It's HOW you play the game that matters

When Terry Fallis and I founded Thornley Fallis, we were two guys working on folding banquet tables in borrowed space. And we set out to create the kind of company that we’d really like to work at. A place that reflected our values.

Well, it’s 16 years later – and I just had one of those “back to the future” moments.

I was part of a team pitching a potential new client. We really wanted the business. But we also saw that there were problems with the way the potential client had spec-ed the Request for Proposal. So we proposed an approach that we thought was right for them. And it didn’t match 100% the things they had said they were looking for in the RFP. The senior officer at the table called us out on this and we had a good discussion about why we had proposed the approach we had. A really good discussion. At the end of it, he said our approach would make demands on his organization that he wasn’t sure they were ready for. He didn’t say that we weren’t going to be selected. But he did give us an honest response to our honest advice.

And then it happened. The other client representative in the room leaned forward and told us that he recalled reading our founding principles many years ago (when he worked for us; yes, it’s a small world.) He remembered that one of our founding principles was: “Give the client the advice they need, not the advice they want to hear.”

Whuff! One of those moments that remind you it’s about walking the talk. Doing what you say you want to do.

I’d love to win the account. I don’t know if we will. But I do know this: You have to really believe that it’s HOW you play the game that matters. Be true to your principles and have faith that you’ll get your fair share of wins in the long run.

Terry Fallis: a social media / publishing Cinderella story

Yesterday, Terry Fallis‘ first novel, The Best Laid Plans was selected as the essential Canadian novel of the decade in the Canada Reads competition.

This is just one more step in what already has been a remarkable journey:

  • Canadian PR exec feels he has a novel in him,
  • writes the novel in his spare time,
  • searches with no success for an agent or a publisher,
  • self publishes his novel,
  • sets up a blog,
  • reads the novel chapter by chapter in a podcast,
  • builds a fan base of people who read and love the novel,
  • gets noticed by the Leacock Medal Committee,
  • is shortlisted for the Leacock Medal,
  • wins the Leacock Medal as Canada’s top humorous novel,
  • gets a big time literary agent,
  • gets a publishing deal with prestigious McLelland and Stewart,
  • writes a second novel,
  • has both novels on the bestseller list,
  • is nominated to the 10th Anniversary Canada Reads search for the essential Canadian novel of the past decade,
  • is shortlisted for the Canada Reads award,
  • is selected as THE essential Canadian novel by the Canada Reads panel of celebrity judges…

Talk about a Cinderella story!

And what did Terry do immediately after learning that he’d won the Canada Reads competition? Well, he came to work. Talent, celebrity and still has his feet on the ground.

Happily for me, Terry’s workplace is Thornley Fallis. And our Mike Edgell grabbed him long enough to record this video interview. Watch it to see how one of the nicest guys around reacts when he discovers all of his dreams are coming true.

Other posts about Terry Fallis’ journey into Canadian publishing fame

Terry Fallis won the Leacock Medal!

Terry Fallis talks about what it meant to be shortlisted for the Leacock Medal

The Best Laid Plans joins some impressive company

Promoting a Book with Social Media

Taking The High Road with Terry Fallis

Social Mediators: It's SNO-ing Shiny New Objects

Never say never. It’s been a long time coming. But the Social Mediators video podcast has restarted after a lengthy hiatus.

Terry Fallis and I are both back. We joined by two newcomers to Social Mediators – Sean Howard and Eric Portelance – and we’re missing one. During the hiatus, Dave Fleet left us. But we’re hoping that he feels welcome to join us whenever he can make it to the “studio” for a recording session.

Why has it been so long between episodes? Because video requires much more concentrated effort to produce than do other media. Not only do we need to agree on the content, but we must gather everyone in one place at one time. Not an easy task when you’re asking people to take time away from their day jobs to participate in what is essentially a hobby.

But we’re back and committed to make it a weekly date.

In this first episode of the New Year, Eric, Terry and I talk about the Shiny New Objects that we spent our time with over the Christmas break: KoboDiigoFlipboardPulseReeder,Reader and, of course, Tablets.

Meet Terry Fallis on the eve of the Canada Reads Short List

Next week, we’re holding an event in Ottawa to celebrate the journey of Terry Fallis from “guy like me” to celebrated author.

It’s a remarkable story. An aspiring author writes a comic novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then seeks a publisher. The response: rejection after rejection. But he doesn’t give up. He decides to self-publish his novel. So far, this is a familiar story. But this one has a twist.

This novelist is Terry Fallis. The time is 2007, the early days of social media. And Terry’s an early adopter of social media, with a podcast, a blog and 20 years experience in communications. And he decides to bring his two passions – communications and writing – to promote his book.

He decides to create a podcast in which he will read a chapter of the novel each week. He creates a blog to host the podcast and he makes sure it’s available on iTunes.

The Best Laid Plans

Then the power of social media kicks in. Terry’s novel finds an audience. They talk to him and he talks back. They celebrate what he’s doing with his podcasting his novel. And it helps that his novel, the best laid plans, is a great read.

Others notice what’s going on. They read his novel and they think it’s good. And one morning Terry wakes up and discovers he’s been nominated for the Leacock Medal recognizing the best Canadian humorous novel of the year. A couple months later it gets even better: Terry wins the Leacock medal.The Best Laid plans is recognized as Canada’s top humorous novel of 2008.

Success builds on success. Having opened the door through social media, the critical acclaim and recognition of the Leacock medal leads to traditional success. He is taken on by one of Canada’s most highly regarded literary agents, Beverly Slopen, and she lands a traditional publishing deal for Terry with McClelland & Stewart.

Terry is having the time of his life doing what he loves to do. He has written a second novel, The High Road. And it may be better than his first.

But The Best Laid Plans isn’t finished with Terry yet….

Every year, CBC stages Canada Reads, an annual literature competition between books chosen by Canadian celebrities. This year, they’re doing something special. They’re asking Canadians to help select the Essential Novels of the decade. And guess what? The Best Laid Plans was nominated by Canadians to be on the list of the Top 40 essential novels of the decade. Then, through an online vote, it was selected as one of the TOP TEN essential novels. Now, we’re waiting for November 24, the day that the TOP FIVE essential novels of the decade are announced.

An invitation to attend

On November 23, the evening before that short list is announced, Terry will be coming to Ottawa to celebrate Canadian publishing and to talk about how an unknown author can make an impact in the era of social media.

You can meet Terry and you can be part of this event. if you’d like to attend and meet Terry, register online at the Third Tuesday Ottawa website. Come join us to celebrate Canadian publishing, creativity, and the power of social media.

Thanks to our sponsors

Okay, I’ll be honest. Thornley Fallis is throwing this party for our co-founder and friend, Terry Fallis. But we also wanted to reach out to the Third Tuesday social media community, a group that Terry co-founded in 2006. Third Tuesday is important to Terry and we want to share this celebration with you. And we wouldn’t have been able to sustain this community without the support of our sponsors: CNW Group, Radian6, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and Rogers Communications. Thank you for helping us build and sustain our social media community, not just in Ottawa, but in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver as well.

Social Mediators 9: Promoting a book with social media

Recently, Terry Fallis found both of his novels – the Leacock Award winning The Best Laid Plans and the soon to be published The High Road – in the top five of the iTunes Literature podcasts. In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Dave Fleet and I talk with Terry about how he and his publisher, McClelland & Stewart, are using social media to find and cultivate a fan base for Terry’s novels.

Also up for discussion this week: Social media adoption still isn’t universal among communicators.

Do you think social media is just a niche expertise or should it be a core skill set for all professional communicators?

Social Mediators 8 – What do you want from a conference?

It’s conference season. And we’ve all gone to conferences that we loved – and conferences that we hated.

In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I discuss what makes a good conference experience – and what can ruin a conference.

One good idea and I’m happy

I don’t just attend conferences because I love Las Vegas hotels (I don’t) or seaside resorts (I do.) I take time out of our schedules for much more practical and worthwhile reasons. I want to hear from leading edge thinkers and network with others who share common interests.

I’m happy if one simple need is met: I want at least one good new idea from each speaker. If I get that, the conference is worthwhile. If not, I’ll exercise the law of two feet and head out to do some work.

So, I’m easy to please. Give me great content and I’m a happy camper.

My personal hit list

Now to the other side. Things that detract from the conference experience. As a frequent conference attendee, there are some things that really bug me.

1) The conference within a conference. By invitation-only dinners and get aways for speakers and sponsors that are obvious to paying participants. We pay good money for a conference. We don’t want to feel like second class participants.

2) The conference with an unstated agenda. The worst of these are conferences that bring business together with government. You can get the feeling that you’re merely a prop in someone else’s GR campaign.

3) Panellists who think that they’ve given value merely by showing up. Conferences like SxSW which use a panel picker have seen a real slide in the quality of many panels, as a noticeable number of panelists seem to place their greatest effort into campaigning to be selected, not in preparing their presentations.

4) The biggest annoyance of all: Product pitches from sponsors who become speakers. When I speak, I rarely mention my company name. I’m there to educate, not to do a product pitch from the stage. And I don’t expect others to abuse their time on the stage.

And what about you?

What makes a conference a good experience for you?

What are the things that detract from the conference-going experience?

Social Mediators 5 – Jeremy Wright and SxSW

It’s only episode 5 and already we’ve broken the Social Mediators mold. Neither Dave Fleet nor I could be part of this week’s session. So, Terry Fallis recruited Jeremy Wright to stand in for both of us.

In this week’s episode, Jeremy talks with Terry about the South by SouthWest Interactive conference (SxSW) in Austin and what has drawn Jeremy to attend 7 times in the past 10 years. And for Jeremy, it’s the open culture of the conference – the friendliness of people and the fact that the meetings and encounters in the hallways can be much better than what takes place in the formal sessions.

You’ll hear them talk about the fact that I too would be at SxSW. Well, it didn’t happen. The night before I was supposed to leave, I spilled a glass of wine on my computer and I had to head home to Ottawa to meet the “man from Dell.” He showed up in my office Friday with a new mother board, touchpad, screen and keyboard (yes, the Complete Care insurance was worth every penny I paid for it.) But if you’ve ever tried to get a last minute flight to Austin during SxSW, you’d know why I never made it there. Having missed my originally scheduled flight, I was out of luck.

One more thing. A big thank you to Mike Edgell for recording and editing this week’s episode. Although he’s on the road the entire week for a video shoot, Mike found the extra time to produce Social Mediators. Thanks Mike for service above and beyond.

Social Mediators 4 – Social Media in Government and Automated Sentiment Analysis

In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I talk about government and social media as well as the measurement of sentiment in social media.

Terry suggests that government departments seem to be lagging government agencies, with their narrower focus and specific mandates. Government has found it difficult to leave shed the command and control approach to management. And this holds them back from engaging in the give and take of social media. Dave offers, “Social media is really built on trust and that’s something that is lacking in government.” Terry adds, “Government often moves in geological time and it’s hard to move into social media in that environment.”

We also talk about machine measurement of sentiment in social media. Dave feels that the tools aren’t up to scratch. He offers props to the approach taken by Radian6, who offer automated sentiment measurement, but counsel that it’s just a starting point and that most organizations will want to add a layer of human review to any critical analyses.

We conclude the episode with the idea of running a comparative test of the automated sentiment solutions offered by Radian6 and Sysomos.

Organizations and people mentioned in this episode:

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner

The Ombudsman of Ontario

Parks Canada

Genome Alberta and Mike Spears

Nick Charney

Ralph Mercer

Advanced Learning Institute‘s Conference on Social Media in Government



Social Mediators 2 – Are you always one of us?

In this week’s Social Mediators, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I talk about corporate online communications polices and then delve into the case of the Toronto Transit Commission’s handling of their social media crisis.

Following my post of the new Thornley Fallis Online Communcations Policy, I received an unusual spike of traffic on ProPR. Over 1,300 pageviews on a Sunday, which is normally my lowest traffic day, followed by an increase the next day to over 1,500 pageviews. This, compared to the couple hundred pageviews on an average day. When I checked my Google Analytics, I saw the source of the traffic: MetaFilter. My post was the subject of a pretty heated discussion, focusing especially on my admonition to employees to be mindful that

Each of us represents the company to the world and the character of the company is defined by our beliefs and actions. We must be mindful of this when participating in social media and any kind of online communications.
You may be active in social media on your own account. That’s good. But please remember that whether you are on your own time or company time, you’re still a member of our team. And the judgment you exercise on your own time reflects on the judgment you exercise at work. There’s only one you – at play and at work.

Terry and Dave weigh in with their own view about this in our Social Mediators discussion. Dave suggests that guidelines and policies need to be closely tied to the prevailing company culture. He likens social media guidelines to a “safety net.” Terry suggest that it goes both ways. If you do something that reflects negatively upon your employer, it most likely also reflects negatively on you as an individual. “Once something bad happens”, adds Dave, “it’s like the toothpaste is already out of the tube.”

The TTC found itself facing a series of citizen criticism that started with a picture of a subway ticket taker asleep on the job and a bud driver who stopped his bus mid-trip for a coffee break. Management sent an email to employees suggesting  that “you and you alone are responsible for your actions” and the employees fired back at the public. The damage has been done. We discuss whether it’s too late for the TTC to recover.

With logo


Sites referred to in this episode:

Marketers Miss the Mark with Twitter, Mitch Joel

TTC Staffer caught apparently sleeping on job, National Post

Alleged TTC napper under investigation, National Post

TTC union shocked at uncaring response of riders to “sleeping” staffer, National Post

Second photo emerges of another alleged TTC napper, National Post

About Social Mediators

Each week, Joseph ThornleyTerry Fallis and Dave Fleet talk about social media, ubiquitous connectivity and their impact on communication, organizations and society.

Future episodes will be published on and on Social Mediators.

Social Mediators Video Podcast launches

Today, we’re launching Social Mediators, our new video podcast.

Each week, Terry Fallis, Dave Fleet and I will talk about social media, ubiquitous connectivity and their impact on communication, organizations and society. We’re always on, always connected. How are we taking advantage of the new capablities that gives us? And how is that affecting the way we relate to one another and how we organize around common interests? Finally, what does that mean for traditional organizations – companies, cause-based groups and government?

In this first episode, we talk about the concept of personal brand. Terry, David and I will be serving as mentors at the upcoming Personal Brand Camp 2 that Michael Cayley is organizing for the Humber College social media students. So, we talk about some of the issues relating to personal branding and our concern that young people not build an artificial brand online, but instead make sure that their personal brand reflects the same person they’d see when they look in the mirror – their real self.

We also talk about how Thornley Fallis’ new Online Communications Policy guides our employees to understand that what they do in their private online spaces reflects on the judgment they exercise in the workplace and, by extension, on the company.

You can watch the podcast here or subscribe to the RSS feed directly on the Social Mediators Website.

After you’ve watched the episode, please leave a comment. Let me know what you think of it. What topics would you like us to cover in the future? What guests would you like us to interview?

You can leave a written comment below or a webcam comment on the Social Mediators video blog.