Posts Tagged ‘communications’

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


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.


Welcome to my blog.


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