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 smart use of Twitter by Hyatt Hotels

HyattGoldPassport 090717I received this email from the folks who run the Hyatt Hotels guest loyalty program:

We are pleased to announce that Hyatt™ is extending its hospitality and service to accompany you at all times during your travel journey. Whether it’s before, during or after your stay, Hyatt hospitality will be on-hand to make your travel experience easier and more enjoyable through our new service called HyattConcierge, which can be accessed through Twitter by any web-enabled device.

Twitter is a network of 3 million users and is a great tool to find quick, easy answers and information. Need directions to the Grand Hyatt New York? A restaurant recommendation in Hong Kong? A spa appointment at Hyatt Regency Waikiki? HyattConcierge is there to assist you with your travel questions and requests.

To access HyattConcierge, visit twitter.com/HyattConcierge to create an account or to follow us. Once connected, send us your “tweets” and we’ll be there. This service is another way for us to show our commitment to making you feel more than welcome at every Hyatt worldwide.

HyattConcierge is at your service.

Safe Travels,

Jeff Zidell
Vice President
Hyatt Gold Passport™

A smart move by Hyatt. They have extended their relationship with me to where I am – on Twitter. And I love that they’re doing this. A great example of a company making it a bit easier for me to do business with them – on my terms and in the way that I want.

Kudos to Hyatt.

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.

10 Questions with PR in Canada

10questions 090705Dave Forde asked me to answer ten questions for a new series of one on one interviews he’ll be posting on PR in Canada. In looking at the video of my responses, I realized that Dave had prompted me to reflect on things that I’d normally write about in Pro PR. So, over the next while, I’ll post short videos, each with my answer to one of the questions that Dave asked:

  1. How did I get into PR?
  2. What is involved in my role on a daily basis?
  3. What are the biggest change (s) to the PR industry in 2009?
  4. What are some of the challenges I see the PR industry facing today?
  5. How and when did Thornley Fallis embrace social media?
  6. What impact has it had on our business?
  7. Are we currently hiring?
  8. What are some key traits that I look for when hiring?
  9. What impact am I seeing the current economic climate having on the PR industry?
  10. Newspapers and other tradition media have been going through a major shift. What impact does this have on the PR industry?

I know that Dave has asked several other members of the Canadian public relations community to participate in these one on one interviews. So, if you’re interested in knowing more about the people who shape Canada’s PR industry, you may want to subscribe to PR in Canada’s RSS feed.

Twitter on screen at conferences: Good or Bad?

Do you think that having the Twitter stream on a screen at conferences adds to the experience or participants and speakers or detracts from it?

The Advanced Learning Institute have asked my advice about whether they should have a second screen at all sessions of their upcoming Social Media for Government Conference to display the twitter stream throughout the conference. (Disclosure: I’ll be chairing the conference and presenting a workshop.)

I’ve seen this work well at tech conferences. At some conferences, a large number of participants are heavily engaged in twittering their conference experience – sharing points they think are important and then engaging in active discussion with other conference attendees as well as people joining in from outside the conference. For these people, the conference experience is greatly enriched. They can ask questions, consider alternatives and dig deeper through discussion with others. All in real time while the ideas are being discussed by the speaker.

Twitter stream from Third Tuesday

How about the speaker, you ask? In my experience, a growing number of speakers embrace conference Twittering. Some follow the Twitter stream for questions. Others actually participate in it (This works especially well for panels.) After the conference, the speaker can gain valuable feedback on their presentation by reviewing the conference hashtag in the Twitter stream. And they don’t need to stop there. Savvy speakers can continue the conversation with conference tweeters after the conference.

However, I don’t think that Twitter is right for most conferences – yet. I think that may be overkill if your mix of attendees is not technically savvy. And that seems to be most attendees at standard business conferences. Just as important, some speakers are likely to object to it.

But that doesn’t mean that I’d leave Twitter out of a conference. In fact, having the Twitter stream on screen for select sessions demonstrates its potential to everyone. Having it up all the time may irritate those who are not on Twitter.

So, for the time being, I think that conference organizers should introduce Twitter at key points in the conference, but not have it present all the time.

What do you think?

Do you think that having the Twitter stream on a screen at conferences adds to the experience or participants and speakers or detracts from it? Am I underestimating the average conference attendee?

Other views on Conferences and Twitter

Ira Basen doesn’t like it

I do it

Dr. Shock suggests ways to use Twitter to get more out of lectures

David Berkowitz thinks conference blogging policies need updating

Connect 2 Canada Day Parties with Connect2Canada

Today is Canada’s 142nd. birthday. And if you’re in the United States and would like to celebrate with us, you can find Canada Day parties coast to coast, thanks to the Connect2Canada Website.

Connect2CanadaDayParties 090701

The social-media savvy folks at the Canadian Embassy in Washington have prepared a special Canada Day Across America page that includes lots of social content – a Google Maps mashup showing where over 188 Canada Day parties will be taking place in the U.S., videos created and posted by people telling you how they are celebrating Canada Day, and a Twitter feed for the hashtag #CanadaDayUSA.

So, if you’re in the U.S.A., why not join your neighbour to the north in celebrating our national birthday. Happy birthday to us!

More About Connect2Canada:

Connect2Canada: A peek behind the curtain

Connect2Canada: Creating a community with Canadians in the United States