Eye for pharma – a social media diagnostic coming to Toronto

When we created energi PR, we brought together the leadership and expertise from two successful agencies, as well as a roster of great clients. And one of the benefits for me was that in addition to consumer and corporate, we now had a healthcare practice.  Anyone who’s worked in that sector understands its complexities and how different it is from consumer PR.

Add social media to the mix and there are even more hurdles and yes, many opportunities too.  Patients are sharing resources on research and treatments, asking questions and voicing concerns, bloggers are presenting their perspective, communities of interest are forming. And pharma/healthcare organizations are looking for an Rx to navigate this challenging environment where the exchange of information extends beyond regulatory environments and national borders.

energi is pleased to be one of the sponsors of the first eye for pharma – eMarketing Canada conference, coming to Toronto on November 1 and 2.

The two-day event features thought-leaders from the healthcare industry, experienced marketers, physicians and regulators with a social media/digital super panel moderated by PAAB commissioner Ray Chepesiuk.

Sessions include:

  • Identifying top digital trends for 2011
  • Code of ethical practices that extends beyond compliance
  • Using social media to effectively connect with consumers
  • Establishing behaviour and needs of the online pharmacist and nurse
  • Reaching physicians and switching to online CME (continuing medical education)
  • Revolutionizing the way pharma events in Canada are planned, recruited, managed and tracked

Here’s where to see the agenda and speaker list.  Registration information is available here.

I’m looking forward to the case studies and best practices and to gain an understanding of the social media healthcare landscape. Hope to see you there.

FDOC*: social media learning curve

It didn’t matter that I’m the instructor, yesterday I had first-day jitters for my social media course. This was amplified a bit when, at 9:05, I looked around the computer lab and no one was there (we start at 9 a.m.).  Turned out the class was listed in two rooms and the students were doing the same thing as me: patiently waiting and wondering what was going on.

Once we got settled, we reviewed the course outline and I talked about social media in general and the things we’d be covering and from the questions and looks on some faces, I remembered again how new social media is to most people.

It’s so easy for those of us who have been involved in social media for several years or more to take it for granted and assume it’s as commonplace as a news release, when in fact it isn’t.

And whether we’re talking to students, clients, bosses, colleagues or friends, we shouldn’t make assumptions. We should define the terms clearly and simply, explain how the various tools work and what their benefits are and answer questions with patience and good humour.  Those of us conversant in social media need to step back and realize that, as with anything else, there’s a learning curve.

I know I had it – have it, really, because one of the things I like best about social media is how it’s still evolving and there’s so much for all of us to understand.

And really when you get right down to it, aren’t we all students of social media right now?

*FDOC: first day of class

Ghosts of blogging future

On Inside PR #2.17, Gini Dietrich and I talked about ghost blogging, a subject that has been haunting the blogosphere for a long time.  Much has been written about the ethics surrounding it. It’s a debate about authorship and authority. If your name appears on a blog, you should be the person who writes it.  Of course there are exceptions, like clearly identified guest posts, but other than that, the ‘rules’ are pretty rigid.

At the risk of unleashing the ire of ghost busters, I wonder if this approach has become too simplistic.

Blogs have moved beyond digital journals to become an effective publishing format. Seth Godin’s recent views on shifting from traditional to electronic publishing tie into this. Social media newsrooms are essentially blog platforms designed to distribute and share content and news without a single author’s point of view. With the confluence of portable digital devices, all-access Wi-Fi and the need to conserve scarce resources (i.e. trees), it’s easy to see how ‘blogger’ could become synonymous with ‘publisher’. A blog house could be the 21st century version of publishing house, home to commercial and non-commercial fiction, non-fiction, humour, travel, cooking, business, text books, anything really – even nameless instruction manuals. Now imagine we add video and real-time conversation to the mix…

I’m not saying we should abandon personal voices and ideas. Far from it. That’s where innovation begins before heading on its circuitous path from indie to establishment.

We should all strive for transparency and authenticity, yet maybe the blog-of-old has outgrown its initial framework and ghost blogging is no longer the issue it once was. Like the printing press, blogs could evolve into the catalyst that reshapes and redefines publishing. Now that’s a bestseller I wouldn’t want to miss!

What do you think?

Air Canada…I give up

I fly fairly regularly – not enough for the perks of super-elite status, but enough to be bumped around through the maze of disappointing service that is Air Canada.

Sometimes I’m surprised by a staff member who is helpful or friendly. Mostly it’s a mildly irritating experience at best.

However, I’m tired of complaining about the airline as they don’t listen or seem to care. So, this will be my final gripe. After that, I’m resigned to accept that lacklustre service is part of the brand.

But…on a recent visit to California, a couple of small things stood out as further examples of AC’s failure to communicate.

The first happened at the Toronto airport when the airline ‘changed equipment’, we discovered we’d lost our seats and, like many others, were no longer guaranteed a place on the flight.  I pleaded for clemency as I was part of a wedding party and would have missed the ceremony if they didn’t let us on.  In the end, a kind young man stepped forward and offered his seat. But much of the angst might have been avoided with a quick email informing passengers of the situation, the potential SNAFU and our options – we know they have our email address.

On the way home we were on-board and ordered snacks. The menu advertised a 10 per cent discount on purchases over $10 in June and July. However, when I got my receipt, it was for the full amount. Now, we’re not talking a lot of money here, but when I mentioned this to the flight attendant, he said  the machines must have been reprogrammed and wouldn’t allow the discount or a refund, but he could make up the difference in snacks.

This seems like a case where the AC bean-counters turned a  promise into something as worthless as a ‘hill of beans’ (that you could probably buy from them for $3).

A little later, the FA said AC almost never informs staff when equipment is changed and they only find out when passengers grumble. Here’s a thought: how about spending a little more effort communicating with flight attendants and front-line reps; empowering them with information that they, in turn, could share with the passengers.  Pretty basic stuff.

I’m just glad to hear Virgin Airlines is now flying out of Toronto. Thanks to Klout, I get a chance to sample the service later in the month. From what I’ve heard, this will be a welcome change. I can’t wait.

Counselors Academy 2010 – Twitter notes

Last year, after live-tweeting from Counselors Academy’s annual conference, I noticed my Twitter feed had become my notes for the sessions. So I used them in a blog post to capture the flavour of the event.

Counselors is, as I’ve said many times, my PR highlight of the year. If you run an agency, it’s a gathering like no other. And, if you haven’t been there before, it’s hard to describe the  exhilarating energy of being in a room with so many bright people, most of whom share your interests, challenges and entrepreneurial dreams.

I’ve made some of my best friends in PR at Counselors. In fact, that’s where I met my new business partners, Carol and Esther, and first had a chance to get to know them. Long before she and I had an inkling that we might be working together, Esther put my name forward as the Canadian rep on the executive committee.  So, I guess, energi PR has its roots in Counselors.

Here are 10 Twitter highlights from CA2010 in Asheville (in no particular order):

  1. @bgindra: We learn visually, not by words; video stories are becoming more and more important.
  2. @jaybaer: Many mobile developers have platforms that you can tweak and customize; you don’t need to start from scratch.
  3. @jaybaer: Social media success factors: broaden your horizons, sell ingredients, not entrees, embrace math, adjust to 24/7.
  4. @darrylsalerno: If the 1st and last letters of a word are in the right place, it’s hard to tell if it’s misspelled.
  5. @darrylsalerno: 500 most used English words have 14,000 meanings.
  6. @ambercadabra: We over complicate social media; it’s just communications. Need to get over our obsession w/ tools & focus on intent.
  7. @ambercadabra: B/c social media was labelled media, we want to apply trad media metrics, which don’t work.
  8. @elisemitch: When you’re building a biz you need to consider how you deal with change, both up and down.
  9. @briansolis: Try writing story in 120 characters so it can be RT’d.
  10. @briansolis: Today PR agencies function top to bottom; need to have most senior people on the frontlines.

Of course, there was so much more wonderful talk and ideas that weren’t captured in 140 or less – like the after-hours drinks and conversations, the Sorry game, the 60s banquet, prom-night in Ashville and, the wonderful southern hospitality of Justin Brackett. You can also read Gini Dietrich’s thoughts here, Abbie Fink’s musings or Dana Hughenspost for some other perspectives.

If you run an independent PR agency, it’s not too early to start thinking about Counselors 2011.

(Disclosure: I’m the conference co-chair.)

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.

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…