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.

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.

 

Getting a FOOT in the door of social media…

I have a pretty smart, soon-to-be, brother-in-law. He’s a chiropodist who is willingly using the social media space to inform his patients, discuss his passion and market his business.

A recent graduate from The Michener Institute for Applied Sciences, he just started up his own clinic, set up a new web page and has now joined the blogosphere.

With all the flack we communicators get nowadays about making sure we know how to use and recommend social media to our clients, it’s refreshing to find someone, in a non-communications field, who is already aware of its presence and power to promote.

His blog is called FOOT-NOTES, a clever little play on words, where he writes about his experiences at work dealing with patients, new trends in healthcare, and up-to-date information for those interested in foot care. He’s already got his first post up and it’s a good one; so check it out if you’re interested.

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 (www.insidepr.ca) and shot by Gary Schlee)

Invasion of the POD people

I got my first IPOD as an engagement gift from my wife back in 2005. It was one of those sporty little 4GB Nanos which could hold up to 1000 songs.

Since getting it, I have maybe used it only about 30 to 40 times. To some that might seem like a lot, but when you think about how often people listen to music on a daily basis, you can see it isn’t that much time.

It’s not that I don’t like the device; I do. Its sleek, it comes in a nice case, and it holds all my favorite songs.

But aside from using it when I head to the gym, I don’t really need to have it around all the time. I have a CD player and radio in my car, I don’t listen to music when I am working or studying (like I need anything else to distract me) and I can’t figure out what else I would want to do with it—barring the times my desire to play solitaire on a really teeny tiny screen kicks up.

But it now seems I have finally found another purpose for my sparingly used engagement present. As part of my Online PR class at Centennial College, I, along with some of my colleagues, are about to create our first podcast.

Now for those of you who don’t know, Centennial’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program has been getting a lot of press lately, thanks in large part to the cyber savvy of our instructor, Gary Schlee.

A number of PR powerhouses like Joseph Thornley, Martin Waxman, David Jones, Terry Fallis and other movers and shakers in the industry have been watching, waiting and commenting on how the class of 2008 is one of the first to break into the social media realm of PR.

Thanks to this unwavering attention, we students are getting our first run at the social media space in the glaring spotlights of industry watchers and other schools; all eagerly waiting to see if this particular mouse maze will lead to success.

And for the most part, it has. Most of my fellow students are waxing poetic about their PR experiences on blogs, some have started to Twitter, and others are sharing online discussion boards with social media bigwigs like Joel Postman.

Furthermore, by getting our feet wet with projects like podcasting, graphic design and writing for the web, we are also learning the skills that will make us employable for a long time into the future.

So keep tuned into my blog, and those of my colleagues because you’re about to see the CC&PR class of 2008 hit the online airwaves with our own podcasts. And if you’re interested, my friends and I will be interviewing David Jones of Inside PR fame. So, a hearty thanks to him for his help with our project, and keep watching my blog and my friends, Rick Weiss, Alana DaSilva, and Sarah Fimiani, to find out what David has to say!