Michelle Sullivan Communications

Social media impact: Us Now and an hour well spent

One of the roles I’m really enjoying as I dive into my new position as HKDP‘s (a.k.a. Hill & Knowlton/Ducharme, Perron) Director, Social Media and Digital Communications is going out to meet the firm’s clients and introducing them to the fascinating world of social media. Thanks to coverage by traditional media, they’ve all heard of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but they’re not always sure of how social media can be applied to business … and to their business in particular.

Part of my presentation focusses on tools, and on case studies that show how platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are being leveraged by brands. But, in my mind, the most important part of my presentation is an attempt to communicate the power and potential of social media. An attempt to communicate its sociological significance. I believe that an understanding of these concepts will lead to an effective .. and, yes, hopefully  ethical … application of social media by big business.

This 60 minute video does a really good job of that :

Should you choose to invest an hour of your time to watch this video .. and I obviously encourage you to do so .. you’ll hear Clay Shirky and other thought leaders speak about the impact of social media. You’ll hear about truly intriguing case studies like Couchsurfing, Mumsnet, Directionless, Ebsfleet United, Linux, Zopa, SliceThePie, ThePoint .. and even Canada’s Green Party. You’ll hear fundamental truths about society … any society … that come to the fore with social media. Concepts like the fact that people trust people like them. They trust them more than any governmental body, health organisation or faceless bureaucracy or business. Concepts like crowdsourcing and the wisdom of crowds. Concepts like the trust economy.

I really connect with what Clay Shirky says about the 20th century being an anomaly (at 14:00) in that, as a society, we’re now reverting to a ‘common and deep human pattern’ of mutual assistance for any one of a number of reasons: because we like one another, respect one another, or because we’re interested in building our reputational capital. Being more than just a number. The era of passive consumerism is waning, if it isn’t already over.

So sit back for an hour, enjoy the documentary and don’t forget to listen for Ride of the Valkyries.

Hat tip to Karine Vezeau, who in turn hat tips Baptiste Roynette.  One of the great things about discovering a new (for you) blog (through a #FF mention on Twitter, no less) is when it leads you to gems like this. Karine’s blog is full of them. Pull your French-English dictionary off the shelf and check it out.

Olympics 2.0

Interesting article in the Vancouver paper, The Westender, on how the 2010 Olympics will be shaped by social media.

(…) there will be almost the same number of non-accredited journalists at the Games as those with official media accreditation, resulting in a potentially dramatic increase in the range of stories told about the event, and about the city. « The mass media – or accredited media – are so focused on celebrating the sports that their agendas don’t permit much deviation from the narrative, » he (Andy Miah, chair in Ethics and Emerging Technologies in the School of Media, Language, and Music at the University of the West of Scotland)  says. « This is why social media is so critical. When we look back in history, we will want to know what took place throughout Vancouver, not just what happened in the stadia. »

Very interesting discussion about how Web 2.0 will impact the IOC, with its strict rules and regulations:

An increasingly blurred division between official and unofficial media — particularly with regard to how it will play out in Vancouver next month — may challenge the IOC to change its approach in how it handles media during Games time. “What we have here is a major sporting event taking place in a western liberal democracy, in a country that is highly wired, and in a city that has a very active social-media scene,” Hermida says. “In many ways, this is a tremendous opportunity to really expand the appeal of the Olympics, and to involve not just established media, but involve emerging media, and involve the public in general into celebrating this through the media.

Available online here.

(Thanks to my brother-in-law, Bob, for the heads up. Great when your whole circle supports your obsession 😉

Summer reading series: iPressroom’s 2009 Digital Readiness Report

My summer reading series continues with newly released survey results by iPressroom:

Online Communications Skills Employers Want and Candidates Need in Today’s PR and Marketing Job Market

This report provides insights into the specific strategic and tactical digital communications skills that employers are seeking from public relations and marketing job candidates. The research report is intended to help public relations, corporate communications and marketing professionals better understand and appreciate how organizations are integrating online communications into their business practices, and what online communication skills they need to acquire to be competitive in today’s job market.

While I think this report needs to emphasize more strongly than simply in the intro letter that it is the result of a survey of social-media interested companies (the results reflect that, I think), I am pleased to see that within these companies, PR seems to have the lead as far as social media strategy goes. IMHO, past history and general PR tenets tell me that this is where social media belongs. Not that I’m biased or anything 😉

Young professionals considering PR take heed: social media is quickly becoming a must-have on your CV (and I mean your Google CV, not your I’m-stretching-the-truth-about-everything-in-2-pages-or-less CV). Even if the heads of PR firms may be technosaurs, they expect the younger generation to be on top of their game, in order to fill this gap. If you’re a 21-year old PR prospect and not well versed in social media, you’re in trouble. Time to step it up, my friends.

How do I know this to be true, even for the Quebec market, where social media practice is still playing catch up?

In Montreal PR firms, bilingualism is almost always listed as a must-have on job postings. I know of more than one unlingual (French) PR consultant who landed a job despite lacking this requirement. Why? Because he/she had some knowledge of social media. Does social media trump English in Quebec as a second language of choice? Now let’s not all get up in arms. I’m not saying that … Recent hiring practices, however? Mebbe.

Your mother .. and my father .. were right: blogger relations revisited

At PodCamp Montreal last September, I was part of a panel called “Managing the PR Beast : Building Relationships with PR Practitioners While Maintaining Credibility with Your Audience”, along with Kim Vallee, Rayanne Langdon and Eden Spodek. I have to say, PodCamps and other unconferences are a great place to meet people who become valuable members of your personal and professional circles. One such person is Jennifer Blais of Black Eye Design, who, today, was kind enough to forward a great blog post that passes along many of the same helpful tips we tried to communicate that day to bloggers and PR professionals looking to work with one another.

Eric Karjaluoto is a prominent Vancouver-based design blogger. His blog post, How to keep bloggers from hating you, an open letter to PR practitioners written from the blogger’s point of view, should be basic reading for anyone thinking about venturing into the social media waters. Eric caps off his best practices blog post by reminding everyone that basic manners DO count when doing blogger outreach. Yes, the manners your mother taught you. Like please. And thank you. And remember when she told you to sit down and be quiet because you were being annoying? That one too.

The PR landscape is definitely changing and we all need to keep up. Having done blogger outreach for about three or four years now, I’m pretty sure I have the hang of it, but always take a moment to run a checklist before hitting ‘send’ on any email:

  • is this content likely to be of interest to this particular blogger?
  • do I know this blogger? Have I met him face to face at an event? Have I built a relationship up with him over time through blog comments? If not, have I at the very least taken the time to read through a minimum of a half-dozen blog posts, including the first, to be sure I’m not wasting his time?
  • is my email personalized? Does it show I’ve taken the time to understand his interests and objectives? Am I helping him deliver content that will be of interest to his readers?
  • is my email interesting, as well as short, efficient, and to the point? Does it respect the blogger’s time?
  • am I being clear that I am not ‘purchasing’ visibility? Will the blogger understand that he or she is treated with the same respect as a journalist who may also be reviewing the product for traditional media and will benefit from the same freedom of expression?
  • am I reaching out to him or her in the best way? Might Twitter be better than email?
  • is this a win-win situation for both my client and the blogger? And to the blogger’s readers?
  • is my campaign a credit to my own consultancy as well as to my industry?

The last point is an important one for me. It pains me every time I hear about bad practices in the PR industry. It’s easy for bloggers to paint all PR industry professionals with the same brush. We owe it to our industry and to our colleagues to strive towards implementing best practices. I’m constantly trying to improve, stay current and be sensitive in the way I enter into relationships with journalists and bloggers. If a journalist or blogger tells me once that they’d rather I contact them through Twitter, I take note and do everything I can to respect that request.

You may have noticed that respect is the common thread here. Respect a blogger’s time, interests, individuality, readership and requests. No one likes to be treated badly, without consideration, with impatience or like a number. Be respectful at all times.

Rules a mother would want her child to live by. Better yet, it’s nothing less than what my father — he who lived by the Golden Rule — would expect of me:

Do unto bloggers as you would have them do unto you.

Words to live by.

If you haven’t already, and you’re interested, you can listen to my PodCamp Montreal panel session here.

And for your reading pleasure, profiles of Eric and Black Eye Design, taken from their respective blogs/websites:


About Eric Karjaluoto:
My friend Eric Shelkie and I run an interactive agency called smashLAB, where we make neat things like MakeFive, shiftCMS, and Design Can Change. We’ve just launched a new service for those in advertising, marketing and design called undrln. I also have a personal site. But it’s personal, so don’t go there.

About Black Eye Design:
In business for well over a decade, Black Eye Design is an award-winning boutique design studio based in Montreal. Black Eye specializes in champion creative for book covers and interiors and other publications, and has developed a one-two punch database-into-layout system to streamline the workflow for event listings design. Step into the ring with our team, and you’ll find out why our credo reads « Knockout Creative. No Sweat ».

Tiger bite : online privacy and the case of Marc L***

I’m sharing the content of an email I’ve forwarded to a client, with whom I’ve spoken about social media on several occasions. On one such occasion, the concerned father came to the surface, as he spoke about photos a family member had published on Facebook. Our conversation revolved around the Internet, privacy issues and new realities faced by the generation known as digital natives.

Hello L***

You may remember the conversation we had about your daughter, Facebook and privacy issues. If her French reading comprehension is good, you may want to have her check out the following blog post:


which references the following article:


She can read the article first for better impact, then followup with the blog post for a bit more context.

Basically, this French publication chose someone completely randomly, then started to follow his Google trace. They created a portrait of him based on information he’d published himself in online communities like Facebook and Flickr.

The online article has been modified, encoding some of the more personal information. The original print version went out with everything laid out on the line: his name, the company he works for etc.

Particularly interesting is the inclusion, in the blog post I reference, of a letter written by the subject of the ‘study’. It shows his reaction. It shows how disconcerting he found it to be shown an article with his private life laid out for all to see and mentions that he’s been getting anonymous calls from someone trying to get access to his mailbox security code etc.

While I’m the first to warn against sensationalist media that tries to paint a portrait of the Internet as a « dangerous » place, this does serve as a good reminder of the context in which we agree to evolve when we go online. This article does a compelling job of driving the point home.

As you said during our conversation, the traces left by your children now could (potentially) be referenced by their employers (or enemies, or future fathers-in-law) down the line.

And even if we’ve gotten to the point where Obama can admit to having done cocaine and still be elected President, anyone interested in political office would do particularly well to take all of this into consideration.

Hope this doesn’t give you too many nightmares.