Left Manhattan around 5 p.m. Friday wondering when I’d find time to compile highlights of the Edelman New Media Academic Summit. Then my 8:30 p.m. flight to Akron was cancelled, stranding me at LaGuardia long after every hotel and rental car had been snagged. So instead of heading home, I snagged a couple of lattes, a power source and — voila, this post emerged from my all-nighter.
Rather than publish a caffeine-charged message on Saturday morning, I waited for a clear head and time to edit. Just can’t help but think that my unkind words about Yankee fans and the Big Apple had something to do with the flight cancellation. But, nah. If there is a God in heaven, he can’t possibly be a Yankee fan.
So let me get back on message.
The Edelman folks packed Friday’s program with great content and big names from the PR and social media worlds. I won’t list them here, since Edelman has done so on the left-hand column of its website. I will offer some stuff I found interesting and that I hope you find useful. If you want the details, Edelman is posting video of the entire conference on the website.
Sorry for the length, but there’s a lot to include in this post. In no particular order…
Wonder how to benefit from Web 2.0? Try new things, even though most of them will fail. Most Web 2.0 initiatives don’t work, but that’s OK, says citizen journalist Dan Gillmor. “The cost of experimentation in Web 2.0 is almost zero,” he said, and that enables us to easily move on when things don’t work — which they don’t most of the time. Keep trying.
Our PR’s pitches still suck. I attended my first “Meet the Media” panel in 1978, and ever since I’ve been listening to reporters and editors tell why they hate us. I quit attending those panels about the same time I quit emphasizing MSM in my PR strategies, circa 1986. But today, I learned from some A-list bloggers that most PR professionals continue to pitch poorly, no doubt headed for unflattering coverage on the Bronze-Anvil-Award-winning Bad Pitch Blog. (Plug intended. Congrats to Kevin and Richard!)
Steve Rubel (Edelman) and Josh Bernoff (Forrester Research) say they sometimes get 100+ pitches a day from PR types hoping to trade on the credibility of their blogs. The vast majority of those pitches fall short.
Rubel says he sees no real innovation by publicists, who tend to treat bloggers as an extension of the MSM. Bernoff says most of the pitches in his email are spam, mass produced by publicists who don’t take the time to read his blog and tailor their pitches to his interests. It’s the same refrain we’ve been hearing from MSM for, well, for the entire 30 years I’ve been around the biz. Let’s get it together, folks.
What about localizing online networks? Scott Heiferman, CEO of Meetup, talked about how the site enables users to create localized networks with an eye toward F2F linkups. Meetup groups, he says, are evidence that “organizing people is more powerful than organizing information,” although Web 2.0 delivers both.
Scott cited a cool example of several MeetUp groups for dog-owners in NYC. Seems the Meetup groups formed a coalition to leverage discounts from local businesses that service pet owners. So there can be a marketing as well as a relationship-building component in this concept.
Granted, Scott’s example is just one more case of how social media created a measurable impact — and those cases are becoming plentiful. But I was intrigued with the idea of using social networks as a stepping stone to F2F. Seems a logical progression — bring people together in both the virtual and the physical worlds. How can we use that?
Advertisers must shift from intrusion to invitation. Scott Donaton, publisher of Ad Age, says advertisers who want a piece of Web 2.0 must move from an “intrusion” model of communication to and invitation model. Online consumers won’t be force-fed content, so the old-line, in-your-face marketing tactics won’t cut it.
Still, Scott says plenty of customers will engage in online conversations about commercial products if given the incentive. Social media can reach the passionate users and get them talking, and that makes marketing more relevant and more productive.
Looking for customer input? Talk to Tim and Nina Zagat, founders of the popular Zagat guides, which now reach far beyond restaurants. As part of the panel on user-created content, the Zagats discussed how the Web streamlined their ability to gather consumer feedback and provide information instantaneously. It expanded their network of users and inspired many more folks to participate — proof once more that people will find their passions in Web 2.0.
Ethics in social media. Edelman assembled the obligatory panel on ethics. But as one who’s been immersed in PR ethics for 20 years, there wasn’t much new here for me. Bloggers, like PR people, have their own ethical codes, but those codes are enforceable only to the extent that peers call out the violators. No governing body can ban you from practicing PR or writing a blog just because you’re immoral.
In reality, the penalty for unethical conduct in the blogosphere is faster and harsher than in the conventional world. The Edelman folks learned this first hand during the WalMart debacle last fall when bloggers chastised the firm and called for a response within hours after the story broke. Suffice it to say that if you step out of line, the blogosphere will nail your ass, and quickly. You gotta love the self-enforcement mechanism.
BlogAds founder Henry Copeland discussed the temptations and the dangers involved in Pay-Per-Post — a service to be avoided by any and all responsible marketers and bloggers. Paying for blog coverage, in my mind, is a bit like paying for sex. Kinda pathetic, and way too risky for such a cheap thrill.
Has the torch passed to the next generation of academics? While our room at the Harvard Club housed some 70 PR/communication professors, only 3 had spots on Friday’s panels. Two were veterans, Paul Argenti from Dartmouth and Don Wright from Boston U, neither of them bloggers. But the guy who really got my attention was a young professor from Northeastern University, Walter Carl.
Walter, who focuses his teaching and research on Web 2.0 and word-of-mouth communication, shared the stage with social media guru David Weinberger. The prospect of being on a panel with a co-author of Cluetrain would have had me quaking in my boots, but that’s why I’m in the audience and they’re on the stage. Be sure to check out Walter’s blog. This is one very smart dude.
A personal highlight of the conference for me was meeting David Weinberger, now a Fellow at the Berkman Center of the Harvard Law School. While David is best know for his seminal work on the Cluetrain Manifesto, look for his new book, “Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder,” to have a significant impact among Web 2.0 leaders and intellectuals. I’ll post more on the book once I finish reading my very own signed copy.
So I came away from the New Media Academic Summit with some great insights, but also with a lot of affirmation that we’re doing the right things in the classroom here at Kent State, and maybe, just maybe, we’re a step or two ahead of the pack when it comes to Web 2.0. I’m also grateful to Edleman, for making a significant investment to pass this knowledge along to the academy. They didn’t have to spread the gospel, but that’s what responsible leaders to.
I’ll also admit to being a little star-struck rubbing shoulders with so many of the blogging mavens I’ve come to respect… Rubel, Rosen, Edelman, Weinberger, Gillmor, Bernoff. As they say in the Big Apple, that ain’t chopped liver.
Disclosure: Edelman covered the bulk of my expenses for attending this conference.