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…


Two Ps in a PodCamp (Toronto)

That’s people and programming.

And at PodCamp Toronto 2010, the two are inextricably intertwined.

For anyone who hasn’t been, the annual event takes place February 20 and 21 at Toronto’s Ryerson University. It’s an energy-filled, somewhat entropic, fun exchange of social media ideas, applications and conversation – a place where all the Twitter avatars you’ve gotten to know meet IRL.

The eclectic line-up of sessions – with more being added every day – ranges from business and mobile case studies, to a walk through social media marketing ecosystem, tips on editing an interview as if it were music, death and your digital legacy, saving newspapers…  There’s even a live recording of Inside PR (I hope you’ll drop by with questions…).

Here’s where you go to register.

My big questions is: will anyone have an iPad to preview?

Hope to see you there.

When a retweet misleads

If you’re a Torontonian and on Twitter, you would know that Mayor David Miller is an active participant; posting comments, photos of events and his general take on life in the city. I heard him speak about his interest in social media at Mesh conference and was impressed by his passion and candour.

You may also know that the Tamil community in Toronto has been staging protests lately to draw attention to the situation in their home country. This weekend a march shut down the Don Valley Parkway.

What do these two situations have in common?

Well, on Sunday it appeared as though the Mayor wrote a politically sensitive tweet that was later retweeted.

In reality the Mayor never posted the tweet-in-question. What happened, according to TV Ontario’s The Agenda blog, was that an individual sent an ‘@’ message to the Mayor. Another person retweeted it, leaving out the original sender’s name but leaving in the impression that the Mayor had, in fact, commented. The full story is unfortunate on a number of ethical levels.

For PR people, this is yet another example of a situation we need to be aware of and monitor. And as communicators we need to make sure we don’t rely on the results of a single search, but dig deeply enough to piece together a full story before we offer clients our counsel.

Thanks to my friend Keith McDonald for sharing the TVO blog post with me.

New Toronto in Old City Hall

I first met Bobby Rotenberg around the time he launched T.O. magazine, an upstart, edgy city publication I had the pleasure of writing for, a long time ago. Since then, I’ve bumped into him from time to time and reconnected when we found out our kids go to the same school.

He mentioned that he’d written a novel (his first), slated to come out in early March 2009 and offered to send me a copy.

So when Old City Hall arrived, I read it right away. The book is a stylish, witty page-turner. Crime fiction that centre’s on Canada’s best known, craggy talk radio host. It starts when Kevin (I want to say Peter) Brace confesses to murdering his wife in their luxury condo, and then says nothing more. With its sharp twists and turns, you’re taken on an investigative journey that surprises and entertains. The characters play against stereotype – Jewish homicide officer, lawyer turned cop, new Canadian crown attorney – and offer a new perspective on the formerly bland and conservative safe haven Toronto used to be.

The prose is stylish, the dialogue fresh and the cast are a quirky and believable mix of the people you’d see living and working in Toronto today; a reflection of our coming-into-its-own metropolis.

Bobby has combined his love of T.O. (i.e. the magazine) with his work as a criminal lawyer to offer both a superb story, and a wry commentary on the city and its foibles; its inner workings; what makes it tick.

And that is an extra gift.

Look for Old City Hall in March at your local bookseller or online here.

In the dark

Just under two weeks ago, there was a power outage in Toronto that left about 250,000 residents without heat or electricity on one of the coldest days of the year (-19C).

I was one of those folks in the dark.

When the incident occurred, just after 10 on a Thursday evening, we found the flashlights, lit a few candles and tried to find out what happened.

First we turned to our community – looked outside to see if anyone else had lights, called a couple friends… We put a battery in a clock radio and tuned to 680 News only to hear (after weather and sports), what we already knew: power was out in a large section of western Toronto. And crews were on the scene.

Thank you very much. That didn’t answer any of my immediate questions like: when is MY power coming back?

I don’t know why I defaulted to old habits (the reluctant adopter in me), but it wasn’t till Friday at work when I thought to check Twitter. I did a few searches and uncovered the hashtag #darkTO, and there, found what I was looking for: an enormous outpouring of comments, thoughts and news – in real time.

There were tweets from people who got their power back; others from folks nearby who hadn’t; offers of office space for those in need of Wifi; updates from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC); requests from MSM media for interviews; and on and on.

It felt like I’d stumbled into the promised on-land. Yes, I had read how quickly Twitter spreads breaking news in real time, but it wasn’t till I experienced it first-hand that I truly grasped its scope.

However, something was missing. There was no local ‘authority’ to offer updates and tell us things were under control. And while Mayor Miller, the City and hydro held a traditional news conference, they seemed oblivious to the conversation taking place around them.

And that was a missed opportunity.

Of course, power was eventually restored (we got ours back nearly 24 hours later).

A little more than a week later, I noticed that Kevin Sacks, City of Toronto Director of Strategic Communications started posting on Twitter, @TorontoComms. Maybe the blackout triggered a lightbulb in City Hall. And that, I believe, is a very positive sign.

Talk is Cheap; parking, not so much

OK, maybe you won’t have to pay for parking. You might be able to get a spot on the street or, you can always take the TTC… to Talk is Cheap, the second (annual?) ‘social media unconference’, Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at Centennial College in Toronto.

If it’s anything like last year, it will be fun and interactive and there are bound to be some scintillating sessions and just plain good talk.

The only caveat is you have to sign up by wiki (and I didn’t wreck the registration list this year).

I’ll be doing a ‘live recording’ of Inside PR with Terry Fallis, Dave Jones and Julie Rusciolelli and taking part on a panel organized by Joe Thornley with Trevor Campbell on the impact of social media on a career in PR.

Hope to see you there.

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.