ‘homemade’ or rough works best.  Do something impossible and bring it to life; create sense of wonder using the most appropriate production values for each video.  As an example, he showed this backyard dance parody his band made using a static camera.

Margaret: Agrees production values should match content. She mentions research that shows positive content seems to go viral more often than negative videos.  Incorporate elements of surprise and juxtapose the unexpected, as they do in this video of Cookie Monster and a German metal band.

Tips for promoting videos
1. Build a subscriber base/audience and connect with your community.  Get them involved by encouraging them to be creative with you.

2. Enable embedding. Let bloggers embed your videos onto their site.  This is key to building word of mouth. Then, once you’ve achieved a tipping point, people start viewing the original – provided they can find you, which leads to…

3. Meta data – Good titles and tags are essential. But don’t be misleading as that will eventually go against you.  Damian acknowledges sponsors in tags. He likens them to modern day patrons of the arts, or, as he calls them – ‘Metaci’. Sure doing this may spawn some criticism, but it’s better to be transparent.

4. And finally, make sure you distribute your video on multiple sites so more people can find it.

What’s next? Lights, camera, action…

Southwesterly pilgrimage – testing

I feel like I’m on a pilgrimage of sorts, heading to SXSW for my first time. And, sitting at the airport waiting to board an early flight (having braved the March break crowd), I figured I’d test the mobile WordPress app I downloaded.

It works fairly smoothly. Not sure how to embed URLs yet. I may have to do that post-publishing. Any tips are welcome.

I’m hoping to do some mobile blogging during the Festival, alternating that with Twitter.

We’ll see…

Here comes a great read… Clay Shirky book review

Every once in a while you read a book with such fresh ideas, clarity, crisp writing and aha moments that it literally jumps off the page.

I recently had that experience with Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky.

For anyone who hasn’t read the book, it’s an essential text that examines social networks from a historical, theoretical and practical perspective; seamlessly interweaving present and past. The author provides a context to better understand the ch-ch-changes unfolding all around us.

Shirky, a consultant and adjunct professor in the graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, has a deep grasp of social media and a straightforward way of articulating complex ideas.  He contends we’re in the midst of a communications revolution, akin to the creation of Gutenberg’s printing press. And because we’re enmeshed in it, no one can predict exactly where we’re heading and what new developments we will see.  As an example, he cites the publishing industry and the fact that when the printing press was invented, few could predict it would spawn a bookselling industry and portability of shared knowledge – the parallels with smart phones are not hard to see.

He also talks about professions like journalism and how they’re based on a scarcity of resources. This makes sense. Not too long ago (last year?), all journalists were specialists in their field, employed by media companies (another scarce resource) to present and interpret news.  Along comes social networking and all of a sudden anyone can report news – and does.  We’re not talking about quality or talent or editorial integrity – just the act of reporting.

According to Shirky, the ‘management’ function of the industry has changed. In the past, editors would hear about a story and send a reporter to cover it. These days, it’s hard to find breaking news that citizen journalists haven’t uncovered because they happen to be there and have the technology at hand.

These are just a few of the topics Clay Shirky covers in a book that’s hard to put down, poses questions and challenges us to imagine the future that’s just around the corner.

New Canadian communications journal coming soon

A hallmark of any profession is its body of knowledge, something we have been lacking in PR.  That may change with the launch of a new publication, the Journal of Professional Communication (announced at the Canadian PR Leadership Summit).

Edited by professors Alex Sevigny and Terry Flynn and based at McMaster University’s Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia, the Journal will be a digital publication that ‘explores the intersections between public relations practice, communication and new media theory, communication management, as well as digital arts and design. (Disclosure: I sometimes teach at McMaster.)

It will feature case studies, interviews, peer-reviewed articles and commentary on current communications trends and our evolving profession.  Of course, the content is contingent on the quality of the contributors, but I’m looking forward to a thought-provoking discussion and debate.

For anyone familiar with the inner workings of academe, starting a new publication is no easy task and I want to congratulate Terry and Alex on this worthwhile endeavour. While there’s no website or start date yet, I’ll continue to share details as they become available.

Envisioning 2020: A Canadian PR leadership summit

On March 5, about 75 leaders from the Canadian communications industry, representing CPRS, CCPRF, IABC, Global Alliance, College of Fellows, the HCPRA (and yes, Counselors Academy, too) gathered at the Old Mill Inn in Toronto to look at PR today and imagine our future.

The event was the brainchild of Terry Flynn, director of McMaster University’s Masters of Communication Management program and national president of CPRS.

For me, one of the best parts of the session was working in small groups on a ‘Force Field’ analysis of our industry.  Essentially, this is a decision-making exercise that helps analyse the forces for and against change in a core proposal.

Ours was: ‘To advance the PR/communications management profession in Canada to a reputable and requisite professional discipline in the eyes of organizational/business leaders, managers and scholars.’

As you can imagine, there was much debate – the noise level in the room hit 11 more than a few times.  After we were done,  some common themes emerged that will no doubt form a blueprint for the way ahead.

Here are a few highlights.

Forces for change:

Social media/technology/evolving media landscape. This is, of course, one of the strongest (and most obvious) reasons for us to evolve in a way that will enhance the profession and its reputation. We need to embrace social media, continue to educate ourselves in best practices and add case studies across all sectors that demonstrate measurable results.

Trust, credibility and ethics. The ever-transparent world provides a great opportunity for our industry to take a leadership role and, through our deeds, show unequivocally that we’re no longer spinmeisters.  There was talk of a need for a single accreditation designation, as well as the development of a body of knowledge, one of the hallmarks of any profession.

Business savvy. We must become more knowledgeable about business goals, strategy and operations and align our PR recommendations to that. We should master ways to clearly articulate the value we add to an organization. One group suggested that we reposition the profession from being PR managers to chief communications officers in order to get a seat at the ‘grownup’ table.

Forces against change:

Fear. It’s too easy to sit back and rely on the same tools that always worked in the past. Tried and true doesn’t cut it. We need to become strategic risk takers.

Education. What are our programs and institutions teaching young people?  Is the curriculum focusing on relevant topics? Are we teaching about the newest tools and where they fit into an overall strategy? What about adding an understanding of business to the mix?

Developing an inter-generational understanding of relationships. For some senior PR folks,  phone contact may be key. The younger generation is embracing online as much as IRL.  There’s merit to both positions and the industry needs to come up with an understanding of what constitutes a relationship and what makes it lasting and strong.

There was a great energy to the Summit; the kind of intensity you get when you bring a group of smart people together and challenge them to look ahead and share insights. Toward the end, it was suggested that we should consider meeting on a yearly basis to discuss the state of the industry.  And I’m all for that.

Maybe in the meantime, as the organizers pore over the responses and craft recommendations, they could keep us informed and involved by setting up a Wiki and open it up to the greater community to maintain the flow of ideas.