Smart people + Good conversation = BlogOrlando 2007

There’s so much to say about BlogOrlando that it’s kind of impossible to sum it up even in an extended blog post. The event was an absolute blast, presenting me the opportunity to finally meet some of the people I’ve gotten to know online over the last couple years for the first time, meet some new people who reaffirm my faith in humanity a bit and otherwise have a lot of fun and hear some smart people talk.

Thursday, the day before the event, a group of about 40 folks took a tour of the Kennedy Space Center (group photo here), turning the lot of us into eight year olds who just think rockets are cool. It was an amazing opportunity that really got the event started off an a very special foot. Some pics from Kennedy are in the BlogOrlando Flickr set of mine. You can view everyone’s photos here.

Friday (after over-sleeping, getting lost on the way to Rollins College and then helping to sort name-tags) the “unconference” finally began. Below are some of my slightly expanded notes from the sessions that were part of the PR/Marketing track. I probably could have expanded my comfort zone a little, but this seemed the most consistently interesting and so I just stuck here for the day. If I’ve added my own commentary to the speaker’s points it’s italicized.

8:30 – Josh introduces the sponsors, what BlogOrlando is and generally what to expect.

9:00 – Shel Israel takes the stage, introduces himself as a “recovering publicist” after Hallett accidentally calls him “Shel Holtz.” Good stuff.

  • It’s not about the platform, it’s about the conversation.
  • Those under 35 are increasingly influenced by social media more than traditional media
  • “having a conference 10 years from today on blogging will be as exciting as having a conference on emailing today.”
  • “There’s nothing Twitter in his pants.” – Hallett on Israel
  • Young people aren’t going to join companies that don’t allow them to blog.
  • Don’t just join the conversation, bring something to it as well.

—-

Tom Biro: Blogger Relations and Ambassador Programs

  • Thought Starters: Journalists? Press releases? Where do I get a list? “Write back to me…” “5 can equal 10″
  • Sending product is a tricky thing and takes a lot of time to put together.
  • Developing relationships and soliciting feedback on projects is so important.
  • Mitigating a crisis is easier when the participants in a program defend the program themselves.
  • Having a local event? Invite the local paper and five or six local bloggers.
  • Transporting THE blogger in a particular space might be an issue to get coverage, but if they’re the RIGHT bloggers then it’s worth it.
  • There are larger issues that need to be looked at in addition to worrying about charges of bribery and such

—-

Dave Coustain: Using Blogs for Product Development

  • What happens to companies as a result of blogging?
  • How does a blogging company relate to its customers?
  • Shel Israel: “Bloggers can be assholes too.” Tom Biro: “Can be?” Hands down the exchange of the day.

—-

Laurie Mayers:  Crisis Communications

  • What works and what doesn’t for the GM Fastlane blog.
  • Blog works both as corporate communication outlet as well as for rebutting some negative/misguided press stories. (EX: Thomas Friedman wrote an NYT story that was commented on via the Fastlane blog, resulting in an interesting back-and-forth.)
  • Long-standing policy of not negatively commenting on labor issues, something that’s been important to adhere to during the recent UAW negotiations and subsequent strike.
  • GM does moderate comments, filtering out those that violate established policies (ie; union-bashing, specific car problems, etc)
  • GM does monitor the social media space, reaching out to Flickr photographers and sometimes including their pics on one of the five or so corporate blogs they have.
  • Some people within GM just go read the blog to find out what’s going on. This is actually really cool since it means those employees are at least a bit more emotionally invested than others.
  • Getting people internally to blog is difficult, unsurprisingly.
  • Tracking ROI is tricky, to the surprise of none of the PR people in the room. But ROI isn’t really the point since blogging is largely about establishing a community and specifically a dialogue within that community.

—-

Jake McKee: Customer Relationships with the Rabid Crowd

  • Mantras he has:
  • Open and honest relationships
    • Spin damages long-term relationships to achieve short-term gains
      • Establish yourself in a community BEFORE a crisis emerges
        • Fans become rabid because of an emotional connection
        • Live the life, love the life
        • The team is the family
          • People involved in long-term strategy should be intimately familiar with the product
          • Passionate involvement brings fans with it – If people who are working on the product are excited then that will rub off on the audience.
          • Building relationship means you have more eyes watching your back who can alert you to an emerging crisis
          • It’s important to let your community know when changes are coming soon
          • What’s your kink?
            • People spend time and money on things they’re passionate about.
            • Learn to take a good beating
            • Not everyone is a fan and you’re going to have problems – develop a thick skin now.
          • Success by 1,000 papercuts 
          • —-

            Annie  Heckenberger: Tourism and Social Media

            • Tourism is just like any other sort of brand-building
            • Giving a place for those in the community to have an authentic voice
            • Be high-tech but also high-touch
            • Blog extends the more static (and boring) official tourism website.
            • Now that they’re being engaged more, people are becoming more vocal in the community.
            • “Philly Like a Local” the name of the larger campaign.
            • Everyone has a good laugh at the amount of money
            • Printed mag insert pulls out blogger quotes. Others featured original art based on blog entries.
            • Uses TubeMogul to upload videos to multiple sites with tags intact
            • First thing Annie wanted to do was put together some sort of local blogger event
            • Used event to encourage people to tag their stuff in a certain way and they’ve built a community site around those individual posts. (PhillyGeeks.net)

            —-

            David Parmet: Business Blogging, the Next Steps

            • When PR agencies start blogging a change occurs within them. Same goes for other companies as well.
            • Pretty much opened up the floor to questions after ten minutes of talking.
            • “Who should blog?” “Anyone who has the time to blog.
            • There’s no magic formula that fits for all situations. It really depends on the corporate culture.
            • Blogs are not a sales channel as much as their a conversation channel.
            • Blog content can come from anywhere – Flickr photos, b-roll video, short posts and other places.
            • Interesting discussion of how to/not to use Twitter on a corporate level – Some feel it should be left alone by corporations but others see no problem with it, as long as they’re respectful of the existing community. This really goes for all members, not just corporate ones.

            —-

            Geoff Livingston: Participation in Marketing

            • All those things that PR is supposed to do should be by-products of being a valued part of the community listening to what they care about. Seriously – this is probably one of the biggest takeaways I got from the conference.

            —-

            Chris Heuer: Closing session

            • Whatever you call it, it’s all some form of social media.
            • Business is personal again – decisions are being made based on relationships first and foremost.
            • We count on those relationships to infer trust. That extends to marketing relationships as well, with people so cynical of PR/mktg that they really only can trust the people they know.
            • Accurate reputation ranking systems are still needed.
            • Social bookmarking/news are a great way to be found, but also act to dilute the conversation away from the blog post itself.
            • Things have shifted, first emphasizing the importance of the big media and now back to de-emphasizing big media.
            • Marketing should help people buy, not try to sell.
            • PR will have to shift from figuring out spin to figuring out distribution.
            • It’s a bit important to reflect on what has happened so we know where we’ve been.

            One thought on “Smart people + Good conversation = BlogOrlando 2007

            1. Great write up. I was in the local/life track all day and missed out on some great sessions — thanks for the notes!

              Had a blast hanging out with you and tom. Can’t wait for next time!

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