What I Saw at South by Southwest

I met a lot of interesting people at South By Southwest (SXSW), but it was weird because in many ways I felt like I knew them from industry news, blogs, and Twitter. However, the people experience at SXSW was one amazing thing, and the reason for that is the authentic conversations I had with people I’ve known only online.  Even though we read each other’s blogs and tweets, the information we post online is somewhat choreographed and rehearsed. Sure, we call it an online dialogue, but people tend to be conservative and think about what they write before posting it online. At SXSW, being surrounded by new ideas led to real-world conversations where you are improvising and building upon each others’ ideas in the moment. Being authentic while online is critical, but the authenticity that comes through an unorganized discussion in person can’t be replicated online no matter how hard we try. The purity of exchanging new ideas with incredibly intelligent people is a profound human experience. My SXSW conversations have changed the way I think about new media, and this is where SXSW adds the most value. Despite many complaints about it being too big, the diversity of opinion and experience is what I enjoyed the most: The opportunity to meet tons of new people who wanted to discuss amorphous ideas and figure out how we can use them to make our businesses better. 

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GroupMe to Let Brands Talk to Consumers (No Really . . . We Mean It This Time)

GroupMe to Let Brands Talk to Consumers (No Really . . . We Mean It This Time)

How many times have marketing and social media consultants spoke boldly about how social media have enabled brands and corporations to talk to consumers in ways never seen before?Let’s take a step back: how many are doing it right?Raise your hand if you’ve seen brands put up press releases on Facebook or Twitter? Raise your hand if you’ve seen post a Facebook status up that says something like “And how are you enjoying (whatever their product is) today?”That’s not talking with consumers. That’s talking at them. Big difference.

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Interview With Yoni Bloch at South by Southwest

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend South by Southwest with Ketchum colleagues from a range of offices, practices and client teams. As luck would have it, colleagues and I were armed with a Kodak video recorder and managed to land some cool interviews with the likes of Guy Kawasaki, Yoni Bloch (Israeli rock band member, TV star, and CEO and co-founder, Interlude), and more.

Here’s the first of these interviews, with Israeli rock and TV star Yoni Bloch. As you watch it, you might be thinking the same thing as many other people: “Does Jonathan fantasize about being a TV news reporter?!” The answer is no. Enjoy the video!

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Are We Currently in the Game Layer Decade?

Are We Currently in the Game Layer Decade?

Last week, I had the chance to visit SXSW Interactive on behalf of Ketchum. I wasn’t there specifically for any clients we work with, but instead, Ketchum sent me alongside my Ketchum Social Media colleague Jon Bellinger to spot trends for the upcoming year; meet and greet with Internet culture luminaries like CollegeHumor.com, the founders behind the movie Browncoats: Redemption, a few select reporters, etc., and more.

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Tragedy in Japan: Addressing Natural Disasters

Tragedy in Japan: Addressing Natural Disasters

The situation in northeast Japan is grim and may soon get worse. At the time of this writing, the earthquake and resulting tsunami has led to early estimates between 900 and 1,800 dead. That does not include the nearly 9,500 people unaccounted for in the coastal town Minamisanriku. Japanese authorities are also presuming that two nuclear reactor meltdowns may already be underway. Broadcast media have already speculated on the possibility of another Chernobyl-like disaster.The people of Japan will need help. If history is a guide, help will come. It will come from the U.S. and other governments. It will come from citizen donations that will funnel through charitable, religious and disaster-aid organizations. It will also come from emergency management and corporate-citizen efforts of many companies that have the resources to pitch in.

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Adding Fuel to Mindfire

Adding Fuel to Mindfire

I have a regular morning ritual. Say hello to my colleagues, drink a large coffee, read my new e-mails and spend some time crowdsurfing. That is to say, every morning I look through a new wave of creative ideas that flows in from our online crowdsourcing platform, Mindfire.Ketchum launched Mindfire with a four-month pilot phase last fall. At the outset, we wanted to involve a small number of enthusiastic university students in an open environment to share ideas and comments on real-world creative challenges. Now, after 30 challenges and hundreds of ideas generated for our clients, the potential of Mindfire is clear. Participating universities have more than tripled, with new students looking to join the community every day. Mindfire has been used for Ketchum clients around the world, generating innovative ideas for creative challenges in as little as 24 hours. Mindfire participants have joined global Ketchum offices in internship and entry-level positions and also taken advantage of additional benefits, such as career coaching and Ketchum webinars.

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Foursquare 3 Check-ins: Here's What You Need to Know

Foursquare 3 Check-ins: Here's What You Need to Know

In the run-up to South by Southwest (SXSW) 2011, it’s definitely hard to keep up with all the news surrounding Foursquare. I had a blog post all set and ready to go for this morning on version 3 of its software and how it would fundamentally change the way users enjoy the mobile application. And then, sure enough, Foursquare announced even more changes to the business platform this morning. Who knows what Foursquare will post after this blog post goes up. . . .If you’re a Foursquare user on the Android or iPhone platforms, you should have already had an opportunity to download the new version of the app. According to the official blog post on the new version, the new features fit into three categories designed to drive check-ins, new sign-ups, etc.:

Discovery Encouragement Loyalty.

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Geography Refresher

Geography Refresher

Is it more correct for English speakers to write “Deutschland” as the name for the country in northern central Europe, or “Germany”? Or, in the middle of a sentence, is it more correct to write “the United Arab Emirates” or “The United Arab Emirates” for the country in the Middle East? And is “Mumbai” more correct to use when writing the name of this city in western India than “Bombay” is?These are but a few geographic conundrums that PR pros come across in writing about a world that is increasingly connected. And since one of our mantras is “accuracy, accuracy, accuracy,” it’s important to keep these names and places straight. What’s more, some seemingly straightforward geographic terms continue to confuse and confound.In my role as editor, I frequently come across this problem, and below I’ve listed some of the most common geographic terms that cause confusion and the best ways to handle the writing of them. See if any of these are tricky for you.

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"Whadya Want From Me?": Social Media Let Consumers Ask the Questions More Than Ever Before

Adam Lambert, Facebook and Others Participate in Grammy Social Media Rock Stars Summit  Facebook wasn’t widely used for brand marketing a few years ago. That’s what we have to keep reminding ourselves as social media continue to pave the way for brands to market themselves to consumers. It’s a constantly evolving space that we’re all running on our hamster wheels trying to keep up with. I recently attended the Grammy Social Media Summit to gain a better understanding of how music artists specifically leverage social media to engage their fans – something that can easily be translated to our brand PR knowledge base. The panel discussion featured Grammy nominee Adam Lambert, Grammy winner Chamillionaire, Facebook Director of Platform Product Marketing Ethan Beard, Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai, and Pandora founder and Chief Strategy Officer Tim Westergren. Moderated by veteran broadcast music journalist John Norris, the discussion mostly centered around how social media platforms have contributed to the popularity of many rising artists.

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Die, Content Spam, Die!

My Twitter Stream is full of people praising or doubting Google’s recent algorithm changes in its latest effort to curb rising content spam. In fact, we all have received fake comments on our blogs or e-mails linking back to dumb pages full of keywords whose only purpose is to clock traffic numbers to drive up ad revenue.  I wish there were a way to make companies more aware of how ingeniously spammers are trying to game the Google algorithm and, by extension, Bing’s and any other search engine. Computer logic still has difficulty grasping what the human mind deals with easily on a regular basis without difficulty. Ontologies, which I have discussed previously, are effective constructs that the mind uses to represent fuzzy concepts. “Happiness,” “peace,” “fun” are difficult to define precisely. However, while we can have heated discussions over, for example, “What is happiness?” the purpose of such discussions is usually limited to philosophical speculation. The fact that we CANNOT PRECISELY DEFINE what is happiness does not prevent us from pursuing it, from making it such an important part of our life, and to recognize when we do not have it.In other words, we can USE the “happiness” concept, even though we cannot DEFINE it.

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