Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Less than perfect pitch

Thanks to BoingBoing, I read a cringe-worthy, yet thought-provoking post by Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson squarely aimed at PR people.

In it, he states that he gets too many irrelevant news releases from PR folks who have no idea about what he's looking for. He likens them (us) to unfilterable spam. His solution? Block the PR person's email address.

Then, in his blog, he goes so far as to publish a list of the most recent blocked emails.

Ouch.

Now, I don't believe in publicly humiliating people who are just trying to do their job (ever since WWII, I've been uncomfortable with the notion of a public list). But on reflection, I think he makes a valid point: Don't just blast out news releases willy nilly.

Instead we PR practitioners should try to become 'media junkies' (MSM and social). Avoid pre-packaged media lists (i.e. taking the easy way out). If we want to do our job well, we need to pour over newspapers, magazines, blogs, listen to radio, watch TV. Pay attention to bylines. Get to know a journalist by what he/she covers, what subjects pique their interest, what they're writing about. Read. Watch. Engage. Start building relationships.

Then, when we have a great story, there's a good chance the right person will consider our pitch.
'Sounds crazy, no? But in our little town of Anatevka...'*

If we don't love media, why are we in PR?

Addendum:
Please visit Joel Postman here and here for more on this subject.


*with apologies to Fiddler on the Roof.

Plug: Giovanni Rodriguez speaking at CPRS Toronto event

On November 7, Palette PR (my agency) and CPRS Toronto are pleased to present Giovanni Rodriguez, who will be at The Spoke Club in Toronto delivering a talk entitled, 'Why We Call it Public Relations' - PR and its role in social media.

If you're interested in more information or to registerfor the event, please visit CPRS Toronto.

But there are a limited number of spaces, so as they used to say in K-Tel ads, 'don't delay'.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wiki watch-out

I recently read about the Talk is Cheap social media 'unconference' for PR/communications practitioners, planned by Gary Schlee. It's sounds like a great event, with the potential for lots of engaging face-to-face conversations. I'm looking forward to it.


The only thing is you need to sign up by Wiki.

Now in theory, I'm a fan of this application. I like the interactivity. I frequently refer to Wikipedia when I'm doing research. I wanted to learn more so I attended a Wiki session at the last Mesh conference. Unfortunately, as someone who has a limited knowledge of HTML, I found the presentation virtually incomprehensible.

I'm also a little perturbed that virtually anyone can rewrite a Wiki, sometimes making it better, though often making it worse.

Then there's the matter of the way a Wiki records any changes that are made. So, for example, if you (or I) do go in there to add your (or my) deep thoughts to an entry and say, make a typo (or worse, a fairly substantial error) well, anyone who visits can find out it's you.

That seems like an undue amount of pressure to be placed on an individual who just wants to sign up for an event. Who with no harm intended happens to screw up the registration list, realizes what he's done, goes back to fix it, puts his name on the list, doesn't realize it's been removed, gets a couple of emails highlighting his innocent shenanigans for all and sundry who happened to sign up for updates, calls the organizer to apologize for the mess, explains that he did not intentionally take his name off the list and finally manages to get himself registered without disturbing the delicate balance.

OK, I admit it: that was me!

My point is, I think Wikis should have an administrator/editor (this can be a team) who vets any changes to said Wiki before making them public. To minimize dumb mistakes but keep the ideas flowing. I realize this will slow down the process. But hey, a little reflection never hurt anyone.

Anyway, I'm planning to attend Talk is Cheap. And if you see me there, I'd be happy to continue this conversation.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The puck stops here

I wanted to congratulate and thank MasterCard Canada, for their generous donation to the City of Toronto, helping ease a municipal budget shortfall and ensuring our outdoor public skating rinks can open in early December, in time for the holiday season.

It's a great example of leadership trumping politics; a case study in corporate social responsibility matching community interest. And it's such a simple, yet utterly compelling story.

Kevin Stanton, president of MasterCard Canada, moves to Toronto with his family in 2003. One of his first 'priceless' moments is watching kids playing shinny at a local rink. Fast forward to 2007, the outdoor rinks in danger of a late opening (despite the fact that the City still has to cover the workers' pay). Stanton comes to the rescue by offering to donate the full amount ($160,000) with no strings attached. And he gives credit to his team for the idea.

Yes, MasterCard got a lot of ink for the announcement. But I think they deserved it. And at least two media outlets referenced the ad tagline.

From a PR perspective, I can only sit on the sidelines, slightly green with envy, and admire the way it played out. MasterCard scored an overtime goal and credibly brought their corporate tagline to life.

It almost makes me more sympathetic to high interest rates.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Four more years...

First off let me say that I'm not a political animal. I usually follow election campaigns from the sidelines, reading and watching whatever I can stomach and disbelieving much of what I hear.

So it's with a generally bemused and frustrated interest that I present my Ontario post-election observations:

- With low voter turnout, a non-issue issue and a referendum on cronyism, Ontario voted for complacency (and got what they voted for).

- In every campaign it seems that one form of arrogance wins over another (unless it's a minority). We often refer to this as 'leadership'.

- In his victory speech our incumbent premier stated, 'we deplore negativity'. That sounds pretty negative to me.

- It's not his fault, but as leader of the Conservatives, John Tory's name is practically a literary cliche. Mr. Tory, imagine your positioning if you were a bit more rebellious in your choice of party (as in 'this Tory votes Liberal'). Don't ignore the subtext.

- I hate being referred to as 'the people'.

OK, that's done. Now, it's on to four more years...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In-box to overcapacity

It’s happening everywhere. That seemingly never-ending deluge of emails, filling up your in-box, often to overflowing. It’s like gridlock every time you look at your computer screen. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to inch two cars ahead.

And it doesn’t rest. I have days when I get 40+ messages between 7 pm and 7 am (and yes, I know some of you get 100). And they're all clamoring for my attention when I get to the office in the morning (or sneak a peak at my BB at night).

So what’s a poor blogger to do?

Here are four things I’ve tried that help ease the congestion (a bit):

1. Stop being so anal about ‘covering your ass’. File or delete. Make that your mantra. Be more strategic and make decisions about what you need to keep. Don’t leave your in-box with a deluge (as I occasionally do). So much email is little more than a recorded instant message exchange.

2. Prioritize your messages and deal with them in bunches. I have to admit, I’m not great at this, but I am getting better. And I’m never more productive than when I’m at a two hour meeting, come back and then take 30 minutes to respond to the onslaught. Selectively using a BB on a long subway is also good (just remember to press send before Rosedale and Davisville).

3. Take an email vacation. When you’re away for a week or more, ask people you work with to stop cc’ing you on anything but the most important documents. See if they’ll be kind enough to prepare one email summarizing the key points about what’s happened. Offer to do the same for them.

4. And talk to people. (How quaint!) The conversation isn’t only online. Not everything has to (or should) be in writing.

Any other thoughts to add?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Not a pretty picture

A lot has been said/written about the benefits of working at home. And having spent many years both on my own and in a more traditional environment, I have to say I prefer the comfort of an office, with the flexibility to work offsite sometimes when I need a break in the routine.

Mostly, I like the social aspect of work, running into people, exchanging pleasantries and ideas and feeling part of something bigger.

But if companies start to shed their offices and opt for a remote workforce, I’m not sure the pros outweigh the cons (except maybe from a cost of real estate point of view).

If you choose to work at home, that’s one thing. But if you’re forced into it, it can be lonely and isolating. You need a lot of self-discipline and have to be ready to battle any of a number of distractions (laundry, lazing around and Oprah, to name just a few).

Then too there’s the impersonality of all that electronic contact save for an occasional encounter with the ‘barista’ at your local coffee shop.

So imagine the future: people stuck alone working at home, boundaries removed, bombarded by email that never stops, the sum total of your work/social life online.

That doesn’t sound so idyllic to me.

CP style

I’ve decided to convert my past blog headlines to CP style (i.e. sentence case). It’s a bit of an edit, so I’m going to do it a few entries at a time.