Posts Tagged ‘communications’

Three Days in Ottawa (or Things I Learned at the IABC 2012 Communicators Summit)

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Disclosure: I was invited to be part of the planning group for the IABC 2012 Canada Business Communicators Summit by Yasmin Ranade, its Chair and lead organizer. I had the pleasure of working with Yasmin in the Professional Development portfolio for the IABC Toronto chapter in 2010/11. We work well together and I was honoured to be asked to be part of her team. My role involved marketing and social media promotion.

The Summit took place over three days in November, in Ottawa, ON. I registered and attended as an regular conference attendee. Here are my observations.

It used to be that if you wanted to share your organization’s news, you put out a press release and made calls to a few journalists. Now, the arena has grown larger and your potential audiences have not only increased, they’ve changed the way they want to get information. Mobile technology, social media – the opportunities to communicate with your audience have exploded in ways undreamed of twenty years ago.

Working in the communications field requires continuous education if you want to be on top of your game. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a neophyte (I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum) there are always going to be things you don’t know, new tools and emerging trends you haven’t heard of.

This was, more or less, the theme of the IABC 2012 Canada Business Communicators Summit – Trends 2013. Held in Ottawa on November 1 to 3, 2012, the Summit focused on where communication is heading and what we should be prepared for on the horizon – mobile computing, changing demographics and new challenges to privacy, transparency and access.

I’ve been to several conferences in the past few years, and I would see the same names pop up on the speaker roster time and time again. The line-up for the Summit was unique and a great change from the usual. Canadian speakers, discussing Canadian content for Canadian communicators! Any challenges communicators have in Canada may be similar to those in the U.S. or Europe, but we’re playing in a different ballpark, with a different set of rules.  For example, having Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, talk to us about privacy laws made more of an impact than having a speaker come in from outside the country to speak on the same topic.

The keynote speakers were not only highly esteemed in their fields, their talks were tailored to the overall theme of the conference.

  • The Honourable Tony Clement on “Politicking in the Age of Social Media”: I follow Mr. Clement on Twitter, and even though I may not agree with his politics, I find his tweets interesting and funny (he makes jokes about zombies!). Having a politician speak about using Twitter as a very public platform was insightful, especially the way to blend the political and the personal (it’s challenging but possible).
  • Jennifer Stoddart on “Privacy and Communications in Changing Times”: A highly informative presentation on privacy laws in Canada, the challenges of following them in an online world and what we, as communicators, should keep front-of-mind when crafting strategies.
  • Dr. Michael Geist on “The Year the Internet Fought Back”: Great background on the Stop Online Privacy Act and how Internet users are mobilizing and speaking out against the encroachment on online privacy, free speech and access to information.
  • Darrell Bricker, CEO, Ipsos Global Public Affairs, on “The Big Shift – Understanding Communications in the New Canada”: A fun and informative way to look at the changing demographics of Canada. (Read some of my tweets for interesting tidbits from this and other moments from the conference.)

The sessions I attended were, for the most part, strong. These are the ones that stood out for me. (Keep in mind that I only attended a few of the many that were offered – go here for the full listing of sessions and speakers.)

  • Donna Papacosta, “Quick and Painless Ways to Add Multimedia to Your Communications”: The best session, by far, in terms of both content and context. Donna went through the latest in social media tools and provided examples of how they can be used. Highly informative, with many examples.
  • Anick Losier, “Communicating During Times of Crisis”: Ms. Losier is the Director of Media Relations for Canada Post. I loved her presentation for its forthrightness, transparency and case studies. She has a wonderful attitude and sense of humour, despite holding what must be one of the most challenging jobs in the field.
  • Peter Vaz (M2 Universal Digital) and Kunal Gupta (Polar Mobile), “The Impact of the Third Screen on Communications”: Interesting presentation on mobile communications from . With almost every person on the  planet carrying a smartphone, every organization will eventually have to include the “third screen” in their marketing and communication plans.
  • Panel, “Content in Context and the Content Marketing Revolution”: This session stood out for me, but not for the reasons I expected. There was too much content, and not enough context (i.e. case studies). And, disappointingly, the session felt like a not-so-subtle pitch for a social media company (which shall remain nameless), which is anathema to me – I came to learn, not to buy.

The Silver Leaf Awards recognize the outstanding achievements of IABC members in communications. The Awards Gala, typically held on an evening during the conference, felt like an inside joke that the rest of us weren’t privy to. What made it more uncomfortable was the technically illegal use of copyrighted material in the video which instead could’ve been used to highlight the winners of the Silver Leaf. As a communicator, I wanted to know: what was it about their entries that raised them above the others? I could do without the Mad Men parody.

A large and important part of attending a conference is the networking. I met many people and shared many thoughts and ideas.  The conference had great social activities, including a Haunted Walk – which is a fantastic way to see a city and get a taste of its history – and a Dine-Around, where you have dinner with other attendees and a local restaurant. (I opted for Vittoria Trattoria,where the food and atmosphere were wonderful.)

More observations on the conference from other attendees can be found here.

As for Ottawa, I wish I had more time to explore the city, but I did manage to take in a few sights. I don’t think I have enough information to write a comprehensive post. Instead, enjoy my photos.


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Welcome to my blog.

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bon mot [bon moh; Fr. bawn moh] a witty remark or comment; clever saying; witticism.

Why, hello there. Thanks for dropping by. This is my first foray into the exciting world of social media. Oooh, my extremities are already tingling. You must have many questions for me, such as “What do you have to say that is so important?” or “What do you have to say that isn’t being said by millions of other bloggers?” or “What are you wearing?” Good questions. My answer? Probably not much. (Har har.) But since I am advancing my career in the communications and p.r. industry it is on good advice from experts that I start a blog as a form of personal advertisement. Thus, I will blog.

A little about me: click on the About tab. It’s pretty much all there.

So, what can I add? Well, my mother certainly thinks I’m brilliant (smart woman, she is) and my friends tell me I’m funny (leaning heavily on the “ha ha” sort rather than the “weird” so that’s a good sign) so I’m hoping to bring a different perspective on life and its perversities. But I think my “angle” will focus on the fact that I am returning to school. What’s the big deal about that? Well, let me tell you why it’s a big deal:

  • I’m in my late thirties and just gave up a full-time job with four weeks vacation, an expense account and health benefits.
  • The last time I composed an essay it was done on a typewriter. An electric one, mind you, but there is no Spellcheck on typewriters. Actually, that is not true – I did compose an essay on a computer. In Word Perfect, DOS version.
  • I have a fear I may become Jerri Blank from Strangers with Candy, trying to fit into a world she long escaped from. Will my low-rise jeans be low enough? Should I buy the pink or baby blue Uggs? Is my crush on Zac Efron so, like, over (yes, I know he is half my age and probably gay, so shut up) or should I be pinning magazine clippings of the Gossip Girl cast to my locker?

I’m kidding, of course (well, mostly kidding). But you get my drift – I am in for a completely different experience than the one I have been living for the past 15 years in the workforce. It will be a fun and exciting time for me and I hope to regale you with tales from the (school) front. But mostly I would like to share my perspective on communications and public relations from someone who has been in the industry for the past nine years on the other (darker) side. Coming from CNW (the nation’s leader in- oops! Sorry, I sometimes forget I don’t work there anymore) I have been exposed to the needs of the communicator and the media. Will this give me a head start? Here’s hoping.

Which leads me to another reason to blog: social media is new media and acquiring membership in the web and blog community puts you far ahead of the rest. For those naysayers (and there are some in the industry, believe me) here’s a cool fact: There are now one million users on Facebook from Toronto alone (The Toronto Star, Jan. 2/08); we are the first North American city to achieve this goal.

I have several friends who post news and information on their profile – in other words, there Facebook profile is their blog. There are others who get their news and information from the web. (When is the last time you used a map instead of Google Maps, Mapquest or GPS? I thought so.) The 2008 presidential election will be run pretty much through YouTube and candidate blogs. (Of course, I prefer getting my news on U.S. politics with a side of cynicism (I miss you, The Daily Show) but I digress. Today’s journalists are not only writing for the print and electronic versions of their papers but are producing video content as well. Information is becoming more accessible than it was before. This means there are new ways to communicate outside of the standard news release and press conference and the web is the new place to look.

The web is also the new soapbox. Bloggers are people who have something to say and a powerful tool with which to shout it from the mountaintops. Case in point: Dell Hell (Jeff Jarvis vs. Dell: Blogger’s Complaint Becomes Viral Nightmare”, Online Media Daily, August 2005) and other p.r. horror stories. As a future communicator, I would be doing a disservice to myself and my future employers by not being aware of social media.

I can go on and on but my point is this: the web is not going away; it is getting stronger and more influential; and those who have embraced it will reap the rewards. Kind of like composing an essay on a laptop versus a typewriter.

Stay tuned for more…

Jerri Blank


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