New Media Trainee

February 27, 2007

Naked Conversations, part II

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 5:23 pm

In the first half of Naked Conversations, Scoble and
Israel sing the praises of blogs.
There are obviously a number of good reasons for businesses to blog. However, in the second half of the book, Scoble and Israel also argue that some businesses and their employees should not blog. These include companies that are restrictive in their cultures or handle sensitive information that should not be in the blogosphere. They also address the time it takes to blog and respond to comments as the ‘dark’ side of blogs.

Scoble and Israel admit that reasons not to blog are pretty self-evident. Thankfully, they also give practical advice for those who want to blog. Most importantly, they recommend that blogs should be authentic, and not be written as if you’re an advertising executive or marketer. Of course, there are some blogs like Captain Morgan, that are written as a character which people know isn’t real that have seen some success.

They also give a number of tips. They discuss how to name a blog so that it is opitmized and can be identified on search engines. Posts should be simple and focused while demonstrating passion and authority. Since blogging is considered a conversation, bloggers should allow comments and be accessible to their audiences. It can’t be one-sided or readers may lose interest. Ultimately, a blogger has to tell a story. If it’s boring, then it will show. The guidelines presented in Scoble’s Weblog Manifesto are good advice for beginner bloggers like me.

 

Lastly, Scoble and Israel discuss new media technologies that are changing how consumers receive information. RSS and videocasts, among others, allow us to receive hundreds of updates on the topics we subscribe to, rather than searching individual web pages. It certainly is a time saver.

 

I thought the advice Scoble and Israel gave in the last half of their book was good and I think there are many bloggers out there who need to read this book. There are a lot of useless blogs out there which claim to be an authority on a topic. I’m unsure whether or not many bloggers realize that it is the conversation that is more important than the post. Ultimately, that’s what this book is about, open and honest conversations that are revolutionizing the future of business. Businesses, if they want to remain successful, will have to do a good job of communicating and listening to their customers.

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February 20, 2007

Don’t Be Evil….

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 8:24 pm

The Search by Jon Battelle

I often take my Google search box for granted, but reading the first six chapters of “The Search” by Jon Battelle reminded me how much I depend on this powerful tool in my daily life at work and at home. I remember in 2002 discovering GoogleNews. It made by pr job 10 times easier. While Yahoo! and others may have a search function, it just hasn’t been as good to me as Google’s. Batelle’s premise that Google is jacked into our culture absolutely resonated with me. It’s an historical archive of humanity, as we pour our hopes, fears, and intentions into Google, and he’s right.

 

When Larry Page started the “Backrub” project along with Sergey Brin, as graduate students at Stanford U., not even they could have predicted that a search tool based on citation and annotation, rather than crawling for text on a web page, could change how we connect to knowledge on the internet. Of course, this method rubbed a few people the wrong way. Battelle writes of one Web master who ran an award winning civil war site being upset because his Web site didn’t rank high as a result of a search on Google. Perhaps it would have on AltaVista or other early search engines. Ironically, soon after, most Web sites were obsessed with gaining the Google juice to rank high enough on Google.

 

Of course, Google didn’t change the world all by itself. Batelle does a good job of filling in the history of the search function and some of the lesser known people involved who helped in the evolution of the function. Bill Gross, known for his brain children Goto.com and IdeaLab, may not have been as successful as Google, but certainly his strategy of arbitrage to sell “click” ads online was revolutionary. Page and Brin have tweaked Gross’s business plan to make Google a $3 billion a year business. There have been a lot of good attempts to do what Google has accomplished, but in the end, Google is successful because it works. As Batelle says in Chap 1, Google is the closest thing we have to answering the question, “What do people want?”

Google is also successful because it has incorporated things like blogger, google maps, picaso, Google scholar, Google Earth, and other web 2.0 applications that are cool and work well. I can’t imagine, in the next 5 to 10 years, that any company is going to improve much on what Google has accomplished. Even though Page and Brin are micromanagers, Google is definitely working. As the CEO of Yahoo!, Mr. Srinivasan saidI don’t find it surprising that there are people in
Silicon Valley who don’t appreciate Google or how they operate. I attribute it to jealousy. Batelle sums up Page and Brin’s legacy best. Google’s founders have “fundamentally changed the relationship between humanity and knowledge (p.66).”

Loose thoughts…

So, if blogging is changing the business world by creating conversations between consumers and businesses, as suggested by Scoble and
Israel in Naked Conversations, then Google has provided us with the ultimate tool to track those conversations. Oh, and they acquired Blogger which must help to some degree. Is Google the next Microsoft? Not in my eyes, because their products are FREE and they actually work. I was so impressed by The Search, that I even trolled around Google and eventually customized my own Google home page. They have even more cool widgets than I knew about.

–Geoff Spencer, Google maniac.

February 13, 2007

Naked Conversations and a glass of google juice, please.

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 7:19 pm

Naked Converstions by Scoble and Israel shows how blogging is changing the world of business. There are insightful interviews with business people, from CEOs to a t-shirt maker in France which illustrate how blogs are changing interactions with the media, customers, as well as how PR is practiced . For a long time, businesses have used one-way communications (ads, press releases, etc.), to connect with the public, but in the era of consumer choice, it’s becoming more difficult to reach target audiences using these traditional means. Scoble and Israel suggest that the answer is blogging because they facilitate conversations with customers. These conversations not only build trust and improve reputations of companies, but have very practical uses, such as taking advantage of your customer’s collective knowledge to improve products.

 

One of the most interesting examples of how blogs have improved reputation is the case of Microsoft, known as the “evil empire.” Joshua Allen was the first Microsoft employee to start a blog in 2000. Microsoft at the time had a horrible reputation and was getting horrible publicity. Allen remembers, “I wanted to say that I am a Microsoft person and you can talk with me (p. 11).” Now, there are 1,500 employees blogging and Microsoft’s reputation has improved because of it, in addition to Gate’s philanthropic generosity. Blogs have allowed Microsoft to show its humanity through conversations with customers. It shows just how powerful blogs can be. Their Channel 9 video blog which has unedited interviews with employees is another cool way of communicating with their customers. Another great example of how blogs can improve a small business and improve sales is that of Mahon, a Savil suit tailor. He started a blog about tailoring and his writing exuded his passion for suit making. His business skyrocketed, because he connected with those customers who appreciated his passion, and his technical detail to his craft. What better way to market your product than to write about it, and it’s free. No marketing required!!!!

 

Scoble and Israel suggest CEOs of companies would be wise to join in the revolution. They claim it’s the best way to address criticisms of your company and to thank people for their praise. Take the media for example. A lot of CEOs have been frustrated with the media because of inaccurate stories or bias. A CEO with a blog can tell their side of the story in their own voice and with instant feedback from the community. General Motor’s Bob Lutz says “blogs can be…an equalizing force when dealing with media criticism.” A profound thought.

 

As a pr dude, I think this book should be a wake up call for any of us in pr who are still practicing “command and control” public relations. Scoble and Israel’s messages about the value of blogs can be utilized by many fields, but I think pr is especially relevant here. PR is all about messages and reputations. We’re losing control of the message because consumers have more choices and there always seems to be an alternative product. I’m not saying that blogs are the only answer for the future of pr, but they should be considered as a tactic, a valuable tool, to include in any strategic communications plan.

 

We can no longer shoot out press releases and expect to reach a majority of the target audience. We must use blogs or approach bloggers to post our information in order start conversations with our potential customers or constituents. It’s important though, that we don’t look at a blogger the same as a journalist. We can’t pitch them news releases and think they’re going to post them. We have to be open and honest. It’s a paradigm shift, no doubt. We are opening ourselves to criticism and releasing control of the message in some respects. But, in the end, the future of business is going to be about relationships and transparency. My advice, don’t be the middle man, be the facilitator of these conversations. Yes, it takes a lot of time to blog, but I think it’s worth it. You’ll gain a lot more than you lose.

 

Dan Gillmor, author of We The Media, would appreciate this book. It repeats a lot of what he says, but it is applied outside the world of journalism. He may even agree that blogs are currently having an even more powerful impact on businesses. Gilmore’s book really showed the potential uses of blogs and gave some initial examples of how they were being used in 2004, and Naked Conversations, published 2 years later, provides us with even more examples of the power of blogs. I think all three authors would agree that everyone should blog and blog often. We are all thirsty for “google juice.”

Geoff

February 6, 2007

Dan Gillmor’s “We The Media”

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 1:39 am

This is a great read for those who have read blogs and maybe even subscribed to podcasts or real simple syndication, but have yet to think about how these tools have empowered the consumer or are changing the future of news as we know it. Technologies such as the ones above, suggests Gillmor, as well as SMS, mail lists and forums, chat rooms, Wikis, and even camera phones, are changing the way audiences, journalists, newsmakers, and governments communicate and share knowledge, from one to many, to many to many.

For instance, these tools have allowed the audience to now become participants and given consumers the power of personal choice. We no longer have to rely on just Big Media for the news, but can supplement it with these tools. We can read a paper and blogs online, while listening to a radio feed. Gillmore uses the example of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The media covered the story well, but people also learned other information through emails, chat rooms, and blogs. The audience can now play the role of the journalist or editor, writing about the news, or sorting and book marking the news of the day. Of course, I agree with Gillmore that these tools should not be confused as substitutions for the accuracy and thoroughness of journalism.

Others can also benefit: journalists and media organizations can use their own blogs to receive feedback on their stories allowing the audience to become contributors of new facts and context, while businesses can even track consumer reactions to improve upon their strategies and development of products. Gillmor uses the example of Jane’s Intelligence Review posting an article on Slashdot and allowing members of that online community, who knew the topic, to react to it. The article was then rewritten based on the edits and comments.

Governments can take advantage of the tools as well, by creating a feedback loop to allow their constituents to participate like never before. Even better, citizens can use these tools to put those who govern them in check. In Chapter 5, Gillmor uses the example of a million citizens in the Philippines using text messaging to arrange a meeting place for overthrowing a corrupt government. It’s just one example of how powerful these tools are.

Gillmor also discusses a potential dark side of the available technologies. Governments in countries such as China, want to limit the flow of or censor information and the entertainment industry wants to protect their bottom line and copyrights by preventing peer to peer file sharing. These are issues that, as consumers of the web, we should all pay attention to in order to protect our first amendment rights. Gillmor also discusses the potential for anarchy and unreliable information being spread on the web. Gillmor argues that the web is self-correcting. There is no better example of this than what occurred on the National Institue of Drug Abuse’s Wikipedia entry. Apparently, someone with an IP address originating at NIDA edited and erased a large part of the NIDA wiki entry and replaced it with a press release. However, Wikipedia determined it to be vandalism and changed the entry back to the original. See, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/1/27/155955/439. I’m sure NIDA had the best intentions, but it also supports Gillmor’s argument that the web community can act as a truth squad and this is a beautiful thing in my opinion. Thankfully, I was reading the book at the same time I saw this story and it put a lot of this into perspective for me. Dan Gillmor should be awarded for tackling a complex and timely subject, but for also making his book available for free online.

The only thing I disagree with Gillmor on is that he states more than once that press releases are obsolete and that pr people are manipulative. Yes, journalists receive a million of them each year, but with a mountain of information to sift through, I believe that a release from a trusted source is still valuable to a journalist. Perhaps the key is that it has to be from a trusted source. I’m obviously a pr person and I agree that pr has a bad rap, but my own experiences, both through education and mentoring, have led me to practice pr in an open and truthful way. I hope Gillmor can learn to appreciate the role of the pr professional in the news process too.

Geoff Spencer

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