Cloudy Future?

 In Technology, a common request is to predict what’s next. Today, looking into the crystal ball, the view is definitely cloudy – or to be more precise a complete cloud obscures the view. This is not just financial meltdown angst but more importantly the future of computing – Cloud Computing. Much is already written on the subject of the Cloud and much confusion reigns as to what it is precisely, as well as the issues it raises around personal data security and privacy – hence the cloudiness of the Cloud. For the non-geek, the Cloud is essentially made from the combination of datacentres acting as computing factories that use wireless networks to connect people to software being delivered as an online service. The Economist quotes Lutz Heuser, Head of Research at SAP, who refers to it as an “Internet of services” but adds that the cloud metaphor is probably more adpt. But despite this complexity, the Cloud will pervade economies transforming behaviours, societies and most importantly the way we communicate. Here are five headlines describing how communicators can respond to this change: 1. Understand Everything Will Connect: Through the Cloud, information will increasingly become connected to sources, related comment, opinions and disagreements in a seamless way. This will make the connectivity of Web 2.0 seem tame. Internet users will have to become navigators of connections, understanding everything has a back story, some of it spurious but all of it trackable. As professionals we will live in a digital world that we must understand in tremendous depth and detail. Context will become king and we will have to be masters of context. 2. Focus On Making It Real: The danger of this cloudy world is that everything is shaped digitally but it becomes ethereal. Consumers or Citizens will look to make it real by building tangible connections between digital and the real world. Our success will be shaped by how we make the Cloud tangible for our audiences – understanding the interface will be the key to success. To quote a comment businessweek.com: “It should allow people to make real things, assemble real things and have real experiences and deliver real services. Go beyond sharing photos and share reality.” 3. Develop Influence: In the increasingly vast interconnected web, understanding who influences (at a global and micro level) and how influence spreads will replace the traditional need for control. It will be communicators who can work with influencers to create new ideas that will achieve powerful relationships. Understanding the nodes that create influence, who then amplifies an idea and how conversations and stories spread and gain momentum will be at the heart of communications strategy – not just for traditional Public Relations approaches but truly conversational Brand strategies. 4. Use Embedded Brains: An extension of the Cloud will be the ability for embedded computing to allow objects to talk to one another. A car part will tell the garage via an ip address when it is going to breakdown. How we build strategies to support this interaction between the real and digital will become a key measure of success. How Business harnesses and exploits this transparency will be a key marketing differentiator transforming customer service and expectations. 5. Exploit Mobile Mania: In the Cloud, computing will become more and more disembodied and so be consumed where it is needed. Consumers will be able to access it at anytime through mobile devices. As a result, mobile communications will take another leap forward and become even more sophisticated. The communicators that master the immediacy and human nature of this new model will be the ones that work best in the cloudy future. Amid these headline opportunities, there is also a dark side to the Cloud. Questions are raised about how it will be made secure and, importantly, what happens to privacy and an individual’s rights to access their own information when so much personal data is held by the companies that maintain the Cloud. One obvious bug bear is who will control a person’s ability to store and access information kept within the Cloud. Does a Business have the right to turn off your personal data stored within the Cloud? As with previous generations of new Technology, the industry will need to create technologies and protocols to solve these challenges. Clearly, Businesses will need to be acutely aware of the Public Relations pitfalls of entering the cloudy future. Yet in the post credit crunch world, the need to get more out of less, communicate more efficiently and create new business models – all of which are benefits of the Cloud – will mean many firms have no choice. Further reading • The Economist, Cloud Computing Supplement, Technology Quarterly, Autumn 2008 • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computinghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PNuQHUiV3Q • Cloud computing: A catchphrase in puberty: How Google and Amazon will take your money and step on your dreams (www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/25/cloud_dziuba/) • Cloud Computing: Are there dangers to having information infrastructure, software and services hosted on the internet rather than on our own personal computers?, The Times Online, 5 May 2008

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Publicity, Stories, Conversation and Chaos

 

Rick Murray circulated a great blog post from Seth Godwin

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/03/the-difference-betw…

The post outlines how Storytelling is the art that elevated our role from publicists to great public relations practitioners. The jist of the comment is that essentially through a story we can create a mythology and perception that has lasting resonance as opposed to a release of information that generates a headline or newsletter article or comment.

Luke’s post on the ability for video to tell stories got me thinking about what elements of storytelling shape a mental picture that endures. My thoughts were that the story should cover some of the points below (your thoughts on any additional points welcome) :

1. Narrative – beginning, middle and end
2. Resolves a mystery, paradox, moral dilemma
3. Characters/organization who go through a journey
4. Illuminates a specific setting, back drop or world view

Back in the day brand owners and advertisers in particular became very good at telling stories think of the Milk Tray Man or the packet of Pilas Phogg Snacks (remember them?) but there are many classic adds that exploited this storytelling ability. Ironically PR agencies were less effective at story telling and often defaulting to tactical release driven media relations and publicity, however, the new environment of social media presents a great opportunity for PR people to set this right.

As we know we are now in an age of conversation where the driving force of communication are comments, thoughts and ideas that are exchanged rapidly and even tweeted in only 180 characters. But this creates a challenge for communicators. How do we tell a story in this environment? The answer is not easy because listening and contributing to a conversation makes a narrative very hard. Traditional messaging does n’t work because a conversation means listening and responding real time.

The answer has to be strategic, based on analysis and insight. If we have a way of analyzing the whole conversation at a moment in time then we can build a framework for our story to engage the conversation. However, we also need a way of rapidly refining what we have to say and this is where monitoring comes in and using 2.0 tools to listen and adapt our point but within the umbrella of a story. Two things are important here: firstly influencers and this is because it more effective to listen to the influential and then a more powerful endorsement and amplifier when the influential comment on our story. Secondly the issues are key because if the story is built around a known issue that people are talking about then it will automatically start to become a part of a much bigger issues-driven narrative. The nirvana for this kind of story telling is when you become an idea starter or partner with an idea starter whether it is Dita Von Teese to tell a story about a new kind of lingerie or David Rothschild to campaign on re-using plastics if your idea starts or ignites the story then it spreads and grows exponentially.

However, the challenge does n’t end with conversation because there is also chaos. A great report from Forrester estimated that 80 percent of comment on a brand is beyond the control of the brand owner. Again in this scenario the company has to work with the influential to be understood. However, the nature of this conversation can be chaotic take for instance the spoof video circulating recently of news coverage around Sony product launch that revolved around the company being honest and to put it mildly cursing the usefulness of it’s products.

Attachment(s) available for download until 2009-04-10

Attachment: THE TRUTH ABOUT ELECTRONIC GOODIES.wmv, 5.07 MBytes

 

This is the live rail of social media and how we tell stories in this world of chaos is a thorny issue. A part of the answer must be in authentic ideas, conversations and humility in story telling as the video shows anything too slick or messaged is resented and parodied. But it takes a lot of strength to remain gracious in the face of this kind of onslaught. Unless of course this was itself an attempt at authenticity.

 

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ONE SMALL TWEET FOR MANKIND

Gordon Brown’s much publicised tweet has created some turbulence in coffee thoughts.  On the face of it the tweet can really be seen as a step change.   His minute-by-minute, almost ludicrously detailed commentary of his PM’s agenda, complete with interactive feedback from its audience, represents a monumental shift in how politicians – or at least their staff – communicate with citizens.   So putting aside any cynicism about tweeting being a part of a Brown relaunch it’s a move that has to be applauded at least in spirit of the transparency it could engender in relationships between the governors and the governed.

However, the essential ‘news worthiness of this initiative worries me: why should an official tweet  be so unusual that it makes the news?  The Internet as a force for empowering citizens and conversations with politicians and policy makers has been broadly understood since the 2004 Presidential election.  In this time, a pioneering society should have been able to deploy a myriad of tools and channels to build this dialogue between institutions and citizens.  Yet apart from isolated acts the No10 petition being a notable example the UK has done little to build a true digi-democracy. 

It is easy to see this as either a social failing, a part of Britain’s growing apathy with politics, a reflection on the innate conservatism of Britain’s institutions and dearth of innovation culture.   However, even in the US the tradition behind land of free has led to much greater dialogue but the establishment  of a true digi-democracy seems stunted or a preserve of special interest groups.

For me it noticeable that for the shift to a digi-democracy to gather pace greater integration with existing platforms and better awareness amongst citizens themselves of the potential for real dialogue, is required.  There is clearly a perception gap between what empowered citizens think they can do and the technical ability to deliver a joined up political conversation.

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COLDJABBERWOCKY PART DEUX

I am still rather stung by the vitriol coming from ‘fruit of’s’  comment on my cold jabberwocky.   In particularly as it appears so much at odds with the mood of the moment.    I came across a fascinating technology business the other day imaginatik who have an interesting product called Ideas  Central that allows its users to democratically source ideas and feedback from the online world.  It seems that in this world of mass sourcing ideas that surely some cold jabberwocky will inevitably rise to the surface but to quote a travelling Frenchman from the 19th century to focus on this jabberwocky is to miss the point that “the moral empire of the majority is founded in part on the idea that there is more enlightenment and wisdom in many men united than one.”  Stick that in your whimsical pipe.

In fact the more I think on ‘fo’s’ agenda the more I am worried.  If the pedants such as ‘fo’ get their way and ascend to becoming the influencer and online arbitrator because the shout the loudest and most humorously  then perhaps this majority becomes tyrannous? To quote the more elegant Frenchman: “As long as the majority is doubtful one speaks but when it is irrevocably pronounced everyone becomes silent friends and enemies alike then seem to hitch themselves together to its wagon.”   

Clearly the danger of this tyranny becomes greater when anonymity is allowed to go unchallenged so in the name of all that is good would ‘fruit of’ please reveal his true identity.

Disclosure: Edelman has a commerical relationship with Imaginatik

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