Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Archive for January 2012

Social Media, for Good and for Evil

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Image by Mona - Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It was around this time last year that a popular uprising began in Tunisia, followed by unrest in Libya and Egypt, ultimately leading to the “Arab Spring” movement that resulted in the fall of decades-old Middle Eastern dictatorships.

Social media has received a lot of the credit for helping keep these movements going, of providing the oxygen to fuel the fires of revolution. But the Internet, the backbone upon which social media rests, also is being used by corporations and governments to oppress the people.

That’s the theme of author Rebecca MacKinnon’s new book, “Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom,” excerpted here at MacKinnon describes how Egyptian protesters used social media such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to keep each other and the world informed of their struggle.

But as the protesters began investigating the Egyptian state security apparatus, they discovered that their government had used the Internet and the latest surveillance equipment to monitor their e-mail, track down their friends and contacts via their social-media profiles, and follow their whereabouts and activities over time.

People all over the world face a similar threat, MacKinnon writes, as Hollywood studios attempt to use legislation like SOPA and PIPA to stifle innovation and force individuals to consume media the way Hollywood wants them to.

Similarly, Twitter announced last week that it would start censoring its own content on a country-by-country basis.

Imagine if that rule had been in place just a year ago. Imagine the Egyptian protesters, desperately tweeting eyewitness accounts of police brutality in Tahrir Square, while in a bunker somewhere in Cairo, a government official was requesting that Twitter censor all traffic coming into or out of Egypt.

Scary to imagine, but don’t be surprised if the next revolution fails because governments shut down the Internet, rendering social media a silent bystander to political repression.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.


Written by Charles Primm

January 31, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Information Subsidies or Just Good Stories?

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When public relations professors and researchers talk about news releases and tip sheets, they don’t call them news releases, they call them “information subsidies.”

I am about to finish my master’s degree in public relations, so I have taken my fair share of classes on public relations theory and practice.

When I first encountered the phrase in one of my classes, I experienced an “aha” moment: I had never thought about it before, but I knew instantly that it was exactly correct.

A big part of what we do as public relations professionals is produce information subsidies, or content that helps journalists do their jobs easily and more quickly. With layoffs and hiring freezes in newsrooms, the remaining staffers are squeezed as never before, so the assistance we provide in tracking down good stories can be very helpful to the working media.

Standard stuff for a PR practitioner, right? Yes. But as social media accelerates change in all forms of communication, practitioners will need to expand their own definition of what qualifies as an “information subsidy.”

The PR Daily blog recently posted a great roundup of how changes in media content delivery will impact public relations.

For me, the takeaway points were:

1) remember that journalists are not just looking for text anymore, they are looking for multimedia opportunities,

2) don’t try to pitch reporters using social media, but

3) do get to know the reporters via their social media profiles.

Building and maintaining good relationships with journalists is a must for PR professionals, and social media is one more way of doing just that.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

January 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Look on the Bright Side!

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Welcome to the first entry for my first blog, “Cautiously Optimistic.” True to its title, this blog is not going to break any dishes, shatter any paradigms, bloody any noses, or get too carried away. At least not too often.

What I hope it will do is set a tone of hopefulness, wisdom, and, yes, optimism about the future.

My professional background is in journalism and public relations. I will share what I have learned over the years, both in school and in the School of Hard Knocks, as well as my thoughts and opinions of current events and future trends, to explore how we can improve ourselves and each other, how we communicate, and how social media can play a role in that process of discovery and improvement.

My goal is to use this forum to persuade you that improvement is possible in all areas of our lives. Will I achieve that goal? As you might have guessed, I remain cautiously optimistic.


Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

January 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm