More energi… on Inside PR

It was a funny feeling – announcing our merger, creating a whole new energi, so to speak, and then having to rush off to Hamilton for two days; 15 hours of lectures/instruction at McMaster to a group of smart, local business people who wanted to learn about social media.

And while I enjoyed the sessions, I felt a bit dislocated being away from the action after the initial burst of merger excitement.  This week, neither Gini Dietrich nor I were able to record Inside PR. (Gini was injured on her bike but is OK; and you know about me.)

So I want to thank Joe Thornley, the other member of our triumvirate, for zooming solo and interviewing my new partners, Esther Buchsbaum and Carol Levine and giving them a chance to talk about our new venture and plans!

You can read Joe’s post or listen to Inside PR.

You’ll hear my take in podcast 2.07.

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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…

Are Canadian media responsible for spreading viral news?

You can’t pick up a Canadian newspaper, listen to radio or watch TV without hearing about H1N1, the vaccination process, supply issues, lineups…

But the story doesn’t seem to have the same intensity in the U.S. It wasn’t even mentioned in Conan O’Brien’s monologue a couple of days ago (when it was the lead on CBC) – and talk show openings are often a good barometer of big news stories (as silly as that sounds).

I did a search of ‘H1N1 vaccine’ on Google this morning* and in the first 30 results, there were 25 Canadian stories; four U.S. stories; and one international story. That’s over 80 per cent of today’s coverage emanating from Canada.

Now, we all know a pandemic is a very serious situation. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus. It’s important to be informed and educated.

But I wonder if Canadian media are making H1N1 a bigger story than it needs to be right at the moment.

What do you think?

*Search results as of 9:30 a.m., November 4, 2009

He likes us…

I was at the gym when I found out Obama’s first official visit as President of the United States will be to Canada. And you can’t believe how excited I was when I heard the news.

I mean, out of the whole entire globe, the leader of the free world has chosen us. (OK, it’s a long-standing tradition that Bush ignored, but let’s put that fact on hold.)

My reaction reminded me of Sally Field’s acceptance speech at the Academy Awards. And it also made me think about how thrilled we Canadians get, when a person of celebrity south of the border ‘recognizes’ us (or even makes a paltry reference to our country in a movie or TV show). It’s silly really, but that seems to be part of our collective psyche.

And while I am glad President Obama is coming here – if for no other reason than the hope that his vision may rubs off on our leaders – I feel that my response (and I’m sure that of my fellow Canucks) is a bit over the top.

Why? Perhaps it’s because we still view ourselves as second tier. But is that so bad? I think it’s time we started accepting and even taking pride in who we are. We should become more comfortable wearing our national skin (though it may be covered in a parka for much of the year) and not look for our validation from external sources.

Maybe 2009 could be the year we stop being so internationally-insecure. (Now, what would the Americans think about that?)

We’re number four (and that’s reason to be proud)

According to an article in the Toronto Star, our fair metropolis placed fourth in a global ranking of cities that offer people the best cultural experience, after London, Paris and New York. Pretty good company, I’d say.

And in the same piece, an A.T. Kearney study ranked us 10th in terms of what it calls ‘global cities’ (below Chicago and Seoul). Again, not too shabby.

Now, compare that with a recent Maclean’s magazine cover story ranking ‘smart’ Canadian cities, (i.e. those ‘rich in culture’, among other things), and Toronto didn’t do nearly as well – we only made it to the middle of the list. In fact, Barrie and Orillia placed higher.

Now, without meaning to impugn those communities, that’s a ridiculous result. And so Canadian. Slagging the leader while trying to be politely inclusive towards the rest of the country. The tall poppy syndrome rears its ugly head once more.

Frankly, I’m tired of it. Toronto’s the number one city in the country. Complain all you want, it’s a fact. And, rather than trying to apologize for what we are, we should celebrate.

Meet the new boss…

Watching the Canadian election results last night was mildly frustrating (and a bit dull). And ending up with essentially the same House we had before the vote was called is a strong message from ‘the people’ to politicians of all stripes – no matter how they may try to ‘spin’ it.

From a communications perspective, it offers all parties a potential opportunity to win back the electorate, rebuild their reputations and credibility, and create a vision for our country. But they need to begin from the ground up.

Here’s what I would suggest:

  • Define yourself and what you stand for; and please make it intelligent, meaningful and heartfelt
  • Show us you have integrity; start small and keep it up to demonstrate you’re serious
  • Be honest, transparent and believable when you’re delivering your messages
  • Not everyone is a leader; choose someone who can speak to and to inspire both individuals and large crowds
  • It’s OK to answer questions directly, even if you say you don’t have a response just yet
  • Start telling your story; not selling it
  • It’s all about relationships; not opponent-bashing or trading favours

In the meantime, if you want to read about a reluctant, yet idealistic politician in a satire that may be a bit too prescient, try Terry Fallis’s hilarious Leacock award winning novel, The Best Laid Plans.

Social media redefines PR borders

It doesn’t usually happen with MSM. I’m talking about Canadian PR outreach to Canadian editors being picked up in publications beyond our borders.

But with social media and blogger outreach, traditional country mandates are starting to be blurred?

What’s a PR agency to do?

If you’re interested, have a look at an article I wrote for the International Public Relations Association’s Frontline newsletter.

I’d welcome your comments or thoughts.