Sunday, November 25, 2007

In praise of APR

First of all, I have a disclosure. I am an APR (accredited in public relation) and also the CPRS (Toronto) accreditation committee chair.

And, as December 3 is the deadline for applications to the Canadian APR process, I thought I’d write a few words on why I feel accreditation is more important than ever before.

I believe the designation demonstrates an understanding of and adherence to ethics, transparency and professionalism which, in an era of traditional and social media, are more important to our industry than ever before. Accreditation helps us gain a greater depth of knowledge about our profession’s history, luminaries and groundbreakers, theories of communications and best practices.

Yes, it requires time and energy (it takes about a year from start to finish) and includes a comprehensive work sample, a commitment to self-study and rigorous written and oral exams.

Now you certainly don’t need your APR or ABC to be an ethical PR practitioner. Far from it. But it’s something I urge all senior practitioners to consider.

Has it helped me? Yes, after surrendering to being a student again and accepting the process, earning my APR both opened my mind and provided me with additional insights that helped improve my practice.

I mean, isn’t social media an ideal platform for two-way symmetrical communications (James Grunig)?

So if you’re interested in more information, please visit: CPRS national and CPRS (Toronto) or send me a note.

From the outside looking in

Sometimes it feels like Canada is decidedly second tier. By that I mean there are often cool new products launched in the U.S. that aren’t readily available on our side of the border. We hear about them, read about them, see what they do. We covet them but just don’t have the access.

Today’s Toronto Star lists several of these technologies including: the iPhone, Kindle, Amazon’s book reader which I really want to try, and streamed TV series.

Intellectual property negotiations aside, this is somewhat of a nostalgic situation for me.

Growing up in pre-cable Winnipeg, there was a time when we were relegated to three television stations, CBC, CTV and KCND (really just a transmitter in Pembina, North Dakota that was loosely affiliated with ABC and later switched to CKND, our Global station).

So while we heard about lots of great shows, and especially ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson’, we couldn’t actually watch them unless we ventured to the U.S. or to one of our larger metropolises (Montreal, Toronto) that had the actual stations in closer proximity.

We were even late getting some movies. The Exorcist, for example, opened in Winnipeg a couple of months after its Christmas release, but long after the infamous head-turning scene had been written about ‘ad nauseum’.

And really, it’s this second tierism that made me want to leave Winnipeg in the first place. I dreamed of living at the centre of all things new.

So here I am happily ensconced in the country’s largest city and I find I’m in a similar situation with regards to certain tech gadgets. Only this time, I have no great exit strategy.

And I wonder if waiting a little longer for things is simply part of our national heritage and makes us a little more patient, more cautions, more reflective…Makes us Canadian.


Go Bombers go...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Poppy Day

November 11.

When I was growing up in Winnipeg we called Remembrance Day: Poppy Day. And every year when it came around, my Dad would return from work with a poppy on his lapel. Often, he’d bring some home for us and I felt it was both a thrill and an honour to wear one. It connected me with my Dad and by extension with history. It made me feel proud.

Back then my dad, a veteran who saw action as part of Montreal’s Blackwatch regiment in WWII, would have bought the poppy from someone more senior than he was (by that I mean someone who’d fought in WWI).

Later, the ‘torch’ was passed to the WWII vets, and now they’re mostly gone too. Today, you never know who’s going to sell you a poppy (and sometimes it’s just the honour system and a contribution you make at Tim Horton’s). Time marches on.

Every year, I continue to wear a poppy over my heart and feel nostalgic. I love the symbol, the visual reminder of Flanders Fields, where ‘poppies blow between the crosses row on row. That mark our place…’

In Manitoba, Remembrance Day is a holiday, a reminder to pay tribute to the past as we look to the future. But here in Ontario, a few government workers get the day off but even our public schools are open. For most people it’s business as usual.

And that’s too bad.

Yet the Premier of our province announced with much fanfare during his campaign, the creation of a new Ontario holiday, a meaningless if blandly inoffensive ‘Family Day’.

Perhaps he should have looked to Remembrance Day and made it an official time to remember those who served our country, all their sacrifices and the meaningful values and beliefs they were fighting for. It would be a holiday where we reflected on the past and considered how fortunate we are to live in a country of tolerance and peace.

‘To you from failing hands we throw the torch…’

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Everything old is new again

As I mentioned, Giovanni Rodriguez, communications practitioner, social media thinker and one of the founders of The Conversation Group was in Toronto last week to talk to my agency's staff and clients and members of CPRS Toronto and have a chance to social-ize with Joseph Thornley and the folks at Third Tuesday Toronto.

Giovanni presented many thought-provoking ideas. He encouraged PR folks to take a leadership role in social media by going back to our roots and 'relating to the public'.

He suggested we consider social media (formerly 'new media') as an innovative way to reach out to influencers. He contends that this should more than just blogger relations, in the same way that PR is more than media relations (or should be).

And he pointed out that the new tools we're so excited about have been around for a long time: blogging = publishing; podcasting = broadcasting; tagging = indexing; rss = distribution. What's different is that they've become accessible to the masses, 'DIY'.

We live in a 'participatory' world. The question is: how are we, as communicators, going to take part?

Thanks for the conversation, Giovanni.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Toronto the Great

I have a confession: When I first moved to Toronto to attend York University, it wasn't my number one city of choice. In fact, I had never been here before and didn't even realize that York was far (very far) from downtown.

I had my sights set on the U.S. (Minneapolis, NYC). And while I got to know and enjoy 'Toronto the Good' (aka Hogtown), I always felt it would be a place I'd pass through and not settle in (or for).

I was so wrong about that.

Today, I am just plain excited to be living in Toronto. So, it seems, is author, academic and transplanted T.O.'er Richard Florida who sings the city's praises in the Globe and Mail (subscription required). Like Mr. Florida, I find the city to be vibrant, fast-paced and with an incredible energy all its own.

It doesn't matter what I'm doing or where I am: walking down Yonge, taking the subway (mostly), navigating the lunchtime hordes in PATH, observing an archeological dig at a condo construction site, marveling at the cultural architecture of the ROM, Four Seasons Centre, Royal Conservatory of Music, AGO, Gardner Museum, gazing at clubbers and tourists in the entertainment district, students and neighbours in the Annex (where I live), entrepreneurial street vendors at Yonge and Dundas, serious mall shoppers at Yorkdale... I get a thrill just stepping onto the street every day.

It feels like the world is in Toronto. It feels big and bustling...it feels (dare I say it?) world class.

Sure it isn't perfect and there's still lots of work to be done (sustainable planning, expanding the subway). But it's come a long way from its humble beginnings as a place where you couldn't watch a movie on Sunday, where residents would head to Buffalo for fun.

Nowadays, I feel proud to call myself a Torontonian. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else*.

But isn't it so very much like us that we need an American to make the proclamation? I say, thank you Richard Florida, for pointing out the gem in our own backyard.


*OK, I'd certainly consider NYC, Miami or LA.