Danielle Desharnais's Posts

I recently chatted with my friend and colleague Ken McQueen. Ken is the Bureau Chief for Vancouver for Maclean’s Magazine. He covers the West Coast of Canada and the U.S. for the magazine and is one of the best journalists around.

I asked Ken to tell me what he wants to receive from someone who wants to have Maclean’s cover their company’s story.

Here is what Ken told said:

“A good pitch is aimed at Maclean’s (link), not a generic pitch to all media. It is a story of national interest, or a story that is nationally interesting. And it arrives, miraculously, on a day, and in a week, when I have time to write it and the editors have an interest in slapping it into the magazine. This is a rare, but not impossible, confluence of events.

Somewhere in PR school they must teach that it is a good idea to follow up an email pitch with a phone call. Wrong. It is a bad idea unless there is something exceptional to add. I don’t know how many dozen pitches I get over the course of a week. If everyone includes a phone call I get no work done.

A general all-points pitch is dead on arrival. And a pitch that I think is going just to me, and ends up in the next day’s dailies, is a very, very, very bad idea. I need things exclusively, and well in advance if I’m going to hold my editors’ interest.

I honour embargoes. I appreciate tips and will sit on a story until a mutually agreeable date. I work for a news magazine, I don’t write advertising copy.”

This is great information – straight from a well-respected journalist. Read, watch or listen to the media organization you want to tell your story to … think about whether it is right for that organization. Then think about it again. Don’t pitch to everyone – choose who your target is and do your homework. Find out what they cover, find out what grabs their attention. Remember that the journalist you pitch has to find your story compelling enough to take it to the story meeting and pitch it to their editor or producer, give them the ammunition to do that.

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I have a profile on  Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. I spend time on all these sites – sometimes for fun, often in looking at them through the eyes of my clients – thinking if this would this be a good place for them to be.

There are several new sites out there including xanga.com (link) and another one I have just heard of – which is a take off on Facebook for dogs… I haven’t found it yet – I heard about it on the news and didn’t catch the URL. So if anyone knows it, please send it my way! I really want to see what a Facebook for dogs looks like – and what its reason for being is…

I LOVE social networks for a lot of reasons. One of my favorites is Project Opus (link) – and not just because they are a client J. In my mind, Project Opus has a reason for being – the love of music. When I go there it’s going to be about music, listening to it, talking about it, searching it out.

I am still working out the role of some of the other social networks in my world. For some clients, they are great ways to reach out to groups that have showcased their interest in a topic. In my leisure time, I surf through the networks because I like to know what people are thinking and talking about… but, I keep getting invitations to be “friends” with people that I don’t know very well or have maybe met once … as well as invitations to link to people I do know well. The people I know well are easy to say yes to. I know them, I am comfortable in a personal or professional sense in introducing them to others. And – I have to admit, some of these networks have reintroduced me to people that I really like and respect and have lost touch with … BUT …what happens when an acquaintance or the acquaintance of a friend of a friend sends an invite to connect on a social network. How do I gracefully get out of that? And should I?

There seems to be a need for people on social networks to have a large number of friends. Professionally, I can see this for musicians or any other role that needs to showcase that you have a fan base. It helps get the word out about gigs, performances and events. That makes sense. But if I say yes to an invitation to be “friends” – am I endorsing that person – either obviously or in some subtle manner? Am I saying to the online social community that in my opinion, this is someone who has something to say? This is someone worth listening to? If at a networking event an acquaintance came up to me and asked me to introduce them to a respected colleague, strategic partner or client – I would make sure that a) I was comfortable doing that and b) that I let the person that I was introducing the acquaintance to know that they were just that – AN ACQUAINTANCE. Someone that I have met before, but have no real life knowledge of, that I am not endorsing or encouraging them to connect with…it’s just a neutral introduction at an event. And the truth is, if I was the least bit uncomfortable, I wouldn’t do it.

If someone I didn’t know well asked me to introduce them via email or to give them the phone number of a respected colleague or client, I wouldn’t do it without doing my due diligence and checking the person out.

Social networks are still working out some bugs… this, I think, being one of them. I find that since I am often in the public spotlight because of speaking events and workshops and when I take on the role as spokesperson for a client, that I have to deal with a larger group of acquaintances in my professional life. I would say that 90% of “acquaintance” phone calls, emails or requests to be “friends” online are from people who want some kind of favor from me or from AHA. I don’t think that is the way social networks were made to work. I believe that there is a two-way street out there … where people connect because they can benefit each other. Don’t get me wrong, we also get calls from people who have recommended us to someone looking for a great PR agency or who want to bring something to the table that will mutually benefit both companies…but for the most part, I think social networks are being overrun by people who haven’t started to live in a world where you go out of your way to show your value and what you can bring to the table to another entrepreneur first, before you ask for something from them.

I think social networks will evolve and it will become the business utopia we all hope they can be. Right now, I worry that this mad scramble to connect is creating some disengagement on the part of people and companies that want real, strong, authentic connections rather than phony, “I don’t really know you but will accept your invitation so I don’t have to reject you” kind of things.

So – while social networks find their rightful place in connecting people for the right reasons – I will say this here and now… just because I am connected to someone on some social network doesn’t mean I am recommending them, know them well – or in some cases have met them more than once. If you want a vote of confidence in someone I know, call me. Don’t believe everything you read online.

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What’s a blog for — if not to talk to a great person that will come and join our team! Below is the ad we have put out for a PR coordinator!

AHA Creative Strategies, a boutique PR firm with its head office in beautiful Gibsons, B.C. (on the Sunshine Coast) and a client service/business development office in Vancouver, is currently looking for a Public Relations Coordinator. This position is based in Gibsons – a short 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay (North Vancouver). Preference will be given to those who live or are willing to live on the Sunshine Coast.

Qualifications and Requirements
-Excellent communication, organization, and time management skills.
-Must be able to communicate effectively and professionally over the phone with company contacts and media.
-Ability to manage simultaneous tasks, think out-of the-box and take initiative.
-Creative, intelligent, positive attitude, team player, flexible, and reliable.
-Strong work ethic and strict attention to detail.
-Proficient with Cisions Media Source (previously Bowdens Media Source) media database.
-Must have excellent grammar and writing skills.
-Advanced skills in Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.
-Proficient Internet research ability.
-Strong understanding of social media, especially blogging.
-Degree or certificate in the field of PR or communications.
-A minimum of one year’s experience in public relations.

-Write, edit and proofread news releases and pitches.
-Coordinate media interviews.
-Pitch story ideas to the media.
-Build and maintain media databases.
-Contribute to client brainstorming sessions.
-Maintain client media binders.
-Project account coordination.
-Assist partners with event planning and onsite coordination.
-Admin duties as necessary – including answering the telephone.
-Walking the AHA mutts – we have two!

The AHA office environment is casual, fun and lively. We work hard AND we have fun. Our clients are based throughout North America and are exceptional. This is a great opportunity for someone with a positive, “can do” attitude who wants to build a career with one of Canada’s best boutique PR agencies.

If you have the drive to succeed and are looking for a PR position in a fast-paced organization in one of B.C.’s most beautiful areas, we want to hear from you. Please email a cover letter and resume ASAP to paul@ahacreative.com.

Compensation is based on relevant experience. We will be hiring mid-July.

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What will a blog do for me? (That’s the question right?)

I spent a couple of hours yesterday speaking with a roomful of lively and smart women at the Professional Women’s Network group in downtown Vancouver. Notice I say WITH not to … it was an interactive exchange of ideas, experience, thoughts and even some skepticism about blogs and blogging and the value – or the Return On Blog (ROB).

There were several women who have obviously drank the Kool-Aid – they see the value of blogs and want to learn more about how to effectively use them for their business or career. Several more seemed interested and I could see the light go on as we chatted and several others I think are still concerned about the value – and the time it takes to blog. After hearing some of their experiences with blogs and blogging, listening to their concerns and their very thoughtful questions – I realized that there is a whole topic for a blog right there. That blog will come next week.

For today, I promised to put up my speaking notes and to provide some reference points to begin checking out blogs, searching to see who is blogging in their industry and getting a feel for the blogsophere. Here they are …long-winded alert – this is a longer than normal blog – so please don’t think a) that all my blogs will be this long and b) that your blogs need to be this long. Happy reading.

Business people, from one person home-based entrepreneurs to CEOs of multinational companies, often ask me if they should have a blog – and what the benefits are to blogging. If you are wondering the same thing …here is some info that might interest you.

Think about having a blog – and of posting on other people’s blogs – as a convenient way to build relationships. It is one great big global (or local, regional or national, depending on your needs) cocktail party that you don’t have to dress up for, where you don’t need to find parking or buy a ticket to attend. And – here is the best part – you also don’t need to put up with any of the pylons or sharks that also attend these events and waste your time trying to “sell” you or “convince” you or find a way to benefit themselves without ever considering your side of things.

The blogosphere provides the opportunity to meet like-minded people, to discuss and collaborate, even to disagree or debate in (for the most part) a respectful, open and incredibly interactive environment. Blogging is much like having a great networking event, where people are pre-qualified in a certain topic before they arrive. In this blog – I talk about Public Relations and PR 2.0 (blogs, podcasts, wikis, etc.) While I don’t have many posts to my blog, I have a strong RSS subscriber list who want to see what I write about public relations. Someone with no interest in PR isn’t going to subscribe to my blog or even get past the first page of our website.

Whether you start your own blog or post on other blogs that are discussing topics you are interested in, you are expanding your network and building positive relationships within your area of interest or expertise. You are having discussions and conversations about subjects that you have knowledge, experience and expertise in. It never hurts your professional relationships to be seen as an expert. As importantly, reading what others are thinking, doing and discussing is a great way to keep up with changes, trends and new paths in your industry.

Being present in the blogosphere – as a blogger, a poster or a reader is important. The truth of the matter is, you can either blog or be blogged. If there are conversations happening in the blogosphere about your industry, your company or your customers and clients and you aren’t a part of that discussion, you are missing out on a huge opportunity. You can’t control what is said in the blogosphere, but if you aren’t out there – you can’t respond, discuss or engage in it either, and I would bet at least a few of your competitors have already joined the online conversation.

According to several surveys, there are more than 57 million blogs with an average of 100,000 more being added each day. By my calculations, that takes us closer to 70 million blogs. That’s a lot of ideas, thoughts, discussions and conversations going on. The great thing about a blog is that it can have an audience of a million or an audience of ten and it still matters.

A blog can let your clients or customers know your approach to business, it can help you showcase your expertise. A blog can be used to discuss challenges in your industry or put out questions to your readers and ask for their input. It can open up a conversation with a potential customer or client – a conversation that might not happen without a blog.

For larger companies, a blog can put a human face to an organization. It can improve the company’s reputation or perception in the industry and the community. If the CEO chooses to blog, it can create dialogue with staff, customers, strategic partners, suppliers and communities.

A blog has to be authentic, with a true voice. The marketing team can’t be the bloggers unless they are willing to drop the marketing copy and the sales pitch and engage on a completely different level with customers, clients, and others. And it’s hard to do when you have spent your life thinking, writing and speaking “marketing.” Companies don’t blog, people do.

When you hit an authentic note with your audience you will feel it. It doesn’t mean you have to put forward every little problem that your company has – it just means that your blog isn’t for “selling” – it’s for discussing, it’s for telling who you are and who the people in your company are and for being authentic and honest. But if a challenge comes up and someone asks you about it on your blog – talk to them. It’s amazing how supportive people will be if you give them the chance and are honest with them. We’ll forgive a person or a company that makes a mistake if they acknowledge it and do their best to make it right.

A blog is a direct connection to your target market. It’s a way to really talk with them and to listen to them. For years, large companies have paid tens of thousands of dollars to hold focus groups to find out what people think. Now, that conversation with consumers is at your fingertips.

I’d be interested to hear if you think it’s worth it, and if you do – to read your blogs.
Great (in my opinion) Entrepreneurial Blogs

Great (in my opinion) corporate blogs


Where Do I start? Well, at the beginning, of course.

Choosing blogging software

To get started, visit a site like Blogger.com or WordPress.com and sign up for an account. TypePad has a nominal monthly fee, WordPress and Blogger.com are free.

They’re out there talking …

Check out what is being said about you, your industry, your mother on the blogosphere.


There is so much more to talk about … We are also developing short one-hour seminars that will be held in a series over a 5-week period on PR 2.0 and using the online world to promote your business, your career, your association, your passion. Let us know what you would like to see in these seminars. We will be posting the content of the first series shortly – so send me an email ruth@ahacreative.com or put post your two cents worth to the blog!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out what we have to say.

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I am often asked why an entrepreneur, small business, CEO or multinational company’s employees should blog…is it worth the time and effort, does it have a return-on-investment or a ROB (return-on-blog)?


According to a wide-range of surveys, it is estimated that there are more than 80 million blogs on the Internet. That’s a lot of communication going on. And either you are a part of this conversation or you aren’t. I would bet that several of your competitors are out there.

If you aren’t blogging, and that includes reading and posting and linking to other blogs, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with an audience that has similar interests, that wants to know more about what you do, how you do it and wants to tell you what they need.

Blogging gives you:
• An informal way to talk about your company.
• A place to ask for feedback – about your service, products, promotion and your approach. (Marketers used to, and still do, pay huge amounts for focus groups for just such information. Create an audience for your blog and you have an incredible opportunity to hear directly from your stakeholders.)
• The opportunity to showcase your expertise, knowledge and know-how. Give away some of your knowledge on your blog. Prospective customers or clients will love you for it and come back for more information – and to work with you when the opportunity arises.
• Sales tools – send a link to your blog out to everyone you can think of. Hopefully, they will see the value in it and sign up on your RSS feed so that they can receive new content when you upload it.
• The opportunity to create an authentic conversation with your readers. (Don’t just talk at them, listen to what they have to say as well.)

For decades, companies have worked hard to generate media coverage and while it’s still very important – a blog gives you the opportunity to have your own media. And along with your blog, you can produce a podcast or a vodcast. This gives you a huge opportunity to start the conversation with your consumer base.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting “how to” information about blogs – from who should blog to when you should blog and what you can write about. I will include some insider tips on blogging. Let me know if you have anything you would like me to write about. Or if you have tips you would like to include, send them to me! I would love to hear what you are doing at your blog!

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