WordCamp Victoria 2012

What  a treat to be invited to speak at WordCamp Victoria.  January 14th, 2012 will be my first WordCamp and I’m looking forward to geeking out with fellow WordPress enthusiasts at the University of Victoria. My pals Chris Burdge, Paul Holmes, Catherine Novak, Janis La Couvée, Raul Pacheco and George Plumley will be there along with a dozen other awesome experts. Will you be joining us?

My topic: Take Your BuddyPress Community from Blah to TA-DAH!
(Sorry about the rhyme. I’m trying to wean my alliteration habit and it’s manifesting as rhymes these days.)

Level: Intermediate

Description: Creating your own online community requires more effort than simply installing the BuddyPress plug-in. In this session, I will share six strategies to nurture a vibrant BuddyPress community from my book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Social Network. From sparking great conversations to taking thing off-line, I’ll show you how to take your BuddyPress community from blah to TA-DAH using examples from successfully established communities.

I’m always looking for existing BuddyPress communities to showcase in my teaching. Feel free to invite me to visit your community in the comments.

Crisis Communication

Today, I’m facilitating a discussion for the Alliance Marketing Council (AMC), a group of marketing professionals who work for or with members of Vancouver’s Alliance for Arts & Culture. Our topic is the role that communications professionals play in times of crisis. Rebecca Coleman, Chair of the AMC, asked me to facilitate the session following last week’s post-hockey game riot. The unexpected can always happen but are we prepared?

by Cathy Browne (http://www.flickr.com/photos/cathybrowne/)

While I don’t consider myself a “Crisis Communications Expert”, I’ve certainly been orchestrating and participating in communications plans for a couple of decades and I’ve got some thoughts to share. I invite you to add your own experience and recommendations in the comments.

Consider what a crisis might mean for your organization. Is it a digital security breach of customer’s sensitive information or a customer who suffers a fatal heart attack in store? Perhaps you’ll have to cope with a major event like an earthquake or, sadly, something equivalent to the rioting that happened in Vancouver after Game 7. Whatever you imagine is only the beginning. You must be prepared to adapt to the crisis that actually happens.

Preparation is key as you won’t have time to make a plan once disaster strikes. Make sure everyone in your organization knows who’s on the Crisis Communication team and who is authorized to act as official spokesperson. Ideally the spokesperson and their understudies have had some formal media training to know how to deliver difficult news in a calm and informative manner.

Another aspect of this is the all important contact list. We’re no longer in a era where folks have a single phone number. Where can they be reached by phone? On cel? On Twitter? Through Facebook? In a crisis, the team onsite must try every means of reaching those who can respond in an official capacity. All these forms of communication can feel like unnecessary redundancy but communication systems can break down. Telephone lines and Internet connections can be severed. Cel towers can be overloaded. Who knows, in the worse incidents we may have to resort to morse code by lantern light!

Next comes the mental shift of modern communication. Organizations can no longer rely on strategies to “manage the message” through official statements and press conferences. Today, everyone in the building has the potential to be a reporter through their smart phone. You can’t control what people share on Twitter and Facebook but you must make certain that your company has an official voice through every possible channel.

With real time coverage from multiple points of view enhanced by photos and video perception becomes a tricky part of the equation. Was that a rioter pulling someone’s arm aggressively or an innocent bystander tugging the same individual out of harm’s way?

Social media gives authority to the Citizen Reporter who can share whatever’s happening around them. But at what point does that evolve into Citizen Surveillance (a topic eloquently considered by Alexandra Samuel) or worse devolve into a corps of Citizen Vigilantes hell bent on justice. What happens to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Or the integrity of evidence?

With so many potential voices reporting a crisis, it’s important for the organization embroiled in the event to be proactive in announcing, updating and responding to facts related to the event. Sometimes this can mean prioritizing the audience – who do you communicate to and when? Are the citizens directly affected by the crisis your top priority or is it more important to get the message out through mass media and social media? What about your stakeholders? And your efforts to coordinate with emergency services?

It’s also important to know what information is most important to convey. Risks to the health and safety of others should be top priority (say from a gas leak) as opposed to reporting the estimated time of resumption of normal operations. Knowing in advance the priority sequence for communication will mean each message is delivered more quickly.

In this era of social media, we are no longer able to control the message leaving our businesses but we can prepare to communicate effectively in a crisis. Are you prepared?

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How to Prepare for a Conference

I’m a conference junkie. Yup, I have the habit of going to conferences. These events are a great opportunity for networking, learning and gaining some new perspectives. As much as I love conferences, I don’t go to every conference out there. You’ve got to pick the events that relate to the work that you do or will be attended by your prospects and customers.

This week I’m preparing to go to Social Media Camp Victoria – a two day extravaganza of social networking experiences. I’m honored to be a speaker and am looking forward to learning from my fellow presenters including Jay Baer, Amber Naslund, Callan Rush, Sean Moffit, Rebecca Coleman and many others.

Given I could put “Conference Goer” on my resume, I’ve experimented with what to do and take. After lots of blisters, useless notes, dead batteries and some wicked headaches, I’ve figured out what works. Read on if you want a better conference experience:

A couple of weeks ahead, check how many business cards you have on hand. Plan to bring 250 cards with you. You won’t use them all but it’s better to have too many than too few. If your stock is low, order more now. Even if you don’t have a business you still need a card. Simple black type on crisp white card stock is fine. You can order them from Staples or Office Depot or your local print shop for a quick turnaround. Having a card makes it easier for the people to find you again after the conference.

Make a packing list of all the computer technology you want to bring with you. Do you need your cel phone? A laptop / Netbook/ iPad? What about chargers? Peripherals like external speakers or a wireless mouse? What about microphones or headsets? Don’t forget batteries and a power bar. The list should include the gear you want in your conference bag and the stuff you’ll need in your hotel room.

Cameras are another biggie. Are you planning to take photos or shoot some video? Then decide which cameras to pack. Is a simple point & shoot enough or do you need a digital SLR? Are you shooting video on your iPhone or creating something higher quality with a Kodak PlayTouch or a Flip? Again, what batteries or chargers do you need? How many memory cards will you pack? And bring your own tripod if you need one.

You know that TV show “What not to Wear?” Keep that in mind as you pack for a conference. There are some practical considerations – the time of year, the weather and the geography. A sunny summer day at a ranch venue requires jeans and a hat whereas as a June day in a conference centre requires business casual attire including a shawl, light jacket or cardigan just in case the air conditioning’s on full blast. Beyond the practical, try to figure out the style of the conference – social media conferences tend to be more casual (not sloppy) compared to hospitality shows, for example.

Separate from the clothes on your back, I implore you to pack comfy shoes. Flats, sandals or nice walking shoes are essential for you to keep on trucking around the conference. Wear runners if that works for you but please leave the smelly trail run sneakers at home for sake of those who have to sit next to you!

Take a look at at the speaker list – who do you already know? What blogs can you add to your RSS reader? Who should you follow on Twitter or fan on Facebook? If you haven’t already, get reading and start connecting.

Study the conference schedule. Are there concurrent sessions? Make some decisions about what you’d like to attend before you arrive but be flexible enough to go anywhere on the day. Make your selections a blend of topics you already know and challenge yourself to learn something new.

Thanks for reading this far … the folks over at Social Media Camp are posting a companion blog with 7 more tips to help you enjoy the event. Carry on reading here.

What tips can you share to thrive at a conference?