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It’s interesting to see how instant communication can change our world…on a larger scale and in a very up close and personal way. The Mercury News out of Silicon Valley recently ran a story with the headline U.C. Berkeley student’s Twitter messages alerted world to his arrest in Egypt. Whether or not Twitter was responsible for getting help to the Berkley student (other media sources say it’s because he had a cell phone), the fact is that we do have access to instant communication whether that is through Twitter, a cell phone, Instant Messenger, email on your iphone or blackberry or taking a quick photo with your cell and then downloading it to the internet.  At any given moment, what we do could be put out there for all the world to see. Unedited. Unapproved. And sometimes Unflattering. We live in interesting times.

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Vodcasts, video and vlogs are a hot marketing tool right now. Some work, some don’t. Sometimes it seems that people don’t realize how hard being funny or satirical is …

Think about Saturday Night Live, some of the best comedy minds in the business are focused on being smart and funny for this show and it doesn’t always work. Often, it doesn’t work. How many times have you thought “that’s just not funny” when watching a sketch.

Yet, organizations keep trying to be funny and they seem to have lost perspective about what IS funny and smart and what others (the ones who aren’t in the room when the idea is pitched) will think about the video. Let us know what you think. Check out AOL’s video with Alec Baldwin. Or have a look at the recent internal video done by Microsoft …we bet the “real” Boss isn’t too happy about this ….

Not sure what stakeholder reaction was to these videos. We’d be interested to hear.

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Communication is a wonderful thing, and as a communication specialist, I am happier than most people (I think) for blackberries, wireless Internet connections in coffee shops and that my clients, my business partner, our strategic partners, our staff and the media can reach me when they need me.

It’s a bit of a running joke with clients and friends that if I don’t have my blackberry nearby, I go looking for it … if someone needs to speak to me immediately, I want to take that call.

However, I think that people need to respect the levels of need, urgency and expectation when it comes to being able to reach someone 24/7. Just because I have a blackberry with me all the time doesn’t mean that everyone has an all access pass to me all the time. The interesting thing is that the people that have the right to call me at all hours (especially our clients…) are much more respectful than those who are almost strangers. Many of the people I deal with on a regular basis go out of their way — unless it is immediately important or urgent — not to call me on off-hours, if a subject or question can be answered in an hour or two or even a day or two, they email me. If they call me at the office and I am not in, they leave a message. They don’t just call me on my cell expecting me to drop what I am doing and turn my focus to something that is not urgent.

However, there are others out there that don’t seem to understand this approach. They call the office and if I am not there, they chase me down on my cell phone. I recently got a call from someone I had met briefly at a business event where I presented. She called me on my cell in the middle of a particular hectic workday. She hadn’t even bothered to email or call me at the office. She wanted to know if I would be her guest at a BNI meeting three weeks from the day of her call. Not an urgent call. And the truth is, in the middle of the day, going from meeting to meeting, dealing with media calls, talking to my colleagues at the AHA office, discussing projects and initiatives with clients, it was pretty challenging to focus on this woman.

On the other hand, several years ago, I spoke to a class of new business entrepreneurs and one of them, a graphic designer, kept in touch with me. She would email once in a while and update me on what she was doing, remind me that she was talented, hungry and looking for work – all in a very respectful way that was convenient for me. That allowed me to actually focus on what she was doing in her business and think about how I could be of assistance to her. She and I met for coffee last week and if the opportunity comes up, I will go out of my way to recommend her or to work with her. This is a vast improvement compared to the woman who made the assumption that her call would be good for me at any time.

In our work, we are always thinking about how the person on the other end will best receive our information. For the media, we know their deadlines and what the best times are to call and pitch them. For our clients – we ask them how they would like us to communicate with them. Even within the AHA team, when we call one another, we almost always say – is this a good time? I have something that I need to run by you right now.

Immediate, instant communication is a great thing if used respectfully, properly and effectively. Remember – just because you have someone’s cell or home number doesn’t mean you need to use it. Would you want people calling you at home or on your cell if it wasn’t urgent or immediate? If you treat people the way you would like to be treated, it really does deliver results.

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Sometimes it is the simplest actions that are ignored or forgotten. This week alone I have counted 22 emails that have come in to me from colleagues, clients and potential suppliers that have not had contact information on them.

Not only does this create a challenge in getting back to the person in anyway other than email (not always the best or most reliable form of communication), it is also a lost opportunity. Let’s talk about the contact information first – anything you do to make it harder for someone to contact you is a bad thing.

I can remember in my career as a reporter – when I would receive media kits delivered by courier, receive faxes and emails …with no obvious contact information on them. This wasn’t a rare occurrence, it happened on a regular basis. Even if the story was a great one, it was a challenge to find that person – and if two great story pitches came in at the same time and one had contact info and one didn’t – guess who I called…

And – as for the lost opportunity I mentioned above – all it would take to give your business, company or project a little boost would be a short tag line above or below your contact info. For example: We’ve just launched our new blog, check it out at www.yourcompanyname.com.

Communication doesn’t always have to be complex and complicated. But you do have to remember to do it.

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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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