COMM0015 Assignment #5 Event Participation Election 2014 Behind the Scenes – Alan Gilday

Social Media Club of Niagara

Seminar: Behind the Social Media Scenes – Election 2014

Date: November 18, 2014

Video Link:

I had been a member of the Social Media Club of Niagara for about a year but I never attended any of their events. The events were always on a Thursday when I attend my Toastmasters meeting or I wasn’t interested in the topic.

Then I got the opportunity to attend an event which would allow me to see Social Media techniques in action and I signed up immediately.

Networking Opportunity?

There wasn’t really an opportunity to network with anyone at this event. We were greeted and seated as we came in. One of the club officers introduced Robin McPherson and Janice Arnoldi from Arnoldi-McPherson Digital Communications and they began their presentation.

The firm was hired by Walter Sendzik, a mayoral candidate in the municipal election. Walter was president of the St. Catharines Chamber of Commerce and was well known in the business community but virtually unknown everywhere else. Needless to say, the team had their work cut out for them.

What Did I Learn from the Event?

I enjoyed learning the details of the campaign. I found the whole process fascinating. The team provided a number of tips. I had no idea you can “boost” Facebook posts.

The team started by developing an overview of what Walter’s campaign would be.

They looked at other successful campaigns and decided to use Facebook and Twitter as their main social media tools.

Their biggest challenge – build recognition for Walter outside the business world.

They started by releasing a series of Who is Walter photos which were photos of Walter doing work in the community.

He already had 2,500 followers on his Twitter feed. Walter handled the tweets himself while the team handled the website, Facebook page and YouTube videos.

From July to August, the campaign focused on who Walter was as a person. The campaign was very positive from the start.

The team launched the website, Facebook page and Twitter feed at the same time. Immediately, there were 300 followers.

Facebook ads were purchased for two week periods encouraging people to “like” his page. As the campaign progressed, people were encouraged to share the page.

They also “boosted” Facebook posts for 24-hour periods to increase their impact.

A total of 10 two-minute videos were released, each covering a different topic. They were shared on both Twitter and Facebook. Each of the videos were unscripted and were seen by at least 200 viewers.

The team didn’t rely on traditional media coverage. They covered the events themselves and got their messages out.

The results:

53 per cent engagement rate

Total Reach July-Oct. 27 – 274,900 people

When combined with Twitter, the number of impressions were 2 million.

They paid for 286,000 impressions, the rest was organic.

Advocates who believed in Walter as a candidate were more important than influencers with 5,000 followers.

Quotable Quotes

“With only a four month campaign, we were basically flying by the seat of our pants, ” said Robin McPherson. “When it came to dealing with negative comments – there will always be trolls and you don’t want to feed the trolls.”

“Social Media doesn’t really get to sit at the big table,” said Janice Arnoldi. “Normally, decisions are made and then Social Media is brought in.”

Would I Attend Again?

I would definitely attend future Social Media Club events. However, only if I think I’ll get some valuable information from the event.

About a year ago, the club hosted a seminar on How to Protect Your Children from Danger on the Internet. I don’t have any children so I had no interest in the topic.


COMM015 Blog Post #4 Out of the Box – or into the Fire? Alan Gilday

What unexpected applications have you found in the field of online marketing and social media?

While completing the assignments and lessons for this course, I made a number of discoveries which I plan to put into practice as I learn more about Social Media and online marketing.

Although the technical side of Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools were beyond the scope of the course, (insert, aww shucks! here),I did pick up some useful information.

For example, one organization I studied launched a social media campaign using Facebook. I learned that it’s possible to “boost” a Facebook ad by paying an additional fee. However, there are restrictions. There can only be 20 per cent text in the ad so a photo or a video must be included.

Once an ad is submitted, it must be approved by Facebook which can take 24 hours or more. But often the system allows the user to post the ad anyway. So if the social media specialist wants to boost the ad for a period of 24 hours, there’s a strong likelihood the ad will get boosted before it gets approved by Facebook.

I have learned that Facebook has a great analytics system in place to allow advertisers to determine the impact of advertising so it can be tweaked if needed.

Best practice from a public relations standpoint is involves sending out an organization’s communication messages using UNPAID or free mediums. However, newsrooms are shrinking. Newspaper readership is at an all time low and radio and television audiences are becoming more fractured every day. There are fewer journalists and editors around and encouraging them to cover your event is becoming increasingly difficult.

People are tuning out more than they are tuning in…they are listening to commercial free satellite radio, they are watching specialized television stations and watching movies which makes it harder to reach these audiences. (

What does mean for the social media specialist?

An organization can no longer rely solely on unpaid media to disseminate communication messages and there may be occasions where advertising and other paid media will have to be purchased.

During this course, I also managed to discover Hootsuite. I had heard about the tool for some time but I never had the opportunity to really explore it until now.

I also enjoyed being able to develop a Social Media Plan. What surprised me is how closely the process resembles the development of a Communications or Public Relations plan.

The main difference is that Communication plans are often designed using the RACE theory (Research, Action, Communication and Evaluation).

I am disappointed that there is no real theory or template to guide us when we are developing a Social Media Plan, but I’m confident I can come up with something.

COM014 Blog Post #7 Personal Reflection Alan Gilday

The challenges associated with writing great digital content were thoroughly explored with this course, in my opinion.

We are all part of the click generation where the viewer or reader can tune out with the click of a button. One of the biggest challenges is to keep them engaged and coming back for more.

The need for engaging content has never been more important especially since we can no longer rely on traditional media to help get our messages out.

I recently attended a workshop where two social media specialists spoke about the social media campaign they developed for a local mayoral candidate. They realized early on that they couldn’t rely on media to get their messages out so they found other ways. The candidate, who was considered the underdog throughout the campaign, won the election over several seasoned politicians. They believe the social media campaign played an integral role in the election results.

Knowing the audience and the role diversity plays in creating content was another important take away.

I’ve always been a storyteller and realized a long time ago that it’s important to be able to tell those stories in both the print journalism and the digital worlds.

Another challenge that was highlighted was the fine line we walk when it comes to creating content that is genuinely engaging and not just a sales pitch. This is a difficult skill to master and requires us to thoroughly analyze content before releasing it.

One of the things I find missing in the social media content generated by organizations is that it often fails to put a face on the organization. I believe organizations should do some digging and find some champions who are willing to share their success stories and who can then become the focal point of a social media campaign.

This isn’t always easy to do because of the individual’s right to privacy but it is often possible to find individuals who are willing to waive those rights and share their stories.

The first thing a visitor sees when they visit the website of MD Anderson (, one of the world’s best cancer clinics is Eddie Saddler, a man who attended the clinic and is a cancer survivor. Visitors are encouraged to click and read their stories.

This course also encouraged me to develop my own story from a personal branding standpoint. I have tinkered with the idea of developing it for some time.

I am not currently working in a position where I can find stories within an organization and share them but having been a journalist in the past, I am capable of sniffing out those stories and sharing them.

Being aware of what is in the foreground and the background is a lesson I learned years ago. While working as a journalist, I once took a photo of a group of people in the triage room of the Emergency Department of a local hospital. It was only when I returned to the office, and scanned the photo that I realized a glove against the wall behind the hospital CEO’s head made him look like a rooster. Thankfully, I was able to erase it using Photoshop. I later told the CEO about it. He laughed and suggested I should have left it as it added to the few strands of hair he had been desperately been trying to save.

COM015 Blog Comment #2 Brand Journalism – Why Faulty Agruments Need to End – Alan Gilday

Sarah Mitchell’s article, Brand Journalism – Why Faulty Arguments Need to End ( which was posted on the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) LinkedIn described the differences between traditional journalism and what is typically called Brand Journalism.
Traditional journalism is created by individuals who are to remain objective, without an agenda, who present both sides of a story to provide an unbiased account.

On the other hand, Brand journalism encourages individuals to participate in an event or purchase a product and usually includes a call to action.

Mitchell believes even traditional journalists are guilty of brand journalism.

My Comment

Yes, traditional journalists try to adhere to the virtues described by Mitchell, however, it doesn’t always work that way. It changes back and forth depending on the situation.
As a journalist, working for a small community newspaper, there were occasions when the articles I wrote were not totally objective.

Working in a small community, there were times when the home team was favoured when writing sports news. It was never a bad season, even those nights when the team lost 12-1. It was always a “building year”, or they are working in some new players.
We did it because if we told the story like it is, none of the team officials would talk to us anymore. For example, our editor once covered a game and he told it like it was and eventually, the only person who would give him a quote after the game was the timekeeper.
It was the same story when reviewing local theatre productions. If you write a bad review, you’ll never get another ticket to a future show so you sugar-coat the story and it helps local theatre and promote the production.

In larger communities, it’s possible to remain objective because if a source of information shuts down and doesn’t provide comments, there’s always another source.

COMM015 Blog Comment #1 Public Apologies : Four Essential Ingredients-Alan Gilday

I spotted an article on the Canadian Public Relations Society’s LinkedIn group that was very interesting to me from a public relations standpoint.

The article outlined the four essential ingredients for a public apology (

1. Be genuine: If you don’t believe it, it will show
2. No ‘if’s: Politicians, athletes and entertainers love an ‘if’ apology. It is one the best examples of a ‘non-apology apology’. The passive-aggressive nature of using phrases such as “if I offended anyone” or “if that’s how it came across” neither conveys regret nor sorrow. An “if” apology makes it clear that you’ve made it out of necessity and not out of conviction.

3. Take responsibility: Address the issue and those you’ve wronged
4. Make it better: Don’t just apologize – do something about it

The author mentions the Maple Leaf Food’s listeria scandal and the video message released by the company’s CEO Michael McCain which helped the organization overcome the incident and re-energize public confidence.

My Posted Comment

This is an interesting article…the author has provided some great tips.

The Maple Leaf Foods was an example a great apology. It addressed the issue, took responsibility for the incident and was genuine.

I had never really considered the impact of the word if when used in an apology.

I’m trying to think back to the tainted Tylenol scandal and how the PR team got in front of the issue very quickly and although the company suffered a huge decrease in sales for a short time after it passed, it wasn’t very long, maybe under a year, that sales had rebounded and even surpassed previous levels.

Actually having the tamper-proof seal went a long way towards regaining public confidence in the product and the company but the PR team did a great job of educating people and putting the incident behind them.

There is some credence to the notion that saying sorry is a tactic and that it allows companies to do what they want, as long as they say sorry afterwards and it’s perceived as being genuine.

Believe it or not, the public has a short memory. It doesn’t take long for things to blow over when a crises erupts. How many times has a political party trotted out the same program that was introduced by another party, just a few years before…it’s generally only the politics hounds that remember.Thankfully, at least for the time being, we have history books to remind us of scandals long forgotten.

COMM015 What is Your Favourite Customer Story? Alan Gilday

As a journalist working in a small community newspaper, I covered everything from municipal council, sports, entertainment, church socials and everything in between.

And while I know my writing had an impact on the community, I rarely saw any evidence of it.

Sure, I won some awards that told me I was pretty good at what I did…but you generally only hear from someone if you make a mistake.

One year, the government decided to deregulate the gas industry and there were employees of these Independent gas providers going door to door throughout the community and trying to get individuals to sign contracts with them.

The problem was, they were often telling people that they were from the gas company and that if they didn’t sign, their gas would get cut off.

They would often get seniors at the door and they would get them to sign a contract which gave them gas at a certain price for a five year period. The contracts were not always in the customer’s best interests.

I didn’t like this at all…so I decided to write a large feature article explaining the practice and providing individuals with a checklist of questions to ask when someone came knocking at their door.

A few weeks after the article ran, I received a letter in the mail. It was from a senior who had received a copy of my article from a friend and she was able to ask the right questions at the door and didn’t sign. She thanked me for having written the article.

It was a nice letter and I was on cloud nine. gave me a great deal of personal satisfaction because it was one of the first times I realized something I wrote had made a difference in the lives of the senior who wrote me and most likely others in the community.

COMM015 Molson Coors Canada vs. INCommunities – the battle is on! Alan Gilday

COMM014 Assignment #1 Blog post #2 Strong & Weak Organizations – Alan Gilday

Strong Organization: Molson Coors Canada

There are many organizations which have done a great job implementing a social media strategy. The organization I chose for this Blog Post is Molson Coors Canada.

What impressed me about the organization is the campaigns it has launched over the past few years. There was the Molson Beer Fridge at the Olympics which only opened when a Canadian passport was fed through the slot in the door of the fridge.

The Molson Canada website ( provides visitors with a snapshot of all things Molson. There’s a twitter feed where visitors were commenting on the campaigns. There’s product information and other features which help engage visitors.

I often enter online contests, especially ones which offer trips. I’ve never won anything major but there’s always hope. I used to receive a Molson Insider newsletter on a monthly basis. It usually contained information about Molson’s products, campaigns and other news. There was usually a contest every month as well.

Then one day, I noticed it was gone…without a trace. I tweeted on the Molson Canada feed I was following that I was lamenting the loss of the Molson Insider. By the end of the day, I had received a reply to my tweet which explained to me why they had discontinued the newsletter. A few discount coupons for beer would have been nice but…they don’t do coupons…at least not that I’ve ever seen.

The point is, they are monitoring their social media channels and that’s why they get a gold star from me.

Weak Organization – INCommunities, formerly Information Niagara

Information Niagara is a non-profit organization founded 40 years ago which provides a link between individuals and social and government services which can help improve their quality of life.

One of the flagship programs under the organization’s umbrella is 2-1-1, a telephone number that links individuals to a trained information specialist who can listen to their concern and get them the help they need.

Although program staff handle more than 40,000 calls each year, many in the community who don’t know what 2-1-1 is.

The tools the organization uses to help build awareness throughout the Niagara region consists of brochures and flyers along with the odd billboard or bus stop advertisement.

Information Niagara recently changed its name to IN Communities and I’m not so sure it was a good move. Any awareness the organization has established over the years, is now buried behind a name that doesn’t really describe what the organization does.

The reason behind the change? Instead of encouraging other communities to establish 2-1-1 as a community resource, Information Niagara or, INCommunities, has taken on the task of handling calls from individuals in several communities across Ontario.

INCommunities as a great website ( that provides visitors with information on all of the organization’s programs and services.

There is a link to a video clip on YouTube which really helps let people know what 2-1-1 is. It was produced by 2-1-1 Ontario, the provincial branch of the program.

What’s missing from the website? There is no face for the organization. I realize confidentiality is one of the organization’s cornerstones but there should be a welcome message from the Executive Director, something.

There are links to the organization’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Examining the Twitter feed, it appears as though the posts have been left by 2-1-1 Central South…I’m wondering who that is? Is it the program based in Niagara or it is one of its many partners. I have no idea and neither would other visitors.

I truly believe the organization should be using social media to help raise awareness in the Niagara Region.

I recently discovered another organization which has the executive director sending out tweets about the organization’s programs and services on a regular basis.

The organizaiton’s Facebook page is also put to good use sending out messages about the organization. There isn’t much to engage the visitor.

The social media efforts made by INCommunities are a good start but there are more opportunities which should be explored.

COMM014 Blog Post #5 Personal Brand…where do I start?

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had some difficulty with this blog post, which is unusual as I’m not often at a loss for words.

As a journalist and photographer, I have won both International, National and Provincial Awards.

Working in a newsroom, we often get trapped in a monthly cycle when it comes to covering local news. For example, February is Heart and Stroke month so each year, I would do a feature story on some aspect of heart disease. In April, it would be a feature on cancer. January is Crimestoppers Month and I decided to write a feature on the program. The officers submitted my article in the Crimestoppers Awards and the first year, my article won first place in Ontario. The following year, I wrote another article on a different aspect of the program. That year, my article finished first in the International competition.

The job was sometimes glamourous as I got to meet and photograph some celebrities. There were also times when taking photos at an accident scene that I was reminded of the fragility of human lives.

Aside from the awards, I believe I excelled at being able to uncover stories in the community and developing a network of contacts. Whenever, I contacted a source for an article, their name and contact information were filed for future reference.

I’m also proud that I was a member of a team did best to educate and keep the community informed. I wrote articles that made people laugh and made them cry. I was also able to approach people with compassion, often at one of the worst times of their lives. I often received thank you cards and letters and I loved it because it told me that I had made a difference…that the article I wrote had a positive impact on the community.

What have I done lately to make myself standout? I developed a portfolio website to showcase my web design, writing and photography skills. The site has helped land me a few interviews and if website stats are to be believed, the site gets about 70 views a month and that’s with no advertising at all.

Because I believe I’m fighting age discrimination as many firms hire young people who have little or no newsroom experience to handle communications, I have continued to educate myself and learn new skills by taking courses in web design, video production and social media.

I have also created a video resume which I have sent along with a traditional resume…some of them have been tailored to the position to which I was applying. I also have my own YouTube channel where I regularly post videos and a blog which I use to comment on what I call, PR Dreams and Nightmares.

My colleagues and friends would say I’m a creative person. I’m always trying to push the envelope when it comes to excelling in the communications and public relations field.

I once delivered my resume to an employer for marketing position tied to a balloon with the tagline…I believe I can take this organization to new heights. I also mailed a small toy shoe to an employer and asked, Now that I have my foot in the door, may I have an interview for the position of….I also created a resume which resembled a newspaper, except all of the articles were about me…most of them had comedic elements.

In my most recent communications position, I was responsible for creating hospital-wide voicemail and email messages. Sure, I could have created a boring message to keep staff informed but I didn’t. I sang, I acted out little mini-skits and did impressions of celebrities to raise awareness. In some departments, I was revered as staff loved coming into their office in the morning to find a flashing red light on their telephone…which meant they had a message from me.

I’m also a great multi-tasker. In a newsroom, I was always juggling as many as 10 projects at the same time and yet, I still had time for the best stories which sometimes walk into the office or are overheard on a police or fire scanner.