Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner. And we know that a lot of the listeners to the Inside PR podcast will be driving to weekend getaways tomorrow. So, we’re publishing this week’s episode before the weekend instead of after, so that our U.S. subscribers will have it to keep them occupied during their trips.
This week, we cover a lot of ground: Ev Williams reminds us about what the Internet can and should be. Worth considering. Society & Data issues a report on Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online. Worth Reading. Is Pinterest Shazam for Food? Worth sampling. Facebook struggles with community standard and keeps marching forward in video. Worth a time out? And MP3 is dead. Worth debunking.
Ten years in, we’re making a change to the way that we record Inside PR that could lead to a significant change to the format of the show that we publish.
For all of its life, we have recorded Inside PR as a double ender, with the hosts each recording their tracks locally on their computer or a dedicated recorder. Following recording, we upload our individual tracks to a shared dropbox. Then the show’s producer edit combines the voice tracks together with the musical intros and outros, edits out the bloopers (yes, there are even more than the ones that you hear) and runs the finished product through a program called Auphonic to eliminate background rumble and level the sound across the different input sources.
About a month ago, we started to use a new tool, Zoom.us that transforms the way that we record the show and opens the possibility to making it available as a video podcast as well as an audio podcast.
Zoom.us replaces the double ender recording of individual tracks onto separate devices with a single online recording which can be downloaded as a single, level-balanced track. This eliminates a lot of work. But even more importantly, it also enables us to capture the recording on video. And we’re keen to add a video component to what until now has been an audio-only podcast.
For now it’s an experiment. If you listen closely to Inside PR episode 428, you’ll hear some significant variations in the sound quality between Gini, Martin and I. We’re attempting to identify the source of the differences – mic quality, the age and specs of the computer, the quality of the internet connection are the obvious first candidates for scrutiny. But as we bring up the general quality level, we hope to move on to offer a video feed in addition to the traditional audio feed. So, stay tuned for that.
On the most recent episode of the Inside PR podcast, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I talk about two very different topics: the squeeze large clients are putting on their marketing partners and Facebook’s hold on young users.
Gini kicks off the discussion about the growing number of large companies that are taking longer to pay their marketing partners. In the case of some companies, such as P&G and Mars, advertising agencies, marketing and PR partners will find themselves waiting up to 120 days – four months – for payment. And that can be crippling to a creative business. Gini has some thoughts about how PR agencies can avoid being caught in the slow payment trap. In the short term, it may come down to this: If you don’t want to play the big client game, extending your credit to people whose credit rating is is probably much better than yours, you may just have to say no. And if they won’t attempt to find a workable middle ground, you may just end up saying no to working for them.
Martin believes that this would be bad for creative agencies and for marketing itself. It used to be that creatives would be constantly breaking off of the larger agencies they worked for in order to form new ventures. And with a fresh creative perspective, many of them would land a large account that would enable them to build an agency in their own vision. Heck, that’s how Terry Fallis and I started Thornley Fallis. A couple of guys with a fresh perspective on the business working on folding banquet tables in borrowed space. But we landed B.C.E. (Bell Canada Enterprises), then GlaxoSmithKline, and then Molson. And from there, the business took off.
Is that still possible in this current environment? Martin asks, “How can you compete to win clients like this if the financial terms would put you out of business before you have a chance to grow?” Yes it is possible, but ever more difficult. In order to succeed, small agencies need to keep a focus on what has always been the most important factor. Creativity. If we can do something that’s truly remarkable and memorable, we still can thrive.
Facebook’s Hold on Youth
Recently, some have suggested that Facebook is past its prime with teens. A study from Forrester Research indicates that Facebook still remains young people’s favorite social network. Martin agrees that Facebook may still be used by teens. But he suggests that we look at an intangible factor that may point to the future. Do teens still consider it cool? Or are they there because they have to be because their friends are there? If that’s the case, Gini suggests that teens will not remain reliant on Facebook. Older people who have left school, moved away from their hometown, and are in mid-career, rely on Facebook to keep them connected with the people that they knew at an earlier time. Teens, however, are surrounded by their social network. They don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with friends. They know who their friends are and they can easily use different media, including texting, to stay in touch with their friends.
I think there’s a different between these two questions, “Do people use it?” and “Do people feel cool when they use it?” The first question finds its answer in past behaviour. The second question points the way to future behaviour. And if that’s the case, don’t count on Facebook keeping its stranglehold on youth. For now, young users are still on Facebook. But where will they be next year?
I wrote this post to appear first on the Inside PR Podcast blog. I’m posting it here in case you missed it there and might be interested in it.
In the past two weeks, requests by European citizens have flooded Google with requests to delete information about them from the search engine’s results. Gini points out that the European Court’s decision requiring that Google takedown information upon request does not sit well with Americans, who see this as undermining the right to free expression. Nevertheless, she advises clients with operations in Europe and elsewhere to take note of this move. It points to the need for companies operating globally to be sensitive to different values in different places. Martin is uncomfortable with the potential that this ruling holds to rewrite and obfuscate history. Where do we draw the line between someone wanting to remove a hurtful or hateful opinion and someone who wants to remove or obscure facts? The true impact of this ruling will only be known over time.
And kudos to Scott Monty for the classy way that Scott announced on his blog that he had left his role as social media head at Ford. Scott praised his team, praised the company and praised the work that they did together. Others who are announcing a move would be well recommended to look at Scott’s departure announcement as a template for the right way to handle yourself when announcing a career change.
Finally, Interesting factoid or fiction? Martin says that Canada is the only country in the world that still celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday as a national holiday. With fireworks no less. Is that true? Are we truly unique in the world?
This is a slightly modified version of a post that I wrote on the Inside PR podcast blog. I’ve adapted it for ProPR so that it’s in my archive of posts.
Spin sucks! You know it and I know it. And Gini Dietrich knows it. But even more, Gini has written a new book, Spin Sucks, in which she shows us how to replace spin with authentic communications that your community will find informative, entertaining and useful.
Spin Sucks the Book has just launched. And in this week’s episode of Inside PR, Martin Waxman and I talk with Gini about the book, what it tells us, and her innovative approach to marketing the book. (If you know Gini, you wouldn’t expect anything less from her than to turn the launch of her book into a marketing experiment. She’s always thinking of how to do things better.) This included a Brand Ambassador program to spread the word about the book so that Gini could maintain a much more limited travel schedule to promote Spin Sucks than she had to maintain when promoting her previous book, Marketing in the Round. Over 800 people applied to be a Brand Ambassador, agreeing to buy the book and write a review to coincide with the launch date. Ultimately, she selected over 200 of the applicants to be Ambassadors.
If you wonder what type of results Gini got from this approach, check out the quality of the reviews on Amazon.com. High quality, Well written, persuasive reviews from people who’ve read and loved the book. (At the time I write this, there are 76 reviews of Gini’s book. Sixty five are 5 star and eleven are four star.)
Since 2006, the Mesh and Mesh Marketing conferences have brought together Toronto’s digital and marketing communities. This year’s edition of Mesh Marketing has been scheduled for November 7 in Toronto. And I’m really pleased that the Inside PR podcast has partnered with Mesh Marketing this year. That will give Martin Waxman and me a chance to cover the conference. (Gini Dietrich couldn’t make it to Toronto from Chicago. So Martin and I will do this as a two hander.) We hope to interview speakers and attendees, providing coverage both before and after the conference.
We’re starting out with an interview with closing keynote speaker Jay Baer. You can listen to the full interview on Inside PR episode 349.
SXSW is the little conference that grew and grew to be a giant festival of all that is geeky good. Why has it grown far beyond other conferences of its sort?
One explanation may be found in the sense of community that has propelled SXSW Interactive from its earliest days. In my view, SXSWi is a conference of, by, and for the attendees.
Hugh Forrest, the Director of SXSW Interactive, can be seen as the embodiment of this ethos. In fact, he actively eschews his actual title of Director, saying that he prefers to think of himself as SXSWi’s Community Manager. In a recent interview for the Inside PR podcast, Forrest told Martin Waxman, “Community Manager is what most of my work is, managing this community, or trying to understand this community, trying to communicate with this community, trying to absorb all they great ideas they have. That community manager concept applies to so much I do.”
And Forrest gives full credit for the success of SXSWi to the community of participants. “I have been completely amazed at how much Interactive has grown in the past ten years and, particularly, in the past five years. When we first started this thing, it was a struggle to get people in the door. It was a struggle to figure out what we were doing and what our market was and I could never imagine that it would grow as much as it has grown. … I would love to say that it was my vision that propelled that growth. But, it’s really this community that’s pulled us forward as opposed to us trying to push them in one direction. The better we’ve become at listening to this community, engaging with this community, understanding what this community wants, polling the best ideas of the community, the more the event has grown. The more we have been able to let them pull us forward, the better this event has become.”
Forrest has a well thought-through approach to the SXSWi community, to which he attaches the PEACE acronym:
P: “Patience over profits.” Things take a while. Be prepared for it.
E: “Early buzz is good buzz.” The panel picker and community voting on presentations in July and August build anticipation of the event nine months ahead of the actual March festival dates.
A: “Acknowledge your mistakes and failures.” If you are doing something innovative, you will make mistakes. When you acknowledge mistakes, the community can be very forgiving.
C: “Customer service leads to customer advocates.” Word of mouth endorsements are still the best kind of publicity there is. The line between love and hate is a thin one. Acknowledge, respond to and help the critics. They may change their minds and become supporters.
E: “Encourage massive creativity.” Forrester does not see SXSWi as a technology event. “We are an event about creativity.” And he tries to be open to the ideas of the community that push the programming forward.
Listen to Hugh Forrest explain his perspective on the success of SXSWi using the player below. And stick around for the second half of the podcast to hear Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich’s and my take on Forrest’s approach and building community.
June was a month of wall to wall conferences. And those conferences brought Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and me together in two cities – Austin and Ottawa – and pulled us to opposite ends of the continent.
So, you spend all that money and time to attend a conference. And now you’re sitting in a presentation and you’re deciding whether you made the right decision. What makes it worthwhile?
Gini applies the Chile Con Queso Test. She loves chile con quesos. And she judges a restaurant by their quality. If they’re great, she’ll keep going back for more. Gini’s Chile Con Queso Test for conference presentations? Does the presenter provide her with at least one idea for a blog post? “If I can go into your session and come away with a blog post idea, I’m going to think you’re the best speaker on earth,” says Gini. On the other hand, “If I can’t get at least one idea to create content around, I’m not going to think you’re a great speaker.”
If you’re a speaker, how can you deliver the goods for your audience? I saw Lee LeFever talk about this at the recent Fireworks Factory organized by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo. Lee, who is best known for the explainer videos he has produced through his company, Common Craft, says that you must start from a position of empathy for the audience. Focus on what we care about, not what you want to present. Frame your topic in terms to which we relate. Suggest a commonly experienced problem to which we all relate. You’ll know you’ve done this is you see our heads nodding. Once you’ve established the shared space, focus on “why.” Why does this matter? Why will you approach it in this way. And then, and only then, move on to the “how.” How do I do this. Think about the presentations you’ve seen recently. How many of them failed because the presenter plunged directly into the “how” section, providing minute detail of what they did, while you were still stuck at, “Why do I care about this?”
Martin calls this the importance of appealing to the audience’s emotional senses. He points out that this often can be achieved through story telling, in which a motive is established and listeners are drawn into identifying with the subjects and storyline. Gini agrees with the power of this approach, pointing to a 52N (five minutes to engage, a variant on Ignite) presentation delivered by Abbie Fink at the recent PRSA Counselors Academy Conference in Austin. Abbie’s presentation consisted of reading a letter to her recently deceased family dog. At the end, she left many in the room in tears and everyone considering the nature of relationships. A story that appealed to our emotions. That appealed to the pet lover in all of us. That didn’t explain the why, but relied throughout on it. (Pity the poor presenter who followed Abbie – Martin Waxman!)
I attended a presentation recently by a speaker who gave me not just one good takeaway, but nine. Nine takeaways in an hour long presentation. And that speaker was … Gini Dietrich! Perhaps because Gini listened for takeaways in other speakers, she deliberately packages takeaways in her presentations. “When I write presentations, I write them long form. But as I do it, I write sound bites that I know people can tweet. You have to think about the key takeaways. Is someone going to get enough to pass the Chile Con Queso Test? And are they going to be able to tweet about it?” If you achieve these three objectives, people will come away with something to think about over the long term as well as content that will prompt immediate tweets and conversation.
Finally, there’s one huge no-no for conference presenters. What makes the audience groan and flee the room in droves? Martin calls it the “You can’t judge a presentation by its cover” problem.” You decide to attend a presentation on the basis of the description in the program only to hear the speaker lead off with the statement, “I’m going to talk about something different from the advertised topic…” Sadly, that’s not uncommon at conferences. Not just the small regional conferences, but even larger conferences. The kindest interpretation I can put on this it that because of the long lead time between the time that the conference topics were set and the actual presentation, the speaker decided that the topic was outdated and decided to offer more up to date thinking. The unkind interpretation is that the speaker just said yes to the organizers’ invitation and then realized that he didn’t really have anything worthwhile to say about the topic. Either way, it can be a real let down if you showed up keen to learn and discuss the advertised topic.
Gini sums it up: “We’re all busy. We all want to find value in the things that we are attending. We’re spending money to attend these things. And if we can’t get something out of it to bring back to our careers or organizations, then it’s not worth the time.”
Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I had a rare opportunity this week. We were able to record the Inside PR podcast with all of us sitting face to face in one place in real life. We were in Ottawa to attend the Social Capital Conference. And the best thing for me was that it felt like I was getting together with two of my closest friends for a chat about our shared experiences. Even after all these years, I’m still in awe of the power of social media to enable us to create deep and meaningful relationships over distance. So, even though Martin, Gini and I are together in the same real life space at most four times a year, we have developed a much deeper relationship.
Gini delivered the conference opening keynote explaining how she has built a large and active community around her Spin Sucks blog. The starting point, says Gini, is recognizing that “The one word we all like to hear is our name.” Her approach to community is grounded in this recognition. It has driven her to focus on the people who come to the Spin Sucks blog. She acknowledges them personally, responding to virtually every comment left on the Spin Sucks blog or the Spins Sucks Facebook page. But she goes beyond this. She reaches out to the members of the Spin Sucks community and participates in the discussion in their home spaces. Community is a two way interaction, not just one way.
Another factor to consider in building communities – it takes time. And this is at odds with the short-term, campaign-based approach taken by many marketers. As Gini points out, she has been blogging for seven years, and it took more than one try to find the right combination of factors that led to the current success of Spin Sucks. This same point was made by Sherrilynne Starkie, who presented a real world case study of an international union building community. In Sherrilynne’s words, its success was only possible because the union leadership were prepared to “stay the course” and persevere through early stages of thin participation until members caught on that this was a real and ongoing exercise. Momentum built slowly. The community could not have emerged in a short-term campaign.
Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson have demonstrated bot of these fundamentals in building a successful community around the For Immediate Release podcast. They have been persistent and consistent creators of content. They routinely acknowledge their listeners and feature their contributions in the podcast. And they’ve set up a Google+ community to provide listeners with an opportunity to offer their own thoughts and engage in conversation with other members of the community.
This is something we’re trying to do with the Inside PR podcast as well. If you’re a regular listener, please consider joining the Inside PR Google+ community or the Inside PR Facebook group and participating actively. We’d love to involve you in the podcast.
And if you’re still with me, you can listen to the podcast by clicking on the player below.
In this week’s episode of the Inside PR podcast, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I talk about the challenge of determining what news coverage we can trust when traditional media outlets vie with social media to be first with the news.
For me, this is like moving around in a darkened room. We know we’ve had contact with something, but we can’t really see what it is. Judgment and speculation become overly close neighbors at times like these.
How do you decide where to place your trust when news is breaking online?