June 2009

We’ve got change. In fact, there is a great deal of change going on at AHA right now. We are refreshing our brand, our vision, our approach to business and our website.

Bridging Two Worlds, the service (and the blog) that we offered in partnership with QUAY Strategies is wrapping up – since QUAY is closing and the two partners, Patsy and Della, are off to new chapters in their professional lives. We’re excited for them and inspired by their decision to embrace change when it would have been easy to stay with the status quo.

AHA has never been your average PR agency. We’re different and we’re proud of that. We know that we’re not the right agency for every organization and over the past six years, we’ve come to relish that thought. Sometimes it means turning down business and other times not being awarded a contract for a project, usually because of the misperception that we’re too small. In our brand and vision refresh, we’ve decided to approach those misperceptions head on. We are a small agency but—working within the new paradigm of business—we have created the ability to expand our agency’s people power, skill set and expertise in direct relationship to our clients’ needs. We have been focused on building a core team that provides the knowledge, expertise and skill sets that you might find at a much larger agency. The difference, our team is virtual.

We have an account executive and senior writer in Toronto, our coordinator/copy editor is in Calgary, our online digital producer, communications strategist and writer are in Vancouver and our interactive design strategist is in Gibsons. And, of course, I can’t forget to mention my business partner, Paul Holman and myself. Paul is AHA’s project and events manager – he makes sure each project or initiative is completed on time, on budget and that it exceeds expectations. He manages our media relations and publicity initiatives and his attention to detail and proactive approach make him a natural here. And then there’s me (Ruth), I provide strategic direction, issues and crisis communication management and am the go to person for social media. In reality, I do pretty much anything our clients need and everything Paul tells me to do.

Our “head office” (we’re not much on this kind of hierarchy, but the “head office” is the centre of the universe when it comes to AHA) is in Gibsons on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of BC. Here we have our office, space for workshops, training and group brainstorming and our reception area is called The Tiki Lounge. The Tiki Lounge is where everyone goes after an intense day of work to relax and wind down with a game of pool, darts or foosball and a cold beverage from the AHA mini-bar. 

And we also have an office in Vancouver for client service and business development. With the closure of QUAY, we’re in the market for new office space and will keep you posted on where our new Vancouver home will be.

We’ve always been a little bit ahead of the curve and it feels like technology and business attitudes are just hitting their stride in this area. Forward thinking organizations see the value in companies like AHA and our approach to their success. The right time, the right place, the right approach and the right expertise – it’s a nice place to be.

Stay tuned for more information about the refreshed AHA and, of course, our thoughts and ideas about PR, social media and the world. (And our new website is just around the corner.)

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First off, I have to apologize for this blog being less active than usual. As many of you know, things are changing in our world. QUAY is closing its doors and AHA is refreshing and re-energizing and getting ready for the next stage of our professional life. As of June 30, this blog will be over, but – within a few days (or a week) of that, our new AHA blog and website will be up and it will all be back to normal with almost daily blog posts and even some vodcasts and podcasts. And, of course, we will also keep you posted on what’s happening with Patsy and Della and hope they will come on as guest bloggers every once in a while. So stay tuned…it’s going to be great!

Now back to the real blog post!

Todd Defren has an excellent post at his PR-Squared blog today. (He often has excellent posts so if you don’t subscribe to his blog, you really should.) In it, he talks about the importance of having your PR team believe in what you do because they have tried your service or product and genuinely believe it has value.

At AHA, we won’t take on a client that we wouldn’t tell our friends or family about, that we wouldn’t be proud saying “hey, we work with them, we’re a part of their communications team.”  We have clients that offer things that might not be relevant to any of our team at this stage of our lives/careers…for example, we have done quite a bit of work with BCIT’s School of Health Sciences and it’s highly unlikely I am going to give up PR and go back to school to become a health care professional. However, I have spent a great deal of time with many of the instructors, program heads and the Dean of the school, Kathy Kinloch and I would recommend the School of Health Sciences to anyone I know that wants to enter the field of health sciences.

When I was a journalist and got a pitch from a PR person, I could tell in seconds if they were just feeding me a bunch of words or if they really believed in their client. Let’s be realistic, if your PR person doesn’t believe in what they are pitching the media – the media isn’t going to either.

AHA is a small agency by choice and one of the reasons we decided to stay “boutique” is because we want to make sure that we only take on clients we can get behind, that we believe in. We don’t want to become big enough that we have to take on work to support the company. And, let me tell you…there have been times early on in our company’s history when it would have been much easier financially to take on certain clients, but we held fast to our belief that we needed to understand and experience what they were offering wherever possible – and we need to believe in them. Which, by the way, doesn’t mean that we just take the message out “there.” We develop a strategy, work on story angles and develop engagement concepts that will connect like-minded people through social media sites, etc. But, at the heart of it, it’s that we think this organization is worthy of your time and/or energy and sometimes even your hard-earned dollars.

When we take on a client, when we “get” what they are offering – it’s so much easier to pitch media, to blog about them, to put information out on Twitter or to share it on Facebook or other social media sites. More and more these days, as social media blurs the line between professional and personal, it’s important that as communicators that we embrace the value of our being authentic in what we put forward on behalf of our clients.  For us, it’s not just about being awarded the contract. It’s about finding great organizations that we can put our expertise, experience and our reputation behind. It makes such a difference to our success, to our client’s success and to what the future holds.

No matter what organization you choose to work with, make sure they “get it.” It’s crucial.

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Your online presence, no matter whether you are a newspaper, a not-for-profit, a small business, a large corporation or government is important. We talk to clients and workshop participants about this a great deal. Your website is key in your communications strategy. Without a good site and using Twitter, Facebook or any of the social media tools available to us, you are really not doing your organization justice.

Twitter is great for sharing and discovering information, but if you follow some of the best Tweets, they lead you back to a blog, a website or somewhere you can get more information. Don’t lead people back to an old website that hasn’t been updated in months.

Take a good look at your website – is it dynamic, do you have fresh content posted regularly, is there an opportunity for feedback and interactivity? What are your stats and are you digging in to see who is coming to your site, what they are engaged in, and what they stick around to read?

Online communication is of great value, but don’t run before you walk. Take a good look at your website and make sure it is of value to the people you want to engage in conversation.

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fraser-salmon-watersheds-prFor Immediate Release – June 17, 2009

Vancouver, B.C. – The Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fraser Basin Council announced the winner of their annual Fraser Salmon Hero Award on June 9 as part of their joint Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program (FSWP). The award honours a person who has made a tangible contribution to the preservation, enhancement and improvement of the Fraser River watershed and its populations of Pacific salmon over the past year. This year’s winner is Mark Johnson, Community Advisor in the Fraser Valley with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

A grant of $4,000 will be divided among ten organizations in Mr. Johnson’s name: Abbotsford Ravine Park Salmon Enhancement Society, Chilliwack River Action Committee, Chilliwack Senior High School Environmental Club, Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy, Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Society, Fraser Valley Conservancy, Fraser Valley Regional Watersheds Coalition, Rivershed Society of BC, Skowkale Hatchery Revitalization and Education Project, and the Stave Valley Salmonid Enhancement Society.

The award, which is sponsored by Rocky Mountaineer Vacations, was announced at the Fraser Assembly. This annual meeting was established to promote information sharing and coordinated delivery of the FSWP among those working to enhance salmon and watershed health in the Fraser Basin. This year’s Fraser Assembly focused on collaboration, and the Salmon Hero was selected with special consideration for his outstanding ability to foster effective collaboration.

“It is an honour to recognize Mark Johnson as this year’s hero for his tireless efforts and dedication to restoring salmon in the Fraser Basin,” said Dr. Brian Riddell, CEO and President of Pacific Salmon Foundation. “Mr. Johnson is a partnership catalyst for a number of projects and initiatives in the Fraser Valley. He has supported and played integral roles in the Chilliwack River Action Committee, the Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy, the Fraser Valley Regional Watersheds Coalition, and many others. He is a great ambassador for what FSWP stands for.”

“We applaud Mark Johnson for his contributions to restoring ecosystems in the Fraser Basin,” said David Marshall, Executive Director of the Fraser Basin Council. “Champions such as Mark are an inspiration to everyone who cares about the health of local watersheds and wants to find a way to lend a hand.”

Interested citizens can visit ThinkSalmon.com to share their salmon stories and to learn more about watershed and salmon issues, projects and actions. To find out about local groups that work to preserve your watershed, contact Pacific Streamkeepers Federation at pskf@direct.ca.

“We have been a proud sponsor of the Salmon Hero Award for the last two years and it is an honour to recognize dedicated stewards such as Mark Johnson,” said Ian Robertson, Executive Director, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs of Rocky Mountaineer. “At Rocky Mountaineer, we are dedicated to preserving the national environment along our rail routes and encourage our guests to appreciate the beauty of the Fraser Basin ecosystems.”

Rocky Mountaineer Vacations (RMV) is a family owned British Columbia based business and the owners and operators of the internationally acclaimed Rocky Mountaineer train in Western Canada. As part of the company’s commitment to preserving the regions through which it operates, RMV sponsors PSF programs such as Fraser Salmon Heroes Awards, the Fraser River recovery efforts and a children’s book on the Fraser bear.

The Fraser Salmon & Watersheds Program is jointly managed by Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Fraser Basin Council and is funded by the provincial Living Rivers and the federal Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The FSWP mission is to inspire changes in human behaviour for the benefit of salmon and the watersheds on which we all depend. The program funds a range of projects to protect and restore the salmon habitat and water quality, integrate planning and governance, improve information and approaches for sustainable integrated fisheries management, and educate and engage the public.


To set up interviews, please contact Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies Inc. at ruth@ahacreative.com or 604-303-1052. For further information on FSWP, contact Megan Moser at Pacific Salmon Foundation, at mmoser@psf.ca or 604-664-7664 ext. 113.

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There’s good news on the horizon for those businesses and celebrities that are being impersonated on Twitter.

Apparently, St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa sued Twitter. It was reported by the Associated Press that La Russa was “claiming an unauthorized page used his name to make light of drunken driving and two Cardinals pitchers who died, [it] damaged his reputation and caused emotional distress.”

Sports Illustrated’s website SI.com is reporting that the two sides have reached an agreement. Twitter is paying legal fees and making a donation to La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation.

These types of impersonations are happening more and more on Twitter. TechCrunch has a blog post reporting that this summer, Twitter is planning to add a feature called “verified accounts.” This will help ensure people using the accounts are actually the person and not an impersonator. To start, Twitter will be looking at famous people.

I am sure many can’t wait until the time comes for Twitter to verify business and brand accounts.

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