Constantin Basturea's new site gives PR practitioners a vote

Constantin BastureaConstantin Basturea has launched a New PR site that enables readers to vote for articles on public relations topics.

Constantin is also the force behind the PubSub PR Community list and the NewPR Wiki. Here he is delivering yet another concept to draw PR practitioners together as a community.

On the New PR site, bloggers submit their news articles from their sites using an easy posting form. Posters may submit an image and a summary of their article, both of which will appear with the article title and URL on the New PR site. Articles can also be assigned to an appropriate PR category (e.g. blog relations, employee communication, ethics.)

Visitors to the site can comment on an article or “promote” it by casting a vote. Tabs enable the visitor to view the most recently posted articles or the headlines of articles ranked by number of votes.

Appealing to the “ego factor”, the site also shows registered users how many “Props” they have received for articles they posted.

A Forum allows visitors to conduct discussions on a traditional discussion board. Not surprisingly, one of the first strings dealt with the issue of bloggers voting for their own articles.

Bottom line: Yet another intriguing riff on social media from Constantin. Digg it!

Tom Keefe turns the lights back on at CommaKazi Speek

Tom KeefeIt was a long time between posts – 9 months, in fact – but Tom Keefe has fired up the generators and brought CommaKazi Speek back to life.

Tom, who delivered a presentation on building online communities at the 2006 IABC Conference in Vancouver, currently is preparing a presentation to the management of Volkswagen Credit, where he works, on the benefits of social media. Hopefully, Tom will be successful in convincing his management team to engage in social media and he will be able to share the insights he gains from their efforts in this area.

Welcome back Tom. We missed you.

David Maister asks for advice on creating awareness

David MaisterManagement guru and author David Maister has posted a request for advice on how to reach a broader audience with his blog and podcast.

Over the years I have read and benefited from David Maister’s wisdom in several of the books he has authored and co-authored.

So, I’d like to give something back to David by offering my thoughts on what he should do.

First, David, I’d advise you to start by reflecting on the nature of blogs and podcasts. Blogs and podcasts are not based on the broadcast model. They are based on the notions of community, sharing and conversation. In this medium, number of readers is less important than the quality of the relationship you have with those who become part of your community by visiting or subscribing to your RSS feed.

A passionate core community can help you achieve your objective. For example, you’ve reached me. I’ve read your books and now I recommend them to others who lead public relations consultancies. I buy copies of your books for new employees, ensuring that tomorrow’s leaders become familiar with you and your teachings. I link to your blog and note when others share my enthusiasm for you. And I’ve added you to my blogroll.

I’ve done all of this because I run a public relations firm and I subscribe to the perspective on trusted relationships and professionalism. I try to put into practice the approach your recommend in your books. And I value the insights you offer in your blog and podcast and the conversations that you spark. (In fact, you may recall that many months back I posted a comment on your blog encouraging you to add the Trackback capability so that bloggers like me could continue the conversation through postings on our own blogs.)

But that’s me. What about your other subscribers? You can learn a great deal about what draws readers to you by analysing your blog statistics and comments. The comments people offer and the number of links you get to individual postings should provide you with insight into what is popular and what draws and holds your community’s attention.

And you can be even more proactive in understanding your community. Why not conduct a survey of the subscribers to your blog and your podcast. Ask them why they have subscribed. What are they looking for? What do they value? What more or different content/features would they like you to offer? What do they do for a living? Where do they live?

This will provide you with much greater insight into what your current readers value and who they are. And you can use this information to refine the content you provide. After all, it’s all about the content.

Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson conducted a survey of listeners to their For Immediate Release podcast. And the results provided them with real insight into their audience and how they could fine tune their podcast to better serve their interests. And in this medium, the key to bigger numbers may be to drill deeper into a defined audience.

Of course, you could broaden the content of your postings to appeal to a more general audience. I think that this is the approach followed by Manager Tools. Their content is useful to anyone who works in any kind of office environment. If you were to do this, of course, you might disappoint and lose some of your core audience, who value your insight into the particular challenge of managing professional services firms.

Finally, do more of what you just did. By asking for advice, you engaged your community in a discussion. That bound them more closely to you. That generated links. And you can be sure that it increased awareness of your expertise and your blog as others read posts like this.

Microsoft needs a new chief cheerleader

Punting on the CamRobert Scoble is leaving Microsoft. That’s big news for the company.

Scoble’s impact on the Microsoft’s image has been profound. He reminded us all that the company isn’t just a few aggressively competitive and astonishingly successful businessmen, but it is also thousands of individual employees who are probably a bit like you and me. This was an important accomplishment for Microsoft.

The 2006 Edelman Trust Barometer found that “in six of the 11 countries surveyed, the ‘person like yourself or your peer’ is seen as the most credible spokesperson about a company and among the top three spokespeople in every country.” And Scoble has been tremendously successful in becoming “the person most like me” for most bloggers.

Without doubt, he put a great face on Microsoft. And he continued to do this even in his post about leaving the company. Complimentary all the way through. A class act.

So what now? In his post about his decision to leave, Scoble himself observed:

I’m not the only blogger at Microsoft. There are about 3,000 of them here. They are not having the plug pulled on them. They changed the world. I just was the cheerleader.

Microsoft desperately needs a chief cheerleader to follow in Scoble’s footsteps. But none of the 3,000 bloggers in the company currently come anywhere near his profile.

Are any of the current bloggers capable of stepping into his shoes? Or will Microsoft have to reach outside the company to bring in another outsider with Scoble’s combination of skills as a communicator, cheerleader, networker and all round nice guy?

PR community warms to social media, but unevenly

I’ve just attended three conferences in the past month – Mesh in Toronto, PRSA Counselors Academy in Savannah, and the IABC International Conference in Vancouver. I came away with a sense that the PR industry is warming to the importance and potential of social media to transform the practice of public relations.

Mesh Toronto 2006However, adoption is neither uniform nor universal. The conversations I participated in showed that the industry ranges widely in both awareness and understanding. The attendees at Mesh are technophiles who have embraced the full range of social media and are looking for the new cutting edge applications that will further empower online communities and collaboration.

Counselors Academy 2006The group that has farthest to travel were the participants in the PRSA Counselors Academy.

It’s noteworthy that Counselors Academy is composed primarily of principals and owners of mid-size firms. There could be several explanations for these people to be late to the party. Mid-size firms rest heavily on the key skills and vision of their founders, whose imaginations may not have embrace social media. Or perhaps it reflects the need for principals of small firms to be closer to day to day client work. They may not have the ability to gaze into the future in the way that large firms with their corporate leadership can.

Whatever the reason, the mid-size firms ignore social media at their peril. As was pointed out by Peppercom’s Steve Cody when he told people attending his workshop at Counselors Academy that

“Complacency is a killer. It’s critical to figure out how to differentiate yourself because the marketplace is rapidly changing.

“Agencies that just keep on doing what they’ve been doing for years are heading for trouble. The field of dreams approach does not work. We all have the same kind of relationships with journalists. … The more you are seen as just an order taker and a tactical media relations operation, the more your business will be marginalized.”

IABC International Conference 2006Much more encouraging however was the IABC International Conference in Vancouver. At last year’s conference in Washington, I can only recall there being one session focusing on blogs. This year there were half a dozen – and virtually every one was packed. The presenters were outstanding: Neville Hobson, Allan Jenkins, Shel Holtz (at three sessions), Tom Keefe, John Gerstner, Tudor Williams, and Tod Maffin.

It’s clear that the IABC conference participants, populated by communicators from larger organizations and business, are engaged in figuring out what social media means to and for their organizations.

Overall, I’m encouraged. And looking forward to next year’s conferences. Without doubt, the pace of adoption of social media will accelerate in the coming year and – based on the pattern of adoption that I witnessed this year – new stars are likely to emerge and other established players may suffer for their tardiness in joining the discussion.

What do you think? Am I seeing patterns that don’t exist? Do you have a different view of how the industry is embracing social media?

Canadian Copyright Law

Our own creative landMichael Geist’s Hart House lecture, Our own creative land, provides a great overview and primer on Canadian copyright law in the era of social software. It can be downloaded in podcast or PDF form.

The lecture was delivered on March 30, 2006 and broadcast on TVO in late May. However, I was only able to catch up with my reading on the return flight from the IABC International Conference in Vancouver.

I’d recommend this as a must-read for anyone interested in the current copyright regime in Canada and one person’s view of how it should be reformed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel launches podcast

Angela Merkel podcastSebastian Keil picked up two reports that Angela Merkel today will launch a podcast.

Podcasting is an ideal communications vehicle for government leaders. It closely follows the broadcast model that politicians use every day. Political leaders generate a regular stream of speeches and voice clips, ideal content for podcasts.

Merkel Keil is the second major government leader that I know of who is taking advantage of social media. She joins David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in Tony Blair’s UK government, who started blogging on January 2, 2006.

It is inevitable that others soon will follow them in their use of social media.

If you know of other examples of government leaders or senior government officials who are podcasting or blogging, please tell me about it by leaving a comment on this post. 

IABC International Conference – Pat McNamara

Apex PRPat McNamara’s session was titled Fuel your business: Strategies from one of Canada’s fastest growing companies. She did not disappoint as she delivered a fast-paced presentation chock full of wisdom and practical tips.

Highlights of her presentation:

One of the secrets of success is to get awards. And we have applied for almost all the awards we won.

The ‘Not so secret” ingredients of a successful, profitable PR business are

  • The right people
  • The right clients
  • The right business

To be successful, you must have a passion both for PR and running a business. If you don’t have that passion, people will not want to work with you.

Pat is a fan of David Maister and she has put much of his advice into practice.

Getting hired is about earning and deserving trust. You need to earn trust. Be generous with your time and help. Show a good understanding of the situation.

The absolute number one key to success is having the right people and the right culture. Unfortunately, PR firms tend not to do a good job of communicating with their employees.

Culture must be consciously created.

  • Reputation is key.
  • Trust and empower your employees.
  • Build a strong, talented management team.
  • Ensure you have a leadership, not boss mentality.
  • Have fun.

At Apex, Pat believes that “The company becomes strong one employee at a time.” Think of employees as individuals. Figure out what each one is good at and figure out how to make those strengths fit into your success formula. Constantly reward success and achievement – in ways that are meaningful to them. And surprise them. The unanticipated can delight.

Always do an employee survey. You cannot pay too much attention to what your employees are thinking.

“People leave managers, not companies.”

If you can keep your employee turnover low, your business will have a firm foundation for growth. Clients stay with businesses that have stable teams. has a list of the top 10 reasons people stay at a workplace. 46% is related to people. 18% is related to the job. 12% is pay related. 10% is related to the company.

Ensure that you have a leadership mentaility, not a boss mentality. The company is about the sum of its parts. Everyone should be encouraged to understand and believe that they can contribute.

Focus on ensuring that all people in a leadership position have strong leadership skills and an understanding of the importance of this role.

McNamara recommends Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First Break All the Rules, as a source for the questions to ask in ensuring that employees are inspired.

To grow your business, you must:

  • Hunt and acquire new prospects.
  • Market to existing clients.
  • Identify new sources of business.

Not all new business is good business. If you work with clients who are not very nice or whom you are not very passionate about, you’ll lose your people. Get the right kind of business, not more business.

Existing clients are the most likely sources of new business and the most profitable.

When deciding who to purse, start with an honest assessment of your capabilities. Do you have a chance of winning this business? To have a reasonable chance, you must have special expertise, the time and the resources to stand out from the crowd.

Find out as much as possible about the client. You must know them well in order to understand their needs.

Ensure that someone on your team is excited about working with the client. If people are not passionate about this, don’t pitch the business.

Stay away from strangers. Don’t pitch unless you can be in the room and present to the client in person. People choose other people, not paper proposals.

Create a very short list that is focused on your capabilities and ability to win (never pitch business that you don’t think you have at least a 50% chance of winning.)

Pursue opportunities by sending creative packages and look for opportunities to interact (e.g. a PR 101 presentation.)

Understand that most people have made up their mind about whether they like you or not within the first two minutes of meeting you. Make the most of this time.

One you’ve won the business, you must work hard to keep them happy. This should be your number one priority. Happy clients will be forgiving. They will take your advice. They will provide positive referrals.

Reasons clients leave firms:

  • Failed to meet deadlines
  • Did not meet budgets
  • Lack of follow-through
  • Did not keep the client informed of project status
  • Poor or inconsistent quality
  • Did not meet expectations
  • Over-promised, under-delivered
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Order-takers vs. idea generators
  • Lack of good chemistry or trust.

Ways to keep your clients:

  • Ensure there is strong team chemistry
  • Provide senior level involvement
  • Under-promise and over-deliver
  • Clients are no your friends; remind your staff
  • Take a “no surprises” approach to budgets
  • Set clear expectations; put them in writing
  • Never miss a deadline; develop thorough, doable timelines
  • Ask: what’s the best/worst thing we could do?
  • Use their products
  • Let your clients interact with each other
  • Admit your mistakes
  • Show your passion for their business

Listen to your clients

  • Conduct a client survey
  • Conduct internal reviews – be brutally honest in your assessment.
  • Interact with your clients – walk the halls with them; attend sales meetings; introduce them to new ideas and services even if they are not your own.

Have regular conversations with the client:

  • First week: conduct a client audit and organize an internal indoctrination on how we will work together.
  • 30 days: conduct a review of how we are doing. Walk them through the first invoice
  • 90 days: Ask for an assessment of performance and gauge performance against written expectations
  • Six months: Do an activity recap and a planning session.
  • One-year review: Conduct a written survey and establish new directions.

To grow existing business:

  • Ensure you have multiple contacts
  • Conduct/attend media/presentation training
  • Attend marketing and sales meetings
  • Interact with other suppliers
  • Start an idea generator program
  • Introduce alternate team members
  • Invite them to other client events

IABC International Conference – Shel Holtz

Shel HoltzBlogger and podcaster Shel Holtz led a session on The practical impact of social media on your organization. And as he has several times through the conference, he held the attention of an audience that included a full range of experience and knowledge from veteran bloggers through to novices who have not yet subscribed to a blog.

Shel noted that this IABC Conference has had at least five sessions on social media, compared with only one or two in the past.

Some truths:

New media do not replace old media. Yes, old media may shrink. But they also adapt to do the things they are best at.

The press release is not dead. It is being reinvented. Look at the new release format developed by Todd Defren.

Markets are conversations.

The audience controls the message. Once you have put out a message, the audience takes it up and talks about it. They extend, build and comment on it.

And it’s not just the most-read bloggers who count. The Long Tail means that everyone counts.

Therefore, institutions must cede control in order to participate in the conversation.

Blogging and other social media software have lowered both the technical and cost barriers to the point that virtually anyone with a computer can participate.

We are going through a seismic change that is driven by shifts in trust combined with demands for transparency. Communications must change to reflect this.

We have entered the era of social computing, in which power is in the hands of communities, not institutions.

The technology doesn’t matter. With the coming of IE7, people will no longer need to be conscious of RSS. They’ll just look for the orange icon. And they’ll be as unconscious of what RSS is as most people today are unconscious that they use SMTP every time they send an email.

RSS feeds have tremendous potential for eliminating email clutter in organizations. It is an ideal platform for the distribution of news and announcements.

Shel provided several examples of corporate blogs. When questioned about the time requirement for blogging, he noted that one CEO had indicated to him that he sees communication as part of his job. And he sees blogging as a useful new tool. So, he blogs. But he doesn’t spend more time on communication. He has simply shifted to his blogging some of the time that he previously spent on other communication activities.

One interesting example of a company that is exploring the potential of creating new communities is wetpaint, with their stable of wikis, such as wikifido.

Tagging is enabling people to experience the wisdom of crowds, seeing what others considered important and relevant to a topic. This is being used by individuals and companies. IBM tags information on their intranet to make it easier for other people to find it. Hill and Knowlton collects and shares market intelligence using

Podcasts and vidcasts are beginning to make their way into corporations.

The impacts:

Personal relationships are being developed online. Many bloggers and podcasters experience the doppelganger effect of meeting someone in real life who they feel they already know and have a relationship with through their social media interacitons.

For business, new forms of trust are emerging on the net based on sustained exposure and interactions through social media. Hobson and Holtz frequently receive invitations to make joint presentations even though they have no business together.

The workplace will see new methods of collaboration and more two way communications replacing top down communications. These communications will be less formal, more conversational.

To be used effectively, blogs and other forms of social media must be integrated into a comprehensive communications strategy. They should not be approached on a standalone basis. They have particular strengths and uses that should supplement, not replace other communications vehicles.