Comm 0015 March 2014 – Blog Post 5 – Event Participation

On May 29, I facilitated a 90 minute session, Social Media Marketing Overview, at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Community Adult Learning Councils and Family Literacy Organizations at Grande Prairie Regional College.  The Chair of my Department told me that this group was looking for someone to speak about social media, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to apply some of the concepts I’ve learned in the Social Media Certificate Program.

Here is an excerpt from the first e-mail that the event organizer, Renée LaBoucane, sent me:

 I am working with Community Adult Learning Councils and Family Literacy Organizations on their joint annual meeting that we host at GPRC in Grande Prairie May 29-30.  There will be 20-30 coordinators who work at these non-profit organizations who are looking for guidance on how to use social media to market their programs and services.  Most of the coordinators come from north western Alberta rural communities.  They would like to know some best practices for social media, trends in social media, etc.  Some would like a longer hands on session. 

Based on comments from the attendees, the session went fairly well.  It was a challenging talk, since the audience had varied experience and interest with social media.  The session was held in a computer lab and I tried to make it as interactive as possible by incorporating real online examples, Twitter searches, etc.  If I were to do this talk again, I’d include more “real life” case study examples.

Link to the Power Point slides I used.



Comm 0015 – March 2014 – Blog Post #4 – Out of the Box

When I started using Facebook (FB) with my work with the Wolves Athletics Club, I was thinking that it would be a great tool for disseminating information. Rather than firing e-mails around and relying on voice calls, the FB group would be hub where people could go to for finding out what is going on. And unlike e-mail or the Web, the key demographic (teens and young adults) might actually pay attention to this channel since they tended to visit FB a number of times daily.

As time went on, I found that the FB group functioned well as an information hub, but it had many, many more applications beyond broadcast communication. Some of the unexpected applications included:
–  Community building tool – Athletes developed a stronger sense of “team” through day-to-day interaction and photo/video sharing
– Teaching and learning tool – I am constantly linking good articles about running, training, nutrition, etc. that athletes can choose to read
– One to one tool – If I need to get a hold of an athlete quickly and/or privately, the FB messaging function works brilliantly.

The brilliance of FB is that you can do all of these functions (and more) on one platform. And like I mentioned earlier, FB is a channel that my primary demographic tends to pay attention to. It truly is a coaching tool in addition to being a communications tool.

It’s too bad that FB has a cyber-bullying stigma associated with it in primary and secondary education. With active participation, a teacher could use FB to do many of the same things we do as a track club in a school setting.

Comm 0014 March 2014 – Blog Post 7 – Reflections about what I’ve learned

Many moons ago (at least in “internet time” – it was April 1997), I attended the Connecting Canadians Conference in Grande Prairie, AB. One of the speakers told us that there were basically two reasons why people went online: 1) To learn something 2) To be entertained.

Fast forward 17 years to 2014. How have things changed in the online environment? Well, the most profound change is the staggering amount of content now available on the World Wide Web. From about 200 million indexed web pages in 1997, the World Wide Web has grown to 3.57 billion indexed pages as of May 20, 2014.

3.5 billion pages is a lot of stuff! Assuming you can find it (which speaks to the importance of tagging, key words, and SEO), what you are looking for is probably out there on the web, likely in a number of places. So given that the content you are posting is probably not unique, readability is what will attract eyeballs. Storytelling increases readability. And a good story is entertaining.

So as the old cliché goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same. A good story will teach your reader in a very entertaining way.

Comm 0014 Blog Post 6 – Do they know your story?

Multiple Canadian and World Champion Kyle Reynolds

Multiple Canadian and World Champion Kyle Reynolds

What is your greatest achievement?

The Wolves Athletics Club (WAC) is a tiny track club, located hundreds of kilometres north of any significant civilization. But did you know that WAC athletes have captured five national championships and two world championships since 2001.

Jenna Huber has been our most prolific champion.   In 2001, she won the Canadian Legion National Track & Field Championships (U17) in the 3000m.  A year later, she upped the ante winning both the 3000m and 5000m at the Athletics Canada Junior Nationals (U19) in Kitchener, ON.

A pair of college runners have also topped the national podium.  Kyle Reynolds won the CCAA Men’s Cross Country Running crown in 2004, while Fiona Benson topped the women’s field in 2010.  (Benson also won a CIS Indoor National title in 2014 in the 1000m while representing Trinity Western University.)

As for the world championships, they took place not on the track, nor over fields, but on the ice.  The same Kyle Reynolds is a two-time World Junior Curling Champion.  Kyle and his team-mates captured the world crown in both 2005 and 2006.  (Distance runners can succeed  other sports; who knew?)

For more details, a full history of the WAC is linked here.

Arthur Lydiard, the world’s greatest running coach, reportedly once said, “Champions are born in every neighborhood.”  WAC athletes have proved this missive time and time again.  When you show up to compete, it really doesn’t matter where you’ve come from; it’s what you bring on the day of the race.

Com 0014 March 2014 – Graded Discussion 2 – Is Personal Branding Dead?

Many of us have seen ineffective personal branding play out in our social media feeds. I have an acquaintance who is a personal trainer who regularly posts photos with captions like: “Just finished a great 10 km training run dressed in my Brand Y crop top, Brand X sport shorts, and Brand Z trainers.” Ugg. If I want a cheesy commercial, I’d go watch some bad reality TV on a cable channel numbered higher than 50.

However, posts like my above example tend to be the exception rather than the rule. The really compelling stuff on social media is authentic. If You Tube has taught us anything, phonies get ignored, at best, or mocked, at worst.

Branding and authenticity are not necessarily contradictory concepts. If anything, the concept of personal branding is a good filter to consider before posting content. Ask yourself, “Do you want your name associated with this content?” Having an idea of what your personal brand is more of a good check for proper netiquette, rather than a sanitization of your internet image.


Bill Corcoran

Comm 0014 – March 2014 start

Com 0014 March 2014 – Blog Post 5 – Personal Brand

Me competing in a local road race in 2011

Me competing in a local road race in 2011

If I was given a single line to sum up my personal brand, I’d say “Bill is the face of competitive running and track & field in the Peace Country.”

A strong brand is developed over time. In my case, lifelong involvement in the sport as an athlete, coach, and organizer, and 20+ years residency in Grande Prairie have helped established my brand. Other key components in building this brand have included coaching at Grande Prairie Regional College and local high schools, establishing and operating an online running coaching business, writing a twice monthly newspaper column, organizing dozens of meets and races, and conducting PD sessions for local educators. When the media needs a comment from a local expert in my area of expertise, I’m the go-to contact.

Apart from the “role” component of my brand, I bring three distinct personal characteristics to my brand. First, I’m passionate and enthusiastic about my sport. When I’m talking about my sport, I portray that I genuinely love what I do. Second, I have a dry sense of humour; I try to see the humour in most situations – this can sometimes backfire, though. Third, I can come across as blunt, even abrasive at times. I’m not afraid to call people out when the situation warrants it.

I think the concept of personal branding is important in Social Media, but you always have to balance any purposefully manufactured persona with authenticity. Someone once told me, “Don’t be afraid to show your warts in Social Media.” At the end of the day, authenticity is what makes Social Media such a powerful tool.

Com0015 March 2014 – Discussion 2

How do I feel about networking in person? Networking online?

Didn’t some famous dude once say, “You can never have too many friends.” A large, knowledgeable network is really helpful for learning new things and getting assistance when needed. (And it works the other way too.)

While I’m not a full-on introvert, I have to be in the mood to network. At a conference, I will engage with other people I haven’t met before, but many times I’m happy just to sit in the back of the room and listen. So while I recognize the importance of networking, I need to make a conscious effort to reach out when I’m among strangers.

Online, it’s easier to engage. The asynchronous nature of online communication allows you to think more before you respond or even not respond at all. There’s less pressure; you aren’t “on the spot” like you are in a face-to-face situation. Moreover, I’ve found that some world-class experts are more than happy to respond to your blog comment or e-mail.

Share 2 plans for the future. Do you foresee any obstacles?

I belong to numerous Facebook and Linked In Groups related to my professional interests and hobbies. These are great tools to keep current in these fields and make connections to key experts and opinion leaders.
I like to attend at least one conference each year related to Social Media. I haven’t got anything lined up yet for this year, but I’m looking.

As far as obstacles go, a person only has so much time and energy to monitor and participate in online groups. Also, since I live in a small city in Northern Canada, travelling to attend conferences is a challenge.

Com0014 March 2014 – Blog 4 – BC2 Case Study – Ernie’s Sports Experts

Ernie’s Sports Experts is a full-line sports and fitness store with locations in Grande Prairie, AB and Ft. St. John, BC. For almost 50 years, it has been the leading sports store in the Peace Country. In fact, some locals have grumbled about the “monopoly” the store has since it is the only full-line sports store in the area.

The franchise agreement Ernie’s has with the Sports Experts chain prevents it from having its own independent website.   Thus, Ernie’s relies heavily on its Facebook Page as the hub of its online and social media presence.   9,078 Likes for a sports store with a market area of maybe 125,000 people is phenomenal market penetration.  The FB page is updated multiple times daily with a variety of different content – it’s not ALL about selling products.  Some of the posts emphasize the employees’ personalities and the fun that they have at work.  Customers appear to be actively engaged; the Recent Posts By Others box is used almost daily.

Ernie’s also has an active Twitter feed with 1100+ followers.  Like FB, Ernie’s is active on a daily basis, tweeting and re-tweeting a variety of content.  If you look at the Tweet stream, you can see active engagement with customers.  Also of note, Ernie’s doesn’t copy everything it does on FB onto to Twitter – the content varies a bit from FB.

I’ve always thought Ernie’s is an exemplary model of a local business using social media  Through FB and Twitter, it portrays an image of “your friendly, local sports store who is actively involved in the community” which is quite different from “local monopolist.”

Is Ernie’s social media strategy successful?  From outward appearances, it certainly seems so.



Com0014 March 2014 – Graded Discussion 1 – Motrin Moms

What Motrin may have overlooked?

When I viewed the Motrin Moms video, I saw an advertiser who was trying to be edgy, cool, hip, ironic, etc.  Therein lies the problem.  When you try too hard to be edgy, cool, hip, ironic, etc., you often come across as phony, or, as someone once put it “like your teachers or parents trying to act cool.”  Trying to be cool is a risky strategy, and when you get it wrong in this day and age, you’ll  publicly mocked on the Twittersphere, YouTube, and in other social media.

Edgy, cool, hip, ironic, etc. as a communications style is probably better left for more difficult-to-engage target markets, like young men, for example.   I would think new moms would be a more information-driven demographic.   (And if I really wanted to test this assumption, I would hang out in social media destinations devoted to new moms and listen to the conversation.)

What could Motrin have done differently to handle the backlash?

I thought that Motrin handled the so called “crisis” quite well.  When it realized the problem, it pulled the ad, issued the apology, and went on with its business.  People and companies make mistakes sometimes.

From the tone of blog article used to frame this case study, I’m guessing that the textbook answer for this question is something along the lines of “Motrin should have been monitoring social media more closely and acted more quickly when the backlash started.”  This criticism is more valid in 2014 than it was in September 2008 when the ad first ran.  The speed and scope of social media, particularly Twitter, is much more prevalent today than it was in 2008.

In the Hall of Fame/Shame of Crisis Communications, this case didn’t make the cut.  It’s definitely not in the league of the Tylenol Poisoning, Bhopal, or Dominos Delivery Policy scenarios.  The Motrin Moms Facebook Boycott Group now sits at an “impressive” 4 members, not 1300 as the blog post claimed.  This truly was a “Tempest in a Teapot.”

Bill Corcoran

Com0014 – March 2014 Online Section





Com0015 March 2014: Assignment 1 – Blog Post 2

Comm 0015 – Assignment 1, Blog 2 Strong and Weak Organizations

Strong Organization – Athletics Canada (AC)

AC is the governing body for track & field (athletics), XC running, and road running in Canada. It has thousands of members across the country from a variety of different demographics. Its primary functions are to facilitate National Championships and to promote the sport, from grass roots to the elite.

AC has actively embraced the web and social media in the past few years. It has a Facebook Page with 6000+ likes  , an active Flicker site , RSS feeds, links to famous athlete’s blogs, and best of all, a very active Twitter Feed with 20,000+ followers.

The best thing about AC is how frequently it is updated. AC will tweet multiple times daily and even more frequently when a major event is taking place. They are a very active re-tweeter as well. I don’t know that the organization does anything really cutting edge in social media, but I’ve always been a fan of good, useful content, updated frequently. AC really shines in this realm.

AC’s You Tube Channel looks abandoned, but hey, nobody’s perfect. You only have so many resources, so you focus on areas that you feel will give you a return.

Weak Organization – Wapiti Nordic Ski Club (WNSC)

The WNSC located in Grande Prairie, AB and has a few hundred members ranging from 4 year old “jackrabbits” to 70 yep are old “super seniors.” Its main function is to operate and maintain some of the best XC skiing trails in Canada. In addition, the Club rents out its Lodge for events and runs a number of programs (e.g. Race team ski lessons, women’s skiing group, etc.)

In the late 1990s, I built the Club’s first website and then maintained it on a volunteer basis for the next 7 years. Towards the end of my tenure, the new marketing director was unhappy with the dated look of the site. Since I didn’t have the time, inclination, nor skills to update the site, I resigned as webmaster, and they hired a contractor to redesign and run the site.

Flash forward another 7 years to today. The site is again dated, particularly when it comes to social media. There’s a lot a good information, but look is texty in many places. Moreover, the communication is strictly one-way, like a brochure. The links for Biathlon and the XC Race team pointed to password-restricted pages. I guess new biathlon or race team members are not allowed???

If you dig deep enough on the site, you can find a You Tube video  and a coach’s blog  on the site. The Club also has a Facebook Page  with 161 likes, but the website does not link to it. I couldn’t find a Twitter account for the Club.

In retrospect, once I did a bit of research, the WNSC social media presence (it’s not a strategy) wasn’t as bad as I initially thought it was. Integrating and coordinating the social media elements with the website and engaging the audience, rather than broadcasting at them, are two basic steps the Club could take to improve things. Integration and coordination would extend the reach of its social media efforts. Increased engagement can lead to increase commitment to the organization which, in turn, is really important when it comes to selling yearly memberships, recruiting volunteers and Board Members, securing political support, soliciting donations, and a variety of other objectives.