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.

Thanks for attending the webinar!

Webinar on social media - US Embassy, Colombo Sri LankaQuick note of thanks to all the attendees at the webinar on blogging, yesterday. (Sunday night here, although it was still the 21st in Sri Lanka.)

Dan Wool Steve England, and I enjoyed being able to share our ideas, and answer your questions.

The application, DimDim, did cause us a hiccup for the audio at the second location, but we know exactly what the problem is and how to fix it in the next sessions.

Since this was a session on blogging 101, I created a basic blog for the attendees, on the fly. I will be using it to update content for the next few sessions on the other key elements on social media.

Here is a link to it.

Still thumbing your nose at Wikipedia?

Cross posting this from the IABC Blog.

I’m not sure what you think of Wikipedia, but there are many people -communicators and business people – who are still deeply suspicious of it, even though they continue to dip in and out of it to ‘check on something.’Students use it but sparingly, it seems. Most people I asked said they use it a lot. I was curious about this ambivalence, and wanted to find out how distrust can work alongside usefulness. But the more I looked, the more I became convinced that it’s time for serious communicators to put those early notions aside and take a second look at something that has changed knowledge sharing in a remarkable way. This is the topic of my article in the upcoming July-August CW magazine, but before it hits your mailbox, here’s something that might whet your appetite.

  • Did you know that over 50 percent of edits are made by less than one percent of Wikipedia users?
  • Did you know that there are hundreds of articles waiting in a queue to be edited, completed, fact-checked, etc.?

If you’ve been one of those people who have complained loudly that some of the articles are patently written by some 14-year old, then here’s your chance to do something about it. If you’re one of those folks who proudly inserts the term ‘crowd-sourcing’ into a PowerPoint presentation or discussion on social media, then here’s a great opportunity to get some dirt under your fingernails and see how it really happens.

I love the idea of crowd-sourcing myself, and quite frankly, I had stayed off the Wikipedia edit pages for awhile -after some very simple edits many years ago. The coding (wiki syntax) is not easy to remember unless you dabble in some HTML. But you don’t need to know a lot to start. When I got back to it, what I found was fascinating. Even outside the realm of serious ‘collective intelligence,’ one of the great side effects of Wikipedia is that it has turned into a site to go to for event coverage. Like a global team of citizen journalists, passionate editors quickly add detail to a breaking story like some back-room iReporters. Their bylines are cryptic usernames, and they don’t seek recognition. Some news tidbits don’t always show up in the main article –until the edit wars and discussions are settled– but they are a rich source of information. Maybe you could be one of those contributors as well!

But as I explain in the article, there is a lot of serious content you may be able to contribute to. Wikipedia needs more editors, writers, and good content specialists. Even persnickety fact-checkers, punctuation freaks and content curators. In other words, people like you who yearn to inform and are natural collaborators.

If you like to get an idea of where you could start, Wikipedia has some areas for you waiting to be worked on. Check these out:

Requested Articles: these are internal links (known as, and seen as, ‘red links’) that go nowhere, so basically they are articles waiting to be created.  Type WP:RA into the search box to find them. Plenty of topics to choose from.

Articles for Creation: Type in WP:AFC to get started on an article. It takes you thgrough the basic steps and policies, and points to an article wizard.

There’s work to be done in updating small things, if not writing full-blown articles. Consider your local IABC chapter perspective. Of the 100 or so IABC chapters, only 13 have been listed here, with external links, that is. This is up from 10 chapters when my article went to print.

Go for it!

Public Radius is two months young

Can’t believe it’s been nearly months since I left ASU, and hung out my own shingle, PublicRadius.

PublicRadius_logoBut it’s been two wonderful months. I have been travelling, blogging a lot, conducting interviews, and managing (monitoring) Twitter feeds etc, apart from writing for two magazines.

As a result, I’ve been neglecting my blog here at Hoipolloi Report. But what has really amazed me is that when I occasionally glance at my page visits , traffic is up — sometimes inexplicably rising.

But from this weekend I plan to integrate the blog a lot more into my client work. So many great stories have been put on hold. But it has been worth it. So here are some random thoughts about this mini anniversary:

  • I often refer to a blog as the ‘center of gravity’ of traditional and digital communications –and this extends into media relations, reputation building, and managing relationships. It’s certainly been my starter kit in all these areas as I take Public Radius forward.
  • A blog teaches me about how to tell complex, many-sided stories in a people-friendly way, while being search-engine friendly as well.
  • Working in the digital space opens your eyes to the value of face-to-face communication. Yes I conduct business via Skype video conferencing, and interact with my LinkedIn and Facebook contacts. But nothing beats a great brainstorm on a napkin, seated in coffee shop (where I am writing this).
  • People don’t care about the tools. We tend to talk too much about Twitter workarounds and Facebook apps, when what people (and businesses) really care about are conversations. When electricity was first invented, I suspect people blabbered about plugs and light switches until someone told them to shut up.
  • Photography and Podcasting somehow complete the circle of storytelling, branding and reputation building. Both let you observe, record, and capture nuances that often get lost. I covered a conference last weekend using both. My camera bag was heavy, but my ‘stories’ are are that much more colorful.