You can't pick up a Canadian newspaper, listen to radio or watch TV without hearing about H1N1, the vaccination process, supply issues, lineups...
But the story doesn't seem to have the same intensity in the U.S. It wasn't even mentioned in Conan O'Brien's monologue a couple of days ago (when it was the lead on CBC) - and talk show openings are often a good barometer of big news stories (as silly as that sounds).
I did a search of 'H1N1 vaccine' on Google this morning* and in the first 30 results, there were 25 Canadian stories; four U.S. stories; and one international story. That's over 80 per cent of today's coverage emanating from Canada.
Now, we all know a pandemic is a very serious situation. And I'm not saying we shouldn't do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus. It's important to be informed and educated.
But I wonder if Canadian media are making H1N1 a bigger story than it needs to be right at the moment.
What do you think?
*Search results as of 9:30 a.m., November 4, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
You can't pick up a Canadian newspaper, listen to radio or watch TV without hearing about H1N1, the vaccination process, supply issues, lineups...
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I was at the gym when I found out Obama's first official visit as President of the United States will be to Canada. And you can't believe how excited I was when I heard the news.
I mean, out of the whole entire globe, the leader of the free world has chosen us. (OK, it's a long-standing tradition that Bush ignored, but let's put that fact on hold.)
My reaction reminded me of Sally Field's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards. And it also made me think about how thrilled we Canadians get, when a person of celebrity south of the border 'recognizes' us (or even makes a paltry reference to our country in a movie or TV show). It's silly really, but that seems to be part of our collective psyche.
And while I am glad President Obama is coming here - if for no other reason than the hope that his vision may rubs off on our leaders - I feel that my response (and I'm sure that of my fellow Canucks) is a bit over the top.
Why? Perhaps it's because we still view ourselves as second tier. But is that so bad? I think it's time we started accepting and even taking pride in who we are. We should become more comfortable wearing our national skin (though it may be covered in a parka for much of the year) and not look for our validation from external sources.
Maybe 2009 could be the year we stop being so internationally-insecure. (Now, what would the Americans think about that?)
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
According to an article in the Toronto Star, our fair metropolis placed fourth in a global ranking of cities that offer people the best cultural experience, after London, Paris and New York. Pretty good company, I'd say.
And in the same piece, an A.T. Kearney study ranked us 10th in terms of what it calls 'global cities' (below Chicago and Seoul). Again, not too shabby.
Now, compare that with a recent Maclean's magazine cover story ranking 'smart' Canadian cities, (i.e. those 'rich in culture', among other things), and Toronto didn't do nearly as well - we only made it to the middle of the list. In fact, Barrie and Orillia placed higher.
Now, without meaning to impugn those communities, that's a ridiculous result. And so Canadian. Slagging the leader while trying to be politely inclusive towards the rest of the country. The tall poppy syndrome rears its ugly head once more.
Frankly, I'm tired of it. Toronto's the number one city in the country. Complain all you want, it's a fact. And, rather than trying to apologize for what we are, we should celebrate.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Watching the Canadian election results last night was mildly frustrating (and a bit dull). And ending up with essentially the same House we had before the vote was called is a strong message from 'the people' to politicians of all stripes - no matter how they may try to 'spin' it.
From a communications perspective, it offers all parties a potential opportunity to win back the electorate, rebuild their reputations and credibility, and create a vision for our country. But they need to begin from the ground up.
Here's what I would suggest:
- Define yourself and what you stand for; and please make it intelligent, meaningful and heartfelt
- Show us you have integrity; start small and keep it up to demonstrate you're serious
- Be honest, transparent and believable when you're delivering your messages
- Not everyone is a leader; choose someone who can speak to and to inspire both individuals and large crowds
- It's OK to answer questions directly, even if you say you don't have a response just yet
- Start telling your story; not selling it
- It's all about relationships; not opponent-bashing or trading favours
Thursday, October 02, 2008
It doesn't usually happen with MSM. I'm talking about Canadian PR outreach to Canadian editors being picked up in publications beyond our borders.
But with social media and blogger outreach, traditional country mandates are starting to be blurred?
What's a PR agency to do?
If you're interested, have a look at an article I wrote for the International Public Relations Association's Frontline newsletter.
I'd welcome your comments or thoughts.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I've been having a few email issues lately. Mostly related to my Blackberry.
Sometimes, when I forward an email, random words (and even whole sentences) get cut up, deleted and garbled (or as one email said, rbld). It's as if I'm writing in a bizarre IM-ish shorthand code.
So after checking with my office tech support, I finally called Rogers, knowing I'd have to commit a fair amount of time on the phone. But I was determined to weather the situation, accept my fate and not get riled up. And sure enough over the next couple of days, I had four calls and spent three hours attempting to upload, download, reload and resolve things.
And, I have to say the people at the other end were pleasant, funny and helpful. They concluded the issue was with my BB itself and not their network and they said I qualified for an upgrade - e.g. a new device at a discount. (A backhanded sales ploy or what?)
But a chatty rep from Sudbury rejigged my plan to save me money and offered me such a good deal that I couldn't pass up the idea of getting a new BB Bold. She gave me the option of having it couriered to me (3 to 5 days) or, if I didn't want to wait, I could pick it up directly from a Rogers store.
Being in Toronto and excited about a new toy, I opted for the latter. I went to a store near my office and discovered they hadn't received their stock yet. No worries. Another Rogers outlet was a few blocks away. They, too, didn't get their shipment and weren't sure when they were going to arrive. Try back later, was all they could muster by way of help.
I was starting to lose my state of zen, but I didn't give up...
An hour later, and completely un-Boldened, I returned to my office, frustrated and hot under the collar yet again.
I wondered if the bare shelves was a Rogers ploy to increase demand (a la iPhone). But there were no line-ups at the stores. Then I thought it's more likely a logistical screw-up (so what else is new).
Either way, Rogers missed yet another opportunity to truly connect with their customers (rather than holding us hostage). And all they had to do was provide a simple update; communicate with their retail front-line.
I'm still waiting for my Bold but I'll let you know what it's like when I get it.
Monday, March 31, 2008
If you've been to New York recently and happened to be flying out via LaGuardia, you've probably experienced a delay.
Occasionally it's short, often it can stretch in to a couple of hours or more.
And an advance call to your airline doesn't always help diminish your terminal time.
Last summer, following a major rainstorm, a number of flights were cancelled and passengers on Air Canada were left to fend for themselves (mind you, if you have to be stranded overnight, Manhattan is the place to be).
One of the reasons for the delays is that there are more flights on smaller 'regional' jets than there used to be before 2001. Here's an article that explains the situation.
So the next time you're Leavin' On a Jet Plane, instead of getting 'hot under the collar' as my Dad used to say, bring a book, a magazine, your ipod, some work, a DVD, then sit back, be patient and prepare to wait your turn.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
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
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…’
Monday, July 23, 2007
Poor Manitoba. It isn’t enough that my birth province is beset by frigid winters and an overabundance of blood-sucking mosquitoes in the summer. Not to mention a hollowed-out downtown, glue sniffing and a 40+ year exodus to points East and West.
And now, to add insult to injury, it turns out that the reaction to ‘Spirited Energy', the province’s attempt to rebrand and attract visitors and investment, was less than warmly received when it was tested in focus groups. According the Marketing magazine online (subscription required): consumers ‘were lukewarm and even confused’ about the campaign. (I guess that’s why the provincial government was reticent to release the results and only did so after an order from the ombudsman.)
Competitiveness Minister Jim Rondeau defended the government’s decision to go with the campaign by saying, 'Before the whole exercise, Manitoba either had a bad image or no image.’'
Thanks Minister. It’s good to see the current government is upholding the status quo.
To be frank, I was completely underwhelmed by Manitoba’s new slogan, too. It reminded me of the wrong-headed, dull ‘Toronto’s Unlimited’ campaign. Both seem to miss the mark in that they fail to convey what it is about those places that make them stand out, that capture people’s hearts and minds. (Think ‘I Love New York’.)
There’s lots to celebrate about Manitoba. The wonderful heritage, endless prairie sky, long, sunny days, Salisbury House and Rae and Jerry’s and the Fabric Centre, of course*.
If you ask me (and nobody did). I think the province should return to ‘Friendly Manitoba’ and build on that. A good image starts with who you are, not who you think you should be.
*Disclosure: The Fabric Centre, Winnipeg’s first fabric retailer, was founded and operated by my father. I worked there after school and for many summers and it’s now owned and operated by my sister.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I was walking through the CBC building, when I noticed, in the broadcaster’s ‘museum’, a Friendly Giant display. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Friendly Giant was a Canadian kid’s TV icon, a winsome, recorder-playing giant who palled around with a giraffe and highly literate rooster.
The display featured his castle, tunic, the real Jerome the Giraffe, a slightly worn Rusty the Rooster still in his book bag and even the armchair where 'two more could curl up in'.
And it really took me back (and aback). How something so painfully naïve resonated with a generation of children. It's still very vivid to me. Like Nancy Sinatra's boots or the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
Those were the days when you could catch an unknown performer on Sunday evening and on Monday, they were a star. The days when you turned on ‘the tee-vee’ and watched what was on. And you lived in the comfort that pretty much everyone you encountered had the same shared experience as you so there was this automatic common ground.
I know we have more choice these days. And really that’s quite exciting. I know there’s something fresh and new and ‘completely different’ around the corner. (But which corner is it? I want to know.)
Yes, social media certainly lives up to its name. But still I miss the Friendly Giant. And Ed Sullivan. And Johnny Carson.
I guess I'm pining for a simpler time.
Friday, June 22, 2007
On an American Airlines flight from NYC, the pilot gave a quick update on the conditions in Toronto: 'Sunny skies,' he said. 'The current temperature is 61 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about 16 degrees Canadian.'
Yes, the weather is so much colder in the land of ice and snow that we have to create an eponymous system to measure it.
Monday, May 21, 2007
I (and probably numerous other Canadian PR people) received a letter recently from the company-formerly-known-as-Bowdens*, informing me that they changed their name.
And while I appreciated the news, I wondered how this might affect my agency.
It didn’t take long to find out. There, in the third paragraph, was the promise that I would continue to receive the same ‘Bowdens experience’ I had come to ‘know and trust’.
I wanted to scream.
To me the ‘Bowdens experience’ has been synonymous with mediocre service, missed obvious clips and the phrase ‘if you can tell me what network it was on and the time it aired, we’ll try to find it for you’. I’ve heard similar comments from other Canadian PR practitioners and some Americans, too.
To add salt to the wound, I received this same letter no less than a dozen times (in various bills). Once would have been fine thank you very much. But that wasn’t good enough for the company-formerly-known-as-Bowdens. They had to reinforce their ‘experience’ again and again.
Which only made my frustration grow.
Then around that same time, the company told us that the only good rep we’d ever had in all our dealings with them had been ‘reassigned’. Was she shipped to the Gulag? Where do they come up with this stuff?
Consistently low quality service is something I have complained about to the company-formerly-known-as-Bowdens for many years, regularly calling the president with my gripes. The difference is that before I grudgingly accepted their limitations as someone might accept an inept bureaucrat in Eastern Europe circa 1974. I now think that they’re so out of touch with the industry that they’re marketing their incompetence as a plus.
Will they ever change? I’m not holding my breath.
But there’s one thing I'm pretty sure of: they won’t catch this clip.
*Please note: I’m not including a link because I don’t want to drive traffic to their site.
Friday, May 11, 2007
...Because sometimes I arrive at my regular Tim Hortons at a normally busy time and there's only one person in the line-up ahead of me as opposed to the 30+ people that are usually there.
And that's all it takes to make my day.
Friday, April 27, 2007
However, my glee was short-lived. When I tried the East-West flight pass,
So what gives? Is Air
I’d say it’s yet another example of our national airline not thinking about the consumer and missing the mark.Brace yourself, if you want to see this in action, you have to go through a typical AC maze-like experience. You need to click here, scroll down to the site map, scroll all the way down there to search, type in flight pass, click on the first hit, then click on North America Pass. Typical AC, you can't get there from here syndrome... (It was easier to click in the email link.)
Sunday, February 11, 2007
When I was a kid in Winnipeg and my family went out for a drive, the radio was tuned to CBW, which I found a bit dry and dull (hey, there was no music, no Edison Lighthouse). But even at a young age I recognized that grown-ups liked CBC’s ‘content’. And I thought maybe CBC radio is a rite of passage, something you grow into and appreciate when you're an adult.
Which brings me to last week when I was lecturing on PR to a group of 3rd and 4th year students at the University of Windsor. I was curious how these young people found their news and information and did an informal poll in the class. Most said they didn’t read newspapers much, which is what we’ve been hearing. They used the Internet to find out what’s going on (and, surprising to me, CBC.ca was one of their favourite sites).
So what does this mean? At first it seemed like yet another example of the impending demise of print. Yes, and this time I’d seen it with my own eyes rather than reading about it in the paper.
But then it occurred to me, they’re tuning into CBC, at a much earlier age than I did. The method of delivery may be changing but the sources are staying the same.
And from what they said, they used social media for socializing (almost all of them blogged on MySpace or Facebook). For news they looked to MSM.
Maybe the newspaper industry has a chance after all. Sure it's evolving. But that's nothing new. When was the last time you heard, 'Extra, extra...' or read an afternoon edition? Maybe to these students reading the paper is like listening to CBC radio was for me: something you do when you’re older, a rite (or read) of passage.