Talk is Cheap … again

Talk is Cheap, the social media “unconference” first organized by former Centennial College CC&PR program director, Gary Schlee, is back. The unconference, which will be held on November 12 at Centennial’s Centre for Creative Communications will feature a variety of speakers, all talking about the latest trends in social media.

The first time Talk is Cheap was held back in 2007, I was a student in the CC&PR program. I, along with some of my fellow classmates, helped organize the event under Gary’s direction. Despite a limited budget, our relative inexperience with event management and a pretty short timeline, it turned out to be a bigger success than we expected.

More than 160 people came out to listen to over 20 presentations by other communicators and PR professionals about their experiences using social media in public relations.

Because I was helping out during the first conference, I didn’t get a chance to attend any of the seminars. This time around, however, I will make the most of this opportunity, listening to, and hopefully learning a lot about, how I can use social media to the advantage of my organization, Markham Stouffville Hospital.

I’ll also get a chance to see what the new CC&PR class is like and perhaps have the opportunity to hear what they have to say now that Gary has retired and no longer teaching.

So, for any of you looking to get some clear, sound and professional advice about how to use social media in your everyday work, I encourage you to attend Talk is Cheap 2.0. It will very likely be a fun, interesting and informative event as well as a great chance to meet other PR professionals in Toronto.

You can register for Talk is Cheap by heading to the wiki at this link and following the directions.


The missing link…

I finally finished–well almost finished–putting up my profile on Linked In, the networking website for professionals. I first created the profile in mid February as part of a school project.

Since then, it kind of fell off my things-to-do list, mainly due to a healthy amount of procrastination. The fact is, I was never sure what I wanted to put up on my profile. As a student, I couldn’t see the value of using the site to network, since I felt that most of my contacts would be other fellow students. As a communicator, I still felt like too much of a novice–even with all of the contacts I had developed through various projects–to start randomly adding everyone I knew.

What finally prompted me to complete my profile was realizing how important it is to maintain the ties I have developed in the field of communications, especially with my former classmates.

As I found out during a recent get-together with some of them, most of them are beginning to build their own career paths as communicators. By keeping in contact with them, I am able to learn from their experiences and improve my own knowledge, especially in social media and Web 2.0 which have become so vitally important to our industry.

So, six months, 10 days and 14 hours later (give or take a couple of weeks) Joe Chawla has finally made it onto Linked In. For those of you who have been waiting for me to accept your invitations to join and become your contact, my apologies. For those of you who I have recently sent invites to, hopefully it won’t take you six months to respond back to me.

But in case it does, don’t worry … my profile will still be waiting.

Welcome to the (PR) jungle…

Whoo hoo! I have found a job! Actually, in all honesty, I have had the job since about the start of August, but between my sister-in-law’s wedding and waiting for my contracts to come in the mail, I kind of held off writing about my newfound employment.

Now that I have crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s on my contract, I can tell you that I am now one of the new Public Relations Coordinators, handling Media Relations, for Markham Stouffville Hospital. I went for an interview with the organization in mid-July, did a follow-up in late July and was offered the job near the end of the month.

I start on August 25th and will be working with two other people in handling PR for the Hospital. For me, its a great job for several reasons:

1). Markham Stouffville Hospital is a fantastic organization that serves more than 300 thousand people who reside in the communities of Markham, Stouffville and Uxbridge, as well as some residents from the Scarborough and Durham regions.

2.) As an organization MSH’s vision is to “care for its communities through partnerships and the pursuit of excellence”  and its mission is “to make every experience with them great!” These are great values because they signify the committment the organization has to its communities, not to itself. Its easy to do media relations for an organization you respect.

3). Third, in handling media relations I can make use of my broadcasting background, which I hope will give me an edge in delivering great stories about the Hospital.

4). As a PR job its a great opportunity because it’s a full-time, permanent position which means I don’t have to worry in a year or two about finding a new job.

5). Finally, it’s ten minutes away from my home, which means I don’t have to get up an hour and a half in advance to ensure I have time to get to work!

So, I am looking forward to getting started with MSH and helping to spread the word about the organization, its vision and mission, and its work within its surrounding communities.

(P.S. I will still keep writing about some of my job hunting experiences and my time at Newmarket, however, as I am sure they can still provide some value to people who are still looking for a job or internship or getting started on the job hunt.)

Quality over qualifications…

I’ve never been a big fan of job hunting.

The stress of having to write cover letter after cover letter, update your resume to include every single relevant credential and then edit the whole affair to ensure you have no potential mistakes that could leave your application in the trash bin gives me a headache.

But the other frustration I have with job hunting comes from being considered either not qualified enough for a position, or even more surprisingly, too qualified for it.

Now don’t get me wrong. In a way, its a bit flattering having someone tell me that I exceed the qualifications of the position they’re hiring for, especially considering my limited experience in PR. But, at the same time, if I applied for the job, doesn’t that mean I want it and, even more importantly, consider myself qualified for it?

Now I understand the position of the organization. They want to hire someone who will fit nicely into the role, not become easily bored with it, or use it as a stepping stone to move higher in the company leaving them with the task of finding another candidate a year down the road.

But, at the same time, I still feel that if I applied for the job, it’s because I felt I was qualified for it and wanted it.

Furthermore, chances are that I would likely stay in that position for at least a year or two so that I could learn more about the company and how it operates. Then when I finally did make the jump up in my career, all of that carefully cultivated experience and knowledge could be used for the company’s benefit (since I would probably stay with them out of loyalty for hiring me.)

In addition to this, isn’t the expectation of moving up in a company something that any job candidate would consider? After all, who goes into a job wanting to stay at the same position and pay rate for their entire career? Pretty much no one.

So what do you guys think? Is the perception that a potential job candidate is too qualified for a position a fair assessment to make? And if so, isn’t it worth retaining the skills and experience that person could bring the position and the company? If there are any HR people out there who may read this blog, what are your thoughts?

A new look and a new ‘tude…

As many of you may have noticed–that is if I still have any readers left–I’ve been away for a long time. There are plenty of reasons for my absence; none of them really substantial, but I’ll tell you about them in a little bit. The reason for my return, however, is thanks to my colleague, Megan Ramsay.

I was visiting her blog and noticed her new look … and then I proceeded to read about her new look. That got me thinking that perhaps I should begin writing on my blog again, rather than have it drop off as just another completed school project.

So here I am. And with my return comes a new look (like Megan’s) which I hope is a little cleaner, a little more classy and a lot more mature. I am sure that in due time, you readers who still are around will let me know what you think.

So that said, here are some of the main reasons why I haven’t spent much time posting the goings on in my life on this forum.

1. My son. I am sorry but its true. At the end of a hard day, I would much rather cuddle my five month old son than sit here writing about him. If you saw how cute he was, you would understand.

2. The job hunt. I just recently completed my contract at the Town of Newmarket. My internship with the Town became a temporary contract and that is now over. So, for the past few months–during my internship and the extension–I have spent tons of time trying to find a job. Let’s face it … this blog isn’t going to put food in the mouth of my family (or it might, if my writing happens to catch the eye of some PR agency bigwig … hint hint.)

3. The writing process. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so I usually write my blogs in MS Word, edit them, re-edit them again and then edit them one final time before pasting them into wordpress. After that comes the formatting process, trying to get them to look the way I want in wordpress. It’s a long process and one that quite honestly was beginning to turn me off of blogging. Now, I am just going to write and let the grammatical errors fall where they may.

4. The writing process #2. I tend to be a big verbose, or in other words, I don’t know when to shut up. My last few blogs could all have been contenders for university papers and that much writing can get irritating (not just to read, but to write as well.) So, from now on, I plan to try and write less and get to the point faster. Short and sweet (this blog notwithstanding.)

5. GENERAL LAZINESS. That’s right. I am lazy when it comes blogging. The fact is, I see a ton of different stories and issues that I would love to write about, but it always seems to slip my mind when I get home, thanks to the many other activities that present themselves. I mean, let’s face it, would you rather sit at a computer writing about PR, or sit in front of the couch watching So You Think You Can Dance and secretly hoping that the hot brunette and blond don’t get voted off in today’s show. Ah, I see you share my values. Excellent!

(Update – 6. I forgot this reason, but its just as important. Writing about non-PR related stuff. Lets face it, my life doesn’t completely revolve around PR, so having a blog that focuses just on that limits my creative freedom. With my new look, I plan on writing about more than just PR. Hopefully, it will lead to some more interesting discussions and definitely some more interesting posts!)

Well, that’s it. Those are my reasons for not writing on War of the Words. But, like my new look, I hope my new ‘tude towards my blog won’t wane and that I can start making up for some lost time. So for those of you who have left me, COME BACK! COME BACK! And for those of you who just met me, DON’T GO! DON’T GO! Otherwise … enjoy, leave me your comments, and don’t be a hater! Peace!

P.S. Corporate Communications Class of 2007/2008 … I miss you guys!

The politics of blogging…

It’s internship time for us students here in Centennial College’s Corporate Communications & Public Relations program. Most of my colleagues have managed to secure a placement with an organization, agency, or not-for-profit, and the few remaining students who haven’t are in the process of tying up loose ends.

For myself, I have the privilege of working with the Town of Newmarket’s communications department. In fact, I have already begun writing up some materials for them, even though I technically don’t start my internship until March 25. (Even that’s early. Internships are supposed to start March 31, but I am a bit of a PR keener! 😉 )

Anyways, I’m pretty excited to be working with the Town of Newmarket. It’s a growing community with about 80,000 residents, close proximity to Toronto, and a reputation as an environmentally progressive municipality. So, I am sure there is going to be plenty for me to do as I wet my feet working in public relations.

In fact, one aspect I have already started to consider is the introduction of social media as part of Newmarket’s communications policy. It was one of the issues that I talked about in my interview. At that time, the communications team was interested in getting involved in social media, but a little concerned over the two-way aspect of online communications (having audiences be able to respond back on blogs and social networking sites.)

But I think social media is an excellent tool for local governments to use to get closer to their constituents. Blogs give municipalities a way to communicate policies, programs and initiatives to residents and get information and public response back in a timely manner. Furthermore, blogs are the great equalizer, giving residents who normally feel disenfranchised an opportunity to make their voices heard.

In fact, some minority political parties in other countries are already making use of social media. Greensblog is a blog created by the Australian Green Senators. It gives them an opportunity to discuss government issues in a forum where their voices are not quashed by government and opposition parties who outnumber them in parliamentary debates.

Closer to home, even Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama is making his views, and the view from his campaign trail, known through blogging. Rival Hillary Clinton also seems to have a blog in her name, though its credibility seems suspect.

But the fact that blogging is now a form of public relations for these candidates—or at least Obama—and for governments at large, is a huge indication that social media is a much more important element nowadays in public communication and interaction.

It’s a lesson it seems Canadian governments still need to learn. A recent post on Simon Dickson’s blog, I’m Simon Dickson, talks about the UK Foreign Office making a major jump into Web 2.0 with the launch of not one, but SIX blogs spanning all levels of the organization.

Over here, however, the only blog I found after several minutes of searching was by Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Well at least someone gets the idea of Web 2.0. But it’s a definite fact that social media should be taken more seriously by governments in Canada as a way to communicate with their audiences.

In fact, two Australian researchers, Barry Saunders and Jason Wilson, recently wrote in their online article, Consulting Bloggers as Citizens, about the importance of blogging for local governments.

“Blogging and other forms of participatory social media (such as wikis) are well suited to consultative policy development. They allow comments and feedback, and thus open up discussion to a range of voices. This in turn allows political debate to move beyond left-right political point-scoring to a more complex, nuanced, interactive process.”

Furthermore, governments, especially municipal ones who have a closer representative relationship with their constituents, can actually use blogs and social media to get accurate feedback and information when developing policies which affect their constituents.

“Blogging is about arguments and discussion – a robust conversation about healthcare reform might be informative, and would certainly gauge the depth of community feeling around the issue. Such an unfettered discussion might help defuse the electorate’s most common complaint about major party politics: “they just aren’t listening.”

Social media is now a tool governments can use to show they are not only listening to their constituents; but that they’re also involved in the discussion. And until governments here decide to get involved, they just don’t hear what we’re saying.


On the Inside track…

It’s nice to be noticed. As one of the students in Centennial College’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program, it seems our group is constantly in the spotlight nowadays, thanks to our instructor Gary Schlee’s push to get us into the world of social media.

For those of you following the latest on Inside PR, the online podcast which talks about trends in the world of public relations, you’ll know that hosts, David Jones and Terry Fallis, recently commemorated their 100th show with a live taping at Centennial’s Centre for Creative Communications.

CC&PR students watch a live taping of show #100 for Inside PR

We students had a chance to voice our questions live on the show and get answers from two professionals who have worked in the business long enough to identify new trends and understand the ways to use them.

However, I think the event was especially useful to our new first semester students who are just beginning to learn about the value of social media and its impact on the world of public relations.

That said, though, I would love to hear from any of them about what they thought of the show and the growth of social media. Perhaps they might have some valuable insight which we all could learn from. Any of you guys have a comment?

(The picture provided was taken from Inside PR ( and shot by Gary Schlee)