Measurement matters to Third Tuesday Toronto – Twitter notes

What’s the ROI? That ubiquitous question is on the minds of brand managers, PR folks, marketers and business people everywhere. Of course, it comes up a lot in social media where we still haven’t stumbled on that one surefire way to measure our programs’ success.

Last week, Third Tuesday Toronto held a full-day session on social media measurement featuring panel discussions with industry thought-leaders, supplier presentations and an insightful opening keynote by KD Paine.  (She also wrote a great post about the panel she moderated on future trends.)

There was much discussion, both in the room and online. Here’s a snapshot of my twitter notes from the event:

#ttmm @KDPaine Most trad ad measurement models were flawed because they didn’t measure earned media

#ttmm @KDpaine you need 3 tools for measurement: listening tool, research to find out what they’re thinking, web analytics

#ttmm @igrigorik @postrank 80 pct of engagement w/ content happens off a content generator’s site; 50 pct happens within 1st half-hr

#ttmm @igrigorik to spread an idea, you need to look beyond highly connected networks and find people at the edges for cross-communication

#ttmm @dbarefoot – influencers often don’t usually start innovations online, they amplify them

#ttmm @pierreloic-5 Rules to measure online influence: frame problem, be multidimensional, complexity as needed, be flexible, share insights

#ttmm @pierreloic ‘land grab’ between mkt & PR for soc media; each could emerge as leader as a driving force

#ttmm @davidalston when do you snap the ROI in soc media? Relationships are an asset that you can continue to build on

As you might imagine, there were more questions than answers. But there were actionable takeaways for communicators, too. Now it’s up to us to encourage our clients to look beyond impressions and those big shiny numbers we all love and start thinking about how we can engage people, entertain, inform and help them in a way that’s meaningful and encourages them to help us.  Measurement through reciprocal behaviours.

Given that the session was so relevant to PR folks, I was surprised how few agencies sent representatives.  I hope this isn’t another example of PR being slow to react and missing out on an opportunity to help lead the conversation.

As an industry, we need to stop thinking about who we were and focus on who we want to be. For me that’s content creators/producers, curators, community-builders.  And, of course strategic thinkers focused on value and measurable results.

Will we get there?  Right now I believe some of us will.

Special thanks to Joe Thornley, Canada’s social media community-builder for putting it all together (and for asking me to moderate a panel).


A brand new PR energi…

Are you ready? I’ve got some really exciting Palette news.

On July 1 Palette PR, the agency I co-founded with Louise Armstrong, is merging with Communications MECA to form a brand new agency – energi PR – we’re calling it Canada’s PR and digital/social media powerhouse.

And we are jumping up and down thrilled!

Today we told staff and clients. We’re posting a news release on our respective sites and on our new site – which really is ‘under construction’ till early July.  And tomorrow morning, we’re live on the wire.

So what does this mean?  All Palette and MECA staff is coming to the new company and everyone will have more opportunities to work on new projects and take on fresh challenges.  We’ll be an independent, national and bilingual agency with offices in Toronto and Montreal.  Palette will be move into MECA’s Toronto office. And I’m really looking forward to getting to know and working with all my new colleagues.

We’re specializing in PR, social media/digital and corporate communications and building traditional and new PR/social media into our agency right from the start so we’ll be able to seamlessly integrate the two.  I’m going to be the Toronto managing partner and will lead the firm’s digital practice.

I’ve known my other two managing partners, Esther Buchsbaum and Carol Levine, a long time through Counselors Academy, CCPRF and from working together on projects.  I have long admired Communications MECA, the firm they created, their approach and industry leadership. They’re smart, talented and have a lot of business savvy and most important, the fit is right!

I have one other piece of news and that is Louise is stepping away from the business to spend more time with her kids and on her writing. This is something Louise has been thinking about for a long time. We built Palette together and I want to wish her all the best. I’m going to miss working with her! And, if she wants, there will always be a place for Louise at energi.

To everyone who helped and supported Palette over the years, including staff, all our wonderful clients, our industry partners and friends I want to thank you! I hope you’ll all come along for our energi-filled ride (OK, I’ll try to keep the puns to a minimum).  We’ve got lots of amazing plans!

Watch for more news leading up to July 1 and beyond.

I’d love to hear from you, but may be a bit difficult to reach on Wed and Thu – I’m teaching a two-day social media for business course at McMaster from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And please bear with me as I update all my social network profiles. That may take a little time…

After listening…


Virtually all communications strategists agree that this is the first step an organization (or individual) interested in social media should take.

And that makes a lot of sense. You don’t just barge into a room and loudly take over every conversation (well, some Grand Boors do).

If you’re interested in any sort of relationship, you need to get a lay of the land, pay attention to what’s being talked about, watch what’s going on, understand who’s who… In other words, do some basic research.

So what’s the second step an organization can take? Should the CEO blog? Should they start a podcast? What about a Facebook fan page, Twitter feed, videos?

Those are all good considerations that depend on a company’s objectives.  But while you’re honing your strategy, there is one easy thing to do as a second step: set up a social media or online newsroom.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Todd Defren first presented the concept of a social media newsroom; in the process transforming the staid news section of an organization’s website into a dynamic searchable platform.

Many companies jumped on board.  Some are still reticent. Perhaps that’s because they don’t understand how easy it is to share your stories and visuals with media and bloggers.  An online newsroom is a fast and effective way to go from read-only to two-way interactive.

And you can get started by following these steps:

  • Use a blogging platform like WordPress that’s hosted on your site
  • Customize the design and functions so it looks integrated and has the features you want
  • Add sections  for news (releases, bylined articles), bios, company backgrounders, videos, easily downloadable visuals of principals and products (hi and low-res), quotes,  links to relevant sites and contact info
  • Make the content sharable. Add your Twitter feed (if you have one) and other social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook).
  • Develop a strategy to tag your entries in order to help boost your search engine relevance
  • Contact media and bloggers you want to develop a relationship with and politely let them know that they can subscribe to your news and find and easily access resources whenever they need them, right on your site

Sure you may have to ‘surrender control’, but as many have already said, that’s something organizations no longer have. And if a journalist or blogger wants to write about your business, wouldn’t you rather be the primary source for accurate information and good quality visuals?  Wouldn’t you rather they came to you than someone else?

Do you complify instead of simplify?

At Palette we have a promise (to our clients and ourselves) that our relationships and work will be based on three pillars: simplicity, energy and integrity.

It’s at the heart of everything we do.

But lately I’ve noticed that for some people and organizations simplicity has (simply) gone awry.

And instead of making life easier, we make things more complex: we complify.

Here’s what I mean. In the course of a workday, you notice something you’re doing is cumbersome and has too many pointless steps. You think, we should come up with a way to fix this.

But instead of cutting through the crap, egos get involved. And then an old process is replaced by a newer process, a few extra levels are added (in the spirit of collaboration, of course) and all of a sudden something that wasn’t working very well to begin with (the devil you know) has been transformed into something that doesn’t work at all.

Congratulations. You’ve just been complifed.

So how can we avoid getting into this trap?

Here are three (simple) steps:
1. Ask yourself if an improvement is truly needed and if so, will people buy in.
2. Strip down the activity to its base elements, assume nothing is sacred and cut, cut, cut. (Pretend CTL-V does not exist.)
3. If your solution involves more than a couple of moving parts…abort! Remember what you’re goal is.

Sounds simple? Sure. But I can tell you in no time, it wouldn’t be hard to add a few more steps to this plan and complify.

Fixing what’s broken between journalism and PR

On Inside PR #173, my ‘-30-‘ comment, the short POV remarks we’re using to end the show, dealt with a few of the things we need to do to start fixing the pretty much broken relationship between journalism and PR.

This is something that must be done. And I think it’s up to our industry to take the lead and try improve the way we interact with each other; build trust, credibility and respect on both sides. I think the same applies to bloggers and other influencers, as well.

Part of the problem lies with the way our profession functions: trying to place stories, traditionally in MSM, for clients or organizations. We often feel under a lot of pressure to deliver results for which we have virtually no control.

Fine. That’s our reality and no one forced us into it. I’m proud to be a PR practitioner and this uncertainty is one of the things we just accept.

There are many media with whom I feel I have a good professional relationship. I define that as being able to approach a journalist/blogger with an idea they might be interested in, showing them why/how it works in a quick, efficient manner and having them say either say yes or no (or sometimes saving it for a future story).

However, I think that over the years we have made many repeated mis-steps that hurt the industry and our collective reputation.

And now, with social media and two-way conversations being embraced by both sides, this seems like a perfect time to make the change.

Here are 10 steps the PR profession can take right now:

  1. Always read a journalists or blogger’s past stories (and not just from last week). We need to do our research and know who’s covering or interested in which subjects.
  2. Know the difference between hard and soft news and position a story accordingly. It may seem big to us (or our client), but we have to step back and realize where our news fits into the grand scheme of things. I mean really fits.
  3. Be transparent and tell the truth.
  4. Stop writing in corporate-speak
  5. Strive to be helpful, not a pest.
  6. Understand that while our clients are a top priority for us, the reporter has many other priorities and we need to empathize more with them.
  7. Stop making media lists from databases. Go to the source: newspapers, broadcast outlets, blogs, online publications. See who’s writing about what. If we’re not passionate about media, why are we in PR?
  8. Never blast out an email to a large (or small) bcc list. We’ve all done that in the past. And some are still doing it. Really, this was a bad idea from the start. It turned us into broadcasters, something we’re not.
  9. Leave our PR egos at the door. It’s up to us to reach journalists. Stop griping if they don’t always call back when we want them to.
  10. Help journalists and bloggers understand the new FTC rules/principles so that we can continue to work together in a mutually beneficial way.

It sounds simple but we’ve got to make the first move.

What do you think?

Is follow the opposite of lead?

I don’t think so. Actually, it seems that Twitter may have a better handle on this notion. You follow / are followed back. There are no sections on the microblog about leading (thought leadership aside, of course).

Too often we equate strong leaders with how many so-called disciples they have. People who are willing to blindly jump off (or blow up) a bridge. Now while that might work in banana republics and assorted dictatorships, it doesn’t seem like a smart model for business or the arts, where you’d hope the emphasis would be on looking for new ideas and insights; reflection that sparks imagination and provokes debate.

I got to thinking about this when I read what I’d call a truly inspirational blog post by Randy Hall on ‘Self leadership’. In it, he contends that great leaders must first learn how lead themselves. And by that that he means going outside your comfort zone, not being afraid to dream big, try something new, fail and then try again; keep learning, have passion and truly believe in the vision you are trying to achieve.

I couldn’t agree more. And, from a PR agency perspective, now seems like a great time for us to ‘follow’-OK embrace-these principles so we can provide real leadership and guidance to our clients, encourage them to get beyond the tried and true practices and see the communications light at the end of a social tunnel.

And while we’re on the subject, you may want to check out this post on ‘How to be an effective CEO’.

Special thanks to my friend and agency-owner Gini Dietrich for being a such a superb RSS feed and pointing to so much relevant and worthwhile content.

Time flies and other cliches

It certainly does zip by. Which is my way of saying that it’s been far too long since my last post. But absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes, it becomes a self-fulfilling habit that’s not so easy to break.

Anyway, I am back now. And don’t worry, you won’t hear a litany of excuses.

Just a couple.

1. It’s been… let’s say a bit of a roller coaster at the office (and I’m more of a bumper car guy myself).

And 2… I’ve been working days and nights. Ahh, entertainment PR. We just finished another hilarious Yuk Yuk’s Laugh Off, a contest where all the comics pull their punches – er punchlines in an attempt to win the $25,000 grand prize. (Second prize? Mac and cheese.) Halifax sketch comic, Mark Little, won with an act that could best be described as wit in geek’s clothing.

This year, in addition to traditional media relations, we added a social media newsroom, Twitter feed and YouTube channel. So that meant we were not only spectators, we were reporting live from the joke-stained trenches. It was a lot of fun. And comedy, with its bite-sized, sharable content seems to be a natural social media fit.

Have a look and let me know what you think.