Ragan Strategic Public Relations Conference – Afternoon sessions

Half a day down. Lunch has been served. And now I’m looking forward to the afternoon sessions.

Ragan ConferenceThe second half of the day promises to get off to a strong start with a presentation from Jeremiah Owyang, Community marketing: Turn executives into powerful evangelists for the company message.

I’ll close out the formal sessions with a workshop led by Charles Pizzo, who promises tips for Online PR to Improve your net newsroom.

Ragan Strategic Public Relations Conference – Morning Sessions

Ragan 2006 Strategic Public Relations ConferenceI’m heading over to the conference in a few minutes. There are a number of sessions I hope to attend and post about.

Ragan has organized the sessions into four tracks. I plan to follow the Social Media track with a brief crossover into the media relations track for a session with blogging journalists.

First up this morning, Robert Scoble is delivering the keynote address. His topic: Naked conversations: How blogs are transforming your public relations—and your business.

Next, Jen McClure, Executive Director of the Society for New Communications Research, will tackle The new world of PR: Identify and engage the new influencers.

The morning will end with Shel Holtz’s presentation on Mixing podcasting and PR: How the audio revolution can support clients’ objectives.

If the Wi-Fi feed is good, I’ll live blog. Otherwise, I’ll post at the end of the day.



Every good conference should start with a bloggers dinner – and Robert Scoble!

Yep. So here I am. At the Ragan conference in Chicago.

The event started out in a great, informal, stimulating way – a bloggers dinner organized by Kevin Dugan and Chris Thilk. And who showed up when there were only the three of us there? Robert Scoble. First time I’d met him. A genuine, sincere, modest guy. Smart of course.

Robert ScobleThe table kept growing through the evening. But I bailed early. My day started some 18 hours ago. And I hear that the keynote speaker tomorrow is kickass. So, I’m back at the hotel for a quick drink, this post and a decent night’s sleep.

I’ll try to live blog the sessions tomorrow. If there is reliable wireless in the meeting rooms.

If the wireless turns out to be spotty or nonexistent, I plan to test Windows Live Writer as an offline editor. 24 hours from now, I’ll tell you whether it worked.

Riya: Another glimpse at the development of a web 2.0 company

RiyaBlog readers continue to be treated to an unusual peek behind the scenes in the development of a web 2.0 company.

Last spring, Riya launched with much fan fare in the blogging community, largely due to the ground-breaking social-seeding efforts of Tara Hunt.

Shortly after launch, Tara left the company to pursue her dream and Riya CEO Munjal Shah began a fascinating series of posts about the first months of the company’s public beta. The series culminated with Munjal indicating that the company had decided it needed to change its strategic direction. The beta experience was showing that the market for Riya was someplace else than Munjal and his team had thought it would be.

Munjal’s blog has gone dark for the past several months. Now, he has emerged again with a short post pointing to a substantial post by Riya Board member Peter Rip.

Rip’s post suggests that early stage investing is a bit like “hunt and peck” typing:

Riya’s approach to search is a perfect metaphor for early stage investing.  Eighteen months ago I couldn’t describe the business with any real precision.  We had some great ingredients in a field of opportunity. I figured I’d know it when I saw it. 

And Riya 2.0 will be significantly different than the beta site launched just a few months ago:

…Riya 2.0 is nothing like the Powerpoint we saw in Q1-05.  And it bears no resemblance to the stuff that was on our whiteboard in the Fall of 04.  But this is the nature of early stage consumer.  Change Happens. Iterate. Pivot. Evolve.

The key aspects haven’t changed. The core of the business is still image  analysis and  classification.  We now have 14 researchers just on this problem – perhaps the largest image analysis pure research team in the world – and a huge intellectual property portfolio.  The biggest changes are in how and where we apply the technology. Perhaps the best move we have made is to signal to the photo, social networking, and community sites that we are not in their business at all, enabling us to work together with them and exploit some real economic synergies.  It’s just as important for the world to know what you’re Not as what you Are.

We are in the process of re-defining image search.  The core premise of what we are doing is that there are lots of things humans can’t describe well in text, but we “know it when we see it.” We aren’t so much about searching for images as much as we are about searching with images.   This is really a different kind of search experience. Faces are the most extreme case. Our brains are highly tuned to recognize the most subtle visual dues, but humans can’t verbally describe faces with any precision at all (except for the occasional scar or mole.) 

Fascinating. I’m looking forward to continuing to follow the Riya story. Will they be able to pull off a business success? Stay tuned.

Stowe Boyd has some good advice for people taking the leap into solo consulting

Stowe BoydStowe Boyd offers some sage advice on the FreshBooks blog that should be read by anyone considering solo consulting.

Stowe is one of the more successful independents. In his view, “One third of your time should be devoted to networking and marketing, that is finding new clients, or letting them find you; one third to talking up new projects, getting them into contracts, and managing the business side, up to and including getting paid; and one third performing billable work.”

And how does Stowe market himself?

I have a simple approach to marketing my services: I don’t. Or, perhaps more accurately, I don’t do any marketing other than blogging and attending conferences, which are the primary channels for potential clients. I leave the rest up to fate, the Tooth Fairy, and word of mouth.

Blogging is the centerpoint of my professional life, and in a real sense defines my professional identity. Many thousands of other consultants also blog, so I am not some outlier in that regard, and I believe that the benefits of diligently exploring your professional interests in the blogosphere can be enormous. Blogging is also relatively low-cost, although the time investment may be high. I know that there are some advocates of blogging who believe it is possible to get a solid return on a lesser time investment, but I try to blog daily, and often, many times a day. I have come to be considered an A-list blogger (whatever that may mean) but I think the key is to define a niche of interests that you write about that would allow a potential client to get an insight into your thinking. And then the email will start.

Marketing in the era of social media. This is advice you would not have heard even two years ago. But I have encountered several practitioners I respect who seem to have adopted this model. And judging from the smiles on their faces, I have to believe that it works!

Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms to represent interests of PR consulting firms

CCPRFA new organization has been launched in Canada: the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms (CCPRF). The Council, which has grown from a discussion group of PR consulting firm principals based in Toronto, will provide a voice for PR consulting firms operating everywhere in Canada.

The CCPRF’s draft mission statement establishes it as:

…a national organization of principals of leading public relations consulting firms dedicated to promoting the role of public relations in business strategy and organizational performance.

The goal of the Council is to promote the professionalism and development of public relations consulting and provide leadership in areas that influence growth such as professional development, measurement, awards and standards of practice.

CCPRF Meeting 060913

Both the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) and the Canadian chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) work hard to support individual practitioners in Canada. But they do not address the interests of public relations consulting as a BUSINESS. And of course, PR consultancies must be successful as businesses if we are to provide growth-oriented career opportunities for PR practitioners.

I believe the Council will fill this essential role. But it can only do this if it is a truly national organization whose membership includes the leading firms in every region of the country.

If you run a PR consulting firm that operates in Canada and has a minimum of $1 million in annual fees, you should consider joining the CCPRF. Support the industry. Support consulting. Help create a voice for our industry.

If you are interested in talking about why your agency should be part of the Council, contact me at joseph.thornley[at]gmail.com. We want you!

Canadian Communicators joining Third Monday and Third Tuesday Social Media Meetups

Canadian communicators are keen to get together to discuss the potential of social media, if the early response to Third Monday and Third Tuesday is any indication. With two weeks to go before the inaugural gatherings, 25 communicators have signed up for the Ottawa group and 43 have joined the Toronto group. This makes the Toronto group the second largest public relations group on meetup.com.

Naked ConversationsOf course, having Shel Israel, co-author of Naked Conversations, as our first speaker is a great way to kick off these new meetups.

There’s still lots of time to join. So, if you’re a public relations practitioner in either the Toronto or Ottawa regions, join up and come on out to hear a great speaker and have an evening of discussion and camaraderie with others who share a curiosity about social media and its application to communications.