About two months ago Christian and I were invited into Thomson Reuters to help cover a Newsmaker event with Gordon Brown – it turned out to be a pretty big deal. Tomorrow we’re back at Canary Wharf for a similar event:
So yeah, this time out it’ll be David Cameron taking the podium. Christian has already mentioned that the Conservatives have taken the lead here when it comes to social media, which is fascinating when you consider how the Obama campaign recently spread itself equally across old and new media to get its message of change across. Politically I’m way too far over to the left to consider Cameron a good choice for PM (not that I’m a fan of Blair and Brown either – such a shame we lost John Smith) but I am interested in how huge institutions, used to playing on their own terms, adapt and evolve when confronted with the new.
I’d love to find out how stuff like this goes down with them too:
There was an interesting mess recently when it was revealed that the Twitter user ‘Tony Benn‘ wasn’t in fact Tony Benn at all. Jemima over at the Guardian covered the hoo-ha here. Significantly the account was given over to the real Tony Benn’s office after the intervention of Twitter users as well. A brilliant example of self policing I think – as opposed to the fuck up that is the FaceBook (spit) policy of insisting that everyone use their ‘real’ name in the first place.
So what can we expect tomorrow? I have no idea. We went into the Gordon Brown event hoping for some one-on-one time, but everything was pushed back an hour and that put an end to that idea. We’re assured that David Cameron will be taking questions following his speech not only from the journalists in the room, but also from Twitter. We’ll see if we can push that particular envelope and this time out we have both Phil Campbell and Nik Butler on board to help. I won’t get into the pissing contest over Le Web that others are involved in, but I can certainly say that watching the event remotely via Phil’s Rezpondr vastly improved the experience over simply watching the often dull talks on stage. Nik has also been busy creating a new Twitter application (Tweetarator) and we should be using both of these tomorrow.
Lots of Twittering then, some photos and video too. Can’t guarantee how much of everything that goes in will be seen by the politicians. but I do know that as last time Reuters will be watching the response very carefully. Do try and join if you get the chance.
Politics aside then the important thing to recognise here is what an incredibly interesting choice Reuters have made in setting these opportunities up.
As I said last time – I’m not a journalist. That hasn’t changed so why do Reuters think it’s a good idea to let us into these things? There’s a reputation stake here – most of the big news agencies now have a toe in the social media water (or are chugging down the kool-aid if you think this is all rather insignificant). Reuters pride themselves on being cutting edge and I know @ilicco is full of stories that point this out (my own favourite being how a Reuters reporter got a story back home via an N95 after his equipment had been destroyed by armed rebels out in Africa). That sounds like the kind of thing that Christian himself used to get up to and his online reputation as a social media expert is secure. I prefer to think of him as an adventurer – it’s good that he now gets the chance to speak directly to organisations about what he does, but it’s a lot more fun watching him out in the field.
Last time out I got branded as a social media guru by Reuters and that’s the only false step they made. It’s not a bad thing for my profile of course, but the reality here is that I’m trying to pull down badges like that for the same reason I despise the term ‘rock star’ on Twitter. That’s not to say we’re not all redefining our roles via these applications.
I attended an event at De Montfort University a few months ago in which Andrea Savieri from The Institute for the Future gave a presentation on the way work was evolving and she had a bash at predicting some of of the roles that would come into being (I videoed the talk and should ask her if it’s OK to post it online). The point is that we’re all pioneers right now. It’s as difficult for me to pigeonhole what I do as it is for others to name it. That’s why I tend to go with the classic catch-all of writer (it’s when I get asked what I write that I get a headache).
If we’re not actively trying to change things ourselves then we’re still having them change around us. If adaptation is the name of the game then Reuters are very good at it. Not everyone we spoke to internally understood why we’d been asked in, but everyone seemed excited at doing something in a new way. In turn we got to see first hand how an international news institution gets into gear for such an event. Hopefully with less of a security aspect tomorrow (which is why we’re able to talk about it in advance) we can show more of what goes on away from the podium.
Adding social media to the mix then adds a certain value to what was already an interesting event. It doesn’t have to be news based of course. If you think about the fun I’ve had with film promotion it always boils down to an attempt to remove some barriers. More of this sort of thing to come (perhaps as soon as Thursday) and perhaps a chance to get an even closer look at one of the big news agencies in 2009. I’ll keep you posted.