BlogOrlando is one conference that's worth attending

BlogOrlandoOne conference I plan to attend this year is BlogOrlando .

This will be the third year that Josh Hallett has organized BlogOrlando. The conference reflects Josh’s personality and approach to social media. He maintains a community-first atmosphere that encourages people to mix, make new friends and give generously of what they know. He leavens that with some great after hours activities. Last year, for example, participants had a chance to have a backstage tour of the Kennedy Space Centre, an evening out at Universal City Centre, a party after the close of the conference and, for those who could spend an extra day in Orlando, a bloggers day together at Disney World.

Josh Hallett, Founder of BlogOrlandoBecause Josh is both a heck of a nice guy and one of the social media early adopters, a top flight set of speakers and experts answer his call for session leaders. Last year, for example, speakers and session leaders included  Shel Israel , Tom Biro , Chris Heuer , Geoff Livingston , Laurie Mayers , Jake McKee , Annie Heckenberger , David Parmet , and David Coustan .

Josh emphasizes that the sessions should be discussions involving all of the participants. And in my experience, every session leader brings a good thought starter presentation to kick off that discussion.

Josh has opened registration for this year’s BlogOrlando and begun to announce the speakers and session leaders .

So, if you are interested in a great conversation about social media with a chance to grab a few days vacation in Orlando before or after the conference, BlogOrlando promises to be well worth attending. If you can make it there, I encourage you to do so. Register for BlogOrlando and when you arrive, grab me and let’s spend some time talking.

Want to know more about BlogOrlando?

Debbie Weil’s Q&A with Josh Hallett, Founder of BlogOrlando

David Parmet says he’ll be talking about how social media is affecting education at this year’s conference

Twitter comments on BlogOrlando

BlogOrlando – the Social Media Conference

BlogOrlando demonstrates the culture of generosity

Now Serving – Social Media Breakfast in Canada

Since Bryan Person organized the first Social Media Breakfast in Boston last year, the concept has caught on and been introduced in cities across the United States.

Now, the Social Media Breakfast concept has been brought to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, by Rob Lane, Ryan Anderson and Simon Chen.

The first Social Media Breakfast in Ottawa was a great success, drawing a standing room only crowd. Mark Blevis , Melany Gallant , Stacey , and Simon Chen covered it in posts and pictures .

The second Social Media Breakfast Ottawa will be held on July 15. The guest speaker (and host) will be Rob Lane, founder and President of . (If you’re interested in attending this event, register on Eventbrite .)

SMB Ottawa co-founder Simon Chen sat down with me to talk about the Social Media Breakfasts – what they are, the upcoming event with Rob Lane and who attends these events. By the way, I thought it was interesting that Simon got the idea to bring the Social Media Breakfast concept to Ottawa while he was following the Twitter stream discussing the Boston Social Media Breakfasts.

Watch the complete videoof my discussion with Simon Chen below.

Social media authorship is mandatory for credibility as an advisor

Tom Foremski strikes a nerve with his post, PR Firms that Don’t Blog Yet Offer New/Social Media Practices . Tom argues:

… I’ve always said that PR firms cannot claim to know anything about new/social media if they aren’t using it themselves.

One way to check out if a PR firm understands blogging, etc, is to see if they have a blog of their own. Many don’t, or if they do, they post very infrequently, and usually after meetings abut what they will blog about. Yet nearly every PR firm offers a new/social media practice to clients and claims that they understand this medium. This is BS imho.

I think that Tom is absolutely right. Usually, I keep my views to myself on this. But Tom’s post and the comments in response to it really hit home.

So, this is a one-time post about this topic. And before I start, please excuse me if this reads as self-congratulatory. It’s not meant to be.

But it is meant to be a challenge to all those companies that are out there peddling social media advice from the safe distance of observers. People who say "you don’t need to be active in social media to be able to advise on how to do it right."

So, to you folks, I say:

You can’t understand the process of creation unless you’ve created something

I’m a big believer that you need to be a creator of social media to truly understand it.

Social media is online communications in which people switch easily from being audience to author – without the need to know coding (thank you social software!)

How can you really understand social media if you restrict yourself to the audience role? You are really only watching one half of social media. You have to experience the work, agony and joy of creation to really know both sides of social media.

Go to next heading if you want to skip the Thornley Fallis story

Have we put our money, time and effort where my mouth is? You betcha we have. Not only me, but all the people I work with.

Back in ’04, we began experimenting with social media behind the firewall – with both a Wiki to replace our traditional intranet and a blog. (I started out with an MSN Spaces account restricted only to the people in my MSN friends list – social media on training wheels.)

In ’05, I came out in public with the Pro PR blog . Shortly after that, Terry Fallis along with David Jones (then a Thornley Fallis employee) launched the Inside PR podcast .

At the same time, we encouraged all of the people in the company to get involved in blogging (that was pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter). And as people began to post, we redeveloped the Thornley Fallis Website so that the most recent posts from each of our employee blogs are front and centre. In this way, we give visitors a chance to know our company through the thoughts of the people who work here, not through "brochureware".

Today, if people come to our Website, they can read the views and insights that our team shares each an every day through: Michael O’Connor Clarke’s Uninstalled , Michael Seaton’s The Client Side , Bob LeDrew’s FlackLife , John Sobol’s The Talking Shop and the collectively authored blogs of the women in our Toronto office, PRGirlz , the folks in our Ottawa office, Capital PR , and our 76design team, shift+control .

Last year, Terry Fallis self-published his novel, the Best Laid Plans, and promoted it by reading it in a podcast series on his blog. Not only did he explore a whole new model of publishing, but his novel was awarded the Leacock Award for Humour . (And now he has a traditional publishing deal which will see his novel published and hit bookstores in the autumn season. Way to go, Terry!)

We also created some apps – FriendsRoll and TopLinks – which we hope will help revitalize the blogroll and bring a greater sense of community to blogs.

And along the way, we’ve played with all the Shiny New Objects. We’ve learned which are simply really neat technology and which have real utility. And we actively participate and generate content in those that we find useful. Twitter, Facebook, Dopplr, and many more.

Oh yes. We also took our social media involvement back into the real world. We’ve helped to organize the Third Tuesday social media meetups to provide a place where we can meet in the real world with others who share our passions for social media.

Bottom Line: Social media authorship is the entry fee for social media credibility.

Where does that leave us? Well, when someone asks me a question about social media, I never have to preface my response with "They say…" or "They believe…" I can always say, "In my experience, I have discovered…" And that gives me real confidence that the advice I am providing is solid.

I listen to people who have never posted to a blog pronouncing their views and presenting themselves as experts in social media. And usually I politely keep my opinion to myself. But I’ll say it here. Very few of the people who aren’t active creators of social media really understand the nuances of the social media culture.

OK. That’s the end of my rant. What do you think?

The new face of public relations

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I believe that social media is a game changer for public relations.

It forces public relations people to come out from behind the curtain. No longer can we be the "unnamed source" who talks "on background."

We now are in a world in which the traditional news cycle has been replaced by a constant flow of breaking news and immediate commentary. We must start to monitor conversations well before we ever wish to enter them in order to find where people are talking, listen to what they are talking about, identify the new influencers, and understand their point of view.

And then, when we have done this, we join the conversations where they are occurring. This helps us to build credibility and trust among those who are already engaged in the issues of importance to us.

And all of that occurs before the words "corporate blog" are ever spoken.

Social media demands transparency and authenticity. That means that we must be front and centre as individuals when we are playing the role of spokesperson for our organization. If you want an example of what I’m talking about, take a look at RichardatDell . Richard Binhammer has been one of Dell’s most high profile people in the blogosphere since mid-2006. He is part of the conversation through his personal blog , direct outreach to bloggers , Twitter and real world presentations . And he does this with transparency and authenticity. The corporate spokesperson becomes a real person – and our trust increases because of this.

And that’s the template for the new PR practitioner.

And I’m not alone in my view. It was encouraging to read other industry leaders underline the importance of social media during a recent roundtable discussion organized by PR Week (April 14, 2008, p.12). A couple of statements that caught my attention:

"Traditional PR is getting completely redefined. I won’t say it’s dying, but I think people need to get with what’s on the cutting edge, in terms of building communities and starting conversations – as opposed to that traditional one-way dialogue." Karen Kahn, Vice President, Global Communications, Sun Microsystems.

"The bigger evolution in our job is not learning about social media and digital. It’s about changing from a [text] storyteller to a visual storyteller. I think as PR pros we always related to the written word, and these new Web 2.0 applications relate to being more visual…" Luca Penati, Managing Director of the global tech practice, Ogilvy PR.

Things to think about when you’re planning your own career and growth path.

UPDATE: Shel Israel posted this video interview with Richard Binhammer on Global Neighbourhoods TV shortly after I posted. It’s worth looking at for an illustration of the "up front" PR person. There’s very little (if any) "corporate speak" on Richard’s side. Just a PR person speaking in plain language about what he believes about his company.

What is "social media?"

I frequently conduct workshops for organizations interested in understanding social media, how it will affect them and how they can embrace it.

One of the first questions people ask is, “What is social media?”

I used to refer to the social media article in Wikipedia. However, over time, this section has had a tortured history of revisions and struggles over its content. As I write this, the Wikipedia article on social media opens: “Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning, as people share their stories, and understandings.” Let me read that again: …”technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures.” Huh?

I can’t use the Wikipedia definition and expect people to be any clearer on what social media is. So, I’ve developed my own plain language definition of social media:

Social media are online communications in which individuals shift fluidly and flexibly between the role of audience and author. To do this, they use social software that enables anyone without knowledge of coding, to post, comment on, share or mash up content and to form communities around shared interests.

What do you think of this definition? Is it clear? Can it be improved upon?

Further reading:

Brian Solis, What’s Wrong with Social Media

Robert Scoble, What is Social Media?

David Meerman Scott, What the heck is Web 2.0 / social media/ social networking and how do these concepts relate to the new rules of marketing & pr?

Inside PR live at Third Tuesday Toronto

The next Inside PR podcast will have a distinctly different sound to it – the hum and crackle of a live audience.

Terry Fallis, David Jones and Inside PR panelists Martin Waxman, Julie Rusciolelli and Keith McArthur recorded Episode 106 at Third Tuesday Toronto. And the room was packed with members of the Toronto social media community who participated in the episode, asking questions, offering comments and generally cheering on the production.

Episode 106 will be posted next Tuesday. To whet your appetite for the complete show, here’s a video segment of the panelists setting up and opening the podcast. The lighting is poor and from the rear (audio producers don’t always set up the room with video in mind.) But one thing you can see is that the only apparent element of advance scripting is David Jones reading the opening sequence from notes in his Moleskin. They really do make this stuff up as they record it.

Inside PR to kick off its Third Year at Third Tuesday Toronto

ThirdTuesdayTorontoWe’re planning a special Third Tuesday Toronto on April 2.

For the past two years, David Jones and Terry Fallis have recorded the Inside PR podcast every week without fail. That’s 104 episodes without a single missed week. And throughout this time, they’ve enlightened and entertained us with news, insight and humorous reflections on social media and the world of public relations and corporate communications. And not only are they still going strong, but with episode 101, Dave and Terry gave the podcast fresh energy by adding an Inside PR panel. So far, the panelists have included Martin Waxman, Keith McArthur, Julie Rusciolelli and Michelle Sullivan.

David and Terry also were among the original group of Third Tuesday Toronto organizers, along with Ed Lee and Chris Clarke.

Inside PRSo, what better way to kick off the Inside PR’s third year of podcasts than by recording Episode 105 live at Third Tuesday Toronto?

Register to attend to join Terry, Dave and the Inside PR panelists, for the recording of the 105th. episode of Inside PR. Bring your questions and comments and plan to participate in what should be a fun and memorable podcast.

As always, a special note of thanks to our sponsors, CNW Group. CNW covers the hard costs of Third Tuesdays, making it possible for us to stage these events free of charge to participants. Thank you CNW!

Michelle Sullivan talks about Third Tuesday Montréal

3e Mardi / Third Tuesday MontréalRecently, Montréal joined Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and New Brunswick in having its own Third Tuesday social media meetup.

I had an opportunity to talk with Michelle Sullivan, the driving force behind Third Tuesday/3e Mardi Montréal, about why she wanted to have these events in Montréal. Michelle talked about the bilingual community that makes Montréal such a vibrant city and the unique opportunity to bring both English language and French language social media enthusiasts together in one room to talk about their shared interests.

By the way, the second Third Tuesday/3eMardi Montréal is taking place tonight. According to Michelle’s post, tonight’s session will feature “‘la gang’ de Pourquoi bloguer dans un contexte d’affaires. Trois des dix auteurs de cet ouvrage collectif, dont Marc Snyder, Claude Malaison et Martin Lessard, nous parleront de l’importance grandissante des blogues.”I plan to be there tonight. If you see me, please make a point of saying hello.

Which universities use social media to connect with alumni?

I’m researching how colleges and universities are using social media to stay in touch with their alumni.

My own alma mater contacts me in many ways, but not through social media.

Does your university or college use social media to stay in touch with you? If so, I’d really appreciate it if you could tell me about it in a comment on this post.

Thank you for any help you can offer.

Ottawa technology sector uses social media platform for promotion

Here’s another case study in the making: a business group attempting to use social media for promotion and marketing.

At the height of the dot com boom, the Ottawa technology sector styled itself as Silicon Valley North. In fact, the technology sector was powered by industry leaders like Nortel, JDS Uniphase, Entrust and Cognos and the startups that grew up around them.

All that changed in a short period of time. The Ottawa industry was hit hard by the drop in demand for telecom and Internet gear. Tech companies fell on hard times, laying off employees, pulling out of the region or simply closing their doors.

Well, the region’s technology sector has slowly clawed its way back up from the depths. And now the tech sector’s business 82000reasons.comassociation, the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) wants to spread the good news about the region’s resurgence.

OCRI has launched 82000 to proclaim to the world that the region’s tech sector has survived the telecom implosion, has reestablished itself on solid footing and is growing again. The site’s name alludes to the fact that there are now more than 82,000 people employed in Ottawa’s tech sector.

I found out about the site through a news release that arrived in my feedreader via an RSS feed from MarketWire. (Yes, news releases continue to be an effective way to reach people with an interest in your subject area.)

OCRI’s release says that 82000reasons:

“gives tech employees and companies an RSS, blog and viral video platform to share their successes with a global audience.”

“In the era of user generated content, every one of Ottawa’s technology success stories can be told, tagged and distributed online to a global audience,” says [Michael Darch, Executive Director of Ottawa Global Marketing]. “ leverages our greatest asset, our people, to tell the ‘Why Ottawa?’ story. They are better qualified than anyone to describe Ottawa’s lifestyle and technology strengths so we can attract the people and investment dollars we need to fuel our growth.”

OCRI is promoting participation through a contest offering Ottawa-Frankfurt air tickets to the best contributions and through by “banner ads on Facebook, plus local print, banner ad and radio advertising.”

Conspicuously absent in the list of promotional initiatives is any type of blogger outreach. That’s a real missed opportunity for an initiative that presents itself in social media terms.

The site has just launched. So, it’s too early to judge participation. I’ll follow its progress and try to arrange an interview with Mike Dartch in about a month to talk about the site’s objectives and how it is performing.

UPDATE: Media in Canada also has covered the launch of 82000Reasons