Saturday, May 30, 2009

A few words from the new CPRS Toronto president

As many of you know, I recently became president of CPRS Toronto. This was not the result of any astute political campaigning or soon-to-be-broken promises, but part of the regular succession process (I was first VP).

I'm excited to be taking the reins of the organization - one that I believe in - at a time when I think we're at a crossroads in profession (both economically and in its practice). I feel there's a strong opportunity for CPRS Toronto to really become a leader in combining social media with traditional PR, something I talk about in my first prez's message.

But it's not up to me alone and I look forward to hearing from members with their thoughts and ideas about how to achieve this.

I also wanted to let you know that from time to time, I will be highlighting CPRS Toronto events and programs (not that I haven't in the past).

And I would like to thank past president Lawrence Stevenson for his vision, passion and commitment to the organization. Big shoes to fill, Lawrence (and I don't mean that literally).

Monday, May 18, 2009

When time is not of the essence

Maybe it's the slower pace of Victoria Day (a holiday Monday in Canada). But I've been thinking about timeliness and how we seem to attach a sense of urgency to many things that may not require immediate attention. (That's to say some attention is necessary, we just don't have to jump.)

Certainly in communications and client service, we need to be responsive. And with social media's ability to spread like wildfire (combined with some folks' lack of judgement), it seems like there's a mini online issue that must be dealt with every other day.

That's the new reality. And we accept it.

However, I was catching up on some blog reading this weekend and tweeted about two posts I found to be smart, insightful and well written: Joel Postman's thoughts on attribution and Gini Dietrich's take on being a CEO-entrepreneur.

Both were 'in the archives', so to speak, in that they had been published in late April/early May. And I noticed I started my tweets - 'catching up' - as if I felt I had to explain my sharing delay. But does that lessen the value of the content? Of course not.

It got me thinking that in our world of Twitter-immediacy, we need to make sure we're not solely focused on timing at the expense of ideas.

Sure, we've always paid attention to things that rise to the top (i.e. news). But, there's a lot of important and useful information that happens to have been written yesterday, last week, last month, last year... etc.

And that content deserves your attention when you happen on it; when it's most relevant to you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A letter to Philip Roth


You don't know me (nor I you). But I am one of your legions of readers; and have been for many years. I think it's safe to say that your fiction has helped shape and deepen my understanding of the human condition.

I recently finished reading Indignation, your latest novel, and I just wanted to thank you. For being so eloquent and witty, for posing the essential (existential?) questions, for screaming our insecurities into the night and for showing us how a small community can be a microcosm for the rest of the world.

Your book tells the story of a smart young man from Newark who comes of age in the 1950s. He ventures from his cloistered Jewish-centric hometown to college in the blandly-dangerous Midwest because he desires to escape his family's narrow beliefs; he wants to be worldly and craves mainstream acceptance. Yet despite his best attempts to be himself, to excel academically, circumstances cause him to make choices that lead to an unfortunate path.

There are few artistic events I look forward to more than one of your books. You never fail to challenge my curiosity, spark an intellectual debate, entertain and make me laugh (and cry) at life's unavoidable triumphs, mistakes and yes, indignities.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When a retweet misleads

If you're a Torontonian and on Twitter, you would know that Mayor David Miller is an active participant; posting comments, photos of events and his general take on life in the city. I heard him speak about his interest in social media at Mesh conference and was impressed by his passion and candour.

You may also know that the Tamil community in Toronto has been staging protests lately to draw attention to the situation in their home country. This weekend a march shut down the Don Valley Parkway.

What do these two situations have in common?

Well, on Sunday it appeared as though the Mayor wrote a politically sensitive tweet that was later retweeted.

In reality the Mayor never posted the tweet-in-question. What happened, according to TV Ontario's The Agenda blog, was that an individual sent an '@' message to the Mayor. Another person retweeted it, leaving out the original sender's name but leaving in the impression that the Mayor had, in fact, commented. The full story is unfortunate on a number of ethical levels.

For PR people, this is yet another example of a situation we need to be aware of and monitor. And as communicators we need to make sure we don't rely on the results of a single search, but dig deeply enough to piece together a full story before we offer clients our counsel.

Thanks to my friend Keith McDonald for sharing the TVO blog post with me.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The 10 stages of Twitter adoption

For anyone who wants to search Twitter in this blog, you can look back, look waaaaay back to my early reactions of bafflement and mild hostility to curiosity, acceptance and pretty much full-out Twitterholism.

And I think the stages I went through are similar to those many people experience as they attempt to grapple with, understand and appreciate the medium.

Here's an encapsulation of my journey:
1. What the *#!*&@ is this? I don't see the point.
2. This is just plain silly and a complete waste of time.
3. I don't understand why some people I know and really respect are on it.
4. OK, I'll admit, I'm a little scared to try it.
5. I signed up but only to see what it's like, in case clients ask. (But I still think it's dumb.)
6. I just tweeted (and said the word tweet). Nothing memorable or anything, but at least I tried it.
7. You know, I've found some really smart people to follow and one of them posted a really cool link.
8. Someone sent me an @ message/re-tweeted me/sent a DM.
9. I think I may have found my Twitter voice.
10. I am on this way to much - but it's am following some amazing people.

Anything to add?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Compromise

That's something everyone in client service innately understands (or they should be in another business). As a PR professional, we provide our best counsel and then step back to listen and adapt.

However, add a 'd' to the word and it becomes compromised. One letter can mean the difference between a consensus and a failure.

I mention this because I got a call from the bank yesterday informing me that my debit card had been 'compromised'. I thought that was a good way to explain the systematic withdrawal of funds from my bank account. (Don't worry, I've been told they're coming back.)

However, it also made me think about what I would have said if the situation occurred at home (I was robbed) or on the street (I got mugged).

Even though the outcome (barring physical harm) was the same, the words we choose to describe it tell a very different story.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thank you

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of receiving the CPRS Toronto Mentor of the Year award.

That meant a great deal to me. I have always believed that senior practitioners should share their knowledge, experience and networks with young people entering the profession.

There are many ways to do this including information interviews, lending your time to speak at PR programs (or grading resumes...), or signing up for the CPRS Mentorship program which pairs mentors and proteges. (I hate that word, but you can't say 'mentee').

As I said that evening, I've been extremely fortunate to have met and had the opportunity to get to know some really smart and talented people including Kristen Marano, Parker Mason and Erick Bauer. And I truly feel I've learned as much or more from them than they've learned from me.

So... before I need a tissue, I'll just close with a heartfelt thanks.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Time flies and other cliches

It certainly does zip by. Which is my way of saying that it's been far too long since my last post. But absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes, it becomes a self-fulfilling habit that's not so easy to break.

Anyway, I am back now. And don't worry, you won't hear a litany of excuses.

Just a couple.

1. It's been... let's say a bit of a roller coaster at the office (and I'm more of a bumper car guy myself).

And 2... I've been working days and nights. Ahh, entertainment PR. We just finished another hilarious Yuk Yuk's Laugh Off, a contest where all the comics pull their punches - er punchlines in an attempt to win the $25,000 grand prize. (Second prize? Mac and cheese.) Halifax sketch comic, Mark Little, won with an act that could best be described as wit in geek's clothing.

This year, in addition to traditional media relations, we added a social media newsroom, Twitter feed and YouTube channel. So that meant we were not only spectators, we were reporting live from the joke-stained trenches. It was a lot of fun. And comedy, with its bite-sized, sharable content seems to be a natural social media fit.

Have a look and let me know what you think.