Friday, April 4, 2008

BlogHer Business Conference 2008 Day 2 10:45 - 12 noon: Moving from Should to Can

10:45-12:00 PM

Break-Out Session #1


Title: Moving From "Should" to "Can"


Track: Social Media Creation Best Practices


Synopsis: You've heard all the reason you're supposed to have a company blog and more. But let's talk about moving from "should" to "can." From technology choices to time management, community policies to common pitfalls, this session is designed to help you figure out what will give your company the greatest comfort level and potential for success when launching a blog, podcast or online community.


Technologist and author Susannah Gardner moderates this discussion. Susannah is the author of Blogging for Dummies, 2nd Edition.


Fast Company's Lynne D. Johnson will talk about the why and how behind Fast Company's recent evolution from magazine web site, with blogs, to a more interactive social community.


We'll also get insight on how PBS Parents is making the journey from "should" to "can" by talking to the Director of PBS Parents, Jean Crawford, and one of her blogger/consultants, Jen Lemen...someone who is associated with the most authentic and creative aspects of the blogosphere, but is helping organizations tap into their opportunities to be a part of it. Check out her blog at


Social Media Creation Best Practices Track is brought to you by Ogilvy's


Live Blog Post Begins:

This session talks about the idea of wanting to just try o start moving from an idea to a concept. Pushing through barriers to put ideas into practice. We’ll get at what’s holding us back.


Jean – PBS Parents site launched about 3 years ago. And so much has changed in that time on the internet. Blogs and the community have blossomed and that is a hole in the site and in he PBS Corporation. History nurturing dialogue is part of the brand so PBS needs to get into blogs. The challenge is that the brand is incredibly trusted so there is a reluctance to do anything that may damage that reputation. Need to find right voice to mitigate the risk.


A curious, empathetic voice is needed. PBS lucked out in finding three trusted voices – Jen Lemen, Chris Hammond, and their third sister. This all started at BlogHer last year when Jean met Chris. The sisters are a great mixture of different personalities. Project started 1 year ago. The new site is launching shortly. Important to make it the sisters’ blog, not PBS blog.


An external voice was brought in to draw on the experience of outside bloggers rather than choosing someone from the inside. Jean doesn’t blog, and she wanted to find someone who had a truly authentic voice. These sisters will know how to engage people, who can draw people in. They will be accepted.


Collaborative for his blog means that there will be three authors (the sisters), PBS, and structuring I and organizing it in a way that everyone works together to keep the dialogue going.


Jen – All credit goes to Chris. Brought her 6 week old baby to BlogHer last year. She was a little magnet for people. She met Jean and got things going and introduced Jean to her. Putting our foot in the water to see if this work. Kids love PBS so this was a natural fit. A little nervous about working with corporations – common for bloggers. Independent writer her whole career. When the meeting happened, she became s much more comfortable because the PBS space is designed well, it’s a comforting place, an inspirational place.  It instantly relaxed me.


Jean – I saw Jen staring at the environment and she was mesmerized by the value that were on the wall at PBS. (Brave, inspiration, empathy, to name a few.)


Jen – Working with sisters is interesting. Now we have to take this great idea and make it happen. We decided it would make the most sense to have one person to pull together the design. Chris is an attorney and business savvy, so she is dealing with the contract. Patience (the third sister) is pulling together the content. She has blogged for five years and has a wonderful community that follows her blog.


Jen laid out how the blog should look, how often they should post. Visualizing the process. Now her role drops back and her sisters drive the process forward.


Lynne – started its life as a magazine. Moved from being print product with a website to moving to being a social network for its readers. About 8-10 years ago, Fast Company started “Company of Friends” – special interest groups. Like a fan club once the magazine came out. List serves, calendars, events, etc. That was going strong for a few years and then it fell off.


So we started to build up content of website beyond the magazine. Lynne has been there for two years. Podcasts, videos, Fast Company TV, expert bloggers. She brought the expert bloggers across different disciplines. New social network became bigger than any of the experts. Everything you do on the site follows you on your profile that you set up. It becomes sharing your interests based on activity on the site.


Magazine subscribers have now fundamentally shifted how they view the company. Print people were wondering if they were trying to be Facebook. Lynne has been a part of social media for over 7 years. That’s why she was brought in. She is a face of what this community represents – she walks the walk and talks the talk.


The site has the magazine, but it’s not the main focus anymore. They curate the 9 home pages that have the main points of focus.


Stumbling blocks that stop the social media creation process – time to dedicate to the effort, money, age of the person who wants to do the project, learning the language of this new industry, getting out of our comfort zone to learn about the technology, fear internally, and companies being afraid of losing control in the world of social media, being overwhelmed by all of the social media options, lack of understanding on how to drive traffic to a blog, explaining the concept. 


Lynne – if you don’t want to start a new on-line initiative, you can start a group around your company on Fast Company, Inc. Biznet (for small businesses), Facebook. Easy ways to share.


Jen – there are digital natives and digital immigrants. For the digital immigrants it can be very confusing and difficult. What they need are tour guides. What’s missing in the conversation right now are the guides. There are people in this room who can help you. Women who blog are so willing to share their expertise and knowledge. Utilize them. Connect to one another.


Jean – Being part of the conversation was big for PBS. The discussion was happening out there – people engaging, sharing ideas. PBS wanted to share, too. Jean was a digital immigrant, if that. Maybe just on the way on the boat. She relied heavily on Jen and her sisters.


Breaking through barriers with mgmt at PBS was not an issue. In their nature, they are about communities and about communication. The money and resource issue was tough. Was eventually able to scrounge up a budget but people power issues was tough.


Aligned mission of organization to the mission of a blog. Matched overall principles. Social media is a strategy now of the interactive group.


Lynne – some internal conflicts at Fast Company in this shift. From management and from other areas of the company. The people in print were not happy about the blog-look of the pages. That was the point. It doesn’t function like a magazine anymore.


Internally, they had a lot of meetings. They did change their minds a lot about how the site should look. As they went through the journey, they found an authentic, functional look.


No compromises were made. Some suggestions from the print people were incorporated. They will have a “Great Idea of the Day”. Can come from writers and editors of the magazine. Things like that.


Jen – We wanted to be paid the same rate as professional writers. If that level of respect is there, then that is a good sign. Same as a freelancer for a magazine. You aren’t just asking for a post – you are asking for a finely crafted piece. PBS understands that. 


An average amount of time would be based on how much each post takes to write. Each sister needs to spend 8-10 hours per week on the blog.  


Lynne – Fought to pay expert bloggers. They had to be provocative and publish on a schedule. These are real writers. Now, finally, they are looking for revenue shares for them.


Jean – Hiring a community manager. Have been trying to do so for three years. To do this right, they need to be able to support the sisters. The sisters wanted a schedule and some structure imposed by PBS. That will help them in working together.


Overarching structure is in child development. It is the topic that PBS is asked about the most. The bloggers will use stories about their children to talk about child development.


Audience comments on fear – legal aspects, how to deal with negative comments. You don’t get over the fear, you just take the risk. Sit downs with lawyers are necessary. Moderated comments put some liability on the company in a legal realm. Starting small and getting some small wins will help in selling the concept up the food chain. Numbers speak volumes.


March of Dimes created a Spanish-language blog completely under the table. 50 comments every day. 7000 hits in one day. Got called on the carpet for it. And once they saw the success, they then wanted a blog in English. English one is not so great. The Spanish one rocks!


Lynne – Only take comments down if they are slanderous, way off-topic. It’s in their terms of service. Fast Company doesn’t dismiss personal, honest opinions. The risk is worth it.


Jean – Expert Q&A blog. Disclaimer on the site about language. Otherwise, they leave it. Will delete a comment if it is completely off-topic.


Lynne – She sort of has a technology background. For these social media efforts, they sell the marketing aspect first and then put the technology behind it. She does the cross-functional team work to get everyone together on the same page.


One big take-away: to move form should to can you need to find the right people, internal or external. Really what it comes down to is someone who takes responsibility and makes it fit for the company. Lynne is the product manager as well as the editor. Jean says showing a passion for the idea is critical. Being on-line requires wearing different hats.


Jen – would love it if more business people will appeal to the expertise of bloggers.


Jean – don’t give up. Keep at it. Show the benefits. If anyone has a name for the blog, or wants to be in a brainstorming session or participating in the beta, let Jean know.


Lynne – you need to sell management and selling the social media community. It’s really important to include people in what you’re doing. You need to respond to inquiries.


Susannah – people are the solution, not the technology. Someone needs to own it, nurture it, and someone needs to be there.         




Beverly Robertson said...

Hi Christa,
For a hunt and peck typist, you were able to capture everything happening beautifully. Thank you so much for the March of Dimes mention in your post. The English site is live now and will be "pretty" in about 2 weeks once the designers get done with it.

I'll be back to visit often.


Christa said...

Hi Beverly! Many, many thanks for visiting my blog and for the incredible work you and your team do at The March of Dimes. I am so impressed and inspired by your charisma and "we are doing this" attitude to get the word out about your organization.