Follow the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference

ca2009Every year in the spring, the members of the PRSA’s Counselors Academy gather in a beastly hot southern resort for the organization’s spring conference. Counselors Academy membership is restricted to principals of PR firms or senior practitioners (at least 10 years consulting experience). So, the conversation is unlike any other gathering I have found.

I’m heading to this year’s conference in Palm Springs (37 degrees today – feels blazing hot to my Canadian skin).

I’ll be tweeting the sessions, as will many other people. We’ll be using the hashtag #CA2009. So, if you’re interested in any of the presenters, search on Twitter for #CA2009.

Among the speakers who I’m looking forward to seeing and tweeting:

Archlight Pacific Theatres Cinerama DomeRobert Stephens, founder of the Geek Squad, on how Geek Squad used reputation to build a strong brand;

Steve McKee, author of When Growth Stalls, talking about how to pull your business out of its recession-induced funk;

Suzanne Bates offering advice on how to motivate people within your organization (This has to be my top priority – how to motivate people when the recession is battering them.)

David Anderson and Jason Baer leading a discussion on launching digital marketing services to extend a PR practice;

Robert Merritt leading a roundtable on how to improve and measure your level of client satisfaction;

Tom Gable talking about how we can manage for results and profits in bad times as well as good times;suzannebates

Monty Hagler and Gary Towning providing their advice on shaping an integrated program in which PR does not get pushed to the side by advertising and marketing;

Janet Tyler leading a session on how to figure out what current clients value and think of your firm and the services you provide;

Michael Lasky talking about how to negotiate client-agency contracts that will work for both sides of the deal;

Brad Schwartzberg and Mark Eber offering their advice on how to grow through mergers and acquisitions.

So, if you’re interested in any of this, you can follow the coverage by searching for #CA2009 on Twitter.

Connect2Canada: Using social media to create a community of Canadians in the United States

c2cYesterday, I introduced Connect2Canada as a case study of government making effective use of social media. Today, I’m taking a deeper look at Connect2Canada, what’s going on and the results that are being achieved.

What is it?

Connect2Canada is a network of Canadians and Friends of Canada in the United States. Its goal is to reach out to these people and make them quasi-Ambassadors for Canada.

Conect2Canada was started as a Website on July 1, 2005. The Facebook page was added in late 2008. The Twitter stream, Flickr photos and YouTube videos were added at the time of the inauguration of President Obama (Canada’s Embassy has a primo location in Washington, a great place to take videos and pictures of the inaugural parade.)

What are they achieving?

Connect2Canada’s community is growing constantly in several dimensions:

New members are signing up for email newsletters on the Connect2Canada Website.


Today, members span the United States.


The Connect2Canada Facebook page continues to attract new fan.


Connect2Canada is attracting new followers every week.


Community and Engagement

Making the flow of information two-way is a high priority for Connect2Canada. They respond to Twitter comments and email. But they also work to enable conversations among members, linking to groups around the US and promoting real life events and other networks of Canadians in the U.S.

The Connect2Canada community is highly engaged with C2C. One indicator of this: An email to C2C members from Ambassador Wilson had an open rate in excess of 50%. That’s one out of every two people who received the email opened it. I think that’s a very high rate for a broadcast email.

Resources and Champions

Connect2Canada is run by one full time staffer in the Canadian Embassy in Washington supported by part-time contributions from a few others. They rely on the Canadian Consulates throughout the United States to provide local content.

Connect2Canada had senior level champions. The social media activities were approved and supported by both the Ambassador in Washington and the Assistant Deputy Minister (North America) in Ottawa.

The importance of relevant content

The biggest lesson learned by Connect2Canada? The importance of good content. Says Eric Portelance, the Advocacy Officer at the Canadian Embassy in Washington in charge of who works on Connect2Canada, “You can have the best ideals, but if the content isn’t interesting to your target audience, they won’t come back or they won’t come at all.”

Connect2Canada asks new members to indicate their interests when they register. The people behind Connect2Canada then use this information to tailor content to the interests of members, sending them only the streams of content that match those interests.

Source material

Eric Portelance recorded a video interview with me on May 12 when he spoke at the Advanced Learning Institute‘s Conference on Social Media for Government in Ottawa. I’ve also drawn on his presentation slides as well as my Twitter notes from the conference.

You can watch my video interview with Eric Portelance on YouTube or in the player embedded below.

Connect2Canada: a community for Canadian ExPats in the United States


Here’s an example of how to use social media effectively. The Canadian Embassy in Washington is using social media to reach out to and bring together the community of Canadians in the United States.

Under the banner of Connect2Canada, the Embassy has established a Website hub, a Twitter stream, a Facebook page, podcasts, a presence on YouTube, and, of course, a traditional mailing list. They also publish stories submitted by Canadians living in the United States. And they offer a comprehensive list of Canadian Expat groups and Canada-US groups along with a calendar of upcoming events relating to Canada in the United States.

c2cConnect2Canada has drawn in more than 43,000 people who have registered, subscribed, followed or friended Connect2Canada in it’s various social media manifestations. The Website alone receives more than 7,000 unique visitors and in excess of 16,000 page views per month. That’s pretty good for an initiative that has never been advertised or promoted in mainstream media. Connect2Canada has been promoted primarily online and at face to face events.

And Connect2Canada doesn’t just broadcast information. The Embassy staff responds to comments and questions on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, the stats on unique visitors and page views were drawn from DM responses to questions I put to Connect2Canada on Twitter.

Connect2Canada. A good case study of the effective use of social media by government.

Why Communicators Must Give a Twit: IABC Golden Horseshoe PD Event


I’ll be speaking about social media next Tuesday morning at a professional development event organized by the IABC Golden Horseshoe Chapter. The Golden Horseshoe Chapter is the newest IABC chapter in Ontario. So, it should be a good opportunity for communicators from Hamilton, Halton, the Niagara Region,  Haldimand-Norfolk and Brant County to meet one another and get a sense of the benefits of an active IABC Chapter.

I’ve been asked to present a hands on demonstration of social media tools. The room will have a WiFi connection and I plan to show people how to set up persistent searches using Google Blog Search and Twitter search. I’ll also show everyone how I use Radian6 to track references to Thornley Fallis and issues relevant to us. I’ll make sure that everyone is set up with a working Twitter account, iGoogle profile and subscriptions to RSS feeds in Google Reader. That’s the nuts and bolts.

Of course, I’ll also talk about how social media should be introduced into an organization only if the culture is ready for it and if the leadership understands that the organization will be served only if the community first is served.

If you are in the Hamilton-Niagara region next Tuesday morning and want to talk about social media, why not join us at the IABC Golden Horseshoe Social Media PD Event. You can find the details on the IABC Golden Horseshoe Website and register at EventBrite to attend.

I hope to see you there.

The Ottawa Social Media Book Club

When I posted yesterday about the Third Tuesday Social Media Book Group that I’d created on Shelfari, I added a note at the end of the post indicating that we’d be having discussions of the best books on social media to the agenda at Third Tuesday social media meetups in Toronto and Ottawa.

ottawasocialmediabookclubOops. In doing this, I overlooked the fact that a Social Media Book Club already exists in Ottawa. The Ottawa Social Media Book Club is organized by Kelly Rusk and Scott Lake. Last month, the group met to discuss Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody. At their next meeting, on June 16, they’ll be discussing the book that started it all, Cluetrain Manifesto.

So, if you find yourself in or near Ottawa on June 16 and you’d like to participate in a discussion of a classic text, register to attend the Ottawa Social Media Book Club. I’m sure you’ll meet some nice folks who share your interest in social media.

The Third Tuesday Social Media Book Club

Sharing recommendations on the best books about social media

Do you read books about social media, online community, social networking and relationships and the impact of new developments on organizations, society and individuals?

Dthird_tuesday_140px_squareo you search for recommendations from others you know and trust before deciding whether to buy or read a specific book?

If so, you may want to take a look at the Third Tuesday Social Media Book Group. This is a new group I’ve started on Shelfari to enable you to share your views on books about social media, community building, social networking and online relationships, and their impact on organizations, society and the individual.

Who is this for?

Hopefully, the people who join will span a broad range of backgrounds – business people,  academics, technophiles, students – anyone interested in these topics. And the group will be richer if the members – like the Third Tuesday Social Media Meetup members – come from all walks of life – including communications, marketing, human resources, corporations, not for profits and government.

How do you participate?

I’ve seeded the group shelf with a few books I’ve recently read.

If you’re interested in participating, simply register for Shelfari and join the Third Tuesday Group and then begin to add your reviews of the books about social media that you’ve read.

shelfariWhy Shelfari?

Well, the software makes it very easy to add books, to review them, to form a group and to share with other group members. This ease of use puts the emphasis on reading and discussing. We don’t have to spend time figuring out the application. It’s intuitive and ready to use.

What’s next?

We’ll be adding Book Readings and discussions to the Third Tuesday meetups in Toronto and Ottawa. Stay tuned for more news.

Amber MacArthur and the MGI team will share video production tips at Third Tuesday Toronto

ambermacAmber MacArthur, Chris Dick and Jeff MacArthur will be our speakers at Third Tuesday Toronto on May 25. They’ll be sharing their tips on how to produce great video that people will want to watch, share – and maybe even pay for.

Amber has earned a reputation covering and commenting on tech through traditional media Citytv, CP24, and CBC, and new media. Every week she can be heard with Leo Laporte on Net@Night. Together with Chris and Jeff, she produces the CommandN video podcast. They’ve  also made online video production a successful business, MGI Media.

ThirdTuesdayTorontoAmber, Chris and Jeff will provide Third Tuesday participants with advice on how to shoot and edit video, how to create community around your videos online, and how to monetize online video.

You can register online to attend Third Tuesday Toronto with Amber, Chris and Jeff.

And as always, thanks for our sponsors, CNW Group and the Berkeley Heritage Event Venue. Their support allow us to keep Third Tuesday a free event for the community.

Be part of a crowdsourced article for Marketing Magazine

If you have a point of view on how the relationship of companies to consumers and communities has been changed by social media, I’d like to hear from you.

MarketingMag 090501Marketing Magazine has asked several Canadian bloggers to crowdsource a feature-length article for Marketing about how people are using social media to shape perceptions of companies and brands and how companies should adjust to this new reality.

I’ve agreed to participate, along with Maggie Fox, David Jones, and Duarte Da Silva. We’re being coordinated and edited by Marketing Mag’s Jeromy Lloyd and David Crow is setting up a workspace to enable us to write and edit collaboratively.

As a first step Jeromy has suggested that we look at the crises involving Motrin, Amazon and Domino’s. This should give us a starting point to identify the issues that are involved when the online world wrests control of brands from companies.

And this is where you come in. I’d like to get some input from you about what really happened and its long term significance.

To be truthful, I rarely purchase anything from Amazon and never have used Motrin (I didn’t even know what it was prior to the Twitter storm). Nor have I ever eaten anything from Domino’s. So, my perspective on #amazonfail, #motrinmoms and #dominosvideo is that of a disinterested observer. In fact, when I first saw references to each of these, I did not follow the links. I simply did not care about the brands. However, when I saw the fourth or fifth reference to each, I followed the links. And it really didn’t take more than 15 minutes of online time for me to see enough references to pique my curiosity.

My starting point on #amazonfail is that it was largely invisible to me. I buy my books at Chapters and rarely visit Amazon. Moreover, I was offline when the initial event was noted and I caught wind of it only through Twitter. The Twitter stream suggested that Amazon had done something that offended many people. However, it wasn’t clear from the Twitter stream exactly what the problem was. This goes to show a shortcoming of many tweets. They don’t provide context. Nor do those “in the know” bother to define hashtags or remind us what they stand for.

I had a similar experience with Motrin Moms. I missed the initial weekend wave of indignation. By the time I focused on it, others had already weighed in saying that Motrin had caved too quickly (largely because they were bewildered as other non-participants in social media might be), that the reaction had been driven by one perspective (that happened to be online at that time) and that as others came online a more balanced view developed.

I tweaked a bit more quickly to the Domino’s problem. One of the first Tweets I saw included a link to the video. An immediate, visceral statement of the problem: Don’t trust the food that you receive from Domino’s (or any fast food restaurant.) Here, the problem wasn’t what people were saying about the company’s actions. The problem was video evidence of behaviour on the part of employees that fulfilled our worst fears about food preparation. This was the real world realization of the whispered tale of the “secret sauce” on Big Macs.

As a non-patron of these brands, I became aware of the controversy, but not consumed by it. I did not become engaged in the conversation. However, each controversy did affect my impression of each brand.

How about you? I’d love to hear about your take on what happened here.

  • How did you find out about each of these crises? What was your reaction?
  • Were your perceptions of the brands changed?
  • What are the lessons we can learn and apply in the future?

I plan to use any comments I receive as input for the Marketing article. And hopefully, I’ll receive several comments and links that I can quote and point to in the article. If I do, you can be sure that I’ll give you full credit.

UPDATE 090512: Well, experiments are good. Sometimes they don’t take you where you expect to go. And that’s the case here. Marketing reassigned Jeromy to other stories and so this experiment in crowdsourcing an article ended. Nevertheless, I learned something. Crowdsourcing an article drawing on the time and expertise of several busy people is tough – even with social media tools. It takes more time and effort than you might expect.