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.

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Back to Mac – social media for PR course starts September 11

Most of us learn about social media from the school of hard clicks. We Stumbleupon sites…download apps…subscribe to blogs…read and bookmark cases…tweet out links…test our ideas…and gain a working knowledge along the way.

And now there are also academic courses if you’re looking to understand social media in a more formalized environment (plug alert).

This fall on September 11 (not the greatest date to begin anything) and continuing for 14 Saturdays, I’ll be at McMaster University teaching a course in social media for PR.  It’s the second time I’m offering it.

The class combines communications theory with practical instruction in social media tools in order to get a strategic grounding in them.  We learn by listening, sharing, tweeting, discussing, collaborating, analysing and doing.

First day starts with an overview of where we are in the social space including getting the whole class on Twitter (under the hashtag #macsocmed).  I’ll also be introducing the students to the blogs of some of the more influential PR and marketing thought leaders.

The core assignment for students is creating a blog about a subject they’re passionate about and then researching, writing and editing posts, adding links, visuals and video and building and engaging a community.  Last year reading and discussing the blogs, which ranged from local politics to corporate social responsibility to moving into and renovating your first house to finding a job, was one of my favourite parts of the course.

Once the students have found their blog voices, I’ll introduce them and share some of our collective learnings and observations.  I’ll also be asking you for your thoughts from time to time.

Here’s where you go for more information on the class and how to sign up.

It’s Saturday morning (9 am to noon) and worth the drive to Hamilton (I hope).

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?

The other side of the coin

I feel privileged to be of the Toronto folks selected to spread the word about Virgin America’s new TO/LA or SF flights. Actually, when I first got the email offerng a ticket, I thought it was a scam.  It wasn’t!

So here I am, in-flight, and posting from 30,000 feet (or so). OK, I know this is no moon walk, but it’s feels pretty amazing being connected up on high.

What do I think of Virgin America?

Well, they’re friendly and helpful – from check-in to the gate to the plane – and they have a more casual and humourous attitude than some of the other airlines I fly. You see it in the FAA-required info video, produced as a quirky animation (‘if you’re one of the .00001% of the population that doesn’t know how to buckle a seatbelt, here’s how you do it…’).  From a design perspective, the interior reminded me of an old house renovated and modernized with stylish colours and accents. I liked having the option of chatting with people in other seats via the AV system – not that I did.  And of course, there’s the wi-fi… Would I fly it again? I guess I should really wait till we land before answering, but I so far absolutely. Would I recommend it to people? Yes.

As I was sitting in the airport waiting to board and thinking about my post, it occurred to me that it would be the result of being pitched and, like a media person PR firms invite to an event, there was a reciprocal, if implicit, expectation in place.  I would receive the free trip and, in exchange, hopefully be motivated to share my experience.

I first heard about this concept of reciprocity from author and psychologist Robert Cialdini. The essence is simple: if I give you something, you will feel an obligation to give me something in return.

And really that’s the core of media/blogger relations.  We provide a story/information/news and hope that we get editorial coverage.  I also wondered whether the reciprocity might make me (or anyone) a little kinder in my review (they gave me something after all).  Probably.

Because so many PR people are blogging, we often find ourselves on the other side of the request.  (We talked about this on Inside PR 2.13.)  And this gives us an opportunity to experience what a pitch feels like.  I always suggest that young practitioners try their hand at being published (and yes blogs count!) so they can gain an understanding of a journalist’s perspective more clearly. And hopefully, by empathizing and learning we will improve our approach.

But back to the matter at hand.   I’m ready for more pitches and I sure do like cars :).

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…