Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms launches its Blog

Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms

Are you interested in knowing more about the public relations consulting industry in Canada? Then you will want to subscribe to a new blog launched by the recently formed Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms (CCPRF).

The CCPRF is the organization that represents public relations consulting firms in Canada. Its membership is restricted to the principals of the firms. So, it will be worth watching this blog to see if it develops as a place where the senior officers of its members talk about important issues facing the industry.

Disclosure: If you’ve wondered why I haven’t posted on ProPR for the past several days and if you noticed the name on the first post on the CCPRF blog …. Thornley Fallis is a member of the CCPRF and I spent my spare time the last few days finalizing the CCPRF blog and getting it up and operating. So, I’m hopeful that this new blog will in fact flourish.

Strumpette has thin skin; gives me the treatment

Chris Clarke wrote something in the Blog Herald that Strumpette didn’t like. In a post in the Blog Herald on Friday, Chris wrote,

The PR community online is still growing. According to our official scorekeeper Constantin Basturea, the community almost doubled in 2006 to 630. Terrific, right? One would hope that with more PR blogs, the industry would be increasing it’s awareness of social media. More PR bloggers means more individuals telling their friends and colleagues, “Check out my blog.” Sadly, the second most-trafficked PR blogs is the self-appointed potty-mouthed ombudswoman of the PR community, Strumpette. Even when we do good, the bad stuff seems to stand out above the rest.

Well, it seems that Strumpette, used to visiting criticism on others, has a pretty thin skin. Chris’ post is time-stamped 11:00 January 12. At 11:15, my telephone rang and the first words I heard were, “Joe, it’s Brian Connolly.” Brian wanted to complain to me about what Chris had written. You see, I’m Chris’ employer and Brian felt that I was responsible for Chris’ scepticism about the merits of Strumpette.

Brian and I had a good long conversation. He made his points. Articulately. With some passion. He argued the importance in society of dissension. I listened and did not disagree with that. But I did tell him that I have a problem with people who attack the character of others from behind a veil of anonymity.

We had a good conversation that gave me some points to consider, but that did not persuade me to endorse Strumpette’s approach.

Well, a few minutes ago, I felt the fury of a Strumpette scorned. One of the anonymous Strumpettes has just written an attack piece targeted squarely at me, my firm and our approach to social media.

None of us will find total agreement with everything we say. There is merit in thinking through and expressing ideas and having them challenged. That’s how we learn. That’s how we move forward. That’s how we grow.

Social media provides channels through which new voices may be heard. Some will be intelligent and perceptive. Some will entertain. Some will educate. Others will seek to titillate and to appeal to baser instincts.

So, I’ve just had my Strumpette moment. It’s not nice. I have some scratches.

Time to move on.

Calling all Canadian corporate bloggers

Dave FordeDave Forde is conducting a survey of Canadian corporate bloggers perceptions of blogging and how it fits into their communication and marketing strategies. He’ll be publishing the results on his blog.

The survey should take less than five minutes to complete. So, if you are a Canadian corporate blogger, please go to the survey link in Dave’s post and then watch his blog for the results.

What do you think of our "Social Media Websites?"

76designMy colleagues at 76design have launched their new Website. I think it rocks! And I hope you like it as well.

The 76design site is a companion to the Thornley Fallis site. Both sites are built around the blog and podcast content of the employees who work at the companies. This “social media design” enables visitors to learn about the companies through the blog postings of the people who work here. People like Michael O’Connor Clarke, Chris Clarke, Terry Fallis, the PR Girlz, the 76design team and me.

Thornley FallisWe designed our Websites this way because we understand that companies are in essence the people who work for them. And we want visitors to come to know us through the eyes of our people. If we are successful in creating an environment that attracts and supports creative, thoughtful people who are passionate about their work, this will show through. And we will be successful.

At least that’s our belief. And as time passes, we’ll test this belief through experience.

Please let me know what you think of our sites. Do you like the approach? Does it work? How can it be improved?

BBS: Betsy Aoki, Lawrence Liu and Josh Ledgard

The final session of the day. (Fingers, don’t fail me now!) And the crowd is thinning out. Only about half as many people as there were in the room this morning.

Microsoft and Social Media: Lessons Learned from MSDN Community Blogs and Channel 9. OK. Like most of the rest of the world, I use Microsoft software every day. (I’ve even drafted this introduction using Microsoft Live Writer at 30,000 feet on the flight from Toronto to Seattle.) They are everywhere.

And I just couldn’t resist a session in which Microsoft’s social media types – Betsy Aoki, Lawrence Liu and Josh Ledgard - talked about how they started their blogging initiatives at Msft and the lessons they learned from their experience.

Josh Ledgard said that the doors have been opened to enable customers to file bugs on Visual Studio. This has led to a better relationship with the community and to product improvements as the bugs have been dealt with.

Lawrence Liu said that a community has been established for SharePoint, maintaing contact with customers after the marketing campaign has concluded. For example, the Microsoft team drew on input from the community to produce enhanced documentation with screen shots, something which Microsoft doesn’t normally include in their documentation.

Lawrence Liu reflected on the difference between buzz and engagement. It’s possible to generate a lot of buzz, but more difficult to translate that into genuine engagement.

Betsy Aoki pointed out that the amount of blogging around Microsoft products by people who find bugs and suggest fixes and work arounds enables the company to focus their attention to other issues not fixed by the community.

Lawrence Liu indicated that he is hoping to poll community input on topics that should be covered in screencasts for SharePoint.

The panelists offered much more information that I haven’t captured. Sorry, guys, it’s been a long day and my batteries just ran down. Not it’s back to the hotel to recharge and prepare for day two.

See you tomorrow!

BBS: Ben Edwards, Nicki Dugan and Betsy Aoki

A session on Corporate Blogging Policy with Ben Edwards, Nicki Dugan and Betsy Aoki.

Given that the Thornley Fallis blogging policy is a stripped down, “Blog smart and Don’t cause harm to any person,” I figured I could pick up some useful advice about what I have been missing.

Nicki Dugan is responsible for Yahoo’s corporate blog. Similar to other companies, employees were blogging on their own for quite some time. They developed a set of guidelines to provide some indicators of acceptable behaviour for employees. Some of the main signposts:

  • If you mess up, it’s your neck
  • Remember your confidentiality agreement
  • Be respectful of your colleagues
  • Get your facts straight
  • Provide context to your arguement
  • Engage in private feedback
  • Remember that whatever you write will follow you everywhere

The publication of the guidelines provided a sense of security to the employee bloggers. They understood the parameters of acceptable blogging and they could blog without fear.

Ben Edwards of IBM runs the IBM blogging program through the department of new media communications.

The IBM guidelines encourage employees to blog. It’s in your interest to get involved and to understand what is going on in this area. And it’s in the corporation’s interest.

The guidelines were developed using a wiki with input from the company’s established bloggers. The guidelines are posted on IBM’s site.

IBM also publishes a list of its outward facing bloggers on its Web site. The bloggers listed here are writing about things related to the company’s business. Personal or hobby sites are not listed in the directory.

Ben believes that blogging is very much a minority activity within the company. A lot of people find it to be too time consuming. He views it as a very useful information sharing tool. And it provides an archive of information.

Betsy Aoki joined Microsoft in 2003. At that time, there were a number of employees already blogging. At the professiona developers conference of 2003, there were a large number of employees who wanted to blog and continued to blog after that.

Microsoft still does not have a formal blogging policy beyond “blog smart.” This was a huge leap forward in executive thinking. The company could not tell you ahead of time what the right answer was ahead of time. The company was empowering employees to think for themselves and determine what the right thing to do and say would be. This allowed the company to evolve and to be flexible. Robert Scoble was able to use this approach as a means to speak freely in his blog. This approach has had positive impact both on the company’s image and on employee morale.

Ben Edwards pointed out that “a set of guidelines won’t get you very far. It’s much more a cultural question. You are empowering employees. … The key is cultural. And that means involvement from the top.”

Betsy Aoki added that “the main reason you should be blogging is for your customers. If you want a completely scalable way to talk with your customers. …. If you can engage with your customers. Interact more with your customers. Increase the loyalty of your customers, then you should do it. … So, the real question is, do your customers want you to blog. If the answer is yes, then you should do it.”

Question: Have the internal blogs changed the relationship between senior management and the employees?  Ben Edward spoke of the large number of IBM pensioners who were upset about the handling of a pension issue. A senior IBM executive wrote a post about this which received a number of angry comments. This was healthy as it showed a willingness to open discussion.

Toronto communication executives talk social media with Shel Israel

Shel Israel wrapped up his Canadian social media tour with a breakfast session with Toronto communication executives.

‘You gain credibility for your organization by being honest about your company even when it has made a mistake.”

“Dell computer has demonstrated that a company can learn. That a company which is under attack can enter into conversation with its critics. And if it listens and is willing to respond to the feedback it receives, it will find that those people who care, those people with passion, will become engaged with the company. And the company can develop a stronger bond with those who are most passionate.”

“The power of the blogosphere is that we’re all influential.”

 How about the lawyers? “Lawyers are paid to assess risk and warn clients that this could happen. A blogger could say something to embarrass the company, reveal IP, reveal trade secrets. Yes, this might happen. But to date, with over 55 million blogs existing, there has been no lawsuit relating to leakage of IP. There has been no groundswell of consumers in arms because of something they learned about a company on an employee blog. This may happen. But it hasn’t happened yet. So, the response to the lawyers is found in a realistic assessment of the real risk.”

How does a company get above the noise level? “Write something relevant to me. You don’t need to reach everyone. You need to reach the people who care about you. So write something useful and of interest to them.”

“And understand that blogging requires patience. You must  listen over time. Understand the community. Then you must develop your own voice by posting, listening to feedback, learning and adjusting. But if you are prepared to do this over time, you will succeed.”

“One of the great benefits to a company when it allows employees to blog is that it is sending a signal that ‘We trust you.’”

Toronto social media community gathers at inaugural Third Tuesday

Over 50 Toronto area social media types gathered at The Pour House for the first Third Tuesday meetup. The room was full of bloggers and podcasters, including: Ed Lee, Michael Seaton, Chris Clarke, Josceln Smith, Mary Ellen Armstrong, Donna Papacosta, Lisa Walker, Douglas WalkerTamera Kremer, David Jones, Julie Rusciolelli, Michael O’Connor Clarke, Jeremy Wright, Leona Hobbs and Terry Fallis.

The attendees were treated to a great interactive session with Shel Israel and Canadian blogger/business journalist, Mark Evans.

Mark kicked off the session by telling the story about Shel’s previous trip to Toronto. Apparently Shel didn’t bring his passport on the trip. A problem when he reached Canadian Immigration. Undeterred, Shel produced a copy of Naked Conversations and pointed to his picture on the cover and said, “See, this is me.” Happily, the Canadina immigration officer conformed to the polite and obliging Canadian stereotype and admitted Shel on the basis of his book cover credentials!

Shel brought his passport on this trip.

Then Mark and Shel kicked into a full Monty Naked Conversation.

Mark: “So what about the next book, Global Neighbourhoods?”

Shel: “As I was sitting in Silicon Valley, which had once been seen as the centre of everything, doing interviews for Naked Conversations, I realized that a lot of what was most important was occurring on the edges. No longer was it necessary to move to Silicon Valley to be close to the action.”

Shel Israel, Terry Fallis, Donna Papacosta, Tamera Kremer Mark: “How about virtual worlds? Where does that fit into your vision of social networking?”

Shel: “There’s a line from Virginia Woolf about Truth or Illusion – how do you tell the difference? Many people are fascinated by Second World. Some people express themselves better in this kind of environment. And people should do what they feel comfortable doing.”

Mark: “I took three weeks off work this summer and read your book. ;-)  I look around me in Canada and I don’t see much corporate blogging. Is it happening in the way you expected?”

Shel: “No, the adoption is going more slowly than we thought it would. But it is accelerating. Since January of this year, it’s gone from three of the Fortune 500 companies to about 30. Corporations are doing what they do. They are being cautious and risk avoidant. They are meeting and talking about whether they should be doing it. And then they are dipping their toes into the water. Then their ankles.”

“For years, corporations have been going the other way. It takes them time to reverse course. And that’s what many of them need to do. I worked with Wells Fargo. At first, they sucked. But they got better. It took them three months. But they improved.”

Dave Forde: “Now that Robert Scoble has left Microsoft, has the tone of his blog changed?”

Shel: “Robert’s a lot happier since he left Microsoft. He’s now doing what he loves. And the passion is coming out in his blog.”

Mark: “When Scoble left Microsoft, I thought his profile might decline.”

Shel: “That didn’t happen. And the other thing that didn’t happen is that Microsoft didn’t go back to being the Borg.”

Audience Question: “Whose blogs tend to be shining examples of good corporate blogs?”

Shel: “What is really wonderful about the blogosphere is that you can go out and find the blogs that YOU like. For me, the number one issue for most corporate blogs is that they are boring as hell. If you learn anything, listen closely, because the people who talk back to you are the people who can really teach you something.”

Michael O’Connor Clarke: “Is there such a thing as a corporate blog? Companies don’t blog. People blog. “

Shel: “Microsoft broke ground by hiring Scoble knowing that he would blog when he got there. Robert was hired by people who knew that he would shake things up, that he would speak out. Maybe they didn’t know that he would speak out against Ballmer’s position on gay rights. But they didn’t do anything to him when he did speak out.”

Audience question: “How about companies that start to blog when they are in crisis cycle, such as Dell and Ford?”

Shel: “While Dell started out poorly and made some mistakes. But since they launched the blog, they’ve committed an extra $100 million to improve customer service. They handled the battery situation well. Unlike Sony, who have been quiet about the fact that it was their batteries. And who have yet to engage with consumers on the problems with their product.”

“Looking at Ford, they are a company that has done a lot of
things wrong for a long time. And a hundred blogs won’t help them.”

Mark: What’s your take on podcasts and video casts?”

Shel: “When we wrote Naked Conversations a year ago, podcasting was very small. Social media is now getting bigger than blogging itself. Some people are comfortable with text. Many corporations are more comfortable with audio and video because they have a greater sense of control. That’s great, because this will soon become much more interactive.”

Audience question: “One of the things that companies are spending money on is monitoring the conversation and identifying influencers. What do you think makes one person more influential?”

 Shel: “Four years ago, a blogger named E.A. Spouse posted about her husband’s working conditions at Electronic Arts. One of the readers was Scoble. He picked it up. It was amplified quickly and appeared in mainstream media.

“At the time of the London subway bombing, the BBC learned of the bombing from a person who captured images on his cell phone.

“Metcalfe’s law states that the network becomes more powerful the greater the number of nodes in the network. In blogging, we are the nodes.

“So, anyone who is blogging can become very influential.”

“The tipping point has been reached. Blogging is.”

Much conversing. Much networking. A GREAT way to launch Third Tuesday.

Third Monday Launches with Shel Israel

The Third Monday meet up of the Ottawa social media community kicked off with inaugural speaker Shel Israel, co-author with Robert Scoble of Naked Conversations.

 Over 35 people showed up at the event. From Ottawa and from as far away as Montreal.

Shel mixed and mingled with the participants. The room was well-seeded with bloggers and podcasters. Among them, Colin McKayBrendan Hodgson, Ian Ketcheson, Bob LeDrew, Terry Fallis, Jill Pyle and John Wiseman, John Sobol, and Jeff Parks.

Shel pointed out that the growth of blogging, MySpace and other social media provides a signpost to the future. And as the younger generation engages with social media, they will demand it of the organizations they join and the places they work.

Public relations should be about relationships with people. Social media will enable public relations practitioners to become facilitators rather than “pushers.”

Question: Should PR practitioners reach out to bloggers or should we counsel our clients to do it directly. Shel’s response: Join the conversation. If you want me to write about you, comment on my blog. Write on your own. Then I will have a relationship with you. I will be able to form judgments about you. I will know whether to trust you. And I will accord attention to you.

The key message to companies. The conversation is already going on. You are really dumb if you stay out of it.

The number one problem that people have with large organizations is that “they don’t listen.” 

The biggest mistake that companies make is that they get involved because they feel they need to. But there is no conviction. No passion. They will be seen through for this lack of authenicity.

Does blogging work for Government. Shel suggested that the purpose of govenrment is to serve a population. And the population cannot be heard over the well-financed lobbyist. Blogging and social media provides all citizens with the opportunity to have a voice. to engage in the building of community. To find other people who share common interest. To initiate the online town meeting.

The Mayor of Washington blogs. At the outset, it was programmed and sounding like a suit running for office. People reacted negatively. And he listened. And he changed his blogging style. And as he has blogged, his blog has improved. It has become more genuine. More sincerely representative of the man, not just the candidate or the politician. This is an example of a politician who “gets it.”

We want government to show that it is made up of real people who care. Not some faceless, abstract bureaucracy.

How about Lonelygirl15? Will communicators lose credibility through this type of marketing stunt? Shel: Wherever there is action, the camp followers tend to come. There are some bad people out there. Lonelygirl is a terrible story. But the weight of terrible stories vs. the everyday reality of 50 million blogs is a relatively small portion.

What feeling do you get from your audiences as you go from place to place? Are they optimistic? Pessimistic? Does it vary widely from place to place? Shel: What I find .. Estonia, Singapore, Ireland, Belgium  – I see a convergence. We are creating a culture that does not care about borders. It is connected by people who have a passsion for is something that is changing the world.

What will be interesting is what happens as culture crosses over with this technology. It gives Shel great hope. To learn that people are saying similar things, recalibrating themselves through this new media. That is inspiring.  

Can we make a living by blogging? Very few people make a good living through blogging. blogging is a conversational tool that will be used by normal people doing everyday things.

The blog is a tool. You can use hammers to build a house or bludgeon someone. The excitement is that people are going to adapt this tool to their needs. Some of them won’t be very nice. Some will try to make a quick buck. But our experience so far is showing that people will see through this and that it will not be successful in the long run.

So far, what we are seeing is mostly real people who want to talk to real people. And they are looking for authenticity and transparency.

PR Girlz join the conversation

Another blog has joined the Thornley Fallis community – PR Girlz.

Thornley FallisPublic relations is an industry that is populated predominantly by women – at this year’s PRSA Counselors Academy, one presenter suggested that approximately 70% of PR practitioners are female.

And yet, PR bloggers are overwhelmingly male.

This imbalance became the topic of conversation in our office. And it spurred several of the women in Thornley Fallis to action. They decided to launch a group blog, PR Girlz. Jennifer Nebesky, the first of the PR Girlz to post, said:

I decided to enter the world of blogging when I noticed that there were not many women in the blogosphere talking about public relations…the glorious and the not so glorious work we do. It is my mission to get the conversation about women in PR started…who knows, one day we might dominate the social media world just like we dominate the PR world – one can only dream!

Welcome to the PR Girlz. We look forward to having you as part of our community.