Be a Public Relations Survivor

The transformation in the world of communications that is driven by the mass adoption of social media and mobile devices is accelerating.

Fish-changesThe public relations industry is not immune from the impact of these changes. And this has disrupted the competitive marketplace.

Over the past year, I found my company, Thornley Fallis, repeatedly competing for assignments against non-traditional competitors. Ad agencies invading our turf. Digital boutiques. Marketing agencies. Management consultants.

An increasing proportion of the assignments we won from clients incorporated digital communications as a core element. Throughout 2012, we saw the budgets for these assignments shift away from traditional public relations activities to digital. The budgets didn’t shrink. The allocations against digital activities increased.

In a world like this, if you want to be a Public Relations Survivor, you must be willing to reinvent yourself constantly. That’s what the most successful firms in the communications marketplace are doing. And that’s what we’re doing at my firm.

And here’s the indicator that drives this home. Today, only about half of Thornley Fallis’ revenues are from what would have been considered traditional public relations services. The other half? Video production, public engagement, content marketing, design and development.

You’ve probably noticed the absence of social media from that list. Where’s social? Integrated across everything we do. What was hot a few years ago has become simply the common entry fee.

What’s hot now? Content marketing. The creation of social objects that people will connect around. Understanding and building public engagement. Making connections with people who care about our products and services and the things we care about.

We see ourselves as much different from the public relations practitioners of old. We don’t define our horizons within the constraints of earned media. Most of our programs include paid keyword advertising to seed awareness among those most likely to be interested. As the  traditional media distribution deteriorated, we realized that placing great content and counting on organic search simply wasn’t good enough. So we moved into the territory of the advertising agencies. Not as advocates of advertising first, but as advocates of a true integrated solution in which each medium has a role to play.

Yes, we are still a PR agency. But when people ask me what we do, I answer in a way that is much different from the answer I provided a few years ago. Today, we “provide insightcreate remarkable experiences and connect people to the things they care about.”

And that’s how we make  sure that we are Public Relations Survivors. Not by clinging to the past, but by evolving with the changing communications environment.

This article is cross-posted from Joseph Thornley‘s blog,



Thornley Fallis partners with Arment Dietrich

(May 22, 2012) CHICAGO/TORONTO – Arment Dietrich, with offices in Chicago, New York, and Idaho, and Thornley Fallis, with offices in Ottawa and Toronto, have created a partnership to service clients in the United States, Canada, and the U.K.

Both firms are known for their understanding of digital and social media and the radical changes that are driving organizations to move to become social businesses.

“In our two companies, we have assembled the expertise essential for success in this new marketing environment,” says Gini Dietrich, CEO, Arment Dietrich. “Together we offer design to deliver remarkable experiences, video to create the ultimate social objects, audience aggregation through content marketing, earned media through public relations, trust and relationship building through social media, strategies to pull them all together, and the types of measurement business leaders are missing from current marketing and communication programs.”

“We live in the connected era,” says Joseph Thornley, CEO, Thornley Fallis. “No longer are consumers isolated in their homes, passively watching television or reading the newspaper. Today we speak with one another in our own voices and share our experiences via social media. And with this, our expectations have shifted. We expect organizations to hear and acknowledge us. To listen to us and to respond. Those that fail to do so are quickly overtaken in our hearts and minds by others who have seen the opportunity to join the collective conversation.”

The partnership allows Arment Dietrich and Thornley Fallis to meet the needs of global businesses that prefer to work with partners with multiple international offices.

“One of the benefits of the social web is it flattens out the world and makes people around the globe accessible to one another without the cost or time necessary in the past,” states Gini Dietrich. “Businesses everywhere can now work together without the constraints of geography. According to a Bureau of Economic Analysis, global business will grow 1.5 percent in 2012, or the equivalent of 11 million new jobs.”

But it’s not an easy shift. Social media presents a wild, wild west feel, much like the early days of the web, with companies trying to figure out how new technologies fit into their overall business strategies. It’s easy to sit back and look at the seemingly overnight success of brands that use the social web and think “I want that.” But Dietrich and Thornley know it takes months, and even years, to create that success.

“Gini Dietrich and her team have shown us all how to use content and thought leadership  to identify and reach the community that shares our interests,” added Thornley. “Gini literally wrote the book on the new marketing, Marketing in the Round, with her co-author Geoff Livingston. She is highly regarded for her demonstrated success in content marketing and her insight into what motivates people to share and respond to content.”

Dietrich added, “What began as a partnership through Inside PR, our weekly podcast that looks at PR, social media, communication, and how they all meet and intersect has grown into a business strategy that will best serve both of our clients and prospects in North America and the U.K.”

Thornley Fallis was an early adopter of social media. CEO Joseph Thornley has led the firm to shape itself around the expertise organizations need to succeed in the connected era as people spend more and more of their time online. Thornley Fallis’ core strengths include designvideo productionsocial and digital media, content marketingpublic relations, and strategies which draw on all if these areas to deliver effective community engagement.

Arment Dietrich is an integrated marketing communication firm that uses technology and the web to deliver business results for clients, including increased revenues, shortened sales cycles, and improved margins. Its blog, Spin Sucks, is one of the top 10 PR and marketing blogs on the web and is an AdAge top 150 blog. The Arment Dietrich core strengths include crisis communication, reputation management, inbound, content, and email marketing, social and digital marketing, public relations, and business coaching, as it relates to marketing.

For further information, contact us.

Email is broken. Inside PR 288

Are you struggling to keep up with all the email you receive? Is email totally broken as a productivity tool?

On this week’s episode of the Inside PR PodcastMartin WaxmanGini Dietrich and Joseph Thornley discuss the challenge of making email serve our needs.

Also noted this week: Shel Israel, co-author of Naked Conversations, has a new book, Stellar Presentations: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Giving Great Talks, published via Amazon’s publishing program. It’s a useful book with lots of practical tips for anyone who has to pitch a business or convey a new idea to an audience.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement talks about Open Government at Third Tuesday

Social media has the potential to revolutionize the way that governments relate to citizens. And this month, communicators in both Ottawa and Toronto will have a chance to hear from, meet, and talk to the man who is steering the introduction of social media and open government principles to the Government of Canada – Treasury Board President Tony Clement.

Mr. Clement is well-known as a politician who maintains an active Twitter presence, sharing what is on his mind and what he’s doing, and engaging in conversations with Canadians. Anyone who follows Tony Clement knows that his Twitter conversations are sometimes funny, sometimes serious, sometimes combative, but always genuine.

As a Minister, Clement has pushed forward with initiatives to enable Canada’s public servants to use social media in the workplace and a broader initiative to introduce open government standards to the government of Canada. In the last quarter of 2011, he

That’s a lot of action in a short period of time. But, what’s been happening now? How are the Web 2.0 Guidelines being applied by Canadian public servants? What did Canadians tell the Minister during the consultation? What’s on the agenda for 2012?

Third Tuesday participants will get a chance in February to ask these questions and talk directly to the Minister when he appears as our featured guest Third Tuesday Ottawa and Third Tuesday Toronto. Follow these links to find the details and sign up to attend Third Tuesday Ottawa or to attend Third Tuesday Toronto.

If you’re interested in open government and the use of social media by government, this session will be of real interest to you.


A Social Media Measurement Conference for Canadian PR practitioners

“Are we there yet?” “How much longer before we arrive?” Every vacationing parent recognizes these words as the first expression of our need to know where we are and what progress we’re making.

Measurement matters. It’s how we know whether our efforts are having any impact. It’s how we know whether we’re making progress toward a goal or whether we’re stalled.

We measure what’s important to us. We measure to understand what is going on. We measure to provide insight into what works and what doesn’t.

Measurement really matters in emerging and fast changing fields. And social media is a field that is evolving rapidly. Evolving in participation, as it transforms from something for early adopters to a part of mainstream life. Evolving as new tools and platforms proliferate. Evolving as people adopt it and find new uses for it.

A stellar roster of speakers

The Third Tuesday Measurement Matters conference in Toronto on September 28 will be a full day conference focusing on the most important issues and best practices in social media monitoring and measurement.

Attendees at Third Tuesday Measurement Matters will meet, hear from and participate in discussions with social media measurement experts, including Katie Paine, Carol Leaman, Ilya Grigorik, Charles Funk, Marcel LeBrun and David Alston (tentative), Sheldon Levine, Josh Hallett, Claude Théoret, Pragya Dubey, Scott Lake, Leona Hobbs, Darren Barefoot, Rob Clark, Brian Cugelman, Christopher Berry,  and Patrick Gladney.

A Conference by communicators for communicators

Anyone who uses social media for their work or is serious about it must understand what we can and should measure and how we can do it. Public relations practitioners have been among the first to realize and explore the potential of social media. So the Third Tuesday Measurement Matters conference should be of real interest to you.

Registration is open for the Third Tuesday Measurement Matters #TTMM conference, to be held in Toronto on September 28. I hope to see you there.

Inside PR: Martin Waxman talks about merging his firm into Energi PR

In this week’s episode of Inside PR, Martin Waxman talks with co-hosts Joseph Thornley and Gini Dietrich about the merger of Palette PR with Communications MECA to form Energi PR. Martin provides some insight into what motivated him to make the change, the use of outside advisers and lessons he learned through the process.

You can listen to the complete Inside PR podcast at or by subscribing through iTunes.

CCPRF Member Firms Merge

The news broke on Twitter that two Canadian PR agencies, Montreal-based Communications MECA and Toronto-based Palette PR, have sealed a deal to merge in a new firm, EnergiPR.

I had the good luck to be at a CCPRF meeting with Esther Buchsbaum and Carol Levine, the principals of MECA. They agreed to step out of the room for an interview about the merger, their motivation in doing it and how they made it happen.

Listen to the Inside PR podcast to hear my interview with Carol and Esther.

Monitoring RFP Update

On November 30, the CCPRF issued an RFP for media monitoring and measurement services. Several suppliers submitted proposals by the December 17 deadline.

Thank you to everyone who showed interest in this process and, especially, to the bidders.

The CCPRF is striking a subcommittee of members who will meet in early January to review the proposals in detail and then lead a discussion at our full CCPRF January meeting.

If the initial review of proposals yields a clear winner, we will contact the winning bidder and the unsuccessful bidders to inform them of the outcome. On the other hand, if there’s no clear winner, we may ask a subset of the bidders to meet with us via teleconference to discuss their proposals prior to determining a preferred supplier.

Bottom line: Our selection process may be wrapped up in mid-January or it could take a few weeks longer.

Look here for further news about this process.

CCPRF solicits proposals to provide media monitoring services to Canadian PR firms

The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for media monitoring services. This RFP covers both traditional and online media.

Download the Monitoring RFP if you are interested in submitting a proposal to provide these services.

What’s the Downturn Message?

By Patrick Gossage, Chairman, Media Profile

There’s new and considerable fuss about the endless gloom and doom being spread by mainstream media about the economic downturn in Canada and how this may actually be impacting consumer behavior and worsening the situation.

Compounding this is a distinct lack of creative PR from companies who are hit. Layoff announcements and reporting of awful results all add to the general tone of misery. The media add to thius shock and awe reporting and we just live in fear and stop spending.

I am not suggesting that some positive spin is needed – although you could argue it is! But it seesm nobody wants to talk about the real bargains that our hurting economy has produced – in retail, travel, even in restaurants and leisure activities. To position these as “our” response to the downturn appears out of bounds.

Moreover, in the auto industry, the focus of the most gloom, there is little creative messaging or thought given to how to position Canadian manufacturers in a way that will get people back in the showrooms. Toyota does have an amazing ad with a salesperson in a showroom pointing out which models are in fact made in Canada.  If ever there was a time to urge customers to buy a car to keep jobs here this is it. Only the union talks about this.

I guess those looking for bailouts, or laying people off have to keep the focus on how bad things are, forgetting that customers are looking for value and good product. Not much of this being communicated. Time to start.

And for the media to spend some time looking for pockets of hope before we all go to bed, pull the blinds and wait for summer.