Danielle Desharnais's Posts

Social MediaSocial media is a challenge when it comes to both your professional and personal lives. Posting to your social media accounts offers an often very public view of your opinions, hobbies, habits and attitudes. There really isn’t any separation between personal and professional anymore.

I have read many articles on the subject and have seen a couple of speakers say that you should keep your Facebook page personal and use LinkedIn, Twitter and other accounts for more public engagement with potential clients, customers, partners or employers. Well, the reality is – that’s not easy to do. LinkedIn is pretty straightforward; it is generally focused on professional networking and business-related topics. Other sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, aren’t so easy.

Let’s take Facebook as an example. How would you decline an existing or potential client or employer if they asked to friend you on Facebook? (And, if you haven’t experienced this, you will.) There is no easy way to decline that request. I have been immersed in the world of social media for more than 15 years – and I still haven’t found a good way to do it. That’s because turning someone away who has a connection to you does not build a good relationship. And it can look like you have something to hide.

The fact is, you can set up your privacy settings to stop some people from seeing all or some of your posts, but I know very few people who actually do this. While the person isn’t informed that you have done this, if they are paying attention, they might notice. And that doesn’t stop someone from tagging you or sharing inappropriate information and others seeing it. You have to be really on the ball and vigilant to make this work.

In working with clients, we have done social media audits that have turned up images of board members sitting beside someone smoking marijuana, senior staff drinking wine from a bottle, and several other pieces of information or photos that could damage their professional reputations. You can’t control everything and, for the most part, these kinds of things can be easily explained or put into context, but sometimes you don’t get that opportunity.

I have been on Facebook for a long time and I have friends, family, colleagues and both past and current clients as my Facebook friends. And while I do share some personal things, in the back of my mind I always ask myself – what if this ended up on the front page of a national newspaper… would I mind? We have a social media policy at AHA: We don’t post when we are sad or mad. And, for the most part, we focus on the positive. Even in a negative or serious situation, you can find something to say that is constructive.

The fact is, there is no longer a boundary between what you do in your personal and professional lives. They have blurred together. When you speak to young people in the workforce today, they expect the people who lead the organization to be transparent and authentic. More and more staffers are connected via social media networks – and often with their supervisors, managers, directors and the big cheese.

For the AHA team, we work closely with our clients and we usually have strong, positive relationships with them. Social media helps us build these relationships, as they can see who we are when we aren’t sitting at their boardroom tables. They can see who we are as real people. They are exposed to our values, our integrity and ethics in action – through example – not just from us telling them who we are. They can also see that we like to have fun, have a sense of humour, and they can learn about our hobbies and passions. For us, this is a benefit. People want to work with people they like and respect – and that’s a two-way street. When professional contacts connect with me on Facebook, I get to see who they really are too.

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charlotteempeycrop2We are beyond thrilled to announce that media icon (and all-around awesome human being) Charlotte Empey has agreed to take on the role of AHA’s Toronto Bureau Chief.

AHA partner, Ruth Atherley, and Charlotte have known each other and worked together for many, many years. Their friendship and professional relationship goes back to the days when Charlotte founded and was Editor-in-Chief of Modern Woman magazine and Ruth was a contributing writer for her. Charlotte went on to have senior and leadership roles at many of Canada’s national publications – including as Editor-in-Chief for Metro English Canada (daily) newspapers and Canadian Living magazine.

In this partnership role, Charlotte will work with the AHA team to expand the brand journalism and branded content services in Toronto, Vancouver and across the country.

With shrinking newsrooms, organizations are challenged in getting their stories told via media coverage. Understanding how widespread the changes in traditional media are, as well as the power of social networks, online content and search engine optimization (SEO), the AHA team realized years ago how important it is for brands to tell their own stories.

In order to meet a growing client need in this area, the AHA team has put a strong focus on creating engaging, informative, well-written and professionally-produced branded content and brand journalism campaigns for our clients. This approach allows the brand story to be effectively and authentically shared with organizations’ stakeholders, communities and target markets in a way that engages the audience.

For our purposes, branded content speaks more specifically to projects or individual items to be developed – such as web content, one-off articles, videos or podcasts – and brand journalism is focused on a longer-term campaign that would include weeks, months or even years of creating ongoing, interesting, informative content on a regular basis that engages your target market or stakeholder groups.

Please click to see case studies.

AHA Branded Content/Brand Journalism Services

Our branded content/brand journalism services include, but are not limited to:

  • Writing and editing
  • Identification of compelling story angles relevant to an organization/project
  • Defining the client’s brand story
  • Interviews with subject matter experts, senior team and staff members, board of directors and other individuals, when necessary
  • Research of industry/global trends, identifying key elements relevant to the subject matter
  • Development of brand journalism campaigns
  • Editorial content schedules for ongoing series
  • Editorial content schedules for social media
  • Editorial style writing of articles for websites, blogs, e-newsletters and other online publications
  • Video segments and series (sometimes accompanied by articles)
  • Photos
  • Photo essays
  • Social media content
  • Social media series
  • Promotion of branded content on social networking sites
  • Client bylined articles for submission to traditional media (consumer and trade)
  • Op-ed pieces (bylined to client)

See the news release on this announcement here.

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For Immediate Release                                                                                

February 16, 2016 

AHA Creative Strategies taps media icon

Charlotte Empey as Toronto Bureau Chief

Gibsons, B.C. – Charlotte Empey, former Editor-in-Chief of Metro English Canada newspapers and Canadian Living magazine, has accepted the role of Toronto Bureau Chief for AHA Creative Strategies, AHA CEO Ruth Atherley announced today. Along with heading up the Toronto office, Ms. Empey will also work closely with the AHA team to expand the agency’s brand journalism and branded content services. She will do this through a strategic partnership between her company, FYI Media and AHA Creative Strategies.

“Charlotte is an incredible visionary and editor-in-chief, not to mention one of the most generous, supportive and encouraging leaders. She is a true icon in the world of journalism,” said Atherley. “When we heard that she had shifted into communications consulting with her company FYI Media, we knew we wanted to partner with her in the areas of brand journalism and branded content.” She added: “In this day and age, when newsrooms are shrinking and media outlets are laying off reporters, editors and producers, more and more organizations have to tell their own stories. Who better to help them tell these stories than one of the country’s best journalists. We are beyond delighted that Charlotte has agreed to take on the role of AHA Bureau Chief and to partner with us in helping organizations to effectively tell their stories to their stakeholder groups and communities.”

Said Empey: “I have worked with Ruth since she was a young writer, pitching stories and writing for me at many of my publications. I know her attitude, approach, work ethic and integrity and I have watched her grow into a seasoned, experienced communications professional who understands the changing media landscape and how to effectively tell her clients’ stories in that environment. When she approached me with the idea of heading up the AHA Toronto office and taking on the role of Bureau Chief, she definitely caught my attention.” She explained: “There is a growing demand from organizations for well-written and well-produced content that effectively tells their story in an engaging and authentic manner. We are here to meet these needs and to tell some great stories that engage, inform and entertain. I am thrilled to work with Ruth again and to partner with the AHA team.”

About FYI Media

Charlotte Empey, Principal at FYI Media, partners with her clients – editorial, corporate and not-for-profit – to create powerful narratives that inspire, move and motivate. She helps her clients to define communications goals and objectives, and to identify the audience psychographic – key to understanding who they are and what kinds of stories will move them most. Then she develops a strategic plan and manages a team of cross-platform professionals to create stories that cut through the clutter and capture hearts, minds and the collective imagination.

About AHA Creative Strategies

Founded in 2003, AHA Creative Strategies Inc. is a boutique communications firm with clients in Canada, the United States and New Zealand. The AHA team has developed, executed and managed strategic communications, brand journalism, PR, social media and community engagement campaigns and projects for clients locally, nationally, in the U.S. and internationally. AHA regularly works with clients to help manage a wide range of emerging issues, challenges and crisis communication initiatives in traditional media outlets, online and on social media networks.

 

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dreamstime_xs_47219871

How we communicate, both professionally and personally, has changed drastically in the past decade. The online world has created a different way of connecting with stakeholders, your target markets and your community, as well as with family and friends. And that has had an impact in the world of media, including journalism, advertising and marketing.

For the purpose of this blog post, I am going to focus on journalism because publicity and media relations are often important components of what we do as communicators. In Canada and the U.S., newsrooms are not just shrinking – many are ceasing to exist. Print publications that have been in business for more than 100 years are going out of business and local television and radio stations are being closed down. We are at a critical stage in how local and international news is delivered to us. There is a great deal to be discussed about what this means to our communities. I strongly believe that journalists are a key element in maintaining a functioning, democratic society. They ask the tough questions, they investigate, and they hold public and private figures accountable to their promises and for their actions. However, for this blog post, I am going to stay off of my soapbox about this subject and focus on the practical business actions that need to be taken in response to the shrinking opportunity to connect with your stakeholders and tell your organization’s story through media relations or publicity.

The fact is, it’s harder to generate positive media coverage for your organization. Newspapers and magazines are smaller, radio and television breakfast shows and talk shows are being cancelled, and the opportunity for a communications professional to generate coverage is shrinking because the process of who gets interviewed has changed and no one is really talking about it. You see, advertisers have become the priority for who gets interviewed. The only way the media outlets that are still standing are going to stay standing is by increasing their revenues. That means creating added value for advertisers – like having them on a morning breakfast show as a guest, choosing to write about their product, service or event, or profiling the CEO or organization in a print publication – creating copy that is written by a journalist, but that leans more on the side of advertorial than editorial. And – none of this is to criticize the working reporters, producers or editors who are doing this work. The world has changed and they have had to adapt. None of the journalists I know are happy about this, but the fact is – they are trying to do their absolute best while the sand continues to shift under their feet.

One example showing how much things have changed is a recent pitch we did to a television breakfast show for a coffee company client. We had an interesting, newsworthy announcement about what the (Canadian) coffee company is doing at their plantation in Thailand for the environment and for the people of the surrounding villages. It is visionary, they use sustainable business practices, and it is environmental excellence. And the producer of the breakfast show said he loved it and that is was a great story and it was something that their viewers would be interested in, but (and it’s a big but here), they had just taken on a “coffee sponsor” and couldn’t cover any coffee news on the show. And low and behold, within the week, there were the hosts with their branded coffee mugs.

The AHA Moment

Organizations can no longer rely on traditional media to tell their stories, to help build their communities, or to connect with their stakeholder groups. They need to become their own media outlets – creating well-written editorial style articles, taking great photos that help showcase who they are and what they offer clients or customers, and producing short videos that share their news and information in a way that makes people want to watch. The good news is, brand journalism – branded content – can be done in a reasonable time frame for a reasonable budget. It will require a shift of budget and effort from media relations, publicity and even advertising and marketing to tell your own story in a compelling, engaging and entertaining manner.

We are going to be talking a great deal about brand journalism and branded content here on this blog in the coming weeks and months. And that’s because it’s a conversation we are having more and more with our clients. While publicity and media relations will always be an important part of the work that we do, the reality of the current landscape and the declining state of journalism and shrinking newsrooms around the world means that organizations will have to produce their own content – in an authentic and meaningful way (no marketing speak) – in order to stay relevant and build stakeholder and customer relationships. It’s an interesting and exciting time in our world and we’re looking forward to helping our clients to effectively tell their stories in a way that engages and informs their target market, stakeholders and influencers.

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dreamstime_xs_50255076Super Bowl ads are highly anticipated and costly. It is estimated that just buying the time slot for a 30-second spot for Super Bowl 50 would have set you back around $5 million U.S. And then there are production costs, which are estimated to be up to $10 million U.S., depending on the commercial.

The halftime show is another big element. This year, Coldplay was listed as the headliner, and then Beyoncé and Bruno Mars were added to the playlist – all high-profile entertainers with huge followings.

The reactions on social media to the ads and the halftime show are a perfect example of how the world communicates and how reactions have changed. Some people absolutely loved a specific commercial and others really hated it. They shared their opinions all over social media, which were then picked up, retweeted or shared by others – including traditional media.

Some loved the halftime show; others slammed the performance and Beyoncé specifically – saying it was an attack on police officers. And that was also shared and retweeted – creating a pretty heated discussion about what she was trying to communicate.

Anyone with an opinion – whether you think that opinion is right or wrong – can speak out on social media. And, while Super Bowl 50 was a huge event and your organization might not have that kind of following, it is important for any organization to realize that someone, somewhere might not like what you are doing – and someone, somewhere else might love it. And they might be sharing all of this all over the Internet.

Opinions like the ones being shouted out on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites on Sunday night used to be contained amongst the person’s friends and family – or perhaps those sitting next to them at the local pub. But now those opinions can find a global audience – and depending on how you respond or don’t respond, this can impact your brand.

The AHA Moment

It’s important to: a) know what is being said about your organization; and b) be prepared for both positive or negative conversations. The positive comments are of huge value and acknowledging them can help you build strong relationships with influencers and potential brand ambassadors. The negative comments are equally important – especially if the discussion goes beyond opinion and the information being shared is inaccurate, misleading or an attack. Depending on the circumstances, responding isn’t always strategic, but you need to know what is being said before making that decision.

It’s important to know what conversations are being held that either talk about your organization or brand, or that impact your industry – and it’s crucial that you understand how to respond effectively.

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