Presentations Day One – Exploration of Digital Strategy

I enjoyed learning from my classmates this past weekend. The scenarios were challenging and highly relevant to our current time. The first presentation was on Minis and how to engage the community of Mini drivers. They took advantage of micro Mini communities that already exists across the country and planned extravagant weekend getaways just for Mini drivers.They thought of almost everything you would need to consider when planning trips of this extent. One element that I think took away from the great ideas presented in the presentation was the financial side. I felt for the team as they tried to justify the expenses and low revenue to a class who was hung up on the details. Perhaps giving a general idea of financials rather than an in depth analysis of them would have proven more effective. I truly thought the idea was a great way to build a culture around a car while tying in other sponsors and potential offers to the drivers. Something they could have added to the presentation was more examples of how Mini drivers are posting on social media today. I think it is highly likely that this community would post on a variety of social networks, however, to convince the class, more examples may have helped. 

The second presentation was on Pollination Pathway, a non-profit in the Seattle area that works on a one-mile stretch of neighborhood road to plant gardens that are ideal for our local pollinators. They were charged with creating an engagement plan for this nonprofit. I was a little confused why there were concerned about fitting their new engagement team in with the other departments within Pollinator Pathway as it seems like there is very little engagement going on right now. Also, I didn’t understand why they decided to go with creating an App for the project when it seemed to me it really only affected the one mile strip of neighborhood. What may have been more effective was a general leveraging of social media channels. These are not even listed on the Pollinator Pathway website, a great first step for increasing engagement. The other element they could have elaborated on was how someone not living on that one mile could be involved. Outside of donating money or time, there should be a way to engage. For example, I would love to plant my garden this way and I don’t mind paying for it myself. PP provides suggested layouts which I could follow easily, however they would never know that I had done this with the current set up of their website. 

The next presentation was on recycling. I really liked the concept of this one although I think that the issue has less to do with Millennials and more to do with systems within these multi-family buildings. For me, the first step would be to connect with these building owners and determine what can be done. If nothing comes from that, it would be a general awareness campaign in the areas the residents frequent. Maybe bus stops or transits stations, maybe Starbucks. I think this could easily tie into an online campaign as well. I did like the idea of the contest, as long as the group was able to get the word out about it to local multi-family home communities. 

The final presentation was about Root, the urban farming magazine. I thought their plan to convert to a multi-platform strategy as well as expand the scope of the magazine beyond just urban farming was a good move. It was pretty bold to suggest holding off on a tablet strategy, although they made a good case for it. This plan overall felt pretty solid to me. Very interesting and engaging for being the last presentation of the day. 

Thank you for all the teaching us and expanding our minds on each of your concepts. Looking forward to next class! 


Data Responsibility

Photo Credits Jennyonthespot

Photo Credits Jennyonthespot

In a time when almost anything can be measured, we must ask ourselves the most important question – Why are we measuring this data? Without a proper end goal in mind, the data we collect has the potential to become meaningless, overwhelming, or misleading.

Comparing data points can lead to the discovery of an unexpected correlation. This discovery can take creativity to determine. But the risk with this is correlation needs to be proved rather than inferred. Even if the data suggests a correlation, it does not imply causation.

For example, as ice cream sales increase, the rate of drowning also increases. Therefore, purchasing ice cream may cause drowning. Of course, this seems illogical as we can all easily recognize that both of these variables are affected by a third variable, the weather or season. Ice cream sales increase in the summer, when it is hotter outside and more people are likely to go swimming and risk drowning as it gets hotter outside as well.

This is the type of awareness that we need to be aware of when analyzing our own data as well as when reviewing the results of someone else’s data analysis. It is our responsibility to analyze the data as accurately as possible.

In the same way, presentation of data can greatly impact the interpretation. I started out talking about how data must be gathered with an end goal in mind. For some organizations, the end goal may be to cause some action by stakeholders. For example, The Girl Effect is representing data to bring awareness to the struggles that many girls face around the world as well as inspiring action by the viewer. In order to create an impactful story, the data must be represented in a certain way and leave out any data that may takeaway from the emotional effect on viewers. This is not unethical, but as a viewer, we must be diligent and aware of what data we are consuming as all of it is inaccurate to a point.

Networks as “Organic Behavior in a Technical Matrix”

Think of Bees

Photo Credits: justus.thane

Photo Credits: justus.thane

In this Saturday’s class, Brent Friedman went over the details of his online creation, Valemont. What is most intriguing about this was, based on the premise of the story he was able to build a community of people so engaged in this world who were willing to put their time into building alternate personalities and creating relationships with other people doing the same thing. He created a network around this show. And, what was so interesting was the show was also based on a network – a physical network of cellphones hosted on Verizon and an abstract network of people connected to one common event, the death of a main character.

The success of Valemont was not the show alone, but the ability to create a community of invested individuals. This is an obvious point, though. What is less obvious is what made it so attractive to the demographic? What need did it fill for these people?

“The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention.” -Kevin Kelly

This is the secret sauce. And one that needs to be constantly reevaluated. Today it might be Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and cell phones. Next year it might be Tablets, smart gear and social network that we haven’t discovered or a new way to use one we already have.  There is no durable mutation on the Internet. This is where “organic behavior” really takes effect on a “technical matrix.” Ultimately, the networks we target are made of people, and people are finicky, bored easily, and distracted by the dimmest of bright lights. Catching this changing mob is like trying to contain a swarm of bees, not only would it be almost impossible to do, they get really angry when they realize what is going on.

But bees are also probably one of the most organized networks in nature and can be highly predictable when equipped with the right knowledge and tools. This is how a networker and communicator must think of their audience.

We know they are changing, we know they are suspicious, we know they have needs and are more than willing to engage when given the right set of ingredients. But we must not allow ourselves to ease into assumptions of what they will do or what they want, and to ensure that we don’t we must listen, even more that we communicate or produce content, we must listen to what the networks are telling us.

The Whole Point

In this blog, I wish to post the first assignment for the University of Washington Graduate Program I am in titled Masters in Communication in Digital Media, or MCDM. This assignment was to outline our “Terms of Engagement.” Why are we here? What do we want to become? What do you want to be when you grow up? This is the whole point, right?

Well, maybe in one fraction of my life, this is the whole point. This is the whole point of my professional goals. And I have to admit that there isn’t much I wouldn’t give up to pursue these as far as they can go.

At the end of the quarter we need to rewrite them to see if we have learned something about the program, industry, ourselves, our writing, our communication. One piece of feedback I do believe was very justified by the leader of the program, Hanson Hosein, was that I need to consider the idea that the digital and the real are no longer separate, the barriers are melding together. Digital is so present in real life that is has become our real life. Touche Hanson, perhaps I already have one edit for the end of the year.

Technology is changing at a ridiculous pace. Ridiculous in that it looks ridiculous if you step back and watch – like shoppers on Black Friday crawling and scrabbling over each other in attempt to be the first one to grab the item of the year.  As a communicator within the raging river of technological development, I must take into account not only how the medium changes but how the audience’s relationship with each medium adjusts. It has been noted that with the evolution of social media, consumers who previously had little power, now easily voice their responses to an equally large audience. Now, potential consumers talk, yell, praise and most importantly, listen to other consumers. This is not a river that cannot be navigated. With experience, observation, preparation and creativity even the rapids can be successfully crossed. I would like to be recognized for this ability to navigate the changing organization-consumer relationship and develop strategies that bridge this ever shifting gap.

Ultimately, the organization is still a public speaker proposing an idea to the masses with hopes of influencing individuals to take some action. In this way, I need to master communication as an artful address, or, in other words, by using the Rhetorical Tradition defined in Em Griffin’s “A First Look at Communication Theory.” Using this tradition as a foundation for developing the skills I will need to be successful, I will learn to evoke emotion through storytelling and micro-stories. I will learn to create a voice of expertise, empathy and problem solving that will build a relationship with the audience just as Aristotle emphasized replicating friendship bonds between speaker and audience.

However, this specific tradition does not fully encompass the current organization-consumer relationship. As previously mentioned the audience now responds without hesitation and without regard for the speaker. Therefore, I will need to expand this theory to include elements of the Phenomenological Tradition, also referenced in Griffin’s book. This theory is defined as “communication as the experience of self and others through dialogue.” Social networks, because of their existence primarily in digital form, present unique challenges to communication unfamiliar to a speaker in a public setting with a live audience sitting before him. There is constant and high danger of misunderstanding in digital communication. After all, how often have we received a text message from a friend that we have severely misunderstood due to lack of contextual clues? Therefore, the communication between organization and consumer over digital platforms must not only rely on one-way messaging but strongly on those responses from the audience in order to learn and understand their perspectives. This mastery is depicted well in Hanson Hosein’s “Storyteller Uprising: Trust and Persuasion in the Digital Age” in an example the final section of the book when he references the U.S. Army’s campaign “Army Strong Stories.” As Hosein describes, this organization was able to allow the audience powerful voice while still staying in command of the overall message sent to the masses. I imagine, based on this description as well as personal experience, this campaign not only affected people while online, but also inspired action in real life, including changing opinions on the organization as a whole, changing option of the members of the army as individuals and shifting potential soldiers away from hesitations and towards passionate enlisting.

This brings me to my personal Action Idea for my time in MCDM. Online Social Networks are generally underutilized for their greater potential to impact real life. I want to develop an understanding of communication and storytelling strategies to become a recognized innovator in building social graph connections to drive inspired engagement that affects the audience beyond the digital world in a positive or revealing way.


Thoughts on what else I should consider before my time is up in this first quarter?

NowThisNews Reports in Just 15 Seconds with Instagram

Reporting the news has been transforming since the advent of technology became affordable for the general population and since then has reached the point where anyone can be a publisher of content. NowThisNews is taking this transformation one step further by shortening news updates to just 15 seconds on their Instagram platform. Typically, Instagram videos are created on the phone with stop motion videography. However, it is possible to upload a video that was created elsewhere and publish it through the platform as well. With, Vine, Twitter’s version of the Instagram Video, uploading content that was created somewhere else was not possible, nor was it encouraged. In fact, people who developed workarounds for this limitation found their videos quickly disappearing from the platform.

NowThisNews seems to prefer  Instagram as their platform of choice perhaps for the additional 9 seconds of video time and because they wanted to publish content that was well developed, not to mention more efficient to create. Stop motion videography can be quite tricky on a smartphone. They do have a Vine videos as well, but they are of a very different format, generally someone talking quickly into the camera without any supporting graphics or background music.

I first found out about NowThisNews through an article on All Things D, a tech blog I read every day for work. In the article, they explain that this startup is backed by the same people responsible for Huffington Post as well as Buzz Feed.

While this delivery of the news doesn’t provide me with the deep insight and details that I prefer to know, it is an interesting way to deliver the highlights of the day in a visual headline -like strategy.

What do you think? Effective or too fast?



UDPATE: I tried to embed one of the Instagram posts here but it kept being eliminated at publishing. If anyone has any tips on this, please let me know. Thanks