First post, first post. What to do? Personal stuff? Professional stuff? Bit of a mix? I think so. I’ve had a full weekend which has managed to combine a bit of everything, so this’ll probably be a mess.
I went to Berlin for a summit organised by Edelman Public Relations called PR2.0 (bit of disclosure here: I’ve done some work on a freelance basis for Edelman in the past). Edelman wanted to get a bunch of people either involved or interested in how the world of social media is changing the PR profession to see if we could come up with any answers, because to a greater or lesser extent, we’re all struggling with it a bit at the mo’. And let’s be honest, they were also using it as a (very, as it turned out) soft recruitment exercise. Fair play to them though. We were put up in a very nice hotel, fed and watered liberally and weren’t asked to work too hard…
I can’t go naming any of the other delegates as half of them were probably there without their current employer’s knowledge (which is why the event took place over a weekend) but there was a good line up of speakers from organisations as diverse as Nike and the World Wildlife Fund. Hugh MacLeod was also there speaking. For those of you that don’t know (ha! As if…) MacLeod is one of the UK’s most celebrated bloggers. It’s quite extraordinary. In the real world, he draws cartoons on the back of business cards (don’t necessarily expect belly laughs, mind…). He’s also a marketing consultant to a South African wine maker, an English bespoke tailor and Microsoft. Work that out.
Anyway, MacLeod did his speech and, as I’d been led to believe it would, it centred around what he calls ‘Social Objects’. A cartoon can be a Social Object. As can a bottle of wine. Or a mobile phone. Or a book. Or a meal. Or a newspaper article. A Social Object is something…anything…that two or more people want to talk about; that prompts a conversation. And conversations are important in the new world of social media. In fact, it’s all about conversations.
I buy that. I just think Social Object is a bit of a wanky phrase to describe stuff that people want to talk about. But it’s right, and appeals to my view of the new world of social media. Though I also hate the phrase ‘social media’. I’m a content man, you see, and social media (for me, at least) is about the technology and not the content. I’d prefer a phrase like ‘conversational marketing’, though accept that might be regarded as wanky in itself. But the concept of organisations needing to create things (‘Social Objects’) that tap into the interests, values and emotions of two or more people is spot on.
It was a good weekend. I’ve come away having learnt stuff, but also being confident in the fact that I know more about it all than I thought I did. I also met some truly nice people. Some of them German.
The highlight of the weekend was, of course, Berlin’s striking architecture. No it wasn’t. It was England beating France in the Rugby World Cup semi-final! Thankfully – despite their clear and total mystification – our German hosts recognised the raw passion in the eyes of the English and French delegates and we were allowed to escape from the official evening out and seek out an Irish pub to watch the game. It was quite an evening as, at the same time as the French and English rugby teams were doing battle, the German and Irish football teams were doing the same. Luckily the pub had enough TVs to go around. And beer. The Guinness was served in 400ml glasses. These were exactly the same shape as a traditional Guinness pint glass, but obviously about a third smaller. This made it look like I had enormous hands, to my childish amusement every time a new one arrived.
But what a result! Our joyous momentum carried us well into the early hours of Sunday morning, where I literally danced myself to a standstill in the Felix nightclub. My contribution to the summit’s Sunday sessions was more than slightly affected. Indeed, when I did decide to chip in with a question, I found my voicebox rendered useless through my constant screaming at the television the previous evening and simply emitted a sad stream of raspy whispers. Quite pathetic.
However, the essence of the question still remains. Are there the companies out there with the balls to give up enough control of their brands and messages to properly participate in the new world of conversational marketing? I’m not sure there are.