Blogging, digital media, tweeting, videos, podcasting, live streaming, mobile.

We get it. We really do. As I reflect on attending BlogWorld & New Media Expo, I realize that we get it. As a communications professional, BlogWorld was great. Connecting with friends, old and new. Learning from the masters of our craft and the ability to spend five days in Las Vegas and only lose $30 gambling.

Don’t ask what’s next

I’ll start at the beginning. At 8:30 am, Scott Stratton (also known as Unmarketing) kicked us off by sharing some of what has made him successful. It wasn’t about metrics, analytics or “influencers.” It was simply giving a, ermm, rip. When you care and show that you care by being a passionate, engaged participant in the community you are trying to create, the market will listen.

And then he delivered what might be the greatest few sentences I have heard at any conference:

Don’t ask what’s next. We suck at now. Hell, we suck at last year. Let’s stop being so fancy pants and realize people spread awesome by talking.

I’m going to repeat this so it sinks in a bit: Don’t ask what’s next. We suck at now. That’s amazing for us as communications professionals. As we scurry like mice trying to craft the perfect twit pitch and witty URLs we can pretty easily forget the impact of picking up the phone, pressing 11 buttons and talking to somebody. Remember what’s now. And do it well.

Content is still king

Well, at least real-time, mobile-optimized, interactive, compelling, sharable content is king. Everything else is spam. The underlying theme behind every panel I sat in on was that creating content is the single most important aspect to telling your story.

We think of ourselves as integrated communicators and not just “public relations” professionals. The differences between the two are huge. I had an opportunity to sit in on a panel conducted by Jay Rosen, journalism professor at NYU, Evan Hansen, the editor in chief of and Gregory Ferenstein, a freelance writer who has been featured on Mashable, CNN and other top-tier sites.

Evan strongly advocated for the bloggers in the room to be seeking data that is not generally found by the public. He shared the story of how Wired broke the story of the arrest of the Army insider that had provided WikiLeaks with classified materials.

As Evan said, “so much of what passes for news is press releases and marketing that’s packaged as news. The other layer of reporting defines what journalists are about. Find the non-public information and get it out there.” As communications pros, we can help this process. When we think about our digital content, let’s approach it as a journalist. Think of the questions the readers want answered and approach a press release, blog post or video from that perspective.

We have the ability to create media that can help shift perceptions much faster than a blogger can. Jay Rosen called this networked journalism. By being able to create a network of consumers that are as obsessive about your topic as possible, you quickly become the authority in that space.

For us to do this, Rosen says we need to start by becoming a “kick-ass aggregator” of “information that would be of interested to the obsessed that you are targeting as your audience.” This is an important strategy to consider for our clients. Whether is CRM products, mobile devices or Internet security, we are the experts in those verticals.

We create content daily that aggregates what other influentials are sharing and we create content that helps to tell our clients’ stories. Why shouldn’t that be pushed to the audience we want to create?

The future is in the palm of your hand

OK, maybe the future is in your pocket. Or, more likely, charging next to you. Of course I’m talking about your mobile phone.

On the final day of the conference, I was joined on stage by two of my newest friends, Dave Fleet from Edelman Toronto and Kenny Hyder from to discuss how to optimize your content strategy for the mobile web. We talked about how vital mobile is to telling your story.

I’ve embedded our presentation, which gives some really amazing statistics about mobile usage in the US and the rest of the world for you to enjoy. One of the things I want to take a moment to talk about here is the impact including mobile into your communications plan can have. Creating an experience optimized for your mobile users can be as simple as using different CSS settings to detect a user’s browser. But by giving those users the ability to experience your content in a setting that is comfortable to them makes them more likely to appreciate that experience.

We had a lively Q&A after we each said our piece and had some great interaction about why a mobile strategy is so important. We even had some folks tweeting at us from the event:

“SMS: Simple Messaging Solutions at #blogworld in Shell Seekers A/B – Was awesome! Thx @geekgiant @davefleet @kennyhyder #bwe10” ~@tweetfind

“Very nice Mobile presentation with @geekgiant @kennyhyder & @davefleet – people missed out on this one. #bwe10” ~@mikemcdowell

“Good info on mobile content and optimization from @geekgiant @kennyhyder @davefleet #bwe10” ~@marina81

“Great Mobile Web presentation from @geekgiant @kennyhyder @davefleet #bwe10” ~@Joe_Ellipse

I really enjoyed getting to work with two brilliantly smart people like Dave and Kenny as well. The picture above is from Ken Yeung, one of the best event photogs out there. Check out his work here.

Other shenanigans

Note: This is also known as the name drop section.

Now, it wouldn’t be a conference in Vegas without a party or two, right? Well, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…

OK, actually there were a few experiences that stood out to me. As is wont to happen while in Vegas, you end up in a ridiculously large limo with a ridiculously fun group of people. This happened to me when I was invited to a party that social media influence measurement tool Klout threw at the Palms. I got to meet folks like @pugofwar, reconnect with @darinrmcclure and take photos of @missdestructo.

I also got invited to a suite at the Luxor. There I connected with the team behind @LuxorLV, discussed citizen journalism with @delwilliams and chatted microformats with @t. My advice for a conference is always the same. Find a small group to hang out with. Make it a different group each evening though.

BlogWorld is on my must-attend list. I hope they’ll have me back next year and I’d love for some of you to join me.

Please note: This is a personal blog post and not terribly related to public relations. If that’s cool, read on. If not, here’s a bunny with a pancake on its head.

I’m fat. Not in the “self deprecating, say I need to lose 10 lbs even though I really don’t” kind of way. But in the “buy clothes from special stores and websites” kind of way. I have moments where I am suddenly and harshly reminded of my size, like the time I broke a chair in front of some of the world’s most influential consumer taste makers. Or when I couldn’t sit on the chaise lounge at the pool next to my wife.

But while flying back from Las Vegas and BlogWorld 2010, I was reminded of my size in a way I knew would eventually happen, but wasn’t really prepared for. As the plane was still at the gate due to a weather delay, the gate agent appeared next to me. She initiated our interaction by thrusting a pamphlet in my hand.

“Here, I first have to give you this.”

I look down and it is a pamphlet explaining how to buy two seats. The gate agent then says that one of the flight attendants has felt I am too large for the standard coach seat (which I totally am, but that’s not the point of this) and am in violation of the airline’s fat person policy. I ask what the standard is for this determination. “Well, the seats are 17 inches in coach and 22 inches in first class,” she tells me.

That wasn’t my question. What standard was used to determine that I was too big? Simple answer: There isn’t one. Alaska Airlines’ policy is subjective and selectively enforced. Two factors that render any policy completely useless and unfair in my opinion. In order for a policy to be useful, it needs to be objective, measurable and standardized.

The subjective interpretation of comfort is based on an anonymous flight attendant’s theory. And that’s just wrong.

I’m not debating whether or not I am fat. But I am upset by the selective enforcement of this “policy.” I made it clear that there were several other people on the flight that clearly didn’t fit into the 17 luxurious inches coach offers. There was even somebody who clearly didn’t fit in the 22 amazing inches first class offers.

The gate agent then says I can “offer cash to one of the people in first class” in order to switch seats. No. That’s not fair to either of us. How does this conversation go? “Hi, I’m Eric, I’m too fat to fly coach, can I give you $20 to sit in the back with the rest of the unwashed masses?” Nope.

Now, my wife was on the flight as well, along with our infant daughter in first class. I could have simply asked her to switch me and taken care of Kylah myself. But she needed to eat and breast feeding isn’t really conducive to coach. Neither is a diaper change, so I opted to not make her part of this.

Of course I protest. I was pissed about being singled out. I was pissed about the lack of tact displayed by the flight attendants who resorted to anonymously tattling on my fat ass. I am pissed about the lack of class Alaska Airlines shows with its policy. I ask if the person next to me has been consulted in the matter. Of course she hadn’t.

And I had no problem asking her. In fact, my standard airplane boarding practice goes like this: awkward looks from people as I pass their rows. Apologies to whomever is in front of me as they can’t put their seat back, apologies to the person unfortunate enough to be seated next to me and then I humbly ask the nearest attendant for a seat belt extender.

So, my options were now: Pay somebody in first class to switch, get kicked off the plane or force my wife and infant daughter back into coach. Which would you choose? On my way up to discuss the situation with my wife, I pointed out several other people who should also have been forced to buy an additional seat. I was assured that they would be spoken to and presented the same information. Of course this didn’t happen.

After some discussions, the gate agent finally asked my neighbor if she had any problem with her next to me. Luckily she didn’t care and I was free to take my seat and wait out the weather delay. Of course I was embarrassed, agitated and missing my wife who was 27 rows in front of me.

Again, I’m not trying to deny my size. I get it. I don’t fit normal places. Try going to dinner with me and watch me apologize for my knees bumping the table. But what I do have a problem with is the unfair enforcement of an arbitrary rule. If standards exist or something can be uniformly enforced, then I agree with it. Have everyone pass through a 17-inch-wide opening before they get on the plane for all I care. Just be consistent.

So, Alaska Airlines, what do you say? I don’t want you to fix it for me. I want you to fix it for everyone.

The mobile web is essentially ubiquitous at the point. We have access to nearly any piece of information we need in most of our pockets. We can watch baseball games, record a video and bash egg thieves with Angry Birds.

As communications professionals, how we put our messages together for the mobile Web is essential. How we craft strategies to tell our stories and create media that utilizes the mobile platform matters. Only 15 months after its launch, mobile text messaging platform textPlus announced that more than 3.5 billion messages had been sent.

According to a recent Comscore report, 81.7% of mobile users in Europe sent a text message in June, 2010. In Japan, 75.2% of mobile users browsed the internet, accessed applications or downloaded content from their mobiles. In the table below, you can see the most popular destinations mobile users access from a mobile device.

Top Mobile Social Networking/Chat/Blog Brands in Japan, United States and EU5 (UK, DE, FR, ES and IT) by Audience Size

June 2010 Total Mobile Audience Age 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens

Japan United States Europe
Mixi Facebook Facebook
Gree MySpace YouTube
Twitter YouTube MSN / Windows Live / Bing
Mobage Town Twitter Twitter

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us needing to develop strategies for utilizing the mobile Web as a communications channel.

SMS: Simple Messaging Solutions

At this week’s BlogWorld Expo, I will be a part of a panel with special guests Kenny Hyder, who has years of experience in SEO and mobile optimization, and Dave Fleet, VP of Digital at Edelman Toronto. We will be discussing the importance of mobile content for bloggers and in the communications industry.

There are three factors to consider when assembling a mobile plan: content, accessibility and integrated strategy.

Smart phone apps limit the interaction with the Web as a whole, so the need is to create content that is easily portable, easily found. This content is brief, to the point and actionable (yes, I know this post is more than 500 words…). It conveys your message and messaging but is also portable and gives the reader a reason to act and share the content.

But getting that content found is becoming more of a challenge. Applications that are single-purpose have limited our interaction with the broader Web. Having an understanding of search, accessibility and the ability to drive actions through a mobile device will help us create integrated strategies that provide value to a wide network of readers.

Global mobile Web

XKCD Map of the social system

XKCD made this map to show the relative scale of various social networks. The various social networks occupy how we interact. But the real impactful part of this is in the detail in the upper left. Spoken language is still about 90% of our interactions. But in most of the world, SMS is the number one form of digital communication. Email still trumps all, but even that is just a portion of our communications.

Spoken language is still about 90% of our interactions.

Photo from XKCD social universe graphic. The more we isolate ourselves on the islands of Twitter or the Bay of Flame in the blogosphere, the more of a disservice we are doing to those that our content could reach.

Being aware of how we tell our stories and how we integrate the multiple technologies that surround us to tell those stories will make our communications strategies that much more effective.

Posted in PR