Engaging the 'Now Media' Conversation as an Organization

What story will you tell?

There's a conversation happening, right now, in the social web. "Now Media". We live in an age where social media is the carrier of the immediate in our worlds. This new opportunity should reframe how you communicate, how you story-tell, and how you think about timing.
You know, I've had this opportunity over the past couple of years to spend a lot of time on CNN. There's an interesting phenomenon when you're in the newsroom, they way that they're looking at the AP wire, the way that they're sourcing stories is so old school. With social media today there's a conversation happening right now. In the 45 seconds that I've spent telling you this story there's a conversation. There's a heartbeat that's happening in the social web. It's what I like to refer to as 'Now Media'. It's happening right now.

I covered Haiti and I remember sitting on Don Lemon's show in between breaks, and Don was about to go on the air and talk about an element of the story. And I looked at Twitter and I was curating it. I was watching the conversations from people who were on the ground in Haiti using Twitter. Actually, he wanted to go on the air and talk about something that actually was already wrong. I grabbed my laptop and went on the air and I actually covered that angle of the story and used the curation and using YouTube video I found to actually talk about a completely different element of the story he missed.

It was right then that I really understood the power of Now Media and the power of things that are happening, and the fact that sometimes the news, most of the time the news is traveling faster through the social web than it is through traditional media.

So Now Media impacts so much of our lives. Now Media is not waiting for a press release. Now Media is not waiting for a phone call or an approval. Now Media is happening, and it's happening fast, and it's happening because of mobile devices. It's happening because people are willing to share. There's a culture of sharing, and it's impacting our personal and our professional lives. In many cases it's impacting what you think privacy looks like, and it's the new News. It's the new opportunity.

A lot of this might scare you. It shouldn't. It should actually re-frame how you communicate, how you story-tell, and what you think about timing. This is something that when you're thinking about social media should be embedded in your culture. Gone are the days of a traditional approach to what we call PR, and more of PR thinking like Now Media machines. PR must, and I do believe in the future, will include analytics. Analytics will be important. Social analytics will be a huge part of what I think a traditional PR organization looks like.

In order to hear the conversation, in order to talk about the conversation, in order to story-tell, you have to think about Now Media. One of my favorite stories about Now Media is when I decided to create a conversation, and I was sitting with Don Lemon from CNN, and I said, "Don, let's start a conversation about cancer." He was, like, "Okay." I said, "Don, I want to be on the air. I want to talk about the fact that we can start a conversation right now about cancer," and so he challenged me to break a record.

So I'm sitting at dinner with him and I actually picked up the phone and sent a tweet and said, "Who knows how to break a Guinness World Record?" Within nine minutes someone sent me back the contact information for someone from Guinness. I said, wow, this is actually easier than I thought. So I called the person from Guinness and I said, "I want to do a Guinness World Record," and they said, "No one's ever applied for a social media Guinness World Record. You'd be the first."

So 48 hours later I was on my way to a social media conference with Don Lemon, with an idea about starting a conversation around cancer and with the opportunity to create the first ever Guinness World Record because I had talked to someone at Guinness.

I kind of talked to my college roommate who worked at a big brand who said he'd give us money per tweet. I said, wow, we can actually raise money around this conversation around cancer. We actually, 48 hours later, went to Las Vegas to a large social media conference and we decided to have a conversation about cancer on Twitter, and we used a hashtag, and that hashtag was #BeatCancer.

At the end of the 24 hour cycle, we actually won the first ever social media Guinness World Record. Most importantly, my college roommate who worked at a brand thought he was going to give me $1000, and the sum total of people talking about cancer was 271,000 people, which meant he had to write me a $40.000 check which we gave to [inaudible 00:05:08] cancer.

The best part of that story is not that I raised $70,000 in 24 hours for cancer, or set the first ever Guinness World Record. It's the fact that right now if I put in #BeatCancer, I'd get to peer into a conversation around cancer, around people who are going to chemotherapy this morning using #BeatCancer, around people who are confused as to why cancer took their wife. So as you're building your story-telling engine, as you think about the stories that you want your company to tell, you have to think about the fact that conversations are happening right now, and that the social web is the best place to pick up those conversations.

James Andrews

James Andrews serves as Chief Digital Evangelist for Studio Good based out of their East Coast office. Studio Good is an award-wining digital and social good agency bringing together brands, celebrities, cause, online actions, and rea...

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