Why do so many people suck at communications?

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate…”

Who doesn’t remember that famous line from Cool Hand Luke?

It’s one of those iconic, ironic phrases that uses few words to convey so much. And it resonates with those of us who work in PR, content marketing and social media.

You wonder why, with all our business savvy and skills, so many people and organizations are just plain awful at telling their stories. Aren’t there enough cases, books and training modules out there to help us do a better job? 

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Pray, don’t prey and pay for play – PR tips for 2015

We’re halfway through the first month of 2015 and no doubt many of us have already abandoned our resolutions. Despite the best intentions, old habits get in the way.  Sure, we tried to wipe the slate clean, but like an overused whiteboard, the shadows of some markers just won’t go away.

Maybe it’s a panicked, deadline-driven request from a client or co-worker. Or your boss doesn’t want to hear any ideas about streamlining the process or trying things a new way. Boom. Your back in old-you mode again.

So how can a communicator who wants to practice new PR avoid that trap?

Here are three things to consider: Pray, don’t prey and pay for play. 

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Social media is a lot like improv

Canadians are naturally good at improv. Look at Second City, SNL, Kids in the Hall and all the standup talent from Yuk Yuk’s.

Maybe it’s part of our DNA: the feeling we’re always gazing at something we can’t have. We’re also polite, happy to give people the benefit of the doubt and generally comfortable going where the flow takes us.

Social media’s a lot like improv. To do it well, a brand has to think on its feet and perform! Sometimes you click into the prevailing ethos and it’s pure magic – like when Oreo dunked in the dark. But mostly it’s TV-ad-dull unless it devolves into that can’t-believe-you-went-there dumb behaviour. U.S. restaurant chain Dave and Buster’s recent racist tweet comes to mind. 

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From optimist to optimize – a way forward for PR

The PR profession has long relied on ‘the kindness of strangers’.

In fact, I’d venture to guess that if you’re in PR and of a certain age, you’re probably an optimist.

Or were at some point.

How else could you survive in an industry with no guarantees, a lot of hoping, and an unwavering belief in unbalanced relationships? 

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Experience turned to arrogance is never a good thing

Should a PR person ever call a journalist? In many cases, the answer is a resounding NO. Yet it’s something senior practitioners tell juniors all the time. ‘Why are you emailing, pick up the phone!’

We live in an age where relationships and trust are more important than ever. And the border between offering useful info and being a spammer is getting murkier all the time. So what can communicators do to stay helpful, relevant and not be perceived as a pest?

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