Vancouver PR Agency

I love this article in businessweek.com. It talks about effective and successful professionals who aren’t stuck in an office all the time. They do their work in interesting, inspiring and relaxing locations – like the beach.

Remember the days when you were in school and the teacher surprised you by saying that you were going to sit outside for the class. Looking back, I realize how innovative that was. It gave us the chance to enjoy the good weather, it engaged our minds outside of the expected classroom environment, it changed things up so that we learned how to adapt, and it gave us the opportunity to enjoy something different.

At AHA, we have a business development office in Vancouver, a presence in Calgary and Toronto and our head office is on the Sunshine Coast. It is a studio on half an acre of land in Gibsons, B.C. – one of, we think, the most beautiful places in the world. We’re a small agency and our crew is a team of incredibly talented and smart people that are, for the most part, contractors that we have worked with for years and years. It’s a different kind of business model and one that works well for us and for the contractors.

AHA turned seven earlier this year. When we first opened the AHA doors, we knew that as a Vancouver PR agency we were up against some stiff competition. We worried that we would appear too small for some clients. We worked hard at showcasing that we provide the services, skill set and abilities of a larger agency with special attention to client service. We still focus on communicating that to potential clients. We’ve been fortunate, some high profile clients have come onboard with AHA and we greatly appreciate that they chose us as their PR agency.

We’re a different kind of PR agency and that means we’re not for everyone. That’s ok with us – we’re good with who we are and love the clients who “get” us. I think that one of the things we’re good at is wiping away at the traditional stereotypes of business. That’s good for the people that work with AHA, I know it’s good for Paul and myself, and it benefits our clients.

For example, I am currently in the process of developing several strategic communications plans for clients. One is for government, one is for an educational institution and another is for a not-for-profit. They are very different. For each, I need to completely immerse myself in their world and understand not only what needs to be done, but how that can be done within the context of their individual realities. I need to do my best thinking and my best writing. Where and how will I accomplish this?

At the AHA office, we have an incredible back deck where the sun shines all afternoon, birds sing and our mutts play. I move myself to the back deck to work whenever I can. Never once has a client said: “I don’t want you doing our work in an environment that inspires you and brings out your best work.” Yet, when I tell people where I work or – when I am in a playful mood and tweet about it or put it on Facebook – I sometimes get responses that are surprising. “Must be nice to slack off.” “Wow, wish I could open my own business so I could sit on a deck in the sun in the afternoon.” “Too bad you don’t work for a living.” And so on. Enjoying your work environment doesn’t mean you aren’t being effective. It’s an interesting phenomenon – the one where we believe you have to be in an office to be working.

As I write this, the sun is shining, our dogs are out on the deck and after a few conference call meetings this morning, you can bet I am going to be out there too. And I predict that I will be more productive and get more accomplished because I get to change things up and work in an environment that inspires me.

How about you – do you have the opportunity to take advantage of a different kind of work environment?

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There is an interesting blog post on Mediapost.com that highlights how many organizations are using social media without a strategy. The number is high and while it shouldn’t, considering what I see every day, it surprises me.

I have to admit that there are days (like today) when it feels like I am repeating myself over and over again on this blog. Let me say it again – it all comes back to strategy. To be effective using social media, or when using any communications or PR tool, you need to have a strategy.

When it comes to developing a strategy, one of the challenges goes beyond the fact that social media is cool, fun and “new.” I also think that there is some confusion in a lot of organizations about what a strategy is. I have been in quite a few meetings where the meaning of the words “strategic” and “tactical” were confused. Our friends at Beaupre PR have an excellent blog post on the difference between strategy and tactics. It is definitely worth a read, even if you are clear on the difference.

Without defining your strategy, it’s hard to identify your objective. For example, tomorrow (Friday) – we at AHA are launching AHA Flip Cam Fridays on this blog. Our strategy is to further position our Vancouver PR agency as a leader in providing strategic PR in the age of social media. We focused on transforming our small Vancouver PR agency into one of Vancouver’s hottest PR companies. In order to do that, we identified several tactics that would support our objective of building our client base by establishing our knowledge and skill set in the areas of PR and social media. That includes moving AHA up in the Google rankings under the searches of Vancouver PR, Vancouver PR agency, AHA and AHA Creative Strategies.

If we had just decided that we wanted to video blog, that would have been a little like putting the cart before the horse. Why should we video blog and what is the purpose of going to that extra effort? For us, we defined what we wanted to achieve and then we identified the tools that would help us get there.

The social media component of our plan to grow AHA is just that, a component. There are other areas that we are focused on as well. I also speak regularly to groups, associations and organizations about the importance of blending social media and traditional PR.

There isn’t just one prong to our approach and that’s because we defined our strategy first and then developed the overall approach and identified which tools would work in this situation.

That’s my two cents worth for today. I am looking forward to tomorrow and the launch of AHA Flip Cam Friday.

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David Clarke has a great blog post on the Facebook haters who “like” your brand. He outlines some types of people that will “like” (or become a Fan) your brand on Facebook – but not all of them are fans. It is definitely worth a read if you are trying to understand the dynamic of who might “like” your Facebook page.

Recently we’ve seen a few organizations have their Facebook pages overrun by critics. There are some challenges when you choose to develop a Facebook page for your organization. One of the risks you face come from the people that will click that “like” button, but who are really critics or, even worse, haters of your brand. Of course, there are also people who are supporters out there too and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to connect with them because of a fear of the negative.

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Here at AHA (you know, in this Vancouver PR agency of ours!), we’re big fans of Brian Solis. Recently, we came across a post on his site that we’d like to share with you – the 21 Rules of Engagement in Social Media. (He also has a book – Engage – that he has just published that is worth purchasing. There is a link on his blog.)

Engagement is, in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges for an organization that wants to use social media as a part of their communications outreach. It’s relatively simple to set up a Twitter or Facebook page, but not as easy to populate these areas with good content that engages your community.

The first step that Brian outlines is this: Discover all relevant communities of interest and observe the choices, challenges, impressions, and wants of the people within each network.

That seems simple enough, but there are a lot of organizations that – in their haste and excitement to participate – jump past it. Don’t.

Believe me, it is an important step. I have had several interesting discussions with CEOs and other senior executives that challenge me on why they should invest (one said waste) time and money on this step. Understanding the culture and the different style of communication online is crucial. There have been several big organizations in the news recently that faced a PR crisis because they didn’t appreciate that online is a different environment and each online community may have their own protocol and style. One point that I make when walking a senior team through this point is – you wouldn’t take your organization into a new market without first understanding its culture, political landscape and the way life works on a day-to-day basis in the “real” world. It’s no different online. Not only is it valuable to identify all the relevant communities of interest – it is crucial to spend some time understanding the culture and paying attention to how they want you to join the conversation.

The time you invest in listening and learning will pay off in the long run.

We’ll be touching on a few more of Brian’s points over the next few weeks. We’d love to hear what you think.

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