A disconnect can be a good thing

I recently came back from visiting my Mom in Winnipeg. She still lives in the same house I grew up in, and being there is a bit of a time warp.

What I mean is for five days I didn’t have access to my regular online fix. No high speed. Not even dial-up. If I wanted to plug in, I had to brave a -25 windchill and drop by a wireless cafe.*

All this made me realize how Internet-dependent I’ve become. Addicted, really. When so many people could simply care less. For them, computers are a past-time, a way to share jokes, look up a movie time, buy something.

They haven’t crossed over to the ‘new media’ promised lan. They still consume TV, read local papers, go to the mall and talk to the folks behind the tables at the community displays. They get most of their news the old fashioned way.

Perhaps it’s our profession and its fascination (obsession?) with the latest and greatest communications tools. We’re ravenous for information, 24/7.

But as admirable as I think this may be, it’s important to remember there’s a parallel, albeit slightly slower world right here beside us: let’s call it the ‘first life’.

It’s a place with less MB and more MB. Where everyone’s connected, just not like that.

*OK, a disclosure: I had my BB Bold so I wasn’t completely out of touch. But, I wasn’t glued to it the way I sometimes am to my laptop.


Survey sez

Lately, I’ve begun to feel like one of those anonymous but oft-referred to people ‘behind the board’ on Family Feud. You know ones responsible for answering the questions the panelists try to guess.

By that I mean I’ve been getting more and more requests to complete surveys. It could be from a hotel (on a scale of one to five, did I find the pillows comfortable…); a professional organization (I get these a lot); a conference I attended; a store I shopped at; an online destination… The list goes on and on.

And they’re all looking for …what?
A. Demographics
B. Knowledge
D. Some of the above
E. All of the above
F. None of the above
G. There is no above

I’m beginning to wonder what everyone is doing with the mountains of data being gathered. Is there a meaningful analysis going on? Learning? Is there a market trading used demographic nuggets?

There’s so much noise out there. And so much useless minutiae being collected – information pollution.

Now, I’m not saying we should stop doing research. Far from it. Comprehensive, well thought out research is one of the keys to successfully practicing our profession. I just feel there should be more to it than qualitative results.

Many of us in PR have used surveys to come up with potential news hooks. Perhaps, as a first step to reduce the info junk pile, this is something our industry should stop (or at least greatly curtail).

Maybe instead of all the multiple-choices, we should spend more time talking to the right people, thinking and listening.

And go back to creating meaningful – and sustainable – stories.

Are you ready for social media?

Joel Postman’s new book, SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate will be released in December. I’m looking forward to reading/reviewing it.

It promises to feature case studies, a critical approach and examples of how organizations can develop an intelligent and relevant online strategy – that works for them. I’m sure it will be written in Joel’s crisp, witty style.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in finding out if your company is ready to jump into the social media fray try Joel’s 20 question quiz and see where you land.

Still praising APR

Last month, David Mullen posted a question about whether APR still had value for PR professionals. There was a lively debate and I posted a comment which put me in the APR ‘die-hard’ camp – a place I’m happy to be.

As I’ve said before, I’m a strong believer in professional accreditation, both personally and for the industry as a whole.

And, as CPRS Toronto accreditation committee co-chair, I wanted to remind you that if you are interested in pursuing the designation, the deadline for applications is December 1, 2008. Please visit, www.cprs.ca for more information, or feel free to contact me.

So you wanna work in PR – in an economic downturn

This is the third installment in an unplanned series of posts about getting a job in PR. I’m writing it following a panel I was on at Talk is Cheap 2.0 with Joe Thornley and Trevor Campbell*.

So… here we are in the midst of an economic meltdown. It’s hard to read the papers without feeling jittery and depressed. And I think it’s safe to say that the market for new PR hires is tighter than it was six months ago. Not only that there are fewer opportunities, hiring freezes and potential layoffs.

So what can a job-seeker do?

I still believe you should still follow the advice I offered here and here.

But I would like to add a few more thoughts to the mix:

1. Be curious. Find out about the world around you; experience it. In Toronto, the AGO has just reopened, so pay a visit; watch the latest films (indie and mass); wander along Bloor Street during Nuit Blanche; volunteer for a not-for-profit you believe in; read a book by Malcolm Gladwell (or anyone for that matter)… Becoming a business/pop culture/political/ economics/tech/entertainment/food/fashion/beauty/etc. expert is an essential when you’re in PR. Make yourself stand out.

2. Add social media to your skill set. Get to know the latest developments and offerings. Learn how to use RSS in media searches. Participate in industry communities. Set up a profile on Linkedin. Sign up for Twitter. Blog. Read PR blogs, post smart comments and build relationships with people you respect and admire. Listen to podcasts. Watch videos. And be critical. Understand that social media isn’t the cure-all to every PR challenge. And when you start working, maintain the self-study and share your findings with colleagues. Every office needs a few social media gurus – who also grasp the intricacies of traditional PR.

3. Above all, don’t get discouraged. The soft economy is NOT your fault. It’s affecting all of us and is out of our control. There is a great job out there for you. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes a little longer than you’d planned to find it.

*BTW, Trevor is president of Porter Novelli Canada and has just started his blog; I’m looking forward to reading it.


Where I come from (Winnipeg) and in other western cities, there’s a party tradition we call ‘socials’.

If you haven’t heard of them, they’re essentially a pre-nuptials bash and work like this: an engaged couple has the right to purchase a liquor license, rent a hall, and throw a huge blow-out shindig. They invite all and sundry, get to charge admission, sell drinks and hopefully make some cash to help them get started in their new life. (They can get pretty crazy at times.)

I thought of socials because of all the recent Toronto social media get-togethers – a chance for practitioners to leave our offices and computers and actually interact.

Here’s a quick round-up:

Let me know if you have any more to add. I may see you there.