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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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I have a profile on  Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. I spend time on all these sites – sometimes for fun, often in looking at them through the eyes of my clients – thinking if this would this be a good place for them to be.

There are several new sites out there including xanga.com (link) and another one I have just heard of – which is a take off on Facebook for dogs… I haven’t found it yet – I heard about it on the news and didn’t catch the URL. So if anyone knows it, please send it my way! I really want to see what a Facebook for dogs looks like – and what its reason for being is…

I LOVE social networks for a lot of reasons. One of my favorites is Project Opus (link) – and not just because they are a client J. In my mind, Project Opus has a reason for being – the love of music. When I go there it’s going to be about music, listening to it, talking about it, searching it out.

I am still working out the role of some of the other social networks in my world. For some clients, they are great ways to reach out to groups that have showcased their interest in a topic. In my leisure time, I surf through the networks because I like to know what people are thinking and talking about… but, I keep getting invitations to be “friends” with people that I don’t know very well or have maybe met once … as well as invitations to link to people I do know well. The people I know well are easy to say yes to. I know them, I am comfortable in a personal or professional sense in introducing them to others. And – I have to admit, some of these networks have reintroduced me to people that I really like and respect and have lost touch with … BUT …what happens when an acquaintance or the acquaintance of a friend of a friend sends an invite to connect on a social network. How do I gracefully get out of that? And should I?

There seems to be a need for people on social networks to have a large number of friends. Professionally, I can see this for musicians or any other role that needs to showcase that you have a fan base. It helps get the word out about gigs, performances and events. That makes sense. But if I say yes to an invitation to be “friends” – am I endorsing that person – either obviously or in some subtle manner? Am I saying to the online social community that in my opinion, this is someone who has something to say? This is someone worth listening to? If at a networking event an acquaintance came up to me and asked me to introduce them to a respected colleague, strategic partner or client – I would make sure that a) I was comfortable doing that and b) that I let the person that I was introducing the acquaintance to know that they were just that – AN ACQUAINTANCE. Someone that I have met before, but have no real life knowledge of, that I am not endorsing or encouraging them to connect with…it’s just a neutral introduction at an event. And the truth is, if I was the least bit uncomfortable, I wouldn’t do it.

If someone I didn’t know well asked me to introduce them via email or to give them the phone number of a respected colleague or client, I wouldn’t do it without doing my due diligence and checking the person out.

Social networks are still working out some bugs… this, I think, being one of them. I find that since I am often in the public spotlight because of speaking events and workshops and when I take on the role as spokesperson for a client, that I have to deal with a larger group of acquaintances in my professional life. I would say that 90% of “acquaintance” phone calls, emails or requests to be “friends” online are from people who want some kind of favor from me or from AHA. I don’t think that is the way social networks were made to work. I believe that there is a two-way street out there … where people connect because they can benefit each other. Don’t get me wrong, we also get calls from people who have recommended us to someone looking for a great PR agency or who want to bring something to the table that will mutually benefit both companies…but for the most part, I think social networks are being overrun by people who haven’t started to live in a world where you go out of your way to show your value and what you can bring to the table to another entrepreneur first, before you ask for something from them.

I think social networks will evolve and it will become the business utopia we all hope they can be. Right now, I worry that this mad scramble to connect is creating some disengagement on the part of people and companies that want real, strong, authentic connections rather than phony, “I don’t really know you but will accept your invitation so I don’t have to reject you” kind of things.

So – while social networks find their rightful place in connecting people for the right reasons – I will say this here and now… just because I am connected to someone on some social network doesn’t mean I am recommending them, know them well – or in some cases have met them more than once. If you want a vote of confidence in someone I know, call me. Don’t believe everything you read online.

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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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