Friday, December 29, 2006

Crisis Blogging to Defeat a Meme

Here's a scenario:
  • Your company and / or client is getting flamed by bloggers - or, say, social media - for doing something stupid
  • You need to stem the damage, do some old school version of crisis control - something you seem to do often in the past - like taking a week to respond to another flog crisis

  • So, you create a Maileresque statement that such and such is dead (think, oh, the press release is dead or maybe social media is dead).

  • Avoid the real issue, don't address it

  • Ta-dah! No more controversy, because you went all 1984 on it

Once again, those that yell the loudest tend to say the least. Sad that some want the mantle of leader, but are only able to put out fluff that says nothing.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Ethics of the Blogosphere

Nowhere is it more apparent that there are no grays, just blacks and whites, than in the blogosphere. We - yes, including me - are all ready to jump into the faces of others and scream "blasphemer" and say why people are doing things wrong in the social media, or new media, or whatever you want to call it. The best term I have heard was "media" and that was from Steve Gillmor - but I digress.

So, now we got the Microsoft Vista notebook campaign. BL Ochman has her opinion that Edelman has an ethics scandal brewing, but I think that's a little bit overboard - this isn't fake blogging, like they did with Walmarting Across America (a bad campaign from start to finish), or some other things they have done recently that misses the point of blogs.

Do I think this was a well thought out campaign? Not at all, but that's the wrinkle and where the gray levels come in with PR and social media.

Full disclosure: I am part of the Nokia blogging program. I wrote about it here and it is run by Andy Abramson, a blogger that gets bloggers. The program is run right, it's run well, and it's run in such a way that I have a FedEx slip to send back the phone. They do not ask for reviews, they do not pre-suppose anything, they offered the phone and I accepted, and have had the luxury of testing out the N-Series, and telling people which phones I like from it in old school word of mouth.

There - disclosure. And, that's the gray area. At Blog Business Summit, Jason Calacanis got up on stage and talked about the black and white of blogs, and accepting gifts. The wonderfully charming Teresa Valdez Klein breaks down his speech, but here's the rub: I am in the business of public relations and social media, and its convergence. Part of my job is strategy and tactics, and part of that (most importantly) is imparting the necessity of transparency to clients. Now, when I send product out (and, yes, I send product out) to bloggers, do I need to say "and, buddy, don't forget to be transparent!!" or is it implied. On the flip side, who the hell am I to tell other bloggers what to write or not write? But, before sending out product, I ask if they want the product, and don't buckshot the pitch.

There - that's one item that seems to have been missing from the Vista pitch. There was no "you want this" but, from my reading and conversations, more of a "here you go" and that's that. According to one source, the terms used in his letter - gift, present, no strings attached - all say "we do not get it." Where was the email first that said - are you interested?

And, well, I have said it before that those that scream the hardest and loudest that they get it ... don't get it at all. We can all point finger at some loud screamers.

Now, I am going to bring up a few examples of people that have been caught in the middle of this shit storm. First, well, the problem might be the price point: this is a $2K machine, and that seems to cross that line of cool/not cool. Okay - on to the friends. One of the people that has been attacked is Scott Beale. Attacking Scott is like kicking a puppy - yes, a thrill at first, but then it's just mean (the thrill part is a joke, btw). This is the man that crosses various subsections in San Francisco, a friend to all he meets (yes, a little flowery, but I wrote about that here).

Scott has three posts - the first one, the response to the shit storm, and then his final solution to eBay the notebook - proceeds go to the EFF. Scott was transparent. Scott said he got the notebook from MSFT. He said he got it for reviews - correction, just got a Skype that that's one of his points: he's not sure why he got it. He played the game it was supposed to be played - and he gets attacked. Others also got attacked, but their glee brought it on (sorry, dude). The News Editor of APC - a well regarded Aussie publication - chimes in about the moral issues here, and then a MSFT employee chimes in about transparency.

But, well, how can you police transparency in a campaign? The letters were loosey-goosey, the objectives were unclear beyond "review" and then it changes the rules of the game and says gimme my ball back, you don't play nice. And, how do you say to a blogger: here, take the notebook, but you gotta be transparent. Like I said, you cannot dictate to another blogger what to write.

There are so many issues with the way this has been done, but I have to give the team some credit: it was a step in the right direction. Maybe the got the memo from my unclear on the concept post and went beyond the A-list - but not too far beyond it - to include targeted bloggers that might be interested. But, they blew it by not defining the terms, not really vetting the bloggers, not asking the right questions, not defining the terms (yes, said twice). Hell, check out Brian Solis' recommendations and review of the program - he hits it on the head.

But, back to overall ethics in blogs. Yes, we clamor for transparency - here's more: the agency I work at works with Microsoft as well, I have received books from my blog, I have received an iPod shuffle from my blog, I have made some good friends through this blog, and been propositioned - but I hear horror stories from reputable bloggers. One told me to blog about Sonos, and then they will send me a discount. Is this true? I do not know, but I have no reason to doubt the person. Another friend/reporter joked that I should write about Skoal and how much I like to chew, and they will send me a box of smokeless tobacco (just imagine me walking around the office and the city with a spit cup - yeeehaa!).

At the end of the day, though, this just goes to show what I have been saying privately and publicly for a while: some self-professed PR blog leaders are not wearing clothes. Are we going to see another post that says "I had nothing to do with this" or someone owning up to program? While the program is, overall, a good idea, the execution might be off and the price point a wee bit too high for comfort for most people.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Factiva Roundtable and Social Media

Some random notes and thoughts during Factiva's Social Media Rountable. There were people from Sun, Cisco, Text 100, Fleishman Hillard, Weber Shandwick (well, me), Stowe Boyd, Brian Solis, Podtech, Andy Lark, Jory Des Jardins / Blogher that were in attendance (plus others), and Jeremiah Owyang from Podtech helped germinate the idea and Daniela Barbosa from Factiva ran with it - and, in a way, yes it was a Factiva focus group.

The measurement of social media - how is the best way to figure this out, and Factiva reached out to figure out how to measure such social media the best way.

Do you want a centralized algorithmic or a localized, emergence type data. Is it just about interesting data points or simple data points - but since there is money being moved, you need to figure out what people are asking for, and what data they need to bring back to the bosses. In deploying social media, you need to figure out how to best measure the results.

What needs to be measured: relevance, influence, reach, audience .... What is the high influence, what is the audience measurement? Niche blogs might not have a high audience, but they are reaching the right people.

Relavence, influence and reach all have to do with the goal - what might be influential for one person and / or company might not be for other groups. It's the metrics (a la Nielsen Netratings) versus goals and objectives (what the company is looking for as an end-result is probably most important). A community activation - a call-to-action from the blog or post. A conversion rate, a download of a PDF or maybe a podcast.

But is there a difference between reach and influence? Someone might not have reach but is influencing the right people. It's the attributes of the audience. And participation - social media platform via comments, post a blog ....

How is traditional marketing transitioning into social media and marketing. Can you measure the same way? Is it possible to measure?

Should we even call it consumer generated media, or social media - or for that point, is it new media? Not everyone is necessarily a consumer (according to Stowe) - but I disagree. We are a consumer society, dammit. When you participate, there is no consumption but more production - it's a wrong, silly term (Stowe again). But, he has a nice hat on today (see photo).

We broke out into brain storm sessions - here are those notes.

Beyond metrics - there needs to be a standard on how they are produced out there. Statistics are radically different - if there was a standard set, a consistency, there is an issue in reliability that needs to be addressed. A working standard on social media - getting people to adhere is hard to do to begin with.

Click-thrus, who are we reaching is the important question. How do we define this in social media. Podcasting - who is watching, how long they watching, what's the dropoff rate? What's the engagement there within Podcasts - a "lurk" index, in a way.

Very basic web metrics tools - if you have those - you apply it to a blog, you get nothing truly valuable. To connect the domain name to a user behavior or a company would be great - like the top 500 people that you want to reach.

Should CGM be measured and is it important?

For us, yes, of course we want to be able to measure it.

Who is creating social media? What are they creating? And is the "who" more important than the "what"?

Blogs, wikis for how-to sites, newsgroups, message boards - all to help each other use products. Have to consider who the company - there are 100's of millions of people that are probably creating the content that is just for family, that is just being done for fun. Do you mean relevant to commerce and business, or who is just creating social media? You have to figure out and distinguish the relevance versus the cabin blogging person who no one is currently reading. How do you find those bloggers that you want .... So, tagging does become an important role. Isolate who is relevant discussions - by being involved that does help.

Somehow create a filter to tag the blogs, in a way of importance. Media itself is very structured. Quantity does not necessarily equal quality - specific influence.

If you are producing social media as part of your PR marketing plan, how do you measure ROI? Answered above.

Do you think that social media needs structured, mutually agreed upon measurement techniques and metics (eg MSM's ad value equivalenceand article impressions) to make monitoring a more serious practice?

What kind of standards - transparency. How are stats created in a clear way ... a level of confidence that this information is confident - the executives can pull it apart, and it still stands - it needs to be digestable . Start creating advanced statistics, such as reach, media signal (prominence, etc). What are the metrics, creating of algorithms. There needs to be some structure - but there is a softer side of measurement, some guidelines ... flexibility, adapted by .... There is that pie-chart desirability, but is it possible. Resistance and uncertainty from advertising to PR, as the money switches hands. There are a ton of companies that are getting into measurement of social media, but needs to be an understanding. It depends on what you are doing - from the PR side, we are the first adopters bc it is lower risk and just part of outreach. Influencers is what PR is trying to figure out. CYA metrics - that's what the corporate side also. The idea metrics - it's a PR thing that wants.

So ... what should be measured and how do you want it to be delivered?

In a simple way that can be modified for each companies / corporates needs. And, RSS to cut and paste into an email.

Thoughts from other breakout groups:

The metaphor that matters - a blogger is a blogger, even if he is a journalist.

ROI - no metrics, beyond engagement. None for new acquisitions, call to action, click throughs. Is there importance for these metrics, or is anecdotal information yet. Next year (prediction) is when company's get over it - they are all looking for a decent metric, and page views is not the one. There has to be some better measurement, and 2007 is where it is going to likely going to come from. Engage or die.

Does ROI even matter - no one is going to ask for ROI on email or IM.

Who and what varies on the situation. Nothing is equal, not everything is quantified the same way, depending on the needs and interpretations.

Salesforce dashboards - the next board meeting, where you explain how many days it took to sell what and why. Should we measure - it depends, and why comes into play.

Open networks - open source metrics - the metrics to be embraced by them all. Need standardization, in order for there to be success. Paying for measurement is for the rich and the famous (it costs cash).

One of the who's - it's not about big far reaching community, but about narrow, gated community around the "who" more so than the "what" and vice versa.

There was a final overview at the end - see photo - that capsulated the whole thought about measurement and tracking, which is important in social media. It is something we all talk about, but are not thinking about solutions. Hopefully, there will be better than anecdotal solutions.

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