There’s this one room at a historic hotel in Portland that I am coming to associate with the latest and greatest in technology. Funny how location melts into sentiment.
The room is the third floor ballroom at The Governor Hotel. I’ve been there twice now. In July 2008, I attended the Internet Strategy Forum which opened my eyes to a lot of ways of communicating with customers and constituents. I started more aggressively blogging and trying new things at both my jobs (Comcast and the Lakewood City Council). Some worked, some didn’t.
Yesterday I was at another workshop about digital communications, Communicopia, organized by the Portland chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the Oregon/Columbia chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.
Once again, speakers discussed cutting-edge techniques to approach and listen to customers through the Internet and digital media.
The changes between July 2008 and May 2009, less than a year apart, are striking. There were far more good case histories yesterday of how companies are using the Internet to bridge gaps with citizens. I’m still contemplating all the changes, not to mention all the case histories, but two things struck me right away.
GOVERNMENT WAS THERE: There was nobody from government at the July 2008 meeting that I can recall. And indeed, most of the folks yesterday were from business. Still, yesterday, even some of the panelists were from government: Sally Ridenour, Oregon Department of Transportation and Jennie Day-Burget, Portland Water Bureau. Case histories were shared such as use of social media by an airport.
That said, I didn’t see any other elected officials. Maybe they’ll be there in May 2010. But the government examples were solid and show how agencies are trying to use technology for everyone’s benefit. These examples are from Portland, of course; but they’re growing all over the place in other states including Washington. Anyone in Washington state who is using Twitter should definitely be monitoring the Washington State Department of Transportation.
TWITTER WAS THERE: There were only a few people using Twitter at the July 2008 conference. Yesterday, there were dozens, and in fact the organizers even had a contest related to Twitter.
The discussions have matured. In July, it was all about ‘get on board.’ Yesterday, several speakers commented that you needed to be targeted and strategic. My favorite speaker, the plain-speaking Jeff Hardison of McClenahan Bruer Communications, compared people under pressure these days to enter “social media” to kids under pressure to drink beer in college: everybody thinks they need to be on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, or whatever Oprah and Aston Kurcher are using. He and several other speakers pointed that that it makes no sense to spend time on something like Twitter if you don’t have customers there.
“Your culture may not have the culture to do this stuff, no matter what people say … This isn’t high school where you’re under pressure,” Hardison said.
All the discussion got me thinking that all of us can be more strategic in how we communicate. That got me thinking that I need to spend less time on Twitter as a Lakewood City Councilman, because so far I have found all of one Lakewood voter (out of apprx. 13,000 active voters) dialoguing with me. I love my city, but it’s not known for early adoption of technology.
And there are more reflections, but that’s good for now. Wanted to share thoughts on two interesting days, nine months apart, in a historic Portland ballroom.