April 2009

There are a great many media on Twitter – for the most comprehensive list we have found check out mediaontwitter.com.

However, before you leap in and start pitching media on Twitter. This blog post at the Bad Pitch Blog is worth a read. Social media provides an excellent opportunity to start or join a conversation that is relevant to your organization. However, you can’t just jump in and start pushing yourself on to them – or anyone engaged online, for that matter. Like media relations, it just doesn’t work that way.

Peter Shankman of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) has a great approach to people that go off topic when participating in his (free) HARO service – if you are off topic when you pitch, he blocks you from receiving the list.

I have to say, Shankman’s crankiness about pitches ‘upped’ our game.  We have always prided ourselves on effectively pitching the media … in building good, positive relationships with journalists because we don’t send them useless information. I worked as a journalist for years and have very strong memories of bad pitches, news releases and “samples” that we received at the magazine being put in the spotlight and the PR person who sent them being mocked in front of a group of reporters. These same reporters would then file that name away as “useless” and that PR person had a hard time getting attention then …

Shankman has that kind of approach to pitches – he is ruthless and this attitude reminded us that we have an obligation to our clients to hold our pitches up to a gold standard. Here at AHA, we even half-jokingly review our pitches chanting ‘What Would Shankman Think?’

Mentioned above is the Bad Pitch Blog – it’s worth reading and gives you direct and straight forward advice about what makes a good pitch, how not to send a “green” pitch that ends up putting materials in the landfill! – and how not to take your relationship with a journalist too casually (texting a pitch? Come on!).

Social media is creating an ability to connect with journalists, with bloggers and with your community – don’t take it for granted and please, view this as an opportunity to really connect …. Not to push out information AT people, but to start or join the conversation with them. It’s a two-way street, now. Be sure and look both ways.

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Craig McInnes had an interesting opinion article in The Vancouver Sun yesterday with the headline: Digital pictures are the tattoos of the Internet: You wear them forever. It is a great headline, a good piece and worth a read.

In the article, McInnes talks a little about Ray Lam, NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek and the Facebook photos that led to his resignation. He also mentions Sharon Smith, Mayor of Houston, B.C., who had a photo of her wearing only her chain of office show up online. There are many instances and incidents—political, corporate and personal—where inappropriate comments, images or videos have shown up on the Internet. McInnes is right, even if you pull them off your Facebook page, blog or website, chances are they are still out there somewhere and accessible.

We talk to clients a great deal about this new and unedited world when we consult on brand/reputation management as well as how to deal with an issue or crisis online. It’s a part of who we are today as communicators, professionals and people.

One key point that I think hasn’t been talked about a lot yet is that right now, it seems that the medium is the message – or at least provides news value. Ashton Kutcher takes on CNN and the discussion surrounds the ethical use of Twitter and whether Kutcher represents the “common” person. Somehow the story that this “stunt” (for lack of a better word) did something good for charity. Oprah starts to Tweet and pundits wonder if Twitter has jumped the shark. Never mind that Oprah is highly influential and does some good things for the world and might use Twitter to create positive change among her followers.

I think one of the most interesting cases of the medium overtaking the message is the miracle of the crash landing in the Hudson River by the US Airways pilot. There were some great stories about the miracle landing, the amazing abilities of the pilot and how the story was broke on Twitter. All good news stories. What I didn’t see much coverage on was the reason the plane crashed or much focus on that key point – THE PLANE CRASHED.

Right now, an organization that starts to use social media has a good chance of generating some coverage – good or bad – about their use of social media. Are they using it right, what does it mean for the organization, it is a good or bad thing for that particular tool?

Oprah on Twitter, oh my goodness, it’s gone mainstream and that’s a shame – cry the purists and early adopters. And I can see their point, to a degree. But aren’t these tools being developed to create opportunities for all of us to communicate?

Perhaps Oprah will use the tool more as a broadcast medium to send out messages rather than join the conversation. Personally, I give her more credit than that. However, if she does use it only as a one-way megaphone to talk at people, then either her specific community will either accept that form of communication from her or they will abandon her. At the core of it, usage depends on what your stakeholders and/or community will or won’t engage with. It’s all about them.

Social media has opened the door for real conversations. Some smart organizations realize the value of embracing the fact that the consumer now has a strong voice. These organizations also support, encourage and collaborate with their communities.

I have to admit, I can’t wait until this phase is over and social media is seen as what it is – another tool in the communicator’s tool belt. We can do some great things with the organizations we work with – both as in-house communicators and consultants. Don’t let the buzz around it all push you away from looking at what will work for you.

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There are a couple of topics for today’s post, so I will try to keep them short and sweet.

Della and I had the honour of speaking to the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society on Friday. It was a great group of people – all interested in how to apply social media tools and tactics to their communications strategies.

Chris Brogan, who I have a huge amount of respect for, has a great post on The Undiscovered Country of Presence Management. Here he talks about the challenges of having organizations on Twitter and Facebook and blogging or commenting on blogs. Who should be the voice, where should you look online for your communities, how do you go about it? This is a great start to an important conversation.

One of the key points for any organization that would like to embrace social media is that you need to be strategic about it. You need to begin like you would any other traditional communications campaign and understand who your community is, where they are and how they would like you to join the conversation. And at the core of it—Chris nailed it in his post—what people want is “real” interaction. Social media provides the opportunity to create a relationship with people – one human being to another.

Great public relations has always been about building relationships – ethically, authentically and with integrity. Social media allows us to do this. It takes a client that will authentically embrace transparency, some effort, resources and a commitment to staying strategic (and not being pulled away by the newest, brightest, shiniest piece of technology). It provides opportunities that we have never had before.

We know that social media has changed how we do our job. Right now we’re in a bit of chasm between how it used to be done and how it can be done. It is a challenging time, but it’s exhilarating too. The world is demanding that organizations step up and be accountable, responsible, engaged and that they contribute. As communicators, our role is to help organizations do this in a way that benefits the community, the employees and the organization.

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For Immediate Release – April 20, 2009

The Change Artist logoVancouver, B.C. – Carla Rieger, a well-known speaker, creativity catalyst and corporate consultant, has just announced the launch of The Change Artist, her first full-length novel. The book, which is available on Amazon.com, Chapters.com, at select bookstores throughout North America, and at http://www.thechangeartistbook.com, was inspired by a true and personal story of loss, deception, intrigue, drama and change.

A gripping and unpredictable adventure, The Change Artist is a compelling read that follows the story of a young woman facing dramatic emotional turmoil as she watches her life unravel in front of her. Using many of the tools that Carla teaches in her workshops, the heroine takes on the challenge of putting the world that she was once so sure of, back together again – this time using different pieces.

The Change Artist Book Cover“I help people to embrace change and use tools of creativity and innovation in my consulting business,” explains Rieger. “While the events that took place in my own life aren’t as dramatic as those in the book—it is a work of fiction, after all—I did draw on the strategies and tools that I teach to help me not just cope, but to embrace the dramatic changes that were happening in my life. I really had to ‘walk the talk’ as I went through my own adventure of self-growth. This novel was born out of that journey, and my subsequent journey of helping others.”

The Change Artist will appeal to adult book lovers on a search for more meaning in life and wanting to be entertained in the process. Rieger deftly weaves valuable life lessons in between the lines of the dramatic and fast-paced story of acceptance, growth and hope.


For more information or an interview with Carla Rieger, please contact Paul Holman of AHA Creative Strategies Inc. at paul@ahacreative.com or 604-303-1052.

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Domino’s has created a YouTube response to the issue that they recently faced regarding what we have now heard was supposed to be a “hoax” video on YouTube. There were several videos made by the two young people who worked (past tense) at a Domino’s franchise in North Carolina. (See our previous post on this.)

Domino’s takes a very interesting approach to this issue – and in my opinion, it’s a little over the top. Depending on what kind of policy Domino’s has, maybe these young employees didn’t realize how wrong this was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a stupid, stupid thing to do, but not only have they been fired, according to Domino’s USA President Patrick Doyle, there are warrants out for their arrest.

Here are some of the phrases from the video:

  • We are taking this incredibly seriously.
  • This was an isolated incident.
  • The two teen members have been dismissed and there are felony warrants out for their arrest.
  • The store has been shut down and sanitized from top to bottom.
  • We’re re-examining all of our hiring practices to make sure that people like this don’t make it into our stores.
  • We have auditors across the country in our stores every day of the week.
  • The independent owner of that store is reeling from the damage this has caused.
  • It sickens me that the impact of two individuals could impact our great system.

I want to point out that I was not a part of managing this issue and don’t know all the details. This review of what I see is armchair quarterbacking, but it is also what I perceive as a consumer.

I like that he was taking this seriously; it is a serious issue. It was very important to say that this was an isolated incident and that the teens have been dismissed.

I don’t know what they know and was not privy to how many complaints that they received or what the loss of revenue is but these two teenagers did a stupid thing. They should be fired, but felony warrants? (Mail Online is reporting that the two have been charged with distributing prohibited foods.)

It was important to let people know that the store was shut down and sanitized from top to bottom. (Although using the term “bottom” is kind of ironic…if you saw one of the videos.) I also think it’s important to let people know that there are auditors in their stores ensuring the cleanliness of the kitchens and that this is part of their ongoing policy and not just because of this incident.

I really think they need to look at what their social media policy is—or define one—rather than create hiring practices to make sure people like these two kids don’t get hired by Domino’s. Is this even possible? I expect that employees at Domino’s are like other fast food chains – many of them are young adults. We have all heard of these types of stories at fast food restaurants – so I am sure this kind of thing happens more than we think. I would love to believe that a hiring practice could remove this type of thing from all restaurants. If Mr. Doyle comes up with it, he should share it with the world!

It’s a new world; people do silly things on videotape and upload it to the Internet. Before this sort of thing happens, let’s give employees the knowledge of what is or is not appropriate and the repercussions if something like this was to happen.

Perhaps Domino’s might have said that we are now implementing a social media policy and are going to assist our franchises in working with staff so that they understand the damage that can be done by what they might perceive as a “hoax.”

I expect millions have seen the videos by now. The charges will now have hundreds of millions of people around the world searching these videos out. This will create further damage the Domino’s brand.

To me, it seemed like Domino’s used the heavy hand of “THE MAN” here and it could have used a little finesse. The words used were very powerful and created a strong emotional reaction in me – including fear for these poor, and not so bright kids. In this video, Mr. Doyle sounds angry. Maybe he could have gone to the gym and got rid of a little bit of his anger before taping the video. I get that he is taking it seriously, but I didn’t leave with a positive feeling about Domino’s after that video.

It may have been more effective to have this video done in an interview style or have Mr. Doyle speak directly into the camera. Having him read from a teleprompter didn’t allow for a connection to happen for me.

Compare this to how JetBlue handled a huge issue a few years ago. This isn’t the best produced video and then CEO David Neelman trips over a few words, but he comes across as sympathetic, believable and authentic. This response video works, in my mind. Domino’s…not so much.

I would be interested in hearing other perspectives.

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