Friday, September 21, 2007

Less blogging, more project managing

It seems somehow ironic to me that now I'm officially all social media, all the time, I have *less* time for blogging and blog-surfing, and instead find myself up to my elbows in project charters and business cases and the other flotsam and jetsam of government business.

While we started out with grand ideas for our social media project, I'm quickly learning that just because I can dream it doesn't mean we can do it. Even enabling our RSS feeds has had some unique challenges that I never would have imagined.

All that said, here's the gist of what we're hoping to accomplish in the next year or so:

  • enable our RSS feeds and chose a few content streams to syndicate.
  • build a decent user interface and decide on how and what to offer on our Web site with regard to RSS subscription (because we're government, we can't be seen as endorsing, say, Bloglines over Google Reader.)
  • set up a series of Webinars - some educational, others consultative - with specific client groups.
  • produce half a dozen or so short, downloadable "podcasts" and make them available on our Web site, perhaps in up to three languages in addition to English and French.
  • produce one longer videocast, maybe three to five minutes long, and make it available for download from our Web site. (It was our first preference to be able to offer these in streaming media, but our IT support slammed that door in a hurry. "Streaming" is apparently a dirty word around here.)

We're also working on how to formalize the monitoring of social media in the same way we currently monitor other mainstream media, and working on at least one policy directive relating to social media, covering everything from employee blogging to corporate behaviour.

Over the longer term, we're looking at hosting a blog, and maybe even an online discussion forum on our Web site, but I've been told there are enough significant security, policy and infrastructure issues that it will be a long time before this part comes to fruition.

In the interim, though, a huge hat-tip to my colleagues over at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who have just launched their own blog. Very nicely done, too.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Banning social media at work

Last week, PC World ran an article titled, "Don't Ban Facebook at Work, Researchers Advise." The researchers in question were from Britain's Trade Union Congress (TUC), which suggested that employee education and policies governing the use of Facebook and other social networking sites on company time would be a more productive response than banning them outright.

While it's unacceptable for employees to spend hours at work on such sites, it is OK and even beneficial to trust them to spend a few minutes using the sites, the TUC said. 'It's unreasonable for employers to try to stop their staff from having a life outside work, just because they can't get their heads around the technology.'

We're facing our own in-house struggles with the net nanny these days. Last month, just when we were on the threshold of launching our social media project, changes were made to the filters that permit Web access, and most employees with Internet access found that access to blogs had been cut off. It's not exactly easy to do a social media project when you can't get into the blogosphere! Worse, it's now six weeks later and only about a dozen of us have had our access restored while almost 200 are on a priority list to be reinstated... something which might not happen any time soon, as our security people apparently have some serious concerns about enabling access. Actually heard at one meeting: "But, did you know blogs have porn on them?"


In granting our unfettered access to blogland, though, the configuration of the net nanny means that the lucky few who have had our access to blogs restored have also been given access to Facebook. And we have been told, in no uncertain terms, that ALL access will be monitored, and ANY employee who accesses Facebook may be subject to disciplinary action.

I guess this means I'll have to wait until I get home to play Scrabulous with my Friends.

Friday, September 7, 2007


After an extended summer holiday from work-related blogging, I'm back. What better time than September, and after a prolonged absence, to reinvent oneself?

First of all, you might notice I've switched to the first person. I may occasionally slip back to the royal "we", but that's just many years of government peonship overriding my individualistic tendencies. While I'm still part of a team, I've given up on the idea that anybody else might be contributing to this blog any time in the near future. It's all me, all the time.

Me, I'm Danielle. I'm choosing to remain partly pseudonymous because I'm just not sure my organization is ready for me to out the lot of us just yet. And my organization will remain pseudonymous for now, too, as it allows me just a little bit more candor. I'm a communications strategist with a large Canadian federal government department, and as of last month I'm working full time on social media in a government communications context.

I'd like to reinvent this blog over the next little while, too. Rather than focusing on what the rest of the world is doing with social media, an increasingly crowded field, I'd like to share our experiences with you as we struggle as an organization to figure out the implications and applications of social media as they apply to government communications. We've moved out of the research phase of our social media experiment and over the next year we hope to implement a few concrete pilot projects to see how we can make the tools of social media work with and for us.

As always, anything written in this blog is my opinion alone and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer.

(Hat tip to Marc Snyder, who many weeks - it might have been months - ago encouraged me to be a little bit more forthcoming about the warm bodies behind the blog.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The PMO, the Cabinet ministers and Facebook

Sorry about the sparse posting lately. Too many tasks and not enough people to go around. Things should settle down soon, and I've got some great ideas for future posts.

But! Today, I wanted to share this article from The Hill Times, the official newspaper of Parliament Hill. In a rather unfortunate move, it seems the PMO has banned Cabinet ministers from having personal pages on Facebook. (Sorry, the article is open to subscribers only.) The article notes:

Conservative sources told Hill Climbers that senior PMO officials instructed all chiefs of staff to Cabinet ministers last month at their weekly meetings to "encourage" ministerial staffers to remove their pages from Facebook because they don't want personal information or political views posted which could potentially create negative press and fodder for opposition parties.

The PMO took this course of action after CBC TV on May 16, took quotes from the Facebook web page of Jeffrey Kroeker, former senior staffer to Marjory LeBreton, government leader in the Senate and now director of communications and Parliamentary affairs to Helena Guergis, secretary of state for Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

I suppose this doesn't bode well for a Cabinet minister having a blog any time soon, does it?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Facebook and the civil servants

Michael Geist had an interesting column this week on the hugely popular social networking site Facebook. He provides a bit of a history of Facebook (hard to believe it's only been open to the Internet at large since September 2006!) and some insight into how users are connecting and why it's so popular. Geist notes, "Statistics Canada estimates that there are approximately 17 million Canadian Internet users, suggesting that in the span of nine months the site has grown to the point that roughly one in 10 Canadian Internet users now has a page on the site."

Responding to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's recent statement that Facebook offers little value to public servants, Dr. Geist observes, "Is there really no benefit to having government policymakers access and participate in the hundreds of groups discussing Ontario health care issues? Would it be so bad for elected officials to actually engage with their constituents in a social network environment?"

On his blog, Dr Geist adds the following opinion: "Attempts to block such activity are not only bound to fail, but they ultimately cut off decision makers, school officials, and community leaders from their communities. The answer does not lie in banning Facebook or the other emerging social media sites, but rather in facing up to Facebook fears and learning to use these new tools to engage and educate."

We don't have access to Facebook here, either, but that's because our Agency's net-nanny filters it as a "personals and dating" site.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The government doesn't like miscellany

Boing Boing posted a review yesterday of a new book by philosopher, technologist and Web commentator David Weinberger, best known for his book and Web site called The Cluetrain Manifesto. His latest book, subject of the Boing Boing review, is called Everything is Miscellaneous, which looks like required reading for anybody interested in the sociological effects of social media.

According to the review, "Weinberger's thesis is this: historically, we've divided the world into categories, topics, and hierarchies because physical objects need to be in one place or another, they can't be in all the places they might belong. Computers and the Internet turn this on its head: because a computer can "put things" in as many categories as they need to be in, because individuals can classify knowledge, tasks, and objects idiosyncratically, the hierarchy is revealed for what it always was, a convenient expedient masquerading as the True Shape of the Universe."

It's the next part of the review that I found so relevant to our considerations of government in the face of social media and Web 2.0. It says, "It's a powerful idea: from org charts to science, from music to retail theory, from government to education, every field of human endeavor is tinged with hierarchy, and every hierarchy is under assault from the Internet."

Yet more evidence to support the idea that we need to subvert our traditional top-down command and control models when considering the bureacracy in a socially-networked world.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Strategies for organizing a Corporate Social Media Program

Jeremiah Owyang writes a blog called Web Strategy, and offered in a recent post some excellent thoughts on integrating social media into an organization. I'm reprinting a large portion of the post verbatim, simply because the advice is so concise, so relevant and so right (thanks to Ian Ketcheson for the link.)

  • Recognize the new influencers. Like Media, Press, and Analysts, consider Social Media yet an additional influencer group to reach.
  • Prepare for all scenarios. Create an internal process or at least discuss how to deal with crises. (such as exploding products, embarrassing situations). Draw from classic PR strategies, but realize that acting quickly in a human way, and not hiding is key.
  • Don’t shy away. Acknowledge deficiencies, no matter how shameful immediately. If you don’t have the answer, at least acknowledge you see the problem and will respond as soon as you have an answer. As a result you will become the first source of news, and will control any additional buzz. Stay relevant, address the issues.
  • Human media is at your disposal. Consider using video to humanize communications, during a crisis this could be a big difference. Recently Jet Blue and KFC have done these during crises.
  • Address the good as well as the bad. In addition to planning for fire drills, be sure to plan for positive unexpected events. If a customer raves about your produce on his blog, learn how to acknowledge and harness. There’s a variety of ways to use this.
  • Track who’s who. Create an index of bloggers and influences in your industry, consider putting on an internal list, an internal feedreader or even on an industry wiki.
  • Appoint and Empower. For especially large organizations figure out who’s on point to respond to bloggers and social media in different segments, product groups or verticals. Teach them, empower them and support them to act without unnecessary political review processes. Let them be human.
  • Employees will blog, embrace. In addition to creating the corporate blog(s), be sure to recognize the natural employee bloggers that appear. You may find them in the product groups, support, and marketing departments. Have a discussion on how to include them in your strategy, even if it means to let them continue on their own. When it comes to trust, prospects and customers may trust employee bloggers that don’t have the corporate logo on their blog.
  • The Blogging/Ethics Policy. This depends on the corporate situation, for some companies, this is a requirement, and for other companies, this is already covered in the employee ethics policy. Figure out what’s right for your culture. Ultimately, you should trust your employees, if not, why did you hire them?
  • Consider creating the “Air Traffic Control Tower”. Just like at an airport, having an internal direction to let know corporate and employee bloggers know what’s happening is helpful. This internal blog could help let bloggers know what’s appropriate to say, what’s not, and indicate what’s happening out on the blogosphere. Use to keep track of advocates and detractors, and use tags as appropriate to create a running history.
  • Use Social Media as Sales Tools. I’ve found that corporate blogs can be used for sales and marketing three ways: 1) A “living” white paper by your companies thought leaders, 2) A rapid response tool. Think about how long a press release takes to craft. 3) A Conversation Starter: encourage your sales teams to send along interesting or controversial blog topics to prospects and customers to elicit a dialogue –even if they don’t agree. Consider creating sales FAQs and upload to intranet, these are tools that can be used.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The British tax collectors, HM Revenue & Customs, have recently launched a series of podcasts with free tax advice:

The service <> , launched on 12 April 2007, makes the government department one of the first to use the medium. It said it will help to make information on various issues simple and accessible.

The podcasts last between three and four minutes, and offer advice, support and helpful hints in a conversational style.

One of the first is aimed at helping employers to file their end of year returns. It leads them through the process step by step, telling them what options are available and providing advice on other sources of information.

Another podcast, launched on the same day, discusses topical issues relating to the tax profession. It carries an interview with HMRC's director general (business) Dave Hartnett, talks about the lessons learned from last year's trials of new style inspections, and how the department is trying to work better with agents.

"Compliance interventions are rightly one of the issues most discussed by tax practitioners today," said Chris Hopson, communications and marketing director at HMRC. "The launch of podcasts is another way HMRC is endeavouring to communicate better with this vital audience."

From Kable's Government Computing, with a hat-tip to Colin of Canuckflack.

Monday, April 16, 2007

When social media goes too far

This subject wanders a bit from our intended focus on the intersection of government and social media, but I can't help myself on posting this editorial aside.

A colleauge has just forwarded me this link to CNN's coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting today. CNN has pulled out all the social media stops, offering an annotated campus map, an interactive map of Blackburg Virginia, and video clips of the police chief describing where the bodies were found. Even more disturbing, though, are the links to video clips of ambulances rushing to the scene and of a student's camera-phone recording of "police responding to loud bangs."

Maybe I'm just averse to this kind of sensationalism, but I think this is way too much information.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mass to Grass: Canada's Word of Mouth Marketing Conference

I had the great pleasure of attending the Canadian Marketing Association's first-ever Word of Mouth Marketing Conference in Toronto this week. It was one of those all-too-rare conferences that turned out to far exceed my expectations. Every session was interesting, but some of them were simply phenomenal.

There were a wide variety of speakers, from author Jackie Huba (author of Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force and Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message) to Kyle MacDonald of One Red Paperclip fame to Eric Petersen, Director of Community Relations at Lululemon. There were also speakers from Rogers Publishing, Yahoo! Canada, Ogilvy & Mather, and Cossette Media, among many others.

I have more than a dozen pages of nearly illegible notes, but I manage to glean some interesting statistics on word of mouth marketing and social media from the various presentations. Some of the more salient ones:

  • nearly 2/3 of purchasing decisions are made based on word of mouth advertising.
  • 70% of CEOs say they will use some form of word of mouth marketing in the next year.
  • more than 48 million users in the United States have created some form of "user-generated content" (USG) on the Internet (everything from writing a blog to uploading a video to YouTube to writing a review on Although a comparable Canadian statistic isn't available, Internet penetration is higher in Canada than the US and it is known that 58% of Canadians have read or wrote a blog.
  • 87% of consumers will research a purchase online before buying offline.
  • only 1% of the population that reads a particular social media channel(forum or bulletin board or other) will participate by actively creating content for it, and only 10% of the audience with interact with that content.

The presentations covered a wide range of subjects relating to word of mouth marketing, and I only attended those sessions that had a particular focus on social media and user-generated content. Here's a few of the bits that caught my attention.

Jackie Huba said that social media allows marketers to connect with customers in new and uniquely interactive ways, and that consumer participation and involvement begets customer loyalty. She also stressed that in today's market "you are your Google results." Joe Thornley wrote a great summary her presentation over on his ProPR blog.

Doug Walker of TBWA (and founder of the World Rock Paper Scissors Society) said that the RPS society was both the dumbest idea he ever had, and the most successful. In his view, the four principles of a successful word of mouth campaign are: authority, mutation (to keep perpsectives fresh and relevant), participation and accretion (one by one, things build mass around a centre of gravity.)

Janet Kestin, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy & Mather, is behind the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty campaign for Unilever. She talked about the Evolution video, the most successful branded viral film ever: they had so much traffic in the first 24 hours of launch that their server crashed, and had two million hits in two weeks. Within days, the mainstream media were reporting on it, and it has since been viewed by more than 600 milion people. The film alone reinvigorated the Real Beauty campaign and drove up share prices. Kestin, who admits she was a neophyte to social media at the beginning of the campaign, offers the following advice: "if you've done it, do it differently" and "fish where the fish are." She also says be open to the risk, read the wind and timing is everything, and believes that marketing in today's world means chasing interests and passion over demographics.

The last two sessions of the day had some lively interactive debating on the social media and word of mouth marketing. Some quick hits from the panel featuring David Jones of Fleishman-Hillard, Rob Cottingham of Social Signal and Steve Osgoode from HarperCollins:
  • Social media is risk. "If you don't have the stones for it, don't bother."
  • Web 1.0 was about eyeballs. Web 2.0 is about hands (as in, poised over the keyboard, typing madly.)
  • If it makes your boss squirm, you're probably on the right track.
  • It doesn't matter whether social media 'belongs' to the PR deparment, the marketing department, communications or the CEO. What's important is that somebody does it, and somebody is participating in a meaningful way. It requires internal champions.
  • The value of social media cannot be measured in ROI terms. Expectations cannot be results-driven.
  • Sell social media in your organization as something new to try, not the be-all end-all solution.
  • Some users, especially those unfamiliar with the platform, might find Second Life tedious and horribly unintuitive. What's far more important than where it is now is what it is capable of being and where it is heading (just like the Internet in 1995 compared to now.)

It was truly an excellent conference. Take a tour around the blogosphere for some other perspectives on the day's festivities: One Degree (and here, too), Scott MacDonald, and Sean from Craphammer had spoken up as of press time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A blogger code of conduct

Several prominent bloggers have started work on a Blogger Code of Conduct, partly in response to the online bullying experienced by tech blogger and author Kathy Sierra last month. Sierra cancelled a scheduled public speaking engagement and then stopped blogging altogether after comments on and about her blog denigrated to death threats.

The Code of Conduct has been posted to a site called Wikia, so any and all bloggers can contribute to the discussion about the development of the Code. The Code itself calls for a fairly basic set of civil behaviours including taking responsiblity for one's own words, defending others when they are unfairly attacked and not allowing commenters to post anonymously.

While there are many who support the Code, others question the validity of something that is ultimately unenforceable, and complain that it infringes on the right to free speech.

I was personally horrified at the cyber-bullying that happened to Kathy Sierra, and while I've seen some vitriolic comments in the blogosphere, I've never seen anything even remotely that hateful. And while I think the Code is a well-intentioned concept, I don't think it will have any practical or measurable effect on the blogosphere. I expect it will remain largely ignored by the people who most need to heed it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We're back!

Sorry for the long gap between posts. This project, while dear to our hearts, had to take a back seat to some other things that were going on. Let's just say we've all had a crash course in crisis communications - and survived!

Please stand by, and we'll have more new conversations on government and social media here in the near future!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

On defining social media

Are you still trying to wrap your head around the whole idea of social media? I found a couple of neat perspectives recently.

There was an article in the weekend Ottawa Citizen about the fall and rise of the amateur, starting with the 19th century when amateur photographer George Eastman parlayed his kitchen experiments into the Kodak conglomerate. The article describes how in the early part of the 20th century, amateurism came to be seen as synonymous with mediocrity, and to opine that in the 21st century, technology has once again empowered amateurs and imbued them with a certain authority.

This paragraph in particular explains the growing trend of the populace to trust the voice and authority of a blogger or other virtual (pardon the pun) stranger over the Internet:

Mass media have become too small for all the energy possessed by the abundance of skilled people out there. This is not a movement of elite amateurs, but rather of non-elite amateurism. The new enthusiasts are flourishing in an era when the supposed professionals -- politicians, pundits, weapons inspectors, emergency relief experts -- seem to fail us at every turn. The incompetence of these experts has not only fuelled the amateurs but has also, not coincidentally, become the amateurs' target. No wonder so many people are relying on themselves and looking to one another as sources of information, entertainment and assistance.

Duelling bloggers Robert Scoble and Stowe Boyd tackled the topic of defining social media on the weekend. Scobles opines that the best way to understand “social” media is to compare it with what came before (i.e. print media, TV, radio, etc.) and notes the main difference is the interactivity of blogs, the range of technology (i.e. audio, video and text all in the same post), and editorial control.

In response, Stowe Boyd posted an elegant diatribe on social media. He first provides four characteristics that define social media: it is not a broadcast medium (i.e. convential one-to-many communication model); it is many-to-many; it is open; it is disruptive. (In explaining the last, he says, “We, the edglings, are having a conversation amongst ourselves, now; and if CNN, CEOs, or the presidential candidates want to participate they will have to put down the megaphone and sit down at the cracker barrel to have a chat.”)

Finally, he offers first a prediction, and then a working definition of social media:

The societal phenomenon of Social Media (supported by the nuts and bolts of social media tools) has been a profound one, over the past decade. I predict that the impact in the next decade will be even more sweeping, and much more widespread. As an additional billion or two of the world's population finds its way onto the web, our only hope may be that the web finds its way into the world: that the principles of openness, transparency, diversity, and egalitarianism that engender web culture remake the world, one conversation at a time. Political parties, multinationals, the corner dress shop, your county government -- everything will be influenced by the infectious openness of the web, because the edglings will simply not settle for less.

That's another way of defining Social Media: it is the way that we are organizing ourselves to communicate, to learn, and to understand the world and our place in it. And we just won't accept any models for that that aren't intensely social: we won't put up with large organizations telling us what is right, or true, or necessary. We will now have those conversations among ourselves, here, at the edge. Social Media has released us, freed us: and we won't go back.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Social bookmarking

Another facet of the information sharing that characterizes social media is ‘social bookmarking’. Sites like allow people to ‘tag’ their favourite sites in much the same way you would add a site to your ‘favourites’ folder, except the bookmarks are held online and, most importantly, shared with others.

Users can ‘tag’ web pages, ideally with a descriptive category title, and file them online for future reference and sharing with others. For example, here’s a page of delicious tags for social media. Note how a certain amount of status is conferred on a link by the number of people who have tagged it.

I liked this overview on folksonomies from an article in D-Lib magazine:

Just as long as those hyperlinks (or let's call them plain old links) are managed, tagged, commented upon, and published onto the Web, they represent a user's own personal library placed on public record, which – when aggregated with other personal libraries – allows for rich, social networking opportunities. Why spill any ink (digital or not) in rewriting what someone else has already written about instead of just pointing at the original story and adding the merest of titles, descriptions and tags for future reference? More importantly, why not make these personal 'link playlists' available to oneself and to others from whatever browser or computer one happens to be using at the time?

Now that tagging and social bookmarking have been around for a couple of years, the next iteration is the rating and ranking of these shared bookmarks. The Wall Street Journal online ran an article last week on this phenomenon, called The Wizards of Buzz.

A couple of excerpts:

A new generation of hidden influencers is taking root online, fueled by a growing love affair among Web sites with letting users vote on their favorite submissions. These sites are the next wave in the social-networking craze -- popularized by MySpace and Facebook. Digg is one of the most prominent of these sites, which are variously labeled social bookmarking or social news. Others include (recently purchased by Condé Nast), (bought by Yahoo), and Netscape relaunched last June with a similar format.


It's also giving rise to an obsessive subculture of ordinary but surprisingly influential people who, usually without pay and purely for the thrill of it, are trolling cyberspace for news and ideas to share with their network.


Most sites are based on a voting model. Members look around the Web for interesting items, such as video clips, blog entries or news articles. A member then writes a catchy description and posts it, along with a link to the material, on the site, in hopes that other members find it just as interesting and show their approval with an electronic thumbs-up vote. Items that receive enough votes rise in the rankings and appear on the front page, which can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people. When an item is submitted by a popular or influential member -- one whose postings are closely followed by fellow members -- it can have a much better shot at making the front page.

Want to know more about social bookmarking? Wikipedia has an exhaustive history of the origins, as well as some advantages and disadvantages.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How not to blog

Even though she's out on language training, Kerry is still thinking about social media and communications! She sent me this earlier in the week:

Over at, the official site of the Republican party, there's a link at the far right hand side of the menu for the official blog. Sounds exciting right, and a great opportunity, since the site itself is really nothing more than a huge opportunity to share information (it's loaded with audio and video), and everything has a "share this" link or an "embed this" link on it.

However, the blog has not been updated since November 2006, before the last election. I'm guessing it's because they fire all their employees shortly after an election. But still, this is insanity. People are running for president and they aren't commenting. They aren't even linking to other bloggers. This is a waste of potential, and I fear it could happen to us if we do an official blog. It isn't someone's job, therefore it slips off the agenda. Or we just pervert press releases and make that our blog.

I think this is a good lesson learned.

If you'd like to contribute something to this blog, feel free to e-mail it to me through our blog mail box: canadiancybrarian (at) gmail (dot) com. (Edited to add: I previously had the wrong e-mail address listed here! My apologies if you tried to send something and it didn't get through.)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Links for 9 February 2007

Still not sure what this whole blog thing is about? Need to back up and read a little Blog 101? Check out Matthew Ingram’s great article from the Globe and Mail this week: A blog for every occasion.

If you’re a little more blog savvy, you might be interested in this report, via, on “splogs” (spam blogs): Pings, Spings, Splogs and the Splogosphere: 2007 Updates

Also via Ian, an update on the Houston Metro blog fiasco (looks like they do ‘get it’ after all! Good for them! It’s still a fascinating case study, especially in the comment section.) And, for a completely different take on transit advocacy and social media, take a look at the Toronto Transit Camp (slogan: Bettering the Better Way) from proponents of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

More thoughts on social media news releases

Props to the folks over at the Prime Minister’s office, who have gone beyond simply posting video clips on the PM’s official Web site and have now created a YouTube account and started uploading clips of the PM’s speeches. (via CTV journalist and blogger David Akin.)

Ironic that this 'news' broke just as a colleague started looking into doing just this sort of thing. She’s wondering about making video and audio clips available on our own external Web site. Why not? Why not make downloadable clips of designated spokespeople talking, instead of just printed citations? Instead of just getting pick-up in the print media, we can start pushing content out to the broadcast media - not just the big outlets, but think of all those community stations and the local radio shows. And we could do it in multiple languages, not just English and French but Mandarin and Punjabi and other large ethnic concentrations. And since we've already got the clips, why not upload them to YouTube?

And while all that was percolating in my brain, this morning I read this great post by Brendan Hodgson at Hill & Knowlton on the social media newsroom. He calls the newsroom “the pulse of an organization's public-facing website,” a virtual ‘broadcast hub’ that, when done right, “serves as a convenient one-stop resource for journalists (who rely heavily on the internet - and corporate web sites - for timely, useful background information around a company, product or issue), [becoming] a potent vehicle for communicating to all interested audiences the vision and values of an organization.” He goes on to argue for a newsroom that is “a portal of sorts configured to channel content - be it video, audio, text, photos, blogs, podcasts etc. - in a way that creates a significantly richer experience, and which can meaningfully impact the myriad of variables that drive reputation - from the perspectives of accessibility, relevancy, transparency, and context.” (Sorry for the extensive quoting, but I really think Brendan got this bang-on, and I think we are seriously underutilizing the capabilities of our website newsroom.)

I poked around to see if any Canadian government organizations have been using video clips in their public news rooms, but I didn’t find much. Agriculture has some Tony Clement talking about Canada’s new food guide. Know of any others out there?

So, what do you think? Is it time for governments to start offering downloadable audio and video clips? Could a departmental podcast be far behind?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The "social media' press release

There’s some debate right now in the Web 2.0 world of the value of the reinvention of the news release as a “social media news release”. Click through to this example, from Web 2.0 guru PR firm Edelman, to see how the structure is different from a traditional news release: Business More Trusted Than Media and Government in Every Region of the Globe

The social media release takes all the components of the traditionally structured narrative-style news release and breaks them down to the basic building blocks: relevant facts, quotable quotes, standard boilerplate and contact information. It then adds Web 2.0 goodies like multimedia clips, links, folksonomy tags, and even a commenting feature.

Not everyone sees the need to reinvent the wheel. Microsoft’s highly respected Überblogger and social media evangelist Robert Scoble, calls the idea “lame,” initiating a lively debate on the nature and necessity of news releases, both traditional and Web 2.0, in the comment section after his post.

Conference follow-up

Just a quick post to say hello to any newcomers who might be arriving after our communications conference last week.

I was amazed at how many of the conference speakers touched on various aspects of social media, and very pleased to hear how strong our organization's support is for these early forays into research on the tools of social media.

We talked about how to use this blog as a communication tool, but a few of you expressed concern about how public a forum it is. For those of you who weren't aware, yes, this blog and the comments are indexed by Google and other search engines, and the content is available to anyone who happens to stumble by.

We're talking about other options, like a password protected blog or bringing the blog inside the firewall, but for now, please feel free to comment with your first name only or an alias if you prefer. To join the conversation, click on the "comment" link at the end of each post and add your thoughts in the box that will pop up. The comment box will ask for your e-mail address, but only I will see that, and you can leave that blank if you choose.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Links for 23 January 2007

Some interesting finds from the blogosphere this week:

"You" are not as cool as you think you are Interesting discussion of the value of user-generated content, including the much-hyped Superbowl ads for Doritos, Chevy and the NFL.

Should we have a chat? From the IABC, a post that questions the value of Web chatting as a communication tool.

Via Maggie at Social Media Group, news that Deloitte has launched a blog for and by employees. It encourages employees to share their personal experiences around the issues of career advancement and work/life balance. After being run internally for 18 months with some success, the blog was launched externally last week. Personally, I think as an organization we’d have more success focusing on this type of blog than on a CEO-authored corporate blog.

And on the subject of CEO blogging, in a recent post Ian Ketcheson opined rather succinctly “It is ill-advised for an organization’s first big step into social media to be a CEO blog,” in response to this article on the World Economic Forum’s recommendation that CEOs join the blog bandwagon.

And finally, via BuzzCanuck, an article in Marketing Magazine that looks at trends in Canadian marketing and media: more than 50% of marketers are likely or somewhat likely to use some form of social media in the upcoming year and more than 30% have already “tested the waters.”

Friday, January 19, 2007

Managing expectations

It’s tempting to get swept up onto the social media bandwagon, but large public organizations such as ours need to evaluate all the outcomes, including managing expectations.

One of the inherent problems of social media as an interactive tool is dealing with the expectations that are created. For example, the Houston Metro blog was a well-intentioned attempt to engage the public in a conversation, but they quickly found out that what they wanted to discuss and what their key public – transit riders themselves – wanted to discuss were completely different issues.

Similarly, John Edwards has demonstrated that he’s cognizant of social media by engaging the public through blogs and YouTube, and the blogosphere has been generally receptive to his approach. However, this post demonstrates that in doing so, he may have set the standard too high and has set a level of expectation that might be unreasonable, or even unattainable.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Paul Wells on goverment and social media

Paul Wells, famous both for his column in Macleans and his popular Inkless Wells blog, wrote this week about speaking "to some civil servants about new media, social media and other jargon terms for the rising use of blogs, Youtube, social networking sites and the Wiki concept of communal editing and online brainstorming." (Boy, would I ever have loved being a part of THAT conversation! If all goes according to plan, I might get my wish at the next Third Monday gathering, as the early buzz says Paul Wells himself will be the guest speaker.)

He goes on to talk about the potential of social media to facilitate the process of public consultation and citizen engagement: "One of the niftiest ideas I've heard is that a policy proposal could, itself, be wiki'd: Publish a discussion paper and then invite people — either any ordinary Canadian who wants to participate, or perhaps a password-equipped community of experts and stakeholders — to amend the document themselves, just as Wikipedia entries are amended. Post the paper, notify stakeholders, wait a month, then come back to see how it's grown."

And just so I stop short of reproducing his entire blog post verbatim, I'll exhort you to visit his post for a round-up of some government initiatives in this area.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Links for 17 January 2007

Canada's 1% Blogging Army
Canadian Marcom blogger Sean Moffitt has pulled together an excellent compilation of more than 150 influential Canadian bloggers. He has also launched a wiki (a collaborative Web site) under the same title. It’s a who’s who of Canadians blogging about marketing, communications, media and culture.

Internal Communications Channels Study
Contains a link to a new Edelman study called "New Frontiers in Employee Communications", as well as a fairly long list of links to other recent studies on corporate use of new media technologies. (Looks like I’ve got a lot of reading skimming to do!)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday round-up of social media links

Did you know the Royal Bank of Canada has a blog? In this case, the blog was launched in the wake of an innovation contest sponsored by the bank. RBC says, “The Innovator Blog is your inside source for advice and guidance on the RBC Next Great Innovator Challenge. Visit frequently for tips on teen trends, innovation principles, and general challenge announcements.”

Also interesting, this (via newly launched official blog of the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority. Note the hostile comments from a small but vocal group and demands for information and responses far beyond the intended scope of the blog, very likely similar in nature to what a Canadian government department with a large contingent of vocal opponents might expect.

From Micropersuation, some interesting statistics on the global blogosphere. Based on research by PR firm Edelman, “74% of Japanese read blogs, followed by 43% in South Korea and 39% in China. In the US, it’s about 27% and its even less in Europe. Blog readership is significantly higher among influencers - people who for instance, contact a political, attend a public meeting etc.” Edelman has come out with a white paper called A Corporate Guide to the Global Blogosphere. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve sacrificed a few trees to print a copy for perusal after I finish the digital dialogues paper.

More interesting links:

The Power 150 - America’s Top Marketing Blogs, as ranked on the basis of Google pagerank, bloglines subscribers, technorati ranking and the blogger’s own opinion.

19% of fastest growing U.S. companies use blogs

And, if you’re in the Ottawa area, on Monday evening there will be a meetup for those with a special interest in social media and public relations. See this post for details.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Trends in government and socia media

There’s been lots of talk about government and social media in the blogosphere this week. For example:

Michael Geist's regular column in the Toronto Star addresses how the government should respond to the user-generated content boom that is driving social media: “Ten years later, the role of government will be to support the enormous economic and cultural potential of user-generated content, while avoiding steps that might impede its growth. It can do so by focusing on the three "C’s" - connectivity, content, and copyright.”

Via Blogging4Business, an article in The Independent criticizing UK Environment Minister David Miliband‘s blog, asserting among other things that it has cost £40,000, or approximately £1 per word.

And speaking of the UK, Ian Ketcheson provides a helpful roundup of government and social media initiatives in the UK, with lots of linky goodness. Especially interesting is this interim report of the government’s Digital Dialogues project, which is exploring the use of interactive communication technologies by the government for citizen engagement. I’m about 1/3 into the paper, and it has a lot of interesting insight. Highly recommended reading!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Politician and civil servant bloggers in Singapore

I stumbled across a blog called Rambling Librarian, a personal weblog of what appears to be a government-employed librarian in Singapore. He too is exploring the intersection of personal blogging and government blogging, including a couple of posts on blogging guidelines for employees.

From the same blog, I found a link to a blog on which Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo, has contributed more than 30 guest posts, and I read how in a recent national address, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong committed to using new media: “We still need to get our message across. We will use the new media, multimedia, podcast, broadcast, all these things which you get in the Internet, or somebody sends to you by email, I think our ministries, our agencies have to experiment, have to try it out.”

Also from the Rambling Librarian, I found a link to a blog called, with a post examining trends in Singapore’s political blogosphere. From there, I found this post about the MSM ‘outing’ of a group of public servants who have been blogging in Singapore. Also from the post, I found a link to a government-sanctioned group blog by 12 Singaporean Members of Parliament, all born since 1965.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Links for 02 January 2007

  • Have you RSS'd yourself? A must-learn (easy) trick for 2007
    I am a big fan of Debbie Weil’s The Corporate Blogging Book, and in this post she gives a lovely little tutorial on using some common social media tools to monitor the chatter of the Internet. Has some good links, and great explanations in (almost) layperson’s terms.

  • blogging delivers five-fold increase in stormhoek sales in less than two years?
    In addition to being an A-list blogger and clever cartoonist, Hugh McLeod blogs for a small winery called Stormhoek. In the link referenced above, he posts a fascinating summary of his efforts and rewards in the blogosphere in 2006. In a post from last year, he explains how interacting with the blogosphere in 2005 changed Stormhoek’s marketing philosophy, and doubled their sales in just twelve months:
    We're talking tens of thousands of cases, here. […] I have been saying this for years, and still not everybody believes me: "Blogs are a good way of making things happen indirectly." No, bloggers and their friends didn't start suddenly descending on supermarkets, buying the wine in large numbers. That's not how it works. What happened is that by interfacing with the blogosphere, it fundementally changed how Stormhoek looked at treating their primary customers (the supermarket chains) and the end-users (the supermarkets'customers).

  • Top 10 Viral Video Moments of 2006

John Edwards' social media campaign

In announcing that his candidacy for the President of the United States, John Edwards has shown a remarkable grasp of and appreciation of the power of social media. For one thing, he announced his intention to announce his candidacy on YouTube. He’s obviously comfortable with blogging, MySpace, and Flickr.

But even moreso, as the Washington Post observed, he seems to get that social media has transformed the power structure and the way we communicate: “Smart candidates know the old command-and-control structures of politics don't work anymore. Instead, campaigns are all about building communities and speaking directly to supporters, whether through email or podcasts or what the Edwards team calls "webisodes."”

Time magazine noted: “Once he made it official, Edwards' campaign pitch got even more unorthodox. He started his short speech by saying Americans needed to "take action" in a way that almost seemed to minimize the importance of whoever might be President — now or in 2009. "We want people in this campaign to actually take action now," Edwards said, "not later, not after the election. We don't want to hope that whoever's elected the next leader of the United States of America is going to solve all our problems for us. Because that will not happen." He encouraged people to volunteer, particularly in storm-damaged areas in New Orleans.”

Social media is all about this ‘power to the people’ mentality. And so far, Edwards seems to be one of the few politicians who has gone beyond simply trying to manipulate the new tools using the old mindset. As one blogger noted, if he’s elected in 2008, Edwards is well-poised to be the first Social Media President.