Posts Tagged ‘communications’
I have blogged in the past about the role of professional associations in a world where there are meetups and all sorts of similar professional development opportunities that can be had for free.
I argued, at the time, that the proliferation of low or no-cost PD opportunities was a threat to traditional groups such as IABC or CPRS.
But an event coming up next week is an example of how professional associations can counter that trend.
“Trends 2013” is a three-day conference organized by the eastern Canada division of IABC, the International Association of Business Communicators. Three days is a long time for anyone to devote to a conference, and even longer for someone in my self-employed position, where time is quite literally money. That’s why I was pleased to be approached to attend the event in exchange for some help in promoting it to… people like you, who read this blog.
But frankly, I would have considered attending this event even if I was paying for it. Why? Synergy.
I know some of the people presenting at Trends 2013. There’s my friend Danny Brown of Jugnoo and my friend Andrea Tomkins. There’s Michael Geist, who I got to know during my time at uOttawa. There’s Caroline Kealey of Ingenium Communications, creators of the Results Map. Donna Papacosta, who I have long admired from afar. Anick Losier, now of Canada Post and jack of all trades Gord McIntosh. And those are just the people that I really know. Even Industry Minister Tony Clement will be speaking at the conference, and while I think his government has done a poor job with social media, he’s a proficient user. So I want to hear from him about that.
There are a large number of people who have sterling resumes and reputations who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet.
So for my money, what this Trends 2013 conference will offer attendees a chance to meet several dozen incredibly smart and engaging presenters. These people are difficult to get together, all in one place. Sometimes it takes the resources of an organization like this to bring them together and fund a conference like this.
So go. I look forward to bringing the things I learn at the conference back to my clients and to my students at Algonquin College and Eliquo. And to sweeten the deal, you have a chance to go as my guest. I want you to tell me in the comments what you think the most important trend facing communicators in 2013 is and why.
I will choose one of the responses on October 29, and that person will get a complimentary day pass to the conference for either November 2 or 3. Get writing, and I’ll see you there.
And if you’re writing about this conference, why not use the hashtag #Cdniabc12 ?
One thing that really gets me going is conversation with smart people. I’m very lucky to know some that I get to see face to face, and then there are the people who I don’t know personally but get to hear speak or converse with.
And tomorrow, I get to speak with Gini Dietrich, co-author with Geoff Livingston of Marketing in the Round as part of the FIR Book Club. If you’re not familiar with FIR, it’s “For Immediate Release.” I do book reviews for that must-listen podcast, and I host these online talks as well.
Gini Dietrich is smart, funny, and prolific. She’s the founding CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based communications company that describes itself as a firm that started as “a very traditional public relations firm” and is now “a company that helps clients monitor and measure online efforts against business goals…providing an alternative to their traditional marketing efforts.”
In addition to their many clients, Arment Dietrich is responsible for the cheeky blog Spin Sucks and the PR resource site Spin Sucks Pro. And Gini became a first-time author with the publication of Marketing in the Round, a highly useful book on integrated marketing and communications in a social media age.
I’m excited to have 60 minutes to talk with Gini about her book and the ideas she and Geoff brought to it, and to offer listeners the chance to join that conversation.
If you want a primer on the book, you could listen to my review of the book on the FIR site. Then, join us on Talkshoe as a listener or a caller at 2 Eastern time tomorrow, won’t you?
Yesterday was an uncharacteristically big day for me in terms of keeping an eye on sports.
Here in Ottawa, some friends were running in the Ottawa Marathon, so I wanted to know how they did (PS: WOO Karen!) In Indianapolis, one of my favorite drivers, Dario Franchitti, won a thrilling Indianapolis 500 victory. In Monte Carlo, the classic Monaco Grand Prix was won by Mark Webber.
But most important of all for me: young Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria, BC, won the Giro d’Italia. Ryder is the first Canadian cyclist to win a “Grand Tour”, as races like the Giro are called. Ever. To this cyclist, the accomplishment is superhuman. In three weeks, riders travel the equivalent of Vancouver to Sault Ste. Marie (or, if you’re an American, from the TransAmerica Tower in San Francisco to Harpo Studios in Chicago.) Along the way, they ride some incredibly difficult climbs, with gradients that can average over 10% and peak over 20% (think bicycling up flights of stairs). At the end of each day, the sprinters push their bikes up to over 40 mph and jostle their way to the ribbon.
And cyclists do this day after day (in the Giro and the Tour de France, there are two rest days in the three weeks of riding), sometimes after falling. Remember this from last year’s Tour de France?
The second rider falling was named Johnny Hoogeland. He went upside-down into barbed wire. He got 33 stitches. After he finished the day’s race! And then he finished the tour – 12 more days of riding. With 33 stitches.
My point is: cycling is a tough sport, an incredible feat of athleticism. In Europe, it’s also a massive sporting event. The budget for the Tour de France in 2009 was $140M US. 15 million spectators see the Tour pass by them, and it’s estimated that spectators spend more than $50M US. It’s broadcast worldwide, and there are 3.5 BILLION television watchers.
But in North America, it’s an extremely niche sport, even after Lance Armstrong. Most of my friends are casual observers of cycling at best. When I went to my local pasta shop yesterday, I suggested they do a Ryder special to celebrate the victory. I might as well have suggested a “Red Planet” special to celebrate the existence of Mars.
What’s all this cycling crap mean, anyway? What’s my point? Well, I have two.
When you’re doing social media work for your business, you need to have an intimate knowledge of your context, and your culture. If you’re selling baby clothes online, then don’t talk about Maxim magazine. If your chosen community is marathoners, don’t talk about swimming.
How do you figure out what to talk about? What matters?
Step one: LISTEN. To understand your audience, your community, your market, LISTEN to them before your start talking.
Step two: CONVERSE. Don’t pitch. Don’t sell. CONVERSE. Talk to people about what they do, talk to people about what’s happening in the interest that you share.
Just because you care deeply about something doesn’t mean your friends, your customers, or your community automatically does. Test the waters. Understand the culture of your community. Understand the context of your business. You don’t make the rules. The community does.
Except in this case, where I got to talk about Ryder Hesjedal.
It’s not hard to find evidence that video is a huge part of social media life, and that it can have massive impact on businesses. There are tons of case studies, from Caine’s Arcade to “Will it Blend?” to Dynomighty to “The man your man could smell like.”
All this buzz may have you thinking you need to use video for your small business. I don’t want to tell you NOT to, but video is a tough nut to crack at the best of times. So before you go and buy a camera or hire the local Cecil B. deMille, think about the following. First, before you start a video initiative:
- Where does this fit into your overall marketing and communications strategy? (If you have one. You DO have one, right?)
- Sure, everything in the world has a camera in it that can be used to shoot video, and computers come with free video editing programs. But that doesn’t mean that your smartphone and off-the-shelf computer will make quality images and videos.
- Whether you’re hiring someone to do production or going full DIY, ALLOW FOR TIME. Yes, it takes only a few minutes to upload a video to Youtube. But it’s all the steps BEFORE the upload that take time.
- The tools don’t help you tell stories. Telling stories via video is not always easy, and it takes a particular kind of thinking. If you can’t afford someone to help you with the process of prepping for a video production, then practice on your own time. Turn your vacation videos into development opportunities before you do a business video.
Once you’ve made a video, your work is done? NO WAY. You still have lots of work left to do.
- Tag and categorize your videos on YouTube or on whatever video host you use.
- Track your stats. See that little icon next to the view count? If you click on that for any Youtube video, you’ll see lots of statistical information. USE IT.
- Share your videos and integrate them into your other marketing and communications work. See that Share button in the screenshot? USE IT to embed your video on your website, and encourage others to do the same. Have a promotional strategy in place for your video BEFORE you upload it.
(This is post number six in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)
NOTE: This is post #1 in a weekly series I’m calling SMB101. SMB can stand for a few things: Social Media in Business, Small and Medium Business… it’s up to you. Whatever the acronym, when you see it and the 101 logo at right, you’ll know it’s a short, (hopefully) pithy and useful post designed to help smaller organizations get a handle on social media.
The rollout of new social media tools seems neverending. And it pretty much is.Even a relatively short time ago, social media options seemed limited. Do a blog. Maybe a podcast.
Then social networks like Facebook became ubiquitous, the cost of creating video decreased, smartphones flooded the Western world, Twitter was everywhere, and the hits just kept on coming. If you don’t feel overwhelmed yet, check out this listing of over 400 networks and sites.
It’s natural to want to jump on board. Everybody talks about the advantages of being the first adopter, of being ahead of the curve. And there are advantages.
If you’re working for or own a business that has a communications, public relations, or social media team, you have the relative luxury of relying on them to lead the adoption of new media tools. Alternatively, larger businesses or not-for-profits might have a PR, advertising, or social media agency on retainer to be the leader. Even having a community manager or dedicated social media person is great.
But if you’re a small business with limited time to “do” social media, it might be wise for you to resist the temptation to jump on every bandwagon you see someone else riding on. Why? I’ll give you a number of reasons:
- Tools aren’t strategies. If you jump from tool to tool, you increase the risk of forgetting WHY you’re doing social media in the first place. Social media should be like every other part of your business — informed by a solid strategy. It’s a powerful form of communications and public relations. And that power can translate into greatness, or awfulness.
- If you’re a small business, you need to budget your time carefully. And each tool has a learning curve. Better to do three things well than 10 things poorly.
- There’s no guarantee that the latest new gadget, site, utility, etc. will be around for long. Remember Google Wave? Exactly.
- There’s no guarantee your audience is looking for you on a given tool, or that they’re even there. A furniture store near me prominently displays a LinkedIn logo. Why?
If you’re the sort of person who loves to know about new things, that’s great. Play with shiny toys on your own time and in your own spaces. But don’t experiment with them for your business on your business’s site and on your business’s time. Your time is too precious to be spent on efforts that aren’t well-thought-out and supportive of your business goals.
If your small business needs some help choosing from the nearly infinite set of social media options, get in touch. I’d be happy to help. I love finding ways of helping small business that are affordable and effective for you and profitable and rewarding for me.
In a quick 30 minutes, we’ll have a chat with an author and a call-in so that you can ask the author questions.
Our first guest on the FIR Book Club will be Christopher Barger, author of the new book “The Social Media Strategist.”
And two other book-related notes:
- If you have a book you would like to hear reviewed — or if you’d like to do a review yourself! — get in touch and tell me about the title.
- If you’re interested in being a guest reviewer, let me know what book you’re thinking about. In the past, we’ve had folks like Shel and the mellifluous Donna Papacosta do reviews. More voices are better.
- If you’re a book publicist or an author of a book that is related to public relations, social media, communications, marketing — get in touch with me. I’d like to hear about your book and perhaps review it.
It’s a little surprising (maybe not very surprising, actually) that I don’t hear very often from authors or publishing companies asking me to review books. Try me.
While politics isn’t a huge part of my business life (unlike my compatriot Mark Blevis, for example), I am an armchair political quarterback of the first water. So this post by Maclean’s magazine parliamentary correspondent and blogger Aaron Wherry really caught my eye.
Minister of Industry Tony Clement is possibly the most passionate user of Twitter within Canada’s federal cabinet (although there are others.) And he should be given credit for not cutting and running despite being in charge of some controversial files, including changes to Canada’s census, an attempted takeover of Potash Corporation by Australian firm BHP Billiton, and most recently the government’s awarding of $300 million to Pratt & Whitney Canada to assist the company in carrying out research & development on new aircraft engines.
The announcement of this funding led to some stiff media criticism, and last night, as Wherry illustrates, Minister Clement took to his Twitter account to joust with several people, including journalist Andrew Coyne and economist Stephen Gordon (who had been intensely critical of Clement’s decision to discontinue the mandatory long-form census).
The exchange lasted about two hours and ended at about midnight. I think it’s remarkable (in a good way) that Clement is doing this. But it makes me wonder about a couple of things. The Stephen Harper government has been painted as exceedingly locked-down in terms of communication, and there has been a long history of clashes between journalists and the government. But here’s a senior cabinet minister slugging it out with a journalist and others in the public twitterverse.
So I tip my hat to Minister Clement. I think it’s great that he’s doing this. And now, some tips that I think his tweeting can teach us all:
- Use the tool that you are comfortable with. It could be argued that a blog might be a better tool for Clement. But for whatever reason or reasons, Clement likes Twitter. So he’s using Twitter. You can’t force a minister to do stuff. But I don’t think anyone’s twisting Clement’s arm to do this. He’s engaged. So work with that.
- Don’t cut and run when things get tough. Clement has gone through some bruiser battles on Twitter. But he’s still there, and while he may end a given exchange, he doesn’t go to ground when critics appear. You have to brace yourself for the critics and be ready to respond.
- Remember that you control your message, no matter the medium. In the exchange from last night, Andrew Coyne presses hard for Clement to disclose departmental research. Note that Clement doesn’t say “no.” He ignores the request. He could provide it at a later time, or he might not. Or Coyne could do an Access to Information request to obtain the research.
- Choose a medium you can communicate in. Clement appears to be a tech savvy guy; he also appears to like cut and thrust. That makes Twitter useful for him. Furthermore, he uses the shorthand and conventions of the medium to his own advantage. He shortens words, uses hashtags, etc.
- Choose a medium that matches your urgency and frequency needs. I mentioned in tip 1 that a blog might be better for Clement in terms of putting out fleshed-out arguments. But the conversationality wouldn’t be there, and the need to polish the writing would be higher. A podcast would require some sort of equipment (even Audioboo would require a mobile device), and it doesn’t have the immediacy of a tweet.
I hope these tips are useful. If you have any more to add, please leave them in the comments.
I’ve been dithering on whether to write about the investiture of Toronto’s new Mayor Rob Ford since I first heard that Don Cherry had been invited. You may recall that I covered Rob Ford earlier this year, when he didn’t quite do an interview with CBC Radio’s “As it Happens” on the day after his election.
For non-Canadian readers, Ford has styled himself as a plain-speaking council maverick who will stand up for the “little guy.” Don Cherry is a former NHL coach who is now a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada, a Saturday-night sporting institution. He’s also got a number of other gigs, from a radio commentator on sports radio networks to endorsements or ad appearances for things such as Cold-FX, the Quizno‘s restaurant chain, a series of hockey videos, and a chain of restaurants with the Don Cherry name over the door. He’s a passionate supporter of Canada’s military and a number of charities from organ donation to a hospice named after his late wife Rose, to whom he seemed to have been quite devoted.
Cherry is also a polarizing figure. He can seem belligerent, he doesn’t seem to suffer fools gladly, and he would likely place himself pretty far on the right of the political spectrum. In a recent byelection, he recorded a robocall in support of Conservative candidate Julian Fantino.
And then he was asked to attend Rob Ford’s investiture ceremony to place the chain of office around Ford’s neck (it should be noted that in most cases, the city clerk does this duty). Here’s what he said after he did the deed:
So. I was a little horrified at this speech. It seems to me that the investiture of a mayor and a council is a time for a little dignity and not for baiting of one’s ‘enemies’ and crude insults.
And I wasn’t alone. Spacing Toronto is holding a poll to design a “LEFT-WING PINKO” button, and others are busily printing t-shirts and other merchandise. Meanwhile, more right-wing media outlets are supporting Cherry as plain-spoken and just what was necessary. Joe O’Connor, for example, wrote in the National Post:
Be outraged over Cherry. Be embarrassed for Toronto. Or else be like this left wing, bike riding, print media wacko and lighten up. And remember this: we are talking about a 76-year-old Grampa.
But I think it’s too easy to simply dismiss Ford — or Cherry, for that matter — as ignorant or stupid. Ford is sending messages here, and I think they’re very specific. I think he’s specifically targeting the “pinko” contingent and smacking them verbally.
Now here are the public relations / communications questions, and I don’t know if I have answers or not:
- What does it gain Ford to do this?
- What are the circumstances – in politics or outside of them – when it’s appropriate to antagonize or alienate publics?
I would REALLY appreciate some insights on this. I rarely find myself unable to answer my own questions.
One of the things I talked about was learning from others, and building on their ideas. In folk music, that’s “the folk tradition.” But given that you can’t copyright an idea or a concept, there’s no reason that businesses embarking on a social media initiative — or any sort of communications, for that matter — shouldn’t learn from others.
And case studies can be a powerful way of doing just that. Conveniently enough, there are good people who are compiling lists of case studies online. Some of these lists are in wiki form, so you can easily add your own; others are more conventional sites. Either way, use them. Why not save yourself making the same mistakes others made, and find brand new mistakes to make! As Samuel Beckett so famously put it: No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Here are some places to find useful case studies in social media:
Penn Olson’s 30 social media case studies
Peter Kim’s list of over 1000 social media “examples” (the inspiration for Web 2.0 examples in Canada)
UPDATE: If you prefer your case studies in the live and in person format, and you’re in Ottawa, you should check out Case Study Jam, a little meetup that I’ve been helping to organize with a cast of ones, including Joe Boughner, Amy Boughner, Melanie Bechard, Della Siemens, and Nick Charney. You can get a sense of what a CSJ is like from Robin Browne’s handy-dandy audio playlist!
And one more thing to think about: If you have an example of how your company or a client did something interesting, why not write something up about it and submit it to one of these lists? Sharing is caring.
Photo credit: The Cake Engineer on Flickr, licenced via Creative Commons