Friday, February 26, 2010

Rational behavior, there's an app for that

Today I was eating lunch with my good friend Chuck who has known me for a long time. As we were chatting over yakisoba and sushi, I held up my hand making a small circle with my thumb and index finger. "That's about the size of the rational part of my brain," I said. We both laughed, as we know that I tend to thrive on risk-taking rather than rational behavior. Then Chuck said something that really got me thinking. "Ah, rational, there's an app for that."

He's right. There is an app for that.

In fact one could argue that a good portion of our brain's duties are being replaced by software and hardware. Who remembers a phone number anymore? How about your second cousin's birthday? Or even an appointment? We have programs that take in that information and remind us as needed. And while we often talk about this phenomenon as if it were negative, it may in fact benefit us.

I mean, what happens when we are freed to use our time and energy on things other than remembering data points (which by the way computers are much better at than humans). Do we apply ourselves to more complex problem, problems which require elements of emotion (which humans are better at than computers)?

Essentially, computers give us more processing power back to use as we wish. How are you going to use yours? Just a random thought for a rainy friday afternoon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chatting with PR+MKTG CAMP

On March 3 I'll be a "camp counselor" at Seattle's PR+MKTG Camp. If you're interested in social media I encourage you to attend this all-day session at The Seattle Public Library. It's a great open format with a chance to interact with some of Seattle's smartest social media folks.

The following interview is posted on the PR+MKTG CAMP blog--along with a number of other really interesting interviews. Read more here.

Interested in attending? Register here.

Interview with Laura Porto Stockwell of WONGDOODY

Question: Whether through brands or press releases, marketing and PR are about storytelling. Give me an example(s) of how social media has significantly impacted the way you tell stories about your company or client.

Laura Porto Stockwell: When developing any digital presence, and especially when developing a social media presence, it is vital to put the user first. That means taking the time to understand you core target, their needs and their motivations for engagement. It’s less about telling your story as is it about engaging in credible conversations about the elements of your story that are of interest and value to your consumers and potential consumers. Through that, your story, your brand will come out, but in a non-linear way.

Choosing a topic to talk about is the first step. To answer this question, I help clients understand what parts of their brand story are most credible as topics of conversation. The idea is to participate in conversations where they can be authentic and believable. For example, I was working with a mobile phone carrier and we discussed the opportunity to speak to parents about children using cell phones and related technology. This approach mapped to both their brand and their audience, so it was a good fit.

It’s also important to allow people to question or challenge your story. One of the questions I am most often asked when developing a social media strategy, is “What if someone says something bad?” Using listening platforms to understand what current conversations are happening is a useful activity as it allows for preparation for difficult issues. I also always suggest creating a moderation guide before a social media program launches to give all stakeholders an opportunity to think through issues of concern. Beyond being flat-out inappropriate, threatening to another user or disparaging of a competitor, I suggest that all comments are valid, even if they hurt a bit. The key is to be responsive and remember that the response itself is a great way to tell your story and connect with people in a compassionate and authentic way.

Question: Who are your best storytellers, how do you find them, how do you evaluate them and how do you engage them? Are they employees, customers or the public at large?

Laura: In addition to the topics of conversation being credible and authentic, organizational representatives must also be credible and authentic. Again, focusing on the user is key. Who are you trying to reach and whom do they consider credible? In some cases it might be the CEO of your company but in others it may be a customer service representative, and in others it may be another customer.

I helped Expedia create a MySpace page a few years ago and we recruited eight real travelers to blog about their travels, each for one week. We never asked them to talk about Expedia, we just gave them suggestions for how often to participate during that week. In doing this, Expedia got to tell their brand story through example. It was a very credible approach.

Zappos takes a different approach: they empower their employees. Everyone at Zappos can tweet, and with no guidelines other than common sense. Graco also does this well. They have identified parents in their organization who blog. The great think about Graco’s blogs are that parents may talk about what they made their kids for lunch in one post and then about a Graco product in the next. The transparency of this approach really creates an authentic feel.