Friday, December 26, 2008

branding your flip video camera

 I'm a big fan of the ultraportable Flip video camera, and now the camera itself is "designable" with your own logo, artwork, photos or available designs from Flip -- if you order directly from the company. Here's a great example of how that can look, from our colleagues at News Generation, where the camera served as a holiday gift to all staff members. Is there a catch? You'll save about $20 on the Flip Mino on, but can't get the customization unless you order direct from Flip. If you're going to issue your communications team branded Flip cameras--whether as a bonus, for identification purposes or branding purposes--make sure you attach an assignment to use it to advance your organization's social media outreach with new videos.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

local is the new news

Trends in the news industry--and its audiences--are converging to refocus on local news and issues. And while it's long been held that "all politics is local," competition in the news business has been all about the national hook, lead or trend. Not so much, anymore. The reasons vary from economic woes such as decreasing advertising support to a better-honed sense of what the audiences want, and those driving the trend come from a variety of sectors. Here are just a few harbingers of the shift in news focus, and how they might change your media relations efforts:
  • The demise of Washington news bureaus: You read about this trend here in 2007, and the bad economy has made a bureau in the nation's capital more of a luxury than every before. Today's New York Times reports on the scarcity of the Washington bureau, and notes what will change: "As bureaus shrink, they cut back on in-depth and investigative projects and from having reporters assigned to cover specific federal agencies." What that means for communicators: Fewer reasons to come to Washington for nationwide announcements...a bigger watchdog role for specialty and trade press and for nonprofits when it comes to uncovering issues related to federal agencies...more reason to pitch Associated Press and other wires covering Washington on issues related to your location.
  • Support for online "community news" sites: The Knight Foundation just announced support for four such sites in Chicago, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Saint Louis, and San Diego, sites that were the focus of recent New York Times coverage. What that means for communicators: You may want to consider credentialling such sites as you would bloggers and traditional media, and reaching out to them with your local leads--keeping in mind their specialized beats and the fact that many are not staffed at mainstream media levels.
  • Local media are going mobile--and multimedia: You read here recently about the local reporters whose newspapers have them out pounding the pavement--this time, with Blackberry and audio and video recording equipment. And with national coverage of local issues diminishing, expect more pressure on local news outlets. That may be one reason why Burrelle's/Luce is offering a free whitepaper on targeting local media when you sign up for its web 2.0 updates. What that means for communicators: Make sure your releases and other announcements stress place names and local connections whenever possible--and if you're announcing news nationally that has local ties, include a geographic index with the news materials to guide local reporters to their targets.
Need an audit of how your organization can shift to reflect this trend, a plan for moving forward or targeted media training? Contact us at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

using multimedia for science, health news

Complete video of a seminar last week on "Using Multimedia to Communicate Health and Science News" is now available here online, with demos, slides, handouts and full video of the panel of reporters and communicators speaking about online video, social media and more. The panel included:
Karl Bates, Director of Research Communications, Duke University News & Communications
Nils Bruzelius, Deputy National Editor/Science, Washington Post
Tom Kennedy, Managing Editor for Multimedia, Washington Post
Art Chimes, Producer-host of Our World, Voice of America
Jorge Ribas, Video Producer, Discovery News
The seminar was hosted by Eurekalert!, the online research news site from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Best advice from Karl Bates of Duke University: "Keep it short. Aim for 90 seconds...If you think people are ruthless with a TV remote in their hands, watch somebody with a mouse in their hands." Couldn't agree more...

travel gets creative with social media

Today, two travel-industry social networks came across my desk and I think they're great examples of putting social networking to use as a creative communications tool. The first--thanks to @guykawaski on Twitter--is a closed social network for guests who've reserved rooms at New York City's Pod Hotel. Designed for use in the pre-arrival stage, the network uses passwords for access and allows guests to connect with other guests, suggesting restaurants, meetups and events they can share. The connectivity has boosted revenues as much as 40 percent this year--with no additional public relations effort. Users lose their access once they register for their stay in person, but can re-enter once they make another reservation. I can see this concept -- a temporary network -- working for professional conferences or any other situation in which people will be gathering in person for a limited period of time. It also combines the best of the high-tech-plus-high-touch approach to social networking by helping people to meet in person, or just get more knowledgeable about their surroundings on a visit.

The second creative idea landed in my email in-box from Amtrak Guest Rewards, a frequent-travel program I belong to. The email offered that I could "make a snowflake" if I clicked through and opened my holiday card. When I did, I found this site (see screenshot above) with interactive tools to help you cut out an electronic version of a paper snowflake and post it with a message. You can search for specific creations or just click on any of the animated falling snowflakes in the landscape opens up another member's artwork and message; email your snowflake to friends and, by providing your email, get responses from other users to your effort; and see how many have been created. While this is just a game, it got my attention. Too bad Amtrak didn't make this part of its Guest Rewards website, so anyone could see it--even if only members can make a snowflake, the engaging animation might've attracted more memberships. But this promotion excels at drawing in consumers and giving them the chance to contribute and share content (can snowflakes be content?), two basic premises that drive social media as communications tools.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

using Twitter to learn reporters' needs

Thinking about adapting your media relations to meet today's social media norms? Former colleague and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute media relations manager Jason Gorss has a great post examining his experiments with a "twitpitch" to a journalist on Twitter. It's important to note that this example demonstrates good basic pitching etiquette: Gorss follows the reporter on Twitter and can see his posts, responded to one on sources, used his own message to share a relevant article and let the reporter know he had an expert, and followed up when interest was shown. That's also in keeping with social-media rules that frown upon spam--something reporters have long complained about. When you sign up for the don't get caught newsletter (see box at right), you'll get a free report on remaking your media relations in a web 2.0 world.

noon ET: charities & Facebook chat

The Chronicle of Philanthropy offers an opinion piece about how some nonprofits miss out on opportunities to add supporters to their cause when they forbid employees to use social media sites like Facebook in the office. The key example? The American Red Cross, which once forbade Facebook, but now uses it to raise money--and gets grants to do so. You can join an online chat on using online tools for activism at noon Eastern Time today.

let the audience plan your presentation

I just returned from a daylong training of nearly 100 geophysical scientists in basic communications skills at the American Geophysical Society fall meeting, part of a series of trainings convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The trainings always emphasize starting with the audience first, rather than what you want to say--and scientists at the training had lots of questions about how to do that. So I was glad to find that Olivia Mitchell's Speaking About Presenting blog has a presentation planning guide available that walks you through the process of thinking about what the audience will want to know--a process that offers a sensible way to plan your next presentation. You can get the guide when you sign up for Mitchell's free newsletter, which follows up with tips on getting the most out of your presentation skills.

Interview: Zappos CEO on Twitter

Editor's note: Until an Iraqi journalist threw his shoe at President Bush this week, online chatter about shoes kept veering back to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. That may be due to Hsieh's presence on Twitter, the online service that asks you to answer "what are you doing?" in 140-character "tweets" or updates. Hsieh, who started as an investor and adviser to the online retailer before joining it as CEO, has fostered a creative corporate culture that gets results. From his bio: "Under his leadership, Zappos has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to $840M in 2007 by focusing relentlessly on customer service."
Twitter's become a part of how the company communicates under Hsieh's leadership. Employees are encouraged to use the service, and they and customers can follow Hsieh on Twitter here. He even offers a beginners' guide to Twitter on the company website. I follow Hsieh on Twitter, and used the service to request the interview below, which we conducted via email.

How long have you been blogging? Using Twitter? Who are you hoping to reach?

I don't really blog much, but I've been using Twitter for a year and a half now. I first learned about Twitter in March 2007, and used it with just my friends for about a year. I found that it was a great way to meet up with friends as well as keep in touch with friends in other cities, so we decided to introduce it to Zappos employees in spring 2008 as a way of helping build up company culture. We now introduce Twitter to employees during new hire orientation, and also offer Twitter classes. We have several hundred employees now on Twitter and we aggregate all of their tweets here. We've found that Twitter has been a great way of building a more personal connection with both employees and customers.

How many of your employees are on Twitter for business purposes?

We have several employees using Twitter but it generally isn't for business purposes. Our guideline for Twitter usage is pretty simple: Be real and use your best judgement. If you look through the employee tweets you'll see most of the tweets are not business oriented.

How does social media/blogging/Twitter fit into your core values?

We have 10 core values. Core value #6 is about being open and honest, so we strive to be as transparent as possible. Twitter is one way that we embrace transparency.

Does Twitter replace some activity you were doing previously? If so, what and why?

No, it's an additional activity. Or maybe addiction might be a better word. :)

You blogged about employee layoffs. Talk about how social media helps (or not)when you have bad news to share.

It's not really specific to social media. We believe in being as transparent as possible, so as soon as our employees were notified about the layoffs (November 6), I blogged and twittered about it to the general public as well.

What's the most interesting thing you've learned from using Twitter?

One of the great things about Twitter is the instant feedback. You can find out within minutes if something you tweeted out was interesting or inspiring to people. I'm still constantly surprised by what people find interesting or not interesting. For example, I once tweeted out about what flavor chapstick I was using (peppermint) and I got a ton of responses right away, including some of people saying they were going to try out that flavor of chapstick!

Have you been able to fix any customer or employee problems using Twitter? Explain.

Twitter probably isn't the best way to deal with customer or employee issues. When customers ask me about a customer service type of question, I generally encourage them to email or call instead.

What would you tell other CEOs about blogging and using Twitter?

It's really only going to be effective if you actually are interested in developing more personal connections to your customers. For example, a lot of companies hide their contact information on their web site, whereas we take the opposite approach. We put our 1-800 number at the top of every single page of our web site. So before trying to embrace Twitter, I would encourage CEOs to embrace email and the telephone first. And when they're ready to embrace Twitter, then I'd say just be real and use Twitter as a way to connect with people as opposed to viewing it as a marketing channel

Saturday, December 13, 2008

With bloggers at your news conference

It's clear many organizations are still adjusting to having blogs represented at their press gatherings. A hat tip to DCist blog for sharing this amusing exchange between U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and reporters at a "blogger's roundtable":
Moderator: Could you guys maybe just quickly identify yourselves so the Secretary can put a face with a name?

Question: I'm Dan Fowler from Congressional Quarterly.

Question: Rich Cooper, Security News.

Question: I'm Joel Johnson, with BoingBoing.

Secretary Chertoff: Boing Boing?

Question: That's it.
Maybe someone should pre-brief the Secretary: Boing Boing is the most popular blog in the world, according to Technorati. You can read the full transcript here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New-media adapters: photo sharing

With the wealth of online resources available to you, do you ever go to a library? If you're visiting the nation's capital, do you put the Library of Congress on your list? Maybe not--so the Library of Congress has taken steps to meet you where you play online, and this week, early results of that experiment are in.

The Library has been using photo-sharing site Flickr to good business advantage. We told you here about the Library's posting of historic photo collections--most free of copyright restrictions--along with a request to help identify people, places and events depicted in the photos. Today, the Library released a report on its experiment, showing these results:

  • Some 10.4 million views of LOC photos on Flickr in just 10 months;
  • Almost 80 percent of the LOC photos have been made "favorites" by users, and more than 15,000 Flickr users have added the Library as a contact to stream LOC images into their own accounts;
  • More than 7,100 comments were made on some 2,800 photos, and a whopping 67,000-plus tags were added to LOC photos by users; nearly all of the photos were tagged at least once by the Flickr community;
  • For those who fear inappropriate comments, fewer than 25 "instances of user-generated content were removed as inappropriate" out of all those thousands of tags and comments;
  • More than 500 records in the Library's prints and photographs online collection were enhanced with new information provided by users; and
  • Average monthly visits to all prints and photographs web pages increased 20 percent in five months, compared to the previous year.
The report measures all sorts of useful data about its pilot effort, such as staff time spent each week in maintaining the experimental site, and shares this tidbit about letting the publicity develop virally, without a news release:
The decision to publicize this pilot solely via the Library and Flickr blogs rather than by the usual method of a press release tested a new model for getting the word out on Library initiatives. The reaction by the blogosphere was astonishing and resulted in thousands of blog posts picking up the story, prompting coverage in the mainstream media: newspapers, magazines, online news services, even television and radio began to cover the pilot (see Appendix C for a bibliography of the coverage). Most posts linked to the Flickr and Library of Congress blogs, which unexpectedly translated into significant visibility for the Library’s blog, in existence for less than a year at the time of launch.
What's useful and stunning here: The Library's full report details the mechanics of what it considered going into the experiment, what happened -- with data -- and what they intend to do next. At the same time, the report captures concrete examples of how ordinary citizens expanded its collection's depth, adding comments like "my grandfather took that photo" or details about who, what, when, where, why and how the scene occurred. In some cases, highly expert discussions took place online about makes and models of equipment--or users posted new photos to show what a site looks like today.

To learn more, read the DCist blog reports on the results of this experiment, the Library's news release about the results here, and the full report here -- the latter should be part of your "making the case for social media" file.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

new cancer survivor site: clients in action

don't get caught is proud to have provided content development for the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins' new cancer survivors website. The new site for the Michael J. Garil Leukemia Survivors Program includes useful features like a "late effects tracker" to help survivors identify symptoms and issues they may face years after their diagnosis and treatment, using either the type of cancer or the treatment they received. Information on ongoing support services, new research findings that affect leukemia survivors, insurance issues and more is included. It is just the latest work we've done for the center, which uses don't get caught for training, communications retreats, strategies and content development. Please share this new resource with any leukemia survivor you know!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

networking with social media

Registration details are now available for Power Networking Tips, Trends and Techniques, a January 15, 2009 Tech Council of Maryland panel that will mix advice on in-person networking and online/social media options. I'm speaking on the online social networking aspects, and will share an "e-handout" on this blog with my tips and advice, but before I do, tell me what you've found valuable about augmenting in-person networking with social media. You can leave your comments here, on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. I'd love to hear specifics about why the online version of networking (perhaps in combination with in-person or offline efforts) works for you.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

a symphony of social media

Today's Washington Post covers a social media experiment that may inspire you to reach beyond the edges of your communications box: the YouTube Symphony auditions, with plans to create a "mash-up" of submitted symphonic performances on online video, as well as a live performance of the same work at Carnegie Hall, with players selected on the basis of their video submissions. (Go here to see more about the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.) If your organization is, like the classical music world, "tactfully described as 'hungry for innovation'," this initiative is a wonderful example of how to go about it, because:

  • It invites participation from a largely amateur audience--those interested but not already in the club: If classical music's goal is to reach beyond its aging audience and seem more inclusive, this initiative does that by specifying that participants must be 14 or older and cannot have contractual obligations that would limit their participation, which means most professional musicians can't submit videos.

  • It lets the audience self-identify: Once videos are submitted, anyone will be able to see which young performers had enough interest and talent to participate--a self-identified audience with clear interest.

  • It turns its expertise over to the audience: Entrants get to practice and play with world-class experts, but ultimately, the amateurs will be the stars. That's a neat twist in which the amateurs become the sought-after group, rather than the experts. Where will you find yours?

  • It creates a level playing field to encourage entries, using a new work written for the occasion. Entrants can download the score; access special videos already online from the London Symphony demonstrating master classes in various languages and for various instruments in the standard symphonic repertoire; listen to interviews and encouragement; play along while composer Tan Dun acts as your "personal conductor" for various instrument parts of the work; and access other types of support.

  • It aims to generate new content, and, on the Web, content is king. The idea that there'll be new work, collaboration and an uncertain outcome adds drama and anticipation to this contest.

As you think about adapting your expertise and opportunities into social media communications, keep this model in mind. I'm predicting the sweet sound of success.