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.

A chance for two students to attend the Social Media for Government Conference

I’d like to offer two students a chance to attend the Social Media for Government conference being organized by the Advanced Learning Institute (ALI) in Ottawa March 2-3.

What you’ll hear

The conference will feature a strong lineup of speakers presenting case studies of how government has used social media – both internally and externally. Sessions and presenting organizations will include:

  • Engaging your employees before you engage the public, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada;
  • Using social media to build relationships and reduce crime, Toronto Police Services;
  • Developing a collaborative network in a hierarchical organization, Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre;
  • Social Media And Government Communications: Using social media to communicate and engage the public while complying with government policies and laws, Government of Canada’s Community Communications Office;
  • Making the business case for social media, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation;
  • Social media strategy rules of engagement and evaluation metrics, Human Resources and Skills Development;
  • Using social media to address the needs of a diverse audience, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care;
  • Using Facebook and Twitter to communicate in an ever-changing communications environment, Genome Alberta;
  • Strategy before tactics, Public Safety Canada;
  • Expanding your social media network while staying within your agency’s guidelines, standards and policies, Parks Canada;
  • Using social media on both sides of the firewall, Canadian Tourism Commission;
  • Social networking  to create a more agile and responsive organization, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency;
  • New web analytics for a new wave of social media, City of Ottawa;
  • Using social media to foster innovation and drive change in a large organization, Royal Bank of Canada (Yes, not a government organization. But a very large organization exploring the use of social media.)

I’ll be chairing the conference and presenting a workshop on the day before it opens.

How you can attend

As I was preparing, it occurred to me that this conference would be a wonderful learning experience for a student interested in social media, communications, political science or journalism. But the registration probably puts it out of reach of all but the wealthiest students.

So … I bought a couple tickets to the conference and I’d like to give them to two students who will benefit from the sessions.

Interested in attending? Here’s how you can get one of these tickets.

Leave a comment below or write a post on your own blog explaining how this learning experience would fit in with your academic studies.

I’ll read the comments and posts and offer the tickets to the two students who I think make the best case. Simple.

So, if you’re a post-secondary student and you’d like to attend, tell me why. Also, if you know a student who you think could benefit from this opportunity, please point out this post to them.

I’ll select the winning students at 5PM Feb. 25 and contact them that evening.

Dave Fleet and the Social Media Ecosystem at Third Tuesday Ottawa

Dave Fleet has earned a loyal following for his thoughtful and provocative posts on public relations and social media.

Recently, he wrote a couple of remarkable posts, the 2010 Social Media Marketing Ecosystem and  Strategies in the 2010 Social Media Marketing Ecosystem. Taken together, they present an up to the minute view of the range of communications channels that communicators must be aware of and integrate into our marketing programs.

Dave will be coming to Ottawa next week to speak at a day long conference. But we’ve grabbed him for a Third Tuesday the night before (yes, it’s Third Tuesday on a Thursday.)

If you’d like to meet Dave Fleet and hear his thoughts on the Social Media Marketing Ecosystem, register online to attend Third Tuesday Ottawa.

Thank you to our sponsors

As always, I want to thank our Third Tuesday sponsors – CNW Group, Molson Coors Canada, Rogers Communications, Radian6 and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Their support make it possible to bring great speakers like Katie Paine, Julien Smith and Shel Israel to Third Tuesdays in Ottawa.

Social Media: An Ounce of Prevention – in 500 words

This week, I spoke at a conference of senior executives responsible for healthcare infrastructure projects. Projects such as new hospitals and expansions or relocations of existing institutions are important to their communities. And they are frequently caught up in controversy as they work their way through approval processes.

After my presentation, the conference organizers asked me to prepare a 500 word summary of my presentation for inclusion in the conference proceedings. I’m sharing this summary here in the hope that it might be useful to you.


Social Media: An Ounce of Prevention

Social media has given voice to every citizen with an Internet connection. It also has enabled them to find others who share their interests and to form online communities that they can use to organize real world activities and events. This happens in real time and transcends geography.

Tomorrow’s opinion leaders on any given topic may be unknown to us today. But if they use social media to say something that rings true with others, it can be shared instantly among new social circles, reaching far beyond the immediate followers of the initial writers. The Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group is a prime example of this. A page created by a university student, Christopher White, attracted 225,000 fans, inspired others and, ultimately, led to thousands of Canadians attending anti-prorogation rallies in cities across Canada.

What can organizations do to protect themselves against social media-driven crises? Participate. Earn trust as a member of the community that shares your interests.

Six steps to social media success

So, you’re the leader of an organization. What should you do?

  1. Designate a senior executive as champion of the organization’s exploration of social media. This executive must ensure that the organization’s culture is ready for social media. Mistakes should be treated as learning experiences, not causes for dismissal. The opinions of the community must be valued. The organization must be prepared to act on what they hear, even if it isn’t what it wanted to hear.
  2. Define objectives, clearly stating what the organization hopes to achieve through participation in social media.
  3. Develop and publish social media guidelines to provide employees with parameters for their social media activity.
  4. Simultaneous with this internal preparation, begin to listen to the online conversations relevant to your organization. What subjects are being discussed and what is being said? By whom? Which social media are being used?
  5. Participate in the social media conversation. Never come with empty hands or with a “now that I’ve arrived the party can begin” attitude. Like a good guest or a new friend, it’s always best to enter the conversation where it already exists, introducing oneself and offering a new perspective or additional information. Over time, part of what you contribute may be new tools and gathering places for the community. But at the outset, earn trust through participation, transparency, authenticity and generosity.
  6. Measure progress against the objectives established at the outset. Without this, internal support for the program may dissipate.

You will find your community

With this preparation, you will be ready for any crisis.

You will know where discussions are occurring, what is being said and who is saying it.

You will be able to respond instantly. Your employees will be empowered to exercise their judgment and act within parameters established in advance.

Finally, you will not be alone. You will have earned the trust of a community that shares your interests. And that community will include people who will speak out on your behalf.

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.

Thornley Fallis' new Online Communications Policy

Simple works

For the past four years, Thornley Fallis has had a simple, two sentence online communications policy: “Be smart. Cause no harm to any person.”

This simple policy has served us well. We had only a few bumps – and we learned from each one.

This policy worked because we have many people who are active in social media and they are steeped in the blogging culture. They understand the importance of transparency, authenticity and generosity. They also understand the power of search and the permanence of what we put on the Web.

New people. New needs

A few months ago, we updated the Thornley Fallis and 76design Websites. In doing this, we introduced new Twitter feeds for both Thornley Fallis and 76design. We also created a page on our corporate Website that displays the current conversations our employees are having in social media. Each employee has their own page on which they can display whatever social media and information they want to share. They can add their personal blog feeds, links to their Facebook pages, Twitter streams, LinkedIn profiles – whatever social media they wanted.

I soon realized that our employees are generating much more social media traffic than I had been aware of. I also realized that not everyone spends as much time thinking about social media best practices as Dave Fleet or Terry Fallis might.

So, it’s time to take a second look at our online communications policy to be sure that it provides basic guidance for new employees and others new to social media and our perspective on its culture.

Under the hood

In refining our policy, I wanted it to be written in plain language. I also didn’t want to be so prescriptive that people would feel the need to refer to it constantly. And, bottom line, I respect the intelligence of the people I work with and trust their judgment. So, how to draft a policy that provides essential guidance but still puts the onus on people to exercise good judgment?

The answer, in my mind, is to ground the policy and guidelines in a clear statement of our objectives – why we are active in social media. Having stated this, I’m comfortable encouraging people to post freely if they know that their actions contribute to the achievement of our objectives. If they aren’t sure or feel that their posts/actions may actually detract from those objectives, then I suggest that they don’t post it. It in doubt, I ask people to consult a colleague before proceeding. Having spelled out this general framework, I needed only a handful of specific guidelines.

I posted the policy on our Internal Wiki and asked for comments. I received some good feedback from several people, including Jeremy Wright, Dave Fleet and Bradley Moseley-Williams. So, here’s the first draft of our new online communications policy.

What do you think of it? Have we missed something important? Would it work for your organization?


Thornley Fallis Online Communications Policy

This policy is intended to provide us with practical guidelines that we can apply to ensure that our online actions and communications will make a positive contribution to our reputation as individuals and members of the Thornley Fallis & 76design team.

You’re always one of us

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.

Our Objectives

First, when participating in social media, please always be mindful of why we are involved in social media. Our company’s objectives are:

  • To educate ourselves.
  • To contribute to our community by sharing our knowledge with others. (We believe in the culture of generosity and recognize that we should contribute more to the community than we take out.)
  • To attract talented people
  • To attract sophisticated clients

As a first step in deciding whether to write or post something online, ask yourself if doing so would contribute to the achievement of these objectives. If so, then publish away. If your post would be at odds with these objectives, please do not post it.


Of course, sometimes, it’s nice to have some simple, plain language guidelines to point the way. So, here are some basic rules for day to day conduct.

  1. Cause no harm to any person.
  2. Be respectful and civil in your tone. (After all, that’s the kind of people we are.)
  3. Respect our clients’ right to decide for themselves what they want to make public. Unless they specifically grant us permission, do not post about client wins or client assignments.
  4. Be transparent. If you are posting about a client or commenting on a client competitor or posting about anything in which we may have a material interest, disclose the relationship or interest.

Still in doubt?

If you’re still in doubt, seek out the counsel of one of you colleagues. Two sets of eyes are better than one.

Mitch Joel on your Personal Brand at Third Tuesday Toronto

We have a special Third Tuesday Toronto on Feb. 23. It’s special because we’re holding it in conjunction with Personal Brand Camp – a project being undertaken by Michael Cayley for the Humber College social media students.

During the afternoon, the Humber students will meet with volunteer mentors to discuss the importance of their online personnas, the issues involved and how they can develop an online brand that will be consistent with the people they are.

Then, in the evening, Mitch Joel will be our featured speaker at Third Tuesday. Mitch has built a remarkable personal brand. He is well known and widely respected as a marketing thought leader. This year, he published Six Pixels of Separation, a handbook to digital marketing and social media.  He’s often referred to as “Canada’s Seth Godin.” That’s no small feat.

Mitch will offer us his perspective on the concept of personal brand. Does he build his brand consciously? Are there rules, implicit or explicit, that he applies in doing this? Is personal brand building something that we all should be engaged in? What advice would he offer to anyone concerned about the image they project online and in the real world.

Interested? Register online to attend Third Tuesday Toronto with Mitch Joel.

As always, I want to thank our Third Tuesday sponsors – CNW Group, Molson Coors Canada, Rogers Communications, Radian6 and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Their support make it possible to bring great speakers like Mitch, and others including Katie Paine, Julien Smith and Shel Israel not just to Toronto but also to Third Tuesdays in Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. (Speaking of Vancouver, stay tuned for the announcement of a Third Tuesday Vancouver with Mitch Joel.)

Thank you to our sponsors – and thank you to our speakers.

Will you volunteer to mentor students about their online personal brand?

When we participate in social media – whether posting or commenting – we are leaving digital footprints. And as people follow those footprints, they assemble a picture in their minds of the person who left those footprints – what we are interested in, our thoughts and opinions, the way we communicate and interact with other people. These factors and many more can be assembled to paint a portrait of each of us. In effect, they amount to our personal brand.

Michael Cayley, who teaches Social Media at Humber College, is organizing a Personal Brand Camp in Toronto on Feb. 23. Through a series of rotating round tables, attendees will have the opportunity to talk about the issues surrounding the care and feeding of their online personal brands with Mentors drawn from Toronto’s social media community.

Michael is looking for 20 Mentors who will lead roundtable discussions with the participants. The best Mentor is someone who is active online and has developed an online presence that is positive and well-regarded. You may be young. You may be old. But whichever, you’ve created a positive halo around yourself.

If you’d be interested in volunteering to be a Mentor at Personal Brand Camp, please contact @michaelcayley on Twitter.