Thornley Fallis is partnering with Gini Dietrich and Arment Dietrich

Today is a big day for me and the team at Thornley Fallis. We announced a partnership with Gini Dietrich and her team at Arment Dietrich.

I’ve known and collaborated with Gini Dietrich for over two years. Every week, we’ve come together to co-host the Inside PR podcast with Martin Waxman (Martin joined Thornley Fallis in 2011). We’ve attended conferences together. Developed ideas together. Shared insight into the direction and opportunities for each of our businesses. We’ve talked extensively about the changes in the communications business brought about by the social media revolution. And we’ve discovered that we share a similar vision for the future of communications: the continuing revolution of the relationship between consumers and companies, citizens and governments, you and me.

During that time, we’ve transformed our companies from traditional communications consulting organizations to focus on the expertise that is most important in the connected era, the time when we all have voices, can find and share with our communities of interest, and in which we become both the media and the trusted advisors to one another.

Gini has positioned Arment Dietrich as a thought leader in social and digital media. She has built an industry leading platform for these views in Spin Sucks, her widely-read blog. And she adding to that Spin Sucks Pro (in Beta), a resource for senior business executives who want to understand and participate in the new media. In the process, Gini has become an acknowledged expert in content marketing. She’s used it to build her own company and she uses that same expertise for her clients. She also found the time to capture her ideas in Marketing in the Round, the just-published book she co-authored with Geoff Livingston.

Thornley Fallis also has come a long way since its founding in 1995 as a traditional corporate PR company. Today, we are focused on the expertise necessary to engage with the public through traditional and digital media. We offer design to deliver remarkable experiences, produce video to create the ultimate social objects, build audiences and communities through content marketing, earn media through public relations, and build relationships and trust through social media. But these tactics must work together. So we develop strategies to marshall them into a coherent whole and then constantly measure and refine.

Given all this, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’ve decided to bring our firms together so that we can offer our collective expertise to our clients.

That’s a big move. And it promises a much brighter future for our teams. New combinations of expertise. New clients. New opportunities. I’ll continue to write about my journey and experiences on this blog and we’ll also share our collective insight on the Thornley Fallis Blog and Spin Sucks. I hope you’ll join us for the journey.


I'm going to be working with Martin Waxman!

Big news today. After collaborating for years as podcasters, bloggers and just good friends, Martin Waxman and I are going to be working together. Martin is going to be a Senior Counselor to Thornley Fallis and our clients. And, of course, his focus will be social media.

It turns out we’re both in Orlando today at the PRSA International Conference where we’re recording Inside PR podcast episodes with Gini Dietrich. So, as we were waiting for our next guest to arrive, Martin and I had a chance to talk about what we’re doing. We recorded a video of it to upload to our blogs because that’s the way we’re announcing it. On social media.

Martin also has posted about this move on

Martin has his first client meeting with us this Friday. Making a good week a great week.

It happened again: This time a gold award from the CPRS

Last week I wrote about the excitement of watching the Thornley Fallis and 76design team’s creativity and hard work being recognized at the IABC Toronto Ovation Awards.

Well, it happened again. One of the programs we did with Allstate CanadaDriven to Distraction – won a Gold award at the Canadian Public Relations Society’s national awards ceremony. And our work with RBC on the “RBC Student Fall Banking Program Goes Digital” picked up a Bronze award.

Another great night. A night when we celebrate the talented team members who gave their very best to make our clients winners.

Thank you to all the Thornley Fallis team members for your great work. You make me proud to count myself one of you.

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.

The IABC Toronto Awards: It was the best of nights

IABC Ovation Awards 2011

Last night, IABC Toronto held their Ovation Awards gala. It was a night to celebrate the best communications work of the past year and the people behind it.

It was one of those nights that I wish could come more often. I was incredibly proud of the people that I work with – and for – as Thornley Fallis participated in an armload of awards. Knowing that we were up for these awards, we brought two tables of the people from our company who worked on the nominated projects and the clients for whom we done the work. And I have to say that the sheer joy with which everyone greeted being recognized by their peers for outstanding work was truly special.

During the course of the evening, I saw smiles bloom on the faces around me and I got to see great practitioners and coworkers like Jennifer Gordon, Jennifer Fox, Sean Howard, Andrea Ong Pietkiewicz, Mike Edgell, and Jo Langham get their chance to walk across the stage and be recognized for the quality of their work.

It was also a great opportunity for us to enjoy an evening in the company of the great clients who allowed us to do this work with them. We consider ourselves fortunate to work for blue-chip clients like RBC, Allstate, and Rogers Communications. Thank you to Amy Woods and her colleagues at Allstate, Keith McArthur and his team at Rogers communications, and Jill Quinn, Michelle Savoie and Kate Yurincich from RBC. You gave us your confidence and we were able to give you our best work.

During the evening, the Thornley Fallis team was part of these award-winning projects:

You can follow the links above to see this work or case studies about it.

All in all, I night to remember, a night to celebrate. Thank you to the IABC Toronto chapter for sponsoring these awards. Thank you to the people I work with in the clients we work for for giving me a chance to be part of something great.


A New President for Thornley Fallis & 76design

Thornley Fallis and 76design have a new President: Keelan Green.

Keelan joined Thornley Fallis in 2002, just as the bottom was falling out of the tech industry. That was a tough time for the company. We shared our tech clients’ pain. And it put great demands and strain on our team.  This was when Keelan first showed his mettle. If a client needed a tight turnaround on something for Monday morning, Keelan could be counted on the pitch in over the weekend. If a piece of work was good, he’d look at it and make the changes necessary for it to be great work. Keelan always looked beyond the process of the work to focus on the results. And clients loved him. They came to the firm to work with him and they stayed for more.

It wasn’t just our clients who gravitated to Keelan. Even before he was appointed to a leadership position, other Thornley Fallis and 76design team members began to gather around him. After all, in a storm, you follow the person who you believe has a plan and the ability to get you home safely. That was Keelan from the start.

As time passed, we promoted Keelan through several positions. In every position, he excelled. As an Account Manager for some of our most important clients. As an Account Director and then as Vice President. And ultimately as Vice President and General Manager of the Ottawa offices of both Thornley Fallis and 76design.

In 2008, the economy entered recession. Keelan dug deep and brought our Ottawa office through the downturn with a minimum of bruises. As the economic free-fall ended and we hit the bottom of the cycle, he looked ahead and began to plan for the recovery. As a result of this leadership, our Ottawa office emerged from the recession stronger than it had entered it, with an expanded set of services and a larger client base. Growing out of a recession. It’s something we all want to do. It’s not easily done.

Now I’m asking Keelan to provide this type of leadership to the entire company. I’m delighted that he’s accepted the challenge. And I’m looking forward to working with him as he conquers new challenges and leads Thornley Fallis and 76design on to ever better things.

Finally, this is the kind of announcement I really love to make. Not just because it’s a good news announcement. But because it signals that we are being the kind of company we aspire to be – a company that attracts the very best people and then provides them with opportunities to grow personally and create a job they can truly be passionate about. Keelan’s growth and success with Thornley Fallis and 76design is a brilliant example of this vision in action.

So, this is a great day for our company. A step ahead for Keelan Green and a chance to celebrate our values.

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.

The New PR

Last week, Jeremy Wright joined our team at Thornley Fallis & 76 design.  Since then, several friends have asked me how we were able to attract Jeremy to join a public relations agency.

It’s the new PR.

For several years, we have been moving Thornley Fallis beyond old style public relations to understand and participate in the new communications, communities, and social relationships that universal search, social media and ubiquitous online access have made possible.

This new public relations is grounded in anthropology, sociology, and technology.

The new public relations is about understanding relationships between people, what people want and need from these relationships, and how they form, sustain, and use communities of interest.

We don’t see people as target audiences.  We see people through the lense of communities.  And we participate in those communities. We earn our place by understanding the dynamics of the communities and adding value.  We add value by helping those communities to function better and by contributing unique and new content to the conversation.

We still draw on our ability to write clearly, an understanding of what people are interested in, and a knowledge of traditional media and how they work. (They haven’t turned off the lights at traditional media yet – and I don’t think they will in my lifetime.)

However, these traditional skills now must be supplemented by other expertise.  An understanding of community formation.  What makes people seek out one another?  What makes a community grow? What makes it die? What is the impact of the removal of barriers to collective action online? How far can we push social media’s ability to transcend the limitations of geographic proximity and bring people together in one conversation, regardless of where they are in the world? What of the new online intimacy? How do we revise our notions of privacy in this era? How do we help people satisfy their desire to extend their online relationships with real world relationships?

Public relations practitioners must also know how to create the new meeting places.  As the ties that bind us to traditional media break down, people find new ways to discover the information they need and to share it with others.  The combination of search with social software provides us all with the power to do this.  But some solutions are better than others.  The new public relations practitioner must know what makes a social platform work and how to improve on what is already there.

Measurement is essential to understand what is going on and the impact of what we do. Old yardsticks are inadequate to gauge the new dynamics. GRP’s, impressions, reach – these are the metrics of a bygone era.  We must develop and apply new metrics for engagement, momentum, influence and the growth, depth and characteristics of our social graphs.

New possibilities, new tools, new channels.  All call for new people with new expertise.

The new public relations agency is a hybrid that draws on new areas of expertise and skill sets.  We’ve been trying to create this kind of agency at Thornley Fallis and 76 design. More than anything, I think it’s the thrill of participating in that innovation and invention that brought Jeremy Wright to us.

Of course,we’re not the only firm doing this. We know that several other firms are heading down this route. Firms like Shift, Voce, Edelman.

Bottom line: For those who think of public relations as they might have even five years ago, please take another look. You’ll find something quite different under the hood at the thought- leading public relations firms.

This isn’t your parents’ public relations.

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.

Dell and Me

100 computers later

I’ve just received my 100th Dell computer. That’s 100 Dell computers that I’ve ordered for Thornley Fallis and 76design since 1997.

And what a difference there is between the first computer I ordered and the most recent one.

Dell's Website in 1996The first Dell that I ordered on April 1, 1997 was a Dimension XPS Pro 200n. It had a 200 MHz Pentium Pro processor, a 4.3GB hard drive, a 15″ CRT monitor and cost $5,525.

I thought it was blazing fast.

The most recent Dell I received is a Precision T5400 workstation. It’s powered by two 3GHz Xeon processors, has twin 750GB hard drives configured in RAID 0, a 30″ LCD monitor and cost $5,249.

A lot more machine for the same money.

Why Dell?

100 computers ordered from the same supplier over 11 years. Why have I been so loyal to Dell?

Dell wasn’t the first computer I purchased when I set up Thornley Fallis. In fact, I bought another brand name notebook computer from my local CompuSmart computer superstore. And it was a nice machine – until it stopped working. That was the point at which I found myself lined up at the door of CompuSmart at opening time on a Friday morning in the hope that the repair department could fix my machine in time for me to deliver on an end of day commitment to a client. I sat in the service department for virtually the entire day until the tech told me that he was going off shift and I would have to return on Saturday.

No computer. Disappointed client. Big lesson about the importance of service.

So, I ordered my next computer from Dell. Not only was I able to configure the computer to meet my exact needs, but it also came with 24 hours 7 days a week telephone support. Support from trained support people who would stay on the phone with me until I fixed the problem. And if new hardware was required, next day onsite replacement.

At 2AM in the morning, it really matters that someone will answer the phone and fix your problem.

I was hooked. You might say that Dell had me the second the service tech said, “Hello.”

Dell be true to me. I’ll be true to Dell.

Now, I won’t pretend that the relationship has been without bumps. There are times when I really wish that Dell would ensure that all the device drivers on its machines would work well with Vista. (Darn you, Embassy Security Suite.) And over the years, telephone support has not always been a perfect experience. (In fact, I’ve noticed some backsliding in the Dell’s push to improve its telephone support since it cut some of its North American operations.) (Disclosure: Thornley Fallis provided PR support to Dell’s Ottawa call centre until it was closed.) And sometimes, hardware breaks. (nVidia video chips anyone?)

But overall, the bumps have been exceptions in our relationship. Dell has delivered a good experience with machines that met my needs and support that keeps us running. And as long as Dell continues to deliver this, I’ll stick with Dell.

So, thanks Dell.

Now, I wonder what the 200th machine will look like…