Thanks to you many children's wishes will come true

Every November, friends and family cringe as I engage in the annual Mustaches for Kids campaign. Through Mustaches for Kids, men around the world band together to raise funds for charities such, the Make-A-Wish FoundationChildren’s Hospital of New Orleans, and San Francisco’s Legal Services for Children.

The local chapter I participate in – Mustaches for Kids Ottawa – raises funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation – which uses the money to make a sick child’s wish come true.

This year, the mustache-growing men of Ottawa raised over $32,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation. That brings our five year total to $82,000.

Several people noticed my hirsute appearance and contributed as a result. Big thanks to Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet, Guy Skipworth, Eden Spodek and Dave Hicks. Somewhere there is a sick child who feels a bit happier thanks to your generosity.

And thanks to to M4K’s Ottawa organizer Brett Tackaberry for keeping this effort growing for the past five years.

So, for now it’s back to being clean shaven. But don’t worry, I’ll give everyone reason to chuckle at me when I start the whole process over again November 1, 2010.

CCPRF Media Monitoring RFP – Where do we go now?

Last week, I wrote about the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms’ Request for Proposal (RFP) asking suppliers to put together a new, more cost effective approach to monitoring and measurement of traditional and new media channels.

ccprf-091215Well, the December 17 deadline for proposals has passed and I’m pleased to be able to say that we received submissions from several potential suppliers. I want to thank all those who showed interest and to let you know about the selection process.

A brief pause

All too often in the past, my Christmas holiday has been marred by an RFP deadline that fell in the first week of January. I don’t like it when that’s done to me. And my fellow CCPRF members didn’t want to do it to our industry partners. So, we set a pre-Christmas deadline for proposals.

Now it’s up to us to review the proposals. I’m sure you won’t be surprised that many of the CCPRF members are taking a break during the Christmas – New Years season. That means that we won’t be able to evaluate proposals until our members return in January. So, there will be a brief pause in our RFP process to enable everyone to enjoy the holiday season.

The process from here

The CCPRF is striking a subcommittee of members who will meet in early January to review the proposals in detail and then lead a discussion at our full CCPRF January meeting.

If the initial review of proposals yields a clear winner, we’ll contact the winning bidder and the unsuccessful bidders to inform them of the outcome. On the other hand, if there’s no clear winner, we may ask a subset of the bidders to meet with us via teleconference to discuss their proposals prior to determining a preferred supplier.

Bottom line: Our selection process may be wrapped up in mid-January or it could take a few weeks longer.

I’ll post further about this as we work our way through the process.

Protect yourself against online fraud during the holidays and every day

The Internet opens a world of possibility to each and everyone one of us – the possibility of finding anything we want, regardless of how obscure, the possibility of forming communities of interest with longtime friends and new acuaintances, the possibility of conducting business and shopping online. All from the comfort of our offices, our homes or anywhere that we carry a smartphone.

iStock_000003413901XSmallBut the Internet also provides a playground for those who would take advantage of our trust.

When I signed onto my online banking site this morning, I noticed a link to a “Special Holiday Alert.” The link led to a page of advice on how to avoid being duped by online scammers. As I read it, I realized that this is good advice not just for the holiday season but year round.

Good advice on staying safe online that I want to share in its entirety.

(And a hat tip to RBC for acting like a true partner with their customers. No hard sell here. Just useful information that will help us all enjoy the benefits of the Internet.)

Avoid Getting an Unwanted Surprise this Holiday Season!

It’s the holiday season, traditionally a time of celebrations, joy and goodwill. Not all holiday traditions are pleasant ones, though. Holidays are also a time when fraudsters increase their efforts to give gifts to themselves – gifts of your credit card information, your social insurance/social security number, your money and your identity.

During this holiday season, consumers need to be mindful about widespread online scams. Ensure your computer protections are up-to-date, avoid shopping on public computers such as those in internet cafes and libraries and follow these easy steps to help protect yourself:

Spoofed Shopping or Auction Websites
Always be extremely wary of anything online that looks “too good to be true”.  It’s not only during the gift giving season that fraudsters will send emails or post websites promising “amazing” discounts on luxury or everyday gifts. By trusting these offers you could end up buying items that you never receive and putting your credit card information into the hands of fraudsters. Avoid those emails and website links. Instead, independently go to any reputable company’s website. If the deals are legitimate, you will find them on that site.

Social Networking Sites’ scams
Always ensure you limit the information that you put on social networking sites and don’t automatically trust all “new friend requests” you receive. Social networking sites give fraudsters a wide audience for their scams. Some of the current trends are bogus email requests from a “friend” who is travelling and needs money wired to them for a “medical emergency” and deceptive “new friend requests” that contain links which, if you click on them, will download malicious software that will steal your personal information. Independently verify any request for “emergency funds”, i.e. don’t use the email address or phone number that you received the request from.

Email Scams

Avoid unsolicited emails that request any action on your part which involves divulging financial or other personal information or your sending money in order to receive money or goods.

Phishing emails: NO legitimate financial institution will send you a website link or phone number in an unsolicited email, asking you to confirm or enter any of your account or login information.
NO legitimate credit card company will send you a “transaction warning” with a website link or phone number, in an unsolicited email, asking you to confirm your account information.
NO legitimate financial institution will request that you send money in order to facilitate an online transfer, i.e. supposedly to bring your transfer amount up to a “minimum transfer limit”.
Even if these look convincing, these are scams. If in doubt, contact your financial institution or your credit card company using contact information that you’ve independently obtained.

Password Stealing Scams: Password theft remains a popular online scam as the financial rewards to cybercriminals can be immense. Do not click on links or attachments from unsolicited emails, to help avoid downloading password stealing software. A safeguard to follow is to always use different passwords for online bank accounts and for anything that contains your credit card number or other personal information.

Charity emails: Many of us take pleasure in giving to charitable organizations at this time of year. Be cautious of emails that appear to be from legitimate charitable organizations, but take you to fraudulent websites that will steal whatever personal or financial information you enter onto the site. Ignore these emails and independently go to the valid website for your charity of choice.

Job-related emails: During the holidays, there is also unfortunately a rise job-related email scams. Be wary of job opportunities that require initial start-up fees. Be on your guard for phony recruiters and employers that request personal or financial information prior to your commencing “employment”. Instead of a job, you may find your personal information, and your money, stolen.

Phony “Delivery Charges to Release Package” emails: Delivery Service companies do not request, via unsolicited email, payment or personal information in return for goods that are in transit or being held for you. Do not respond to these emails or click on any links within them.

Holiday-Themed emails: holiday e-cards and websites with cute holiday-themed downloads are tempting “clicks” during this season. But malicious code may be lurking behind those links. Always be careful what sites you access and what email links you click on.

rbc3dTo help stay safe online during the holiday season, be careful what you access (see “Cyber Criminals”). Use a little caution in your online activity and when in doubt, take the time to verify email requests that you receive, before you act on them.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Thanks again RBC. You earn my trust each and every day.

Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms issues Media Monitoring RFP

ccprf-091215The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms has taken a step that we think is an industry first. The CCPRF has issuedRequest for Proposals (RFP) on behalf of our members inviting suppliers to provide Canada`s PR firms with a new approach to monitoring traditional and online media.

Why have we done this?

The world of media is evolving rapidly. Where we get our information has changed. People have switched much of their attention from traditional to online and social media. This also has had significant impact on the industries that monitor where information is published and that measure its reach and impact.

For many years, we’d ask media monitoring companies to monitor media for keyworks or brand names and they would deliver sheaths of hard copy clippings and video cassette tapes (remember those?). Over time, delivery methods changed to fax transmisions, CDs ,email and password protected data archives. But the media that was being monitored remained essentially the same – print, television and radio.

Then the social media revolution hit. And it wasn’t any longer just about whether people were reading content. Social media had enabled people to comment on that content. To share it. To link to it. Suddenly, we had new actions to consider and new things to measure – influence, engagement, social graphs and velocity.

A whole new generation of services emerged. Services which don’t simply enable us to monitor, but also gave us analytic tools to understand and measure the interactions that were occurring and the communities of interest that were forming.

We find ourselves dealing with a monitoring industry that has adjusted to the new environment in different ways and at different speeds. Following what’s going on has become a complex process that can involve setting up dashboards with several different suppliers. And each provides us with a unique view of different things.

Multiple offerings. Multiple methodologies. Increased complexity. Increased cost.

Just as it has been noticed that television advertising prices have not decreased in line with the diminished audiences television delivers, the prices of some of the services we use seem to be increasing while more and more of the conversations that matter occur on media they do not track. Worse, price structures for some suppliers are confusing and vary widely between customers. In fact, it sometimes feels a bit like buying a used car. A game of chicken to see who blinks first.

So, we end up having to pay more for more services, with several of them delivering less than they used to. That’s not good for our business. That’s not good for our clients.

There has to be a better way to obtain these services. This is what we’re trying to achieve.

So, we’re asking the suppliers of both online and traditional monitoring services to propose to us how they could better meet our needs at a fair price. We’re asking them to propose the most comprehensive set of offerings they are capable of. This could include individual large companies who go it alone to monitor both online and traditional media. It also could encourage firms which offer a best in class solution in specific areas to band with others to offer a comprehensive service.

Once we have identified the best offerings, we hope that we’ll be able to compare costs in a more intelligent fashion. Ultimately, we hope to find the provider who offers us the best value.

And because we use these services on behalf of our clients, they too should benefit from the best available services offered at a fair price.

Today December 17 is the day that the bids are due. I’m not sure how many or what type of responses we will receive. But I’m hopeful that the monitoring and measurement industry will provide us with creative proposals to improve upon what we now receive.

I plan to post further about this process, how it turns out and what we learn from it.

What I want from Search: Content that's meaningful to me

GoogleAn assertion by Ravit Lichtenburg in a post on ReadWriteWeb caught my eye. “The issue Google solved so magically — content find-ability — will become all but moot in the coming years. Instead, content relevance and quality will become the key focus.”

Web Search has transformed my life. Thanks to Google, I can find content about virtually anything. I search for topics, addresses, words, people, companies. Online search is my first reference for everything.

Still, Search continues to be a blunt instrument. All too often I find myself clicking through search results to find content that is meaningful to me. What’s relevant to the vast majority of people may not be what I’m looking for.

TwitterAnd that’s where social media comes in. Through social media – blogs, Twitter, Facebook – I find and follow people whose interests intersect with mine and whose perspective I find interesting.

I’m a communicator who cares about community, communication, business, PR and marketing. And I’m Canadian. So, over time I’ve assembled lists of RSS feeds, Twitter IDs and Facebook friends that speak to these interests and place. And very often, I find myself clicking on links and reading content recommended to me by the people I follow.

Does this mean that I live in a bubble of me-too thinkers? Not at all. I don’t subscribe to people because they agree with me. I subscribe to people because they say something that provokes me to think further about a topic or opens a new perspective on it. This leads me to new things as well as new perspectives on familiar issues.

What am I looking for? Search results that are relevant to me and reflect a higher quality of thought.

What I want is a tool that brings  all three together for me. And that will do the same for you. And for everyone. To do this, it will need to recognize each of us as an individual and take into account not just what we search for but also what we’ve linked to, what we’ve commented on and what we’ve said.

Is someone out there working on this now? When, I wonder, will I see a tool that will do this?