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.

I gave a talk this weekend at Barcamp Seattle. Well, calling it a talk is being quite glamorous. I made up about 45 minutes worth of loosely jointed opinions and I called it “PR doesn’t suck.”

My alternative title was: PR doesn’t suck. Well, OK, there’s some really shitty PR stunts out there, but YOUR PR doesn’t have to suck.
Barcamp Seattle 2010
I wasn’t trying to convince the attendees that PR as an industry doesn’t suck. But what I did want to convey was that with some simple steps in choosing the proper counsel and setting a clear direction, your PR can not suck.

The client relationship

I started off by asking who had been a client of a PR consultant/firm. Since it was a small group, only a couple of folks had, but the stories we shared quickly became all too common.

Her: They didn’t get it.
Me: What steps did you take to fix it?
Her: We fired them.
Me: What was the WORST part of that experience?

Of course there were some steps in the meantime, but this seems to be a pretty common theme and I’m actually kind of thankful that most people are willing to fire a company that simply isn’t getting it. But  before you scrap the relationship, make sure you’ve gone through the effort to help them “get it.”

I wanted to make sure this session was meaningful, so I thought up five ways to help un-suck your PR:

  • Treat selecting a PR person like selecting a spouse. This person or company will know your deepest, darkest secrets. Interview them, spend time with them and be honest with them.
  • Let your PR person do his/her/their job. You have hired a person to be your communications professional for a reason. Let them have some freedom to be creative, try new ideas and experiment. Trust.
  • Share your passion. Carefully. We feed off the passion and excitement over your products, services or thoughts. But it’s our job to ask you what’s cool, why is this news and why should people care.
  • PR does NOT mean public relations anymore. A press release is not the most important document your communications counsel produces. Fully comprehensive digital and analog plans encompass both media relations, as well as publicly consumable content. (there’s a whole other technical topic here, but we won’t go there)
  • Look in the mirror. If the messaging sucks, maybe you haven’t communicated it well to your communications counsel. It might be time to reassess your goals and objectives.

Barcamp Seattle 2010
You’ll notice in number 4, I switched the language I use. PR is no longer “write press release; write pithy email to editor; profit.” This is an important shift. I think that it embodies the change in dynamic that digital media has caused in this industry.

Say it with me: PR today is about creating a plan that encompasses media, public and consumer relations through the use of multiple channels of communication.

If you want your PR to suck less, there’s a few ways to do it. Tell me how you made your latest campaign suck less in the comments.

Note: All of my photo glory can be found on my Flickr page.

The new wave of social media punidtry has shifted from “engage” to “measure.” As part of that, tons of people have weighed in on how to select a social media firm/consultant, offering various tips and tricks. Well, here’s mine.

How active and enthusiastic is the person’s spouse?

You see, a lot of us have spouses that are nurses, builders or some other non-tethered profession. I think this is our way of finding balance. My wife is a pretty solid reality check usually.

So if we can get our spouse fired up about social media, we must be pretty good, right?

UPDATE: Yes, I know that not everybody has a spouse. That’s Ok, this can apply to moms, siblings or pets as well 🙂

What an amazing time at Social Fresh Portland. A lot of fun things can happen when you put a lot of big brains in the same room and force them to spend the day together. I wanted to give a couple of high-level takeaways before I get into the photos and share some of my observations.

Social Media is a noun, not a verb.

Social media is something you use. It is not something you do. I’ve talked before about my tool box metaphor and how each type of person has a different use for social media.

Businesses want to be social

From Realtors to restaurateurs, from financial planners to former journalists (that’s me), businesses are looking to be “social.” They want to connect and interact and share content. Which is great. But all the talks about content creation and sharing made me start to wonder about reaching a saturation point.

Thinkers vs. doers

One of the reasons I wanted to go to SoFresh was because the speakers were the doers. They were the faces behind the brands. They were implementing the tactics they were educating the rest of us on and they were successful with it.

We’re all learners

I have a tendency to be a skeptical jerk when it comes to conference sessions. I find myself yearning for tactical breakdowns of best practices or metrics rather than the messages that some call “social media 101.” But sometimes getting back to basics can be a good thing. Such as when Peter Shankman, aka @skydiver, said “Good writing will save society.” That rocked.

What would lead you to call a conference a success? What makes you like the sessions? Share them in the comments!

On to the photos: Continue reading