COM0015- Event Participation- A Night with Alan Quarry

allan quarry

“The riskiest thing we can do is play it safe. Difference and happiness lies outside of our comfort zone. It is up to us because we are leaders.”

A couple of weeks ago I attended a very interesting professional development event titled “A Night with Alan Quarry.” Alan is a local communicator that owns Quarry Integrated Communications. He is highly respected in the community and is known as a thought leader. I had heard a ton about Alan and his company but had not had a chance to meet this highly respected individual or hear how he got to where he is and his plans for moving forward. I felt this was a great opportunity, not only to network, but to look at communications from a very different perspective. The session was even recommended to my by my Manager so I was very eager to attend this event.

During the event I met several new contacts. I met “one of the best writers in Ontario,” named Bill from the Ontario Farm Association (or something close to that). The two of us along with a man working in communications at Blackberry had a very interesting discussion after the event about the life-cycle of Blackberry and where we thought things were headed. We discussed an article featured in the Globe and Mail and it was very interested to get the inside take from the communicator at Blackberry. He thought the article was honest, harsh but true. Bill and I agreed, providing insight from two very different industries.

I also chatted with a couple of individuals that I had not seen in a while. It was great to catch up on a personal level and chat about the topics and points from the presentation that we agreed with as well as those that we didn’t. One of the ideas discussed was the set up of the traditional office and overall organizational chart. Alan blew this apart, stating that in order to be creative, we cannot sit in cubicles day in and day out attempting to work our way up the corporate ladder as this is not how innovation works. This was my greatest take-away. I have always worked in an office with a cubicle and your standard org chart and this got me thinking about alternate options and if the “traditional way” really is the best way, especially when considering the next generation entering the workplace.

In summary, I would definitely attend a similar event again. I have to say that I attend at least a couple of professional development events a month and this one really stood out to me. It opened up my mind in a way that hasn’t happened before and it got me thinking, just because we have done something one way for so long, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better way and it doesn’t mean that even if it is successful now that it will be in the future.

COM0015: Blog Post 4 – Get Out of the Box!

shutterstock_123899473Social media is the latest and greatest way to reach people. This may be on a personal level, giving you access to photos and information on family and friends but can also be used as part of a marketing strategy. Over the course of the last year, I have made a real shift to the see the value on the business side of things. I have always used social media as a personal tool but did not completely understand the true value of it in a business setting. I have seen a slow implementation at my place of employment as we begin to incorporate social media into our plan for online marketing.

Looking externally, I was surprised to see how active the government and politicians are on social media. This summer I stumbled upon this very interesting article that discusses “7 weird and wonderful ways that governments around the world are using social media.” I was shocked. Social media is helping to keep our streets cleaner and to detect earthquakes before they happen? Wow! I hadn’t thought about it that way. The police are also using social media to help solve crimes. The information that they can gain from someone’s Twitter-feed or Facebook page is substantial. Although I do not know the legalities around using that information, once again, pretty cool stuff.

On a more personal note, I recently noticed Facebook really ramping up their advertising. Now, when you visit the login screen, you will see a wonderful ad for a dating website. Although these ads are consistently changing, add it to the list of things that make me go hmmm. A dating website, really? I hope these ads are customized for my account because my 16 year old cousin does not need to see that.

Bottom line, the world is changing, the shock factor is a huge strategy right not as it is assumed the greater the shock, the greater the impact. Expected  is boring, unexpected is interesting and gets people talking. A lot has changed in such a short amount of time and I can’t wait to see what new applications and online marketing strategies the future will bring. Never a dull moment when it comes to social media, that’s for sure!

* Image care of: www.assembledchaos.com

COM0015 Blog Post #3 Networking=Relationship Building

handshake3
I am a true believer that in order to grow you need to put yourself in situations that may not be the most comfortable or easy. Networking falls into this category for most. I do have to say that I have come along way over the past couple of years and it is in result of nothing but personally forcing myself to put myself out there, to walk up to someone that I don’t know at an event and introduce myself.  The good news is, it does get easier, especially when technology is involved.

To be truly effective in networking,  there are now two areas of focus, online and in person. Online, I have worked to build my professional networks but I have been strategic about it. I keep my Facebook profile locked down for personal use, knowing that there is some cross-over between personal and professional and keeping that in mind every time I post something. My mantra is, “is this something I would want my employer to see?” On the flip side “is this something I would want my mother to see (I have a very strict mother 🙂 ) . ” I apply this same tactic to Twitter, but use this tool mostly for professional use. I strategically search for key individuals that I would like to connect with professionally. This includes speakers of events that I am attending, other key participants as well as business and community leaders and colleagues. I utilize LinkedIn the same way, building my profile, ensuring that it’s current, providing useful information, links to my blog and making sure to strategically connect with key people. I don’t accept everyone and I don’t ask to connect to individuals without either a warm contact or introduction message. Strategy is key.

In result of my current role within my organization, I am constantly out and about at community events. This is something that I enjoy and is very strategic by both my company and me as a person. At this time in my life, I have the time to be able to be out there and connect with people. I know it won’t be that way for ever so I really do take advantage of all of the opportunities that come my way. I would say this is a strength of mine but as mentioned above, I do push myself. I will go to an event alone and I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is extremely uncomfortable. Call me crazy, but I continue to do this to myself and it has benefited me greatly. Doing your research prior to connecting with people is key so that you can break the ice with a little common ground.

There is always room for improvement, so what I plan to focus on over the next year are the following tactics:
– Double the amount of followers that I currently have on Twitter
– Attend at least one networking or industry event a month
– Continue to build presence on LinkedIn
– Dedicate more time to my blog in order to keep content current
– Once a month, sit down and have coffee with someone I would find value in connecting with

*Image care of: http://www.righttransept.com/41-the-new-marketing-method-relationship-building

COMM0015- Strong & Weak- Who Comes Out on Top?

strong-vs-weak1When I think of social media and what companies are kicking butt right now, a few come to mind. The first organization that stands out to me, and I hate to say it is Rogers. As a company, I despise them but when interacting with them on social media, they have been professional, prompt and helpful. They have the capacity to have what I am assuming is a department of individuals managing their social media as their full time job. I give Rogers credit because they have a tough crowd. They are prone to extreme negativity from customers, especially when their technology is not working properly. Those poor people on social spending hours responding to brutal messages from customers, I give them kudos for having a strategy and sticking with it. They are doing everything right social-wise, it is just the business they are in that doesn’t make it seem as obviously effective as other organizations.

The second organization that has stood out to me over the past few months is Kitchener Waterloo Oktoberfest. This year they really ramped up their social strategy incorporating all different types of media. They focused on short, entertaining videos, interactive contests and capitalized on promotional opportunities. They are proof that a good social strategy does work. I watched their number of Twitter followers more than triple, along with Facebook fans, YouTube subscribers and Instagram followers. They did it all and they did it right. The proof is in the pudding when you find yourself visiting their social pages to see what new and interesting posts they are sharing.

On the alternate side, today I came across an organization that made me go “uh oh they sure are behind the 8 ball on social media.” This company is the Hide House in Acton. You may have heard of them through their tagline “It’s worth the drive to Acton” but they have re-branded without a social strategy which is a huge missed opportunity. It all began when I attempted to look them up on Twitter. I didn’t know they had re-branded and wanted to tag them in a post. After quite a bit of searching, I finally found them and low and behold they had 4 followers and only a couple of automated posts generated by Facebook. Their Facebook page is mediocre at best and this is about it for their social strategy.

Even if they weren’t going through re-branding, I still believe they are missing out on a huge marketing opportunity by not effectively using social media tools and techniques. They can’t go back now but moving forward they should set objectives to build their following on both Twitter and Facebook through providing frequent and consistent updates around both their product and their brand. Bottom line is, they need to start the conversation and reach out to their clients, of which they have many. Their old brand is strong and they are known for their high-end products but they are being forgotten about. They need to capitalize on their new brand and reconnect with their customers. What better way to do that than through social media?

*above image from: http://lumeschannel.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/weak-and-strong-sustainability/

COM0015- Tools & Sources- My Picks

COM0015- Tools & Sources- My Picks

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere

In a world where information is not only at our finger tips, but available 24/7, it is sometimes difficult to sort through the “crap” and get to the good stuff.  It is my personal belief that anyone using social media, especially professionally must have a strategy. As discussed, a large part of this strategy is listening and monitoring.

How do you know what is making an impact? You have to monitor. My favourite monitoring tool has to be Google Alerts. I work in communications and this is huge for me. I do not have to search out the daily mentions of the organization that I work for; they come to me in a neat, tidy, customized email. Since I work for a Holding Company and manage communications for 4 organizations, this is a life saver. It is simple and meets my current need for tracking. The topper is that you can even generate an RSS feed and import the alerts into your dashboard tool, giving an overall display. In addition, this feeds nicely into Google Analytics which allows me to monitor the traffic each of our websites is getting and break it down into detail. I have not found another tool that is a) free and b) this effective in both instances.

Another preferred tool that I use for monitoring is Twitter. Hash tags are amazing, period. It allows tracking of an event, product, topic, location etc., just about anything under the sun. At any point in time I can go in and do a search on one of our products to see what people are saying about it. I recently got married and an upcoming trend is that couple are setting up a hash tag for their wedding so they everyone’s photos are linked together and easily viewed by attendees. On a professional basis, it allows my organization to monitor tweets that are linked to the company and respond in a timely manner. It is now part of my work day to receive several email notifications from Twitter. They are doing my work for me, who doesn’t love that?

When looking at news, each morning I get my local dose through therecord.com. In result of my line of work (communications and community relations), it is important that I am connected to the community in which my company does business. I need to be aware of the local trends and developments and this site allows me to have up to date knowledge when having conversations with clients or prospects professionally. I also read the headlines of the Toronto Star and New York Times out of personal interest and to see if anything catches my eye.

Secondly, I look to the Huffington Post quite frequently but if I am being completely honest, after I go local, I go to Twitter. Twitter provides me with the most up to date headlines and articles. Most papers online or print do not function in real time like Twitter does. When major things happen, such as the Ottawa bus/train collision, I can get the most current information and join in on the discussion on Twitter. This also helps from a business standpoint as in the past I have looked to Twitter for up to date weather conditions. When the roads were flooded, I needed to know where and if it would affect our clients. I am able to get an uncensored, general public view of what is occurring specifically at that moment and it doesn’t cost a dime.

In summary, there is A LOT to listen to. Find the right tool for you and don’t be afraid to try out new sources of news or new monitoring tools. Things are changing and the best tool today, may no longer be the best tool tomorrow.

*Image sourced from: http://www.projecteve.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/socialmedia1.jpg