The PR list

I was recently honoured to be part of Valeria Maltoni’s list of 100 PR people to follow on Twitter. I can only imagine how much research it took her to assemble and review each person, read their blogs and put in all the links.

It features some really smart PR folks and original thinkers (many of whom I’ve been following for a while). Talk about being in good company…

And, if you go here, Neville Hobson’s assembled the group so you can easily select the ones you want to check out.

Thanks to all the new folks who found me. I’m trying to catch up, but it will take me a little time. In the meantime here are a couple of things you may want to know:

  • I look at every follower’s profile, read a bunch of tweets and often click on your website to get a sense of who you are and your personality
  • I’m particularly interested in people who work in PR/communications/social media, but I’m also open; again it’s all about personality
  • I try to follow back if we have a couple of conversations
  • I never auto-DM

Looking forward to ‘meeting’ and engaging with you.

And a special thank you to Valeria for including me!


What happened to Eatons?

Growing up, if someone had told me that Eaton’s would cease to exist, I would never have believed them. The department store was a Canadian icon. It had prime locations in downtowns and malls across the country, produced an aspirational Christmas catalogue, sponsored the Toronto Stanta Claus parade and, in Winnipeg (where I’m from), was the book end of a Portage Avenue stroll that started at the Bay and finished at the venerable merchant.

Yet here it is 2009 and Eaton’s hasn’t been a part of the retail landscape for several years. There are many reasons for that: different shopping needs, complacency, an inability to change.

I thought about Eaton’s after reading Matt Hartley’s article in the Financial Post on Canadian business’s reluctance to embrace online advertising (and I would say the same applies to other social networking opportunities, too).

It made me realize that a lot of what we consider certainties are time (and trend) sensitive. Sure it’s comfortable relying on the familiar. But in business, as in life, innovation, ideas and growth come from risk-taking and knowing when to try something different for a change.

The new PR?*

*Warning aspiration alert…

Much has been written about the new PR versus its more traditional practice; how the industry’s changing; what we need to do to adapt.

In many ways, the new PR strikes me as a conceptual cousin to the old PR. Now before you pummel me with a twitstorm of criticism, let me clarify: it’s similar if you go back to the essence of PR and its best practices, like two-way symmetric communications (aka conversations).

With MSM in a downward flux and the rise of social networking, there will come a time in the not so distant future when those two lines will cross. And we’ll need to rethink the way we communicate and not be so reliant on media relations as the core of our profession.

So with that in mind, here’s a quick list of what I think we should be:
– Connectors
– Relationship builders
– Creative content producers/distributors
– Reputation minders

And here’s what I hope we’re not:
– Spammers
– Direct mailers
– Pitchers
– Loud mouthed BS’ers

The recession has sped up many changes that were already taking place. And just because clients are asking for the same things we did last year doesn’t mean we can dismiss the importance of social media.

I think now’s the time to gently lead our clients toward the future – not with the promise of ever shiny tools, but with our experience and insights, strategic counsel, data and case studies; and yes, trusting our gut.

But before we do that, we need to participate, to embrace social media and learn how to do it well. I’m not saying traditional PR is over, I say it’s time to welcome some new traditions.

Inside PR #170…recording

In the grand broadcast tradition of summer re-runs and new fall shows, we’re happy to say that Inside PR is back!

This season, the shows are going to be completely scripted… OK, maybe not. But they will be tighter with a main theme and some special features including 4Qs: four-questions for PR and social media luminaries; and ‘-30-‘, where Terry, Dave and I sound off on a topic of our choice for half a minute. (I promise I’m going to time my segment from now on.)

We’re also planning to take the show on the road for more live recordings.

And you can follow us on Twitter @Inside_PR.

I hope you’ll tune in, keep sending us your ideas (either as a comment or via Twitter) and continue to share your thoughts.

And thanks for listening.


Two-way street

Not too long ago I got an email from a person I didn’t know with the subject line: ‘I was just on your blog’.

Well, naturally I was curious. I opened the note only to read how much the woman liked my blog (flattered) and, how she felt it was an ideal place to promote a giveaway for of a pair of Ugg boots. She even offered $100 if I could drive enough traffic to her site.

Well, thanks but no thanks. It was clear she hadn’t read my blog or bothered to engage me other than by offering a vapid compliment that was easy to see through.

In other words, an irrelevant pitch. Something the PR industry has been accused (and guilty) of again and again.

And, it’s true. As it’s been said many, many times, we have to go beyond form letters and lists gleaned from databases and offer journalists something of value to them. We have to read what they write, understand their point of view and show them why our stories might be of interest to their readers.

However, there’s a flip side to all of this. Sometimes, we do target the right journalists and bloggers, read their articles/posts (often look forward to them), feel we grasp what they’re after and tailor what we think is a perfect story for them. Only to hear someone say: ‘You don’t have a clue about what I write about.’

This can also be a canned message. And possibly a knee-jerk response to all the bad pitches they’ve received.

So maybe all of us – journalists/bloggers and PR – need to step back and realize we’re on a two-way street in the same community and try to have a little more respect – on both sides of the fence.


*First day of class…

Many of you know that Saturday was my first day teaching a 14 session course on social media at McMaster University.

And while I’ve guest lectured many times, presented at conferences and meetings, done keynote addresses, I don’t mind saying I had opening night (day?) jitters.

Walking into the class I felt much like I did as a student. Except my desk was facing the other direction. It put my own education in a slightly different perspective.

With a course on social media, one of the challenges I think we’ll face is the ‘body of knowledge’ is very new and constantly evolving. On the positive side, I’m trying to reflect that in the course and cover/discuss emerging trends, issues/crises as they happen.

So even though there’s a course outline and framework (and for anyone from the university who happens to read this, yes, we will cover it!), the dynamic and evolving nature of social media is going to play a big part.

One thing I did was create a Ning community for the class; everything’s going to be on it including the outline, suggested reading, assignments, my notes, photos, videos, RSS feeds of the student blogs (each student is going to have one), discussions, events. The only thing that won’t be there are the marks. I hope it becomes a virtual classroom that goes on beyond our formal hours with lots of conversation and shared ideas and information.

And even though I’m the instructor, I feel I’m going to come away from the experience having learned a lot, too.

A tour of my homes

Where to begin: the Manse in Malibu? Pied-a-terre in Paris? Cottage in Collingwood? Bungalow in Buffalo?

Truth is I have one house and an office (both in Toronto). And, on most days that’s where you’ll find me.

But online is another story. Especially with the rise of social networks. Now, we all reside in many different locales. In fact, if you tally up the number of cyber homes we have, you’d think we’ve all become jet-setters, constantly flitting from one place to another.

Which is, in a way, what we do. And that makes it a lot more challenging for communicators to find us.

It wasn’t too long ago when PR folks relied almost exclusively on MSM to reach people. And, of course traditional PR still works – though I think it may be less effective than it was five or 10 years ago. You don’t feel the same awareness and excitement from a successful media relations program as you once did.

Because we now have both mass and mini media.

And which delivers stronger results? There isn’t a definitive answer yet. But I think we can all feel a shift. Some of us see it moving faster than others. Some are resistant to change. But let’s face it, things aren’t the way they used to be. And that’s good.

And, I think that if we want to truly engage and build a relationship with people, then it’s up to us to find where they like to be and go there and not wait for them to search us out in the place where we want them to go.

That’s a different way of looking at communications. We need to be more creative; to listen and participate; to be more open and visible but not be a pest. We need to try to become a meaningful part of their stories and not merely want them to consume ours.

And, if you are looking to find me, online, here’s where I’ll probably be:

  • Email – (my BB is never far away)
  • Twitter (thanks to UberTwitter, it’s a close second)
  • My blog (here)
  • Google Reader
  • Linkedin
  • Delicious
  • Facebook (not that often – and it’s mostly for old friends. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but…so many networks; so little time.)

I have lots of other accounts that I will flip to from time to time, much like the way I might use a remote to check out what’s on TV. But, now you know how to reach me.

The question is: what’s the best way for someone to reach you?