AHA

Having just gone through a brand and website refresh, we’ve had some in-depth discussions about who AHA Creative Strategies is, what kind of clients we would like to work with and what organizations we think will want to work with us. It’s been an interesting process.

…I should warn you, this is a bit of a long post!

I came across an interesting article yesterday on Media Post entitled: The Safe Hire. In this piece, writer David Bernstein focuses more on advertising, but he puts forward some thought provoking ideas. His first point: “It’s a basic rule of business, only hire someone who’s done the job before.” He then says that in the ad world, clients almost always hire someone with category experience and then much of the work ends up looking alike.

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If you’re here, that means you are getting a sneak peek at our new website. We’ll officially launch on Monday, but are taking the weekend to do some live testing to make sure we’ve got everything right.

If you happen to find a link that doesn’t work or see something amiss, please let us know…that’s what this weekend is for.

We’ll be making a much bigger splash about this next week!

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There is an interesting blog post on arikhanson.com on the evolving skills of tomorrow’s PR pro that sparked an interesting discussion among the AHA Crew. The way the world communicates has changed and as communicators, we have had to evolve right along with it in order to remain effective and relevant.

Our approach at AHA is to blend traditional communication and social media. Online communication is an important component of our toolkit. Arik is right when he says that the skill set required has changed.

Strong writing is an important asset for any PR agency – it’s one of the abilities we look for when bringing someone onboard. Telling the story of our client’s organization is important and good writing facilitates great storytelling. But times have changed. Shorter is now better. Getting a message across in 140 characters isn’t easy, but with the popularity of Twitter, it’s important. When I was at Maclean’s, I used to write a lot of pieces for the People page of the magazine. I often wrote short, snappy articles that were only a paragraph long and got teased by some of my colleagues who were writing six page feature articles. Others I worked with understood that sometimes it’s harder to write short pieces than it is to produce a full-length article. The world now demands short and to the point, but still wants to hear the story, be entertained and engaged. The PR person that can do “short” well is in demand.

In his blog post, Arik also touches on what we, at AHA, believe is key to developing a strong outreach. You need to reach your stakeholders where they live and interact. Understanding all the ways that the individuals or groups you wish to have a conversation with communicate is essential. If they are on Twitter, your organization needs to be there. If they are writing or reading blogs, you need to be doing that also. If they are actively attending events or are reading and watching specific media outlets, well…you get the picture. It’s not about how you want to communicate with them any more, it’s about understanding where they want you to be and how they want you to initiate or join the conversation. This is an approach that has always been strategic, but with today’s opportunities to connect through online communities, understanding the culture of the new paradigm of connection and conversation is key.

Online search is another important component of today’s PR. Understanding Search Engine Optimization well enough to include keywords in an article or blog post without damaging the content is a huge asset.  So is the ability to use search tools to better understand how your stakeholders or community base perceive your organization.

Another element that we are focusing on more and more is how to evaluate and measure a campaign, program or overall success. The traditional ways don’t work for the online space and there needs to be a process that combines the two without creating so much work that the time spent on this overtakes the time spent on communicating. While there are some ways to evaluate and measure for both traditional and online that might be considered adequate, and there are certainly some excellent companies offering this service, for our part, we always want to do better and it’s an area that we continue to research and improve upon.

Arik also points out that understanding the use of mobile tools is critical and as the iPhone and the Blackberry and their apps become more and more the norm, understanding how to use these tools and what they mean strategically is essential.

One of the tools that we use quite often—and that is becoming more and more important—is the use of video and podcasts. From live streaming video with interactive chat components, to person on the street video interviews, to a personalized message from a senior executive, this is gaining credibility as a valuable communications tool. With the growing use of video, it becomes important that as a communicator, we understand the visual elements as well as the messaging.

We’ve embraced the new paradigm of business and communication here at AHA. It’s become a part of what we do everyday and each of us is always looking to expand and improve our knowledge, expertise and understanding of the evolving skill sets necessary to succeed. For us as communications professionals, it’s challenging and exciting. As a business, it’s a necessity. Our clients expect the best from us and we want to exceed those expectations as often as possible.

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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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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.

Responsibilities
-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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