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Written by:Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist at energi PR, Toronto.
Maybe I’m getting old, but after almost seven years in the industry I’m beginning to feel a growing sense of disconnect between myself and many of the new graduates I’ve met lately. I grew up with parents who ingrained that hard work pays off ethic into me at an early age. My first job, at 14, was a paper route which I thoroughly despised (braving the elements with a cart full of newspapers is not my forte), and so as soon as I was able I get a “proper” job, I did. It was at a pharmacy and that job remained a constant fixture in my life for a good seven years as I went through numerous other part-time jobs and paid my way through school.
But I digress.
The root of this disconnect is this sense of entitlement that seems to exist in today’s young workforce. New PR school graduates may have the theory down, but doesn’t mean they are immediately capable of putting it into practice. A good PR practitioner has years of experience under their belt. Media monitoring and reporting, for example, is often viewed with disdain, but it’s actually an ideal task to ease new PR practitioners into their roles. So what am I missing? Do they not realize the importance of this vital task? Securing and sharing editorial coverage is what we get paid for. Arguably, it is one of the most important tasks we do, alongside media relations.
The industry has also advanced a lot in the years since I was an intern. I remember having to come in earlier than my colleagues to read each newspaper and magazine. This was followed by ninja-like Google searches. Then I’d scan and format each clip one by one in a nicely formatted word document and evaluate MANUALLY to get a dollar value (ruler and calculator in hand).
Nowadays most agencies use programs like Cision which do all this for you – that’s right, all of it. See these new graduates are unlikely to ever experience a world where newspaper-stained fingers are a daily occurrence, or where sourcing event decor or product for a mailer meant running around Chinatown in the middle of a snowstorm in 4 inch heels. They can just go online.
I think what new graduates need to understand is that in every job, and at every level, there is some tedious (and maybe undesirable) work to be done. It’s inescapable. But, if you can check your ego at the door, you’ll be just fine, trust me.
Posted On: April 23, 2014
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In the spirit of Hemingway where “all are apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master,” many PR agencies recently sent their senior communicators to the Fourth Annual PR Agency Boot Camp, hosted by the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms and the Canadian Public Relations Society.
Also check out some live-tweeting from PR Boot Camp.
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Canadian PR Firm CASACOM extends services with CASACADEMY professional development centre for C-Suite and Managers
To help organizations and leaders adapt to change and transformation, CASACOM announced today: the creation of CASACADEMY, a professional development centre; STRUCTURAL PR™, an exclusive systematic approach to public relations; and a manifesto that elevates the value of Public Relations (PR) as an essential component of business.
“CEOs and leaders are facing unprecedented challenges as they seek to innovate and transform their organizations,” said Marie-Josée Gagnon, APR, CEO and Founder of national PR firm CASACOM. “With our business-focused approach to public relations built around these three new initiatives, we help leaders build solid organizations focused on sustainable growth and common good.” To learn more, please watch her video.
CASACADEMY, a new professional development process
After months of consultation with industry experts, CASACOM opened CASACADEMY, a new professional development center in Montreal and in Toronto. The center will welcome CEOs, senior executives, communications practitioners and spokespeople. CASACADEMY offers a rigorous and unique action-based learning process overseen by a team of experienced coaches and trainers who customize offerings to organizational needs. This highly effective program delivers immediate, tangible results to time-strapped business professionals.
“CASACADEMY has been in place internally for several years to support the professional development of our employees, and now we are making it available to clients,” said Stéphane Ethier, Director, CASACADEMY. “We offer a different approach to learning and development. Much more than a training centre, CASACADEMY is designed to result in the highest possible level of professional development to achieve business impact.”
STRUCTURAL PR™: a new approach to public relations
CASACOM also launched STRUCTURAL PR™, a systematic approach that uses public relations as a powerful means for stronger, more sustainable organizations. STRUCTURAL PR™ builds on the synergies between an organization’s vision, brand and its relationships. Using a set of innovative methodologies and tools, it integrates public relations firmly with business objectives and metrics to accelerate success.
“With STRUCTURAL PR™, we’ve combined our vision of public relations that we’ve used successfully over the last 13 years. It’s a proven approach for more authentic and effective leadership,” explained Gagnon.
A manifesto to elevate the value of PR
CASACOM is also sharing its manifesto, which outlines its vision for public relations as an essential component to build and strengthen businesses. The manifesto clearly enunciates the value that PR offers when integrated throughout an organization.
Posted On: February 4, 2014
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Anyone would expect lawyers to review press releases written by public relations professionals, but it isn’t as common to have PR advisors review legal contracts and financial structures prepared by lawyers. It should be, so it was refreshing to get that perspective from PR industry expert Paul Holmes at a spring conference in Montreal.
Holmes’ view is that public relations professionals should be involved in any business decisions potentially affecting the reputation of organizations. The PR veteran, author of the Holmes Report and chief executive of The Holmes Group, cited the example of Starbucks in the U.K., which experienced a huge crisis in 2012 provoked by a “brilliant” fiscal structure planned by its accountants that reduced considerably the taxes the company had to pay.
Not only were its senior executives called to testify before the British Parliament to explain their failure to pay their “fair share of taxes,” but Starbucks was subject to a visible consumer boycott as a result.
I couldn’t agree more with Holmes when he says that PR should be a C-suite function. If not, who is responsible for managing stakeholder relationships (and reputation)?
Here are other takeaways from his remarks, which are worth sharing with a broader marketing audience:
1. While PR is growing in importance and considered a more essential function within businesses today, PR professionals must get more business-savvy.
2. It is imperative for CEOs to be in-tune, knowledgeable and have an understanding of public relations and of the impact of decisions on stakeholders and reputation.
3. Social media didn’t change anything for “good” public relations professionals, since we were already working under principles such as authenticity, transparency and openness. The difference now is that bad decisions are known quicker and can have a greater impact on the business. For organizations, social media has changed the price of not doing the things right.
4. Public relations is the management of the relationship of an organization with all its publics. For Holmes, public relations acts, whereas communications tells.
5. PR functions should be integrated to eliminate fragmentation of stakeholder relationships (ex. internal communications, which sometimes reports to HR, should fall under the communications function)
6. As public relations professionals, we must be courageous: we must be able to say what we think (say “don’t do that to a CEO”); empathy: listen carefully to the public. We also need to be convincing to show our impact.
7. When public relations is done properly, it improves the world in which we live in because it aligns society’s interests with the interest of the businesses.
Unfortunately, Holmes may have been preaching to the converted, as the room for the session, organized by the Luc Beauregard Center of Excellence in Montreal, was full of PR professionals. It would have been great if more CEOs, lawyers and accountants were getting this message.
Marie-Josée Gagnon is the founder and president of CASACOM, an independent Canadian public relations consulting firm with offices in Montreal and Toronto. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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So starts a chapter in Sheryl Sandberg’s best seller Lean In, a brilliant book about “women, work and the will to lead”. If it isn’t already obvious, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, is my new hero. But she is not my mentor. She covers the subject of mentorship and describes the differences between women and men when it comes to finding or, better still, feeling the need to have a mentor. In her view when someone finds the right mentor it is obvious, but that running after or forcing the connection hardly ever works.
My own opinions of mentorship are formed from personal experiences as a PR professional. When I started out many years ago I had a mentor and once I was established in my career, I also had the opportunity to be one. In both cases I was never asked to assume the role, nor did I need the affirmation that I needed one. Yet today in the field of public relations, largely a female-dominated industry, there are formalized programs to link mentors and mentees. But, does this make sense and add value to either party?
After reading Sheryl’s book I would argue she makes a strong point against “mentor matchmaking” and goes on to say that we may be conditioning young women to become too dependent on others. She paints the picture of Sleeping Beauty where little girls are told that if they just wait for Prince Charming’s kiss they will live happily ever after. According to this viewpoint, once the right mentor comes along, he (or she) will make everything happen.
My first boss was a crusty TV network newsman who started out as a CP cub reporter and was lured to head communications for a large community service organization. I was a PR newbie who was ready to work hard, stay late and listen. I credit him with teaching me how to write, work with the media and most of all, how to deal with people firmly, fairly and with integrity. He challenged me every day and to this day I consider him my one and only mentor. But it is worth noting that it was something that was never asked OR answered. It is, and always will be, about something that happens naturally.
Posted On: July 10, 2013
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I recently learned that I was selected for induction into the 2013 Canadian Healthcare Hall of Fame (CHMHF). The ceremony will take place at a luncheon on April 10th as part of the 11th annual National Pharmaceutical Congress organized by The Chronicle Companies, publishers of The Chronicle of Healthcare Marketing, and more. The Congress is attended by pharmaceutical marketers and is a thought-provoking event for Canadian industry leaders to present and share new ideas and innovations.
There is not much more a PR professional can ask for than recognition in a room of potential clients. After a considerably long, exciting, challenging and colourful career with its fair share of 15 minutes of fame one becomes an expert at managing expectations, yet I was tremendously humbled by this honour which teeters outside the public relations world. I look forward to seeing my name and mug shot among the presidents of pharma companies including the big multinationals (some clients included!); distinguished physicians who have championed marketing and communications; the heads of the industry`s regulatory groups and last year’s inductee young Aaron Maresky and his mother Mandy who created Aaron`s Apple, an inspiring fundraising initiative. Fewer than 100 inductees are currently in the CHMHF so it stands to reason that I was quite chuffed to be included in this year`s group of inductees.
But it has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion that “it’s not all about me,” and in fact it isn’t. Along with being recognized by the CHMHF I learned that I will be the first public relations professional
to be so honoured.
I’ve made it a point of stressing not only the value of public relations in pharmaceutical and health-related marketing, but also how it differs from advertising and other marketing disciplines. Historically, advertising occupied a lonely, but happy, place in pharma marketing with other marketing disciplines trying to garner a piece of the pie. But as healthcare PR specialists demonstrated the power of earned media (ask yourself how Viagra was launched) as well as the role of PR in reputation management, corporate social responsibility, disease promotion, patient education and advocacy, not to mention the introduction of new medications and innovative therapies, the value of this discipline has become increasingly recognized.
All in all, April 10th will be a great day for me, but it will also afford me a pulpit from which to thank the selection committee of the CHMHF for embracing PR in healthcare marketing. I am certain that my colleagues in PR who share my passion for healthcare, will consider nominating other worthy recipients in the years to come.
Carol Levine (@Carol_levine) is co-founder and Managing founder of energi PR, digital, communications, an award-winning independently owned Canadian PR consultancy established in 1990 with offices in Toronto and Montreal. energi PR is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, providing expertise in consumer and healthcare public relations to national and multinational brands. Carol is the immediate past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms and is a 2013 Inductee in the Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame as well as a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society.
Posted On: April 1, 2013
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The world belongs to those who understand it. In the social media ecosphere, we at Strategic Objectives believe those who understand their audiences best have the highest likelihood of generating the best results. PRs need to understand how to tell a brand’s story and make it speak to audiences so effectively that the message can transcend all platforms and inspire sharing. PRs are natural communicators, but even here, you really need to understand your audience to maximize results.
Everyone is trying to figure out user behaviors online. Once we understand behaviors, we can better understand how to reach our target markets and build the best and highly-engaged online communities for our clients. What if we were to say most gamers have never been to college? What if we were to tell you there’s a strong use of social networking in the workplace?
Social Media Today recently released some statistics on social media usage and its demographic landscape. The statistics are deduced from 900 websites that average 9 million visits/month per site and offer some very valuable, not-so-surprising and nonetheless interesting results on user data. That data can be found in the chart below, where we have also created a quick summary of the research findings.
- Social networking is dominated by younger generations with no children, and online networking activity picks up in college
- Social networks are most popular among the youngest generation (18-34) and are used less frequently for each successive age group over 35
- Youth ages 18-24 tend to use social networks to supplement social life, learning, and having fun.
- The most diverse use of social networks comes from the 25-34 year old age group.
- Continue to use the services they used in college, but less often
- As they start to have new interests (business, family), they are most likely to use online social engagement to benefit their business/career, discuss or plan travels, and share family-related experiences online
- The 35+ demographic show technological bias against social networking.
- High likeliness of these age groups to use business, family, and dating networks
- Stats also suggest that social networking’s popularity among youth may be not just be due to technological differences, but to a better fit of interests
- People with college-level education tend to have a higher rate of social for participation with networks across the board.
- This suggest the expanding network once in college
- Also demonstrates there is a tremendous amount of information shared between students
Outlier Findings: Two categories break this trend
- Gaming has an unusually high participation rate among people without college experience
- Likely that a high percentage of gamers are young
- Places has a very high participation rate among people with graduate-level schooling
- Likely positive correlation between graduate school and income, and between income and travel.
Male VS Female Findings:
- Gaming is strongly dominated by males
- Lifestyle and family is strongly dominated by females
- Dating, Places, and Business are used more often by females
- Education networks are used most by males
- Strong use of social networks in the workplace
- Distraction or sign of increasing application of social websites for practical purposes?
Posted On: June 24, 2011
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There’s considerable ongoing discussion of influence — how to get it, work it and hold onto it — underway in the social universe. This intense interest has resulted in a wide variety of FREE tools people can use to track their/your social influence and thought leadership. These tools include Klout, Twitter Grader and Twitaholic, to name only a few. In the past year, the reliance on follower count, as a prime measure of influence has lost credibility, with a pronounced shift to a more considered evaluation based on a concoction of mystery analytics and far-reaching connections.
Klout, currently the most popular and buzzed about industry standard for rating social media influence is a highly-debated tool that measures thought leadership and engagement by its own secret analytics and gives you a score based on more than 35 variables including retweets, followers, engagement and the quality of the people following and engaging with you. Klout scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence.
Despite Klout’s newfound klout, when it comes to measuring “influence,” one very influential and respected word of mouth agency, Likeable Media, asserts that thought leadership can indeed be measured by numbers: specifically, your number of Twitter followers.
This begs the question: Is follower count the best way to prove social media competence and authority?
“I was extremely surprised, given the way social media measurement is evolving, to see a highly respected, early adopter like Dave Kerpen, a founder of the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Organization and CEO of Likeable Media, announcing an employee competition, challenging his staff to grow their Twitter followers to prove their thought leadership, based on follower count,” says Strategic Objectives president Deborah Weinstein, who is herself hyper-active on Twitter. (Follow her @DebWeinstein)
“There’s been so much time and energy spent discussing social media measurement and its impact — how to create it, how to report it to clients, how to prove its value and ROI — over the last year,” Deborah continues. “I was astonished to see a leader like Dave reverting to the most basic and rudimentary measure, follower count, to prove the influence of his crew.”
“I simply had to go to our team — who do the same kind of work and seek the same kind of impact, results and influence for our clients — to ask their opinion and advice as to whether Strategic Objectives should do something similar,” she says.
At the end of the day, our SO Engagement team agrees, it’s important for our staff to be socially engaged because it’s what we do. As to whether follower numbers count? Our bottom line advice is that it’s preferable to judge thought leadership based on social sphere, influence, engagement and community participation. Someone with only 200 followers can have major influence in an online community through authentic engagement, and play a key and valued role in aligning and affiliating with your brand.
“I question whether ‘getting the most followers’ is the way to really engage a community and position yourself as a Twitter expert,” says @SO_pr Account Manager Monika Rola, who adds that measurement by followers is a flawed process because it’s too easily gamed. “We can all grow numbers with the help of Tweet Adder software. If someone wants to be underhanded, they can even pay companies to find followers for them.”
Andrew F Stewart our @SO_pr Community Manager agrees, “Everyone starts off with one follower. It’s easy to get followers; it’s keeping them that’s the hard part. Judging anyone or anything, prima facie, can speak more to your flippant need for quick answers than real influence,” he says.
Why Numbers Lie (No S*#t, Sherlock!)
It is our opinion that setting measures on social media success should match up to your goal, strategy and tactics. Looking at follower count is as effective as following the newspaper horoscope to guide your daily decision-making. Measuring and reporting ROI by follower and fan count, rather than context, audience demographics, etc. is all too common in the agency world.
A contact of ours recently shared a twitter influencer list with us to review. It comprised approximately 150 Toronto Twitter accounts with the highest number of followers. We vetted the list through our usual filters to make sure it was totally targeted and were totally surprised.
After filtering out the spammers, corporate accounts (no relevance to our campaign) and accounts which had gamed the system by obviously buying followers (few tweets, thousands of followers), we were left with approx 40 real people with any real influence. Of that 40, only a handful would have been interested in engaging with our story.
Don’t get us wrong — we do believe a large and engaged audience is hugely important in both social and traditional media. However, we urge you to look beyond the numbers to find the context behind the numbers. Be curious, Sherlock Holmes! Investigate. Don’t be lazy.
Measuring Leadership: beyond the numbers
We believe that measuring sector and category thought leadership should extend way beyond Twitter to the work that you do and the results you achieve. It should include IRL speaking engagements, Twitter lists, blog posts and articles published in major media outlets and so much more. You can have as many engaged followers as you want, but if you’re going for the title, Thought Leader, your soap box needs to be prominent in more places than Twitter and your ideas should be thought-provoking and original.
Community manager Andrew F Stewart agrees, “Thought leadership is all about perspective. These days original thought is hard to come by and an original point-of-view is rare and very refreshing. You’ve delivered genuine insight if you can make me see something in a new light or from a new vantage point,” he says.
So how do you cut through the social noise, echo chamber and back-patting to be deemed an authoritative thought leader?
Andrew recommends listening and observing to discover the real influencers who matter most to you, “If you see that someone asks questions but doesn’t follow up with answers, it may just mean no one’s really connecting with them. It’s no wonder!” – “If we must follow numbers, lets look at twitter lists. It takes effort, reasoning, thought and categorization to add someone to a list so why not measure that as a standard of real influence.”
Like the “if a tree falls in a forest does anyone hear” metaphor … I like to say If a tweet goes unretweeted, did that tweet ever exist? Retweets are but one small way to measure social success and influence beyond follower numbers. In fact, we recommend a mix of measures including:
– Clicks (links)
– Views (of image or video)
– Unique visits
– Buzz and trending topics
Andrew also suggests looking at how many lists someone appears on, “Lists are a good start if you want quantifiable measurement. Tools like Klout are also starting to show some traction in proving influence.”
I’ll conclude now with some wise words from our socially-savvy president, Deborah Weinstein: “Social media has become the wild, wild west of marketing with a multitude of disciplines jostling with each other to own the space; and a plethora of self-styled gurus hawking their wares to ill-informed, but hopeful clients, businesses and brands. Make sure to look beyond the hype to fact-based analytics and research when recruiting a marketer to promote your brand and business. True thought leaders will stand out based on their actions and deeds,” says Deborah.
There’s no question there is a need to establish and measure new high standards for “influence” and “thought leadership.” In the meantime we urge smart marketers to resist the temptation of buying into the big social numbers game, as digital budgets begin to rock and rule in the new economy.
Following on this theme of social media measurement, we’ll take a more analytical look at follower counts next week.
Melissa Smich is a thought leader on our Strategic Objectives Social Team.
Posted On: May 25, 2011
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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.
CCPRF member and Argyle Communications president Daniel Tisch has been named Canada’s representative on the executive board of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management, the umbrella association linking PR professional associations around the world.
Tisch was nominated for the position by the Canadian Public Relations Society and elected at the Global Alliance’s annual meeting.
You can read more on the Argyle Website.
Posted On: December 30, 2008
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