Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Draggin' the line

Another Tim Horton's opened recently (so what else is new?). This means I now have three locations in close proximity to my office.

Today, I got off the subway a stop earlier than usual to try out the new one.*

And, glory of glories, this Tim's wasn't as crowded as my other regular haunts. I figured that's because it's off the beaten PATH and people hadn't discovered it yet.

It also didn't have the de rigeur long and winding line-up. There were three cash registers open and you were free to choose whichever one you wanted. Free to choose! That's become a bit of an anathema in well-behaved Toronto, which likes to adhere to the 'first come first served' rule whenever more than two people are waiting.

I did a quick scan and noticed the line farthest from the door only had a single person in it. So I walked over, though there were varying numbers of people in the other lines. I felt as if I was doing something illicit; that I would be spoken to harshly for my impudence and sent to the back of the cue.

But my turn came and went without an incident. I was served and gone before many of the others who'd arrived before I did.

So why didn't any of those folks move to the smaller line? I think it's because we're programmed to resist change. It doesn't matter matter how small it is, as long as it's the least bit different, it's best to keep out of the way; steer clear of the unknown, thank you very much.

The trouble with that attitude is we become so used to the status quo that we can't (see) smell the coffee for the beans.**


*That's not the only reason: I, too, think it's a good idea to make small changes to your regular path. You never know who you might encounter or what fresh perspectives you might gain.

**I'm not sure if that makes sense, but it sounds good and I think you know what I'm getting at.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I think I've got it...

If you've been reading my most recent posts - here (1) and here (2) (note: that's the order you should read them, despite the chronology) - you'll notice that I've been playing around with the pub date and time function in Blogger.

It all goes back to January 12, when I complained that posts saved in draft form and then published, contain the day/time they were begun and not when they appear.

I heard that in Wordpress, you can set pre-set pub dates for entries. That's a great feature.

Not so in Blogger. However, I did find that you can change the date manually, by going into post options and then resetting 'post date and time'.

In fact, I'm going to do that right now (marking this post Jan 28, noon) so if you're following the chain, you'll likely read this first.

Will this be published tomorrow?

I'm altered the time setting under post options, in the hopes that I can have more control over pub date and time. Thanks to Parker for the suggestion.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It didn't work

As you can see, I tried to adjust the pub date of the post just before this one. But it didn't work as planned. It just posted immediately and with the wrong date and time rather than waiting till the pre-set pub time: tomorrow at 11 am.

I'm still looking for the Blogger function that will let me have more control over the timing for my posts. So if anyone has a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Postman goes social(ized)

Joel Postman, one of my favourite PR/communications bloggers (and one of the best blog-namers around), has just launched a new venture. Socialized helps businesses 'adopt social media within the framework of their business and communications strategy'.

It sounds like an innovative and timely idea and I wish him great success.

And it's the home for his latest blog, which, if it's anything like his others, is sure to be entertaining, well-written, critical, thought-provoking and funny.

I'm looking forward to following it and urge you check it out.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Blogging on the rails

Literally. I'm on a Via Rail train bound for Montreal and I wanted to see how easy it is to do an in-transit post. (Very easy.)

For most of the ride, the connection has been smooth, if a bit slow. And I've been able to download emails, and visit websites and blogs. In the past, I've had trouble working on Outlook and I'd get booted off the internet more frequently than not. But that was then (six months ago) and things seem to have improved.

For what it's worth, I think Via is the ideal way to travel from Toronto to Montreal. The time involved is practically the same, it takes you from downtown to downtown, you get fed, watered and you can read, work, listen to music, talk. It's a pleasant reminder of simpler times and virtually stress-free.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Truly understanding your market

I didn't realize Winnipeg had earned the dubious distinction of being the 'car-theft capital of Canada'. (I did know that during especially cold spells, people left their cars running and other people 'borrowed' them to avoid freezing.)

But I guess if you were living there, the car-theft moniker is something you would have been all too familiar with. And, if I was planning any sort of car marketing program in Winnipeg, that little detail would have been easy to suss out.

However, in yesterday's Globe and Mail (subscription required), there was a story about how Ford of Canada had to apologize to Winnipeg for an SUV print ad they ran with the slogan, 'Drive it like you stole it'. The company has since pulled the campaign.

I suppose the marketing agency thought the concept was creative and edgy. What they didn't realize was that in addition to calling out the City's epithet, the ad ran on the same day as a front-page Winnipeg Free Press story about a youth who was being sentenced for killing a cyclist, while driving a stolen car.

So who's to blame? Ford? The advertising agency? I'd say they're both responsible.

This type of situation should be fairly easy to avoid if an organization takes the time to get to know its market, build relationships on a grassroots level and not simply apply a one-size-fits-all approach.

Sounds like PR doesn't it?

We develop an understanding of a community by thoroughly researching and identifying local issues, idiosyncrasies and trends, and conducting in-depth environmental scans that help spot potential hot buttons.

Perhaps companies should look to their PR counsel to provide this type of strategic intelligence at the outset of a marketing program, so they can avoid backing up into a brick wall.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A new online Palette (PR)

We relaunched the Palette PR website today. It's a whole new look that reflects the type of agency we've become; our approach and offerings. It's also the debut of our in-house designer, Andrew Glenn, who will enliven Palette's graphic and online capabilities.

And, I'm pleased to say it's the home away from home for this blog (i.e. the my(PR)palette is featured on the website under 'In the News').

Have a look and let us know what you think.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A mall of information

I was watching Adaptation again last night (what a film!) and wanted to know the name of an actor who played a certain role. So I went to imdb, typed in the title and found out without ever having to leave the room.

Earlier, I wanted to find the lyrics to a somewhat obscure musical by Jules Feiffer I'd seen at a university cabaret, did a quick search, and sure enough there they were.

It wasn't so long ago that we had to rely on our memories or 'look something up' in a book or at the library.

Now, we have a virtual 'mall of information' available at our fingertips anytime we're online. Certainly there are gaps and we still have to research, process and analyse the results. But it still amazes me that we have so much 'all under one roof'.

My take on blogger relations

So much has been written and/or talked about PR folks reaching out to bloggers with stories and news. There's been a lot of 'tiptoe round the tulips' advice (e.g. tread very lightly) and comments about how different it is from traditional media outreach.

Well, we've been engaging bloggers for just over a year now and, I believe that if you're a good PR practitioner (ethical, honest, creative), the approach is the same.

  1. Identify the outlet (msm or social)
  2. Get familiar with the writer by reading what they write
  3. Figure out what kinds of stories might interest them
  4. When you have an idea you think might work, get in touch and politely ask if they'd like to receive it
  5. If no, thank them for their time
  6. If yes, send them your best story pitch that demonstrates an understanding of their interests and why it might appeal to them
  7. Follow up politely
  8. Repeat when appropriate

I know this sounds simple, but in my books an informed, thoughtful and measured approach is the best way to engage people regardless of whether they're writing for old or new media.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cash for internships

Earlier this week I read a wire story in the Globe and Mail about students having to pay a fair bit of money to secure a Wall Street internship. Here it is from another outlet.

Now, while this doesn't apply to PR (yet), I don't like it one bit. I think it's up to senior people in any field to keep the door open so the smartest and most resourceful young people find a way to get in (without having to go to an ATM first).

We've found some of our best young people from standout resumes that came in 'over the transom'.

Wrong publication date

I just published my most recent post moments ago. But since I started writing it on Wednesday and saved it in draft form, the pub date is wrong. And short of copying, deleting and then starting all over again, I can't figure out how to correct that function.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Start the presses

Say you're a print media junkie, interested in seeing front page news from... Duluth, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Manitoba (yes, my hometown), Omaha, Nebraska or any of over 600 other international newspapers. You could go to the library, but chances are anything from outside your city wouldn't be from today. You could do a Google search, but then you'd probably end up at a website that doesn't come close to replicating the look and feel of a daily.

Well, now you can check out Newseum, an 'interactive museum of news'. It's a showcase of 'front' as opposed to 'home' pages.

The 'papers' are kept for 24 hours, till the next edition is published, so the links change every day. Not every outlet's represented, but in general there's a good, if a bit odd, assortment of titles. There's also an archived section that highlights world coverage of recent major events.

I especially like the fact that you get to see a global snapshot of the day's news and all the local stories and slants. Talk about a glimpse into communities.



Thanks to Judy G for pointing it out.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Spam comments

I had my first spam comment yesterday, in a version of Spanish that did not translate or make sense. I decided to delete it and changed the comments settings to now include word verification.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

An oblogation for 2008

I spent much of my free time last year trying to understand and get familiar with the ways of the blogosphere. Truth is, I still feel like I'm just dipping my toes in shallow water and swimming way over my head at the same time.

And that uncertainty is both daunting and refreshing.

This year, one of the things I'm going to try to do is focus less on the cool tech software and apps (though like many a part-time car aficionado, I can be entranced by the 'options'). That doesn't mean I'm going to give them up entirely. Or change the tone of this blog.

I am, however, going to attempt to uncover, analyse, sample, and hopefully recommend some truly useful 'disruptive innovations' that will improve/simplify PR and the way we do our jobs.

But I can't do this on my own, so any and all pointers and ideas are welcome.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My blogging balance sheet

Not too long ago, I took a three-day course on financial management for non-financial managers. For those of you who think that's a signal to doze off, let me say that it was a fascinating seminar led by an accountant who was by turns lively and cautious. And, as a result, was able to explain basic (and important) financial principles in a way that made them both entertaining and easier to grasp.

The heart of these tools (he said) is the balance sheet, an at-a-glance snapshot of a company's assets, liabilities and equity.

And that got me thinking about what a balance sheet for this blog might look like. So I've decided to reflect on the past year and see where I net out and if I created any blogging value.

MY(pr)PALETTE BALANCE SHEET - DECEMBER 31, 2007
(unaudited - not unedited)

ASSETS

  • 72 posts
  • 24 tags
  • 42 comments
  • 16 member blogroll (and a total of 55 blogs/feeds followed)
  • 12 Technorati authority rank
  • 1 & 2 rank of blog on Google (in a search of Martin Waxman)
  • Goodwill: sense of humour, voice, outlet for writing and publishing
___________

LIABILITIES
  • Posting something dumb, unfunny or downright dull (too many times)
  • One-way, column style of writing
  • Reluctant blogger (at first)
  • Too much time spent poking around the blogosphere
  • Less personal hours to devote to reading books, watching movies
___________

EQUITY
  • Blog voice
  • Posts I'm proud of
  • 240+ readers per month
  • Comments from people I don't know
  • Technorati rank
  • Google juice
Retained ideas:
  • 3 unpublished blog ideas in various stages of writing (that may or may not ever see the light of day)
_________

My analysis?
  • Reduce liabilities (e.g. spend more time reading books, consider following fewer blogs, writing less posts)
  • Increase equity by refining my blog voice and encouraging more conversation
And the outlook for 2008?
  • Target: 5 to 6 posts per month with time off for good behaviour in the summer and December
  • Stick to what I know and really like (PR, media, social/cultural observations)
So what's the bottom line?

Overall, I'm pleased with the 2007 results. It's been a fun and enlightening experience for me.

I hope you'll let me know if you think the assets jibe with the liabilities and equity and whether I've created some posts of value. And I hope you stick with me for another year.

Thanks to all of you for tuning in.

Happy 2008.