Inside PR 2.07 – Martin has Energi & Gini gets smashed

Martin Waxman and Gini Dietrich again join me for today’s episode of Inside PR after my solo effort last week.

This week, we have a chance to ask Martin about the just-announced merger of his firm, Palette PR, with Communications MECA to form a new company Energi PR.

We also discuss the reaction to Gini’s recent blog post in which she suggested that conference speakers shouldn’t show up in jeans. Many people feel strongly about this and they express their views, not always in polite terms.

Here are the complete shownotes.

0:28 Martin opens the show.

0:42 Joe brings up the G20 Summit and Martin and Joe discuss how it’ll effect Toronto and Public Relations agencies in the Toronto financial district.

3:03 Joe explains that the G20 Summit will have a negative impact on the business community.

3:43 Joe asks Gini about her bicycle accident she had last week.

5:45 Martin tells us about Energi PR.

15:32 Martin tells us how Darryl Salnero helped with shaping Energi PR.

18:19 Joe asks Gini about a recent blog post that got a lot of feedback – both positive and negative.

28:14 Martin wraps up the show.

Thanks to Inside PR’s Producer, Yasmine Kashefi, for editing and producing the audio as well as the shownotes.

Canadian PR execs talk about why they merged their firms

Are you interested in the business of PR? Then, you’ll want to listen to this week’s Inside PR podcast.

Late last night, the news broke on Twitter that two Canadian PR agencies, Montreal-based Communications MECA and Toronto-based Palette PR, have sealed a deal to merge in a new firm, EnergiPR.

I had the good luck to be at a breakfast meeting this morning with Esther Buchsbaum and Carol Levine, the principals of MECA. They agreed to step out of the room for an interview about the merger, their motivation in doing it and how they made it happen.

By coincidence, the next edition of the Inside PR podcast was due to be published today. And both of my co-hosts, Gini Dietrich and Martin Waxman, were unable to participate in this week’s edition. So, I lucked out. At the last minute, I found the content for this week’s Inside PR – and I was able to offer the first interview with the principals in the new firm.

OK. Now, how’s this for burying the lead? The other principal in the newly merged firm is none other than the very Martin Waxman who co-hosts Inside PR.

Listen to today’s Inside PR podcast for the first news of the merger. And tune in again next week when Martin will be back behind the microphone and will add his perspective.

Thornley Fallis is looking for a Leader for our Toronto office

The recession is over. Hurrah. And our business is growing. Hurrah again.

Recessions are hard on everybody. But they can be especially tough on the leaders who have to make the decisions that affect others. It can be like carrying the burden of not only your own anxieties, but the anxieties of everyone you work with. Sometimes, you can just be so ground down by the stress and burden of carrying a team through the bad times that you feel that the only way you can get your energy back is with a complete change of scene.

That’s happened to us. The General Manager of our Toronto office was recruited away from us. We’re sorry to see her go. Not only was she very good at her job, but she was one of the nicest people you could ever want to work with and a friend. We’ll miss her.

Now we have an opening on our management team. And we need to move quickly to fill it.

We’re looking for a General Manager for our Toronto office.

Do you know this person? Or might it be you?

What does our general manager do?

Our General Manager will:

Lead a talented team of consultants whose expertise spans social media, traditional public relations, Web design and development, and advertising. You’ll ensure that they have what they need on a day by day basis to succeed and you’ll ensure that we’re delivering real results for our clients and pursuing opportunities to grow our business.

Set an example of excellence in your communications skills and personal conduct. Be a person who inspires by example.

Mentor and guide the team members. This includes developing an annual career plan with each employee and conducting progress reviews. We want our employees to grow with us. We count on our General Manager to make sure that everyone is thinking about what they want out of their professional careers and that they are working toward attaining that.

Work with our CFO to establish business targets and ensure that we achieve them. A business has to be successful in order to provide a bright future for its employees.

What kind of person are we looking for?

You have already achieved success in your career as a communicator. You have demonstrated your leadership skills through responsibility for a team and a business unit.

You are a successful consultant, having already demonstrated that you understand client needs and that you can organize a team to meet those needs and deliver creative solutions that deliver real results.

You have established relationships with senior executives who lead the communications and marketing functions in their companies. And those people want to work with you again. In fact, you’re confident that when they hear you’re working with Thornley Fallis, they’ll want to talk with you about you and your new team can help them.

You inspire loyalty. The people who work with you love working with you. They know that you care about them and that you’ll put the needs of the team ahead of your own needs.

Are you Thornley Fallis’ next Toronto General Manager?

Does it sound like a job you could excel at and that you’d be passionate about? If so, connect with me on LinkedIn or DM me on Twitter.

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.

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.

'Twas the night before the Big Pitch

Christmas in September

Christmas in September

All the plans have been hatched. The presentations prepared. The rehearsals held.

Now all we have to do is get through one more sleep to see if we’ve been very, very good or …

One of the realities of a consultant’s life is the new business pitch.

We have a really big one coming up tomorrow morning – at 8AM.

I know that many agency folk don’t like being asked for creative as part of the pitch process. I take a different approach. As long as the potential client restricts the pitch to a short list of agencies they have pre-screened, I’m keen for my team to give it our very best. How else can the potential client get a sense of our creativity and how we think? How else can they get a good sense of whether we’ll be a match for them?

As I see it, the creative pitch ensures that clients know what they are getting. In Thornley Fallis’ case, a team with a definite perspective on best practices and the standards that are established by the transparency that social media has thrust upon every organization. We’re prepared to work hard, but we won’t compromise our principles. And we get a chance to convey this when we present to potential clients.

This approach means that Thornley Fallis isn’t the right agency for every client. But for those who want advisors who will tell truth regardless of whether it’s comfortable or convenient, we fit right in.

So, tomorrow’s a big pitch day. And we really want a chance to work with this client. We’ve done everything we possibly could to prepare. So, I’m happy.

This is the way I like to feel the night before a high stakes competition. Whether we win or lose, we’ve done everything we could to prepare.

10 Questions: How did I get into PR?

As part of his One on One interview seriesfor PR in Canada, Dave Forde asked me to explain how I got into PR.

My answer: By accident.

I was studying for a Ph.D. in political science when I realized that I was not cut out to be a teacher. Nor was I likely to get one of the scarce political science teaching jobs then available at Canadian universities.

So, I found myself a job on Parliament Hill. Eventually, I moved into the role of Special Assistant to Canada’s Minister of Communications, where I handled the Minister’s relations with the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

I was fascinated by how news was gathered, reworked, and the struggle of people with facts to ensure they made it into news reports. In short, I was hooked. And my career path was determined.

You can watch my complete answer to this question this short video.

How about you? How did you decide on your career?

A progress marker on the road from the old to the new

Over the past five years, I’ve been working to move Thornley Fallis and 76design from a dying traditional PR business model to a new business model more in tune with the disintermediated world of individual voices and communities of interest. A world in which anyone with something to express can have a voice and others who share their interests can find them and develop relationships with them that transcend the restrictions of geography. In short, a world of social software, social media, communities of interest and relationship building.

squareWhat does our new business look like? Well, its draws on a broader range of skills than have traditionally been associated with PR. Yes, we start with our established understanding of communication and design as an enabler. But we add to this an understanding of sociology, group dynamics and organizational design. An understanding of search engines and always-on mobile connections. And an ability to design Web applications to enable people to do the things we are imagining.

It’s one thing to see these new opportunities. But it’s another thing to instill excitement about them in others. And it’s even tougher to get people who are successful in doing things the way they always have done them to open their minds to the likelihood that they may not be able to sustain this over the long term.

So, I was delighted to read how LeeEllen Carroll, a member of our Ottawa team with a background in traditional journalism, described Thornley Fallis and 76design in a posting on the shift+control blog.

[Thornley Fallis and 76design] help clients reach, connect with, and build and sustain positive relationships with their communities through the integrated use of on-line and off-line tactics.

We design the creative, build the innovative, and manage the complicated.

Every member of our firm believes in the power of digital engagement. Everything we do is designed to foster that. We engender mutual respect and trust between our clients and their respective stakeholders and audiences. Our clients are a mix of high-profile corporate brands, bleeding-edge startups, government and associations. For these clients, we go beyond. We don’t leave it at working for and representing them; we believe in them, we brag about them.

Our shop is dynamic, open-minded, eclectic and centrally located. Our style is fresh, friendly, professional and invigorating.

The common thread in all of our efforts is a big idea of what the conversation economy can do for our clients to solve real business challenges and create new business opportunities.

I didn’t write this. I didn’t even know about it until I read it on the blog.

So why am I delighted to read this description? Because LeeEllen has described the new kind of company that will thrive in the era of social media. In her own words. Without any prompting from me.

An organization and its culture cannot be changed by fiat. They can only be changed by common agreement among the people who populate it. To succeed, the people who work at our company must come to share our new vision and see themselves being successful through it.

LeeEllen’s description of the company tells me that the people I work with understand the changes in our business and are embracing them. We are well on our way in the transition from the old model to the new. We’re making progress. And that feels good.

Disclosure: We're on the Zoompass team

Thornley Fallis has been engaged to help EnStream launch the Zoompass mobile payment service. (Zoompass users can request and transfer money between one another directly from their smartphones. They can also transfer money directly to a prepaid touchless MasterCard to make purchases.)

zoompasslogoDuring the launch phase, Kerri Birtch (@kerribirtch), Dave Fleet (@davefleet), and I (@thornley) will be monitoring the online discussions about Zoompass and participating in them through the Zoompass Twitter ID and through posts on the Zoompass blog. We’ll be supporting Zoompass’ Vice President, Aran Hamilton (@aranh) in this effort.

It’s our hope that, working as a team, we’ll be able to be present in the conversation from early in the morning to late at night seven days a week.

If we refer to Zoompass on our own Twitter accounts, we’ll insert “(client)” into the tweet to be sure that the reader, whether they know us or not, is alerted to the fact that we have a relationship with Zoompass.

I’m really excited about being part of the launch. I’ve been playing with Zoompass for a couple months prior to the launch and I think it will add a whole new function to my cellphone.

If you are curious about Zoompass and how you could use it, click over to the Zoompass Website to sign up to try it out. And once you start to use it, follow the Zoompass Twitter stream. If you ask a question or offer a comment there, you can be sure that we’ll respond to it.

What would you charge for public relations services?

istock_000000752057xsmallI received an email  through the CCPRF Website from a new public relations practitioner asking how he should charge for his services. I’d like to share his email and my response.

The question:

I’m an up and coming media/PR consultant.  I was in the media industry for 13 years and now I’m looking to develop my own consulting business.  …

Recently, I acquired my first client.  I’ll be paid on a per project basis. The client wants me to work on a social networking website campaign I suggested.  Basically, I’ll be putting together this small business’ Facebook and Twitter pages.  I’m trying to figure out how much I can charge this business.  Should I go with a per hour rate?  If so, how much?  Or a flat rate? If so, how much?  I’m also trying to determine how long it will take to build traffic and interest to these social networking pages.  I’m guessing it’ll take 4 to 5 months for any substantial growth.  This company is looking at this campaign as a new way to attract interest to its website/store.
I’d appreciate any thoughts as to how much I can charge.

My answer:

What you charge depends on the overhead you must carry (your needs), the value to the client (what you should charge), the budget of the client (what you may only be able to charge.) Bottom line, I’d start by asking for a fee equal to what I think the project will be worth the the client based on anticipated results. Then, if they cannot afford this, you can decide whether to negotiate an acceptable fee.

Your thoughts:

How would you answer this question? What’s the right way to charge for public relations services?

Cross-posted from the CCPRF:

This is cross-posted from the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms‘ Weblog. I’m this year’s Chair of the CCPRF. And while the posts there are not as frequent as I would like, I think it’s worthwhile subscribing to it’s feed. When posts do appear, they’re usually authored by a CEO of a Canadian PR firm. It’s a unique aggregation of content.