Archive for “January, 2008”

Livingston Buzz Podcast

Geoff Livingston interviewed me for his Buzz podcast earlier this week, and the interview is now up and listenable. Geoff’s a great, conversational interviewer and we chatted about all manner of things, including:

  1. The recent launch of Digital Snippets
  2. Our work with Ford Global Communications
  3. Professional responsibility when blogging a story
  4. Our work with Steve Mann and SAP Global Marketing
  5. I apparently claim that Canadians blog about hockey a lot. This is not true.

To hear our interview, head on over to Geoff’s place for a listen...

Toronto Girl Geek Dinner tomorrow night!

It looks like our first dinner of the year will be a full house – we have a maximum of 48 seats available at our favourite location, the Hot House Cafe (full address and details at the bottom of the post), so if you’re planning to attend, please get your name on the wiki to make sure we have a spot for you!

Tomorrow’s speaker is Malgosia Green, co-founder of Savvica, an education technology company. Here’s her full bio:

Malgosia graduated from Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo and happily went onto a life-long career in digital hardware design. After a year of solitude in a cubicle inhaling soldering fumes, she realized her true calling lay elsewhere.

Malgosia founded Savvica with her husband John in October 2004, the same month they got married. In December 2005, Nuvvo was launched, the world’s first “web 2.0″ learning management system (LMS). In the summer of 2006, Malgosia and John elected to put Savvica on hold to pursue opportunities in San Francisco and learn from the masters of the consumer internet world.

Sadly parting ways with John, Malgosia joined a hot new startup, Affinity Labs, where she quickly got promoted to Director of Products. At Affinity Labs, Malgosia was in charge of designing the entire product, managing the creative groups, and working with the engineering team every step of the way from development to launch. Her daily developer schedules become truly loved by every developer on the team. Luckily, Malgosia and John weren’t apart for long, as Affinity Labs was in need of a Director of Engineering, so John decided to join Malgosia.

After many happy months in San Francisco creating the world’s best communities for professions such as police, nursing, teaching and many more, an opportunity knocked on their door. Although very happy in San Francisco, Malgosia couldn’t resist the chance to be an entrepreneur again, this time with an incredible partner, Educomp. In September 2007, Malgosia and John decided to return to Toronto to build Savvica, despite the cold winters and lack of a world-class wine growing region. Access to the brightest engineering talent in world has more than made up for the weather so far.

Malgosia will share her experiences as a female tech entrepreneur with our group, and there will be lots of time for Q&A afterwards.

Once again, our dinner will be held at our favourite location:

Wednesday, January 30th
6:30 pm
Hot House Grill (in the private room)
35 Church Street
(The entrance is right on the corner of Front & Church.)
Toronto, ON

Full details also on the Official Toronto Girl Geek Dinner blog.

Digital Snippets – how it works

It’s been a week since we announced the Digital Snippets social media release platform and shared the template that explains its functionality. The news spawned quite a bit of discussion online, which is fabulous! We’re really hoping that interested parties will dig into the work that we’ve done and improve upon it further – it’s very early days for all this stuff, and as we have stood on the shoulders of giants in our work, so we hope others will do as well.

I’d like to take this opportunity to deepen the conversation and spark a discussion about functionality and use. It’s been brought to my attention that the best way for me to do this is to get granular and explain the detailed workings of Digital Snippets and just why we (and others) feel it’s so innovative.

  1. Existing examples of social media press releases are web-based versions of the standard press release, with additional assets available for richer storytelling (some hosted on a firm’s server, others using YouTube and Flickr, as we have done). In many applications, the channels they’re released on are RSS-enabled so that when new releases are issued, subscribers are automatically notified. However, like a print publication, once the release is issued, it’s finished. There is no ongoing story.
  1. That’s the primary difference between Digital Snippets and most existing SMPR formats. Our SMPRs support a company or product narrative – in fact, if you have a one-off announcement, this platform is not appropriate (unless it’s is made in the context of a larger corporate story, see our Ford Year in Review SMPR as an example).
  1. Digital Snippets are modular press release platforms that allow companies to tell evolving stories – not static ones that are over the minute they hit the web. A great example is the F-150 SMPR, which was recently updated to include a significant award, and will continue to be updated as the story unfolds and new features are highlighted.
  1. The term “Digital Snippets” was the name we gave to the modules within the release. Take a look at the SMPR for the Verve Concept Car, each block of assets is what we refer to as a “Snippet” – each one has its own RSS feed, so that when a new piece of news is issued (and an older one archived) subscribers are automatically notified.
  1. In many ways we have cut the cord to the model of the traditional press release. With Digital Snippets you no longer need to issue multiple discrete releases, you merely need to add an update to the existing SMPR on that topic, where it will live in context with all past and future updates, guaranteeing that online content producers have all the assets they require to tell your complete story.

We’d love to spark some productive debate around the functional merits and shortcomings of this latest evolution of the SMPR. Please leave a comment and let us know what you think!

The Social Media Press Release – Digital Snippets

SMPR 2.0
Last October, our firm, Social Media Group (which in 2007 was granted the contract to help the Ford Motor Company develop their global social media strategy) began working on the launch of the newly-redesigned 2008 Ford Focus.

We wanted to involve interested online content producers (not just bloggers) in the press events around the Focus launch, and to also give them the content they needed to tell the best possible story. So we decided to create an SMPR for the Focus. However, rather than hosting images and videos on Ford servers, we saw the benefit of leveraging the native sharing properties of platforms like Flickr and YouTube (i.e. the content becomes findable there as well, rather than just via the SMPR). So that’s what we did, making all of it available under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license (which was somewhat revolutionary in itself. Recognizing this, one of Ford’s competitors released much of their content under a similar license very shortly afterwards).

Of course, we certainly didn’t invent the concept. The first template for a Social Media Press Release was originally developed by Shift Communications not quite two years ago, in May 2006.

Introducing Digital Snippets

Looking back now, I find our first version of the SMPR to be pretty rudimentary. This is probably because in the intervening months, SMG has made some major R&D investments in a platform that makes managing (and, most importantly, updating) SMPR content quick and easy. This revolutionary new webservice is called Digital Snippets, and I’ll let Collin Douma, our Chief Strategist, explain exactly how it looks and functions:

    “SMPRs are used to help digital content creators tell their stories, not just a place where you tell your stories to content creators. That’s a pretty fundamental shift from traditional PR practice, and one that we think far better reflects the current nature of successful communications.
    Once released to the public, the traditional press release is not able to evolve the story. The content is often long, tremendously detailed and heavily editorialized text that the “traditional journalist” is paid to sift through. An SMPR, however, cuts out the editorial and streamlines the core content into easily digestible, quotable and most importantly, updatable “Digital Snippets”. This makes every item posted on an SMPR a potential “asset” for the influencers to quote, republish and editorialize credibly.
    “Digital Snippets” updates the story with any combination of available multimedia assets including photos, videos, audio clips, graphs, pdfs, textual facts and any other type of story update imaginable. Since the new influencers are generally not paid to write, nor are they interested in spending more free time than necessary to create a post, podcast or article, we don’t wish to ask them to sift through 2000-3000 word press releases looking for “the point”. We want to give them the latest information in easily digestible chunks and we want them to be sure their source is credible.
    An SMPR speaks to this and unlike the traditional press release, can be updated to tell the evolving story. Subscribers to the information get an editorial-free update to the SMPR as a “Digital Snippet”.

We’ve since created a SMPRs for Ford on the Digital Snippets platform in support of the Ford Year in Review story, Ford and the Environment, the Verve concept car and the new F-150.

Download the Digital Snippets SMPR Template
In the tradition of Shift Communications’ release of that very first SMPR template, we also want to share. We’ve created a template that illustrates the functionality of the Digital Snippets platform available here as a .pdf for download. So please pull it down and use it as you please, we’ve licensed it under Creative Commons mashup and commercial share and share alike. Shift Communications is also planning to release an updated version of their SMPR template soon – it will be interesting to see if we’re all heading in the same direction.

If you’d like to find our more about SMG’s best-in-class Digital Snippets platform (which is built on open source, incidentally), please contact us. We’d be happy to run you through the program, including some of the metrics and measurements we’ve baked in to ensure that our clients know what’s working and why.

SMG SMPR Template – click to download

    Ultimately, however, we’d love to hear from the social media community. Love it? Hate it? Please let us know what you think about this newest version of the SMPR.

UPDATE: Chris Heuer has put together a quick video commentary explaining the difference between traditional and social media press releases – a great explanation, take a look for yourself.

What I want to be when I grow up.

Zoë Siskos, Social Media Analyst, makes it her business to read and get to know bloggers and other content producers, making sure they’re invited to client events and included in programs that are of interest to them. Her role is a perfect blend of her own blogging experience and her education and work in public relations.

Maggie Fox charged me with the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My profoundly intelligent answer – “Truthfully Maggie? I don’t know.”

Okay, so she caught me a little off guard. It was after sitting in awe, listening to quick-witted banter between two Social Media experts, Maggie Fox and Collin Douma, that I was asked this question. Barely able to recover from the mass of information I took in, I really couldn’t come up with an answer. Now, after a few days of pondering…I still can’t.

You have to understand where I’m coming from. Not even two months ago I was in a job that I loved but working for an organization whose idea of communication meant “What does the President want to hear?” Social media, for me, was a hobby and not to be included in my profession in any way, shape or form. I was not able to delve into it as deeply as I wanted because of pressing deadlines and obligations that steered me far in an opposite direction.

Now, my job career IS social media. I have absorbed, read, written, analyzed and learned more in six weeks than I ever could have even imagined. My synapses are on fire with everything I have been learning. The opportunities are endless because social media is endless.

Okay, enough metaphors and clichés. Let’s get down to some social media fundamentals that I’ve picked up on:

  1. Social media is not a trend, fad, issue, style or business model. It is about getting back to the level of communication we once shared – only restructured to incorporate our modernized culture.
  2. Social media is a reflection of a cultural desire to (re)connect with one another.
  3. Social media is not static. It grows and changes as the people who embrace it grow and change.
  4. The only limitations of social media are that of your imagination.

So, to answer the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” – How about the president of Social Media Group? ;)

Girls in Tech Negotiations Workshop

I wanted to let you know about an event coming up next month in San Francisco. I’ll be busy in NYC with client work, so can’t attend, but I think it is an absolutely great idea, the need for which I recently Twittered about.

Girls in Tech Negotiations Workshop, presented by Katherine Barr, Mohr Davidow Ventures

Knowing how to effectively negotiate is an essential skill in the business world, whether for negotiating a job offer, promotion or raise; strategic planning or problem solving within a project team; or managing relationships with customers, partners and vendors. This interactive session offers insight into key negotiation tools that were first created by the Harvard Negotiation Project and introduced in the best-selling book Getting to Yes (used in major MBA programs globally), and are now being used successfully by thousands of companies around the world.

February 6, 2008

6:30 pm PT – 9:00 pm PT

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
405 Howard St., 8th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

Hosted By Girls in Tech
Created in February of 2007, Girls in Tech was founded by technology marketing and PR maven Adriana Gascoigne. GIT was born to further support girls in an industry that, traditionally, has been primarily, well, mostly full of guys. GIT believes that we’d all be better off by developing better resources, cultivating stronger relationships and celebrating our achievements more often.

Girls in Tech is an organization which caters to intelligent, professional, and influential young women working in the technology industry. The organization is a membership driven group, which aims to provide tools and information to empower, encourage innovation,inspiration and involvement among its members, while seeking to collaborate with like-minded men in the industry.

Girls in Tech offers a variety of resources to women to supplement and further enhance their professional careers in technology. Some of these resources include networking functions, round table discussions, conferences, dinner engagements, and recruitment events.

To find out more or register for this event, please click here.

Social Media Links for January 9th, 2008

1. On Scoble, Facebook and whether European Privacy Laws Stifle Innovation
The fine and upstanding Thomas Otter (also of the DFOF fashion blog, to which I occasionally contribute, unlike some people) makes, and backs up, the case that Robert Scoble, in his recent dust-up with Facebook, may have violated European privacy laws. Scobleizer: champion or showboat? You decide. (49 comments and counting…)

2. A Plenitude of Twitter Apps
New apps are beginning to offer business an opportunity to parse out valuable data from the firehose that is Twitter. A few of my favourites: PoliTweets tracks mentions of politician’s names on Twitter. Twittertale tracks swearing (you kiss your Momma with that mouth?) but of course could be configured to track anything, and Terraminds Twittersearch has indexed all public tweets. I actually find it to be more reliable than Twitter’s own “replies” function.

3. Whuh? You should pay attention to what bloggers say about your company?
This excellent, excellent roundup of why it’s important to pay attention to your reputation online from The Viral Garden is probably the best (and most thorough) summary I have ever seen. Read it. Understand it. Use it to make your case (hat tip to Todd Defren via Twitter)

This isn’t very social media-y, but still of interest:
4. Introducing the $27,000 Mac Pro
Apple announced their new, faster-than-ever Mac Pro yesterday (I know someone in our office who’s probably got their eye on one already). They start at $2799 US, but with a little imagination you can configure a machine that will not only process at the speed of light, but also heat up your dinner (hat tip to Steve Mann).

Pew: Teens using social media more than ever

As if we all needed it, further valuable evidence from the Pew Internet and American Life study showing a continuing increase in social media use by young online Americans. Among the top-level findings:

  • 64% of online teenagers ages 12 to 17 engaged in at least one type of content creation, up from 57% in 2004
  • 35% of all teen girls blog, compared with 20% of online boys
  • 54% of wired girls post photos online compared with 40% of online boys
  • Interestingly, online teen boys are nearly twice as likely as online girls (19% vs. 10%) to have posted a video online somewhere where someone else could see it
    1. And, finally, another finding of interest, the notion of “super communicators”,

      There is a subset of teens who are super-communicators – teens who have a host of technology options for dealing with family and friends, including traditional landline phones, cell phones, texting, social network sites, instant messaging, and email. They represent about 28% of the entire teen population and they are more likely to be older girls.

    Of course this has all kinds of implications for the workplace. I had a really interesting conversation with a potential hire today about the fact that he feels like he’s been actively losing young, intelligent staffers because his current workplace doesn’t recognize that they work differently. This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot since September, when I had a really interesting conversation with Josh Greenbaum at the Office 2.0 conference. There’s a post brewing on that one, so stay tuned.

    Here’s a link to the complete Pew study, called Family, Friends & Community: Teens and Social Media

    Eight things you (probably) didn't know about me

    Since we have grand plans to let the whole universe know a whole lot more about SMG in 2008, it’s probably pretty appropriate to start the New Year by responding to the meme begun by my friend Luis Suarez and continued by my other excellent friend Susan Scrupski. Susan tagged me, and I’ll take up her challenge. So here, without ado, are eight things you (probably) didn’t know about me:

    1. I quit my first job to write a book. The book never got written, and my burning passion to become a famous fiction writer eventually faded. Of course I realized a while ago that if I compiled all the blog entries I’d ever written (both personal and professional) I’d have the makings for several books. Whether or not anyone would read them is another matter, however.

    2. I love Canada. I love this wild country from tip to toe, and while spending time in other places is nice, I will always call Canada home. I am particularly in love with the northern bits. I often dream about swimming in the cool, clean water of Lake Huron (where we have a cottage), and I am anxious for summer to roll around so we can get back. My ideal life would be our place in Tobermory for the summer and an apartment in New York City in the winter. Best of both worlds.

    3. I am an avid birdwatcher. This drives my husband absolutely insane, since it slows hikes in the woods to a stumble. I’m not sure what it is I love so much about orinthology, probably the total quiet and concentration that’s required, and the act of “collecting” sightings and verifying them (I make notes). This past year, one of my highlights was watching a nest of merlins noisily fledge down the road from our place in Tobermory.

    4. I am afraid of dogs. I see them, I get stiff, they see me get stiff, they get stiff, and before you know it, we’re both on guard. It’s something I’m actively working to get over. We have friends with a dog that I know quite well, but the fear is always there, and I know the dog knows it, no matter how casual I try to make my body language. I should really get my own dog to get over it, but that seems like a lot of work.

    5. I have always believed that if you can imagine it, you can do it, and I have never, ever, been proven wrong. I credit my most excellent and intelligent mother for this perspective. She raised me to believe that nothing was out of reach. Consequently, the notion of gender stereotypes hit me as something of a surprise when I entered the workforce. On the upside, this has made them easy to ignore.

    6. My paternal grandfather discovered a star in the 50’s (the celestial kind, not the Hollywood kind). He was an astronomer, chemist and inventor. Uh, I guess that’s not really about me, is it? Well… I’m related to a guy who discovered a star, how about that? My Dad’s family are all mechanically gifted, and through them I am related to the man who invented the modern steel-ribbed umbrella. My three-greats grandfather came to Canada from York in the late 1890’s, and I have a box full of letters from that side of the family that are fascinating (lots about inheritances and family quarrels). I am slowly typing them up and posting them on this blog. I haven’t gotten very far yet.

    7. I love fast cars. A lot. Whenever I’m on the west coast, I rent a Ford Mustang and drive at excessive speeds (amazingly, I have never received a speeding ticket – this is nothing short of miraculous). I’m not pimping for a client, either – I come by my love of the American muscle car honestly. My mom had a ’65 Mustang and my Dad bought a brand new one in 1987. I blame my father for my need for speed – he’s always had sports cars and driven them too fast.

    8. I am the mother of a brilliant and challenging five-year old. My own mother tells me that this is payback, but I don’t know what she’s talking about – I was a perfect child. My son’s name is Jules (Julien) and he is deeply awesome. He’s super cute and sweet, and his favourite food is sushi (ikura sashimi, to be specific). We often say that he’ll either end up in prison or as a Fortune 500 CEO.

    But, enough about me. I’m tagging Collin Douma, Laura Fitton, Shel Israel, Craig Cmehil, Thomas Otter, Kate Trgovac, Leila Boujnane, Jeremiah Owyang and Phil Gomes (yes, yes, I know that’s nine!) to tell us eight things we didn’t know about them.

    Happy New Year!