Empowered to f*ck up

A few thoughts on TVNZ’s social media rules as reported in the Herald.

Before we make ‘2009 wants its social media policy back’ jokes, let’s allow for some benefit of the doubt. If you’ve ever read coverage of your own company in the papers, you’ll know there’s usually a bit more context to these stories than gets printed. And in this case, it’s hard to tell from Rachel Glucina’s article where the policy ends and her editorial begins. WOULD Greg Boyed’s burgergate tweet have been unacceptable, or is that just what RG reckons?

It’s not clear, for example, where the personal opinion line is – is it ‘Char Grill Kebab has gone downhill lately’, or ‘Peter Dunne cannot survive for much longer under this pressure’? Is it ‘everything’ or just ‘work stuff’?

The TVNZ reporters I follow do a more than reasonable job of being themselves on Twitter. Expecting them to come into line, when they’re actually taking part in the national online conversation without causing TVNZ reputation damage just fine thanks, is tricky. Some of the biggest recent scandals for TVNZ have taken place without a Twitter login after all.

If the policy is as draconian as it’s painted, it seems like a backwards step, and a possible misjudgment to try muzzling such a well connected group of natural communicators. The potential reputational damage caused by coming across as humourless and fusty is worse than the occasional off-message tweet in my opinion. Arguably, it undermines *all* TVNZ’s  social media authenticity, a weird move when their flagship current affairs programme makes a show of being part of the Twitter conversation and Welcoming Your Views.

I’ve had a little to do with writing social media policy documents, and I have to say that telling people what they can and can’t do in their own time and on their own Twitter made me feel uncomfortable, beyond ‘Use Your Common Sense*’. It wouldn’t have been easy for Michelle Romaine, an external consultant, to lay down the law on something so personal and get immediate buy-in. Again, we don’t know if there was any consultation, or if this was just an email bolt from the blue.

The preferable option (and probably the harder path) is educating and building trust with your team, so that any mis-steps  happen infrequently and are quickly put right when they do. Bear in mind you can get away with a lot by being human and owning up to  mistakes in a human fashion, remember Heather Du Plessis-Allan dropped the C bomb on the 6pm news, grinned a cheeky grin, and folk loved her for it.

In both my roles with social media element, I’m lucky to have been given rope to try things, without the fear of heavy handed-ness should things go wrong. If people are inhibited by fear of breaking the rules, they’re less likely to try something different and push the boundaries, which is where the gold is. If you’re empowered to f*ck it up, you’re probably less likely to.

*One assumes that when hiring folk to report the news on national TV, getting someone with ‘common sense’ would be a pre-req.

I don’t watch One News

As written, this policy seems to only apply to Twitter and possibly Instagram. You can supposedly do what you like on Facebook (but would anyone see it / care?)

Char Grill Kebab *has* gone downhill lately

You can’t troll a troll

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be on Social Media Club Auckland’s When communities go bad panel, along with Anna Connell, Mike Kooge and Chris Keall.

The panel. Photo filched from SMCAKL site

Some brief thoughts:

Being trolled is part of the territory for doing corporate social media. Of course, social media is just people. And some people can be dicks, bluntly.

Basically, someone has to be prepared to cop it, and it’s kind of up to you to develop a range of coping mechanisms (hence my ‘harden up’ comment). It gets easier over time! Caring a lot is a bit of a pre-req for doing the job well and properly, but the downside of that is taking the nastier comments to heart and wanting to throw things against things so they break.

The solution? Realise it’s not you, take breaks, make sure you’re well supported by your company. Easier said than done sometimes, but what’s the point of doing a job that’s easy, hey?

Anna definitely  kicked the crap out of me at pithy tweet-able soundbites. Nice work. And Mike showed there’s some excellent thinking and different knowledge out there beyond the usual voices. Well done.

I was most impressed by Chris Keall’s ‘take panel questions from your phone’ paradigm. Typical innovation incubation on the fly by our top tech scribe.

I realise I talked mainly about Telecom examples, rather than the new job (which is going really well BTW). That’s because I honestly haven’t been trolled very much at all in the new role – which is a nice change! The team going well is obviously a big factor, but even so, the ‘other distractions’ don’t seem to have generated much heat online.

I haven’t been to SMCAKL for a while, but it seems to be on the right track, by the evidence presented on Tuesday night. Fair play and all the best to the organisers and sponsors, it isn’t easy putting something like this on.

This is the first time I was trolled on the @telecomnz account, about a day after I took the job.


Project [R]Evolution

A few thoughts on the recent The Project [R]Evolution conference.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Neely from the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office – his points about responding fast, but accurately in a crisis resonated with me. It takes some maturity in an organisation to get on social media and say “we know there’s a crisis – we’re still finding out what’s happened, but we’ll let you know when we *do* have news.” It’s a reflection of today’s ‘always on’ society that Dan, like me, probably sits on his couch of an evening with a sneaking voice in the back of his mind saying ‘I wonder if something’s going wrong?’. Ahem.

Conference regulars Brown, Brislen and McDonald held an entertaining panel – there was refreshing honesty, and I enjoyed seeing panellists who didn’t completely agree on every point under discussion.

Alec Ross, Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation was everywhere in his time in NZ, on the telly, radiogiving interviews and mixing it up with the locals on Twitter – impressively, showing up in conversations he wasn’t even taking part in. He stepped on stage looking like he’d just popped in from the set of the West Wing – his Powerpoint with huge ‘Power’ and ‘$’ slides created a slightly OTT and surreal feeling. His content was heavy on the history but light on the war stories from the Obama campaign, which the crowd (well, me) had come to see, but still, I enjoyed seeing a guy on top of his game present. His killer lines (“it’s a bad time to be a control freak”) were delivered with relish and style. Things got slightly lively in the Q+A with a Wikileaks question and half hearted heckle, but Ross handled it like a pro, defining the terms on which he was going to address it, then addressing it and moving quickly on. He’ll probably run the world one day.

I missed the most part of day two, but pitched up late afternoon, just in time for Christopher Barger – like I tweeted, I found much of what he said affirming and common sense, and I thoroughly enjoyed his tough guy myth busting shtick. If you were a largeish corporate business who’d never attempted social media before (are there any left?), his preso would be an excellent place to start.

Richard MacManus and Emily Banks were the ‘future web journalism’ one-two to end the day. Richard, who I imagine gets asked by checkout operators and service station attendants what hot new web publishing platforms they should be checking out, talked us through this blog post mainly, neatly summarising the developments that are slowly creeping up on our monitors and mobiles. Banks talked us through how Mashable approaches the new journalism landscape, as well as some more nefarious approaches. Which were, um, really intriguing. I’ve ordered a copy. Interestingly, she chose the ‘Coldplay’ clip from opinion-dividing The Newsroom to illustrate the ‘first’ and ‘not wrong for long’ pressures modern news outlets face.

Overall, the conference had a great tone, loosely based around change through technology, as well as a broader, historic perspective. Presenters like Michael Jones and Tim Forseman offered much food for thought. Jennifer Duval Smith‘s panel and the quickfire speakers (yay!) gave a board range of local angles. Refreshingly, social media was part of the mix, but not the focus. Which is better, I reckon. We *may* be at the point where we move beyond ‘hey, the internet exists, isn’t it awesome?’ and talk about what we do with it next. Well done to all the organisers.

As usual, the number one highlight of the conference for me was catching up with folk I don’t get to talk to very often, and meeting folk I felt like I knew already from the Twitter and that. It was a great turn-out.

PS: Here’s the slides.

Getting sociable and sensibile in the Bay

MediaSense is a new social media conference put on by Hal Josephson, a Hawke’s Bay entrepreneur, impresario and top bloke.

For me, this was a fantastic chance to meet folk I don’t normally meet, with people from all around the country attending. The Bay was well represented and I was most impressed with the locals’ friendliness and enthusiasm. These guys have secured interesting and challenging jobs or taken the plunge and started their own businesses in an area notorious for a vibrant food and drink scene. It had me scratching my chin several times about life outside Auckland. Hmmm. Needless to say, we were well looked after eating and drinking-wise, enjoying the hospitality of the Craggy Range and Black Barn vineyards, who hosted the event itself.

I was there as the corporate perspective in the local case studies section, along with  Tim and Matt from Uprise, Jayson Bryant, Tom from Catalyst 90 and Kayla from Mini Monos.

My case study was crisis communication. I told our earthquake story, which has some solid examples of the power of using social networks, and is a neat way to outline our approach in general. I think I got points for being honest(!), and I was pleased to get some  thoughtful anecdotal and online feedback.


I throughly enjoyed the afternoon panel hosted by Nat Torkington and featuring Xero’s Rod Dury, Matthew Miller from Mogul websites and Paul Brislen from TUANZ – local examples almost always give me more takeaways than any other section of an event like this. I was hugely impressed with Matt from Mogul’s common sense approach to social – it’s easy to overthink this stuff. Like Telecom, Xero is a heavy Yammer user, interestingly. I enjoyed Paul’s war stories from his the early days of doing this at Voda – can relate!

A nervous glass of water before speaking, while wishing I’d chosen more irreverent footwear like Jayson and Paul. Photo credit: @gnat.

It was observed that Twitter was roughly 70% of the conversation, but someone did point out you need to look at it in context with all social channels available to achieve your goals, especially the lesser known ones like TradeMe forums, even databases and email! Karen Leland gave her two hot tips for PR in social media as 1. pick up the phone, and 2. go to lunch. I liked that.

Full credit, as they say, to Hal and Odette for putting on a thoroughly valuable and enjoyable event, with some fantastic hospitality and conversations the night before, during and in the bar afterwards – I hope to be involved in some capacity next year. Recommended.

PS I need to mention Tweet2Eat – if you’re in the Bay, you MUST follow for all your food and drink recommendation requirements.

1001 books and films you must see before you die

Inspired by Jason Kottke, I’ve been through 1001 books and films you must see before you die and ticked off my reading (28) and viewing (215). It’s fair to say I’ve seen more of the films than read the books on these lists- I tend to read more contemporary lit, and the list focuses more on classics. There’s some glaring ommissions. And while I enjoy Brett Easton Ellis – Glamorama? Hmmm.

I’ve seen a lot of the films from the 00s, 90s, 80s and 70s, but it trails off fairly dramatically after that – but the list seems pretty fair. If you fancy doing the same, let me know in the comments, I’ve marked my favourites with an ‘*’, just so you know.

Continue reading 1001 books and films you must see before you die

Gawker Media – sharpest keyboards on the interwebs

The Observer interviews Gawker Media’s Nick Denton

Nick Denton is the blogosphere’s Baron Silas Greenback, sitting pretty in his New York loft/lair, having figured out what EVERYONE wants to know – how to make money off this here blog thing.

I’ve loved Gawkers’ hilariously insulting beatdowns on the ‘internet famous’ for brief periods at a time. I pored over the original Gawker‘s missives from the Conde Naste cafeteria. I laughed at movie stars crashing their Mercs into each other on Defamer. I particularly enjoyed Valleywag while Nick Douglas was at the helm. They were cool, but as I didn’t technically LIVE in New York, LA or Silicon Valley, a lot of it flew over my head. And frankly, there’s too much of it. 12 posts a day is the editorial minimum and, mostly, I don’t have time to trawl through all that in any meaningful way. I see the RSS feeds offer ‘top stories’ only now – let’s see how that goes.

Gawker’s bloggers seem to live the dream, despite Denton’s miserly pay scale, and most, if not all, use it as a springboard to bigger and better things. For me, being a Gawker editor, bashing out snarky one-liners all day on a Powerbook, pausing only go out for pastrami on rye wearing a black turtle neck is total writerly rockstardom (see also: Joe Eszterhas bashing out Basic Instinct in the Hollywood hills fuelled by Jack Daniels, or Woodward and Bernstein having Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play them in the movie).

Bonus link : The Observer’s 50 most powerful blogs – get something new for your RSS reader