Terrific description of PR in the world of social media

Melvin Yuan, a PR blogger in Singapore, has been giving some good thought to the evolving nature of PR. He wrote an excellent post the other day in reaction to the Wired story, “The See-through CEO,” which ended with his summary of the role of PR in the emerging transparent environment:

PR, Clive Thompsons-of-the-world, is far higher up the rungs of leadership than you perceive it to be. It is more about relationships than publicity, and more about leadership than relationships.

We PR folks get our priorities mixed up sometimes; but some of us are changing things.And CEOs, this is not the time to “fire your publicists, go off message and let your employees blab and blog”. Even more than ever, you need the counsel of true PR professionals who understand that our chief mandate should not be “to create publicity”. We build the vital, trusted relationships that your companies depend on, and not the illusion of it.

“PR” is not a job title or “marketing strategy”. It is organisational leadership made public and personal. And today, we have the tools to do this better than ever.

The PR 2.0 Universe.com » Being transparent doesn’t mean being stupid or sloppy

I think Melvin has hit the nail on the head. It’s up to everyone involved in communications to make sure that the role and value of what we do is understood and appreciated. Now more than ever there is a need and an opportunity for good work to be done.

[tags]Melvin Yuan, PR, social media, transparency, leadership, relationships[/tags]

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WebInno 11 – coolness from an unexpected quarter

I’ll be honest – when I looked at the list of companies that were going to demo at last nights WebInno event, I was pretty underwhelmed. There was Virtual Ubiquity, and online word processor; MyDesignIn, a remodeling planning tool; and Cardvio, an online greeting card company. I’d gone to each of their sites before the event and was not expecting much.

One thing that did strike me right off the bat was how much this event has grown over a pretty short time. I attended my first back in July and there were maybe a hundred some odd people (which really impressed me at the time). This time, the event was being held in one of the hotel ballrooms because more than 300 people had registered. By the time the demos started it was standing room only – very cool.

Before the formal session I caught up with the guys from SpotStory to tell them how much I was enjoying the site and with Dave Evans.

On to the demos . . .

Virtual Ubiquity went first. Their demo was like magic. They have a WYSIWYG word processor built in Flash that looked absolutely awesome. They also promised that it would be support Apollo to provide online and offline capabilities. Several features of the applications – its formatting and comment tools – got spontaneous applause from the audience.

The only think that wasn’t discussed was how the thing was going to actually make money. A small detail, perhaps, but one not to be ignored . . .

Next up was mydesignin. This is a Flash-based home remodeling tool. When I’d gone to the Web site I didn’t think much of the idea, I just didn’t get it. When they began to show it off though, I got it – and I think everyone else in the room did too. They provide really simple tools for accurately creating a sketch of a space and then populating that space with the real details of real products. They currently are able to scrape the relevant data from any Web site – so if you’re looking for a sink, you can get all you need by visiting a manufacturers site, selecting a model and the applications collects the data it needs to add the item to the design.

One of the cool things is that the site maintains a persistent dataset of all of the items users select so that over time more and more items are available without needing to seek them out online. They have plans to work with manufacturers to sell premium product placements on the screens of consumers working on specific kinds of products. I can imagine that being of some interest. . .

The final piece of the puzzle is the ability to collaborate. He wasn’t able to demo this but did discuss a couple of ways it would work. One is that people could find the designs of others who had worked on similar projects in the past – the same shape kitchen, the same appliance outlet layout, etc. Another is that contractors could use it to help homeowners develop their ideas more quickly and accurately. In either case, I could see where there might be some benefit.

People were clearly impressed by the idea and the demo. I think that one of the questions summed it up pretty well: “This idea is going to make you so much money, how are you going to spend it?”

The last presenter was Cardvio. When I’d seen their name I assumed it was going to be some kind of heart thing. Nope. It’s greeting cards. Now I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the last time I sent a card – but maybe that’s the idea of Cardvio: make it easy.

Also built on Flash, Cardvio allows people to create and send custom cards through the mail. You can add photos and images (your own or from a collection offered by the company), your own text and mail them to one or 1,000 people. They also have a fund raising element to the site which allows you to send cause-related cards to benefit specific groups. They’ve also had the ability to send cards added to the homepages of a number of non-profit organizations.

It’s a nice idea I guess but it didn’t really do much for me.

Talking with people after the demos it seemed that people were most impressed by mydesignin, followed by Virtual Ubiquity and then Cardvio. I was talking with Matt Gross, of Ulocate, afterward and he pointed out that perhaps the most interesting this was that all of the companies were built on Flash. A good point.

I didn’t see all of the side dish companies – only Povo – a block-level, location-based, wiki-driven community site – and thenextbigwriter – a community site for aspiring writers. I loved the spirit behind thenextbigwriter and the execution of Povo.

I had a chance to hang out with Dave Evans and Dave Cutler (which resulted in some ideas that need a post of their own when I have a chance) and Rod Begbie as well. All in all it was a good night and I’m looking forward to the next one in May.

You can find Dave Evan’s post on the night’s festivities here.

[tags]WebInno, Virtual Ubiquity, mydesignin, cardvio, Dave Evans, Dave Cutler, Rod Begbie, Matt Gross, ulocate, Povo, thenextbigwriter[/tags]

Really getting a kick out of SpotStory

SpotStory was a “side dish” at a WebInno event earlier this year. Their idea is to create a place for people to share and collect and comment on points of interest. It made me think of geocaching meets Flickr meets social networking – and all three are things that I enjoy.

Until this past weekend the site was in beta. I think I made one or two contributions but didn’t fool around with it much. I logged in on the past Monday to find that they’d taken off the wraps. Since then, I’ve been playing with the site regularly. I’ve added Spots from all over the place. The other day I posted a picture of the Picasso sculpture below of Flickr and someone posted that the same statue stands in Amsterdam – another Spot! And a tour!

Picasso @ MIT

Today I went through my photos of public art on the MIT campus. That netted out to more Spots and another tour. I’ve also had people post details on places I’ve seen and wondered about. Now as much as I like SpotStory, I’m not quite clear on the business aspect of the site and that may mean this is a short-lived service. But as long as it’s here, I’m happy to be an active part of the community.

If you’re into history, art and stories attached to specific places, I suggest you get on and check it out.

[tags] SpotStory, WebInno, GPS, Flickr, social networking, Picasso, MIT, sculpture, art, photograph, tours [/tags]

Great article on reputation and transparency

Wow.

Wired’s story on the see-through CEO is just great. It lays out exactly what everyone ought to be thinking about – not just in the world of PR but in a general sense. I’ve been writing about the merging of the personal and the professional and the roles of identity, reputation and transparency – but Clive Thompson has laid it out with great examples that show what the future.

One can imagine how the twin engines of reputation and transparency will warp every corner of life in years to come, for good and ill.

Wired 15.04: The See-Through CEO

People can try to ignore this reality – and they’ll be able to for a while; but over time, as access to more and more information becomes commonplace, the willingness to contextually (and by this I mean providing context rather than in certain contexts) share information is going to become critical.

Describing what you’ve done, why you did it, how it worked, what you learned and what you’ll do differently in the future makes sense in a world awash in information. People will uncover what you’ve done and how it worked – the opportunity lies in explaining the rationale, the results and the lessons. Being able to do those things well are what will set people and organizations apart.

In the PR community there have been questions (and it is alluded to in this article as well) as to the role of PR in the world of social media and transparency. Helping clients consider and communicate the rationale, results and lessons effectively will become increasingly important. These are also not things that many organizations (including most PR firms) are not especially comfortable with. Helping clients navigate this evolution is a key service that communications professionals need to be prepared to provide.

[tags]Transparency, Identity, reputation, Wired, Clive Thompson, PR, rationale, results, lessons, social media[/tags]

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New podcast series on tech PR and social media

Paul Gillin and David Strom have teamed up to create a Tech PR War Stories, a podcast series about the changing world of public relations. Here’s the thinking behind the series as explained by Gillin:

David came up with the idea of creating a podcast for the public relations community that would communicate what we’ve learned about the best and worst of PR. Both he and I have been on many panels in front of PR professionals, talking about how to work with the media. The appetite for this kind of information seems to be insatiable, and a podcast is a quick and easy way to capture some of our experiences.

The first episode is available here and is worth listening to, check it out.

[tags]Paul Gillin, David Strom, Tech PR War Stories, PR, social media, blogging[/tags]

Strike another blow for identity!

I read about Citizendium earlier today and was excited to see that they are insisting that all contributors use their real names.

The Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), a “citizens’ compendium of
everything,” is an experimental new wiki project. The project, started
by a founder of Wikipedia, aims to improve on that model by adding
“gentle expert oversight” and requiring contributors to use their real
names.

Main Page – Citizendium, the Citizens’ Compendium

Wikipedia’s failure to do this has had two consequences that I can think of – the first is that determining the validity of content relies on the judgment of editors who themselves may not be who they claim. The second is that Wikipedia, in the name of preserving objectivity, has erected rules about who can and cannot be counted as part of the community. Congressional staffers? Out. PR people? Out.

But if everyone has to be upfront and honest about who they are, that decreases the likelihood that spurious information will make it onto the site and allow people with knowledge but a perceived agenda (which frankly everyone has to one degree or another) to share what they know.

I certainly hope that the Citizendium will truly be worthy of its name and goals and will allow everyone willing to abide by the community standards to be an active and accepted participant in the conversation.

What is happening here and elsewhere is important and everyone needs to have a voice – but they also need to be willing to stand behind what they say.

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Save today’s InfoWorld . . .

. . . it’s the first of many lasts:

The news hit the internet this morning: as of next month, InfoWorld will no longer be distributed in a print edition. To take maximum advantage of the opportunities for our business going forward, and remove the distraction of maintaining and fretting over a costly, nearly obsolete distribution channel, we will discontinue printing and mailing a magazine. As of April, the InfoWorld brand exists online and in events.

InfoWorld IT Exec-Connect

More and more publications are going to realize that for some audiences (high tech being just about at the top of the list) this makes much more sense.  I’ve spoken to editors at a handful of IDG books over the past several months and most have talked about well the online properties are doing in terms of revenue compared with print.  It just makes sense.  So save this weeks copy.  Not because it’s the last print issue of InfoWorld, but because it represents one of the first publications to take the plunge.

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The Internet Archive and Universal Access to Information

I’m a big fan of the Internet Archive. I like browsing around and checking out things I’ve never seen before. I came across it a while ago but didn’t use it until there was a thread on Digg that included a discussion on the supposed rise of advertising in movie theaters prior to the start of a film. I doubted that this was a new phenomenon and posted a link to examples from the 30s, 40s and 50s.

So I was pretty excited when I heard that Brewster Kahle was going to be speaking at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. Kahle came in and described his vision of universal access to all knowledge. He believes that universal access is in our grasp – from both a cost and technical perspective; but he wondered how we can make this content useful and we can provide the access well?

He started with a discussion of several media types.

Books – The US Library of Congress has about 26 million books. To store them all would require about 28 terabytes. So, for about $60,000 in storage space you could get all of the words in the Library of Congress – indexed, searchable, online. Digital books have all sort of new and interesting possibilities. He passed around a One Laptop per Child $100 laptop to show how digital books could be made available. The quality was impressive.

But sometimes a physical book is still really nice. (I ought to say here that I am a pretty active reader and collector of books myself so I’m still a big fan of the existing form factor.) Digitizing books doesn’t have to remove them from the physical realm. Kahle went on to show several examples of books-on-demand. Including a van that allows people to print a 100 page book for about $1. He passed several examples of on-demand books and they looked and felt terrific. According to Kahle, the cost for a university to shelve a book is about $3 and the cost to build a library works out to about $30 per book.

To get the books online in the first place, the Internet Archive first tried sending them to other parts of the world for manual scanning. They found it made more sense to bring the scanners to the books rather than the other way around. So they looked into a book scanning robot. At the end of the day though it worked at roughly the same pace as a person and needed to have someone there to monitor its performance. Scratch that one. The Internet Archive has created its own scanning system that works out to about ten cents per page. It scans, digitizes the text and creates a PDF of the page. These systems are in a number of libraries around the country – including the BPL here in Boston.

To scan a typical book with this system costs about $30; so the scan the entire Library of Congress would cost almost $800M. Not a small cost, but at least it is a one-time cost.

Audio – There have been approximately 2-3M commercial recordings made (from wax cylinders to CD) and this is an area that is heavily litigated. Where could the Internet Archive start? With those areas that are not part of the commercial music industry – folk and indigenous music for example. They offer the Internet Archive is making is free hosting and bandwidth forever for anything that ought to be in a library. – so where could we start? Many areas that are not a part of the music industry – folk, etc. IA is offering free hosting and bandwidth for anything that belongs in the library.

One group of artists that came on board are those that allow their fans to tape and share concerts. There are now more than 2,000 bands represented and the collection includes every concert played by the Grateful Dead.

Overall, the audio archive has about 100,000 items in 1000 collections.

Video – So far, there have been between 150-200k feature films. A few 1000 are up now in the Archive. Besides feature films, there are many other things that are a part of the collection. These include news, sports, ephemera and the Prelinger Archives. All of these films have value and needed a centralized home – Kahle believes that the Internet Archive should function as the shelves of the Internet.

This collection also features a TV archive. They are recording 20 channels from around the world around the clock. Most of this content is not available – only the 9/11 collection is at this point.

Overall, the video collection includes about 50,000 videos and approximately one million hours of television.

Software – There have been about 50,000 pieces of packaged software made. Archiving this is a challenge due to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Internet Archive has a three year window to collect as much software as possible before they face the restrictions of the DMCA. Kahle pointed out that the gaming community is doing a much better job of preserving and developing emulators for many titles than anyone else.

Web – The Internet Archive started collecting the Web in 1996. Not just the homepage but all public content, every two months. (This is the Way Back Machine).

People use this all the time with the site collection receiving 300-500 hits per second.

After describing the various collections and the Archives capabilities, Kahle turned to the reason and philosophy behind the Archives. It’s not just about preserving content, but also about creating services that make use of that content and that’s where collective intelligence can play a role.

One of the important lessons for the Internet Archive is the one taught by the library at Alexandria – don’t have only one copy of anything and don’t keep everything in one place. Their solution is to work with international libraries that share the commitment to universal access and to sharing their collections with each other. The goal is to house large, petabyte scale collections in facilities around the world

The Internet Archive’s collections are stored in Alexandria 2 – a massive set of open source storage systems..

Sister sites, like the European Archive in Amsterdam, allows the Archive to avoid faults – both physical and political. It is interesting to see that the their collection of audio recordings “cannot be displayed in your jurisdiction.”

This led to the question – should content be public or private? Should these collections be create through open or proprietary methods? Some content has already gone proprietary – the law, for example. Even though the law is public information, the digital collections (through Lexis for example) are proprietary. There had, famously, been an attempt to create a proprietary map of the human genome; but in this case the public sphere stepped in and created an open version of the map.

According to Kahle, Google is trying to do the same thing with a number of its projects. Their goal is to capture all of the knowledge and to put it under perpetual restriction. Despite the potential limitations Google may place on use, many libraries are participating in what is essentially a private and proprietary program.

As digitized content comes under new forms of control – whether through Google or Corbis – what role will libraries perform and what services will they no lover be able to offer? These are questions that people in the public sector need to consider and answer together. If the content of libraries fall under private control, libraries as they are understood today risk perishing, suggested Kahle.

This makes it critical that open and public collections be created – to preserve open and free access to information.

Kahle finished by describing a couple of projects where he thought collective intelligence could be used to help achieve the goals of the Archive. These included human powered “universal OCR” and “universal translation” applications.

The event was good. Very interesting for me personally and it raised questions for me about the changing nature of freedom and control that all of us face whether we realize it or not.

[tags]MIT, CCI, Center for Collective Intelligence, Collective Intelligence, Internet Archive, Brewster Kahle, universal access, open source, libraries, books, audio, video, software, Web, content, Google, Corbis, European Archive, OCR, television, Grateful Dead, music, Wayback Machine, Boston Public Library, OLPC[/tags]

Looking forward to Media in Transition 5 @ MIT

MiT5 is just about a month away and I can’t wait. A tentative agenda has been posted. I’m especially looking forward to the sessions on Collaboration and Collective Intelligence and the one on Copyright and Fair Use. I’ve agreed to summarize Saturday’s sessions and will probably write something on Friday’s as well.

Events like this are critical to helping people understand what’s happening in the world of media. I talk with people involved with the media every day – reporters, editors, PR people, etc. – and the varying degrees of understanding/acceptance/enthusiasm are really interesting. Lots of people would like to pretend that nothing is changing at all, while others think that what’s happening is just silly. The reality is that change is happening and that there’s nothing silly or frivolous about it.

[tags]GregPC, MIT, MIT Communications Forum, MiT5, social media[/tags]

Happy to be join the Social Media Club team

Yesterday Todd Van Hoosear sent out a note looking for people to help with the Social Media Club here in Boston. Without thinking twice I signed on to head up programs for the group. I’m really excited about the impact that social media is having on the way people connect and communicate and am looking forward to having a positive outlet for my enthusiasm.

[tags]GregPC, Social Media Club, Boston, Social Media[/tags]