I recently wrote a communications plan for a client that occupies a space filled with academics, intellectuals and thought leaders. Just prior to that, I had developed a plan for a client that provides services within a blue-collar industry. On the surface, these clients have little in common and the plans themselves were very different. However, our approach to the use of straightforward language in each plan was similar.

In both plans, we got rid of the corporate speak, we dumped the gobbledygook and we wrote in plain English. Straightforward, no words like synergy, leading edge, next-generation, dynamic interface, etc. This was a big departure from the style of other plans that were done for each client previously. Plans that had cost them a great deal of money were sitting on a shelf and weren’t being implemented. One of the questions I asked before starting the projects was why the previous plans weren’t being used. The plans were solid and they provided a good strategic foundation, but sat languishing on a shelf. It turns out that both clients found the plans overwhelming and had not been able to connect the theory to reality. There was no momentum to move the ideas in the plan into action.

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Twitter is still the hot social media tool, despite not being “for everyone.” At AHA, we participated in a social media teleseminar yesterday with Peter Shankman and Chris Brogan (you can check out the tweets at #broman). It was very interesting and engaging and, as always with Peter and/or Chris, we learned something.

After the call we discussed the value of different social media tools and when we got around to Twitter, it was very interesting. We have clients that wouldn’t benefit from being active on Twitter, but we think it’s important for them to be aware of it and to monitor it to make sure they know what is being said about their organization.

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There is a very good article on Imediaconnection.com about the social media sins to avoid. The highlights of the piece include the points that:

Good social media strategies result in viral, but viral is not a strategy.
Money isn’t the best social currency; relationships and knowledge are.
Social media is a strategic amplifier for your campaign, not the entire campaign.
This is piece is worth reading. The writer, Chris Aarons, makes some important points that could influence how you approach social media. One of the points he makes started a bit of a discussion here in the AHA office. In point number five (Social is PR), he says that social media is too big for one department. By defining social media in a public relations or communications capacity, it limits the scope of your campaign. I agree with Chris on this; there is a bigger range for social media that can extend far beyond communications. However, in our experience, at the core of it, social media is a PR tool that can support other areas. At it’s most basic, PR is about creating authentic relationships with your public(s) and whether that information is used by the research & development team, sales, quality control or other areas…in my opinion, it needs to be developed with the strategic input of the communicators or PR people in your organization.

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Today it’s Ruth’s turn to answer the questions.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a Toronto-born city girl learning how to live in a small town just outside of Vancouver. I’m happy to be close to Vancouver because I love sushi. A former journalist, I hopped the fence to PR and found the best of both worlds. I get to work with journalists and behind the scenes with clients.

What do you see as your communications strengths?

I am strategic and curious. Learning new tools such as social media is a bonus, not a chore. With a strategic approach, I can identify and define what needs to be done and when and how to meet the objectives of an organization or campaign. I also actively listen. I learned that at Maclean’s. Sometimes what a person doesn’t say is as important as what they do say.

What made you interested in joining AHA?

We started AHA because we wanted to be a part of a great agency, with excellent people, exceptional clients and create a culture that is professional, creative and fun.

What five words describe you professionally?












What kind of beverage do you drink first thing in the a.m.?

Coffee. Any kind. Immediately.

Who do you think you were in a past life?

A rodeo clown.

What makes you laugh out loud?

My dogs and Paul. Sometimes all in the same moment.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A veterinarian. When I was about five, I realized that they don’t just sit around all day and play with dogs, so I decided to become a journalist.

What five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?

Today, it would be my mom (I would always want her there!), Waylon Jennings (one of the kindness men I ever met), Jimmy Buffett (for his stories), Pierre Trudeau (for his perspective on the world) and Michael Jackson (to see who he really is, not who we think he was).

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Iced tea, a lot of yogurt, fruit, olives, artichokes, six types of cheese and 14 different kinds of mustard.

What five CDs would you take with you to a desert island?

Today – Jimmy Buffet’s Greatest Hits, Blue Rodeo’s Five days in July, anything by Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles Greatest Hits and something I had never heard before.

What question do you wish someone would ask you?

Can I introduce you to a great agent for the novel you are writing?

What’s your answer?

Yes, please!

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I have spent a lot of time in my professional life pitching story angles either as a journalist with an idea for an article, where I had to get my editor’s buy in, or as a PR person putting forward a pitch to media about a client’s organization. Since many of my colleagues and friends are either journalists or communicators, I also spend a fair bit of time discussing what makes a good story, even when it isn’t about a specific pitch.

One of the things that AHA clients rely on us for is to help them with media and blogger relations. In the new world of communication, it is important to understand how to pitch both mainstream media (most of which now have some kind of online component), as well as online media, which includes bloggers. At the core of a good pitch is the story.

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