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 bit.ly 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 Wired.com 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 Hyder.me 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:
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.
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.