Comments here are unmoderated and are operated on a use-until-abused basis. I will adopt a moderation policy if I feel that my visitors abuse this privilege.
I will delete any comment that is lewd, crude, lascivious, racist, sexist, libelous, off-topic, or injurious to the privacy of a non-public individual. Such users will be forever banned from commenting on this site.
From time to time, certain comments will be investigated if they appear to be marketing spam. The offending company gets one free pass before public censure.
In short, treat me as your host and I will treat you as my guest.
Anyone who has followed my work for five minutes knows that I'm a huge proponent of open source technologies and, more specifically, the philosophies that drive this important movement.
Everyone can agree that the complexity involved in public relations and marketing has skyrocketed in the past decade. The question is “How do we address this?” and “What can we learn from communities who have done so?” I believe that looking to open-source and hacker communities gives us the answer.
You can also read the full text after the jump.
Earlier this year, a professional organization included me on a bcc'ed cattle-call seeking volunteers to help deliver a long-form seminar on "culture-jacking" a la this year's Super Bowl and subsequent events. I responded that I tend to take a strategic and measured view of such things, so the organizers could absolutely rely on me to ensure that the session stayed meaningful and wouldn't turn into a rah-rah session.
I didn't get a response. With a pitch like that and given the frothy tenor that often surrounds that kind of thing, I didn't really expect to.
For the past several months, everyone has been running around trying to be the next illumination-challenged snack experience. Some will be good at it. Some will excel at it. Most efforts will sadly amount to tolerated digital vandalism, the result of "checkbox marketing." ("Yup! Our brand TwitPic'ed something during the Indy 500. Well, glad I got that out of the way. Gonna email my boss now.")
As I've often observed, there is no hand yet imagined that our industry will not overplay. I fear that this industry about to do it again with poor executions of "content marketing" and its hyperkinetic sibling "real-time marketing."
Let's put aside for a moment that the public relations industry, all things considered, should have been absolutely laser-focused on creating dynamite media assets ("content") and making them relevant in the moment ("real-time") all along.
Shame on us, really.
Unfortunately, in the online community context, "real-time marketing" is something that far too many confuse with "advertisements generated on-the-fly and transmitted via social media." This is more of a bug than a feature in online communities. Consider the following:
In this environment, understanding the following is what will separate winners from losers:
Timely content that possesses objectively educational, journalistic, or entertainment qualities is the price of admission. Full-stop.
To say nothing of a company's owned and social media presences, this is especially important in a world where journalistic enterprises are exploring company partnerships, "native advertising," and plain ol' advertorial opportunities in order to help keep the lights on. (Again, advertising playing a supporting role to PR.) Even as much of a Hail-Mary revenue pass as this is, publishers must know that no amount of money from a company will be worth sacrificing long-term integrity of their media properties if the sponsored, PR-generated content stinks. Further, regulators are already assuming we're going to get this wrong without their help—another lost opportunity.
Your community matters. Your client/company matters. Be guided by them, not the trade press, awards, pundits, or your ego.
As I always tell young community managers, "Support your client, but stand for your community." I guarantee you that most efforts to embrace real-time marketing are going to naively treat communities as sad, wandering, empty vessels who anxiously await to be filled up with a company's brand message. This is incredibly wrong. I love guitar companies very nearly to the point of distraction but I guarantee you I will drop their access to my attention that quickly if my newsfeed is clotted up with any irrelevant crud from them. Unfortunately, it evidently doesn't take much to impress the trade and business press when it comes to this kind of thing, which helps skew incentives somewhat.
Get your hands really, really dirty.
Those funny little graphics many folks (often inaccurately, annoyingly) call "memes" started in places that most PR folks wouldn't want to be caught dead in, like 4chan. "Internet culture" becomes mainstream culture very quickly and you need to keep your ears to some very different—some might say even somewhat dangerous—rails. Don't be satisfied with merely staying ahead of your boss and mistaking that for being good at your job.
If you're thinking "it's-just-like-ads-only-faster," please find another career.
"Ads-only-faster" will only motivate someone to invent a TiVo-only-faster for the Internet. If PR inspires people to build something that does to PR what TiVo was supposed to do to television advertising, we'll know (perhaps too late) that we failed.
Our industry is in a rather precarious place at the moment—far more than any number of breathless pundits would care to admit. Let's not blow it.
Photo Credit: Happy Via
College is expensive. It's been the job-hunting license since the '70s or so. With tons of federal money flowing into higher education in the form of loans and grants, it is relatively unresponsive to competition and market forces. The universities get the cash, the student gets the debt.
But what if there was an alternative certification that could send a signal to an employer that a candidate is just as smart/educated/qualified as one that went through a four-year degree?
Recognizing that a GPA says more about a school's grading regime than the student's aptitude, a test meant to send such a signal is already available.
The Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+) presented by the Council for Aid to Education, a non-profit organization, seeks to test the critical thinking skills of college students. This spring, more than U.S. 200 colleges and universities will administer the exam to measure graduating students' worth to prospective employers.
The CLA+ is available to anyone, whether the student completed a four-year college degree or just a few online courses, as it is designed to be a tool in the employment process. It costs $35.
I can personally say that my university education has been extremely valuable in terms of shaping my critical thinking, cultural literacy, and passion for continuous learning. Then again, there are plenty of folks who have all of those qualities in spades and had a non-traditional or wholly absent higher-ed experience.
I'll close with BusinessWeek's take:
This could be big. If standardized testing becomes the norm in higher education, little-known schools that truly educate their students could leapfrog over famous ones whose students coast once they’re safely in the door. Standardized testing could be a boon in particular to such organizations as edX, Udacity, and Coursera that offer massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Photo by Pragmagraphr.
I have a new post up at EdelmanDigital.Com about the Edward Snowden case from a media perspective:
“There are no secrets,” podcasting pioneer Adam Curry once said. “Only information you do not yet have.”
Opinions vary widely regarding the case of Edward Snowden, the former contractor with the United States National Security Agency (NSA) who has leaked information about U.S. intelligence practices and operations. This has surfaced interesting commentary about the nature of journalism and media today, especially in a world where leaks and other high-profile events move quickly and have far greater impact than just a few years ago.
Here are five of the many topics that the Snowden case has brought to the fore.
Read the rest.
Was sad to hear that one of my heroes, Doug Engelbart, passed away yesterday. NYT's John Markoff and TIME's Harry McCracken have the best articles on his passing that I've read thus far. I'm still going through the rest.
For those who don't know, Doug is the father of modern concepts of human-computer interaction and collaboration. In 1968, he delivered what came to be known as The Mother of All Demos, wherein he ushered a world where humans not only interacted with computers in a practical way, but interacted with each other through computers. In the process, he showed hypertext, document/object linking, document collaboration and, yes, the mouse. He and his team received a standing ovation, which was highly unusual for conferences of that type.
I was very fortunate to meet and talk with him several times during my five-year agency-side tenure with SRI International, where he undertook the work that would make him famous.
Most know him as "the inventor of the mouse"—a description that I thought he seemed to tolerate more than embrace. In his view, people were far too hung up on that little device. His real contribution, I think, was getting people to understand the potential for how an organization could do what it does better if supplied with connected computing power. He still felt that there was so much more work to be done.
The intro to his 1968 demo was prescient:
If in your office you as an intellectual worker were supplied with a computer display backed up by a computer that was alive for you all day and was instantly responsive to every action you have, how much value could you derive from that?
There are going to be a lot of articles about his considerable (and, he would argue with genuine modesty, unfinished) contributions to computing. Most of these articles, for better or worse, are going to be hung up on the mouse. Journalism is the art of compression and, well, "inventor of the mouse" works better in a headline than "father of most of the ideas that spawned the technogies that this journalist used to write/file this article and that you used to access it."
I won't be able to add much to such eulogies and obituaries. I can, however, relay a fun story.
The PR firm I worked for in 2001 was doing the publicity around SRI's 55th anniversary, which involved an event where the scientists set up a room full of technology demonstrations. These tabletop demos included robotics, artificial muscles, telecommunications advancements, and other cutting-edge innovations. During this event, one of my teammates was responsible for making sure that CNN got to interview SRI's CEO, captured great shots of the technologies, and so on.
At one point, the producer pointed to a white-haired man who was calmly moving from one demonstration to the next.
"Who's that?" he asked.
"Well," my colleague said. "That's Doug Engelbart. While he was at SRI, he invented the mouse and a whole host of other technologies."
"Oh, I've got to meet him."
And, so it went, my colleague approached Doug and explained that CNN wanted to get an interview with him about SRI's history, innovations, and so on. Doug graciously agreed. He gave great interviews anyway.
As CNN's tech crew wired him up for sound and the on-air talent was getting his notes ready, Doug turned to my colleague and calmly asked "What is this 'CNN?'"
For a PR person, explaining "CNN" is kind of like a lightbulb trying to explain "electricity." After a beat, my colleague said, "Well, Doug. It's a TV station on cable that runs news twenty-four hours a day."
Doug pondered this concept for a few long seconds.
"So, people really want that?"
It turned out he didn't watch much TV. Mostly PBS, so he told my colleague.
His brilliance aside, you could forgive the man for enjoying life in his head so much that a top cable news network, by then more than two decades old, might escape his notice. If you got to play around in a head like that, I imagine that a lot of things that you currently find absolutely critical would suddenly seem far less so.
He did everything anyone could to improve our world. I'm certain he's already hard at work improving the next.
I have a piece up on the day-job site entitled "The Big Thing Companies Get Wrong About Online Behavior Policies."
From the article:
The way mechanisms and institutions of control attempt to come to terms with online communities is a passion of mine.
Face it: The number of employees who wake up in the morning and say, “My company’s reputation is a chief decision variable for what I’m going to post online today” is very small. (If you are the type to visit this site regularly, you are probably a member of this tiny group. Congratulations.) This is something that no policy will change — and it takes vast amounts of arrogance to think it will.
Post-publication, I had an additional thought about the SEC's recent "Netflix Patch" with regard to fair disclosure of material information on social media.
It's easy for folks to look at this announcement as the death of the wire services. But here's one thing those services offer that, say, an IR blog or a corporate Facebook account does not: data integrity. You transmit that earnings announcement on a wire service and, short of an additional transmission, you can't really modify what you've said--that toothpaste has left the tube. You put up a Tweet, it can be deleted. A Facebook post can be modified. It takes more sophistication than the average investor has to determine what occurred to the original post. There isn't a lot of confidence, then, that what you saw was the same thing that someone else did.
This highly important point is relegated to the second-to-the-last paragraph in an eight-paragraph announcement from BusinessWire.
Still, I don't really expect this advantage to last very long. Just as we have certificate authorities for domain validation and such, I could see something similar for certifying the reliability and permanence of content on a company's owned and social Web presences.
From the piece, called "The Thin Blue (Digital) Line":
A balance must be achieved here. One could argue that we have a very strong incentive to know as much as we possibly can about those we pay to protect us. So, we should want members of law enforcement to be online as much as is practical, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their duties or compromise loved ones. A policy, if too-broadly drawn, may have a chilling effect at precisely the time when citizens desire more transparency from their government.
Had the great fortune of working with Jeff Zilka and Rich Myers from Edelman's Financial Communications and Investor Relations team on this analysis of the SEC's recent decision about social media and material disclosure.
From the article:
On April 2, 2013 (a date perhaps chosen to avoid a misunderstanding), the SEC issued clarification about social media’s role in disclosure. This was in response to a controversial Facebook post by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who posted the achievement of a business milestone on Facebook. This sparked renewed debate about the topic of what constitutes “disclosure” on the social Web.
The intersection of online citizenship, corporate communications, and regulatory pressures represents the most exciting area of our industry today.