Social media for authors

While still researching my forthcoming post on book social networking sites, I wanted to share this video with you. Thanks to Sarah Caldwell of Princeton University Press for bringing it to my attention. I think it’ll be required viewing for the next new author with whom I start working – just so s/he’ll be forewarned of the phone calls to come.

Posted in Blogging, Facebook, media relations, public relations, Social media, Twitter, YouTube | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Talking social media to PR students

This morning I did my first-ever guest lecture/talk at the post-secondary level, to fourth-year public relations students taking one of Dr. DeNel Rehberg Sedo’s courses at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS.

DeNel found me via a guest post I’d done on Kimberly Walsh’s East Coast by Choice blog and a comment I’d left on her own blog, where she’d reviewed Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, The Lacuna. She took at look at my blog and got in touch via email to ask me to do a guest lecture to her class. Once we worked out the time and date logistics (since my East Coast sojourn was back in 1973 and I was pretty sure she didn’t have budget to fly me to Halifax), I stopped procrastinating about needing a computer with more juice, bought a refurbished iMac, and mastered Skype for once and for all.

My first test run on Skype taught me a valuable lesson: makeup required for Skype video because even north light produces glare, and I didn’t want to look like a burn victim with unhealed skin grafts (no offense intended). That meant an earlier start for me, but that’s ok – I didn’t want to scare people or rattle myself (although I have to say, the great advantage of doing an in-person talk is that you don’t have to look at yourself while you’re doing it – at least not after the rehearsing-in-front-of-a-mirror segment of the procedure is over).

DeNel and I agreed to try to keep the experience as technologically simple as possible. I emailed her the link to the presentation I planned to use (which I’d found on my friend Allen Gibson’s blog) so she could run the PowerPoint and I could focus on trying to make sense.

Here it is:

Marta Kagan Continue reading

Posted in public relations, Social media, speaking engagements | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Tribes – or what you can learn by reading fiction

The news earlier this week that Sherman Alexie had won the 2010 Pen/Faulkner Award for his novel War Dances reminded me that I’d been meaning to blog about the wonderful passage from his National Book Award winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The fact that the book is for young adults didn’t bother me a bit, especially when I came upon such a vivid illustration of what’s meant by tribes – digital or analog.

It’s so very clear when you engage with social media that we’re all members of many tribes. I’d love to see graphic illustration of tribes and how we connect with folks on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. based on our interests. Haven’t seen the app for that yet, although I’m betting there’s already one in the works.

‘I realized that I might be a lonely Indian boy,’ says Alexie’s protagonist, Junior, ‘but I was not alone in my loneliness…. I realized that sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms.

And the tribe of cartoonists.
And the tribe of chronic masturbators.
And the tribe of teenage boys.
And the tribe of small-town kids.
And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners.
And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers.
And the tribe of poverty.
And the tribe of funeral go-ers.
And the tribe of beloved sons.
And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.’

‘It was a huge realization,’ concludes Junior. ‘And that’s when I knew that I was going to be okay.’

Whenever I think of this passage I immediately want to start listing tribes to which I belong. So I thought I’d give it a shot. Feel free to list some tribes to which you belong in the comments.

I’m a member of

the bookworm tribe
the feminist tribe
the WASP tribe
the Echo tribe
the PR tribe
the writer tribe
the social media tribe
the quilting tribe
the Canadian tribe
the Southern Alberta tribe (at the moment, anyway)
the Anglophile tribe
the Austen lovers tribe
the foreign film lovers tribe (my one regret about not having cable is the inability to get a dose of Bollywood once a week – don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it)
the Fitzgerald lovers tribe
the Salinger lovers tribe
the Eric Rohmer and Wim Wenders lovers tribe
the ‘why?’ girls’ tribe
the knitters’ tribe
the quilters’ tribe
the Six Feet Under tribe
the fast-talking Easterner tribe

That’s all I can think of at the moment. How about you?

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Key messages on climate change

This morning I read a rather – as the English would say – bolshie piece from Sharon Begley, Newsweek‘s Science Editor, headlined ‘Their Own Worst Enemies: Why scientists are losing the PR wars.’

Bora Zivkovic, Online Community Manager at Public Library of Science, didn’t think much of the piece (at least that was my conclusion from his preface to tweeting it, which was ‘Hrmph…what do you think?’)

Here’s what I think: Begley generalizes and dances around the real issue. She lets a certain amount of frustration with some of the scientists she’s encountered seep into her piece. She makes some very good points regarding successful communication (that which is both clear and persuasive) when she talks about cultural differences between the US and the UK (although I don’t think she nails them precisely – that thing that happened in 1776 really was both the War of Independence and the American Revolution).

She gets closest to making the point implicit in her article explicit when she says, ‘Like evolutionary biologists before them, climate scientists also have failed to master “truthiness” … which their opponents – climate deniers and creationists – wield like a shiv.’

Having just finished Ian McEwan’s Solar, which I’ll be reviewing on my personal blog, I think the issue is both more complex and yet more clearly understandable. Continue reading

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About that 24/7 party going on in your computer: the social media timesuck

I came across this interesting analysis of Google Buzz, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace courtesy of boxcarmarketing (and here, if you’d like to follow on Twitter as well/instead).

While I don’t agree entirely with the analysis by Jeremiah Owyang, former Forrester analyst, now Altimeter Group partner, I couldn’t agree with him more when he says Twitter is ‘being treated like a chat room’ by most marketers, ‘not a marketing platform.’ I do think the SWOT portion in particular is less than comprehensive, and I’d like to quibble about the line re ‘Usage by tech savvy, media, and celebs.’

Why quibble about that? (At this point something I’d written got lost between drafts; I’ve tried to reconstruct it in the rest of this paragraph. Just, you know, to make sense!) It’s not that I disagree that – I’m going to call them geeks, not the ‘tech savvy’ because if you own a computer for personal use you’re tech savvy, media and celebs have the largest number of followers, tweet the most and make the greatest use of Twitter. It’s just that I don’t necessarily think they make the best use of Twitter. Most media outlets still automate their tweets, don’t interact with their followers, and don’t get that it’s an interactive medium. Ditto many celebrities. And the geeks – well – again – there’s a lot of navel gazing and infighting amongst Twitter’s earliest adopters and most vehement proponents. And Twitter’s growth isn’t coming from these people; it’s coming from the non-geeks who are beginning to realize social media presents an opportunity. (That’s not quite what I said the first time but it’s what I was trying to say – and where did it go to anyway – between-draft limbo?)

Twitter’s greatest strength is actually the power it gives the user to customize her/his own experience with the medium. Trending topics notwithstanding (you don’t have to even glance at them), what makes it a brilliant platform is the fact that it allows you to listen to and connect with only the interesting people at the party and pay no attention whatsoever to the egregious bores, the time wasters, the hysterics, the gawkers and the ambulance-chasers (no, I don’t mean personal injury lawyers, I mean the people who thrive on fomenting controversy/scandal/gossip). Continue reading

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Framing versus spin

One of the reasons I chose to call my consultancy No Spin PR was because serious public relations practitioners are always hopelessly frustrated by the word spin being applied to what they do.

It’s a derogatory term, and I believe there are some terms and words that can never be reclaimed (in this I differ from the hiphop artists who have ‘reclaimed’ the ‘en’ word – in my view it would be better to let that one fade away to the point that 23rd-century folk who encounter it would have to ask what it meant).

Implicit in the word spin is the idea that deception is involved, facts are being turned on their heads, and/or there’s so much fast talking going on the truth would be unrecognizable even if it were part of the mix. The ‘truth’ is, it’s as much of an insult to call a public relations practitioner a ‘spin doctor’ as it is to call a woman a ‘chick.’ And it is a female-dominated profession, although not yet at the most senior levels. Continue reading

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Twitter chats – #askdrstu launching Nov. 24, 2009

One of the best (although sometimes the most technologically frustrating) aspects of the Twitter community is the regular chats that take place. Identified by hashtag (#), there’s #litchat (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 4-5 PM EST, with topics like ‘Continuing discussion of THE CRAFT OF WRITING’), #solopr (a forum for solo public relations practitioners to discuss a wide variety of topics, from the joys and sorrows of working alone to media lists, the bane of every PR practitioner’s existence), #agchat and #onthefarm, two chats that focus on the business of agriculture and the realities of farming in the 21st Century. There’s also #journchat, which brings together public relations pros and journalists. As an information exchange and a positive development in creating greater understanding, #journchat may be one of the most exciting chats on Twitter.

To find any of these chats, log on to Twitter and use your search function to search for them by hashtag (on the far right, under your profile you’ll see a search function – type in #solopr or #litchat). Scroll through the tweets and you’ll discover the chat moderator, whom you can then start following, and the regularly scheduled time for the chat.

When Twitter grinds to an almost-halt, the chats can be a frustrating experience. But that doesn’t happen all that often these days, and the wonderful thing about the chats is the commitment the moderators make to ensure they happen on a regular basis. My hat is off to the lovely Kellye Crane, for instance, who not only organizes the #solopr chat every Wednesday from 1-2PM EST, but ensures she’s got a backup if she’s travelling that day so the chat can continue.

New to Twitter as of Tuesday, November 24 is #askdrstu, a series of five scheduled chats led and moderated by Dr. Stuart Clark, author of the award-winning The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began.

Five chats are planned for 2009, on Tuesdays beginning November 24 at 1PM EST (10AM PST, 6PM GMT).  Each week the chat will focus on a different popular astronomy topic. The first relates directly to the subject matter of The Sun Kings: “What level of influence does the Sun have on climate change?” Stuart will share what he’s learned from fellow scientists Henrik Svensmark, Mike Lockwood and : Kalevi Mursula in Bruges, where he recently moderated a debate on space weather and its effect on earth’s climate.

The other four chats are scheduled for December 1, 8, 15 and 22. Subjects could/will include topics he explores regularly in his role as a science journalist: ‘What is dark matter?’ ‘What defines a planet?’, and ‘Why isn’t Johannes Kepler better remembered?’

Whether you’re an astronomy buff or neophyte, you’re guaranteed to learn something by participating in the #askdrstu chats.

And if astronomy’s not your cup of tea, check out the hashtags used by the smart, funny people you follow on Twitter and find a chat that does make you want to join the conversation.

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Social media could drive a public relations renaissance

So you’re all up to speed on the new rules of engagement for marketing and public relations and how important it is to abandon control of the ‘message’ and engage with your various audiences (the people formerly categorized as ‘stakeholders’ although this term is now out of favour as well, I’m not quite sure why) and the importance of ‘transparency’ and the fact that you’d better get on the social media bandwagon because at the rate things are going, there won’t be many mainstream media outlets left to whom you can tell your corporate story.

That static Web 1.0 web site you spent so much money on two or three years ago is sneered at and in order to maintain your search engine rankings you feel under increasing pressure to add a blog and feed it with content. Then you have to master Twitter to promote your blog and no one will read your media release unless it’s a social media release which means you’ve got to start shooting amateur video you can post on YouTube and you haven’t mastered Facebook and now you’re being told you need to create a Facebook group page and instead of ever being done with this whole business of communicating so you can get on with growing and running your business, you end up feeling like you’re even farther behind than when you started. Continue reading

Posted in marketing, media relations, public relations, Social media | 2 Comments

Spacelocker: The social media train wreck

I signed up for Spacelocker last October because I’m naturally curious and because I’ve been involved in social media and social networking for years now. The site didn’t make a lot of sense to me and I think I logged on to it once after joining. Had I remembered my password, I would have closed my account, because its juvenile graphics and navigational difficulties combined with no immediately clear explanation of its value add made it just another site, and one that didn’t seem intended for – or useful to – me.

I’d had the occasional email from them and ignored it. But I was extremely startled the first week in June to suddenly start getting replies to emails I hadn’t sent, from people I’ve never formally added as contacts to my Gmail account (and people I certainly never added to my Spacelocker account as contacts; I don’t think I added anyone there), asking me where they’d met me or politely declining my invitation to join me on Spacelocker. Ahem. An invitation I hadn’t sent.

My first response was to conclude that my Gmail account had been hacked, but that seemed unlikely. I had an appointment, so I quickly dashed off an email via the contact form (the only way you can contact Spacelocker other than by snail mail in London, England), saying I wanted to close my account but that I was quite sure it had been hacked, because everybody and his uncle and their cat and dog had received an ‘invitation’ from me. Continue reading

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Social media as continuum rather than ladder

Love this post and the explanations as a follow-on to the previous post querying the directionality of the ladder of social media engagement. What makes it particularly good is the correlation of the newly coined terms to the Forrester/Charlene Li Groundswell terms.

Some nice thinking and writing going on here. Kudos to Leigh Duncan-Durst and Live Path.

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