Join me at the CPRS National Conference in Ottawa June 9-11

Even though I’m heavily vested in IABC (being chapter president will do that to you) I’m also a huge supporter of the Canadian Public Relations Society. I’ve been to the national conference twice and both times found it to be a high quality conference and all around great time.

This year, the CPRS National Conference is coming to Ottawa and I am thrilled to be a part of it! I will be speaking about one of my favourite topics: using social media to mine business insight. What does that mean exactly? Well, businesses have jumped all over social media to use it as a marketing platform. Many just start by putting out messages in a 140 character manner and/or launching accounts on several different platforms. Smart businesses understand and partake in engagement with audiences through social media…

But the smartest businesses are monitoring those conversation and using it to feed insight back into the business. For PR professionals it means the years we’ve spent trying to bridge the gap between media coverage and message outcomes (how your audience interprets and understands your key messages through the media) can now be bridged a little closer together as we pick up real-time feedback through comments in social media.

This type of qualitative feedback can also arm a PR professional with the opportunity to be involved in business strategy discussion. Moving PR from a “go out and make us look good” type function in an organization to being a more integral part of business operations and a more strategic function–something that anyone who works in PR knows that it really should be.

I’m pretty excited about this talk, particularly because CPRS gave me the opportunity to meet with potential conference attendees and discuss it with them at a recent ‘Dine & Discuss’ event. I am incorporating feedback from that session into the talk as well.

Here’s a video from that event that captures a few snippets from what I’ll be presenting:

How to be a good listener (a work in progress)

The Sound of the Ocean
Photo Credit: believer9 via Compfight cc

I’m not writing this post because I happen to be an expert on the subject. I do know and believe listening is the most important skill anyone can and should have, but I’ve also found myself falling into bad habits that hinder my ability to be a good listener.

I am writing this as a reminder to myself and also as a commitment to do better. Perhaps you could use a friendly reminder as well…

1. Look at who is speaking to you

This seems obvious, but it’s really easy to not look at someone. Sometimes you want to look down at your smart phone, computer screen, even an old-fashioned note pad, or even over the person’s shoulder (I’m guilty of this with my easily distracted nature!), but you absorb what someone’s saying so much better when you look directly at them because you’re not just hearing words, but facial expressions and body language which can help you recall the conversation later.

2. Put your device away

Further to number 1, please just go ahead and put your device away. If you’re looking right at the person who is speaking to you and and it’s just innocently sitting on the table in front of you, you may not think it’s distracting, but you’re probably looking down at it every few seconds–and of course, if something happens with it, whether you check immediately or not, your mind has wandered away from the task at hand.

Put your device on silence and put it away. (I admit, I struggle with this point the most!)

3. Take notes

Personally I have not mastered this tip yet. With a computer in front of me (since I type upwards of 120 words per minute), I am pretty good with taking notes, but when I’m using the good old pen and paper I tend to just write down random words that later are entirely out of context. The reason I haven’t mastered this tip is I used to have an amazing memory (would you believe before a couple years ago, I never entered a single phone number in my phone, I just remembered them all). Even if you do (still) remember everything, it’s a sign of respect and politeness to take notes when someone is speaking to you.

4. Ask questions

You will have a much easier time remembering something if you really understand what was said. A great way to ensure you understand a conversation is to ask questions back to the person. While you are taking notes, also make note of any questions to ask when the person is finished speaking. Asking questions makes you look smart, interested and engaged in a conversation.

5. Review your notes

Take some time following your conversation to review your notes. If you did write them out by hand then perhaps type them up to file away electronically. Again this is something I need to work on–it’s so easy to let general busy-ness get the better of you!

That’s what I’ve got, but I’d love to hear your tips for being a good listener too. And any advice for treating the shakes after I put my phone away is appreciated too!

How to be awesome: be replaceable

Many people have this silly notion that they need to be irreplaceable. Like their workplace couldn’t function without them. Like they should keep everything secret so if they are not around no one can figure out what they do. Perhaps it’s some form of job security… After you’re gone you’ll be some sort legend because no one else could step into your shoes and do your job like you did.

This is absolutely ridiculous. If you really want to be admired by your colleagues, remembered fondly and be all around well liked, you need to strive to be replaceable.

The pessimist perspective

I’m sorry to throw this at you, but perhaps you are hit by a bus tomorrow. Tragic. Sad. Sudden. I’m sure your coworkers will be broken up and devastated. However, at some point they are going to have to pick up the pieces and get back to work. And how frustrating it will be when they can’t figure out what you did or how you did it. Do you REALLY want your legacy to be formed out of frustration? Do you really want to disrupt your grieving coworkers lives even more to try and figure out what exactly you were up to?

The optimist angle 

Ok so maybe you won’t get hit by a bus. I’m glad! Really! But I’m wondering, 10 years from now do you picture yourself doing the same thing? Probably not, I’d hope you’d want to at least get a promotion, maybe start your own business, take time off for travelling… How will you do that if there’s no one around to do your job? You can tell yourself all you want that you’ll sort it out when the time is right, but more likely you’ll be too distracted preparing for your next big thing that you’ll end up leaving your colleagues with a mess to sort out and probably hating your guts. Not too fun either is it?

I know because I’ve done it

I’m not proud of it, but I have quit a lot of jobs and left a tangled mess of whatever I was working on. Not always intentionally. Most of the time–while I thought I was organized in my mind–there’s no way anyone else could figure out what I had done. While it’s nice to feel wanted and missed, the reality is you’re just being a pain in the butt. So part of my own self-improvement plan is how to make that transitional phase–whether for a job or volunteer work–more smooth. It’s tough. Especially living in a government town, I think I’m pre-programmed to hate process and extra steps that seem to make reaching an outcome more tedious.

Now, serving as president at IABC Ottawa, I know my tenure is finite. It’s a one-year position and I am actually quite thankful for that! With a deadline in mind–let’s face it, us communicators LOVE our deadlines–one thing I’m focusing on this year is ensuring my transition out will be a smooth one. First I’m using our organizational email for as much as possible (so there’s a written correspondence record for the next prez!)  and keeping all relevant files in our Google Drive account (OK I admit, I’m still bad at this).

While we have lots of measures of success in place, to me, the best will be seeing my successor do a better job than I did because I succeeded in being replaceable.

Three chances to win workshop passes to the IABC Business Communicator Summit next week…

If you haven’t heard yet , the IABC 2012 Canadian Business Communicators Summit is happening in Ottawa next week from November 1-3, 2012. There’s still time to buy a full pass if you’re the last-minute conference going type, but you can also have an opportunity to win a pass to one of the six pre-conference workshops happening on November 1.

Actually you have THREE  FIVE chances to win (see update below)! Doesn’t that sound even better? Feel free to enter each one to up your chances. Also don’t forget to share via Facebook and Twitter for good contest karma (that’s an actual thing, I swear.)

Win from IABC Ottawa website: go read the post and leave a comment by Friday.

Win from IABC Ottawa board member Sherrilynne Starkie–same deal by you have until Sunday to enter.

Win from IABC Ottawa volunteer Kristine Simpson same deal and you also have until Sunday to enter.

Fancy yourself unlucky? No problem–go ahead and register anyway to secure your spot. IF you end up winning you will be re-imbursed the workshop fee. Not a bad deal! Workshops valued at $325. Not refundable and no cash value for prizes.

But thats’s not all..

You can also still win a free day-pass to the conference (Nov. 2 & 3). Here are two fabulous chances to enter:

The Beg to Differ blog – through the question “What is Canadian?” via @DenVan

The Translucid blog – speaks to the value of attending #CdnIABC12 via @bobledrew

Ok with all this excitement, are you REALLY going to miss this conference?

Communications students: Are you being recognized for your great work?

Although I’ve learned *SO MUCH* since graduating from the PR program at Algonquin College in 2006, I still miss those days every now and again!

Also the sad fact about working is you simply can’t execute every project to its fullest potential the way you might have as a student (maybe that’s just me, I was a good student!).  Reflecting back I worked on some amazing (and real!) projects as a student that I never thought of applying for awards.

IABC Canada has posted its Silver Leaf Awards 2012 Call for Entries  with a deadline of September 7. The student rate is exceptionally reasonable. However I also remember being a student and having a hard time spending money on seemingly intangible benefits like award submissions.

That’s why I am offering to personally sponsor a student’s submission. I will also volunteer to review your submission and answer any questions you have while preparing it. I have written many submissions before (some successful, and some not, but you learn from all of them!)

The deadline is September 7. Let me know via comments or by email (kellyrusk(at)gmail.com) if you’d like to be sponsored and give me an overview of the project you’d like to submit.  I will pick a winner on August 1. Sept. 4!

Finally I want to put the challenge out to other communicators to consider sponsoring a student entry. They are our future employees and colleagues, let’s help them achieve early and often.

Using social media for research – Recap from #SoCapOtt

How I feel when I come across bad research posted online and spread through social media. Credit xkcd.com

It takes a lot to get me out of the sun on a hot Saturday in July and into an over-air-conditioned venue for a full day of learning, but fortunately the Social Capital Conference this weekend delivered a worthwhile, great time.

This past Saturday I joined over 200 others on the Algonquin College campus for a so-called “Social Media Learnathon.” I was even priviledged enough to present at the event. I spoke about using social media for research–and specifically for research to fuel a social or communications strategy.

The session started off about how bad research gets propagated online and how we should all pay close attention to the sources of research–always read before you retweet! My favourite example is the preposterous example of Business Insider’s 16-person survey (with no explanation of how this “sample” was chosen) that led to the publication damning groupon.

Using my preferred paid tool (Sysomos) I showed some examples of charts and graphs you can use to do research to support strategy development, but also told attendees about some free tools and work-arounds to accomplish similar tasks on a budget. Like most things–you do tend to get what you pay for and using free tools usually means a trade-off for quantity and quality of data as well as the time required for you to invest to get the same results. (Of course there are paid tools that aren’t worth the price tag so please be diligent and thorough in your tool search!)

The presentation also covered using social media for research to analyze media issues and to conduct a comparative analysis as other examples of how social media data can help fuel business intelligence.

The presentation quoted and covered a few concepts by Avinash Kaushik–the leading web analytics evangelist and probably my favourite presenter of all time. Although he speaks in the context of web analytics, many of his concepts can apply to other areas including data-driven decision making to combat the HiPPOs,  and the 90-10 rule for magnificent web analytics success.

One thing I wanted to talk about, but didn’t get around to, was the value of comments and dialogue in social media research. One huge limitation of the available tools is they are unable to capture reactions or additional comments that are relevant but do not include specific search terms. This is one instance where having a skilled analyst makes a big difference because he or she would know to dive deeper and look for this type of insight outside of a tool.

Unfortunately I can’t share my slides from the presentation, but I’m more than discuss the topic with you offline, just drop me a line at kellyrusk(at)gmail.com.

Thanks to Sherrilynne Starkie who posted a recap of my session, complete with video footage (aghhh! Don’t watch!!).

I don’t need to write this, I want to write it.

I miss writing.

An odd thing to say, since I’m almost always writing something: A proposal, a report, an email, a tweet… I love the written word and it’s always been my personal favourite form of communications to output… The issue is feeling like I’m always writing out of obligation, not inspiration. Even with this blog*; it’s reached a point where I am trying to force creative words and ideas out for the sake of publishing so this space isn’t completely deserted. I long for the days when my brain felt like it was swelling with an idea and I couldn’t wait to get in front of a keyboard to let it escape.

Life and work have become so busy that I’ve lost sight of my craft. I even find myself making silly mistakes that I’ve sworn in the past I would never do. In this new insta-publish world, the art of carefully crafted prose is diminishing in favour of speed and at the expense of accuracy. This is obviously something I’ve embraced, and many times it’s truly a fair compromise, but grant me the opportunity to reminisce a little sometimes.

* While it may look like  I’ve been ignoring the blog, I assure you I’ve written plenty of incomplete drafts fated to never see the light of day!

With marriage out of the way, some other big changes for me…

What a whirlwind few months it’s been… As perhaps is obvious from my lack of blogging!

So far, 2012 has been a really crazy (good) year! In addition to a busy start of the year at work I’ve been prepping to take the reigns over as President of IABC Ottawa in July, helping with the IABC Canada 2012 Business Communicators Summit in Ottawa November 1-3, 2012, still running Girl Geek Dinners Ottawa with a fabulous group of women… and you know, planning my wedding (happened May 26) and my honeymoon (we returned from Halifax on Saturday!)

It was fantastic to have over two weeks off. And also to do so with no thoughts of work even possible, because I resigned from Thornley Fallis before I left. It’s been a great year and a half with TFC, but something else has come along and with all these other life changes afoot, the timing just made sense and the role seems just perfect for me. While this was completely unplanned–sometimes you just have to go with your gut and that’s what I did.

On June 11, I am starting at Banfield-Seguin Ltd. as a senior account executive. A familiar enough agency setting that I can hit the ground running, but a change in the type of work and team I’ll be working with. As an account executive, I’ll be really focused on developing and maintaining client relationships–while it doesn’t seem so obvious, this is something I’ve definitely excelled at and something I love doing. While the team at BSL definitely has some social media expertise woven through it, I’m hoping to help step it up a notch with my fairly specialized background. More importantly I’m really excited to learn a lot… And also maybe to be back in the Hintonburg neighbourhood–which has seen a huge increase in awesomeness since I previously worked there in 2010.

I’d love to get a post up about the wedding (after all–it was 10 years coming!) but I’ll wait until I have some photos to share.  I’m hoping the year will continue to be a great one, and I’m happy to be surrounded with so many great people in my life who make it possible.

Most readers don’t care what you tweet, researchers say. Should you care what “most readers” think?

Twitter confused
Twitter stock photo from original research post

New research making the rounds in media says that most readers don’t care what you tweet.

The research and commentary suggests that because a certain per cent of Twitter users (which, as you’ll see below is admittedly bias) don’t like what you might be tweeting about so you should probably tweet about other stuff.

Media love sensationalized research (like this piece) to sensationalize research like this because it causes people to pause and take notice. The unfortunate byproduct of this sensationalism is soon you’ll see “experts” quoting this “research” while they tell you exactly how you should behave on Twitter and what type of content you should produce. The problem is a big piece of the puzzle is missing from this research and is probably the most important content consideration… Context.

If content is king… 

Context still matters. I went to the site which collected the data and discovered that it is simply asking people to anonymously rank tweet contents. It doesn’t tell you who is posting it. It does suggest that you can rank your friends’ content but I think even that is done anonymously (I’m not sure because I only got an error message when I tried to test it out). From the language in the article it seems that the data presented is based on the anonymous ranking system.

Also painfully lacking is the consideration that Twitter is more than a content distribution system (as even using the word ‘readers’ insinuates). In fact it’s a lot more. To many, it’s about building relationship–you know the “networking” part of social networking? Yes, the type of content you put out on Twitter can help or hinder your relationship building, but it’s certainly all relative and completely subjective. Who are you looking to reach and what type of content are they looking for in Twitter pals?

This isn’t the first time a research piece on Twitter use caused mainstream ripples–a couple years ago some one else put out research saying “40% of tweets were pointless babble” the media again was on fire sharing this revolutionary news. And what was often quoted as pointless babble was people tweeting about what they eat. Is that really pointless? It says right in my profile that I like local food, and if someone is tweeting about a new local food spot that has great food, that’s absolutely not pointless to me. Furthermore, if that person is someone I’ve come to trust to speak about food than there’s even more meaning in that tweet. Unfortunately that value can’t be measured in this type of research.

This further leads to the unfortunate outcome that will surely follow once everyone reads and reacts to this “news.” For example, following the “40% is pointless babble” news was a trend of Twitter accounts that simply tweeted links to “newsworthy content” and skipped all that pointless babble. Yes the New York Times Twitter account (and pretty much any mainstream media on Twitter) does this and is successful, but do you find random accounts that do that interesting? Neither do I, and now services like TheTwitCleaner.com let you easily identify these boring link spewers and unfollow them all in bulk. As for the media taking this approach–the *reason* they do it successfully is they’ve already built up the trust and relationships with readers through the use of newsworthy content and credibility. That is context.

Bias participation

What’s even more damning about the so-called advice in this “research” is the bias participation:

“The researchers acknowledge, however, that the study participants were not fully representative of Twitter users. Most were referred to the study by technology-focused friends and websites and could be categorized as “informers,” who value sharing links and content.”

So unless you are trying to reach and impact “informers” in the technology-focused industry, does this really mean anything to you? The key takeaway from this research should be:

LISTEN. Understand your audience and what their needs are and shape your content accordingly. When you listen you also are showing that you actually care about the people reading your tweets, and in turn they will probably care about you too, whether the content you’re putting out is worthy according to this scale or not.

Next Third Tuesday Ottawa: Ann Fuller on “Social Media: The big ‘what if’ of health care reform”

Just a quick note to let you know about the next Third Tuesday Ottawa: Ann Fuller from CHEO is discussing the role social media is playing in health care reform. I met Ann at the Social Media for Government Conference, and while her talk was not specific to government, it most definitely stole the show! In fact, I was so impressed with her content (and her speaking ability) that I send a Twitter direct message to Joe Thornley during the presentation recommending her as a Third Tuesday speaker.

So even with an advanced preview of the session, I’m excited to hear her speak again. Health care is one area that is currently suffering and our system is busting at the seams, Ann will shed some light on how new social technology can help enable better patient care, health research and hope for the future. This is definitely a can’t-miss event!

Register now and save your spot!