Michelle Sullivan Communications

McGill certificate course in social media and digital communication … taught by MOI!

Business owners, managers and communications professionals looking to boost their team’s social media skills will be interested to learn that McGill University’s School of Continuing Studies is offering a new certificate program called Digital content and community management. And guessed who helped design it? (hint: MOI!). And guess who will be launching it on September 18th? (hint: see hint #1). I’m thrilled to be teaching the program’s kickoff course, Current Trends in Digital Communication. It’ll feature dynamic industry speakers and great discussions that’ll be of interest to social media beginners and seasoned professionals alike.

I have some fantastic speakers like CT Moore, Adele McAlear and Ligia Pena lined up to talk about everything from digital marketing and SEO, to community management, to social media for non-profits … with a few surprises up my sleeve …

Having followed the evolution of a similar course offered by friends like Martin Waxman, Eden Spodek and Donna Papacosta at UofT, I’m expecting a mix of communications professionals with limited social media experience, with more than a few experienced community managers thrown in (because sometimes a little piece of paper called an attestation or a certificate helps with HR and pay raises). Because of this, I’ve designed a course that will be of interest to communications professionals at any level. And since this is a continuing ed. course, we’ll be able to pull from real-world experiences. Should make for a fantastic laboratory! I’m looking forward to the conversations we’ll have.

The class provides an overview of current uses of internet-based media (websites, blogs, social networks) in public relations, direct marketing, internal communications, fundraising, consumer relations and reputation management. Participants will leave the course with a firm grasp of best practices, and will be able to implement social media tactics based on strategic considerations.

Registration for this 10-class, 6-week course is now open.
Information: 514-398-5454

McGill Digital content and community mgmt flyer

Social Media: Getting away with the minimum

Social media is like your exercise routine: the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Hitting the gym for a few hours a day and working with a personal trainer may get you the abs that are the envy of all your friends, but sometimes all you have time for (or even desire for) is a quick walk after dinner to get the blood pumping a little at least. As much as I encourage my clients to invest fully in their social media initiatives, I also want to be sure that if they’re not willing to do as much work as I’d like, that they’re still covering the basics.

What do you do in the social media space when all you want to do is the very minimum?


Make your web content visible. As attractive as that flash website may be, it won’t win you many points with most search engines. Your existing clients already know how great you are … your prospects are the ones that need convincing. But first they have to find you. Great website content is dynamic, relevant, informative, easy to digest and, most definitely, optimized for search. Keep keywords in mind when you review your content. And if you must use flash, be sure to be aware of its limitations.


Make your web content shareable. Even if you’re not willing to step up your social media game by investing in a blog, you should be making what web content you do have shareable. Visitors to your site will be able to spread the good word on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or any one of a number of social networks with one easy click. Plugins like ShareThis, AddThis, Digg Digg and Sociable are just some of the options available to you and your web developer. Give your website visitors the tools they need to become effective brand ambassadors.


EgoSurf. Social media is just as much about listening as it is about engaging with communities. Not all companies are willing or even able to put the time and effort into really getting the most out of social media, but no company can afford to neglect its online reputation. Ignoring client comments will not make them go away. You may not want or be able to engage with your customers online, but just hearing what they have to say about your company, its products and services and the quality of your customer service will provide you with valuable insight. In Mad Men days, agencies used to run focus groups. They occasionally still do. But more and more they’re showing their clients that in the age of social media, the real focus group is already out there and just begging to be listened to. So be sure to monitor what’s being said about your company and brands online. A number of free and premium tools are available to you, from something as basic as Google Alerts, to Social Mention, to platforms like Radian6, Sysomos and Nexalogy.


Squat. You may not want to tweet just yet, but you should consider staking your claim. Most social networks allow you to open accounts with your company or brand name. Pepsi’s Twitter account is @pepsi. Nike’s is @nike. Simple, clear and most of all obvious to anyone searching for the Pepsi or Nike presence on Twitter. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find you. You also want to prevent anyone else from hijacking your company or brand name. If Pepsi hadn’t staked their claim early, soft drink detractors could easily have opened a Twitter account using the brand name. As the obvious go-to Twitter identifier for anyone searching for Pepsi’s account, the detractors’ account would have been in a position to do some real damage to the brand. Just ask BP. You’ve invested time, money and energy into building your brand’s reputation. Now’s not the time to neglect it. Better an unused Twitter account reserved in your name than your brand’s social media presence in the hands of someone else. Protect your reputation and stake your company or brand’s social media claim before someone else does.

These four tips cover only the absolute basics. Effective social media requires an investment of time and energy. If you’re not willing to put much effort into social media, you can’t expect it to do miracles for you. But do the minimum, if nothing else. Doctor’s orders.

Social media and social movements: The whole world is watching

We’re recording the world around us. The cameras in our iPhones (et al.) make it easy.

Case in point, the protests which continue in Egypt following the events of this past year’s Arab Spring. Video of the « Girl in the Blue Bra » has ignited reactions from around the world, including comments by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as quoted by The Daily Telegraph:

Recent events in Egypt have been particularly shocking. Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago (…) This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonours the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people.

Shot by an amateur videographer from a rooftop, this footage is only one of the thousands of videos which have emerged from what has been dubbed the Arab Spring. In a country like Egypt, where mobile phone penetration is at 91%, a camera phone is a powerful communications tool which becomes a weapon in the protester’s arsenal.

While, according to YouTube’s own year-end top 10 list, most Canadians were watching videos of cats, babies and Rebecca Black in 2011, hundreds of protesters were documenting events in their cities and sharing them online. While most are viewed only by a small number, lost in the sea of YouTube videos, some, like that of the Girl in the Blue Bra, touch a particular cord and spread, much as the video of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan had during the Iranian protests of 2009.The moving image remains a powerful thing. It’s even more powerful when coupled with a platform like Facebook and its network of « friends ». Simply by clicking on a share button, we can express our outrage on our Facebook profile. And our 130 Facebook friends can hear about it.

Arab spring. The Occupy Movement. Each now with their iconic videos.

The whole world is watching.

500th blog post: on Jack Layton-inspired « mono no aware » in the age of social media

This is my 500th blog post. I’d been saving it for something special : an article about the change in direction this blog will be taking, including the unveiling of  my newest project. But that can wait. Right now, I’d rather dedicate this personal landmark to Jack Layton.

In Japan, the term aware (pron. a-wa-ray) speaks to a reverence for the « transient beauty and mortality of all things ». Mono no aware is often translated as « the ‘ahh-ness’ of things », life, and love. Awareness of the transience of all things heightens appreciation of their beauty, and evokes a gentle sadness at their passing.

And so it is for me, with Jack. A time to reflect upon the contribution of a great Canadian. «Ce bon Jack» as we say in Quebec, when talking about Jack Layton. And he carried his name well.

In the hours following news of his passing, my mother compared Jack Layton to my father. That’s the highest of compliments .. to Mr. Layton. But she was right. Both were honest, compassionate men of integrity whose true « religion » was love for their fellow man. The outpouring of affection for Jack from Canadians and the urge felt from coast to coast to mourn collectively is deeply touching. When we mourned my father, we were comforted by words of kindness and shared memories from family, friends and acquaintances about the man we’d loved and had lost.  Eleven years later, the passing of a much more public figure shows how far technology and the Internet have brought us in our ability to grieve collectively.

And all these online spaces and social networking sites allowed me and thousands of others to share our thoughts about Jack’s passing and legacy with one another in real time.

My father passed away in September of 2000 and friends and family from across Canada and as far away as Ireland gathered for the interment of his ashes a month later. Not being there to receive the condolences of our community in the days following his death was a difficult thing for those who were far away in those first weeks. It is a key stage in the grieving process. Eleven years later, it is clear that developments in technology in general, and of social networking in particular, make physical distance almost inconsequential. We can come together to comfort one another in our grief, and we can collectively share in those all important rituals that accompany death, as they happen.

The social media space is composed of tribes. Tribes with common interests, overcoming physical distances to come together in sharing. Since Jack Layton left us on Monday, Canadians have been gathering online as a tribe of millions, to pay tribute to one of their own, and to comfort one another in their collective grief.

Who said technology alienates us from one another?

Now if you’ll excuse me, now that Jack’s funeral is over I’m going to turn off my laptop and grab my bike for a ride through the Laurentian woods. Time to reflect and quietly pay tribute to this great Canadian.

RIP Jack. You will be sorely missed.

And give my love to my Dad for me. He’ll be the guy welcoming you to the eternal-club-of-good-guys with a golf bag on his shoulder and a warm smile, hand outstretched.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.
Arundhati Roy as quoted by Stephen Lewis, during his eulogy for Jack Layton

KD Lang sings Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic

Croire de Martin Deschamps

Lorraine Segato sings Rise Up

The Youngbloods – Get Together

MAJ: Footage from the various ceremonies, including musical tributes, have been circulating online since Jack Layton’s death. Below, I’ve updated the musical list presented above with footage from the funeral ceremony, hosted on YouTube.

Steven Page sings Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Richard Underhill plays Van Morrisson’s Into the Mystic

Croire de Martin Deschamps

Lorraine Segato sings Rise Up

Derek K. Miller et vos blogueurs: au-delà de l’influence

Derek K. Miller, blogueur influent de Burnaby C.B., est décédé hier, après une lutte acharnée contre le cancer. Père de deux filles et mari dévoué, ce musicien produisait de la musique libre de droits pour utilisation dans les baladodiffusions et bloguait sur des sujets variés, dont la science, la technologie, sa famille et sa maladie. Les proches de M. Miller ont publié ce matin un billet d’adieu qu’il avait rédigé quelque temps avant sa mort. Cet ultime billet fait présentement le tour de la blogosphère et touche des milliers de lecteurs. Tellement que son site n’a pas pu supporter le volume de trafic. Au moment de l’écriture de ces lignes, le site PenMachine.com était hors ligne.

Pourquoi l’évoquer sur ce blogue?

Parce que la disparition de ce blogueur nous rappelle que dernière chaque blogueur que nous identifions comme étant un « influenceur », il existe un individu qui vit, qui aime, qui souffre et qui connaît des moments de grand bonheur. Un être mortel, qui compte pour la communauté qu’il a tissé autour de lui.

Lorsqu’une entreprise décide de se lancer dans l’aventure des médias sociaux en menant une campagne de relations auprès des blogueurs, les responsables des communications ne doivent jamais perdre de vue que les blogueurs ne sont pas des journalistes.  Ils ne sont pas des professionnels embauchés par une entreprise médiatique pour produire du contenu qui sera vendu à côté de publicités dans un grand quotidien ou à la télévision. Ils sont motivés uniquement par leur passion. Leur œuvre est forcément intime. Forcément personnel. Et ces passionnés forment des communautés – des tribus – caractérisées par des liens serrés et tissées avec chaque commentaire. Avec chaque hyperlien.

Dans les séances d’introduction aux médias sociaux que j’offre à mes clients existants et potentiels, je parle immanquablement  de la notion de tribu. Je considère qu’il est essentiel de comprendre que les médias sociaux permettent à des tribus de se former selon des champs d’intérêt, et ce indépendamment de distances et de frontières. Nous ne devons jamais oublier que derrière chaque blogueur que nous approchons dans l’espoir d’obtenir de la visibilité pour les entreprises et marques de nos clients, il existe un être passionné qui s’investit souvent corps et âme dans la production de contenu qui l’intéresse et qui intéresse les membres de sa tribu.

Collègues: Mettons de côté nos listes et engageons nous pleinement dans la conversation en ligne ainsi que les rencontres horsligne. Entrons en dialogue avec le blogueur en tant qu’individu. Prenons le temps de le connaître. Tissons des liens avec lui. Démontrons du respect pour son temps, son investissement personnel et sa passion. Gagnons sa confiance. Faisons nos preuves et démontrons-lui que nous méritons d’être un membre à part entière de sa communauté. De sa tribu.

Et lorsqu’un membre de notre tribu signe son dernier billet, pleurons-le ensemble.

Derek K. Miller, repose en paix.

The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don’t look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same. – Derek K. Miller