I started out early driving in to Winter Park, Florida, about 60 miles from home, to attend the first BlogOrlando Un-conference at Rollins College. I'm not saying starting my day with a 60 mile commute is all that fantastic, but it does give me time to catch the news on the radio, enjoy my favorite cup of coffee (7-11, if you haven't tried it, you don't know what you're missing!!), and we are experiencing unseasonally mild, sunshine filled weather right now, so the drive isn't even a consideration anymore :)
The BlogOrlando event was hosted on Rollins Campus, and drew a mix of PR professionals, marketing gurus, technical entrepreneurs and various other business folk. I was pleasantly surprised and interested to chat with such a diverse group, especially since landing in this role that has me straddling the fence between marketing and the development groups at Pentaho.
The first session I attended was on Corporate Blogging. Dave Coustan, the corporate blogger for Earthlink.net, facilitated the session and had some very interesting lessons learned and success stories to share about his journey building the very popular Earthlink.net corporate blog. While Dave made many points, the advice I liked the best was "Write so that any smart 14 year old can understand it". This helped me in numerous ways - I no longer feel embarrassed that I am incapable of writing pretty prose, and many of my Pentaho co-workers refuse to claim a birthday past their 14th. So you can see how this advice works so well for me:)
Some other interesting and valid bits from Dave on running a successful corporate blog:
- Find an angle for boring stuff
- Draw a crowd, figure out the content to draw it
- Advises to separate blogs for personal and corporate
- Get the umbrella knowledge of what is happening in the company - be your own "beat cop"
- Research and fact-check your work!!!
- Regularly perform outreach and follow ups
- Capitalize on the ability to handle anything that falls out of traditional channels - edge cases
Some helpful points that were made regarding those who are just trying to convince their companies that corporate blogging is a net plus:
- Cheaper, more trusted, lasts longer than ads
- Start a dialogue with your customers
- Valuable content for search
- Rapid publishing
- Gives press something to link to
- Ear to the ground feedback loop
- Safety valve for customer service/pr/media
- Free syndication
The next session was "PR and Blogging", where there was much discussion around bloggers versus journalists. Is there a difference? Are journalists held to a higher standard than bloggers? And, of course the accountability of bloggers was introduced here and carried over in detail in the Legal session. Most of the conversation was speculative, and it seems that the PR folks who blog know the by-laws of good journalism, and use them whether they are blogging or running a corporate campaign. This of course is not always the case, especially for the casual blogger. I think the most useful point for me that was discussed in this session was the fact that the amount of blogger traffic you generate is only one measure of a blog's success, and will peak and valley. The true strength of your blog is in internet indexing. The indexing of a blog entry is much farther reaching than the direct audience of the blog.
The last session I was able to attend was "Blogging and Legal Issues", facilitated by Andrea Weckerle, a vibrant and very well-presented attorney and PR professional. I was very impressed with Andrea and wish I had a chance to connect with her to talk more about the specifics, but lack of time prevented me from introducing myself. I will have to stop by her blog. The legal issues that we discussed covered things like libel, slander (spoken and slander both start with "s", hence the difference:), copyright law and privacy issues. I was not surprised that the law covers these issues in much the same way for blogging as for written content. Regarding copyrights specifically, it seems the consensus is that in blogging, alot more violations happen, and alot less action is taken (think splogging).
I had to leave Rollins around 2:30, but if you want to read more about the afternoon sessions and wrap up, you can find all sorts of blogs and details at www.blogorlando.com, or google for BlogOrlando.
Thanks to Josh at Hyku for putting on such a nice event, in such a nice place. It made my Friday:)