Many events industry folks, this weekend, are headed to Vancouver, BC for the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) 2010 World Education Congress (WEC). As with last year’s event, I will unfortunately not be there.
However, I am attending WEC 2010 digitally , at MPI’s invitation, via an experimental virtual world interface, created by Fusion productions. I will write more about this experience post-event. I am intrigued by the concept of linking a virtual world to an industry event, and look forward to participating in this alternative Hybrid adventure.
MPI is clearly determined to integrate a variety of social media programs, into their events. As with anything new, there is always a learning curve, and mistakes are made along the way. What I respect is MPI’s willingness to experiment, acknowledging the attendant risk.
Social Media Guru (SMG) Program
Speaking of new things MPI implemented a “Social Media Guru program” for this years WEC. The core idea was to select a group of (5) “elite” social technology users to provide real-time new media coverage for the event. In my opinion this is a great concept!
“Kristen Kouk and I developed this program as a first step towards validating the impact that key social media players have in driving coverage and conversation about live events. By establishing this benchmark we will have future proof to treat legitimate social media bloggers and writers equally to the traditional press. But in business, if you don’t have the case study or statistics to back up your claim, you don’t have a strong position at the table.” —Theresa Davis, Director of Strategic Communications, MPI
People interested in participating in this program were required to complete an application. (click here to preview the actual application) In considering potential candidates for the Guru program, MPI looked for Social Media users with the following traits:
- Regular blog postings with strong following
- High follower ratio on Twitter
- Advanced knowledge of industry
- History of fair and balanced coverage including trends and topics
In exchange for their efforts the selected Social Media Gurus are receiving the following, for WEC:
- Discounted registration fee
- Preferential seating for general sessions and knowledge sessions
- Onsite press office access and complimentary wireless internet access during event
- Select press invitations (not sure what this means exactly)
“Fair & Balanced” Coverage — What is that?
MPI was very clear, within their communications, that they expect the Gurus to be “Fair and balanced” in their media coverage. What does that mean exactly? How does a journalist, who is typically full of strong opinions and thoughts not express them? Opinions, by their very nature are biased, not balanced. Confusing…
Jeff Hurt published a blog article yesterday that voiced this same concern. While his message was somewhat on the “edgy” side, his points of concern were valid. Jeff and I both agree there is a trust issue at play here. Many organizations, not just MPI, are a little apprehensive about turning people loose to “tell it like it is” for fear that some irreparable, damaging statement will be made.
Reality is these types of concerns are ill-founded, as Social Networks are self-policing. Users that post inflammatory, or destructive remarks are usually not taken seriously by other users, and oftentimes ignored. In fact, a reporter using this type of messaging will usually lose followers, lots of them.
Some of the SMG’s selected for this program have also expressed some concerns about their role. Vanessa LaClair is one of them. Vanessa wrote an article series for Engage 365 enttitled “Being an MPI Social Media Guru Isn’t Without Its Challenges.” You should check it out!
“Where do we draw the line between following MPI’s lead and voicing our own opinions of the days’ activities? As paying participants of this congress, we cannot compromise our independence. And although we are all HUGE supporters of MPI, will it be okay to report on all aspects of the conference, even if the feedback is negative?”— Vanessa LaClair, MPI 2010 WEC Social Media Guru
So, my recommendation, for the future, to MPI, or any organization choosing to implement an SMG program, is to select people, based upon their reputation and credibility, as writers, and then trust them to express themselves openly and with integrity, as journalists should.
Congratulations to both Theresa Davis, and Kristin Kouk, of MPI, for doing what they can to be Social Media leaders for MPI. It is by no means an easy street, as the social media world is really a vast learning lab.
Question: What are your thoughts regarding the SMG program? Do you think it was a good idea? Do you see something like it fitting into your organization’s events? What would you do differently? Do Tell.