Opportunity in the Chaos

The economy keeps getting worse, and we communicators keep wringing our hands about the state of media — especially with the potential demise of the Seattle Post Intelligencer.  We’re even hosting our own event, “Journalism on the Brink: Can Digital Save It” this coming Wednesday (RSVP info below).

But as I stated in my Techflash.com profile last week, I believe that at the height of chaos, when everyone else is running away, there is immense opportunity for anyone who keeps their eyes on the prize.

Here at the Master of Communication in Digital Media, we have really focused on new communication models, and social media platforms as part of this opportunity.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a chance to discuss these ideas at the invitation of some very smart people, including Boston University’s School of Communication and college alumni administrators.

I’ve only now realized how quickly social media has established itself.   Social media consultants seem to be everywhere — so much so that even the illustrious BusinessWeek magazine has started to “debunk” social media myths.  Then again, there’s guru Paul Gillin’s superb new Secrets of Social Media Marketing.

So I’ve also realized that the focus we’ve established at the University of Washington’s MCDM goes beyond an easy social media fix.  Here’s the recipe I believe we’re working on:

“Effective communication in the 21st century requires us to build relationships by telling our story and providing value-added content to online community platforms, quite often with inexpensive, amateur content creation and distribution tools.  This approach reflects current economic and budgetary realities, as well as a need to engage people with entrepreneurial zeal.” (The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman agrees with this pressing need to have a start-up mentality).

It’s really an understanding that communication in an ongoing interaction (thanks to social media), and that storytelling helps create a strong connection to the people you’re trying to reach.

Our very own program provides a good example of this approach.  Yes, we advertise the MCDM through radio ads, brochures, and junk mail.  Which is the traditional, passive way of selling your message.  But we also host important events that help further the conversation about these important issues, such as The Digital President last month.

But communication outreach doesn’t end with branding a successful event with our logo.  We record the event, and distribute the video.  Our advancement office makes sure well-connected alumni get this “value-added content” — they in turn, will share it with their friends and colleagues.

So instead of yelling for attention, we’re providing valuable information and are creating relationships.  And as Yochai Benkler would say, the conversation continues in a fabulously, unfinished state.

We believe this is a more effective way to communicate (a unique educational program that is on the bleeding edge of communication strategy).  Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how large and powerful you might have been, it’s the quick, the agile and the attentive who will successfully engage their constituents.

Tell stories.  Build community.  Communicate.  That’s my new creed.  And in this tumultuous era of betrayal and fear, you can do so much better by building trust and communicating with authenticity and transparency.  Edelman’s recently released 2009 Trust Barometer speaks to exactly this new chaotic environment.  It’s up to us to seize the opportunity.  Especially as CEO’s end up at the bottom of the Trust Barometer, and those in academia at the top.  So join us this Wednesday at the UW!

“The University of Washington’s Journalism program, in collaboration with the Online News Association, presents a free, public event: ‘Journalism on the Brink? Can Digital Save It?’

The conversation will be moderated by Hanson Hosein, a former Emmy Award-winning NBC journalist and now the director of the Master of Communication in Digital Media at the University of Washington.

David Domke, UW Journalism chair and Department of Communication Acting Chair will host.

Hosein and Domke will be joined by:

– Cory Bergman, MSNBC, expert on future of local media through LostRemote.com, MyBallard.com;

– John Cook, ex-PI reporter who has created TechFlash, the go-to source for the Puget Sound tech community;

– Monica Guzman, online reporter at Seattle P-I who has pioneered the effective use of social media tools to share her work;

– Cory Haik, Director of Content at seattletimes.com, who knows how to work through a disaster as NOLA.com managing editor during Katrina; and

– Ross Reynolds, host of KUOW’s “The Conversation” and a researcher on public radio as a viable business model.

We will film the event for online distribution within 48-72 hours.
Where: Kane Hall 220
When: Wednesday, February 25th 6:30-8:00 pm.
Afterward: We’ll continue the discussion over beer and food at the Big Time Brewery and Alehouse at 4133 University Way NE.

This is a free event, and open to the public.”

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