April 2008

Enter Philip Roth

I recently finished reading Philip Roth’s superb novel, Exit Ghost, the latest (and final?) Zukerman story. Nathan Zukerman, by the way, is Roth’s literary alter ego; a fictional author whose life has mirrored that of his creator’s. Or has it?

And what can you say about a Roth book that Roth himself doesn’t say better in his writing? How do you communicate his inimitable sense of style and the way in which his characters take on a life of their own? Should you paraphrase? Quote passages? What would you leave out? What essentials would you miss?

And the questions… Roth poses and answers so many questions that his fiction feels almost Talmudic in scope (including, in this case, some student acolytes).

Roth’s writing is entertaining, funny, rigorous. and completely and unabashedly original. He’s in a class unto himself (which, I would imagine might be a bit lonely at times).

If you haven’t read anything by Roth, I urge you to do so; if you have, read more.

To blog or not to blog…

That is the question… a client asked a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what I suggested.

Before you get started

Figure out your objective. The blogosphere can be a good way to build awareness for you and your brand, but that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow burn, like media relations, and requires your full attention. In addition, you have to be passionate about writing (hopefully good writing).

Entering the fray

OK, you’ve done your soul searching and decided that blogging is something you want to do. Here’s what comes next:

  1. Select the topic. It should be something you love, intimately know about and where you’re positioned to become a thought-leader.
  2. Linkability builds credibility. Identify the players, the high profile and oft-quoted bloggers in your sector and start reading their blogs. And when you have an insight to share, post a comment. That way the bloggers start to know and build a relationship with you. Again, a slow burn which generally takes three to six months (or more).
  3. Decide on your format, which software works best for your needs and how often you’re going to post. Then stick to it. (Ideally this should be at least a couple of times per week in order to build a following.)
  4. It’s a DIY culture and publishing is as important as writing. I spend about one to two hours per post, researching, checking facts and links, copy editing and proofing. This isn’t something you can pass along to staff.
  5. The blog needs a voice – yours. There’s been negative backlash when people find out a site has been ‘ghost-blogged’. The most successful CEO bloggers write the posts themselves. This authenticity is what makes their blogs so powerful.
  6. You should be transparent, listen, admit any errors quickly and respond to comments in a timely manner.

Will this get you any business? In the long run, maybe. As I said, blogging can build your profile the same as marketing, PR, speaking engagements, etc.

Our advice? Unless you have the drive, energy and hours to spend, blogging may not be the most strategic thing for you to do.

Think of it as a part-time job with a full-time commitment.

The odds are in…

Since April 2nd, I’ve supped my share of rim-rolling Tim Hortons‘ coffees, in hopes of coming up with…anything.

According to the rules and regulations on the Rrroll Up the Rim website, my best chances were getting a food prize. Odds: 1 in 9.

Here are my results:
- 34 coffees consumed (from about six locations)
- Two free coffees won
- Odds that a coffee I bought would be a winner: 1 in 17
(considerably lower than the posted rate)

No wonder I was mildly disappointed, despite having consumed a more-than-adequate supply of caffeine.

Will that put a damper on my participation for next year? I doubt it. It’s part of a Canadian rite of passage from winter to spring.

Besides, the pleasure is in the thrill and getting to the front of the line, I say.


I’m pleased to present the new, sleeker look of my(PR)palette, thanks to Andrew Glenn, our in-house designer. I say blogger never looked so good.

Let me know what you think.

The old joke I alluded to on Inside PR #106

Inside PR #106, taped before a live studio audience at Third Tuesday Toronto, is available for download. For anyone who listens and wonders about the old joke I alluded to, here it is:

What’s the difference between advertising and PR? In advertising you pay; in PR you pray.