Napa

Dsc02781I was up in Napa for two days at the New Communications Forum, a conference about bloggers for PR professionals. While up there I learned from someone that the place to go is not the French Laundry ("overrated") but the Greystone which is the West Coast campus for the Culinary Institute of America.

One of these days I’ll organize my life so I can actually try these places rather than eat over-poached fish and oily salmon at a conference luncheon!

Andy Lark

Ok. Last post about the NewComm conference. Andy Lark, formally a VP of Marketing at Sun, is now out on his own as a speaker, evangelist, and consultant for firms that are looking for someone to help them with their blogging strategy.

Shameless plug: Andy is on TypePad on an account that he started while still at Sun. Sun has their own blogging infrastructure so when chided by Sun execs for not having his blog running on a Sun product, he shot back that what he wrote on his blog was his and he wanted to have the right to take the content (and more importantly, the domain, links, and comments) with him when if he ever left Sun.

Andy gave an inspirational talk about the benefits of blogging for corporations, particularly those in charge of interpreting the corporate voice for the public (that would be Public Relations). The best summary of his talk that I could find (I’m sure there will be more in the coming days) was by Jeremy Wright.

UPDATE: You can download a copy of his 82-slide presentation here.

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New Communications Forum

Just got back from two days at the New Communications Forum which was an interesting mix of old hand bloggers meeting with PR professionals to talk about the impact of blogging on the art of Public Relations. Lots of interest as everyone understands the potential of this new medium but we all realize that we’re grasping for a way to measure it in a way that it maps to the usual methods of getting the word out.

Some highlights:

  • The Kryptonite/Bic pen scandal cost the company $10 million in just 10 days because they had to replace over 100,000 locks. That’s almost half of their $25 million annual sales.
  • Yahoo’s Searchblog went from 0 to 500 subscribers to it’s RSS feed in just 60 days.
  • “Email disseminates information, Blogs discuss information.” Neville Hobson
  • “RSS is like TiVo for the web.” Andy Lark
  • the blogosphere loves Bob Lutz as a CEO who “get’s it”
  • there’s money to be made in “blogsaulting”
  • the difference between a message board and a blog
  • stripes and checks don’t mix (inside joke with Stowe Boyd)
  • “blogerrific” – an new adjective coined by Tom Foremski to describe something that’s been improved with either RSS or blogging technology, i.e. the new, improved C|Net that now accepts Trackbacks.
  • “The days when you could control the message are over. Now the best you can hope to do is influence the conversation,” says Shel Holtz. I would add, this is why companies need to participate in the blogosphere with an active blog. If a person runs into a room at a party going full tilt, they are not going to have a hard time getting anyone to listen to them if they just stand at the transom shouting. They need to mingle and get to know people first.
  • the concept of “darkspots” on corporate websites. FedEx has one – it’s a blank area reserved on their top page for where they might put a tab to announce updates on a labor dispute that might impact shipping schedules. The area is kept free so that the tab can be put in place at a moments notice without disrupting the layout and design of the page.
  • it’s always great to see your company’s product being used in realtime to update the conference’s web site

My favorite take away from the two days is Elizabeth Albrycht’s snappy answer to the “What’s the ROI on blogging,” question. Nail down and measure the “Investment” so that you can properly frame and measure the “Return.” If someone is investing time into posting a company blog, think of the time they are saving by not having to call or email everyone individually to maintain that a connection. Think also of all the new conversations that get started as a result of that post.

ROI is going to be a hot topic as blogging gets evaluated as a tool for the corporation. What the industry needs is a new metric by which influence can be measured over time as corporate blogs are launched – it’s not page views, it’s not quite RSS subscribers either – we need a way to measure topic “buzz” and site “authority” – there’s a business opportunity there for someone.