Michelle Sullivan Communications

Quebec PR : we’ve come a long way, Baby!

Exciting things are starting to happen in the Quebec PR landscape : it may just be the burst of energy that hits the province in the spring, but I sense that social media is finally coming into its own.

When I launched this blog nearly two and a half years ago, after experimenting with a personal blog for a few months, Marc Snyder was already an old hand at blogging and Pierre Bouchard had just beaten me to the punch by a few weeks. For some, three is more than enough, but in our case, we definitely needed to turn towards other, English language resources like Brian Solis, Inside PR and FIR to get our PR social media fix and move forward in our development.

I was pleased when others started to slowly join the original triumverate. Massey Forget launched Quebec’s first PR agency blog in June of that same year, with Sophie Labelle, Aurélie Alaume, Bernard Motulsky, UQAM’s PR Chair and AGC Communications launching in 2008.

Now that social media has gone mainstream, more and more of Quebec’s francophone PR practioners are exploring the space.  Activities such as 3e mardi | Third Tuesday Montréal, YULBiz and the SQPRP’s social media workshops help introduce Montreal-based practitioners to social media.

Lately, it seems that every week brings a new and exciting blog launch from some of our industry’s leading professionals.  Among Quebec PR practitioners who have recently entered the space are: Martine Dorval. Patrice Leroux (who promises to post regularly as of June 1st), Marie-Josée Gagnon and Serge Leclerc.

I can only hope that one day, Marc Snyder, Guy Versailles, and my wonderful mentor, Alain Charbonneau, will re-open their blogs. The content generated by these senior PR practitioners was rich and the entire community would be well served if they once again shared their thoughts with us in blog format.

As for a blog for the SQPRP, Québec’s PR association, I can only hope that it will happen one day. It would be a great way to build relationships with the existing membership, recruit new members and demonstrate the value of the association as well as the industry as a whole.

I’m thrilled. So thrilled, I wanted to blog about this in English, so the ROC can hear about how dynamic the Quebec market is becoming. It’s absolutely fantastic to be able to read and exchange with professionals from my own city, in my own language, about something as exciting to me as social media.

Félicitations à tous ceux qui se lancent dans cette belle aventure. Au plaisir de vous lire!

PodCamp Toronto: Session 2 – Inside PR

Dave Jones and Terry Fallis are recording an Inside PR episode with Martin Waxman at PodCamp Toronto – and I’m live blogging it, so this blog post may be a more stream-of-consciousness than usual. 

Q1: What balance between traditional and rich media do you see and how do you see it evolving?

Terry: Mainstream media relations is harder and harder to generate. Fewer reporters chasing more stories. It’s harder now to get earned media challenge than it has ever been. What better time then for a new media channel to emerge? We’re still figuring out how to use it. Organisations ought to be dipping their toe in the social media waters. Companies need to find their authentic voice. Social media is a real opportunity.

Dave: It’s not a recipe I would prescribe. The strategy will drive the tactics. Be fairly agnostic with how you communicate, but use the tactics that fit best. Doesn’t mean you can’t take a risk and try a few things in the space. You definitely can’t ignore what’s happening in the social media space.

Martin: It depends. Are you going out to trade only? Are you going out for something bigger? Monitoring is the first place to start. You want to know what is being said. What is exciting is how the groundswell can be community driven (ex: Twestival). There is starting to be a big crossover between traditional and social media.

Q2: Blogger relations – where is it heading?

Martin: In the traditional model, PR people had relationships with journalists. Things have since changed. The PR industry became broadcasters, sending press releases to hundreds and hundreds of journalists. Social media is hopefully getting all communicators back to the basics. Hopefully that will be good for the reputation of the industry.

Terry: I like what’s happening in the social media space in that its transparency and authenticity is influencing how we do traditional media relations. The pitch needs to be more customized. The investment in time is more important.

Q3: How do you find companies are embracing social media? How do we deal with approvals (legal etc)?

Dave: The world has changed from the days of being able to respond in days vs minutes. The success that I’ve seen happen is when there’s some senior buy-in. In that case, they can push the mandate through. A lot of companies get religion in social media when they have a problem and realize they need to be better prepared to handle social media.

Martin: The point about PR approval is a really good one. Organizations need to protect themselves. They have liability issues. The legal department is the gatekeeper, while we’re trying to have authentic and transparent conversations.

Terry: You can win in the court of law, but lose in the court of public opinion. Clients are astonished to find critical Tweets. PR professionals can deal with them quickly and turn opinion around. Need parameters to respond and engage in the conversation.

Q: Is the social media press release dead?

Dave: I’m a bit of a crank on this one. I’ve always looked at a social media press release not as an evolution or bright light, but as an online electronic press kit. We used to send them out on CDs. It is a place to put multimedia content around a client’s traditional static text press release. It is just content. Used as a blogger relations headquarters. Is an easy place to point people to get content. You’re much better using these sorts of things as things that live and breathe as opposed to one-off press releases. Configure it so you can add to the future as new content emerges.

Terry: I would add that in the social media press release, they started to put quotations as a separate part of the press release.

Martin: I don’t think the news release is dead. The social media news release is the same thing, just with better and added functionality.

Q: Reputation and PR companies. Is it time that PR had a regulatory body?

Martin: I’m a CPRS accreditation coach, so I’m a big proponent of accreditation. It will hopefully give the industry more professionalism.

Q: Future of print media

Dave: I think the economic model for media has changed. That is what’s killing them. The need for news isn’t changing. The financial situation around print media, the costs of production, delivery, of writers, is a problem. Much as it is in the music industry. It’s not news and the need for news that will change. Consumer generated news won’t replace professional journalism, but professional journalism will change significiantly.


Inside PR debut

Episode 102 of Inside PR features moi and my Sunday night franco brain. It was past 10 on Sunday night when we taped this and my mind was furiously trying to translate as I spoke. My hats off to everyone else on this podcast panel who managed to get through the recording without uttering a 10th of the Uhs .. and ums .. that I did. There’s definitely an art there that I am still in the process of refining.

I’m starting to realize that, as a podcaster, I do much better with a little preparation and some kind of roadmap in front of me. 100% improv is hard!

Thanks to Terry and Dave .. and a special thanks to Keith McArthur of com.motion, whose point of view as a former journalist and relatively new PR practitioner is always interesting. Like I said to our hosts, I think he’s a keeper!

Inside PR : Slightly battered knight at the roundtable

Am listening to a recording of tonight’s InsidePR roundtable discussion (check iTunes this Tuesday).

Unbelievable. In an oblique reference to the Lacy-interview-Twitter-propagated-‘scandal’ at SXSW, I called Facebook’s CEO — ZuckerMAN! Ugh. I make this slip up all the time, though usually only in my mind and not live on Canada’s top PR podcast.

Once I stop flagellating myself over this, I’ll be able to say that I really enjoyed this chat with Terry, Dave and Keith McArthur of Veritas Communications’ com.motion on the pitfalls and opportunities that are an integral part of media relations.

Note to self : in English, ‘complicity’ doesn’t have quite the same meaning as in French — at least not in normal usage. In fact, the word has much more sordid nuance in English than what I intended, which was :


1656, from Fr. complicité, from M.Fr., from O.Fr. complice « accomplice, » from L.L. complicem, acc. of complex « partner, confederate, » from L. complicare « to fold together » .

But as I say to my clients in media relations training, there’s no such thing as a Do-Over. Thankfully, my other comments should make more sense to listeners whose brains don’t work as bilingually as mine does.

Maybe Terry *does* need to bring back Inside Proper English …

Inside PR : Knights of the roundtable

Tonight, I’ll be joining the new InsidePR roundtable. Terry and Dave have passed the 100-episode mark and have shaken things up with a new format. Each week, they invite PR professionals who are blogging and podcasting to add their voices to the InsidePR discussion.

Last week’s roundtable participants :

Julie Rusciolelli from Maverick PR

Keith McArthur from Veritas’ com.motion

Martin Waxman from Palette PR

The first topic of roundtable discussion was inspired by a Centennial College student’s musings about how to deal with the stereotypical perception of our industry, given its oft-sullied reputation.

The second discussion centered around Ontario MP and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Michael Bryant’s use of YouTube. Apparently Tim Hortons is a great place to measure the pulse of a community.

InsidePR goes up on iTunes and the blog every Tuesday.