Life in a Day: the most ambitious crowdsourced project ever

My love for slow paced, creative cinema is well known and I’m a sucker for anything that highlights the seemingly unimportant, mundane details in people’s lives and brings out the beauty in them.

So I was intrigued to read about Life in a Day, a groundbreaking new documentary that brings together slice-of-life YouTube footage from 120 different countries on a single day.

YouTube invited people from all over the world to submit footage of what they were doing on July 24, 2010. They received over 80,000 videos (over 2,500 hours of amateur footage) and a team lead by producer Ridley Scott and director Kevin McDonald edited the choicest cuts into a 90 minute feature.

The concept (or the gimmick, depending on which way you look at it) that the film is built around is impressive enough alone for it to be worth a look.

Crowdsourcing is nothing new – whether it’s an ad, a music video or a piece of visual art – but to my knowledge, nothing has been done on this scale. This is a collaborative work of art on a truly global scale, and the sheer amount of work that went into the editing process is mindblowing.

Having not seen the film (it premiered at Sundance last week) I can’t give my own verdict, but from what I’ve read, the editing team has managed to hash together something truly spectacular, focusing the disperate subject matter around a number of key themes and emotions such as love, heartbreak, marriage and war.

Below are a couple of teaser clips that have been released, but you may have to wait for the theatrical release to see the whole thing.

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Three trends from Insight Eleven

I was priviledged enough to attend the recent (Don’t Panic) Insight Eleven event at The Studio, The Hive, in Manchester, a half day seminar in which the North West’s finest came together to discuss the industry trends for 2011.

To quote a passage from the event’s website:

The event examined potential opportunities and challenges for 2011 and featured leading industry speakers from the digital, marketing and communication arenas sharing their insights on trends they believe these sectors will see in the coming year.

Among the talent on offer was Tony Fogett from Code Computerlove, Nicky Unsworth from BJL, Paul Fabretti of Origin Creative and Richard Gregory of Latitude – all of whom served up their fair share of insightful predictions and analyses.

Below I’ve outlined the trends that particularly stuck with me…

Group buying gets big

People have always negotiated group deals, or at least deals based on buying large volumes of a product or service, but we’re seeing a rise in online services built around the concept of bringing people together.

Groupon, a website that encourages friends to group together to buy a product or service at a discounted rate, was valued at a cool $1 billion last year, and we can expect to hear more from similar services like Living Social in the future.

The interesting thing about the group buying phenomenon is that it harnesses the much championed ideas of community and collaboration and creates a situation which is beneficial to both the consumer and the product or service provider. Groups of bargain hungry customers negotiate great discounts (as long as a critical mass is reached) and brands have a mechanic for attracting large numbers of people.

At the moment it exists primarily within standalone services, but in time I expect it to be seemlessly woven into the fabric of existing brand communities on platforms like Facebook, location based services like Foursquare and on brand websites in the near future.

We’re used to social networks bringing us together to share thoughts, opinions and experiences, and it seems the next logical step is deals.

Who would have thought?

Social and F-commerce becomes a reality

We’ve seen brands set up shop on Facebook to varying degrees of success (check out Levi’s and Pampers for a couple of nice examples). People can buy stuff and tell their friends at the same time. Great! Instant sales-driven word of mouth! And all the better if your product is in any way in any way trendy or aspirational as it taps into people’s desire to be seen with the latest hot ticket item.

But that’s not where the story ends…the introduction of Facebook credits will mean that the environment will become inherently tranactional. Right now, peeps can use credits to buy virtual items within games and apps, but the system will soon enough become a trusted currency to buy apps, videos, games, and tangible goods. And Zuckerberg will take a cut of it all!

Transmedia storytelling

The act of telling stories across various mediums is becoming more and more commonplace. In the transmedia environment, traditional narrative structures are  fragmented to create further opportunities to entertain and engage with audiences.

For example a campaign may tell paint a picture in various parts through television, print, social media and interactive elements, taking you on a journey that requires you to engage with each part to complete the story.

Gaining popularity through ubiquitous TV brands such as The Matrix and LOST, we’ve seen this strategy permeate the marketing world in various guises.

Audi’s Art of the Heist alternate reality game is perhaps the most complete example of this, blending a clever backstory with  live staged events and an online code cracking element to create a fully emmersive tall tail.

More recently we’ve had Coke’s Happiness Factory, in which they combined a TV ad featuring bizarre creatures living in a vending machine with an interactive website and a song featuring Cee-loo Green and co.

Are we are seeing conversation being supplemented by entertainment as the primary motivation for brand engagement? It’s certainly moving in that direction for big brands. But the broader  theme in all this is that social and other forms of digital media are interconnecting with and augmenting traditional forms of media rather than replacing them.

So those were few a few big trends that I digged. What’s caught your attention?

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Return of the mack

It’s been a long time since I posted anything on this blog – almost a year and a half – and since then I’ve gone from being lowly postgrad studo to PR wonderkid (I jest…I’m still very much a novice).

You’d think I’d have a lot more to say for myself, and I guess I do…

I’ve given the blog a makeover in terms of looks and I’ll be diversifying my subject matter. The lines are so blurred these days between PR, Digital, Social, Advertising, Word of Mouth, that it doesn’t really matter. And to be honest I’m equally (if not more) interested in visual art, music, and the social context in which all this fits in, so there’ll be bits of that thrown in for good measure.

In that case I should probably think about changing the title too…

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Reflecting on the value of a PR Masters Degree

For the past week or so I’ve been basking in the afterglow of a fulfilling and well spent year, but I’m more than ready to move on. As yet another birthday passes me by I’m finally done with education – I’ve drawn it out as much as I possibly can (financially and mentally).

The course has literally flown by – particularly the summer, most of which I spent square-eyed and in a trance-like state, obsessing over the role of PR agencies in managing online word of mouth.

So after a much deserved fortnight of maxing and relaxing, I’m now offering my services (free of charge of course) to Finn Communications, where I hope to spend some quality time developing my skills. It’s my first day on the job so I can’t report much, but I feel more than welcome already.

This time off has given me time to reflect. And the question I’ve posed to myself is whether completing a PR masters degree was worth a year of my time and £3,500 , or whether I would I have been just as well off with my English Language degree and some work experience; will it help me in applying for a job and, perhaps more importantly, will I see the benefits once I’ve started work?

Every year their seems to be a debate around the value of PR degrees, and this year is no different. Despite universities churning out PR graduates by the hundreds, this years poll found that around a third of agency bosses found PR graduates less attractive candidates than those with degrees in other subjects (it’s just as well I’ve covered both bases then).

Although I’m a little late to the table, I’d like to add to my thoughts by looking back on my time at Leeds Met and the skills I’ve developed over the last year.

One of the main arguments that employers make against PR degrees is that 1) many of the skills can be learned on the job or during work experience and that 2) traditional acedemic subjects – English, History, Economics etc. – are more academicially rigorous.

I’d have to agree that essential PR entry level skills such as writing good copy, selling-in and relationship building can and should be learned in a job environment, but I’d like to echo Trevor Morris’ point made in PR Week that knowledge gained though a PR degree will be of more use in a strategic role, maybe 2-3 years down the line.

For example becoming familiar with the various stages of the strategic planning process (see Steven Davies’ precis of Anne Gregory’s infamous model) may not seem particularly useful for wide-eyed PR newcomer, but may give them a head start when they start to generate ideas rather than just implement them.

Likewise subjects such as ethics, professionalism or critical musings on the societal role the profession may seem even less likely reference points, but it never hurts to take a step back from your work every once and a while to consider the wider implications.

And that brings me to the main point – all this is geared at providing a context in which to operate as a professional. It’s all well and good being a fantastic writer and having an eye for a news angle but if you can’t relate this to your business objectives then you’re not going to go far.

I say all this but I wouldn’t go as far as to say PR degrees are necessary or better for those entering the profession. What I will say is that personally, I feel infinitely more confident at going into the industry with a conbination of experience and academic knowledge. A year ago, I  had barely scratched the surface of what public relations was.

Posted in About me, careers/ employment, work experience | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Social media revolution video

Here’s the latest video doing the rounds, decrying the cultural importance of social media. In keeping with the revolution theme, It’s suitably dramatic.

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I’m suffering from lazy blogger syndrome

Admittedly I’ve been struggling to keep the pace with this blog recently.

I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been too busy, and although my dissertation has been taking up lots of of time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I like to think I’m busier than I actually am.

For all my dilligence, I somehow still find time to indulge my fair shair of fruitless activities, such as lying in bed till mid morning, devouring bottles of red wine, eating curry and watching 3 hour foreign films.

I suspect the real reason for my comparative lack of enthusiasm concerns a declining readership.  As any resonably sane person will tell you, It’s no fun speak to yourself – although in cognitive terms it’s pretty much essential – and it’s the same with blogging.

I first started this blog as part of the ‘PR and New media’ module on my MA and, with everyone posting / commenting weekly, it became a bit of blogging community. As far as I know – and I’m sorry if I’m mistaken – I’m the only one who has continued to blog, the upshot of which being that my posts are now only attracting sporadic random comments and spam.

Being heard amongst the cacaphony of blogs and tweets is perhaps the most difficult task facing most content creators in the online environment and it’s one that I’ve yet to master.

But excuses aside, I formally pledge to post and comment more frequently than I have been doing.

Two weeks from now, I can forget about education for the time being and devote more time to my next task; persuading someone to give me a job in a progressive, digitally minded PR consultancy. And to my knowledge, a well written blog is the most powerful tool in an unemployed PR graduates armoury.

Following Chris Norton’s advice, I’m going to give my blog a facelift and host it myself because frankly, despite my best efforts to make the best of the limited platform, it still looks rubbish.

Anyway, watch this space.

Posted in careers/ employment, social media | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments