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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Does the Minnesota State Fair need social media?

The Minnesota State Fair is easily the most talked-about event in the state every year. Many of us know the fair so well that we barely need a map or daily schedule to find what we want to eat and see at the fairgrounds. And the anticipation leading up to the fair dominates the media coverage every year and lunch-time conversations focus on when we will try the newest food-on-a-stick.

Every year the state fair gets an amazing amount of free media attention. From television anchors trying to make the fair new each year to companies marketing their booths to customers, it’s hard to hide from news about the Great Minnesota Get Together. And like everyone else these days, the Minnesota State Fair has a comprehensive website, a Twitter account with 4,836 followers, a Facebook page with 148,147 fans, and a YouTube channel with numerous videos.

But with so much almost automatic attention the Minnesota State Fair gets every year, do the organizers really need to invest time into social media networking?

Of course the fair’s social media presence can’t hurt and builds on what is already a dominating media profile. But in a world where events struggle to find ways to reach their audiences, could the Minnesota State Fair be one of the few events that doesn’t need social media to succeed in 2010?

Tell us what you think: Does social media help the Minnesota State Fair attract visitors?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Culture shines during powwow

One of Goff & Howard’s clients, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, enjoyed one of its most celebrated events last weekend – the 44th annual Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe traditional powwow.

Powwows are American Indian celebrations of ceremonial and social dance traditions. They take place on reservations throughout the country and include singing, dancing, drumming and more. There are contest powwows, where dancers compete against each other in style and appearance, and there are traditional powwows, where participants take part for social enjoyment. Last weekend’s powwow was a traditional powwow.

The slideshow features pictures from the powwow taken by Band member and artist Steve Premo.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A “digital do-over” for young people

Have you ever said or done something that you later regret? Who hasn’t? The only thing that could make the situation worse is realizing that a friend tagged your name in pictures of the regretted incident on Facebook.

For many of us, the thought of sharing so much information about ourselves creates panic and stress. Privacy and anonymity are things to be valued and protected.

Yet for a generation that has grown up in an era of technology-driven narcissism driven by instant messaging, texting, and Facebook, sharing anything and everything raises few concerns until they realize that a prospective employer can easily connect them to incidents that might make those employers think twice about hiring them.

How do people who have documented vast amounts of their lives on the Internet transition into professional careers?

One of the people who helped create this challenge has an idea and some advice for young people struggling with this data dilemma. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, thinks young people should have the chance to start over by creating a new identity to “escape their misspent youth.” You could call it a “digital do-over.”

Schmidt believes that young people will be allowed to change their names to distance themselves from incriminating pictures and material stored on their friends’ social media sites.

Giving people who posted too many embarrassing pictures of themselves new identities is a simplistic way to ignore the real issue. We are responsible for our actions, regardless of what friends may have done with the photos. How does giving someone a new identity guarantee better behavior by that person?

The greater irony is that companies like Google and Facebook, that have created the technology that allow us to define our digital personality, are now archiving, analyzing and using those personalities to improve their marketing efforts. Giving people the chance to create new identities seems like an easy way for Facebook and Google to enhance their marketing capabilities.

Monday, August 23, 2010

LinkedIn evolves into an online chamber of commerce

LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking website, has recently made some changes that have led to somewhat of a resurgence. What once was another place to store contact information is transforming into an extremely active networking opportunity.

LinkedIn became popular with the business community when it first started in 2003. But as Facebook began attracting older users, the business community started making connections on Facebook instead of LinkedIn.

As a result LinkedIn stalled for a while until it developed several useful networking applications to make it more relevant for business professionals. Users now are able to facilitate discussions, connect with companies and business groups, recommend colleagues and clients, and much more. Now LinkedIn boasts a networking community of more than 75 million members.

However, like all social networking sites, LinkedIn will only be as useful as you make it.

Goff & Howard on LinkedIn

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Facebook ad revenues skyrocket

Earlier this summer, Facebook reached its 500 millionth member. While the social network’s massive user base receives a lot of attention, its ad revenue is equally significant. This year, Facebook will receive more than $1 billion in ad revenue and is poised to receive $1.7 billion next year. MySpace, on the other hand, can barely retain its advertising. The social network will bring in $347 million in ad revenue this year, a 26% drop from 2009.

To read more, click here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Moved by the voices of 9th graders

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the privilege to meet five impressive 13- and 14-year-olds from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Arizona. They are among the 25 soon-to-be 9th graders who just completed their first experience in an innovative program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota called Countdown to College.

Countdown to College is a new no-charge academic camp that immerses prospective first-generation college students in college prep classes and campus life for two weeks each summer from the 9th through 12th grades. The intent is to prepare them for college success in a way that only an immersion experience can.

Working for a public relations firm, I seldom have the opportunity to work as directly with students as I did in supporting the Countdown to College communications effort. These students told me their life stories, which are some of the most moving stories I’ve heard during my entire career.

I have the pleasure of helping many organizations and individuals share their stories as part of my job. When those stories touch me personally, I know I’ve chosen the right career path.

Thank you, Countdown to College students.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Public support can't be engineered

In addition to having more than 10,000 lakes, Minnesota is home to world-class deposits of minerals that rival only South Africa in terms of their size, scale and value. Worldwide demand for these minerals has led to the funding of projects to explore the extent of the mineral deposits and the best ways to extract them. If these mining projects are successful, Minnesota stands to benefit from new revenue sources, thousands of new jobs, and new economic life for an entire region.

The mining industry has changed drastically over the past several decades. Scientists and engineers around the world continually find ways to improve processes and technologies needed to make mining projects more successful and more environmentally responsible.

Despite vast improvements in technology, the ability to understand, analyze and engage stakeholders continues to be just as important as good engineering work. Stakeholders – people who are affected by or think they may be affected by a project – have the power to derail projects if they are not engaged throughout the process.

Goff & Howard has been helping Crow Wing Power and its subsidiary Cooperative Mineral Resources (CMR) engage stakeholders in a new mining project in Emily, Minnesota. The city has one of the largest deposits of manganese in North America. The proposed project would involve a new type of mining that uses high-pressured water to extract the manganese, which is used to help make steel and a new type of filter on smokestacks.

Goff & Howard has been working with CMR to engage stakeholders in Emily through public meetings, a citizens advisory committee, websites, social media, e-mail lists, and other communication tools that provide venues to exchange information and ideas.

With the help of Goff & Howard, CMR also created an environmental responsibility committee to help share information with the community and address concerns long before the official approval and permitting process started. The committee met several times to learn more about the site and the project. The members of the committee then helped engage and inform their neighbors about the project as it moved forward through the permitting process.

By communicating with the public from the beginning of the project, CMR was able to gain public support for the mining project and secure the necessary permits for the demonstration project. Work will begin next month.

Minnesota has an amazing opportunity to turn world-class natural resources into economic opportunity. Making sure these projects gain public support, approvals, and permits is a process that can’t be engineered – it requires an engaged conversation.

Update: The Star Tribune published an editorial today about mining projects in northern Minnesota:

"The state desperately needs these jobs, but this issue is far more complex than that. Politicians and [mining firms] need to understand that Minnesotans will not trade the state's soul -- the BWCA, Lake Superior, the North Shore forest -- for economic gain. The Antofagasta/Duluth Metals project's eastern edge is just a few miles from the BWCA. Older nonferrous mines have an abysmal environmental track record. While technological strides certainly have been made, assurances that things are better now aren't going to cut it.

"Nonferrous mining companies don't just need to win over the regulators. They need to win over the public. Facts, openness and a willingness to work with their critics will serve them well, but the task ahead of them is formidable."