Oh, How Small the World has Become

connections.jpgPhoto by Daycha Kijpattanapinyo

Here’s a little story that demonstrates the connections we’re all making online through this crazy social media network. It never ceases to amaze me.

Follow along closely, ’cause this is intricate.

Most of you know that being a part of the blogosphere means you’ll run into the same characters over and over again, especially in niche corners of the blogsphere’s web such as communication pros, cat fanciers, and lactivists. So I knew of Erin online about 18 months ago and met her online shortly before she started Forward. She invited me to contribute to the Forward blog not long after. Somewhere along the line I met Paull. It wasn’t long before I knew Erin and I shared the same passion for PR and social media and that Paull and I had the same questionable sense of humor.

Fast forward to my job, where we hire a young woman who finds out I’m a social media freak. She tells me not long after her hire that her former professor started a blog. So I checked it out. His name is Bill, his blog is ToughSledding. I check him out, I subscribe. I mean, he’s the only other NE Ohio PR blogger I know of.

Fast forward to Paull’s world tour, where he leaves Australia and travels the world, New York, Washington DC, Toronto Canada, Ohio, Norway, Denmark and more. He and Erin spend some time with me here in Ohio. It is amazing to think how it all transpired for them to be sitting in my living room one day. But then he and Erin headed out and things were back to normal here.

Then I get the following email from Bill at ToughSledding:

I’ve been conversing with Paull Young (through Facebook) and learned that he’d been in the area to visit his “mate” in Ohio. Thought maybe it was time I introduced myself, since we’re both blogging on PR topics and we’re both in the neighborhood.

I was floored. Kent State University is about 50 minutes from my house. Bill had made a comment to a post at Forward, started chatting with Paull on Facebook. Paull sent him a video of him speaking at a college in Toronto and Bill emailed me because of Paull.

I tried to get people at work to recognize the sheer brilliance of a medium at work when a fellow visiting the states from Australia can meet up with a guy in Ohio who works with a graduate of a school whose professor happens to have begun a conversation with said Australian, causing the professor to email the guy in Ohio who lives/works nearby. Bill understood the complexity of it. We agreed to find a time to meet up, but had never found time.

So I went to a PRSA luncheon in Akron on Thursday to watch Sage Lewis teach PR folks about SEO and Web 2.0. I got there a little later than most and there were only a few chairs left. I found a seat, went to introduce myself to the table when it dawns on me that the person I’m about to shake hands with is Bill from Toughsledding.

Absolutely amazing. It came full circle around. Bill thought it was amazing as well, and told the assembled crowd about it. It’s a medium at work. Always. Recognize it. Realize what it can do for you, your business, and your clients.

PRSA Akron Steppin’ Up

I'm pleased to announce that the Akron Chapter of PRSA joined the blogosphere in March. Even Constantin made note of it. Sponsored by Akhia Public Relations (and hosted by Six Apart's Typepad) the blog is titled, "A side of Blog."

First of all, I'm thrilled to see that NE Ohio has entered the "conversation", as it were. When I read the email my friend sent to me about the blog, I nearly fell off of my chair. I was so excited. I have, for eight to ten months now, been very disappointed not to see more PR firms or professionals in this area engaged in the blogosphere. Not to say that these people aren't doing great PR work, it's just that I felt like our area was lacking an online presence. I must not have been paying close enough attention, as I note that Chris Thompson of Edward Howard has a blog, too. I'm interested in other NE Ohio new media communication efforts. Anyone? I applaud Ben at Akhia for stepping up to the plate to spearhead the Akron PRSA Chapter project and I applaud the professionals that are taking an interest. 

The news and announcements for this on the PRSA Akron Website reads:

Blog! Get Your Blog Here! Hot off the press!
Posted: 3/13/2006
Ok… hot off the keyboard may be more like it. Akron PRSA has started our very own blog! We are proud to announce the addition of one of the latest movements in information sharing to our bank of communication methods. So stop by, check it out. Read as our chapter members discuss everything from movies and sports to PR ethics and government.

I'm a little concerned about the topics listed here. Not to say we don't need a little levity, humor, and water cooler talk in the PR world from time to time (because we do), but – well, the idea of discussing government frightens me a little. Does that mean politics? I was happy to see an email sent out to PR pros that clarifies it a little and asks for contributions. It reads:

Visit http://prsaaa.typepad.com/akron/ and check out the…posting, "A Day in the Life of an Intern." Add it to your favorites and check back often for updates and new postings. It's a great forum for you to submit feedback about your PRSA experiences, offer reviews of local vendors, exchange information with other PRSA Akron members, and more.

Since its inception on March 6, Chapter President Carrie Kandes posted, Ben from Akhia posted three times, the Akhia Intern has posted twice, the Chapter VP sent a thank you to professionals who helped with our PRSSA Student Development program, and I sent in a post. Lots of hits to the site, the email had said, but I think more content and more focus is required. Judging from the blockquote above with a list of topics. I'm wondering if a discussion board or Yahoo! Group wouldn't be more applicable for creating an online community for PRSA Akron members. This goes back to the question of "when is a blog a blog?" Just because it uses blogging tools? I don't think so, and many in the blogosphere would agree. This shows us that new tools can be used to fulfill important functions, but should not be used just because they're cool. PR bloggers have been telling their clients that for months. "Do we want to blog?" is not the right question, the proper one is "why should we be blogging?"

So, my observations:

  • What's the purpose? Answering this question will determine the blog's direction.
  • Who can write? I believe that everyone has the right to contribute in some way.
  • Who can post? Ben is clearly the moderator for this. And he already told me he's not going to censor things, which is great. But this adds another step to the process. Like all PR pros, Ben already has a full plate, why make it more difficult for him?
  • There aren't many links.

In sum, what I'm seeing is that A Side Of Blog is currently like a meeting with no agenda and no scheduled speakers. Conversly, a blog is more of a virtual conference with one or more presenters who take requests and suggestions from the audience to start a discussion. It is not an open forum. That's what Listservs and Usenet groups are for. Not surprisingly, I have a few suggestions:

  • Find the purpose. This will give direction and life to the blog.
  • Post more often and give it one voice. The benefit of a blog is that it's a way to conversationally share information that invites discussion. If everyone can post, there's no discussion, just random thoughts. What would readers gain from it?
  • If you don't want one voice, maybe give a handful of select people rights to post. Sharing the responsibility among a few will push them to write. Friends and colleagues of these few will visit and participate in the conversation. Soon, word will spread and a community will form. Develop a page of contributors that list each person, her job, and her background. Have the authors write about industry trends, interesting asides, lessons learned, and chapter information.
  • Have one person do the posting, Ben is the logical choice. The Forward Blog, for instance, works because Erin Caldwell has assembled a crack team of pros and student authors. But only one person posts to the blog, which ensures proper timing and minimizes overlap of topics. It works, it works really well. There is no shortage of posts and the content is excellent. In the spirit of disclosure, I'm one of the contributors to the Forward Blog.
  • Link, Link, Link!
  • Have fun.

So those are my thoughts. Don't let me fool you, I'm really excited about this and I'm looking forward to joining the Akron PRSA chapter in the future. But I have some concerns about the blog. A great idea that needs a little molding and Ben is already leaning that way. His most recent post brings me hope, except that he doesn't link to the blog where he got his info. A blogosphere faux pas. This initiative is new and I'm hopeful. I'm on board. I'm ready and eager to listen and contribute.