Inside PR tackles questions to ask before accepting a controversial client

In this week’s episode of Inside PR, Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich and I discuss how each of our companies deals with the question of whether we should take on a controversial client. And we don’t all agree.

Listen to the episode to hear us discuss this issue from several perspectives.

And tell us what approach you take at your company? Do you believe that all clients deserve public relations representation? How do you decide whether to accept a client or decline the business?

Three things every PR practitioner should know to succeed in social media

If you were asked to give public relations practitioners the three best pieces of advice about how to succeed in social media, what would you tell them?

I’ve been asked to do that at a PR Agency Bootcamp organized by the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms. I’ll be appearing with some social media-savvy panellists: Martin Waxman, Mark Evans, Michael O’Connor Clarke and Alex de Bold. So I’ll need to be on my best game in order to keep up with these folks.

As I thought through all the advice I could offer about being successful in social media, I settled on these three pieces of advice.

1)  Be a blogger.

If you don’t stand out from the crowd, you won’t have a stand-out career. You no longer are competing just with the person across town, but with people across the continent and the globe. The age of social media has made it possible for really smart and creative people to project their voice and their identity online – beyond their own local market right into yours. If you don’t raise your voice, they’ll scoop the best jobs and assignments right out from under your nose. Where will that leave you? Probably competing on cost for low value assignments and routine jobs. Competing on cost leads in only one direction – razor thin margins, working longer and longer hours, and burnout.

So, you need to stand out. And stand out in a way that will impress others who may be looking for smart, talented people.

“But,” you say, “I’m on Twitter and Facebook and I have thousands of followers and friends. That makes me stand out.” Well, maybe it makes you stand out as a well connected person and a person who likes to be part of the flow of chatter. But it does not make you stand out as a smart, thoughtful person.

Look around and you’ll realize that virtually all of the people in PR with large followings on Twitter and Facebook also have blogs in which they frequently post content into which they’ve put a lot of thought. Look at people like Steve Rubel, Mitch Joel, Shel Holtz, John Bell, Jay Baer, and Gini Dietrich. Yes, they have thousands of followers on Twitter. But they seed the conversation with intelligent, long form blog posts. That’s thought leadership. And it’s different from being a gadfly on Twitter or Facebook.

Don’t lurk in the shadows. People respect and follow those who have something original to say. There’s no excuse today for being unknown. You a unique perspective on the world. Share it.

And when you do share your perspective, put that perspective on your own place where you can develop your ideas over time. Where people can see your body of thought. Blogs are still the best place for that. You own your blog. It’s searchable. It is a platform for every type of content: text, audio, pictures and video. It’s linkable. If you have something worthwhile to say, why wouldn’t you put it on a blog?

Stand out from the crowd. Be a blogger.

2) Become the new beat.

We are in a constant search for expert opinion. Research is a neverending activity for people who need to write about a subject. So contribute to the body of knowledge.

Don’t think about yourself as someone who’s going to pitch stories to reporters. Think of yourself as a contributing member of a community of interest. Research and write as if you were a beat reporter.

Pick areas that you care about and structure your public relations practice around becoming a member of the expert community. Write about your area of expertise. Share what you know. Become recognized as someone who knows your stuff and contributes real value on an ongoing basis.

As you do this, you’ll find that you attract a following of other people who share your interest. Many of them will have blogs of their own. Some will even be reporters. And as they follow you, you’ll build credibility and trust. When you do talk about a client, you’ll be able to do this (with full disclosure, of course) to a group of people who already care about the subject area. They’ll know you and they’ll listen to you.

This is the future of public relations. Isn’t that better than building your workday around a series of cold call pitches to reporters who are little more than names on a media list?

3) Develop your own sources

There’s been a lot of talk from some people about how they stopped subscribing to RSS feeds or using their feed readers because they now get pointers to the content that matters to them through the people they follow on twitter or via Facebook status updates.

If you’re a serious professional trying to develop a reputation for expertise in an area, you absolutely need to recognize that getting your links through twitter or Facebook links means that others are making the primary judgments about what content you see and framing it in their perspective. That’s lazy and it’s also biases your own thinking. You should make up your own mind about what’s important and approach content from your own unique perspective.

I may see one thing in an article. You may see something totally different. Why? Because we are approaching that content from our own unique perspectives. So if you want to be taken seriously and if you want to be able to generate interesting, original writing, start looking at your feed reader again. Start finding and subscribing to interesting and authoritative voices and read those every day with a fresh eye to what may be in that content. That primary research will give you an advantage over everyone who is dependent upon what others may link to.

Your turn

So there it is. Three things that I would tell a PR practitioner about how to succeed in social media.

Do these make sense to you? Are there other things that you would put ahead of any of my points? Or do you think I’m just plain wrong? Let me know in a comment below this post. I’m always interested in learning from those who are prepared to consider and challenge my ideas. (Maybe that should be a separate piece of advice: Always keep an open mind.)

The way video is produced today

What does the picture to the right convey? Of course, it immediately shouts out video production. For years, we’ve seen cameras like this toted by professional news videographers. You see them at every news conference and at major events.

But that image of video production is becoming as outmoded as the image of the rotary telephone.

Take a look at this picture of Kevin Rose interviewing  Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey for his Foundation video blog.

Kevin Rose interview Jack Dorsey

The tradtional video camera is totally absent from this picture, replaced by a trio of DSLR cameras. Producing top quality video. At an affordable cost.

The future of video production is here today.

Browsing Facebook is now secure, but not in Canada

Once again, Canadians can only envy our neighbours in the United States as they enjoy a much-coveted feature that a service provider hasn’t enabled for us. In this case, secure browsing of Facebook.

Earlier today, Facebook posted that, “Starting today we’ll provide you with the ability to experience Facebook entirely over HTTPS.” The post was illustrated with a graphic showing the option in the Account Security settings:

So, I clicked over to my Facebook Account Security settings and what did I discover? Facebook browsing may be secure in the U.S., but not yet in Canada. Canadian Account Security settings still lack the Secure Browsing (https)  option:

The delay in offering this option to Canada is ironic given that Canada’s Privacy Commissioner more than anyone has been holding Facebook to account for its capricious approach to privacy. I would have thought that anything that provides greater security of personal information would be rolled out in Canada at the outset.

I’ve asked on Quora when secure Facebook browsing will be available in Canada. If you know this information, please post the answer on my question or as a comment on this post.

UPDATE: It’s now Friday, two days since Facebook announced secure browsing. I just checked my Account Security settings again. The Secure Browsing option still does not appear. Is it unreasonable to think that Facebook could roll out a basic security feature like this to all of its subscribers at once?


Thanks to the Blog Herald for pointing to the Facebook post about the new secure log in. Even if I can’t have it now, I know I want it, whenever it is turned on for Canadians.

Don't be afraid of criticism. Use it to become better.

One of the realities of social media is that people talk back. They tell you if they like what you are doing. But they are equally quick to tell you what they don’t like about what you are doing.

This can be a painful thing. Anyone who has ever performed in public – and that includes all of us who lay out our ideas on blogs and social media sites – knows the sinking feeling of starting to read a comment when someone says your performance sucked or your ideas were just plain wrong.

For many of us, our first instinct is to run from that type of commentary. We rationalize that paying attention to critics will cause us to have second thoughts, to be timid, or to pull back from taking risks in the future.

Don’t be that person. Don’t shy away from reading and taking criticism to heart.

Photo by Jeremy Lim

Listening to and embracing criticism is one of the secrets of the true high performer.

This week, I saw that graphically illustrated when C.C. Chapman came to Canada to talk about Content Rules, the book he co-authored with Ann Handley, at Third Tuesdays in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver.

I had seen C.C. present at conferences over the past couple years. He’s one of the best. And he met my expectations right from the beginning of this week.

C.C. started strong with a great presentation in Montreal. He hit all the right notes and the audience loved him. In fact, his presentation and the question-and-answer session stretched over 90 minutes before it could be brought to an end.

The next night in Toronto his performance was again strong. But there was some chatter in the back of the room as some people’s attention drifted. I wondered what was going on, why the presentation wasn’t gripping this group the way it had the previous night.

We use to host the Third Tuesday event sites. Meetup has built-in questionnaires to ask users to rate and comment on the speaker’s performance. Overwhelmingly, the comments about C.C.’s Toronto presentation were positive.  But there were some criticisms. Some people were looking for more structure in cc presentation. A few event said they hadn’t found the content they expected from C.C.

The next night we were on to Calgary. As he started his presentation, I saw that C.C. had made some changes to it. He added an introduction that provided a quick overview of the content of the book and identified some particular points that he would highlight. In effect, he provided a structure and roadmap to his presentation. It appeared to me that C.C. had read the comments and used them to refine his delivery.

Thanks to the Meetup software, we received a fresh batch of comments after the Calgary event. Again, almost all were positive. A few made suggestions about how C.C. could improve his presentation.

On the final night in Vancouver, C.C. further tightened up his presentation, focusing on a few ideas that had made the most impact on the previous nights. He had again addressed all of the critical comments that had been left on Meetup or in tweets.

I had watched this unfold during the week. But I hadn’t said anything because I thought C.C. was in full flight and he didn’t need any additional kibitzing from me. However, in the taxi after the final event was over, I asked C.C. if he was reading the comments about his presentations as we went along. For sure, he responded.

Over four days and four presentations, one of the best presenters around listened to the criticisms and embraced them. By doing this, he turned an already great presentation into a presentation that received one of the highest ratings achieved in five years of Third Tuesdays.

That’s how C.C. has become a great presenter. Never get mad. Never run away from criticism. Grab it. Use it. That’s how it’s done. That’s something we should all do. In our presentations. In what we write. In our jobs. All the time.

Content Rules in Calgary: The Taxi Interview

If this is Thursday morning, it must be Calgary. And we must be on our way to Vancouver.

C.C. Chapman has how done three of his four Third Tuesday Content Rules events – in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary. One more to come tonight in Vancouver.

In the taxi on our way to the Calgary Airport for our flight to Vancouver, C.C. talked with me about his impressions of Canada and the people he’s been meeting.

Nice words about Canada by one heck of a nice guy.

Inside PR: Do you provide references?

In this week’s episode of Inside PR, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I discuss how we, as employers, tackle the challenge of providing references for former employees.

It seems to me that this is one of those areas in which legal liability forces us into a situation in which we are constrained in what we can do. That leads to conflicting impulses and emotions. We want to do the right thing. But are we allowed to?

Listen to this week’s episode to hear Martin, Gini and I discuss how we try to deal with this struggle. None of us claims to have the right answer, but we all think it’s something that we must come to grips with.

Would you?

If you are an employer, do you provide references for past employees? If you do, what practices and standards do you apply to ensure that you are fair and consistent? When you are hiring, do you rely on references?

If you are an employee, do you expect your employee to provide a reference for you?

Content Rules in Montreal

C.C. Chapman started his Third Tuesday Content Rules tour in Montreal last night. And it was a great start to what looks like it’s going to be a fantastic week of discussion about how to create content that breaks through the clutter.

C.C. really gave generously of what he knew. He was on his feet for almost 90 minutes. To the end, people were asking questions and keeping the discussion going. It was a great night.

Christian Aubry captured the whole presentation on video. So, if you want to get a taste of C.C.’s presentation or even watch the whole thing (just don’t let your boss catch you watching a 90 minute presentation at work), you can. Just click below to watch it. (If you don’t speak French, fast forward to 2 minutes 51 seconds. From there on, it’s all in English.)

Thanks to Christian Aubry for recording this video, to Mitch Joel for introducing C.C., to Michelle Sullivan and her entire third Tuesday team, to our local sponsors, energiPR, HKDP, Thornley Fallis. You made last night possible. And thanks to our national sponsors, CNW Group, Rogers Communications, Radian6, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. because of you, we are able to bring great speakers to communities across Canada. Thanks to you we all get to share in the discussion.

Help make sure Content Rules in Canada this week

If you create content – a blog, video, a podcast, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed – any kind of online content, the new book Content Rules will give you insight and practical advice you can use to make your content even better, even more engaging for your audience.

C.C. Chapman, co-author with Ann Handley of Content Rules, is arriving in Canada this morning to speak at Third Tuesday social media meetups across the country. He’ll be talking in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver about how to make great content that builds and serves your community.

As C.C. works his way across the country in the middle of a Canadian winter, I think it would be a great welcoming gesture if we could …

make Content Rules the number one book on the Canadian business bestseller lists this week.

You can help make this happen. Here’s what you can do:

Get the Book

Between now and Friday, get a copy of Content Rules. If enough of us buy the book this week, I think we can push Content Rules to the top of the business best seller list.

I bought my copy as an eBook from Kobo. Instant satisfaction! If you are a fan of traditional hard copy books, you can get Content Rules from Chapters.

Spread the word

Link to this post in a Tweet or a Facebook status update

Leave a comment on this post telling us when and where you bought your copy of the book. Tweet that too.

Tweet or post a Facebook status update quoting your favourite passage from the book

Use the Hashtag

The hashtag for the book is #ContentRules.

I’ll set up a feed for the hashtag #ContentRules and capture your tweets for C.C. and Ann to read (I’m sure they’ll want to thank you) and for a wrap up post following the week.

With your help, we can make sure that Content Rules in Canada this week.