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Category Archives: Public Relations
The Secret Art of Volunteering: Presentation Review
When I sat down to listen to Ken Lima-Coelho’s presentation last Friday, I didn’t expect to learn anything new. How pompous is that? What could he possibly have to say in a talk called Strategic Volunteering: Strengthening your Community while Building your Business that wasn’t obvious and hadn’t been said before? Well, maybe I was wrong… just a little.
Lima-Coelho took to the stage at IABC Calgary’s Professional Development day for Independent Consultants last Friday, with passion, purpose and insights that were inspiring, thoughtful, and above all, results-oriented. This was a man who knew of what he spoke.
Lima-Coelho is currently the Vice-President of Communications and Financial Development at YMCA Calgary. But his dynamic and entertaining talk was not about his role there, it was all about what got him there, about how living his passions out loud got him to where he is today, in a role it sounds like he was born to do. From a kid who attended YMCA after school care, to communications and journalism student, to Heebee-jeebee band member (self-described as originally created to “get free food and pick up girls”) to CBC producer and on-air personality, Ken’s career seemed full of passion and energy from the outset.
But the soul of his talk was about his volunteer passions: his passion for family and kids, his passion for the role the YMCA played in his formative years, his passion for building community, his passion for the Calgary Foundation, his passion for the work he gets to do every day at the YMCA, to help make Calgary a better place to live.
While his non-stop energy and enthusiasm for all he does is laudable, he stopped me in my tracks when he closed out his presentation with this takeaway: “Every authentic action counts,” said Lima-Coelho. “If you’re not an authentic volunteer, it shows.”
I loved that. It hadn’t even occurred to me that he could possibly be pretending; that his countless hours of volunteerism weren’t speaking from the heart. This is because he is an authentic volunteer.
What Lima-Coelho left me with was the affirmation that one should act from the heart. Be authentic in all you do. And when you authentically volunteer for the causes you are passionate about, it shows and everyone benefits. And maybe, just maybe, the surprise benefactor will be you.
It seems that the news is absolutely peppered these days with individuals in political power making poor ethical decisions. Is the quality of our elected officials going downhill? Maybe. But I think it’s more likely that we, the public, just know more about what they think, believe and do, now. Why? Because they’re telling us.
Take the case of James Andre, newly elected school board trustee from Battle River, Alberta. It has been reported that more than 80 tweets from his now closed twitter account, were laced with profanity and stereotypes that spanned colour, race, gender, and the religious beliefs of a wide range of people. Didn’t Andre understand, that each time he pressed “tweet this” from the privacy of his home or office, that it was like he was sending a news release to the entire world, telling everyone what he believed in?
In the not too distant past, a person like Andre would not have had the wherewithal to instantly publish whatever he thought at any given point in time. He also might have had a sounding board of people to discuss his opinion with before espousing it to the world.
Today, we all have that power. Instantly. We all have incredible self-publishing capability and essentially populate our own, personal newsfeeds from our mobile devices be it on Twitter, Facebook, our personal blog or however we choose to share our personal news with the world. It is as though we are sending out a news release every time we share a status update. Sure, we may have a privacy setting that says it only goes to our closest friends, but ultimately, if you don’t want the whole world to know, don’t put it on the Internet.
When I started my career in PR, 20 years ago, if an elected official wanted to announce something, he/she rarely wrote the announcement. That was my job. Once it was written, a team of people would review and wordsmith it until we got the message just right. Then we’d send it to the news media (by fax) and pray they would cover the story in the way we wanted it covered.
This much slower process did a number of things, but most of all it made us think about what we wanted to say, and think about it again. We would never release the first draft, or even the second. We would think about what we were doing. That’s the whole point. We thought about it. Now, with no time lapse between brain and self-publish, the whole world gets to know the inner workings of your mind, for better for worse.
Think about that. The whole world. Your career can be made or broken in a single tweet. Harsh, but true. Hashtag that. #thinkbeforeyoutweet
Tamania J. Naqi, BSc, MBA
Marketing and Public Relations Associate
A lovely woman with a lovely name, pronounced “Tah – MAHN- ee- a,” I met Tamania while doing my keynote presentation at the CPRS/IABC conference a few weeks ago. She was volunteering with the Canadian Public Relations Society, and shot some of the great photos for the presentation. When we got chatting, I was really impressed by her energy, sharp intellect and honesty. We hit it off instantly.
Tamania began her career in Computer Science (she has a BSc), and decided she enjoyed the business and marketing aspects of her career much better than she did the programming. She went on to complete her MBA, and worked in the telecommunications industry. Since then, she has also completed an extension certificate in public relations, a night course in graphic design, and began working as a freelance consultant to several non-profit clients. And did I mention she also takes very good photographs (better than this quick one I shot of her!)? In short, I was amazed with the versatility of her skills and her drive to continually learn new skills.
We are thrilled she will be working as an Associate of Tenato. Tamania, welcome to Team Tenato!
Sustainability and the Art of Going Viral: a passing fad or the real thing?
In an early April e-mail from my brother in Geneva I got excited about social media and its power to animate the hearts and minds of younger generations. Can a viral campaign raise awareness, understanding or support when it ‘goes viral’ and can it maintain the gain?
My brother’s e-mail talked about how my 11 and 9 year old nephews had actively engaged in a “conversation”. It began with my sister-in-law commenting on KONY 2012. I’ll let Steve tell it…….
“With the two of us off in different corners of Europe, we trade e-mails to keep the family conversations going. Her boss was excited about how a video about Joseph Kony had gone viral and the implications this has on an organization that wants to advocate things.”
Steve went on to explain: “The original video was posted on Monday. As of Tuesday night when her boss first heard about it, had 1.8 million views. When I watched it one day later after she told me about it, it was at 11.6 million, and Daniel and Joshua were now talking about it. (By April 1 it had been watched 86.5 million times.) With most of our kids now too plugged into “screens” of various sorts this was a good object lesson in media. When the anti-blogs began, the kids were exposed to issues about what NGOs do, how much they cost, and the potential of the internet to influence world events.”
Being in the Public Relations business and curious about how to skillfully incorporate social media into my communications tool box, I tuned into the Kony campaign.
When I got Steve’s e-mail I checked the video out myself and lo, I discovered that the organization called Invisible Children had already up-loaded a follow up vimeo the day before to address the groundswell of criticisms of the viral campaign to take specific action against an African warlord, Joseph Kony. Pretty impressive ‘reputation management’ tactic, I thought.
Was it too little or too late?
What amazes me now is how fast the volume of the internet and social media buzz rose and then fell, for it seems according to an online article April 12 in the Washington Post that the groundswell had already mostly died down. The second video only had half a million views vs. the original one that my brother and his family were having conversations about, which peaked at 87 million views.
The campaign had been designed to spread global ‘awareness’ and it did that, according to Steve. I would never have heard of it were it not for his e-mail.
Will the organization’s “Cover The Night Friday, April 20th” on-the-ground event be the acid test to see if all that awareness translated into understanding and then support?
We’ll soon find out if it was a passing fad or the real thing.
by Judi Gunter, BA, APR, FCPRS, L.M.
My parents would have liked the idea that the Canadian Public Relations Society didn’t go in lock step with the Public Relations Society of America in the matter of defining what Public Relations is and what it does.
Nothing against Americans, you understand, but Mom and Dad simply believed Canadians were different. Beloved abroad as a pleasing people, polite to the core and ever having to say we’re sorry. Sweet.
In her February letter to members, our CPRS president Pierette Leonard APR FCPRS shared our thought leaders’ insights from our Society’s own defining movement. When the PRSA decided last year that they were going to up-date their definition of PR, we Canadians had urged our colleagues to the south to pay attention to cultural and societal context and the consideration of values in their definition.
You see, a few years ago we PR practitioners ‘north of 49’ had waded through the maple syrup, figuratively speaking, to come up with our own modern definition. Not by initiating an on-line free-for-all as did the Americans this year, but by committee, following rigorous research and analysis. How blessedly Canadian!
(Actually as I explained in my previous blog post, our colleagues to the south took their process quite socially.)
Underpinning our extensive consultation process leading up to the endorsement of our own “made in Canada” definition three years ago was a deep down, soul searching conversation about our vision and values.
Next our “defining architects” had engaged in content analysis of more than 400 definitions of PR that had been submitted by PR academics to a Defining Public Relations wiki. These were carved down to 20 for further discussion, arriving at last to a working definition which was sliced and diced by the best and the brightest minds from our national Board of Directors and the Council on Education.
When it was all said and done, the Canadian Public Relations Society endorsed the following definition at our 2009 annual general meeting and it is to this definition of contemporary public relations we intend to stick:
“Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communications, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals and serve the public interest.”
We’re not just sticking with it because of all the time and energy that went into our thinking process. We’re holding our own because we believe that Public Relations should serve the public interest and we believe that wording that value into our definition is vital.
Too good to be true? At Tenato Strategy, we believe it’s the right thing to do.
by Judi Gunter, BA, APR, FCPRS, L.M.
My late parents were proud of my career success in Public Relations even though they didn’t really know what I actually did for a living. But they figured I must be good at it because I kept getting good jobs and a lot of awards and accolades for doing it.
When I parroted a textbook definition of PR to them 30 years ago — Public relations is the planned effort to influence opinion through good character and responsible performance based upon mutually satisfactory two-way communications – their eyes glazed over.
Mom liked that bit about “good character” though, which supported her notion that St. Judi was saving the world. Dad was especially grateful when I gave him a mnemonic device — that the P stood for “performance” and the R stood for “recognition”.
It was always easier for my parents to explain Judi to their friends when she was a reporter, though, so the description they liked the very best was that my job in PR was to keep getting good stories into the newspaper.
I had left the newsroom in 1970, and had already been practicing PR for a decade when, in 1980, I decided to go for accreditation (APR) with the Canadian Public Relations Society. Back then, the above definition came from the profession’s bible, Effective Public Relations, published in by Cutlip and Center which was already in its 4th edition by the time I actually cracked the cover of a PR text book.
Today’s professionals come into the field with diplomas, undergrad and post graduate degrees yet even with all that scholarship, it was only recently that a modern 21st Century definition was democratically adopted by the Public Relations Society of America.
PRSA announced its up-dated definition, March 1, 2012 is (drum-roll please):
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
If they were alive today, my parents’ eyes would still glaze over. As would my explanation that the Americans arrived at their definition using online and digital strategies and social media tactics.
The definition was developed from an extensive online “crowdsourcing” campaign to industry professionals and the general public. After 16,000 web page views, 900 submissions and 70 comments, a “word cloud” formed
From this extensive effort, members of PRSA and a dozen other industry associations (including the Canadian Public Relations Society) shook out three brief definitions and put it to the people. The winner took it with 671 votes, 46.4 percent of the total ballots cast.
But even after all that buzz the Canadians didn’t go along with it, and that’s a subject for another blog.