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Being a Denver Nuggets fan, I was recently reminded that Mark Cuban has said some off the wall things.  Having said that, he often provides some very interesting and thought provoking ideas on the world of social media.  His recent post in late May “Who Cares What People Write?” is a good example of the latter.

Cuban shares some interesting ideas around “Outties” (content creators that fit into professional “Outties” as well as amateur “Outties”) and “Innies” (who are “passive consumers of web writings” or consumers who “read watch and listen to the professional “Outties” and ignore the amateur “Outties”").  The idea being that professional “Outties” are generally established, branded sites with strong/large readership and amateur “Outties” are people looking for an audience (commenters, retweeters, reposters, etc.) who are creating content to be discovered.  Read his post for the full scoop and he closes with a pretty interesting wrap up of the concept…

The moral of the story is that on the internet, volume is not engagement .  Traffic is not reach.  When you see things written about a person, place or thing you care about,  whether its positive or negative, take a very deep breath before thinking that the story means anything to anyone but you.

It was also a concept expanded on by the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Senior Fellow and Director, Center of Digital Media Freedom Adam D. Thierer.  Adam’s blog does a nice job of framing Cuban’s thoughts and adding some additional parallels to them around Power Laws as well as Chris Anderson’s Long Tail theory.

I think the one area that is not captured in either blog is the importance of recognizing the conversation that is happening — whether they are driven by the professional or amateur “Outties.”   While I agree with Cuban that volume is not engagement and traffic is not reach, but I also believe that all comments, re-posts, link backs, tweets/re-tweets, blogs expanding on a topic or theme, etc. (like this one) are part of the conversation that is taking place.  The collective conversation is the piece that matters for brands.

A simplified example of this would be to search for your brand on Twitter and see what’s being said.  One person with 15 followers may be saying something that may be able to be dismissed, but if 10, 20 or 50 people with 15 followers each are saying something, after you take your deep breadth, it may be worth taking a closer look and joining the conversation.

The role of communications is indeed changing and how we think about creating or sharing a message is something that needs to be considered.  I think this is one of the key reasons companies are starting to act more like publishers or content providers — to ensure anyone (either professional or amateur) can participate in their story, share it and share their perspectives on it.

Regardless of which outtie you are thinking of or the innie you are trying to reach, always consider the importance of helping foster conversation through your communications initaitives.

 

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to embed myself at a couple of my clients’ sites. In tech PR, face time is crucial to an agency/client relationship, and sitting at the client site every couple of weeks has positively changed the dynamic with my clients.

Now, I realize that not everyone has such a unique opportunity. However, if you do have the opportunity or are thinking about it, I offer a few suggestions for how both a PR professional and client benefit from this approach.

  1. Co-create on a project – Select a project or campaign that involves both the client and agency and think of how it could be advanced if both sides sit down to walk through it. This enables a true co-creation between client and agency and allows any concerns or reservations about the direction of the project to be vocalized in a much less formal environment.
  2. Have an honest conversation – It is much easier to have an honest conversation with your agency or client about how things are going in-person. You are able to talk one-on-one and face-to-face. Additionally, a casual honest conversation may spark other ideas or projects for discussion.
  3. Manage your time – Both a client and agency should be aware that the client will not spend the entire eight hours on only their account. Having a PR professional plugged in for the full day lets the client have quick access to the agency for a question or opinion.
  4. Expand your relationships – Typically, when working with a client, agencies only have access to PR and marketing folks. However, when working onsite, agencies can gain valuable insight from exposure to other client contacts and expand relationships within the company. Having an agency onsite also helps make PR efforts more visible. Often times, others in the company are not even aware an agency exists for PR support.
  5. Embrace client culture – One of the most valuable things about working onsite is that it provides the PR professional with a deep understanding of day-to-day operations at a client site, such as how they run meetings, how PR is being receive internally, other internal initiatives, and corporate structure. Embracing client culture also helps the agency feel committed and passionate about their client’s business.

Once you have successfully spent one day onsite with your client, do it again! The more time spent at the client site, the more you and your client truly reap the benefits of an agency-client partnership.

A few weeks ago I finished reading Talent is Overrated by Fortune Senior Editor Geoff Colvin. It’s a good book; the kind that makes you sit up straight as you’re reading it, as if slouching would do it a disservice.

The book makes a persuasive argument that nature is decidedly subordinate to nurture — at least in regard to concepts such as ‘work’ or ‘performance’. Pointing to a range of examples from the athletic (Jerry Rice, Tiger Woods) to the historic (Benjamin Franklin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), Colvin demonstrates that excruciating and deliberate practice improves performance in a way that no other factor seems to replicate.

As I read the book I began to wonder what forms of practice might best apply to PR professionals. It’s one thing to acknowledge that practice improves performance; it’s another to know what forms of practice are worthwhile.

I’ve given it some thought and here are some initial ideas for types of practice that might improve foundational PR skills. I don’t think it begins to scratch the surface however, and would be interested in getting ‘the wisdom of crowds’ on this:

  • Improve writing skills, general knowledge, understanding of the media: Taking a page from Benjamin Franklin, choose one article each day in a publication relevant for the industries you support and rewrite it from memory. Wait a few days — rewriting other articles in the intervening period — and compare it with the original. Analyze the differences, the strengths and weaknesses of the comparative pieces and so on.
  • Improve overall performance, ability to give and receive feedback: Mimic the military: after any half-way significant endeavor gather team members in a room and disregard hierarchy. What worked (or is working)? What didn’t (or isn’t)? Then take this a step further. Crunch some numbers. If we’re dealing with a pitch, what was the response rate from the email? What was the response rate from follow-up calls? How many calls or emails did it take to reach an interview? Force objectivity and the most excruciating level of self-analysis. Bottom-line, stay objective and reject rank.
  • Improve business savvy, writing, and knowledge of media/publicity cycles: The tool of business schools everywhere: force yourself to write one new case study — for a non-client — each month. Pick a major news maker (for good or bad reasons) and outline the entire media cycle. Include metrics when available and make strong conclusions (and recommendations). Submit to your colleagues for review and feedback.
  • Improve pitching & business development skills: Force yourself and your team to go to as many networking events not tied to PR or the industries you represent as possible. This isn’t about selling and there should be no pressure. This is about forcing yourself to make connections in a short period of time. Set goals. Make everyone responsible for making at least one connection with a plan for follow-up, at each event.
  • Improve message development & delivery: Before every meeting (internal or external) write down your three key messages and brainstorm one attention-grabbing statement. Take notes throughout the meeting to see how well you do sticking to your messages and bridging to them when the conversation takes a turn. Rate yourself after each meeting.
  • Improve something: Bottom line, we can all get better at something. Find a flaw and force yourself to confront it. For what it’s worth, my new blog: Difference Engineering, is an example of exactly this point.

I have some other ideas, but I’ll stop here for now. Let me know what you think.

Yes, I do get excited about SNW. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend nine of the last 12 ‘SNWs and it has grown to be a part of my annual plan.

Almost without saying, it has been interesting to be a part of this conference as it has evolved over the last six years. Not long ago press conferences were the daily norm, vendor news was flying across the wires, on- and off-site parties, dinners and comedy shows (it was only about 4 years ago that Sinbad was the evening entertainment – yes, that Sinbad) were all just ‘the norm’ for SNW.

This Spring the shift I’m starting to hear and feel is that social media is starting to take hold at the conference. This feels a bit overdue, and rightfully so, as social media has been engrained in almost every large event for the last two years or longer. Truth be told, there is so much great information created and shared at this conference, it will be interesting to see how much of it will be shared outside of the confines of the Rosen Shingle Creek.

Here are some interesting developments and new additions to this years’ SNW conference that may help you keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening at the conference this spring:

  • @SNWUSA Twitter feed: already sending some useful updates and gathering a bit of momentum with storage industry Twitter users.
  • It is looking like the hashtag #SNW will be used by most attendees, so be sure to use that to track the broader conversation.
  • While not everyone will be on-site, I’m confident the following active Twitter users will be worth keeping a close eye on during the show: @PariseauTT, @storageswiss, @demartek, @storagebod, @storagemonkeys, @sfoskett, @Chris_Mellor,. @Storagezilla, @storageanarchy, @storageio and @dvellante.
  • A more robust list of active storage Twitter users was posted by Stephen Foskett not too long ago, if you’re looking for a whole slew of active storage pros.
  • The SNIA has also recently started testing the social media waters with their own activities, and they’ll be cranking out some fresh content during the event. (Fair disclosure, I’ll likely be contributing to some of the content they are creating.)
  • @SNIAcloud will be a good SNIA Twitter to follow considering the first ever Cloud mini-Summit being held at SNW on Monday.
  • The Wikibon team is working on something pretty interesting once again. They are working to deliver once again on their Analyst 2.0 model by hosting a live ‘viral experience’ at the conference. To track the conversation they’re having with vendors and likely end users and other attendees, keep an eye on conversations using the #wikibon (as well as #SNW) hashtags.

So, cheers to another SNW and lets hope the social media buzz around the event avoids “Storage Smackdown” status from Byte & Switch.

Feel free to follow me around during the show as I’ll be posting live updates whenever something interesting comes my way…@dlarusso15.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a long time.  I give you, in all our glory, members of Ogilvy PR’s DC tech practice.

And for the record, while I am scary good at the Wii tennis, next time someone asks me that question, I’ll remember the correct answer.


 

If you haven’t been following this Australian story, it’s a stark reminder on why you cannot deceive people through social media campaigns. And if you get caught telling fibs, please admit it.

Naked Communications is the digital agency behind the girl-in-the-jacket controversy for fashion brand Witchery.

Naked recorded a video of an actress who claimed to be trying to find the man of her dreams who had left his jacket in a cafe, and put it on YouTube. It quickly became the most talked about stunt, but for all the wrong reasons. It suffered a backlash from social media commentators who opposed the deception involved in the campaign. Then a second video was produced, and so it went on. The hole was getting bigger by the day. It would only be a matter of time before someone fell in that hole, and that person was Naked’s CEO in Australia, Mat Baxter, who quit last week.

There entire saga moved at such a fast pace and there were plenty of twists along the way – first denials, then admissions, then defence of the stunt and finally more finger pointing. Naked said it was all fun and harmless, but the bottom line is that people don’t enjoy being lied too.

The last straw was when The Australian’s Wish magazine published a full page advertisement from Naked for Witchery naming the journalists and media that had been fooled into writing about the stunt. Ouch! As you can imagine, this didn’t please those journalists.

Whilst the CEO has now moved on, can Witchery recover from this mess?  If you check the company’s web site, it’s still trying to turn this situation into a positive (if that is at all possible?), offering customers the opportunity to meet the ‘famous’ model from the YouTube video. Perhaps the named journalists will turn up looking for revenge!

Not quite best practice and further reinforcement that you need specialist advice to play in the social media space.

 

Luca Penati

by Luca Penati
Category: Experience, Global

Not a bad way to start 2009 :)

More at http://podcasts.prweek.com/

Happy New Year to everyone!!!

PRWeek is turning 10 in the US and I was asked to write a brief post for their blog. You can find it here. Below the ”longer”, original version.

Happy birthday, PRWeek!

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I first arrived at  Silicon Valley 10 years ago, almost to the day. Most people were still using Altavista and Netscape. The word “social” was rarely used, and never before “media” or “networks”. But at every Starbucks - from Santa Cruz to Pleasanton — everyone was talking about the next big thing. Everybody had a business plan. Everyone was able to “get funding.”  Companies were changing their names, often adding a .com to the brand so their valuations could go up. Apple was launching the iMacs, then the iPod. It was “boom” time. Things were crazy. I had just arrived from Italy and my country had never seen such madness, at least not since the Renaissance! (we would a few years later, with the World Cup in 2006.)

Most of the PR professionals I knew left their “boring” corporate or agency jobs to join a dotcom. The mirage, the hollow promise of becoming an instant millionaire was just too tempting to turn down. I was new to this market, loved my job, and was not interested in putting it at risk. And then, the bubble burst. And were in the middle of it. People who a few months earlier had left to get rich were calling me to get their jobs back.

What did we all learn? The strategic importance of PR during a downturn. It can help companies gain market share and end up much stronger than before. From an agency perspective, obsessive client service and compulsive focus on your talent base - all these things helped us get through that difficult time. And they’ll help us again.

And at every Starbucks now, I still hear about innovation, about the next big thing. The difference is that now I’ll tweet about it before draining my coffee cup.

With much uncertainty and chatter on how the economic crisis will impact the technology sector in 2009, I thought now would be a good time to share some thoughts and seek other’s opinions.

In Australia, the panic button has not been hit, but keen to get a sense from our global friends on the mood elsewhere.

If history is a measure on what may happen, those hardest hit in times like this have tended to be the hardware and software vendors, especially the consumer sector. But on the flip side, other segments like the IT services industry have done ok and continue to enjoy growth with cost conscious CIOs keen to outsource to third parties to save on their dwindling budgets.  

Gartner has just released its top 10 strategic technologies for 2009 (not sure if this list was produced before the latest melt down), but nonetheless it would indicate that for some software categories it may not all be doom and gloom. If there is direct business value and associated cost savings that bodes well. If there isn’t, then trouble looms. But that should be the case at any time regardless of a recession.

Personally, I still think some of these technologies may still be a low priority if the funds start to dry up. What do you think?

For ease of use here is Gartner’s 2009 crystal ball:

  1. Virtualisation
  2. Servers, beyond blades
  3. Web-oriented architectures
  4. Enterprise mashups
  5. Specialised systems
  6. Social software and social networking
  7. Unified communications
  8. Business intelligence
  9. Green IT

Incredibly, Green IT was number one last year. At a time when the environment needs all the protection it can get, this forecast is a tad disappointing.  Other technologies that have dropped back in priority include unified communications, which was number two last year.

 

However, an analyst here in Australia, Bruce McCabe, at S2 Intelligence disagrees with Gartner. In an interview with ZDNet Australia he says everyone is still very focused on power consumption in IT hardware and there is no question that green IT has continued to move up the list of priorities.

With much commentary to come on just how the technology sector will weather the economic downturn, many of our clients will be adjusting their tactics and strategies for 2009 and into 2010.

Is there going to be a major slowdown in technology spending, or will organisations still take advantage of the benefits that technology can and does represent?

 

 

 

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide