Social Mediators Video Podcast: Ready, Set, …

We’re just about ready to launch the Social Mediators video podcast. Last week, I posted some images of different settings we’d tried.

Today, we have the opening sequence ready to go.

Each week, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I will get together to talk about the convergence of our online and real world lives and the impact of social media on community, communications and society. Yes, we’ll talk about technology. But technology is only the jumping off point for our real interest. How are new technologies and social media developments affecting the way that people relate to one another, shaping our expectations of institutions and removing the barriers to collective action?

We hope that you’ll subscribe to the feed and join our conversation.

The New PR

Last week, Jeremy Wright joined our team at Thornley Fallis & 76 design.  Since then, several friends have asked me how we were able to attract Jeremy to join a public relations agency.

It’s the new PR.

For several years, we have been moving Thornley Fallis beyond old style public relations to understand and participate in the new communications, communities, and social relationships that universal search, social media and ubiquitous online access have made possible.

This new public relations is grounded in anthropology, sociology, and technology.

The new public relations is about understanding relationships between people, what people want and need from these relationships, and how they form, sustain, and use communities of interest.

We don’t see people as target audiences.  We see people through the lense of communities.  And we participate in those communities. We earn our place by understanding the dynamics of the communities and adding value.  We add value by helping those communities to function better and by contributing unique and new content to the conversation.

We still draw on our ability to write clearly, an understanding of what people are interested in, and a knowledge of traditional media and how they work. (They haven’t turned off the lights at traditional media yet – and I don’t think they will in my lifetime.)

However, these traditional skills now must be supplemented by other expertise.  An understanding of community formation.  What makes people seek out one another?  What makes a community grow? What makes it die? What is the impact of the removal of barriers to collective action online? How far can we push social media’s ability to transcend the limitations of geographic proximity and bring people together in one conversation, regardless of where they are in the world? What of the new online intimacy? How do we revise our notions of privacy in this era? How do we help people satisfy their desire to extend their online relationships with real world relationships?

Public relations practitioners must also know how to create the new meeting places.  As the ties that bind us to traditional media break down, people find new ways to discover the information they need and to share it with others.  The combination of search with social software provides us all with the power to do this.  But some solutions are better than others.  The new public relations practitioner must know what makes a social platform work and how to improve on what is already there.

Measurement is essential to understand what is going on and the impact of what we do. Old yardsticks are inadequate to gauge the new dynamics. GRP’s, impressions, reach – these are the metrics of a bygone era.  We must develop and apply new metrics for engagement, momentum, influence and the growth, depth and characteristics of our social graphs.

New possibilities, new tools, new channels.  All call for new people with new expertise.

The new public relations agency is a hybrid that draws on new areas of expertise and skill sets.  We’ve been trying to create this kind of agency at Thornley Fallis and 76 design. More than anything, I think it’s the thrill of participating in that innovation and invention that brought Jeremy Wright to us.

Of course,we’re not the only firm doing this. We know that several other firms are heading down this route. Firms like Shift, Voce, Edelman.

Bottom line: For those who think of public relations as they might have even five years ago, please take another look. You’ll find something quite different under the hood at the thought- leading public relations firms.

This isn’t your parents’ public relations.

Coming to a small screen in the palm of your hand

Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I are weeks away from launching a new video podcast. And Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I have completed three demos. With each one, we’ve changed the setting –

starting in our boardroom,

then moving to a couch and chairs and,

finally settling on the staff gathering area just outside our kitchen. And we think we’ve found the right spot.

There must be a reason why people arriving at a house party often head straight for the kitchen. We just feel comfortable there. It’s where we gather during the day. We share meals with family and friends. We relax there. So, that’s where we’ve decided to produce our video.

We’re not quite ready to launch publicly. But soon.

How can Regulators use social media?

I’m speaking next week at a conference of health profession regulators. The theme of the day: Innovations in Regulatory Communications.

I’ve been asked to speak to the topic, “Social Media: What you need to know to be effective.” I think I can give them some good ideas – and I’ll post about the presentation and their reaction after the session.

In preparing for the session, the organizer told me, “We’re most interested in how social media can be used in the regulatory environment, given the challenges we face as regulators.  We’ve all been to conferences and sessions about how social media works as a marketing tool in retail and other environments, but we’ve always come away from those kinds of events thinking that these tools don’t really seem suited to us.  But as communicators, we also know that we want to do a better job of communicating with all our audiences – the public, the profession and others in the health care environment.  So essentially, how can we best use social media without compromising our regulatory duties?”

I thought this was an interesting glimpse of the basic conundrum the regulators face. They want to reach out to the public, but they feel that they have to be responsible to duties of fair process and being careful not to be seen as prejudging as well as staying within their assigned responsibilities and not straying into the realm of policy-making that the politicians have reserved for themselves.

But does that mean that they can’t use social media? I don’t think so. But rather than simply preach about the virtues of social media, I want to provide my audience of regulators examples of other regulators and government agencies who have used social media effectively. I think of the way the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada uses their blog to raise awareness of privacy issues and make us think more deeply about them, the way that the Ontario Ombudsman uses his Twitter feed to alert people to reports he will be releasing, to listen to public discussion and to convey a sense that there’s a real human being behind the title, the way that Canada’s Washington Embassy’s Connect2Canada program uses blogging, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms to bring together Canadians living in the United States, or the way that Ottawa Public Health used Twitter to inform the public about the H1N1 vaccination program.

Now, you may say that these aren’t really regulators. And you’d be right. So, I’m looking for examples of government and profession regulators using social media.

Do you have a favourite example of a regulator that has used social media well? How about an example of one that has used social media and regretted it?

What would you tell a group of government and profession regulators about how they can use social media?