White House goes Cheesy, hashtags and all

It’s that time of year when communicators have too much time on their hands. Consider how: North Korea is pretending to prove it has a Hydrogen bomb (various sourcessay this was a damp squib); the sports minister of Sri Lanka is claiming he’s received ‘scandalous’ pictures of cricketers in New Zealand (hotels are denying this), and Google’s ‘self-driving’ cars are supposedly dangerous (drivers have sometimes had to stop them from crashing).

Perhaps it’s that down time after the Christmas season, when there’s a news hole that needs to be filled. With Cheese, for instance. The White House is hosting a humongous cheese party. The hashtag being #youfetabelieveit. It’s called the Big Block of Cheese Day. It’s been created after Andrew Jackson’s 1837 event, for which he trucked in a 1,400 pound block of cheese and had citizens come and mingle with the occupants. A sort of Open House event.

I don’t know how Mr. Jackson managed to handle this without a Tumbler account, but it sure goes to prove that sometimes all you need is a piece of cheese to get people to hang out with you. Unless you don’t mind keeping away the lactose intollerant.


Update on my book: “Chat Republic”

It’s official, and I’m now ready to announce the title of my book, which is in its final stages.

It’s called Chat Republic.

Angelo Fernando, Chat RepublicI’ve been covering the intersection of technology and business; technology and culture for more than 18 years. More recently, I’ve focused on digital media and our social media-centric lives, and I wanted to put my ideas into perspective.

Chat Republic is more than a fictional country. It’s about the spaces you inhabit.  Those online and offline communities you move in and out of: conference rooms, Google Circles, IM lists, Facebook, online forums. I think of it as a ‘country’ whose fluid borders take the shape of a giant, invisible speech bubble.

The conversations and opinions pouring in and out of our republic, in real-time, are what make our communities more civil, more vibrant. Our chats are certainly not friction-free! But absent these conversations we would be one dimensional citizens, won’t we?

As of today, I am planning to launch the book in two time zones, in June.

Some specs:

  • 25 Chapters – Divided into 3 sections
  • Case Studies from the U.S. and Asia
  • Interviews with non-profits, tech companies, activists, chief execs, editors, citizen journalists, PR consultants, podcasters, government officials

More information here at ChatRepublic.net

When attack ads have a sense of humor, brands aren’t laughing

The moment you see this website you want to have a good gaffaw.

It’s a cross between The Onion, and the fake BP Global PR Twitter handle.

But it highlights the seriousness of social media monitoring, and why you can’t be asleep at the wheel.

On Monday NPR ran a story about Ben Quayle, and how his ‘dirty’* Google juice was pushing down search results to the positive things his campaign wanted to emphasize. Problems like that won’t get buried easily.

Jon Kaufman of Zog Media was quoted as saying this industry is dependent on who controls the message.

Really? Control, or Manage?

Recall how BP faced a logo attack as well. How do you stop that? Or take a look at this Press Release. It’s Chevron’s statement on….

Just kidding!

Try controlling that!

What’s a novice like me doing shooting videos?

I’m a photographer of sorts. Have been ever since I used a cheap point-and-shoot Kodak on a world leader. I hadn’t a clue about ‘depth of field’ then, and famously (naively, really) held it within a few inches of the face of John Paul II. They didn’t arrest you for getting too close to a Pontiff in those days.

So shooting videos has been a challenge. Instead of worrying about aperture and ISO rating, I’m now wondering about

  • Use a tripod or keep it natural and do hand-held?
  • Only shoot in natural light or work with the unflattering florescent bulbs?
  • Table top or wide angle?

Most of the cameras I have been using  have been built for novices. The ubiquitous Flip video cam, and my trusty Kodak PlaySport. Funny how it’s point-and-shoot all over again!

And so I’ve settled for happily taking the ‘non-pro’ route in video. The kind of stories I recently recorded have had colorful settings– on golf courses, in the kitchen, down a Disney-like ‘adventure trail’ for kids…

I was doing a video story of an executive chef, today. He was cooking up a lemon sole dish from scratch. The ‘scratch’ part to the photographer meant there was an array of ingredients to zoom in and out of, while he talked to camera, and moved around the kitchen. In still photography you don’t have to deal with things going in and out of focus.

Chef Ryker Brown picked up a gnarled tomato, scored it and submerged in a glass of iced water. It was interesting sidebar to the main dish; the lens whined, decided to stop being confused and locked in to focus.

As I watched it all come together, I realized that stories told in words are a lot like that too. While we hover around our subject, a sudden detail we previously ignored comes into sharp focus. It then plays a starring role in the story.

I’ve always loved tomatoes –the deformed, multi-colored ones that grow in our yard, not the shiny grocery store variety. They puzzle the eye, in the same way they confuse the camera lens. They also bring out a flavor to the otherwise mundane. If there’s a lesson in all this it’s about keeping your subject in focus, but not ignoring the blushing tomato on the side!

As for that early celebrity photo, I got a pretty good shot. I think. A big part of it was his nose, but hey!

Yesterday’s Webinar on YouTube

Gary Campbell and I shot this a video on the morning of the webinar, to use it before the event, and also as the content for the channel we created during the session.

Obviously there was a lot we would have liked to fix –lighting, for instance– but this was itself a demo of how to produce a video with a short deadline, with minimal editing.

My new weekly radio show!

I almost forgot to break the story here. I started a radio show last week, focused on business. It’s called Your Triple Bottom Line.

Yes, it’s around the ‘Three P’s’ –People, Planet,Profits. I’m more into the first and the last Ps. (I leave the middle P to my wife, a small business owner, whom you would call a ‘deep green’ person.)

But it’s a great experience, being on radio. I trained at the BBC in London many years back as a producer, and have been a closet radio person all my life. Which is odd, being also into digital media. But I still maintain that radio is the true real-time medium, the first channel that brought communities and conversations together. The Internet simply borrowed the language and the model!

Derrick Mains and I co-host the show. There’s a social media angle here! I host and produce a podcast for GreenNurture, and Derrick has been a co-host of that show. Why radio? Have we got it backwards? There’s no short answer for this, but you will understand if you listen to the kind of guests we bring on every week.

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet?

Ah, that is the question, isn’t it? Especially for many people still wondering if there is any value in jamming conversations into 140 characters of less. I tend to tell people that just as sending post cards, or having non-stop IM chats with six different people throughout the day have different value for different people, so too Twitter.

But — huge BUT here — it’s time to consider Twitter as less of a marketing device, and more as a listening tube.

In the second of a 6-part webinar series I am conducting (check previous one) this one will be appropriately called To Tweet Or Not To Tweet.

Here is my co-presenter, Gary Campbell on the subject.