Would you be happier without Facebook?

99 Days of Freedom

If you were not happy – outraged, even – with how Facebook behaved over the mood experiment they conducted last month, an experiment from a Dutch creative agency might be right up your street.

What Facebook did was manipulate information posted on nearly 700,000 users’ home pages that showed that the social network could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of emotional contagion.

Now Dutch creative agency Just has come up with 99 Days of Freedom, a call to action for Facebook users to demonstrate their disapproval of Facebook by switching off from the social network for 99 days.

[…It] asks users to refrain from Facebook use for a period of 99 consecutive days and report back on how the hiatus affects personal notions of happiness. The initiative’s website, 99daysoffreedom.com, provides a set of simple user instructions, which include posting a “time-off” image as a profile picture and starting a personalized, 99-day countdown clock. From there, participants are asked to complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66 and 99-day marks, with results posted to the initiative’s website as they’re compiled. The initiative will also host a message board through which participants can post anonymous accounts of how an extended break from Facebook is impacting their lives.

It’s a kind of mood experiment in reverse.

It’s also a cool initiative that gets Just a lot of attention for its imagination and creativity, as well as for the initiative itself. If it gets traction, it could focus considerable public attention on broad issues of online behaviours, manipulation of those behaviours by social networks, what companies do with our personal information, how we spend time online, etc – all hot topics today and great ones for ongoing public debate and discussion.

In its press release announcing 99 Days of Freedom, Just also talks about the amount of time people spend on Facebook:

[…] According to Facebook, its 1.2 billion users spend an average of 17 minutes per day on the site, reading updates, following links or browsing photos. Over a three-month period, that adds up to more than 28 hours which, the initiative’s creators contend, could be devoted to more emotionally fulfilling activities – learning a new skill, performing volunteer work or spending time (offline) with friends and family.

The subjective conclusion will appeal to many users, to be sure. My view is that many other users will be quite comfortable from an emotionally-fulfilling perspective – or any other one – with spending 28 hours on Facebook during any three-month period.

You could apply the same argument to Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn… Horses for courses.

Still, 99 Days of Freedom is an interesting experiment and it will be equally interesting to see how it goes, how many people sign up to do it – 16,748 when I looked at the website just now – and what conclusions arise at the end of each person’s 99 days. I’d love to see a brand try it!

Give it a go?

Enjoy life!

 

A hangout on the future of communication

#FutureComms14

In just three weeks’ time, on June 18, FutureComms14 takes place in London.

This one-day conference, organized by MyNewsDesk UK, will firmly ask a big question: “What’s the future of communications?” The line up of speakers will offer some compelling answers to it that will undoubtedly include insights.

You really can’t ask for more from an event. I’ll be there, too, moderating a panel discussion on the technologies of PR and chipping in with a few perspectives as well in the context of that big question.

Yesterday, four of the speakers – Deirdre Breakenridge, Danny Whatmough, Paul Sutton and me, Neville Hobson – got together in a live Google+ Hangout On Air video panel discussion, ably moderated by Adam Cranfield, for a 50-minute conversation that addressed these topics:

  1. What is the future of communications?
  2. Will marketing, PR and social media job roles still be distinct in five years?
  3. Will the results that small agencies can achieve using communications technology make brands question the value for money large agencies offer?
  4. Will organizations rely more on in-house communicators to produce their content than external agencies?

It was a terrific discussion that attracted a number of live viewers and quite a few more to the recording on YouTube. And here’s the recording:

A taster of the what you can expect on June 18.

Check the hashtag #FutureComms14 for ongoing conversation. Connect with those on the FutureComms14 Twitter list created by Paul Sutton. And last but not least – book your ticket.

See you in London on June 18!

If you attend one comms event this summer, make it #FutureComms14

FutureComms14

A really good conference for communicators takes place in London next month, and plans are well advanced for a day of valuable professional development, strongly focused on the question “What’s the future of communications?”and how to address it:

The disciplines of PR, marketing, social media and digital are converging and evolving at a breathless pace. Modern marketing communications is real-time, multimedia and multichannel. The challenge we face is to learn new skills, master new technologies, while maintaining focus on the key business goals of reputation and performance.

FutureComms14, organized by MyNewsDesk UK, takes place on Wednesday June 18 at The Crystal in London’s Docklands. The themes for the day that underpin the agenda are pretty compelling:

  • Where is PR, communications and social media heading?
  • What does your brand need to do to adapt?
  • Content marketing versus the Big Idea
  • Do brands need to think like media companies?
  • How can brands tell more compelling stories?
  • Which skills, technologies and platforms are critical for success?
  • How can we measure more smartly?

And the speakers who include three stand-outs for me:

  • Deirdre Breakenridge, who delivers the opening keynote on the future of communications (she expands her thinking on this topic in a post yesterday on the MyNewsDesk blog). The author of five business books, Deirdre is an influential voice in US communication circles, and a frequent speaker on PR, marketing, and social media communications. I’m really looking forward to meeting her next month.
  • Robert Phillips, ex-EMEA CEO of Edelman, and the author of “Trust Me, PR Is Dead,” a forthcoming book that’s already prompted some debate. Can’t wait to see Robert in action at this PR event!
  • Tom Foremski, ex-FT journalist and founder of Silicon Valley Watcher,  who famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) proclaimed “Die, press release, die! Die! Die!” back in 2006 – could this futuristic call finally be answered eight years on? – and advocated in 2009 that every company is (or should be) a media company. Is that a viable call today?

Just three in an eclectic speaker roster that also features Daniel Dodd, Director of Communications and Content at the National Trust; Betony Kelly, Head of Digital Outreach for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills; Danny Whatmough, Associate Digital and Social Media Director at Ketchum; Paul Sutton, Head of Social Communications at PR and content agency BOTTLE; Vikki Morgan, Head of Social at TMW agency; and many more. I’m also speaking (and working with MyNewsDesk on event development).

If I look at the conference and event landscape for communicators during the summer and into early autumn, FutureComms14 is the attention grabber. So if you’re looking for a good investment for your time and your money, this is the one.

Book your ticket early to be sure of a place. And if you book before May 18, there’s a discounted early bird rate.

Check the hashtag #FutureComms14 for the latest conversation. And connect with those on the FutureComms14 Twitter list created by Paul Sutton.

See you in London on June 18!

Redefining today’s communicator in Norway

Communications Day 2014When I look at the landscape of the communication profession around Europe, I see similar issues that concern communicators, most notably how strategic are communicators (and the profession itself), abiding by codes of conduct and practicing ethical behaviour, and being professional.

It’s a topic in the front of my mind as I finalise plans for a keynote presentation to the members of the Norwegian Communications Association on March 27.

The devil’s in the detail, of course, and what’s hot in one country isn’t necessarily at the same temperature in another.

In the UK, for instance, a current strong focus is on professionalism following the findings published by the CIPR last month in its ‘state of the profession’ survey and a clear call to action by CIPR President Stephen Waddington who asked, “How serious are PR practitioners about putting their ambition to be considered a professional into practice?”

I do wonder at times how serious people really are: behaviours people say they want to emulate too often don’t match what I see people do.

Actually, I think this is a very hot issue everywhere even if many individuals may not realise it is. You only have to read the Edelman Trust Barometer 2014 – the results of a survey of 33,000 people in 27 countries – to get a sense of why it’s hot.

So while professional associations like the CIPR and the Norwegian Communications Association look at the big picture and ways to galvanize action among its members, I’m focused on what individuals can and must do to be professional, whatever their role in organizational communication and whatever their level in their organizations.

On March 27, I’ll be in Norway at Communications Day 2014 (or, rather, Kommunikasjonsdagen 2014 – hashtag #komdagen) to deliver a keynote presentation that I’ve titled “Redefining Today’s Communicator.”

From the description on the event website:

Today’s communicator must, as never before, have clear vision and understanding of how communication and the communicator are key strategic assets that support measurable business objectives. Today’s communicator has a key role to play in the rapidly-changing landscape that embraces organization change, behavioral change and technology change; and the online world where the three intersect.

In an age where anyone can claim to be a communicator in business, Neville Hobson will illustrate what professional communicators must do to prove their relevance and context in what they do for their employers and clients.

A pretty broad brush, but I intend to speak to that big topic of professionalism and present some ideas on what we all need to do. I want it to be a relevant piece of the jigsaw, the whole of which will be revealed by presentations from others on the day – Michael Murphy, for instance, talking about the challenges, disruptive influences and opportunities which are shaping the communications functions of the future; and Sigbjørn Aanes, State Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, talking about “communication, sausages and politics” (can’t wait to hear that one!).

The organizers tell me that over 520 communicators will be there on March 27 – a really great representation of the communication profession in Norway.

There’s still time and space to sign up if you haven’t yet. And right below is a bit more information – an ad that was published in a Norwegian magazine last month.

Looking forward to being part of your day!

 Kommunikasjonsdagen 2014

The future of blogging is rosy

Read my blogBack in the day when blogging was social media, in the decade of the 00s, you were pretty limited in the methods you could use to publish your thinking and ideas.

Then, you only had blogs, the websites that enabled anyone with a thought to create a web page (a post) and publish it. But those websites and those who blogged kick-started a near-revolution in how people expressed themselves and who did that self-expressing.

That time is epitomized in Hugh MacLeod’s “Read my blog” cartoon from 2005.

Today, the blogging landscape has changed radically, with myriad tools and channels that offer platforms for you to to create and communicate something online in ways that not only present words (and audio, video) to others to read and maybe comment on, but also potentially reach audiences that exceed the circulations of traditional printed newspapers.

Today, your content is shared, discussed, criticized, praised, retweeted, repurposed, plagiarised, republished, and otherwise spread far and wide – yet the chain of links usually connects everything back to your original thoughts.

So what do others think about blogging, what it offers you, and where it’s going?

Recently, my friend Stephen Waddington – @wadds to his legion friends, fans and followers online – emailed a group of his friends to ask them about the future of blogging, and to share the benefits they’d experienced from blogging.

That ask has resulted in a 27-page ebook that Stephen edited and published yesterday entitled “The business of blogging.”

It contains short essays from bloggers Richard Bailey, Heather Baker, Stuart Bruce, Judy Gombita, Andrew Grill, Neville Hobson, Chris Lake, Rich Leigh, Rachel Miller, Mat Morrison, Lee Odden, Dan Slee, Heather Yaxley, and Philip Young.

It’s a terrific collection of experiences and future thinking from people who have been blogging for business for years, a worthy reference/source of inspiration if you’re thinking about blogging or would like to be inspired by what others have done.

Here’s the full table of contents:

INTRODUCTION

01 Welcome to the Business of Blogging | Stephen Waddington

BUSINESS

02 A Building Block for Business | Lee Odden
03 A Shop Window to the World | Stuart Bruce
04 Building a Network and a Business | Rachel Miller

COMMUNITY

05 Thinking, Connecting, and Sharing | Dan Slee
06 Blogging with a PR-Specific and Global Mindset | Judy Gombita
07 Building and Serving a Community Better Than Mainstream Media | Rich Leigh

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

08 Your Start with Blogging | Neville Hobson
09 Open and Transparent Thinking | Mat Morrison
10 Reasons to Keep Blogging | Heather Yaxley
11 A Career Development and Personal Reputation Platform | Andrew Grill

THE FUTURE OF BLOGGING

12 Blogging Reframed | Richard Bailey
13 Creation, Curation and Community | Philip Young
14 Excellence is Hard to Find | Heather Baker
15 The Evolution of Blogging | Chris Lake

Read it right here or download it from Slideshare:

As Stephen notes in his introduction to the ebook,

[…] The business of blogging involves learning, professional and
personal development, networking and profile. It is evolving but for those individuals and organisations that are prepared to invest the effort it has a strong future.

Spot on.

My contribution includes some thinking that I’ve written about in this blog recently, especially these six steps to get started:

  1. Blogging is about the content not the platform. The primary point is your content not where it’s published.
  2. You’re telling a story not writing a press release or a sales brochure. Write informally, conversationally, avoiding jargon, and with passion.
  3. Be selfless and generous in your references to others. Attribute, cite, link.
  4. Disclose any conflict of interest. If in doubt, always disclose.
  5. Make your content eminently shareable. Eg, enable sharing buttons, make your headline concise enough that it’s simple to tweet it. Make the place your content is published on easy to use: a blog, in other words, not a corporate website.
  6. Be clear on your strategy and the measurable goal you wish to achieve. This is all about clear business intent.

“The business of blogging” is a great resource you should download right now.

Re-Defining Today’s Communicator

Dilbert

Two weeks into 2014 and much of the talk about what’s hot and what’s not for communicators is about technology.

Of the many, many tech topics that appear on trends and predictions lists, there are three that I believe warrant our attention in early 2014 above all others:

  1. Mobile: especially usage shifts and trends such as BYOD, the mobile cloud, and the “appification” of the workplace and business generally.
  2. Collaborative economy:  access to and/or use of an asset – a product or a service – when it’s needed, rather than the actual ownership of that asset; and the rise of peer communities to facilitate the sharing of and  access to products and services. This shift has big implications for businesses, both in how they sell products and services and in how employees work.
  3. Data analytics: gaining actionable insight from raw data needs a broad understanding of tools and methods to process that data, quickly and effectively. It also means a greater need to filter information, knowing what to look for and what to ignore. The need for expert knowledge is paramount, so the role of data analyst will grow. Yet not everything needs deep or detailed analytics, meaning the communicator needs “DIY skills.”

For communicators, the focus at the very least is understanding the role of technologies and behaviour shifts like these in the organisational communication setting, internally and externally. It’s not about being expert in use – although proficiency is clearly a good thing – nor being the go-to guy or gal for everyone with a question.

It’s about understanding…

  • the relevance and context of such technologies and behaviours in the workplace;
  • what communicators need to do; and
  • how, where and when.

Understanding digital and how to use social media have been a huge focus for communicators during the past few years. As knowledge of social networks, tools and channels have become mainstream – in society and in the workplace – and use more universal, the pressure for communicators to “embrace social” has grown to be almost overwhelming.

But today’s communicator must do much more than tweet and post likes to her timeline or pics to Instagram. Today’s communicator – at whatever level he or she occupies in the organisation – must, as never before, have clear vision and understanding of how communication and the communicator are key strategic assets that support measurable business objectives.

Here’s what you need to have as your foundation for 2014:

  1. Deep understanding of organisations and how they function.
  2. Understanding of your own organisation culture and structure.
  3. Knowing who the major influencers and key subject-matter experts are within the organisation.
  4. An impeccable understanding of your organisation’s business vision and mission.
  5. A clear view on the measurable benefits that can arise from being a ‘social business.’

Your foundation is critical to enabling you to fulfil the important role you must play in the rapidly-changing landscape that embraces organisation change, behavioural change and technology change; and where the three intersect, online and offline.

In an age where anyone can claim to be a communicator in business, it’s time for professional communicators to prove their relevance and context in what they do for their employers and clients, showing evidence through confident knowledge and the context of its benefit – the ROI – to the organisation.

Let’s get cracking!

First published by simply-communicate.com on January 10, 2014, as part of a larger feature entitled Internal Communications predictions for 2014.

The feature includes opinions from Marie Wallace, Analytics Strategist at IBM Social Business Division; Mike Grafham, Yammer Customer Success Lead; Kevin Ruck, Co-founder The PR Academy; Mark Morrell, Intranet Pioneer; Stephen Welch, President of IABC UK; Ian Buckingham, internal communications champion, senior partner at various IComms consultancies and author; Marc Wright, Publisher of simply-communicate; Tim Johns, Change Agency; The IC CrowdRachel Miller, Jenni Wheller, Dana Leeson; Euan Semple, Director, euansemple.com and author; Gloria Lombardi, Community Manager, Webmaster, Reporter at simply-communicate; and Neville Hobson (that’s me).

Dilbert cartoon at top of page by Scott Adams, published on December 26, 2010.