Archive of ‘Learning’ category

I’m so red-faced…


…because I am embarrassed. I have the worst case of sunburn in recent memory.

When I was young, before there was talk of depleting ozone layers and melanoma, my 14-year-old self would slather on baby oil and bake in the sun. When I was 30 years old, I would visit a tanning salon to acquire a ‘base tan’ before spending days baking under the Mediterranean sun. Born with a more olive-toned hue to my skin, what would normally reduce most fair-skinned people and redheads into ashes gave me a few days of mild discomfort. All for that glowing, sun-kissed, California Girl look.

But old, harmful habits die hard. While I don’t “suntan” anymore, I still do silly things, like slathering on tanning oil with a low SPF of 4. Or sitting in extraordinarily hot sunshine for hours with no coverage. I tell myself that since I’m not at the beach in a bikini lying in the sun for hours, it doesn’t count. <facepalm>

So, I suffer for my stupidity, if not for beauty.

If you see a woman on the street whose knees and chest are vibrant red, feel free to laugh. Hopefully, I can be shamed into smartness.

Clarification: I DO wear a bra.


Podcamp Toronto 2009



I had the pleasure of attending Podcamp Toronto this past weekend. Over 600 people converged at the Rogers Communications Centre at Ryerson to listen to their peers talk about new media, social networking sites, blogging and podcasting (natch). The two-day “unconference” was free, thanks to its many sponsors, and offered a venue to for social media pros and amateurs  alike to mingle, network and learn from each other.

It was a great way to meet new people who share my interest in social networking tools. I was also able to meet the real live people behind the small Twitter avatars I see every day. And I learned something new at every session I attended. 

I won’t bore you with minute details of what was discussed at Podcamp (affectionately known by its hashtag  #pcTO09); all sessions were recorded and will be posted on the Podcamp Toronto wiki  ( I urge you to listen to each session – every speaker is passionate about their topic and the fun is in listening to them reach out to their audiences and share their knowledge.

Thanks and congrats to the organizers of this event!


Lessons learned


It has been a month since I’ve completed my classes. I am currently interning at the Ontario Dental Association and love it. The stress and doubt that has plagued me for the last seven months is dissipating. I am slowly returning to my old self.

I reread my very first blog post last night. It’s hard to believe that eight months ago I walked on the campus for the first time, anticipating how my life would unfurl with a mixture of excitement and dread. I think enough time has lapsed for me to look back, reflect and come up with some advice for other mature students returning to school after a long absence from academia.

Treat school like a job

Arrive on time, attend all classes and meet your deadlines. You will strengthen your personal brand with the faculty and students and be viewed as someone who is professional, courteous and dependable. It will also help you adapt on a mental and emotional level. You are leaving a life of routine and free evenings and weekends for one that will be erratic and demanding. It will be a hard transition to make.

Structure your days so that you have some time to yourself in the evenings and weekends. I know it’s easier said than done, but even the slightest effort brings some reward. If your days end early, stay on campus and do some work until the end of the day – update your resume, write a blog post, search for jobs. Because coming home at 2 p.m. while your friends are at work drives home the fact that you are not working. It was in June that I began jonesing for a job, a routine, a 9-to-5 work week. Watching Oprah at home every afternoon did not seem right. (Watching Oprah should never seem right, but you get my drift.)

Don’t fuss the grades

When you are in interviews for an internship or a job, you will not be asked what grades you received. Don’t be a keener like me and strive for As. As the program went on I quickly realized it was an exercise in futility. You are there to learn – no one expects you to write the perfect essay or the most persuasive news release on the first attempt. Furthermore, you have too many assignments to complete in a very limited timeframe. As long as you do your best, hand in your work on time and learn from your mistakes, your efforts will be recognized. If you reach for anything beyond that, you’ll wear yourself thin.  


Take one high school-like setting. Mix in 28 people of varying backgrounds. Stir in some tension. Add a dash of stress. Stew for seven months. That’s a recipe for drama (or an interesting reality television show). You might get caught up in it. You may create some of your own.

Avoid it. Do not get wrapped up in petty conflicts. If it doesn’t concern or affect you in any way, leave it alone, as my father would say. You have your own problems to deal with – why do you need to take on someone else’s? Going back to my first point, if you treat school like a job, treat your classmates like co-workers. You can still be social, pleasant and friendly. But keep the drama where it belongs – on television.

You are back at school for one purpose – learning, getting a certificate and ultimately establishing a new career. Don’t treat this as an opportunity to live your high school years over again. Don’t let anything distract you from why you’re there. If you forge some friendships at the end of it, think of it as an added bonus.

So, that’s it. I’ll end this post with the words of the great 20th century bard, Casey Kasem: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”




For the last few months, I didn’t know what to think of Twitter. I’m not what you’d call an early adopter of technology. I’m part of the early majority – I hang back, watch what happens and decide whether it fits my lifestyle. Twitter was just another tool to communicate and I had enough already, thank you very much. E-mail, telephone, instant messaging, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn…the list goes on and on. Did my cluttered life really need more clutter?

Then I started an online public relations course. We are encouraged to explore all the popular social media tools out there, so the entire class created their Twitter accounts. Except me.

I wasn’t being rebellious or petulant. (Really, I’m way too old for that.) And I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I just didn’t know what to make of Twitter. Wasn’t it just a glorified Facebook status? I happened to see a few tweets on my friend’s profile. Boy, were they mind-numbing. “Going for a coffee.” “Stuck in traffic.” “Eating dinner.” Yawn. Do I really want to know what my friends and colleagues are doing every. minute. of. the. day?

Oh sure, I could use Twitter to follow key influencers in the industry. But I’m already following their blogs. Then there’s the question of who to follow, how many to follow – could I keep up with the glut of tweets ? And then I read this. Yikes.

The last few days I’ve been witness to bad errors in judgment played out on the web. One involved a Tweet that should not have been posted. The subject of the Tweet took offense; the misunderstanding was eventually cleared up but the damage was done. Then a lightning bolt struck me (not really, I’m just being metaphorical) and it all became clear: I was blaming the tool and not the users.

Like the Internet, social media has made our lives easier. But it’s compromised by people who jump on the bandwagon without stopping to learn the rules. I sometimes wonder whether it’s a good idea to prod students to “jump on” whether they want to or not. But if you’re heading into a career in public relations, you should know how to talk about social media. And the best way to talk the talk is to walk the walk.

But before you dip your toe into the pool, you’d better learn how to swim.

We’re all adults and should practice common sense. We are aware of tools like Summize and StatCounter. We learned that everything we do on the web leaves a digital footprint. We know that comments made electronically are stripped of their tone and meaning. So be careful what you say and where you say it.

So I’m finally giving Twitter a try. You can find me at For other newbies, Dave Fleet has some great tips for effective Twittering .

Here’s my contribution: When you Twitter, don’t be a twit.


Can so­cial me­dia be measured?


The short answer is yes.

The long answer is a bit more complicated. The question was the focus of this week’s Third Tuesday Toronto (which actually took place on a Tuesday!). A panel of experts in social media measurement and web analytics assembled to tackle this contentious issue: how do you measure something that is so fluid and, as yet, undefined?

The experts were: Katie Paine, president of KD Paine and Partners, a company that helps its clients measure the success of their communications campaigns; Marshall Sponder, a senior web analyst at, member of the Board of Directors of the Web Analytics Association (WAA) for Social Media and The Analytics Guru; and Marcel Lebrun, President of Radian6, a company that provides monitoring and analysis tools for social media to PR professionals.

This is what I took out of the discussion:

  • Before social media can be measured, you have to decide on your business goal. Does it involve improving customer service? If so, focus on the number of comments on your company’s website, perhaps, or what is being said about you in the blogosphere. If your goal is to increase sales, find out how many people are flogging your product or service; you could try to correlate that with your advertising or marketing campaigns.
  • There is no standard, no “magic bullet.” Social media is in its early state and remains undefined. Sponder identifies a need for standards among social media measurement to enact best practices and benchmarks. (This is similar to the MRP standard for traditional media monitoring.)
  • Traditional measurement criteria, such as tone, circulation and prominence, are difficult to apply to social media; different parameters are needed. If PR is about building relationships with audiences, and social media facilitates this, then it follows that we should measure the conversations that are happening. Are they positive?
  • In Paine’s experience, boards of directors are driving the demand for social media measurement. They are losing control of their brands to their customers and want to prevent DellHell-like incidents from happening at their organizations. The most important way to measure is to listen – to your customers, your competitors, the industry. Learn from being engaged.

The basic premise is to measure social media for the relationships, not the numbers. Find out if your audience is talking about you, what they are saying and how many people are joining in the conversation.


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