I did a presentation to the Women's Bar Association of Greater Boston over lunch today where I met a lot of interesting people who are practicing law in a number of different areas. Below is the "Social Media for Lawyers 101" presentation that I created for the event.
For the women who may be coming here for the links, there were two I mentioned.
First was the list of law blogs from Ernie the Attorney. The other is the list of lawyers on Twitter. Keep in mind that both of these are starting points so it would be wonderful if you can share other people you may find interesting here in the comments.
As we've discussed recently on this blog, PR remains in the hot seat. The latest example of the evils of PR (or at least, the press release) comes from the fake press release issued about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's supposed reversal on climate change.
Instead of coming to the defense of PR, many practitioners are deliberately distancing them from it. Take this example:
I'm a big fan of TWiT.tv with Leo Laporte, and episode 217 featured David Spark as a guest. David runs Spark Media Solutions, which builds "corporate identities through storytelling." The conversation on the podcast turned to media bias, the new disclosure rules, and whether it's possible to be truly unbiased. Unintentionally, Leo and John set up David to talk about his business model (italics are mine):
Leo Laporte Trade media is the most important one.
Jim Louderback Exactly because you are closest to the subject that you cover.
Leo Laporte Right, it’s the beltway problem. If you cover the Washington political scene, and Baratunde, you weigh in on this one…
John C. Dvorak I would rather [read] someone who knows something about Intel who’s an engineer and even a guy who works at Intel [rather than] some neutral observer who doesn’t actually know anything, but they can maybe ask the right questions if they are lucky. The fact of the matter is in the 21st century [reporters] don’t know what questions to ask and they never will.
Leo Laporte Well, you are right.
David Spark By the way this is the model for my business, John. Thank you for setting me up. I appreciate it.
Baratunde Thurston Just $19.95 a month…
David Spark I help companies tell their own story because the companies need to tell their own story. If you ... go through a PR agent, you tell a journalist, then they sell it – you are like selling cocaine cut three times.
Leo Laporte No it’s true.
David Spark You should sell uncut cocaine.
Leo Laporte We all know that anytime you read a ... general press report about a subject you know about, whether it’s poker or Pokemon, you know they get it wrong. They never get it right. If it’s a deep subject they never get it right. So that’s a good point, but I am with you Jim, somebody has to stand above the fray and be editorially pure. Not everybody…
On at least a couple occasions during the podcast, David denied being a PR person -- mostly because Leo refuses to invite PR people onto the show (almost, but not quite, as ridiculous as not allowing PR people to update Wikipedia -- but don't get me started on that), but also because he's trying to distance himself from an industry that can't seem to get things right.
So let's take a look at what David does: according to his own site, he "helps companies build industry voice through social media and storytelling."
Maybe he doesn't issue press releases and call reporters directly, but what he does sure sounds like PR to me. And guess what, it's a damn good model for where PR needs to evolve to.
Chuck and I still talk a lot about PR, but what we're doing for companies is a lot like what David's doing. And it's a lot like what other good PR and communications firms are doing for their clients.
Is PR dying? No, but it's evolving, and you'd better keep up with the evolution.
Last night's Mobile Monday event seemed to have it all: a downtown location (The Place); free food and alcohol (one drink per person) a great topic (Making the Mobile Money Flow) and a great group of panelists.
But something about it didn't completely work. The Place, while a great bar, did not lend itself to good networking. The 300 or so attendees packed in, shoulder to shoulder, with little ability to move through the room. Unlike other Mobile Monday venues, which tend to be in ballrooms, this one fell short.
The packed bar at Mobile Monday
The panel also showed a lot of promise. It included Moderator Todd Hixon, founder and managing partner at New Atlantic Ventures and panelists Doug Hurd of uLocate Communications (creators of the WHERE app, one of my personal favorites); Steve Krom, VP & GM of AT&T Mobility, New England Region; Mike Kirkup, of RIM; and Eric Weinberg of DeviceAnywhere. But over the hour of discussion I felt little new was offered to the target audience: developers who know that monetization strategies are few and far between.
Granted, the topic of how to make money in the new mobile application environment is a tough nut to crack in just one hour, but the group did their best. One of the best pieces of advice came from Hurd, who noted that creating a mobile company takes time, don't expect to create a viable company overnight or based just on one application.
Related to that was the advice to the developers in the room to decide if they wanted to be an application or a mobile company. Mobile companies, it was noted, have multiple revenue sources, while and application has a single revenue source.
Much was made of the recent announcement that Apple will allow in-app purchases, leading the panelists to point out that developers will need to find ways to up-sell consumers through items like additional content or personalization features within free applications. Of course, for many this will create a "try before you buy" system.
The panel did point out something that should be music to the ears of Localytics: developers need to pay more attention to what works (and what doesn't) within their applications. As someone pointed out, 90 percent of applications loaded are not used in the first 30 days. If the strategy is to make money within an application (as opposed to just at the pont of purchase), then understanding how and when people use it will be a necessary component.
The problem with all of this is that for application developers the talk isn't new. Talk to anyone developing iPhone applications (and most mobile developers create primarily for the iPhone, as it's the most vibrant application store) and they'll point out that selling an application nets almost no money. Even if someone manages to find your application amid the 85,000 or so in the app store, then decides to spend the 99¢ on it, Apple takes 30 percent. You have to sell a lot of one-off applications at 70¢ per in order to make back your development costs.
One piece of advice that works for us here at Fresh Ground, however, is that developers need to do a better job of marketing their applications. Just creating one and getting approved by Apple isn't enough, you need to encourage reviews, create online content, do a lot of search engine optimization and, in general, create buzz.
Other than that, the advice from the panelists seemed pretty generic. Steve Krom encouraged developers to look beyond the app store and develop for the carriers. Frankly, it seemed like an old message and one that few developers really want to hear. The recent trend is away from carriers, not toward them.
RIM also touted its own app store, which takes less of a cut than Apple, but with so many different devices I've heard developers say that creating for RIM (and Android) has expensive logistical problems. An application that runs on one device won't run on another, a problem they don't face when developing for the iPhone.
In short, I'll still be at the next Mobile Monday event, but I'm hoping we go back to a large conference room. Though, I still appreciate the free booze.
I'm having an on-again off-again week when it comes to customer service. First, my card scanning software decides to just up and stop working for me -- the customer support from I.R.I.S. has been responsive, but they haven't solved my problem yet (it's been "escalated," and "maybe" I'll hear from them "this week or next"). Then my wife and I are walking near the Kirkland Convenience Store in Cambridge when she starts feeling a blister. A quick trip into the store yields no Band-Aids for sale, but the clerk pulls one out of his wallet and offers it to her.Now that my friends is excellent customer service.
My Weird-Sized Moo Cards
Then I get the cards I ordered from MOO (our first official "Fresh Ground" cards mind you), and they turn out to be slightly larger than your average American business card, despite assurances all over their website that "MOO Business Cards are a standard size." It turns out they're roughly 1/5th of an inch taller than standard cards. That in and of itself is annoying, but not a deal killer, but add to that the fact the the text side of the card is not vertically centered and it simply looks like the card is miscut -- it looks wonky. Have a look for yourself (click on the image for a larger version).
Tell me I'm too picky (I am), or that I didn't read the fine print (they share the dimensions, but I didn't take my ruler out to compare the cards with others I have), but regardless, I was disappointed. So I look for a phone number to call, and it turns out that Moo doesn't list any phone numbers. I understand reserving phone support to paying customers, but once I've spent money with your site I damn well expect to be able to get you on the phone. BIG fail for Moo.
Now it turns out that their customer service, once you actually get them via email, is wonderfully helpful, and they fully refunded my order and I don't have to return the cards. The frosting on the cake? I tweeted about my frustration with Moo, mentioning I may go back to Vistaprint, and guess which company's Twitter account got back to me first? Yep, Vistaprint. (Moo's excuse for coming late to the party? They tweet mostly at night when we're sleeping.)
I'm very curious how quickly I see changes in the FAQ and other descriptive copy at Moo about the size of their business cards. (Has no other American complained about the odd size?) Great customer support and social media outreach don't mean much if the feedback doesn't get back to the product folks.
Kicking off the Panel
When it comes to attracting talent and publicity, sometimes we're our own worst enemy. Consider the field of PR, for instance, where we cannot publicize our way out of a paper bag when it comes to promoting the role of a PR professional. The same may be true of bringing entrepreneurial and technological talent to the state.
I attended my first Mass Innovation Night last month, a great event put on by Bobbie Carlton each month at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, and I was nothing but impressed. Today, I attended my first Mass Innovation Day at the State House, and while the panel was absolutely excellent, the whole point of the event -- to bring legislators, entrepreneurs and investors together in the same room -- was, to be blunt, a failure.
How does two out of three work for you? You could count the number of legislators and legislative staff -- at least the ones who volunteered to out themselves as such -- on one hand. So while the kick-ass panel was well received by the audience, the goal of the event was not met as far as I could tell. A shame, because Massachusetts needs all the help it can get promoting the great technology and entrepreneurial space that it is.