He won! He won! Terry Fallis won the 2008 Leacock Medal.

I just returned from lunch to discover this in my inbox:

Terry Fallis Wins 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal For Humour

    ORILLIA, ON, April 30 /CNW/ - The suspense felt by five finalists for the
2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour came to an exciting conclusion today for
Terry Fallis and his novel The Best Laid Plans. The announcement was made at a
celebratory luncheon on the grounds of the historical Stephen Leacock Memorial
Museum in Orillia, Ontario. Fallis will receive a $10,000 prize courtesy of
TD Bank Financial Group for his winning entry.
    "It is somehow appropriate that this year's winner be an author with an
interest in the foibles of federal politics as Leacock himself had more than a
passing interest in the subject. He'd be delighted with the comic antics
described by Fallis," said Wayne Scott, President of the Leacock Association.
    The Best Laid Plans, Mr. Fallis's first book, centres on a cranky and
reluctant political candidate who consents to run in a federal election based
on the fact that he is "certain-to-lose." He accepts the task with the proviso
that he won't campaign, give media interviews, canvass door-to-door, attend
all-candidate meetings, use lawn signs, have contact with campaign workers or
even be in the country during the election campaign! As the reader can well
imagine, things do not turn out as anticipated - the key to successful comedy.
    The other books nominated for this year's award were The Gum Thief by
former nominee Douglas Coupland; Spanish Fly by former two-time Leacock
medalist Will Ferguson; And God Created Manyberries by Ron Wood; and King John
of Canada by Scott Gardiner.
    The Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour has been awarded since 1947 as a
means to honour the dean of Canadian humourists and to perpetuate humorous
writing in Canada. Some of Canada's finest authors - Pierre Berton,
W.O. Mitchell, Mordecai Richler and Robertson Davies - have all been
recipients of the award over the past six decades. Last year's winner was CBC
broadcaster and author Stuart McLean for Secrets of the Vinyl Cafe. The award
is presented each year to the most humourous English-language book written by
a Canadian and in addition to being presented with the silver medal, the
winner also receives a $10,000 prize from TD Bank Financial Group. The Leacock
Association is also grateful to its other generous sponsors: Osprey media,
Lakehead University and Orillia's Thor Motors.
    Both the medal and the cheque will be presented to Mr. Fallis at the
annual Leacock dinner to be held June 7, 2008 at Geneva Park near Orillia,
Ontario.

Terry, all of us at Thornley Fallis and 76design are tremendously proud of you!

And now, will you please select us to be the agency that does your national book tour? :-)

Previous posts about Terry’s nomination:

Video interview with Terry about the Leacock nomination and what it means to him

Terry Fallis is nominated for the Leacock Award

UPDATE: See Terry’s acceptance speech on the Orillia Packet & Times Website. (Thanks to Michael Seaton for pointing to this.)

Freshbooks: Online delivers the results, but traditional media still bring legitimacy

The essence of the Third Tuesday gatherings are the exploration of social media capacity to build communities of interest. That can be communities that are driven by individuals. It can also be communities that grow around a company or a service.

Freshbooks is a company that has seen a sense of community grow among its users and around it. So, it’s not surprising that several of the questions from the audience to Freshbooks Michael McDerment and Saul Colt related to how they view traditional and new communications channels.

“From day one, we’ve paid for advertising,” says Freshbooks founder Michael McDerment. “Google pay per click, search engine optimization, we baked that into our marketing efforts. That’s our foundation. … Gradually, we started networking and eventually we brought on PR.”

McDerment says that most of the value of Freshbooks’ investments in PR have come from social media. Yes, they’ve been in traditional media such as the Globe and Mail, Profit Magazine, the National Post – and they expect to be in more of this. However, states McDerment, “We see more impact from a blog post than we do from the Globe and Mail.”

Saul Colt adds: “Traditional media goes a long way toward legitimizing your brand. But our core customer base is living online. … This is where a lot of our success has come from. At the same time, while I consider it “ego advertising”, features in magazines are so important for so many reasons. Besides the warm feeling you get when you buy the magazine with yourself in it, it just legitimizes everything. Because there are tons of people who aren’t in the [online] places we’re in, but could be great for us to know and be top of mind.”

McDerment agrees, “Traditional media helps us to reach other markets.” And he notes that while a blog post may have more direct impact on Freshbooks business, appearances in traditional mainstream media still matters to most people. They think, “You were in that magazine? You must be so successful.”

Other posts about Freshbooks’ Michael McDerment and Saul Colt at Third Tuesday Toronto :

A Fresh(books) approach to social media by Dave Fleet

Building a Winning Team

Your next great business idea may be staring you in the face

Freshbooks: Don’t talk about the product. Talk about what it means to people

Freshbook Execs listen and respond to customers

Building a winning team

Companies, even the ones driven by the most powerful ideas, are not the work of one person alone. Sooner or later, every entrepreneur must come to grips with the need to build a team that can build a dream into a successful reality.

Freshbooks has been on a recruiting tear lately, bringing in talent like Saul Colt , who was behind the launch of ZipCars in Canada, and Mitch Solway , the former VP of Marketing at Lavalife .

In this video clip recorded at Third Tuesday Toronto , Freshbooks founder Michael McDerment talks about the effort that should go into recruiting and hiring and the rewards from doing it right.

“We hire for fit. … You’re building a team. You want an extension of yourself and somebody you can trust has got your back. We spend an inordinate amount of time hiring. That makes some of the other things a lot easier. If you find people with shared values, who are smart people and get things done, then I don’t have to worry about it. … I’m constantly trying to put myself out of a job. My goal is to have nothing to do. Everyone else is doing stuff. Me, doing nothing. … It comes down to hiring. And if you can find people with the right fit and shared values, they will make financial decisions and others that make sense.”

Interested in more about Freshbooks’ appearance at Third Tuesday Toronto?

Dave Fleet: A Fresh(books) approach to social media

Your next great business idea may be staring you in the face

Freshbooks: Don’t talk about the product. Talk about what it means to people

Freshbook Execs listen and respond to customers

Your next great business idea may be staring you in the face

How many entrepreneurs woke up and said to themselves. Eureka! I’ve got a great idea. I’m going to set up a business so that I can spend all my time doing invoices.

The answer? None. Er. Check that. Maybe one. Michael McDerment .

Four years ago, Michael founded Freshbooks which offers small businesses online invoicing.

Look around your current business. You may find a new, better business opportunity

In this video clip from Freshbooks’ appearance at Third Tuesday Toronto, Freshbooks founder MIchael McDerment gives heart to anyone who dreams about leaving behind the sell-it-by-the-hour business model. He was running a services company and found that he needed an invoicing program. So, he built it. And that’s the foundation of what today is Freshbooks.

See other posts and videos of Freshbooks’ appearance at Third Tuesday Toronto:

Dave Fleet had a good overview of the event: A Fresh(books) approach to social media

Freshbooks: Don’t talk about the product. Talk about what it means to people

Freshbook Execs listen and respond to customers

When it comes to ethics, stand your ground

There’s been quite a debate on the Inside PR podcast about why public relations practitioners rank near the bottom of any list of trusted professions (usually right alongside lawyers and politicians.)

The discussion started with a question in episode 101 asked by Rayanne Langdon . It’s carried on over several episodes. And yes, I’ve contributed my 2 cents to it along the way .

Bottom line for me: PR should not reference the legal maxim that every person has the right to a defence in court and argue that "every client deserves public relations representation." No they don’t. Some people just do bad things. And the best public relations advice to them is to own up and make good.

There are industries that refuse to do this. They play for time, using the profits from their morally dubious activities to pave the way for them to transition their companies into other industries. Yes, I’m thinking tobacco. And I abhor the fact that we allow these companies to continue to produce something that incontestably kills people every single day. My view is that they do not deserve public relations counsel and Terry Fallis (who shares this view) and I have refused assignments from tobacco companies when they have come calling.

So, am I claiming that I have the key to good ethics. Heck no. But I like the argument that Julie Rusciolelli has advanced . Every person should be prepared to state their reasons for accepting (or not accepting) a client assignment. Not everyone may agree with the reasons. But over time we will respect people who clearly and honestly argue their positions. And we will also be able to identify and isolate the bad apples, ensuring that they don’t contaminate the entire PR industry.

OK. So that’s easy for me to say. I own my own PR company. The only person I have to answer to is myself. (Well, not quite. I actually have to answer to every employee as she/he decides every morning whether they want to work for my company. But that’s a digression.)

Rayanne Langdon, who you may recall started the Inside PR discussion, has posted a comment on Michael Allison’s post on this issue. Rayanne’s comment:

I’ve already heard stories from some of my classmates that make me cringe. But, I guess I’m the stickler for ethics–being the one who started the IPR discussion. Everyone hates me for it! Hah.

Thankfully, I don’t feel I’ve been put in any compromising situations yet, but I don’t know what I would have done if I was. As bad as it sounds, it seems almost rude to stand your ethical ground and refuse work at this point. Do you know what I mean?

I know how Rayanne feels. It’s tough to be in a situation in which you feel you are at odds with people who have some authority over you. So, here’s my advice to Rayanne and other young PR practitioners:

  • If someone asks you to do something that strikes you as ethically dubious, state your view clearly. Ask the other person to respond. Consider their response. Ask for time to think about it.
  • If you come to see the other person’s point of view, then you may find that you have learned something and you can do what they’ve requested.
  • If, on the other hand, you still feel that you cannot do what has been asked of you, stand your ground! The good people in life don’t compromise their fundamental principles. Once you start to slide, it’s hard to regain solid ground. So, don’t start.

That’s the advice I’d offer. If young PR practitioners (or anyone for that matter) follow it, I’ll respect them for it. And if the people in my firm ever find me offside with the views I’ve stated here, I hope they’ll call me out on it.

Third Tuesday Ottawa is back

We’re back. After several months hiatus (darn that burst appendix!), we’re restarting the Third Tuesday Ottawa social media meetups.

It seems that almost every day, we hear an announcement of a new social media tool, social network or open standard that the inventors tell us we soon won’t be able to live without. At this month’s Third Tuesday Ottawa, we have a panel of Colin McKay , Ryan Anderson and Brendan Hodgson to lead a discussion of which social media tools are most useful and which are just code looking for a reason to be.
So, if you’re confused by all the shiny new objects and want to know which you should use or, better yet, you want to share with others your views on which are useful and which don’t make the grade, join us at the next Third Tuesday Ottawa on May 5. (Yes, it’s a MONDAY. But that’s the day we could get the speakers and book the ClockTower.).

We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

As always, special thanks to our sponsors, CNW Group . CNW has supported us through this entire season – and their contribution has enabled us to keep Third Tuesdays as free events for the social media community.

I'm moderating a session at the CMA's Word of Mouth Conference

On June 12, I’ll be moderating a session at From Mass to Grass, the Canadian Marketing Association‘s annual Word of Mouth Conference.

From Mass to GrassThis looks to be a great day packed with some of Canada’s top experts on word of mouth marketing and social media. Sean Moffitt, the Chair of the conference has a post with a rundown of the speakers and sessions.

And if you join the From Mass to Grass Facebook Group by May 1, you will receive a $50 discount off the registration fee for the conference.

I’m looking forward to hearing and spending time with the outstanding lineup of speakers that Sean and the program committee have booked for this year’s conference. Sean tells us that the roster includes:

- Richard Bartrem, Westjet’s VP  Culture & Communications – our moning keynpote talking about “Caring Owners – Driving Word of Mouth Through Employee Empowerment and Enagagement”

- David Usher, award-winning musician and entertainment social media participant and resident expert in a segment called “Behind the Music”

- Douglas RushkoffNarrative Lab Founder, award-winning docuumentarian (“Merchants of Cool” and “The Persuaders“), author (Media Virus and Get Back in the Box) and new media expert

- Julie Cole & Tricia Mumby, Founders- Mabel’s Labels “Word of Mouth Works in the Mama Market” – and their amazing Canadian grassroots success changing the way we think about  and market to mommies

- Chris Matthews, Specialized Bikes – Vigilante Organization – Global Efforts in Building brand Awesomeness and a Sense of Brand Community – a guide for large companies on how to evoke the passion of your customer base regardless of your size

- Jim Button, VP Marketing, Big Rock Brewery – tales of great craft beer community tapping word of mouth building from its grassroots headquarters in Calgary

- Su McVey, VP, Marketing Planning, TD Bank Financial Group- changing the face on how banks market to their audiences

- Scott Brooks, Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder, ConceptShare – kickass BtB success and the power of testimonials built from of all places, Sudbury, the new hotbed for collaborative creative building

- Mike McDerment, Co-Founder and CEO, Freshbooks – an extraordinary story of a bootstrapping Canadian company turned global success that has taken the pain out of accounting and invoicing clients

- William Azaroff, VanCity – a not-for-profit example of what you can do when you say “yes we can”, the triple bottom line success of VanCity credit union and a webby award nominee sponsored social network “Change Everything”

- Deborah Kaplan, Executive Director, Zerofootprint – for those that have been sleeping, “Green is in” – learn how Zerofootprint is enabling companies to change and buzz about their green credentials

- Malcolm Roberts, President, Smith Roberts Creative Communications – the mastermind behind the United Chruch of Canada’s “Wonder Cafe” and Ontario Colleges “Obay” teaser campaign

- Ross Buchanan, Director, Molson Coors Relationship Marketing – how Canada’s iconic beer company makes successful forays into word of mouth worlds and watchouts for those who tread there too

- Dan Hunter, Partner, IMI International – yes, you can measure word of mouth and what a bounce you can get vs. the traditional stuff, Dan shows you how

- Dave Balter, President, BzzAgent – one of WOM’s pioneers demonstrates the ironclad argument for the ROI on word of mouth

A great lineup. I hope that I’ll see you there. And remember to register before May 1 to obtain the $50 discount.

Freshbooks: Don’t talk about the product. Talk about what it means to people.

Freshbooks has been very successful in establishing an online community of fans, customers and promoters. Third Tuesday Toronto moderator Michael O’Connor Clarke found 1,664 blog posts mentioning Freshbooks. He asks, how has this Toronto-based startup cultivated this level of awareness and attention?

Says Freshbooks’ Saul Colt : “We have a really good product. But we don’t push our product…. We want to tell the stories of our customers and make everything about the company compelling. … We try to push the unique values of our company, the different sort of things that we’re doing and that’s the kind of thing that gets people talking.”

“Invoicing isn’t the sexiest thing in the world. But there are amazing stories that come out of how we are saving people time, how we are making their lives easier. … We’re actually letting people do the thing that they love doing. When you were a kid, no one dreamt of doing invoices. You dreamt of being a PR person, or being a superhero or whatever. So, we’re actually letting you do that stuff and we’re saving you all this time while you’re doing it. We’re giving you your life back. We’re giving you your job back. So that you can do what you actually want to do. And that is why people talk about us, because it’s much more than just a product.”

Later in the evening, O’Connor Clarke asked Michael McDerment to tell The Triscuits story. Brief version: A resident of Fiji responded to a blog post McDerment had written about Triscuits, indicating that he can’t get Triscuits on Fiji, but that he’d love to. McDerment sent him a box of Triscuits. The fellow on Fiji wrote a blog post about McDerment’s gesture which was picked up by other bloggers – and Freshbooks ended up being talked about positively because of it.

Says McDerment, “It was born out of doing just what seemed natural. How would you like to be treated? Well, this is how.”

Adds Colt: “It’s really about being authentic. … Stories like that you do not because you’re hoping it will grow into something. You do it because it’s part of what you are. And that’s really part of the personality of Freshbooks. … And that’s also why a lot of people talk about us, because the company actually has a personality as opposed to a faceless, nameless corporation.”

Interested in reading more about what Freshbooks’ Michael McDerment and Saul Colt have to say? You may want to take a look at: Freshbook Execs listen and respond to customers .

Freshbooks execs listen and respond to customers

What’s one of the secrets to success for a startup company fine tuning its offering to respond to customer needs? At Third Tuesday Toronto , Michael McDerment and Saul Colt of Freshbooks said that the top executives of the company regularly take support calls from customers.

This was “born out of necessity,” says Freshbooks founder McDerment. “I read the first three and a half years of every support request that came through. We were a pretty small company at that time.” Now that the company is growing, new support systems are being put in place. But, McDerment insists that the involvement of senior executives in support calls “is conscious and it is something we’re going to hold on to. … Just to ground you, it’s huge. Because otherwise, you start thinking, ‘we don’t need to change the products. We just need to sell more.’ …“ I’m doing more support now than I ever used to because I’m afraid of losing that touch.”

Here’s the clip. (Yes, the lighting is bad. But the content of what Michael and Saul were saying was just so strong, I really wanted to share it. We’ll get better lighting for future Third Tuesday events.)

But execs aren’t expected to be up to speed on technical issues, are they? How does Freshbooks ensure that their execs have the technical knowledge to respond to the support calls they take? Says McDerment, “For the most part, tech support for us is answering simple questions and holding people’s hands. … We build teams … a marketing person, a development person, a management person all doing support on the same day. So they get to spend time together, communicate, collaborate, get things done, get all the answers within a team.”

Now, you may be sceptical about whether the company actually lives this every day. Well, spontaneous validation was provided by Connie Crosby , a Freshbooks client, who spoke up to offer her story about how Saul Colt had responded to her support request late on a weekend night.

Impressive.

I’ll post more Freshbooks at Third Tuesday Toronto clips over the next week.