FIR Speakers and Speeches: Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz on Building Community with Podcasting

raganamsterdam_smNeville Hobson and Shel Holtz co-presented a session on the second day of Ragan Communications’ Public Relations and Social Media Summit at ING House in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on April 12, 2012. The session covered how a podcast can transform independent listeners into an engaged community.

The presentation included audio clips of familiar FIR voices including correspondents Dan York and Michael Netzley, as well as other PR podcasters, and explored how the communities these podcasts build can be attained by businesses.

You can listen while following along with the PowerPoint deck below:

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(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

Guidelines for using avatars in business

twitter-avatars Do you ever pause and think about the avatar you use online as the visual representation of you: your persona or alter ego? What it says to others about you and the organization you work for or represent?

Avatars are creeping into business environments and will have far reaching implications for enterprises, from policy to dress code, behaviour and computing platform requirements, according to a report from industry analysts Gartner.

Gartner predicts that by year-end 2013, 70 percent of enterprises will have behaviour guidelines and dress codes established for all employees who have avatars associated with their organization when they’re online.

Gartner suggests six tactical guidelines that organizations can follow to make the best use of avatars in the business environment:

  1. Help users learn to control their avatars
  2. Recognize that users will have a personal affinity with their avatar
  3. Educate users on the risks and responsibilities of reputation management
  4. Extend the code of conduct to include avatars in 3D virtual environments
  5. Explore the business case for avatars
  6. Encourage usage and enterprise pilots.

Read the detail of these in Gartner’s report.

I’d add four more:

  1. Encourage employees to consider how their avatars will appear to others in different cultural environments: what’s amusing or looks cool in the UK, for instance, may have very different reactions from people in, say, India or Brazil.
  2. Help everyone understand and respect the intellectual property rights of others: if someone wants to use an image or artwork created by someone else, they must ensure that the creator has given permission or that it’s clear what type of usage by others is allowed (eg, through a Creative Commons copyright license).
  3. Produce some simple how-to tutorials that help employees with the practicalities of avatar creation: the objective here is to help ensure that everyone is able to create their avatars to a high quality and that images look good however they’re sized.
  4. Involve employees in different areas of your business in defining avatar usage best practice: don’t just create a policy and simply cascade it out in the traditional way.

Although 2013 is less than four years away, organizations should have guidelines in place well before then as more interactions between people happen online and such interactions are key to a fundamental aspect of building relationships: trust. That’s the most important point, in my view, which is directly relevant to the bigger picture: reputation.

Just as with overall behaviours online where developing guidelines to help everyone understand what are the rules of engagement – especially significant in the wake of the FTC’s announcement last week – how employees visually represent themselves online to others needs similar consideration.

(Cross-posted from Common Sense, the WeissComm Group blog.)

Watching the Watchmen

watchmensmiley I’m watching with great interest some of the social media communication Dan Light is involved with as part of the marketing for Watchmen, a movie about American superheroes based on a DC Comics series, due out in the UK on March 6.

Directed by Zack Snyder – who directed 300, adapted from a classic Frank Miller graphic novel – the flic is at the top of my ‘must see’ list at the cinema for this Spring.

I’ve worked with Dan before on movie marketing and Second Life, notably on the movie 300 in 2007, during my time with crayon.

I’ve also seen some of the other cool things Dan and his colleagues at The PPC have done with a movie franchise and a virtual world: Bruce Willis and Die Hard 4 also in 2007 comes readily to mind.

So watching what’s building up for Watchmen is highly interesting. And entertaining. See what you can discover.


Quite a bit of ‘coming soon’ to pique your interest. Wonder what’s planned for the iPhone.

It also looks like there could be a special screening of the movie in London specifically for bloggers, similar to what Dan organized around the movie 300 in 2007. So far, around 50 people have signed up with expressions of interest. That would certainly increase the viral nature of communication about the movie. I hope it does happen.

So a marketing and PR campaign to watch. And nice work, Dan, in the coverage you’re getting, eg, this feature in The Industry Standard.

Workplace collaboration on the 3D web

A news item Shel and I discussed in FIR #390 yesterday was a report in the Wall Street Journal’s Technology Blog about a partnership Linden Lab, the developer of Second Life, is announcing this week with Rivers Run Red, a developer of content, applications and tools for virtual worlds like Second Life:

[…] [Rivers Run Red] has developed software that it styles as a Web-based companion to Second Life, allowing companies to manage their 3D meetings, store multimedia information, manage news feeds and keep meeting records. Rivers says users can take part in virtual meetings even if they are not in Second Life, which requires extra software besides a browser.

The announcement was made yesterday after we recorded that FIR episode. The press release issued by both companies (read the one on Linden’s site: much easier on the eye) adds quite a bit of detail to that in the WSJ’s report.

The key announcement concerns the software Rivers Run Red has developed which is being offered as Immersive Workspaces, an offering the two firms describe in the press release as “a comprehensive virtual world collaboration solution” that runs on the Second Life Grid platform and private networks:

[…] Immersive Workspaces enables organizations to construct custom virtual work environments – including meetings rooms and design centers – that can dramatically change the way they collaborate and communicate. A set of tightly integrated web-based applications and the ability to seamlessly upload and integrate real world content – e.g., PowerPoint – brings enterprise-level efficiency and flexibility into a virtual world.

The two firms have produced a 5-minute video that offers a good explanation with examples of why organizations should be interested in this web-based offering and what people in those organizations can achieve with it.

The concept of Immersive Workspaces is compelling especially if you don’t need to install bespoke software (such as you do to run Second Life), and you don’t have to embark on quite a steep learning curve in order to understand how to use your environment, as you have to with Second Life.

Will there be big take up for this offering? If the examples in the video are any indicator of what you can do with Immersive Workspaces, there ought to be, in spite of some contrarian views.

Think of it, perhaps, as a private Second Life via the web without Second Life.

I think this presents huge opportunities for people within organizations to experiment and learn new and different ways to connect with others.

Second Life support for Windows Vista

secondlifelogo_100x41 Does Second Life now officially support Windows Vista?

According to the Second Life wiki, the answer is no.

The wiki page in question, last updated on October 2, still says Vista is not supported:

[…] Officially at this time (2007-08-27), not yet […]

Second Life actually works fine running on Vista. That’s my experience, and that of many others, although much depends on your particular hardware configuration especially the type of graphics card you have and the version of the graphics driver you’re running.

But is it officially supported by Second Life’s developer, Linden Lab?

In spite of statements to the contrary like the one above on the Second Life wiki and elsewhere, it appears that Windows Vista is now officially supported.

The Second Life system requirements spec now says this:


Note the text in the second and in the last bullets points.

I can’t find any other information about Vista support anywhere on any Second Life site more recent than a post dated July 20 in the Second Life blog, which says:

[…] We’re in the process of validating our support of Vista. We’ve finished a couple of rounds of testing. We’re now pulling together our findings and laying the internal groundwork for formal support of Vista.

That seemed reasonably clear when the system requirements page still had no mention of Vista in the requirements spec.

Now that it does, it might be helpful to everyone if Linden Lab would be a bit more consistent in their online communication.

So is it supported? Well, it looks like it. Unless you read the contradictory words.

The PR battleground for social networks

With social networks like Facebook and MySpace in the news a great deal, I find it interesting to get a sense of the depth of behind-the-scenes business planning going on and the role of PR in that planning.

According to BrandRepublic:

Facebook hunts UK agency
A dozen UK PR agencies have been approached by Facebook as it sets out to challenge MySpace’s dominance in Europe. Agencies including Mantra and Fishburn Hedges have been invited to present their credentials to coincide with Facebook’s opening of a London office later this month. It will then whittle the longlist down to a pitch shortlist of five.

LinkedIn brings in Bite to safeguard its niche
Business networking site LinkedIn has asked Bite to boost its UK profile as Facebook threatens its dominance in professional circles. Tech specialist Bite won a seven-way pitch against agencies including Lewis and Chameleon. The US-based site’s ­international director Liz O’Donnell did not deny that competition from Facebook was a motivating factor for Bite’s appointment. ‘We didn’t have any PR in the UK before,’ she said. ‘Some of it had to do with competition, and some was just raising our brand’s profile.’

And a related story about a social network that doesn’t look like one but is one:

Wag Ed to launch virtual trade site
Waggener Edstrom has won a brief to launch GameXa, a trading platform that allows online game players to buy and sell virtual currencies. The site currently caters to gamers playing the hugely popular World of Warcraft, which has more than 6.5 million registered players worldwide. World of Warcraft currently makes more money from selling virtual currency, ‘gold’, than from subscriptions to the game itself.

Add that one to the story about the recent credit card launch in Second Life and you get a strong view of the high-stakes business opportunities that will be be fought over in the coming months.