Category Archives: Uncategorized

They Come in the Name of Helping

poster1I spend every Monday with 11 European students and one from Sierra Leone as part of the Lantos/Capitol Hill Fellowship. Yesterday afternoon, we watched the documentary They Come in the Name of Helping and afterwards we had a lively discussion with its producer, Peter Brock.

 

Brock met now Lantos Fellow Joseph Kaifala (from Sierra Leone) at Skidmore College in United States. Kaifala and some of his friends from back home explain how they perceive aid workers and why aid is often wrongly implemented; Aid organizations lack understanding and knowledge of the culture and society they are operating within. Furthermore, Brock argues that donors give money out of pity instead of respect and humility.

 

PR and aid

This raised an interesting discussion about PR campaigns raising money for aid. Brock mentioned slogans as “Save Darfur” and “Save a Child” as examples where the message tailors the donors’ bad conscience and pity instead of respect for the African people. One of the Kaifalas in the documentary says: We are poor but we deserve dignity.

 

I do understand the critique of the campaigns – without having paid much professional attention to them. On the other hand, as a communications professional, I also have to say that PR does not work if the campaigns do not take the target audience’s self interest and motivation into consideration. And how much can one individual take in? The aid organizations are competing with each other and they are competing with other issues such as climate change, human rights, and homelessness in our backyard. Therefore, the PR campaigns have to cut through this clutter to be successful. Not to say that they cannot improve. I am sure they can!

 

Brock and Kaifala suggest that we should not only donate money to Africa but should become civically engaged in our local communities and fight local problems. I figure this should improve our respect and humility for other people – at home and abroad. This message might work in United States with a communitarian tradition. But I do not think it could work in a European setting – or at least in the Scandinavian countries. For instance, we do not have the same tradition for helping out in our communities. Another guest speaker to the group said that Americans cook a casserole as soon as there is minor problem. That is also my experience from living here. But that does not transcend to Europe – or at least my home country Denmark.

 

Please, watch poster_TheComeInTheNameOfHelpingthe documentary. It is thoughtful and it raises an important debate and call for more respect and humility in development aid which does make a lot of sense to me.

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Summer Musings

I’m back to regular life after 5 weeks off. School started for me this week. It is my fourth semester at PR and Corporate Communication at Georgetown University. This semester I will focus on Strategic Communications Planning and Political Campaign Communications. Again I am thrilled to be in classes with intelligent and hardworking classmates and professors. It is time to do something else than just PR and technology! But of course tech will be an integrated part of both classes.

 

I have been offline in August spending time in Charleston, Savannah, and home on the farm where I grew up in Denmark. I also had the privilege to present my final project in Digital Campaigns on COP15 to two members of the COP15 web team. Of course part of my social media strategy was way too ambitious – like creating a conversation platform. But it was interesting to examine how the closed political process could be opened up. But it is a challenge to balance access, participation, Web 2.0, and control. I mean – it is hard to use YouTube or a blog and ignoring the dialogue including the critical comments. Well, I cannot wait to see the website the Danish Foreign Service is launching later this year. By employing a social media strategy, it is easier to reach out to green influentials in G8  countries – and they will be with us and our agenda – also if we have to use plan B and the successor treaty of the Kyoto Protocol won’t succeed in Copenhagen next year.

 

In the end of my vacation, I missed my online life and the daily dose of American politics. To be continued!

Passing 2.000 Hits

Everything is about hits. I cannot remember where I read that earlier today researching for the blog I will post in a minute. Hits and Technorati Authority define a blog’s worth. SO I just have to share the new hit statistics: 2,058.  No exponential growth here except on a few ocassions where my professor linked to an old post – thanks to his current students in Social Media. The link from e.politics to my entry on Video as a Campaign Tool did help as well. And I do see some exponential growth in the hits on my COP15 post. But thanks God it is not a Perfect Storm or a Hocky Stick (see Joe Trippi).

One more post to go. Thanks to my class and Garrett for another great adventure. Enjoy August and some time off.

From @Downing Street to @alaa

Some of the most prominent Web 2.0 platforms in foreign politics are embraced by politicians in UK like @Downing Street on Twitter and Show Us a Better Way. But as our class revealed last Monday, digital campaigns overseas have not taken off as in U.S.

 The Prime Minister’s Office in UK has almost 4,000 followers on Twitter. During Obama’s visit in Downing Street 10, the office updated the profile feverishly and facilitated a conversation:

 

@plasmaegg No problem. Thanks to everyone who’s followed us today. Here’s the last image: http://is.gd/14EW 12:45 PM July 26, 2008 from web in reply to plasmaegg

 

Not Much about Elections Overseas

Searching our class’ del.icio.us feed, I did not find any links to digital campaigns tagged as overseas. I did find two posts tagged international but they were not relevant in this case. UK and U.S. are the only countries in the tagcloud. One post was tagged UK, linking to the UK Parliament’s YouTube Channel. It is a pilot project. This feed is informational and tend to be conversational by interviewing typical constituents. But the conversation has not really started yet:

 

 

 

I am looking forward to see where the UK Parliament will take it. Will it feed one-way press briefings or engage in a two-way-conversation?

 

From my own little world, I experience huge interest of the American experience on digital campaigns. I know of 3 different groups coming from Copenhagen in the fall to learn more about microtargeting, fundraising, and political blogging.

 

Who Reports Gets to Write History

Garrett Graff mentioned again in his lecture China’s firewall, Al Qaeda’s extensive use of YouTube, and Alaa’s twittering to stay alive as examples of Web 2.0 platforms overseas. It reminds me again that free speech is not given all over the world, and who reports gets to write history. Social media can be a tool for expression in countries with no or limited free speech. It can also be a tool to broaden the political conversation and collaboration in democracies for local, regional, and national governments (more is coming on this point).

 

The Global Power of Social Media

 

 

 

This picture shows that the world is not flat – as Charline & Bernof state in Groundswell (p.49). It is the same desire to connect, create, and stay in touch – but it is not the same platforms that people use around the world.  Facebook and MySpace are popular SNS in America, Orkut in Brazil and India, and hi5 in Austria, Mongolia, and Portugal. Furthermore, participation differs as well. In Groundswell, participation is divided into six categories: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Sepctators, or Inactives.

 

According to Groundswell (research by Forrester Research), Asians have in general adopted social media much more than Americans or Europeans. For illustrating, I have gathered the numbers that they mention in the book in the following table which is important for planning marketing, advocacy or political campaigns in different countries. (You can more numbers here).

 

Social Technographic Profiles Around the World

Profile

U.S

Europe

Asia

Creators

Blog, upload self made videos, music etc.

18 %

10%

38 % (South Korea)

Critics

Post ratings/reviews, comment on other’s blogs, contribute to online forums, contribute to wikis

25%

20%

36% (Japan)

Collectors

Use RSS, add tags to web pages or photos

10%

10%

18% China

14% South Korea

6% (Japan)

Joiners

Maintain a profile on a SNS, visit SNS

25%

12,5%

40% (South Korea)

Spectators

Read blogs, watch video from other users, listen to podcasts, read online forums, read customer ratings/reviews

48%

37%

33% (Japan and China)

Inactives

Do not participate in these activities

41%

53%

37% (South Korea)

(Charlene & Bernof, 2008, p. 43-45). Data from Forrester Research Technographics® surveys, 2007. For further details on the Social Technographics profile, see groundswell.forrester.com.

NOTE: the percentage is of the online adult population!

Voter-Generated Content

The democratic ideal of voters being in charge of elections might, in general, be an illusion but social media offers a tool to fulfilling the ideal. Robert Scoble wrote more than a year ago when the campaigns took off: “Any one of us can post a video that´ll change the outcome of this election. That video will get found thanks to the much more efficient word-of-mouth network that is social media.” Besides video, voters are generating everything from t-shirts, blogs, news, to bumper-stickers, but what does it mean?

 

Videos such as YouTube have been predicted to take over this campaign. Hundred thousands of videos are uploaded everyday. So far, none of the candidates have “suffered” from a Macaca moment as George Allen did in the Senate race in Virginia in 2006. Researching for this blog entry, I stumbled upon a debate on TechPresident in the fall 2007 about who is running the best Web campaign – Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul? In the end, everyone agrees that Ron Paul ran the best campaign online. I got curious to check out what Huckabee did. Unfortunately, Zephyr Teachout did not link to any of the sites she is mentioning, and I could not find the videos on the campaign site (now turned into a PAC site with only archives going back to March) – except for the YouTube channel that the campaign had created. Huckabee shared voter-generated videos on a daily basis on his campaign website – Obama, Clinton, or McCain do (did) not encourage or share voter-generated videos on their sites. What does it mean? According to Teachout:

Video images are a central syntax of elections, and unless you encourage people to use their power to join the creation of the moving-image election, you are limiting their reach. I believe people who create video will be better critics of ads, being better able to understand how they are being manipulated; its not the only step, but its a critical step into the circle of creating your own politics. All of these candidates have enough supporters that they could choose to encourage this kind of activity, but they aren’t.“

Pictures are easy to produce on cell phone or digital cameras and easy to share on cell phones, blogs, or photo sharing/social networking sites like Flickr. Today, 60,087 pictures have been uploaded on Flickr of or related to Barack Obama, 5,730 on McCain. A lot of pictures are from rallies around the country, most are taken in a positive light, and some are “hate messages.” I am not a photo expert, but I am amazed by the quality of the photos. Some of them could be official campaign photos but there are produced by supporters. Some of these unofficial pictures might be used later in official campaign material. Or, they might already have been used.

 

Blogs have been part of U.S. elections for the last couple of cycles. There are tons of political blogs out there. Just like YouTube videos, some of them get a lot of attention, spread through the concentric circles and become part of the conversation for quite some time online as well as offline. Obama´s campaign experienced this mechanism, when Mayhill Fowler who is the voter and citizen-journalist behind the so called Bitter-gate. Fowler published a blog on Off the Bus about Obama´s comment on white, bitter voters in Pennsylvania, said during a closed fundraising. This caused a lot of fuzz and buzz in the media and Obama had to spend a lot of resources fighting this gate right before the important primary in Pennsylvania. The lesson learned is that a candidate can never talk “off the record”.   

 

 

Barack Obama is the king of voter-generated content. Check out the numbers – for t-shirts, My Space groups, Facebook members or apps. He is generating hope and thereby support (online). On his campaign site, you’ll find the social networking site MyBarackObama where you can blog, find friends, find events, or raise money. Never the less, I found this interesting post on epolitics quoting Clay Shirky from PDF 2008: “it seems like a social network but it actually contains relatively little lateral conversation. I.e., it’s portrayed as a social network, but people aren’t using it as one — it’s not as much of a person-to-person communications tool as we normally think of social networks as being. So, does that make it a top-down tool masquerading as a bottom-up tool?

Red versus Blue Blogging: Wednesday

Here’re my notes on the red and blue blogging on Wednesday June 11, 2008.

 

Issues/stories

One of the headlines on the front-page of New York Times was related to the election, and it focused on the economic policies of the two candidates as it did Tuesday. But presumptive presidential candidate, John McCain (R) was on NBC’s Today Show where the host Matt Lauer asked McCain whether he could estimate on when the troops could be home from Iraq. McCain answered (see also):

 

“No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine.”

 

The Obama-campaign picked up this sound-bite and criticized it on a conference call later in the morning and later, the McCain campaign responded. Both conference-calls (here and here) were published on Off The Bus (OTB), and M.S. Bellows Jr. blogged about the debate that ended up being more about partisan attacks than about the candidates different stand on foreign affairs.

 

Instapundit mentioned Obama’s economic policy and the controversy of Jim Johnson, leader of Obama’s vicepresidential search efforts. Five out of 15 links and comments were related to Obama. For instance:

 

OUCH: “If the Obama campaign was really committed to debating substantive issues of war and peace in good faith and in a civil tone, they’d repudiate the comments being pushed by their surrogates. And if Obama thinks that McCain is indifferent to the sacrifices being made by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, let him say it himself. (After all, just a few months ago the Obama campaign showed such a deep appreciation for context and the danger of exploiting soundbytes for political hits.)””(Glenn Reynolds, June 11, 2008 on Instapundit)

 

Authors, Style, and Arguments

The authors of the entries on OTB are like yesterday writing for a living – either as reporters, novel writers, or bloggers. Compared to yesterday, the entries tend to be more opinionated and less structured, and less fair. Glenn Reynold’s comments to the news had also more edge on Wednesday compared to the day before.

 

Red versus Blue Blogging: Intro

This week Garrett Graff has assigned us to follow two blogs; one covering the Democratic side of the aisle, and one from the Republican. I have chosen to compare Off the Bus on Huffington Post, on the left side, with Instrapundit on the right side.

 

Off the Bus (OTB) is a project of Arianna Huffington, founder of the blog Huffingtonpost.com, and Jay Rosen, professor at New York University and blogger on PressThink. It is “a citizen-powered and –produced news site” “founded to better presidential campaign reporting”. 

Right now Huffingtonpost.com is the most popular blog on the Internet according to Technorati’s ranking system (authority: 26.208).

 

Instrapundit is written by Glenn Reynolds, law professor at University of Tennessee. In the section about himself he notes: “I’m interested in everything, but my chief interest is in the intersection between advanced technologies and individual liberty. The vast majority of my writing touches on this in one way or another.” The blog ranks 507 on Technorati with an authority of 7.328.

 

For the rest of this week, I will publish an entry about the issues, stories, comments, arguments, and authors of the blogs. (I might be influenced by the techniques you can use in op-eds and speeches to persuade – I am going through all that in my class The Power Of Opinion with Mike Long). I will also keep an eye open on the truthiness of the blogs.

 

I have the impression that this will take me to a conclusion that the blogs are covering the two different views of the presidential campaigns, and they are not really engaged in the same public discourse. I will compare the issues of the blogs to the front-page stories of New York Times and The Drudge Report. Thereby, I am working on the assumption – inspired by Timothy Crouse’s the Boys on the Bus – that mainstream media is pack journalism; if a story is on the front-page on any of these media “it is undeniable news”.