Viewing posts tagged as "energi PR"

After July 1st, will you be King of the CASL? Or Just a Dirty Rascal?

If there is any doubt about whether I am frustrated, cynical or just plain grumpy over this CASL law, the answer is yes to all three. I might feel differently if I was a lawyer, or could have one permanently on staff, but that’s not the case.

As CEO of energi PR, a mid-sized, independently owned, Canadian public relations firm, I am trying to understand why Canada’s anti-spam law needed to be so complicated and costly to implement. The law applies to all individuals and businesses sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) and so, ignorance or a lack of sophistication or resources will presumably not be an excuse to be deviant. And so the rational part of my brain says, wait a minute all you small and medium-sized business that form the cornerstone of the Canadian economy and are trying to do business, win business and stay in business, why would anyone want to penalize those Canadian businesses who do not send SPAM? Ours is the business of public relations. We tell stories. From important medical discoveries to the colour of a new lipstick – and everything in between. Those who take these stories and develop them for their audiences and communities generally want to hear from us and, even when they occasionally might become annoyed by a bit of persistence, they would hardly describe our email communications as SPAM.

Yes, we want to ENLARGE our client’s business and our own, but does this compare in any way with penis enlargement supplements, the latest weight loss scheme or an invitation to meet the woman or man of your dreams?

Make no mistake. energi PR is CASL compliant. We’ve distributed our consent requests, hired one of the country’s most knowledgeable internet law specialists, engaged our IT team, implemented a contact management system, ensured that our email signatures provide an unsubscribe function, trained our team, documented our procedures and anointed a Compliance Officer. Can you imagine any better use of our resources?

As I said at the start of this rant, I am tired and grumpy about all of the machinations and cost that CASL has imposed. But I am also sympathetic to those in PR and in other businesses who simply do not have the wherewithal to jump into the CASL action.. The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms, an industry association that represents more than 25 of Canada’s leading PR firms, of which energi PR is a founding member, has further supported its members by obtaining its own legal opinion that focuses on our stock and trade, including communications with journalists. The Canadian Public Relations Society webinar explaining CASL is another valuable resource for our profession.

I agree that SPAM is annoying and efforts should be made to eliminate it. I also don’t think that the authors of CASL were intentionally mean-spirited. But sometimes even the very best of intentions come back to bite one on the butt. My sense is that CASL will have little impact on the email junk we’ve received to date and convinced that unnecessary obstacles have been put in place for honest, legitimate individuals and companies that want to be profitable and contribute to Canada’s economy and society. I would have much rather have made a charitable donation than pour thousands of dollars into CASL compliance.

As a final note. I started in business before fax machines were invented. Who knows, maybe making the Canadian commercial email message such a villain will force us back into personal business interaction, which wouldn’t be so bad.

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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.

Feeling entitled? You won’t get a glass slipper working in PR.

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.

Lauren Wasley

Lauren Wasley

 

A “Patient First” Motto is not a USP

Most pharma companies want to be known for putting patients first, for unlocking the mystery of serious illness and for improving the patients’ quality of life. These are noble and well-intentioned goals. But they are also ubiquitous; common to most healthcare- focused organizations, and are often not based on an intimate understanding or regular exposure to the end user.  In the classic client customer dynamic, there are two key players:  the manufacturer/marketer/distributor and the prescriber, almost exclusively the physician. So, is the patient really first?

Consumers of healthcare, a.k.a. patients, increasingly see themselves as the preeminent advocate of their own health and this role may extend to others in their circle including a spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends and even colleagues. Therefore, it’s not difficult to see how a personal connection to acute or chronic illness can grow into activism and advocacy. Taking control over one’s condition; being aware and making informed choices is increasingly the profile of the savvy health consumer. To put patients first means accepting that at the end of the day, the patient voice is louder than you might think.

But how does that relationship work best, achieving everyone’s objectives and maintaining the integrity of the process? The principles may seem like common sense, but when applied diligently, they can make or break this kind of partnership.

10 tips to a happy Industry/Patient Advocacy Group collaboration

  1. Transparency is rule number one. Keeping in mind industry regulations concerning engagement, the groups need to be clear and comfortable with what each party wants to achieve through the collaboration.
  2. Write it down. Expectations should be straightforward and recorded in writing to prevent conflict down the road. This sets a reference point by which to measure progress.
  3. Define success. What is the end game? Describe what this will look like in terms of outcome.
  4. Soft skills. It is important to understand the inherent differences between large, professional, for-profit organizations and volunteer, community based not-for-profit groups. It should not come as a surprise that patient groups will view industry with skepticism.
  5. Trust. Trust is not a quick hit and must be earned over time.  When it is achieved (earned) it will signal the beginning of a strong relationship and greater support.
  6. Listening. The patient journey is more than a drama or the content of a news release. It is why the patient or family is devoting time, not only to help their loved one, but the broader constituency of sufferers. Don’t be afraid to enter their world. This may be about business for the company, but without genuine empathy, patience and compassion you risk being seen as opportunistic.
  7. Messaging. The devil is in the details and the words used in getting the points across will be more important than you may think.  Work together to develop messages that are real and compelling for both parties and each of the appropriate audiences.
  8. Training. Offer the patient advocacy group professional training and development in areas that will be relevant to the work you do together. This might include media appearance training, presentation skills; bring in speakers on public policy, market access, and best practices and show relevant case studies. Don’t discount individual and group needs to fully understand what and how things are done successfully.
  9. Accountability. You never want to ask or be asked about whether something was done. Set up a regular time to connect face to face as well as over teleconference to report and discuss progress. Determine how much and how often you need to communicate. Ideally appoint one individual from each group to be the key contact to avoid confusion.
  10. Don’t walk away when the mission is over. Far too often companies wait until they are desperate for the patient voice or endorsement before engaging with them. Successful organizations do stakeholder mapping early in the game and get to know the groups and key influencers well ahead of a need. By the same token, any good relationship cannot be turned on and off without consequence. Stay engaged at some level through a call or lunch meeting and a contribution to further the organization. And continue to provide information on your organization’s contribution in the areas of research, patient programs, awareness, corporate social responsibility and education.

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Carol Levine, energi PRCarol 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.

 

Edward Burkhardt: Here’s Some Free PR Advice

If the tragedy of the train derailment in Lac Megantic wasn’t so horrific, it could be a laughable PR case study about what not to emulate. To the Chairman of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, let me give you some advice, on the house.

Preparation: There is hardly a business that is immune from the risk of exposure whether it is an accident, fire or scandal. If you had a crisis communications plan, it didn’t work, but most likely you didn’t have one. You were grossly unprepared and it shows. Like death and taxes, the only certainty is that the unexpected will happen. Be prepared for it.

Get out ahead of the news:  Almost everyone knows that ordinary citizens and the media get to the story immediately – MM&A needed to get out in front of it. Instead, you waited to be chased.  All that you needed to say immediately upon learning of the tragedy was “Our thoughts and prayers are for the victims, their families and the residents of the town. We are by their side.” Follow that by saying you would set up a schedule for regular briefings.

Take a cue from NASA Public Affairs with regard to the Space Shuttle Columbia –

“When things are going well, tell the media everything they want to know.  When things are going wrong, tell them even more.”                                                                 

Presence: It took five days for you to show up at Lac Megantic. From what I’ve read you said you could accomplish more being in Chicago where you could deal with insurance, the media etc. Are you kidding?! Do you not have other senior members of your team competent to deal with such things? You are the public face of the company and needed to rush to the scene and share in the communal pain; call the mayor and show yourself as human. Your actions and statements made you seem distant and uncaring and now you have positioned yourself as the enemy. Good luck rebuilding in that community.

Don’t speculate: You don’t know what you don’t know – so say so. Don’t make it up as you go along.  Engaging in a blame game, whether it’s your employee or the fire department, before all the facts are in is unwise. When asked about accountability you could have said simply, “We are cooperating with all of the regulatory bodies and municipal, provincial and federal authorities. Like everyone involved, we are waiting for the information to unfold as the investigation continues. Right now our primary concern is for the families and the residents of Lac Megantic.” Instead you use words like “obligation”, “probably”, and “the information gets better every day”. Your statements are confusing and show lack of coordination.

Speaking to the media – According to a news report you told TVA that you hope “(you) won’t get shot” when you finally visit Lac Megantic. That’s like Nixon saying “I am not a Crook” or Bill Clinton saying “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” Why didn’t you issue a statement at the news conference where you could have at least articulated what you wanted to say, before being hammered by questions? The answers you gave satisfied no one.

Doing business in Quebec – Given that the Caisse de Depot de placement reportedly owns 13% of MM&A, and, that you operated in Quebec I have to wonder why the French language communications were described as clumsily translated and why there is nothing in French on your website, including the message on the French version that it’s in the works?

Being online – When I visited the MM&A website I saw that the last news release was dated July 7th, and that there was no message of sympathy – in fact nothing to suggest that it was anything other than business as usual for your company. It would have been so simple to have you prepare a video statement on the site or better still, uploaded to YouTube.

At the end of the day the spectre of a communications and public relations critique is of little consolation to the victims, families, townspeople and emergency service personnel in the quiet hamlet of Lac Megantic, Quebec. However make no mistake, that it will likely never be business as usual in this locality for MM&A. If not for the safety factors alone, but for the sheer heartless and defensive way this was corporately managed.

Don’t take my word for it – just look at Michael McCain and Maple Leaf Foods to find out how to do it right.

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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.

Are You My Mentor?

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.

The relationship between a mentor and mentee is not like Sleeping Beauty and her prince

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.