Obama's Weekly YouTube Address

For those of you who haven’t heard, Obama will be the first President of the United States to deliver his weekly address over video. Obama’s first address as President Elect went live Nov. 14, 2008, and is currently hosted on YouTube. Frankly, I think this is an amazing way to reach out to the public. I mean, how many people knew that President Bush had weekly radio addresses, let alone listened to them?

I do find it interesting that comments are disabled on Obama’s YouTube videos. Would full transparency not include feedback on the President Elect’s speeches? Perhaps they think that YouTube isn’t the best forum for discussing presidential mandates. YouTube has developed a less than stellar reputation for the quality of its comments. In either case promoting discussion is certainly one of the administration’s goals, so why disable commenting?

Another interesting point is brought up by Allen Stern over at Information Week (see article). Why is Obama exclusively hosting his videos on YouTube? There is no denying the ubiquitous nature of YouTube, but shouldn’t the Obama administration at least offer the original videos for download on whitehouse.gov or change.gov? That way users could upload the videos to whatever video sharing site they prefer.

It could also be that YouTube is simply a stop-gap until the administration has more time to figure out the best way to distribute the videos. What do you think?

Finding Sponsors for Your Event

Finding sponsors for your event can be quite the challenge. Here are some tips to get sponsored:

Don’t be afraid to ask.
You never know who’s going to be willing to sponsor your event. It’s often only a matter of contacting the right person at the right time. Don’t be put off if you can’t find any mention of a sponsorship program, especially with larger companies.

Start early!
Many sponsors need you to contact them several months in advance. There is typically an approval process they must follow before sending you anything. Shipping will usually add as much as two weeks to the process as well, especially if your sponsor is overseas (many tech. companies are).

Have materials ready.
Usually sponsors will ask for detailed information about your event, including your website address. They almost always ask you what other sponsors you have confirmed. Having at least one other sponsor makes you seem less desperate.

Follow their process, not yours.
Many potential sponsors will already have a process in place for requesting a sponsorship. For example, Razer, a producer of gaming mice, has a special page dedicated to requesting LAN Party sponsorships. If you try requesting a sponsorship without first filling out their form, they’ll usually just point you back towards the form.

Be polite.
Make sure you ask nicely! Many companies will be happy to provide you with promotional materials; remember, it’s free advertising for them. Just keep in mind that they’re also doing you a favor, so don’t expect them to sponsor you just because you asked.

Finally…
Remember that sponsorships work both ways. Event sponsorship can be a great way for your company to get some inexpensive press. It also helps to create a community of fans around your product. Although, it’s certainly not for everyone.

Change Comes Quickly

Ok, I give in, I’m finally going to talk about the election. As you should know by now Obama won (I hope you’re not just finding out now). What I really want to talk about is what happened post-election. Specifically the President Elect’s new website change.gov. As a fantastic example of transparency, change.gov is designed to keep the public informed during the transition from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration. What’s really impressive is that they managed to get the website up and going only a day after the conclusion of the election.

Change.gov has already received significant press from sites such as Ars Technica, Boing Boing and Slashdot. I’ve even been seeing tweets show up in my Twitter feed from friends who have been browsing the new site.

The site is a very characteristic move from the Obama campaign and I think one of the reasons they’ve been so successful. By pushing out this site so quickly it means that people aren’t left wondering “what’s next?” Instead the Obama Administration has given people a way to see that the work hasn’t stopped along with the election. In fact the work is just getting started.

Obama poster/photo by january20th2009.

How would you like to be fired today?

Gone Tanning

An interesting post over at the McBru Blog Deep Tech Dive asks how transparent should your corporate blog be? According to a recent New York Times Article it has become increasingly common for companies to discuss layoffs and downsizing on their corporate blogs. But is this an appropriate topic for the corporate blog?

Let’s look at it this way. Blogs are a means of communication, two-way communication specifically. People use blogs to talk about things that are happening in their lives. Many people discuss problems at work, at home, or in their social lives. Corporate blogs should be no different. If the company I work for (or invest in) is having problems then I want to know about them. I’d rather hear the whole story straight from the company than from someone else. If the company decides not to talk, then someone else will, and I’ll think that the company has something to hide, or is just plain incompetent.

Let’s face it, all companies have problems. If my corporation is facing layoffs I want to know why. I want to know that the head-honchos are at least concerned for my well-being and the overall well-being of the company. If I don’t hear anything from the top-brass then I’m more inclined to distrust them.

When it comes down to transparency more is usually a good thing. Assuming no legal issues prevent you from discussing a situation with your company then by all means talk about it! People will almost always prefer an honest discussion over a cold-hearted press release.

Thanks to Nick Farnhill for the photo.

My First Podcast

I’ve always thought it would be kind of fun to have my own radio show. So I was pretty excited to learn that we would be doing podcasting in my Advanced Public Relations Writing Class.

For my first podcast I decided to modify a recent presentation I did on measuring social media. I cut down the content and re-titled it “Social Media Campaigns.” I actually think it turned out pretty well, but I ran way over my five minute target. My first recording ended up being 11 minutes! But I was able to cut that down to nine with a second take. I think I could probably cut it down more if I tightened things up a bit. I noticed that I tended to repeat myself a lot.

I was really surprised at how few filler words (“uhms” and “uhhs”) I got away with during the podcast. I think not having a bunch of people starring at me when I needed to stop and pause helped a lot.

Also, being the perfectionist that I am, it was really hard to not nuke the entire recording and start over whenever I made a mistake. Either I’m going to have to live with a few mis-spoken words, or I’m going to have to rehearse more in the future.

Either way it was a really fun experience and one I hope to repeat sometime soon!

If you would like to listen to my first podcast you can do so after the jump.

Download MP3 (~7.7MB)

Show notes for Week 1 : Social Media Campaigns

For this week’s show, I discuss how to get started with social media campaigns.

0-1:04 — Introduction
1:04-3:00 — Getting started (strategy, goals and audience)
3:00-4:10 — Measuring your results
4:10-5:36 — Typical metrics
5:36-7:27 — What to do with all that data
7:27-8:20 — ROI
8:20-9:04 — Summary

Sources

  • Ravelry
  • Gillin, P. (2008, August 11). Don’t worry about the numbers. B to B, pp. 10,10. Retrieved
    October 1, 2008, from Business Source Premier database.
  • Paine, Katie Delahaye. (2007) Measuring Public Relationships. Berlin, NH: KDPaie & Partners
  • Sweetser, Kaye D. (2007, October 27). Blog measurements. Message posted to
    http://www.kayesweetser.com/archives/67

Corporations that listen

When I’m talking about public relations what I’m really talking about is communicating. Communication is the key to developing strong relationships, not only between two caring people, but also between businesses and their publics (employees, customers, shareholders, etc). What public relations is all about is people learning about each other and developing a mutual understanding. One of the best ways to do that is of course Grunig’s two-way symmetrical model.

The two-way symmetrical model is basically a way for two groups of people to share ideas and (hopefully) gain something from the experience. This is an ideal way to communicate and technology has made it easier to do than ever before!

Many companies are taking advantage of new web technologies to encourage two-way communication. Just today Asus and Intel launched a new website called WePC (see Engadget). This new website allows users to submit their own designs and ideas for a new notebook computer. The submitted designs and posted feedback will be considered by both Asus and Intel and may actually be incorporated into a finished product. The WePC about page states:

Your designs, feature ideas and community feedback will be evaluated by ASUS and could influence the blueprint for an actual notebook PC built by ASUS with Intel inside.

Dell is another company that has had good experience with the two-way symmetrical model. In February of 2007 Dell launched a new website called IdeaStorm (see entry at Wikipedia). The IdeaStorm website is very similar to the WePC one, in that it allows users to submit articles, comment on existing ones, or vote them up or down. Almost immediately, Dell received an overwhelming number of requests to offer an alternative, open-source operating system as an option on new Dell computers. This flurry of responses eventually convinced Dell to begin offering computers with the Ubuntu (Linux) operating system pre-installed (see here and here).

Now I think that’s a pretty great result. Not only did customers get exactly what they wanted from Dell, but Dell also proved that they were listening to their customers and were willing to give them what they wanted. That’s great communicating and great publicity!

When Corporations get Political

Both Apple and Google have recently been getting some attention in the Blogosphere for their support and contributions to the No on Prop 8 campaign. California Proposition 8 would amend the state constitution to read “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Obviously this is a hot button issue in the upcoming election.

I think that both companies are on pretty solid ground in supporting the fight against Prop 8. Apple and Google have a history of being progressive companies. Google’s corporate philosophy even states that “you can make money without doing evil.” So all in all they might take a little heat from this, but it’s more likely to get them good press than bad. But what if they came out in support of Prop 8? Or if they weren’t such large and established companies? Would it be a wise decision for them to so publicly state their political views, especially if they couldn’t be sure all their employee’s would agree?

I think that corporations must be careful about supporting political causes, but if they decide to do so they must be sure that the cause aligns itself with their corporate philosophy (and that philosophy is strong and established).

I believe that in the future we’ll be seeing more and more corporations aligning themselves with political causes. Part of this might be related to the increased number of workers and entrepreneurs who are Gen Y’ers. Many studies have shown that Gen Y’ers tend to seek jobs that they can identify with, more than their predecessors (Gen X, Baby Boomers). Gen Y’ers want their jobs to reflect their personal views and as a result corporations get more political.

Take a look at Apple and Google’s position statements. Do you think these statements are effective? How would you change them (if at all)?

Here are some more links on the issue:

Joining the Cloud

My classmate Ali Fishner recently blogged about the site Bedpost, which is designed to let you log and track all your sexual encounters. There was some confusion about whether or not Bedpost would classify as a social network. In fact, this is the perfect example of an up and coming breed of sites known as “web applications.”

Web Applications may have social components, but are primarily designed for the benefit of an individual. These applications serve a variety of functions, including email access, mileage tracking, personal budgeting, tax preparation, or fitness logging. Other services include Google Docs, which provides word processing, presentation and spreadsheet applications.

Like Bedpost, most of these applications are designed to track a specific set of data and present it back to you in a meaningful way. Web applications have many advantages over traditional software (programs installed on your computer). For example, there is no need to purchase and install software, you simply navigate to a website from any computer. However, the big advantage is having your documents (word documents, bedpost logs, grocery list, whatever…) stored out in the web. This means that you’re not locked down to your laptop or desktop. You can access your documents from anywhere at any time, so long as you know your username and password.

This is the theory behind cloud computing. A computing cloud is essentially a bank of servers where information is stored. Instead of existing on your laptop’s hard drive your documents reside on a server somewhere out in the cloud. This might seem a little scary at first, but it gives you access to your data 24/7 (assuming the cloud is reliable) and you no longer have to worry about spilling your coffee on your laptop in the middle of writing your thesis paper.

Web applications have become increasingly popular, especially with the advent of smart phones. Cell phones like the iPhone, Blackberry, or the T-Mobile G1 are getting more powerful all the time. With an always on internet connection that fits in your pocket you will never be away from your documents for long.

Now this is getting a bit technical, but what we’re really looking at are “thin clients.” The thin client is an idea that has existed for some time now. Essentially a thin client is your computer, smart phone, or laptop with most of its storage removed. It now acts as a gateway to the cloud where your documents and web applications are stored. All the computing is done in the cloud and your thin client simply allows you to manipulate it.

Imagine you’ve just been working out at the gym. After you’ve showered and dressed you pull out your smart phone and get online to log your latest workout. Later, as you’re getting in your car you notice the meter ran out 10 minutes ago. Unluckily you’ve gotten a $30 parking ticket. Again you pull out your smart phone and log into your budget application. You deduct $30 from your monthly budget. After getting home you hop on your laptop and see how your workouts are trending. The new data you entered today shows a nice increase in performance! You decide to celebrate, maybe a nice dinner? After checking your budget for the month it looks like that parking ticket set you back more than you thought. Maybe just some ice cream and a good book. These are just some of the many benefits to cloud computing.

What does this have to do with PR? Well for starters, when you’re working in a specialized industry (or aspiring to) then it’s important to have a grasp on where that industry is going. If you’re an expert, then so much the better. When you can talk jargon with the engineers and then turn around and lay everything out for the shareholders in plain English, then you know you’re doing well.

Internet Forums and Marketing

XKCD

Social media platforms seem to be all the rage these days. Personal blogs, social networks and video sharing sites have been hogging all the attention, but community based sites have really been around since the birth of the Internet.

Internet forums are community based web sites that evolved from the earliest Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) in the early 1990’s. Forums allow users to create an account with a pseudonym (alias) and post their thoughts or share media (such as photos, videos or computer code). Forums often focus on a particular theme, such as computer advice, video games or a musician, but they can also span multiple topics.

Internet forums can be a great way to solicit feedback from a community, but they can be a bit harder to get going than blogs. The problem with forums is that you need to have a community that is already passionate about a certain topic. What you’re doing is not creating a community, but giving an existing community a place to go and exchange ideas.

For the past three years the EMU marketing office has helped coordinate the emuLAN (a 24 hour computer gaming event: see LAN Party) and the emuLAN forum has been a major part of that effort.

The emuLAN forum allows interested gamers to ask questions about the event and give direct feedback. Every year we see a ramp up of activity on the forum in the months before the event. Even before we have a lot of information to give out, we can use the forum to poll our audience and see what games they might be interested in playing. The feedback we get helps us determine how things are going and decide if we need to make any changes prior to the event. In the days following the event, the forum provides a valuable tool for gathering feedback on what people liked or disliked.

Forums, like blogs, do require some amount of moderation. You need to make sure spammers aren’t settling in and users aren’t getting abusive (see: trolling). Although, when things really get going you can start appointing community moderators to take over some of the responsibility. These are simply volunteers that spend a lot of time in the forum who know what behavior is appropriate and what isn’t.

All in all forums can be a cheap way to consolidate feedback from an active community surrounding a product, event, business or individual.

Some popular forum software includes:

Not sure if anyone is interested, but I’d be happy to go into more details on forums, just give me a shout!