The first Manufacturing Marketing Innovation conference sponsored by EnVeritas Group, Clemson University, Merge and PR Newswire took place on April 19th. Exciting ideas about content marketing and the power of the Internet were presented, including a keynote address by Joe Pulizzi. The messages shared by the conference’s participants also intersected the tragic events of this past week in an unexpected way.

After the one-day event wrapped up, I, like 42 million other Americans, was riveted by coverage spotlighting the capture of the suspected Boston bomber in Watertown, MA. Something I heard earlier in the week resonated: this was the first crowdsourced manhunt in the U.S.

The digital world connects us on the most elemental levels with an immediacy that works at the speed of light. The first reports about the bombing were tweets from those on the scene, but it didn’t stop there.

  • Boston police stopped travelers at Logan Airport to view their cell phone video and photos before they flew home.
  • The FBI’s website got 300,000 hits a minute from people who wanted to help by uploading video, photos or helpful information.
  • A tweet from the BPD announced the capture of the second bomber.

Our Facebook news feeds are filled with breaking news from Twitter, blogs, and other social networks. Crowdsourcing is being used to fund hospital bills for the injured and generate funds for victims. Viral videos, including NY Yankee fans singing Sweet Caroline and the Boston Bruins pre-game anthem are YouTube hits. Which brings me back to the marketing conference.

Captured! tweet from Boston PD

Throughout the day we heard presenters stress the need for everyone, including manufacturers, to join the online conversation by creating and growing communities. The power of storytelling has woven groups together since the beginning of human history. When a potential consumer/client/customer starts looking for answers, companies need to be online with relevant, valuable and trustworthy information that provides answers. Today, how information is delivered is as important as why, and that includes national news stories and brand stories. With non-stop coverage and the need to fill air time with ‘breaking’ news, we saw major news outlets and online communities get it wrong. The New York Post had front page photos of suspects who were innocent, FOX News and other broadcast outlets carried news of arrests on Wednesday that were wrong, and they completely disregarded their playbooks, standards and style guides.Boston police officer delivering milk

The conversation is a reality, and there are real pitfalls for the unwary and ill-prepared. But, for those who get it right, the results can be spectacular. I’ll remember the photo of the cop bringing milk to a family in Watertown. One picture really is priceless.

Kathleen Gossman – Project Manager

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