August 2012

I am not sure what happened, but there has been no summer lull for the AHA crew. We’ve been busier throughout July and August than ever (and we’re not complaining!). However, being this busy means that I haven’t had the time to blog or post AHA Fast Take Fridays on a regular basis over the past couple of weeks. My apologies. As much as we love this blog and Fast Take Fridays, there are times when we have to make a choice and making sure we meet our client deadlines (and expectations) is always our priority.

I did find a funny piece on that we hope will make you smile. We are incredibly fortunate here at AHA to have excellent copy editors and proofreaders. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t give thanks for their understanding of the English language and their relentless pursuit of proper grammar, correct spelling and all-around good writing. So have a little laugh at this and make sure you go straight to the person responsible for editing and proofreading your content and tell them how important they are to you!

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Regular readers of our AHA blog know that we’re big fans of Chris Brogan. He’s smart, he’s talented, he’s kind and he’s generous with his knowledge. A pretty great combination, if you ask us. We always find something interesting on his blog – topics that engage us in conversation and discussion in the AHA office and with clients. One of his recent posts on how important it is for communicators to do more than “talk well” resonated with me. This post is worth a read.

We know that the world has changed and that technology has empowered us – as communications professionals and as people. The use of visuals to tell a story is more popular than ever and more accessible, thanks to widespread access to technology (and the reasonable price tag).

As communicators, we will always be charged with developing positioning and messaging. I can’t imagine that speeches, newsletters or editorial style content are going away anytime soon; however, there is so much more to communicating these days.

We have used both professionally shot and flip style video for many years now. While we are smart enough to know when it’s time to bring in the professionals, we have also learned how to shoot and edit our own guerilla/Flip style videos. We use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (and so many more) – all online communications tools that demand a different understanding and approach to communication, including how to engage with an image or video. Our abilities don’t end there – Paul took a web design/html course so we can better understand what it takes to build a site. Not that we, personally, will build a site, but we need to know what it takes and be able to make minor changes. I am obsessed with online measurement and we have spent time at conferences and workshops focused on how to interpret online stats and measurements. I am continually reviewing the incredible information that can be gleaned on Google Analytics to better understand what works online for our clients and what doesn’t. SEO is another area that it is important for communications professionals to understand.

All of this at once can seem overwhelming, I know. But if you are a communicator, you can choose one area a month and spend a little time understanding how it works and what it means to your organization (or you can just call us and we can help).

It’s important to have at least a working knowledge of a wide range of communication tools and approaches relevant to today’s technology and to the expectations and demands of your stakeholders.

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We are big fans of David Henderson. An award-winning former journalist, Henderson tells it like it is and he doesn’t pull any punches. In many ways, he reminds me of some of the diehard news journalists I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with when I was at Maclean’s. Getting the story was what they lived for; covering breaking news and explaining what was happening and why to our readers was their reason for being. And they didn’t hold back when they had something to say – like Henderson.

His recent blog post talks about what news media is like today, and what that means for the news we see and read as consumers. That made me think about how much journalism and the news that comes into our homes each day has evolved over the past two decades. I know that magazine journalism has changed since I worked at Maclean’s. It had to. The morning and evening news has changed too, and it continues to change.

I have a television in my office. Not only does it make me really popular during events like the Olympics, but it also allows me to have different news channels playing throughout the day. I don’t sit there and stare at the TV. Sometimes the sound is off so I can concentrate (although I grew up at Maclean’s, so I can work pretty much in any busy, noisy, stressy environment). I get a taste of several news and talk shows each day and there are times when something catches my interest and I think: “Well, that’s changed.”

As a communicator this is important on several levels. How we pitch media has changed and how people hear or take in information has changed as well. Now, I am not saying that your daily newspaper or evening news should be the standard by which you communicate. I’m saying that it is important to review all media forms – from the newspaper to the nightly news to community papers to cable network talk shows to blogs, Facebook and Twitter – with a view of looking at the language being used, the topics being covered and the amount of time or space allotted to them. Check the newspaper comments online and see what elements are creating discussion among the readers; follow the nightly anchor’s Twitter feed and see what people are saying about the broadcast. Find out what resonates and why. Understand how information is being communicated today – don’t assume it’s the same way as yesterday. Identify the realities of the situation so you know what is and isn’t an appropriate pitch to media currently. If there are situations like Henderson points out, where the media seem to be ignoring a big story, find an alternative distribution channel for it: your blog, a guest blog post, a video segment or link to the information on social networking sites.

The news media is a lot different than it was even five years ago. Make sure you stay up-to-date with your current affairs.

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In today’s AHA Fast Take Friday Ruth talks about how social media is keeping people updated instantly regarding the Olympics, and how some television stations are behind the times. (I was watching live Olympics this morning at 2 a.m. PST on CTV, while NBC was still repeating yesterday’s events.)

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Go Canada Go!

At AHA, we’re into the Olympics. We watch the coverage at lunch and on our breaks (which are amazingly timed to see Canadians win medals). For these two weeks, our conversations are pretty Olympic focused. This includes the broadcast coverage and how the media, bloggers and citizen journalists are participating.

Times have changed. Technology has changed. How we want to get our information has changed. I am not so sure that broadcast strategies have changed enough. The fact that NBC delays coverage until U.S. prime time doesn’t make sense – thank goodness our Canadian broadcaster, CTV, doesn’t do that. Social media ensures that results are all over the place by the time NBC is even close to airing the event.

And what about the athletes who have been pulled from the games for inappropriate social media usage? That’s a whole new ball game too.

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