A session I'd like to see at Mesh 07 – Social media, Corporate Brand and Personal Brand: The Employer's Dilemma

Mesh 06 was a seminal event for Canada’s social media community. Happily, Mark, Mathew, Mike, Rob and Stuart, have decided that one good event deserves another. And that means there will be a Mesh 2007.

Mesh ConferenceHere’s one session I hope the organizers include in this year’s program: “Social media, Corporate Brand and Personal Brand: The Employer’s Dilemma.”

In the past year, we have seen several prominent bloggers and podcasters leave their old companies for newer pastures. Some examples: PR uber blogger Steve Rubel left CooperKatz to join Edelman. Podtech made Microsoft’s prize blogger Robert Scoble an offer he didn’t want to refuse. Blogging reporter Mark Evans decamped the National Post for the excitement of new media startup, b5media. And close to (my) home, Fleishman Hillard recruited David Jones from my company, Thornley Fallis.

In each case, these bloggers had been encouraged (or permitted, in Mark’s case) to blog by their original employers. In each case, they built up their own personal brand. And in each case, their personal brand and their employer’s brand were closely linked.

Then they left. And their now former employers were challenged by this departure. What did it say about the company that they had chosen to leave? What did it do to the company’s brand? Did it diminish it? How did each company react?

I think a discussion on this topic could yield some valuable insight into how employers should approach the challenge of encouraging blogging employees while recognizing that their success makes it more likely that they will be more mobile than other employees. What attitude should they take to employee bloggers? Can companies develop enduring brand equity through the activities of these bloggers or will their equity and good will depart with them? Do traditional approaches to Intellectual Property apply or do we need a new set of rules?

I hear these questions from many of the business executives who discuss blogging with me. I think that a good panel of employers and bloggers who have already experienced this social media effect would provide insight that others can apply in future.

What do you think? Would you attend a session like this? How about panelists? Who would you like to hear discussing this topic?

As if things weren't already bad enough for the PR industry

Merchants of DeathZap2it reports that NBC is developing a television series pilot based on “Thank You for Smoking,” the movie adaptation of Christopher Buckley’s novel.

For those who missed it, the movie/novel’s protagonist, Nick Naylor, is a PR spokesman/lobbyist for Big Tobacco. He consorts with fellow “Merchants of Death” who represent the gun and alcohol lobbies. While ultimately Naylor emerges with a vestige of integrity, the overall context portrays PR at its worst: amoral, facile and mercenary.

If this one gets picked up for the prime time season, PR practitioners everywhere should get used to friends failing to return telephone calls and neighbours’ kids refusing to come out and play with their children.

A desperate blogger's plea for help

Well, it seems that every few months, I get very busy at work and fail to post for a few days. And when I do, I find it hard to get started again. Just nothing to say.

Thank you HughSo, I’d like your help. If you’re still subscribed to my feed after the past week of silence, I’d really appreciate your suggestions about what is interesting in the PR blogosphere right now. Please point me to the best posts from other PR/marketing blogs during the last week.

I’ll get started by commenting on other people’s posts. Then, I hope I’ll again develop the itch to write about things on my own blog.

I need inspiration. Help me, please!

*Thank you to Hugh MacLeod for the “cartoon on the back of a business card.” I think it’s pretty appropriate to my current predicament.

CaseCamp: Now in Second Life

CaseCamp Second Life

Word today that the next CaseCamp will be held in Second Life.

Throughout 2006, marketers in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver have come together at CaseCamps to share some of their best work and to exchange advice on how it could be made even better.

The concept is simple. A marketer has 15 minutes to present a case study with a maximum of eight slides. Then the audience spends fifteen minutes discussing the case, asking questions and offering comments.

Bryan Person talks about how the background to this initiatve in a dedicated episode of his New Comm Road podcast. Kate Trgovac, C.C. Champman, and Eli Singer, the founder of CaseCamp, are the other organizers of this event, which is being hosted at Crayonville.

If you’re interested in experiencing the Second Life CaseCamp, you can register at the CaseCamp Wiki.

Getting the Most from Your Website

Eric Hagborg is a man with a mission. He wants companies to make their websites work for them. And he told Ottawa CaseCamp how he does this.

What makes a strong corporate Website?

  • Design is the first thing that people judge your website on.
  • Second, is it relevant to what they are looking for?
  • Does the navigation scheme help them to find the content they want once they’ve arrived at your Website?

How can you support these things?

  • Qualify your visitors as they come to the Website. Feed them information in small doses. Start off with basic information. If they want more, provide them with additional layers of information.
  • Accommodate all kinds of learners. Balance text, graphics, pictures, graphs, and other kinds of information being provided.
  • Demonstrate the value up front.

How can you do this?

  • Start with a professional designer.
  • Build in User-centric navigation. Don’t focus on yourself. Focus on the needs of your visitors. And design your navigation scheme to respond to their needs. You’ll need to research the needs of your visitors. But this is a worthwhile investment.
  • Ensure your content is concise and succinct. You’re not writing a novel.
  • Build in lots of supporting graphics.

Eric illustrated the effectiveness of this approach by citing the experience of his client,  ipMonitor to dramatically increase visitor retention and conversions on its website. Following a reworking of their corporate Website, they increased visitor retention by 59% and increased conversions by 128%

Pretty good results. And a pretty good presentation from a guy who knows his business.

Alec Saunders Wows CaseCamp Ottawa

VOIP wunderblogger Alec Saunders wowed the inaugural CaseCamp Ottawa with a boffo presentation on how he has used his blog to promote the profile and credibility of his company, Iotum.

He started with three benefits to corporate blogging:

  • Thought leadership. Trying to magnify a point of view and thought and to get other people to pay attention to it.
  • To try to get communities to grow around your product. A blog is a fabulous tool for creating a conversation around your product and your company. Microsoft has done an extraordinarily good job with this.
  • Pure visibility. A blog is a way to create more visibility for your company, if properly tied to your corporate Website.

After twelve months of working on his site, Alec’s blog is generating over 184,000 visits a month. He likens this to the equivalent of a small magazine. He ensures that this generates traffic for the Iotum corporate site by crosslinking regularly to the Iotum site.

Why does this work? In a nutshell:

  • First because blogs are optimized for search engines.
  • Second, as you post good content, a community of like-minded individuals will begin join your conversation and link to you. Alec has built up over 23,000 links from other blogs to his site – generating great Google juice.

What do you have to do to be a good blogger?

  • Write frequently. Every day. At least once. Better twice or more.
  • Participate in “the conversation.” Find where the conversation to your market exists. Read those blogs. Comment on them.
  • Write meaty posts. Don’t waste people’s time with a series of one lines. You must generate posts with interesting things.
  • Ask for link love. If you’ve written something good, write to your community, tell them about it and ask them to join the converstion.
  • Ping. Make sure that your blog software is pinging the search engines each time you post.
  • Use your blogroll to generate links and community to the people who are part of your community.

And just as importantly, Optimize for Google:

  • Optimize your pagecount with WordPress.
  • Use a Google Sitemap. Make it easy for Google to find and index your site.
  • Give your posts titles. Interesting titles draw visitors.
  • Give em GOOD titles. Good titles draw even more visitors. Make it interesting.
  • Link and Trackback: Be part of the community and feel the love come back.
  • Get a top level domain: Don’t bury your content with an obscure domain.
  • Tag, tag, tag. Help people to find your content through linking.

Alec closed off his presentation by citing his post on the Voice 2.0 Manifesto. In the past twelve months, 1.6 million posts have been indexed by Google on Voice 2.0 – a topic that Alec coined. Clearly, this guy is onto something good.

Other presenters included:  Ian Graham on competitive intelligence; Mitch Brisebois’ on marketing software as a service and Eric Hagborg on how his company, Axionic, helped a client to dramatically increase visitor retention and conversions on its website.

About 40 people attended this first Ottawa CaseCamp. It appeared that most were drawn from web design firms. A much different crowd and a much different atmosphere from the Toronto CaseCamp, which has a much stronger advertising and marketing flavour to it.

Congratulations to Peter Childs for the initiative in launching this in Ottawa.