Paul Harris Interview

Today starts a new series of interviews (“Tampa’s Oracles”) getting to know some of the Online Marketing experts here in the Tampa Bay area.  As we hear from these people you’ll see that the disciplines within internet marketing are vast and that some of the most experienced and influential players in this space are right here in our own backyard.

The Interview

Paul Harris

Background: I’ve know Paul for about 5 years now.  We worked side-by-side at a firm here in Tampa.  I was able to see how he worked minute-by-minute and I gained a true respect for his professionalism and intelligence.  He truly gets Internet Marketing!

Your Background

Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current mission of helping businesses transition from traditional marketing practices to interactive marketing.

Paul Harris: My career began in a world of traditional marketing and public relations, at the advent of desktop computing. Working on my college newspaper staff in the mid-1980s I starting experimenting with modems to transmit copy across campus, and I was hooked on technology. Then came CompuServe and AOL accounts, and in 1993 I got my first taste of the text-based Internet.

Staying current with digital developments is my passion. I get a lot out of applying traditional principles of communication to interactive media. I’ve been fortunate to help bridge traditional and Internet marketing on the corporate-side for some really innovative technology companies. Today as an independent contractor, I help B2B companies embrace the latest in interactive marketing and communications.

Live Blogging

Mark Regan: Explain to the casual user what you’ve been working on with Microsoft Dynamics and live blogging?

Paul Harris: Microsoft Dynamics is the line of enterprise software solutions for companies providing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. It’s a global business for Microsoft, which relies heavily on its formal users’ groups to determine how they develop their software going forward.

I’ve helped expand the voice of the Microsoft enterprise customers by introducing the use of social media and live blogging to the major conferences held throughout the year. For example, Microsoft Town Hall meetings have been a very traditional part of these conferences. I spearheaded the use of live blogging at physical events to extend participation to those software users who are unable to travel to the actual conferences. We publicize the Town Halls with Internet-based marketing, and cover the events with a live blog crew that essentially works like a team of journalists. We chronicle the on-site dialog in real time so anyone with an Internet connection can follow along, and take questions from all over the world via a live blog.

Mark Regan: What are some of the key differences you see in the use and value of live blogging compared to what most people are used to in the more traditional time-shifted blogs of the Internet?

Paul Harris: Traditional blogs are about analysis. Usually they reflect on what has happened, or what may happen. Live blogs are about what is happening right now. By embracing live blogging, you engage your audience in a topical, real-time discussion. With the Microsoft groups, we’ve had success by integrating live blogging into an established physical, event-based program.


Mark Regan: The majority of the world’s blogs are text-based.  But you’ve incorporated video as a key, if not required, element of your work.  How have people accepted it?  Has it made a difference?

Paul Harris: I attended a performance of “The Wall” by Roger Waters last month and couldn’t help but laugh out loud when he delivered that desolate line about having “thirteen channels of [expletive deleted] on the TV to choose from.”

We’re just now seeing the beginning of the IP video explosion. Video will become pervasive and cross platform, and yes, it will certainly impact blogs and other established web publishing models.

The barriers to entry to produce and deliver digital video are now so low that it’s a natural move to incorporate it into live blogging. The analytics we get from video servers are incredibly insightful. We keep a very close eye on how people are interacting with video and continuously apply our findings to the next project. People are accepting it, and yes, we can see that we’re beginning to make a difference in how our messages are being consumed.

Social Media

Mark Regan: How has social media played a role in your efforts?

Paul Harris: Here’s one example. We’ve completely integrated Twitter with our live blogs. Users can go to a web page and interject their thoughts through a typical browser UI, or they can tweet with a designated hashtag. Last month at a conference in Orlando we started to see on-site audience members tweet questions into a live blog. In one case, an on-site attendee in an audience of about 500 wanted to address a sensitive topic and apparently wished to remain anonymous. Instead of raising a hand and speaking into a mic, he used his phone to present the question. (He went on to identify himself with a follow-up question.)

Location-Based Social Networks

Mark Regan: Bonus question: What are your thoughts on location-based social networks like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places? How do you see this concept helping businesses?

Paul Harris: Last year I predicted that location-based social media would have taken off at business conferences by now. That was before Facebook Places. Frankly, I think Facebook and the other networks you mentioned could set business adoption back. Facebook has a terrible reputation for handling privacy, and Facebook Places opens the door for physical stalking. Not good.

But ultimately, I think we’ll see opt-in applications where business trade show and conference attendees will self-profile in order to meet like minds. The business networking value could be massive. But first people are going to have to get comfortable with exposing their GPS coordinates. Incidentally, I think location-based social networking is a wide-open opportunity for LinkedIn.

Contacting You

Mark Regan: Thanks Paul!  How can people find out more about your consulting services and connect with you?

Paul Harris: