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Social Speech Podcast, Episode 12: Mitchell Beer

Thu, 27 Dec 2012 21:43:10 +0000

Mitchell Beer has been a leader in conference communcations for more than a quarter of a century. His firm, The Conference Publishers, reports and repackages conference content - keeping it useful and relevant long after the closing gavel.

How does that change in the social media era? In this episode, Mitchell tells me how conference reporting is evolving to take advantage of everything from YouTube to Twitter. And along the way, we gain some insights into how speakers and speechwriters can help their messages find a prominent place in those reports... and in the ideas participants take home with them.

Media Files:

Social media can give new life to old communication vehicles

Sat, 18 Jul 2009 04:35:08 +0000

For organizations with a strong policy orientation, turning out documents and reports is a pretty integral part of their existence. And often those reports are valuable contributions to the dialogue.The problem is getting people to read and, even more helpfully, act on them - especially people whose engagement would broaden the conversation. Oh, the reports get to a slowly shrinking circle of the usual suspects: stakeholders, colleagues, competitors, opponents, policy wonks. Maybe they even get a brief flicker of news coverage. But breaking out of that circle is tough, especially if the organization's voice is, like most, and I say this with love... just a little on the staid side.That's why I'm always happy to see an organization let its hair down. And get some green streaks put in for fun.The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has just released its 2009 Parks Day Report, an annual state-of-the-nation's-parks roundup. (Disclosure: CPAWS and Mountain Equipment Coop are the organizations behind The Big Wild, an online community we've worked on. And we offered some advice to CPAWS on hiring the caribou you're about to read about.)The subtitle, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," cues you in to the mix of good news (they protected the Nahanni!) and pretty alarming warnings (like the intense pressure from all sides on tiny, precious Point Pelee National Park).But CPAWS isn't content to turn out yet another document. They supplement it with a neat use of Google Maps that gives you an at-a-glance impression of what's going on in the Canadian wilderness protection scene.Each item on the map links to more information; several link to campaigns. Even if web site visitors never open the report itself, they'll have learned a little about the issues affecting Canadian parks and had an opportunity to take action.And they'll learn even more if they watch the accompanying video. Enter the aforementioned caribou.CPAWS' campaign to protect Canadian boreal forest is represented by a talking woodland caribou by the name of Bou. And in this video, Bou presents the report's highlights and low points: You might conclude that the video is pitched someone other than the usual report-reading crowd, and I think you'd be right. I also think there's a pretty decent chance that most of this video's viewers will never download that 14-page PDF, let alone read it thoroughly (although it's well worth the read, and comes across more as a lively magazine photo spread than a dry policy piece).But they'll know about logging in Algonquin Park, federal inaction on marine parks and the Quebec government's inaction on Mont Orfort Park. And they'll have a chance to respond on those issues - through text comments, a video commentary of their own or by taking action on the CPAWS site. Which is a lot more than most paper reports can ever offer. [...]

Media Files:

BC Hydro hits YouTube

Fri, 09 Jan 2009 01:45:20 +0000

Our friends and clients at BC Hydro have made the leap onto YouTube, with a series of videos promoting their newly overhauled, conservation-enhanced web site.

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And for Canadian comedy fans, there's a bonus: the first six videos feature Kids in the Hall alum Kevin McDonald, pressed into service as various species of disgruntled British Columbia wildlife.

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The videos are geared to getting you to check out BC Hydro's large and growing selection of tips and how-to guides for reducing your energy footprint (with video tutorials that are pretty decent in their own right).

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For BC Hydro, it's the latest step in a social media foray that began with the Green Gifts Facebook application. For Kevin McDonald, it's a chance to stretch his acting chops outside the narrow confines of human characters (although there was this guy a while ago...).

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Now, if you'll excuse us, we have to go weatherstrip our doorways. Or this here marmot's going to get mighty p-o'd.

Do adjust your set: viewers flock to YouTube over TV to see Obama

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 00:31:53 +0000

Alex posted yesterday about YouTube views as a proxy for the relative support for political candidates. According to this piece at TechPresident, the same may be true of the relative support for new and old(er) media:

About 3.8 million people have now watched Barack Obama's Philadelphia address through the campaign's official YouTube channel, which has over 40,000 subscribers.... Aside from the Obama channel, which promotes videos through blogs, news sites and supporter networks, another 520,000 people watched excerpts of the speech uploaded by random YouTube users. Taken together, the total YouTube viewers for Obama's speech over the past week beat all the cable channels combined. Last Tuesday, about four million viewers tuned into one of the three cable channels to watch the speech.

Today's wisdom has it that social media is potential Kryptonite to newspapers. Maybe TV news should be worried, too.

One last bit of perhaps overly wishful thinking from this former speechwriter: could the phenomenal YouTube success of Obama's speech mean new life for the ancient art of oratory? True, the social media that can save your next quarterly earnings report has probably yet to be invented - but for something more inspirational, online video could well be the next bully pulpit.

Comparing the impact of web video on Obama and Clinton campaigns

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 16:57:37 +0000

We're often asked how organizations can measure the return on investment from social media. Frank Rich's column in today's New York Times effectively uses YouTube views as a proxy for the overall success of the Obama and Clinton campaigns in tapping the power of the web:

The Drudge Report’s link to the YouTube iteration of the CBS News piece [broadcasting Hillary Clinton's arrival in Bosnia, with no evidence to support her recollection of dodging sniper fire] transformed it into a cultural phenomenon reaching far beyond a third-place network news program’s nightly audience. It had more YouTube views than the inflammatory Wright sermons, more than even the promotional video of Britney Spears making her latest “comeback” on a TV sitcom. It was as this digital avalanche crashed down that Mrs. Clinton, backed into a corner, started offering the alibi of “sleep deprivation” and then tried to reignite the racial fires around Mr. Wright.

The Clinton campaign’s cluelessness about the Web has been apparent from the start, and not just in its lagging fund-raising. Witness the canned Hillary Web “chats” and “Hillcasts,” the soupy Web contest to choose a campaign song (the winner, an Air Canada advertising jingle sung by Celine Dion, was quickly dumped), and the little-watched electronic national town-hall meeting on the eve of Super Tuesday. Web surfers have rejected these stunts as the old-school infomercials they so blatantly are.

Senator Obama, for all his campaign’s Internet prowess, made his own media mistake by not getting ahead of the inevitable emergence of commercially available Wright videos on both cable TV and the Web. But he got lucky. YouTube videos of a candidate in full tilt or full humiliation, we’re learning, can outdraw videos of a candidate’s fire-breathing pastor. Both the CBS News piece on Mrs. Clinton in Bosnia and the full video of Mr. Obama’s speech on race have drawn more views than the most popular clips of a raging Mr. Wright.

Bedtime with Rob and Alex ep. 4: the long-distance episode

Fri, 08 Feb 2008 07:27:15 +0000

Okay, so Alex is in Oberlin, Ohio while Rob holds down the fort in Vancouver, BC. You think we're going to let a little thing like 3,300 kilometres of distance keep us from our just-before-sleep banter?

Thanks to the miracle of Skype and a little app called Call Recorder, you get to tune into yet another evening's chat. And tonight we cover everything from air travel in the digital age (turns out it's easier!) to the race for the Democratic nomination... including's Barack Obama anthem, the "Yes We Can Song".

By the way, Call Recorder worked like a charm. "Can we record Skype calls at the push of a single button? Yes! We! Can!"

Media Files:

Accepting on behalf of lonelygirl15 will be lonelygirl16

Thu, 24 Jan 2008 00:03:33 +0000

(parent to teen sprawled on bed) Cheer up, sweetheart. Maybe NEXT year the Oscars will have a category for Best YouTube Diary.

How citizen journalism powered by social media reframes politics, politicians, and the people involved

Sun, 25 Feb 2007 16:03:19 +0000

I just stepped out of a superb presentation by Eddie Codel titled Using Internet Video to Change the World One Eyeball at a Time. A few of the phenomena he raised: Holla Back NYC Have Money Will Vlog Chinese soldiers shooting Tibetan pilgrims, posted to YouTube Expedition 360 Alive in Baghdad (ex-)Sen. George Allen's "macaca" moment It's that last example that has had me preoccupied for some time, and I raised it at the session. For the record: I'm not one of the herd that grumbles about how politicians are universally corrupt, venal thieves who can't tell the truth to save their lives. I've known too many who make enormous sacrifices because of a genuine commitment to public service. But for a variety of reasons, politics often demands oversimplified messages and black-and-white partisan divisions. And – because of the need to build support from diverse, conflicting constituencies among the voting (and donating) public – there are perverse rewards for convenient dishonesty and punishments for telling difficult truths... especially if you think you won't get caught. Nothing new there: politicians telling people what they want to hear is an old story. But what's new is the ability to catch them in the act. Video cameras are everywhere; many digital cameras can capture video and audio. But even more significant is the world of cell phones. Mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous, and a large and growing number of them can record video. Those phones are a lot less intrusive than a camcorder; it would be hard to imagine a better means of capturing unguarded moments. Like, say, a politician telling a voter something that contradicts something the politician had told a different audience the day before. An outrageous slur against an opponent. A career-ending* display of bigotry. It's only a matter of time before a politician does something George Allen-esque in front of the watchful eye of a camera phone. And then the impact on politicians will be profound. Nearly every moment outside of their own homes (and inside, if they've done something that morning to tick off one of their kids) could find its way onto YouTube, Revver or any of a dozen other video-sharing sites... and onto the computers of thousands of their voters. So what happens then? I've seen commentators suggest that it means that politicians will be "on" 24/7 – and that only those who can maintain their duplicitous public façades indefinitely will succeed. I think (or at least allow myself to hope) differently. I keep thinking of the Hollywood executive in a Wiliam Goldman book whose mind wanders during a phone call; he frantically clamps his hand over the phone's mouthpiece and hisses to Goldman, "Which lie did I tell?" Ubiquitous video probably will reward the truly nightmarish candidates: the charming psychopaths who really do lie, well and consistently, every hour of the day. But then, the system already rewards them. It's the less accomplished liars – the ones who can't be certain they'll keep their stories straight – who will see the system of incentives and disincentives tilt a little more toward honesty and openness. And it will be the honest candidates who see the odds starting to break a little more their way. That's my hope, anyway. Responding during the Northern Voice session, Robert Scoble and Ian King found it naive, and it may be. (Possibly because I stated it a lot more categorically in the session. Then again, I had to squeeze it into a 30-second comment. Hmm – see incentives to oversimplify, above.) But there's a critical difference between being "on", and actually lying. If "on" (which basically means constant consciousness of the strategic and tactical implications of what you're saying and doing) is ultimately derived what you actually believe, well, there are worse things to be. One other effect I hope this has: an adjustment of expectations[...]

Targeting your video message to the community you want to reach

Sun, 20 Aug 2006 04:28:57 +0000

I had a great conversation on Saturday night with Kate Trgovac on Sean Holman's Public Eye Radio. The topic was Petro-Canada's foray into the video-sharing world of YouTube, a project Kate got rolling for them before moving on to her new gig. (The videos purport to explain why gasoline prices are so high.) A good time was had by all... and something Kate said struck me. She likes the initiative, but finds the Petro-Canada videos themselves to be too corporate. She's right – and on many levels. Being "too corporate for YouTube" isn't just a question of slick production values. Greenpeace UK's anti-SUV video and the trailers for An Inconvenient Truth are highly professional, yet have had tremendous viral uptake. And with inexpensive or free video production tools in the hands of so many users (even if the skills to use them well aren't quite so broadly distributed), a large and growing number of user-contributed videos are looking awfully good. The issue is more one of value to the user. Petro-Canada's videos are ultimately self-serving (with the exception of one that offers tips for reducing your vehicle's gas consumption). So, for that matter, is the supporting Pump Talk web site: the subtext is "There's a good reason you're paying us lots of money, and you'd better get used to it." And although the company's communications shop tries to position this as employees communicating with the public, the results are anything but; this is straight PR-department copy with a light folksy patina. Even that might work if Petro-Canada had a base of loyal, enthusiastic customers like, say, Apple does. Apple's fans were more than happy to hear and repeat tropes from Apple's PR department, such as the megahertz myth. Even straight advertisements have gone viral. (It isn't hard to find lots of enthusiast sites still pointing to the very first Mac TV ad, "1984.") In that case, the value to the user is being armed with support and validation for their enthusiasm and loyalty. Humour works well too, as do pointed jabs at a shared antagonist, catching an opponent in an unguarded moment and appealing for support for a sympathetic underdog. Best of all is actually useful information. And a lot of the most successful material on YouTube – apart from the strictly entertaining – has a subversive tone to it. Those video-makers are sticking it to The Man, as are their viewers when they watch and forward it. All of which gives Petro-Canada a problem: Raving fans for a gas station chain are few and far between. The clips the company has created aren't funny. The corporation and its customers don't have a shared antagonist or opponent. Petrocan's hardly an underdog. With one notable exception, the information isn't really useful. And forwarding a video clearly scripted by Petro-Canada's corporate communications department isn't taking a swipe at The Man; they are The Man. Does that mean YouTube is a mistake for PetroCan, or anyone else who doesn't have a certain amount of street cred? No. There's little to be lost by posting the videos, provided the company is actually interested in pursuing a dialogue (their failure so far to respond to two-week-old critical comments from users raises a few questions on that score). But they could still do a lot more with this. One example: If you want to convince me about oil prices being out of your hands, don't have that information coming from a Petro-Canada employee who's in an obvious conflict of interest. Find someone else who doesn't have a dog in this fight – say, an economist with a gift for plain speech. (They do exist. McGill has been running a captive breeding program that's showing tremendous promise.) Have them hash it out with an angry consumer, and put that up on YouTube. Or create a pumptalk tag, and announce you'll respond – either through comments or with a Pump Talk vid[...]

Rob talks about Petro-Canada and YouTube: CFAX 1070

Sat, 19 Aug 2006 06:24:02 +0000

Just a quick note – I’ll be on Sean Holman’s Public Eye with Kate Trgovac, to talk about Petro-Canada’s YouTube gambit. We’re on at 8 p.m., right after the news. That's 1070 kHz on your AM dial in sunny Victoria, or listen live online.