Third Monday Launches with Shel Israel

The Third Monday meet up of the Ottawa social media community kicked off with inaugural speaker Shel Israel, co-author with Robert Scoble of Naked Conversations.

 Over 35 people showed up at the event. From Ottawa and from as far away as Montreal.

Shel mixed and mingled with the participants. The room was well-seeded with bloggers and podcasters. Among them, Colin McKayBrendan Hodgson, Ian Ketcheson, Bob LeDrew, Terry Fallis, Jill Pyle and John Wiseman, John Sobol, and Jeff Parks.

Shel pointed out that the growth of blogging, MySpace and other social media provides a signpost to the future. And as the younger generation engages with social media, they will demand it of the organizations they join and the places they work.

Public relations should be about relationships with people. Social media will enable public relations practitioners to become facilitators rather than “pushers.”

Question: Should PR practitioners reach out to bloggers or should we counsel our clients to do it directly. Shel’s response: Join the conversation. If you want me to write about you, comment on my blog. Write on your own. Then I will have a relationship with you. I will be able to form judgments about you. I will know whether to trust you. And I will accord attention to you.

The key message to companies. The conversation is already going on. You are really dumb if you stay out of it.

The number one problem that people have with large organizations is that “they don’t listen.” 

The biggest mistake that companies make is that they get involved because they feel they need to. But there is no conviction. No passion. They will be seen through for this lack of authenicity.

Does blogging work for Government. Shel suggested that the purpose of govenrment is to serve a population. And the population cannot be heard over the well-financed lobbyist. Blogging and social media provides all citizens with the opportunity to have a voice. to engage in the building of community. To find other people who share common interest. To initiate the online town meeting.

The Mayor of Washington blogs. At the outset, it was programmed and sounding like a suit running for office. People reacted negatively. And he listened. And he changed his blogging style. And as he has blogged, his blog has improved. It has become more genuine. More sincerely representative of the man, not just the candidate or the politician. This is an example of a politician who “gets it.”

We want government to show that it is made up of real people who care. Not some faceless, abstract bureaucracy.

How about Lonelygirl15? Will communicators lose credibility through this type of marketing stunt? Shel: Wherever there is action, the camp followers tend to come. There are some bad people out there. Lonelygirl is a terrible story. But the weight of terrible stories vs. the everyday reality of 50 million blogs is a relatively small portion.

What feeling do you get from your audiences as you go from place to place? Are they optimistic? Pessimistic? Does it vary widely from place to place? Shel: What I find .. Estonia, Singapore, Ireland, Belgium  – I see a convergence. We are creating a culture that does not care about borders. It is connected by people who have a passsion for is something that is changing the world.

What will be interesting is what happens as culture crosses over with this technology. It gives Shel great hope. To learn that people are saying similar things, recalibrating themselves through this new media. That is inspiring.  

Can we make a living by blogging? Very few people make a good living through blogging. blogging is a conversational tool that will be used by normal people doing everyday things.

The blog is a tool. You can use hammers to build a house or bludgeon someone. The excitement is that people are going to adapt this tool to their needs. Some of them won’t be very nice. Some will try to make a quick buck. But our experience so far is showing that people will see through this and that it will not be successful in the long run.

So far, what we are seeing is mostly real people who want to talk to real people. And they are looking for authenticity and transparency.