Blogger Outreach: The right way to do it?

It is not uncommon to have played multiple sides of the field in the influencer game. I’ve been a blogger for fun (hi there!) and for profit, a digital marketer and a community manager. While never working specifically in PR, many elements of the last two jobs in particular have seen reasonable overlaps between my role and that of a PR and communications department or agency.

Something I thought we’d all left behind when so many of us started batting for both teams  is the ‘us vs them’ mentality; bloggers endlessly berating PRs for bad practice, and PRs claiming unprofessionalism in the other direction. In a world where it’s very possible that half of the equation is doing what they do as a sideline, or even a hobby*, there is still a lot of suspicion about how to deal with each other.

Straight off I’m going to say I simply don’t think there is a one way to do this well. I’m slightly wary of “five steps to outrageously good influencer outreach” type posts because all influencers are people, as are all PRs and comms professionals, and people have to work within the nuanced world of, y’know, other people. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that this is all based on relationships. You can think logically about supporting a good relationship – keep in touch between projects, RT that post – but it makes me very uncomfortable to think of gaming it.  I don’t believe it can even work in the long term, anyway; your inauthentic approach will eventually give you away. If you project frankness and reliability, you’ll get it in return; you might even end up with some new friends. Honesty is everything to bloggers – it’s pretty much all they have to build a reputation on, and I can’t see why that shouldn’t extend to brand partners, too.

Of course, sometimes things will go wrong. The ask won’t be quite right. The timing will be off. It’ll turn out that for some reason you couldn’t possibly have been aware of this was exactly the wrong person to ask. No-one gets this right all the time or even every time. But I think there are ways to avoid getting it actively wrong.

So having said I don’t think there’s a right way, there are some general common sense tips that I would like to think are a part of every decent strategy already. I repeat them because I find it’s sometimes all too easy to overlook the fundamental steps. Below are my observations, all of which I think could grease the wheels on this creaky cart of a parley.

Please note that all of this assumes you’ll have targetted your audience correctly and done your research.

1. Work out what you want

There is simply no point in doing anything if you don’t know what you want from it. Is it coverage? Is it target market research? Is it a review? Whatever it is, work this bit out first. If you don’t, you won’t know how to measure it and, crucially, what to ask for or how to ask for it.

2. Work out what they want

Bloggers are not a uniform crew. There are some that will only work for cash, and this is quite fair enough. Though, as someone who’s done her fair share of writing for free when it suited me, I don’t actually think it is or should be anathema to work without pay. Still it is unquestionably silly to request it of a blogger who sets out a rate card, unless you have a really, really good reason (even charities can stump up something, particularly the bigger ones). And if you’re working with a brand which looks like it should have budget, tread carefully.

If the particular project is a review and you can reasonably assume your chosen blogger is open to not-cash, then you can sail in with the stuff. The obvious starting point is a review sample, but try to sweeten the deal; if you have budget to add value, then do it, and put some thought into what you send so that it complements both the blogger and the brand. Not every blogger enjoys a giveaway, but giving the option – x amount of y if you think your readers would like it – is a nice added extra. I would always recommend pitching first rather than going for the surprise unsolicited gift, unless you’ve established a solid relationship with the blogger in question. It just avoids any possibility of it not being received in the spirit you’ve intended, but is also your chance to lay out your expectations for the project.

On the whole, I’d say that offering bloggers a chance to take part in a competition through blog posts is a shaky business. I’ve seen it work well, but I’ve also seen furious bloggers loudly slam brands for it. I think it can be done – if there is a gift or remuneration for all or everyone involved gets something unique like exclusive access to a product or event – but it can also be done really badly. Particularly for those bloggers for which this is a primary income source, asking them to compete for a prize is a bit like demanding someone puts hours of work into a pitch presentation for a job they didn’t apply for and might not even want.

3. Remember that less can indeed be more

There’s a temptation to think all blogger outreach has to be grand and dramatic, but thoughtfulness goes a long way. It takes a good deal of time to assemble a really nice pack or plan just the right event. Better to go small scale, use your budget wisely and work with just a few people to make something really effective and positive than to end up seeming indiscriminate. Basically, from an initial pitch email to the final denouement, anything that so much as offers a whiff of “spray and pray” will be treated with suspicion. And rightly so.

Having mentioned events, I do think these a particularly interesting area all on their own. I work largely with bloggers like me, and when approaching parents in particular I would consider the following questions before setting any plans in stone.

  • Is it offering something exclusive, unique or especially worthwhile? (Is dropping everything going to be worth it?)
  • Can the kids come? (Do I need to arrange childcare?)
  • Is there any budget to offer help with travel? (Are you giving me enough time to get cheaper tickets?)
  • Could it be held somewhere other than London? (For God’s sake, the world doesn’t end outside the M25…)

I’ve spoken to quite a few bloggers about this and these things come up time and time again. Although I live on the outskirts of London myself, I know many bloggers outside the Home Counties who get fed up with routine requests to drop everything at the last minute and bolt down to London, without any financial assistance.  It’s particularly irksome if this also excludes the very people they spend most of their time writing about – unless, of course, the whole point of the event is, for example, pampering time away from the kids.

In a way, I shall feel quite pleased if people get to the end of this post and think “I already knew that”, because it means that the job is getting done properly. I’d like to believe most of the criticism I see is because of the natural inclination to complain more than we praise, and I know there is really thoughtful and excellent outreach going on all the time. So in the spirit of that, I’d love to invite anyone reading, whether blogger or PR, to give some examples of really excellent influencer outreach that they’ve seen. I think spreading the love can only be a good thing in this industry, so let rip – in a good way!

*Contrary to popular belief, this does not preclude professionalism. No, really.

Content Planning: How do you do it?

Excuse me if you’re here to read about toddlers, baking and cats. There’s plenty of that about, but sometimes one needs to talk of other things. Not cabbages and kings, though.

In fact, I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about planning content.

In the last year, as well as creating content I’ve been increasingly planning, editing and scheduling posts from multiple sources. Combined with greater access to tracking tools that enable me to hone our output, this has meant that a more formal structure was needed than we’d used in the past. From January, I implemented my social content planner; it’s already gone through one iteration and will doubtless see further changes. It’s certainly already made me feel an even greater sense of momentum in my work, so it was definitely the right choice to go ahead with this.

I then got into some conversations about this on Thursday at a Charity Comms social media event where I was running a workshop on intermediate-level day-to-day Twitter use – mainly for newcomers to social media with limited time and many departments to appease. This last part obviously raised questions about the role within the organisation that a community manager holds – from digital department existence / status, to the attitudes of senior management towards digital media. Clearly that impacts  both content creation and planning, because other departments need to place value on what happens online in order for the organisations digital channels to be relevant and vibrant.

Following that, on Friday the subject of planning arose with Jack Ashman, and an interesting chat ensued about how complex or sophisticated planning should be, touching on things like the size of the department, number of content-creators and the nature of the platform being planned for – I mean, who hasn’t noticed that their communities on Twitter and Facebook act very differently from each other?

I’ve heard descriptions of every system, from ad hoc mental notes to complex three-month multi-departmental spreadsheets, and every one seemed appropriate to the budget, time resources and scale of the department or organisation. And that combination is great inspiration to get one’s own house in order.

So, really, what I want to ask, in the style of a certain fondant-filled chocolate egg, is: how do you do it? 

Is there, indeed, a perfect way?

Note that I’m not saying we shouldn’t track. In an ideal world, I’d have the time and resources to track more than I do, and I keep tweaking that to try and get more information to analyse. So it’s not that end of the process I’m thinking about really (obviously, the results from that will feed into the way that the content is actually entered into a planner, and that could have some influence on the way a planner is designed, but I suspect not a fundamental impact).

My system, which involves both a digital document and pencil and paper, works for me for now, but I know it’s going to have to keep evolving and being polished – though without me getting so attached to it that I lose the ability to flexible and spontaneous online; I’m a big fan of keeping a natural tone of voice, which is why I plan the content topics and not the posts, unless they’re requested and approved by another department (usually with our input). But in order to keep tweaking and adjusting, I’d love to hear some tips and links that are personally recommended, rather than drawn from hastily created ‘top ten’ posts that social media blogs are tiresomely littered with.

I’ve got to admit, all this planning and tracking talk really speaks to the part of my soul that arranges my DVDs alphabetically – thought separating out all those that can be grouped by director and putting those chronologically.

What? They’re easier to find that way…

Update: Thank you to Sarah Jackson for this post (also eventually came through as a comment below). I’ve already taken a couple of ideas from it for getting our blog tidied up and more regularly posted on!

The point of blogging

That’s a bit of a misleading title actually. What I should have said is ‘the point of this blog’. I had to face up to that a bit in redesigning it, and it got me thinking about all the different reasons for having the site in the first place, and how I got here.

My blogging history is pretty much LiveJournal… Vox… (brief foray into Blogger)… here. My LJ was locked, my Vox was not under my real name but I gradually put real photos on it. And then I started working in this field and thought it would be a good idea to have an online home for me.

Of course there are downsides to that. When I had a blog not in my name, I could blog about family and friends without making their identity public (to this day if I’m going to say anything really personal about someone on Twitter I’ll do it by DM. It’s not fair otherwise- it’s my public profile, not theirs). I wrote about my pregnancy before I told work, which was a wonderful outlet. I could be, I think, a little more honest and transparent, as we all are under a film of anonymity.

But I also couldn’t easily talk about my work, and was always second-guessing how much I could say about myself.

Part of the reason for creating this site was essentially to have something that could serve as an online CV. It’s good to have a place to collect achievements and things I’ve been involved with. Every so often I update my real CV without doing anything with it, just to give myself a sense of what I’ve learned and where I’m going and I often come back here to remind myself!

That’s why I couldn’t call this a blog about anything in particular. I talk about social media because they’re the basis of my job and a major interest. I talk about babies and parenting because that’s my life at the moment. I talk about Disney and cakes and books and feminism and cats because I want to.

I used to think that maybe that was a weakness of this blog, and I think it put me off updating it sometimes. I’ve got so used to the pro-blogging world that I felt like this blog ought to have a niche area of interest and stick to it (fairly) rigidly. But of course I’m not trying to make money out this blog. (One could argue that ultimately I’m trying to make money out of me, but I think if you’re considering hiring me for something then it’s okay if you know I have a life outside work. I would have thought that would be a bonus, actually). I’m not trying to appeal to a particular audience. I’m just using this in a simple, cave painting kind of way: to talk, to share, to vent. And, if I’m lucky, and people are interested, to listen, too.

I’ve just gone back to the start, really, and just taken blogging for what it is for most people, most of the time.

But you know if I were ever going to launch myself down the path of pro-blogging for myself, I’d want to keep this bit of Pro Blogger wisdom about not comparing myself to others in mind.

And now maybe I should get on with the actual blogging about stuff other than, erm, blogging.

NFPTweetup 10 and thoughts on being a community manager: Back to work!

Well, not really. I’m not planning to return to my desk just yet, but it was good to dip a toe back in the water. Of course I never really exited the pool; part of being so interested in things like social media – look, I’m blogging! – means you follow what’s happening even when you’re not being paid to.

Anyway, in a change of the usual play – change – feed – play routine, I attended the 10th NFPTweetup, and enjoyed it hugely. Rachel Beer, the team at beautiful world*, sponsors JustGiving and the speakers did an excellent job bringing it all together, as ever. Last night was a return to an older but much-loved and very useful format: a couple of short, focussed presentations, some break-out sessions on particular topics and a panel and plenary.

The introductory presentations were two of my favourites so far because – at least out of the five or six tweetups I’ve attended – they were the most unusual. Jonathan Waddingham of JustGiving provided some insight into the next generation of their Facebook app, and the way it plans to simplify giving through Facebook, and then Amnesty International UK’s Fiona McLaren spoke about Amnesty‘s use of social media surrounding the recent protests in Egypt.

The latter was the one that felt really different and especially interesting for it. Although in specific content it’s far from what we do at Dogs Trust, actually every charity sometimes has to ride the wave of a public story. A lot of talk around social media is about creating the content, making the story and bringing it into the public eye. This was about becoming part of something already bigger than any individual or organisation and using it to send an important message to both existing and new audiences. It was fascinating stuff and I felt very glad I’d got mum to Whifflesit so I could be there to hear it first hand (even if the event was being livestreamed for the first time in a while).

A break out group led by Rachel and Ashley Clarke followed for me – others went into groups with Jon and Fiona – focussing on new and newish developments such as Facebook’s Page settings, Quora and It also segued off into an interesting discussion about brand feeds vs personal feeds and whether avatars should be logos or individuals as well as some talk of Twibbons (that’s a previous event’s presentation from my manager).

It’s thinking about that session that lead me into some other thoughts about community management that I’ve been musing over lately and meaning to blog about. I see post after post after post on what it means to be a community manager and whether it’s the same or different from a social media manager or a digital marketing manager. And of course no two community manager jobs can really be defined the same way in the particulars, just in the overall aim: to build, maintain, engage and influence a community around a particular brand, interest, message and/or product. But I got thinking about it in the context of my job title – Digital Marketing Officer – and what that means.

One of my favourite discussions about social media teams is from David Jones, from his H&K days (and it’s only five minutes, so you should totally watch it now). It defines four different people / jobs: Reconnaisance, Mad Scientist, Communications General, Community Manager. I love this because I think if you work in social media you should instinctively know which one you really are even if you do some of all those things, but sometimes the lines get so blurred it’s hard to do. I’ve been thinking about it recently because while actually at work it was hard to know for sure. Wasn’t I all of them?

Well, yes, in a way – I think everyone in this field is – but being away from the day-to-day of it let me know at heart who I am and what it is I love doing. I enjoy being part of strategic planning and I think you can’t carry out a strategy if you haven’t been involved in creating it. But if I’m totally honest I enjoy the daily implementation more. I do enjoy getting the internal buy-in and learning about / researching the big picture stuff, but get even more excited about the chance to get on and do it. So I’m maybe 20% Recon and Communications General.

I really do like trying out new tools and platforms and enjoy the buzz I get from using them in a way that results in something positive, in meeting an objective; I also love getting to grips with the language and etiquette. However, I can find it dull and frustrating at the beginning stages when it’s just a bunch of geeky early adopters talking in circles (*cough* Quora *cough*), so I’m maybe 25% Mad Scientist.

So if I’m the person that enjoys listening, talking, creating and curating content and generally being a helpful, positive voice, I must be the Community Manager (or at least 55% CM). And oh, I totally am. I miss all sorts of bits of my job at the moment, and the biggest part is actually feeling useful in the community. Sure, it can be frustrating sometimes, and occasionally I wonder if my skin is always thick enough for this. But if I ever wasn’t sure which element of the job I really own, now I am.

Of course, lots of social media jobs demand you be all four simultaneously and usually quite rightly so (though occasionally so much so it’s clear the employer doesn’t really get it and just wants one cheap uber-geek to do what at least two or three decently paid semi-geeks should be doing), and certainly you’ve all got to be holding hands and swapping skills and knowledge. Yet I’ve really found it helpful to know how, at heart, I define myself, and what I’ll be bringing back to the table – and hoping to learn – when I get back to work.

And now, bed. Or there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with the Whiffle tomorrow.

*I feel like I should point out that my husband is now working with beautiful world as a designer, although he’s only just started doing so and I’ve attended these events loads of times before. But there you go.

Pecha Kucha @ Hill & Knowlton’s Demystifying Digital | To pay to measure or not?

I know, I know. I abandon you for a month and then come back with two topics in one blog post! I offer an olive branch and promise my radio silence shall be explained soon.

This afternoon was spent catching the tail end of Hill & Knowlton‘s ‘private but open’ Demystifying Digital event which was planned by the EMEA team and meant a quite different audience to the ones I’m used to; that said, the familiar face of the WWF’s Ade was there, which was lovely. I was asked by EMEA Head of Planning Candace Kuss to come along and do a Pecha Kucha (aka Ignite) style presentation as part of five such quick-fire offerings.

For those unfamiliar with the format, it’s a strictly five-minute slot, with 20 slides – generally graphics-heavy and imaginative – which forward on regardless after 15 seconds. I was placed between two of Canada’s finest, Brendan Hodgson and David Jones – the latter of which I suspect I accidentally stalk at all H&K events – who made excellent points about crisis management and the make-up of the social media team respectively, and delivered a whistlestop tour of Dogs Trust’s journey into digital from some very traditional roots in traditional marketing back in the early days of Sponsor a Dog in the 1960s.

You can see tweets and updates from the event by searching the tag #HKD2.

There were also presentations from FIAT, about their foray into social media and partnership with Spotify over the launch of the modern retro (if that’s not too much of an oxymoron) Cinquecento, the BBC about the empowerment social media can lend oppressed communities and Facebook about the surge in popularity of online communities.

So, all in all, worth looking up and learning about. I was filmed waffling about social media during lunch as well, so sadly some clip (undoubtedly laboriously edited to make me look less daft) of me might well assail you at some point. I thank the very hard working team for a smoothly run event and for their kind invitation to speak; I’m just sorry I missed most of it as I was needed at Dogs Trust HQ.

And so to my other point, which is more of a call for information. I got chatting to Candace – whom I think is quite, quite brilliant, by the way, so prepare for more gushing in the future – about the monitoring software H&K uses to track social media for clients. They use a system provided by Sysomos, and we’ve taken a look at similar systems in the past. However, I’m still not entirely convinced we need to pay for a monitoring tool. Given the nature of what we do and what we measure, I think we can get buy perfectly well with free / cheap tools. Certainly it’s not as convenient (and there might be some financial value to be placed on the amount of time saved, but I don’t think that adds up to all that much), but there’s plenty of useful and valuable information to be had without spending a single pound.

So, I’d love to know your experiences. Do you use a comprehensive paid-for monitoring tool? Do you prefer free tools? Which are your favourites? What is the value of either? Is a paid for tool only really useful for a huge company that might need to do be on the alert for future crisis management?

I can think of copious excellent applications for an all-round system, but I’m wavering on the usefulness to the specific organisation I work with. Any feedback would help me chew through the issues all the better, so please, feel free.

Community management skills: growing a thick skin

At some point in every community manager’s / social media professional’s life, there will come the Thick Skin Moment.

Actually, if we’re honest, it’ll happen with a fair amount of regularity. I always think I’m more immune to it than most, since before being a community manager, I did my time as software technical support. There is potentially little that is more dispiriting than being a support officer, since every single person who calls, emails or writes to you is doing so because something (that you have little control over) has failed. But you learn some valuable lessons from it, since you have to remember the frustration of being in their shoes and keep reminding yourself that they don’t know you personally and that they think of you as a company entity.

Company entities are untouchable, after all, right? They’re not real people, they don’t have emotions, they can’t have had a bad day, too. Most of the time, I had little sympathy for these entities even when I was one. Good customer service means absolutely putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and understanding their position. It’s showing that the company is understanding, helpful and responsive.

If I say so myself, I’m generally good at that!

Of course, sometimes things go wrong. Short-staffing is often the main culprit – things slide down the agenda and in the ultra-time sensitive world of social media that’s a Very Bad Thing. It is; I know it, and I try to practice the constant monitoring and updating I preach, knowing it’s easier with a bigger team, etc etc. And also knowing excuses don’t cut it; you just have to do your job well and consistently. If you mess up, you apologise. End of.

For all of that, sometimes a barb that I don’t think is fully deserved gets through that toughened hide. The public complaint that comes out of the blue, without any attempt at a one-on-one resolution. The advice which is little more than an insult. The threat from the person who disagrees with your rules and regulations (despite the fact that they’re clearly stated).

What can you do? Aside from doing your absolute, honest, level best not to let it become a situation again if you can possibly avoid it, that is. Not a lot. Smile, take a deep breath, respond rationally and politely and remember that you, too, will have ranted at someone at some time, publicly, when you probably shouldn’t have. Social media make that kinda easy. If you can’t be polite, take some time out and let someone else do it. Have a cup of tea and repeat after me: “It ain’t personal, no matter how much it feels like it”.

Actually, maybe there is another thing. Maybe next time you’re a customer, you can remember a few things that would make the exchange so much more pleasant for everyone concerned. Maybe you can say to yourself:

I will try and deal with this politely before I start being critical, and I’ll name and shame only if I’m getting a genuinely bad experience that it’s really important to go public about.

Basically, I’ll use social media for a good, positive outcome.

Honestly, I’m not intending this post as a ‘woe-is-me’ complaint, nor a snark-fest. It’s more that realisation that, as I’m learning to be a better social media professional, I can also learn to be a better person who uses social media.

Huh. I should contact Jerry Springer with that. It must be Final Thought material, right?

Social media surveys: have you ever read a helpful one?

You would think that the survey was the ultimate piece of social interaction. After all, you’re asking the person their opinion in an open way. But of course it’s not that simple. Research into surveys has thrown up all sorts of issues, such as people giving the answer they think people want to hear, or different answers from the same person to the same essential question asked three different ways.

That’s not to say surveys are completely unhelpful; they’re not, if they’re conducted intelligently and without the sense of having the results lined up and using the survey to fit the hypothesis (which isn’t really a hypothesis as you’ve already decided the result – following me?).

But surveys about social media are a dime a dozen these days, and few of them are remotely helpful to either social-savvy employees or potentially social-wary employers – or anyone in between, for that matter.

Take yesterday’s gem from The Telegraph about social networks costing the economy billions in lack of productivity, as reported in Social Media Today. The survey is rightly lampooned as it implies social networks are the only form of office timewasting – and before you ask, I’m writing this in my lunch break and rarely take the whole hour! – and relies on people estimating both their own usage and their colleagues’. I don’t know about you, but I take is as given that people are generally phenomenally bad at estimating anything. For example in that survey people estimated their own time spent on online networks at being about a third of the time their colleagues spent on them; the survey used the bottom number but really, aren’t they both shots in the dark?

I’ve been asked a number of times at conferences to say how long I use each network professionally for per week or per day. The answer is as long as is needed. Some days Twitter gets five minutes, if that, some days it gets two hours. Likewise Facebook, etc. If there are questions to be answered, comments to be responded to and news items to be shared, then that happens, in order of urgency, every day, no matter how long – or how little – it takes.  Of course that’s professional, not personal use, but even then I struggle to estimate the percentage of my time it takes as opposed to updating our websites, building microsites, running AdWords campaigns, writing presentations etc etc. So how utterly rubbish would I be at estimating my personal usage? Let alone Jacqui’s or Lo’s? Extremely, let me tell you. And I can only imagine those whose jobs have nowt to do with digital marketing are much the same.

The sole commenter on SMT points out a survey pointing in the other direction: Social media keeps [sic] employees’ heads in the game, screams the headline (‘media’ is plural. Hard to remember, even by me, but I at least try to check the title). This is duly commented on and gushed over… but is actually no more useful than The Telegraph’s alleged churnalism.

All it really says is that employers are using the established social tools, such as blogs, in place of the old emails and meetings. That gives people more of a right to reply, but doesn’t really tell you if as a result of doing that employees are any more productive or better informed. Perhaps there’s an argument for more engaged, but if you’re not asking the employees, how do you know for sure? It doesn’t sound like there’s any actual metric – of the kind we need to use to see how supporters are responding to professional networks – to base these results on other than, once again, poorly remembered anecdote. Take the meat of the results:

Nearly 80 percent (79%) of respondents said they use social media to frequently engage employees and foster productivity. Tools such as company blogs and discussion boards even outranked e-mail (75 percent) as means of keeping employees’ heads in the game.

Okay – they’re using it. Does it work?

I’m not trying to be difficult here, as it’s in my interest to support the latter kind of survey; the more people that are online during the day, the more people I can reach, professionally and personally.  And I recognise that one survey is not really an answer to the other, as one is focussing on estimated personal use and the other on professional use internal to organisations (although that means opening access and accepting that personal use will happen as a result).

I just can’t help feeling that, positive or negative towards social platforms, these surveys just muddy the waters and confuse already hesistant senior management teams further. Blanket statements and ‘proofs’ like these just lead to the situation I see coming up over and over again where teams are either told “we need a Facebook page” with no sense of the whys and wherefores (though isn’t that just whys and, erm, whys?) or told that it’s all a distraction, a fad and completely lacking in usefulness. What they really need is case studies and examples of the myriad ways companies in their sector are using social tools, and working out what’s good for them and where they can afford to experiment. There’s a massive wealth of this kind of resource for charities online, for example, but I’m still asked time and time again ‘how we convinced our managers’.

It wasn’t using linkbait, press-chasing surveys, that’s for damn sure.

Media Trust Twitter for Charities Event (July 2009)

Yesterday Jacqui and I pootled over to Millbank for a Twitter for Charities event organised by Media Trust and chaired by the voice of common sense, Rachel Beer. If you’re on Twitter and want to follow Media Trust events, search the hashtag #mtevents. It serves for all.

This was an exceptionally good conference for a number of reasons:

  • It was short, sweet and to the point
  • It was focussed on one tool, which made it easier to keep on topic
  • The speakers, Rachel Beer and Daren Forsythe (formerly of the BBC & Media Trust) were excellent
  • Fellow members of the panel, Carly from Elephant Friends and Fliss from Media Trust had great case studies to mention
  • The questions were intelligent and prompted good discussion
  • A member of senior management was there! Joy!

I honestly believe that the next stage is holding conferences not just for the people who are using the tools – surely those should be practical workshops, really – but for those who need to be convinced that their team should be using them. We need to be talking metrics, successes, importance and, yes, pitfalls with the people who have ultimate responsibility for communications, fundraising and marketing.

Anyway, here were some things that came out of the day that I thought were worth mentioning as they are critical to understanding the role of social media and using social tools effectively:

  • You don’t necessarily need a social media policy (though some comms guidelines are fine). You do need an integrated, comprehensive and positive policy for communications, fundraising and marketing.
  • Twitter is not an objective. You use Twitter as a tool among many to meet your objectives.
  • If you’re unclear about your objectives, wait until you know what they are before using the tools.
  • Having a positive statement of what you can do online (perhaps an ‘our voice’ statement instead of a ‘policy’) is much better for all concerned than a negative policy. Rachel here sited Intel’s example of rules of engagement.

All of this, once again, proves that my conviction that social media is another avenue for responsive customer service is well-founded. And I’ll continue to believe that until I have any sort of compelling reason not to.

Ten Days of Disney: Disney for Good

Disney, like most big corporations with an eye on their reputation, has an outreach programme. Disney VoluntEARS, work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and a strong emphasis on employees sharing skills are a few parts of Disney Worldwide Outreach.

This is, given my job, naturally an area of interest for me. I knew about Disney’s work with Make-a-Wish years ago as a visit to a Disney park, studio or other related venue is consistently one of the most popular wishes of very ill children. If that doesn’t tell you about the power of Disney’s story-telling and the evangelism that rises from it, nothing will. But I didn’t know until quite recently, when my interest increased, about the amount of employee time that is donated to communities.

This is one area where I’d love to see Disney developing online. Surely this is a place where online and offline communities really have a chance to be joined up. A place for volunteers to exchange information and potential volunteers to find out more? A place where kids can find online mentors from within Disney? A place where parents whose children have been helped through Make-a-Wish can build an online wall of memories of their child’s experience? A way for Disney to teach non-profit organisations without their budgets and marketing advantage to make the most of social technologies? You name it – the list of online possibilities surrounding outreach work are virtually endless.

My favourite is the Disney mentor idea – a natural online extension of the thousands of hours of offline community work Disney employee “VoluntEARS” already do. Imagine each employee giving up one hour a week to give advice to a kid online about becoming an attraction “imagineer”, animator, or other creative professional. What a boost to the arts that would be! And then there are the legion of other employees, from web wizards to front-of-house cast members. Each has advice and talent to offer; imagine how valued you would feel if you were asked to contribute your time to the project.

What’s in it for Disney? Well, though it might be done for entirely more altruistic reasons, there’s the lifelong fans you’re going to make when your pool of highly skilled employees shares the talent wealth a little. And the reputation advantages. Not to mention a direct line to possibly the greatest market research money can buy, straight from the people who love the Disney empire best, and a contacts list of future potential employees likely to feel completely loyal to a company that’s behaved like family.

For all I know, much of this is already in the pipeline or has been discussed and rejected for any number of reasons. But, for the record – that’s what I would do.

Day One: Howard Ashman & Alan Menken

Day Two: EPCOT

Day Three: Landscaping

Day Four: Pixar

It’s a small world, after all

I suspect I might not even be the 14,000th blogger to use that as a post title, but it was appropriate, so I ain’t going to sweat it.

I’m not sure whether last night proves that charity is a small world, that online meedja is a teeny cluster or that both together make it completely certain that you’ll know someone who knows someone. Then again, maybe it’s just coincidence, but it felt quite weird.

After Helen Aspell of the Equalities & Human Rights Commission (which has said some very sensible things about reducing maternity leave for women and increasing paternity leave this week) told me she knew my sister – off the back of both being in that Female Social Media Guru thang – that provoked a small giggle.

Turns out she is in fact involved in all aspects of my life.*

When I was at Shiny Media, I made lots of video reviews, including their most viewed ever. I made them mostly with a cameraman and editor called Ray O’Neill, who’s a very sweet bloke. Last night he pootled along to join a group of my friends and me (no, it’s not and I; comment if you’d like to know why) at La Perla in Charlotte Street where it transpires that he too knows Helen. And he’d been doing work for eConsultancy one of the bloggers for whom, as you know because you’ve been glued to the My Online Life page, has interviewed me about Dogs Trust on Twitter.

Teeny planet indeed.

On another note, I made blueberry muffins and Snaffle destroyed most of them. He did try to eat them which made me worry they tasted of cat food, but eating the remainder that he didn’t maul put paid to that concern.

What? Blueberries are good for you.

  • Yes, I exaggerate. Of course; have you not come to expect it?