Bridging Two Worlds

A conversation about online media and what it means to your organization

Archive for September, 2008

Is Anyone Talking To The People?

Posted by AHA Creative on September 29, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There has been a great deal of media coverage, both traditional and online, about the U.S. government $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry. CNN has done a good job of outlining the key provisions of the bill.

One of the key points that everyone has been focused on is that, at the heart of this historic move, are the people that are at risk right now. It is about helping the families that are about to lose their homes, the ones who are teetering on foreclosure, the individuals that are being hurt by the economic challenges and the mortgage meltdown.

To put this issue into some context, there is a good blog article in U.S. News & World Report that cites RealtyTrac and The Real Estate Bloggers that says that in August 2008 foreclosures were up by 12% over July 2008 and up 27% from August 2007. According to this report, 1 in every 416 houses received a foreclosure notice in August. Those are astounding numbers.

I have watched every television station I can (CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, CBC, CTV, Global, Fox News….the list goes on and on) and I watched President Bush give his television speech on this bailout. There is a lot of big picture talk…but no one can answer the one question that journalists keep asking: “What should a person facing foreclosure do?” No one can answer that question – they are so busy getting the bill passed and holding press conferences that the details have not yet been put out to people.  The bill is set to be voted on this morning. It may be that they are not answering the question until the bill passes, but that isn’t going to stop people facing foreclosures from asking the questions.

Think about the hundreds of thousands of phone calls that will now go to local politicians, to banks and other lenders, to mortgage brokers … people asking what this bailout means for them. What if as they announced this bailout, they flashed a help line and website across the screen. In my opinion (and keep in mind, I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes) they could have had a dark site (website that is complete but not live) set up, ready to go that had basic information about what it means for homeowners across the country.

Until the bill passed, it could have been a basic website explaining the process and what happens next and BAM! – the moment the bill is passed, a website that helps people. It could have:

  • FAQs
  • What to do if you are facing foreclosure.
  • What documents you need to have in hand to approach your bank.
  • Questions to ask.
  • Questions to be ready to answer.
  • Who to speak with in your area.
  • A financial planner blog.
  • A real person (a mom?) who blogs on how to cut expenses in hard times.
  • A psychologist blogger who speaks about the emotional fall out from financial challenges.

They could also offer some Instant Messenger chats so someone panicked about their situation could talk to a real person either on IM or in person, perhaps they could have also set up a text message system where citizens could text in their zip code or address and be sent a list of numbers to call for help.

I keep hearing the word crisis, issue, grave situation…and yet from what I have seen, no one is speaking directly to the people being affected – the homeowners facing foreclosure.

Setting up a dark site would have been a good idea – and one that could have be planned and executed more efficiently and easily than you might realize.

This is a huge initiative in response to a crisis that has global ramifications and it was possible to take the solutions right to the individuals being affected. Think about what you could do for your organization during a challenge, an issue or a crisis. Could you have a dark site sitting quiet, ready to launch when you need to communicate directly with your stakeholders? 


Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Issues and Crisis, Leadership | Leave a Comment »

Facebook – Where Your Personal Life and Business Life Collide

Posted by AHA Creative on September 23, 2008

Post by: Paul Holman of AHA Creative Strategies

I received a “friend” request on Facebook from an old friend from high school the other day. He’s a fun person to hang out with, but is still a little wild and his Facebook page seems to showcase his love of tequila shots. Not necessarily something I want business associates to see when they hit my Facebook profile. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy – he’s responsible, doesn’t drink and drive, he’s married with kids and loves to travel. Hanging out and having a few drinks is just a part of his life. His request got me to thinking about worlds colliding on Facebook.

To add business associates or not to add business associates to your Facebook page, that is the question…Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…or make people upset with you because you don’t “friend” them.

With all your Facebook friends (and what’s a “friend” in Facebook really? More often than not it’s an acquaintance, someone you could have just as easily ignored when they wanted to be your friend but you didn’t want to hurt their feelings) writing whatever they want on your wall and taking all kinds of outrageous pictures and posting them with no regard for anything. Do you really want to mix your business colleagues with these people?

As the world gets smaller and smaller, in large part thanks to social media, I am becoming more and more careful about what I post online. When it comes to Facebook, I have my own page and we have an AHA page and we are about to launch our B2W page. I am conscious of keeping work and my personal life separate.

Does this stop business associates or clients checking my personal Facebook page? Maybe…maybe not. But I am also very aware when I am tagged in a photo. If I wouldn’t want it on the front cover of the Vancouver Sun or a client’s newsletter, I remove the tag of myself. This helps keep my reputation nice and clean, but I am sure if someone wanted to look deep enough, they could find a photo of me in a pub somewhere on Facebook.

If there was a photo I found offensive, upsetting or embarrassing, I would politely ask my friend to remove it from their Facebook page. (Although I am old enough to know better than to put myself in a situation that I don’t want to see on the Internet!)

If anyone out there has their personal friends, business associates and clients on the same Facebook page and it’s working out, please let me know. I’d love to know how you are managing the different aspects of your life.


Posted in Social Media | Leave a Comment »

They’re Watching You – Maybe Even Taping You!

Posted by AHA Creative on September 22, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There has been a great deal of mudslinging in the political arena recently. The upcoming election has everyone involved out there looking for skeletons – or nakedness or pot smoking – in the closet. Today marks the last day to nominate candidates for the federal election, so we may see it quiet down for at least a little bit.

There was also, of course, the comments of Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Food where he made what some are calling dark humour jokes about the tragic listeriosis outbreak.

Sean O’Malley runs the election desk for CTV and he wrote an insightful post on his blog about these incidents.  Check out the links at the bottom of Sean’s post – there is a lot of interesting info there.

People do things that they wouldn’t necessarily want to have put under a spotlight. If you are on Facebook, check out some of the things your friends have posted – things that might come back and haunt the very people that put them up. Gerry Ritz thought he was on the phone with “friends” when he made the “death from a thousand cold cuts” remark – well, someone was taking good notes and released what he said.

The world really has changed. We keep saying it, but judging by the photos and videos I see online, not everyone understands that yet. We are a wired world. Many cell phones now have the capability to tape you and upload the clip to YouTube within minutes. I’ve tried it – I can tape someone and have it showing on YouTube in less than three minutes. Think about what that means for those funny, dark humoured quips you put out there – meant only for the person beside you. What if they made it online – what would that mean for you or your organization?

Does this concern you? Have you had something go public that you didn’t want out there? How do you handle living with the potential of having the spotlight hit you – 24/7? It would be interesting to hear what you think about this.

Posted in Leadership, Social Media | Leave a Comment »

Cops, Homeland Security and The City of Calgary

Posted by AHA Creative on September 17, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There was a time, not so long ago, when almost everyone shook their heads and looked away when we brought up online or social media. Now, it is everywhere and people are engaged in discovering what it can do for their organization.

Locally, here in British Columbia, the Saanich Police Department has done something innovative and a little different. They have set up an ongoing series of podcasts (online audio) and vodcasts (online video) — and are the first police department in Canada to do this.

The City of Calgary is also using social media, and has been for over a year.

I was at a social media conference earlier this year in Las Vegas (it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to go to these things!) and I sat beside a communicator who worked with the U.S. Army, specializing in social media. His role is to work with the troops to make sure that information being uploaded by the men and women in uniform on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube doesn’t inadvertently share key points that might put campaigns or people in jeopardy. He worked on policy and procedure, but also was insightful enough to understand the human element of connection for the troops. He was at the conference looking for ways to better understand how social media could be used and, in his case, effectively managed.

Interestingly enough, one of the speakers at the conference was the head of communications for the U.S. government. The Pentagon is using social media, the White House is in the pool and even Homeland Security sees the value in it. There is an interesting blog post on what some of the government is using by Daya Baran that is worth a read.

These are all organizations that you wouldn’t expect to be using social media and giving up control of the message. However, they see the value in it. None of them took a leap off a cliff, they did their research, developed a strategy and they built out – and are still building out the social media component of their communications plan to support their overall strategy. They were smart about it. Taking that first step online doesn’t have to be a flying leap into the middle of the ocean, get your feet wet first. Develop a plan and then take small steps as you get used to the water.

Posted in Interesting, Social Media, The Worldwide Connection, Things That Make You Go hmmm... | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Can We Still Have Our Privacy And Be Online?

Posted by AHA Creative on September 16, 2008


There is an interesting series of articles running in the Globe & Mail — Privacy Lost – the not so private price paid for social networking.  In the rush to embrace Facebook and MySpace, many Canadians have left themselves exposed. These pieces are worth a read.

Posted in QUAY | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld & Advertising In A Wired World

Posted by AHA Creative on September 15, 2008


I watched the launch of Microsoft’s new ad campaign starring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld earlier this week – with interest. The campaign is reported to cost $300 million with Seinfeld taking home $10 million. The Web isn’t just changing how communicators do business, it is also changing how advertisers do business. The Microsoft ad campaign has had lots of criticism, including The L.A. Times, Information Week and BusinessWeek. In an interesting approach, there is now an area on the Microsoft site explaining the commercial. On the Microsoft site in a news release — Brad Brooks, vice president of Windows consumer product marketing, said that the ad is a “teaser” meant to “engage customers in a conversation … to get the conversation going again about what Windows means in people’s everyday lives.”  Now, I am not sure the ad hits the mark, but I think it’s new and different and it needs some time. I do know that on YouTube – that ad has hit close to two million viewers and both mainstream media and bloggers are passionately talking about it. While most of the reviews are negative, there are certainly a lot of people talking. Some people have actually created another version with an alternate ending – the sound effects that would make it look like Bill Gates has gas and ends with a “Microsoft Stinks” message.

Crispin, Porter & Bogusky is the agency that created this campaign and, a few months ago, Fast Company ran a cover story with the headline: Can Hotshot Ad Guy Alex Bogusky Make Microsoft Cool? It opens the question of how advertising agencies are viewing the opportunities and challenges in a wired world.

As often happens, I had an opportunity to ask an industry pro about this topic. I was at a party recently and ended up chatting with a friend who works in advertising. He was very interested in the online world and how I see it. I, of course, was equally interested in how he sees it from an advertising point of view.

He was telling me that he thinks that many people in the ad business aren’t “getting it.” He had just been at a national advertising conference where they had a PR person talking about the online world. We talked quite a bit about how it is a changing paradigm that we are all facing and how that it might be an easier transition for those of us in communications. Ad types are used to defining a message and sending it out, while in PR and communications, we have always been focused on more of a conversation, although never like this!  In the words of guru Charles Leadbeater (check him out on TED – the Technology, Entertainment and Design site) it is about “with” now, not “at.”  You can download three chapters of his book We-think from the website.

Ad agencies have always wanted to understand what the demographic is thinking. Focus groups and in-depth consumer research have always been a big part of developing a campaign. However, as my friend pointed out, this was always done in a controlled environment. Now, it’s a free for all out there.

Microsoft, an organization with a huge advertising budget and a hot, out there agency took a risk, but how much of a risk was it really? How much social media is attached to this campaign besides blogger reviews and the videos on the Microsoft site and YouTube? How could advertisers be looking at what they do with a different lens, one that extends their community and opens the conversation rather than speaks at their target market? It’s an interesting discussion and one that I am sure we will be hearing lots more on.

Posted in QUAY | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Facebook Policy And The CBC

Posted by AHA Creative on September 9, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

I just received an email from a pal at the CBC. She sent me a link  to their blog, which talks about the CBC’s Facebook policy. It opens an interesting topic about what social media policy should or could be … and what social media means to journalists. Sites like Facebook let us see (sometimes too much) into the personal lives of people – friends, colleagues, employees, bosses and journalists.

What do these types of sites mean on a professional level. If I am friendly with a reporter, a colleague or a client they “ask” to be a friend on Facebook, do I say yes? Or no. And is being “friends” with potential sources on Facebook a bad idea for a reporter? 

It’s an interesting topic and one, I think, that will continue to be of interest for many organizations – including mainstream media.

Posted in Social Media | 2 Comments »

Interesting Article In The Washington Post

Posted by AHA Creative on September 9, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

The Washington Post ran an interesting article recently about companies and organizations that are blogging. It’s worth a read.

Posted in Interesting, Marketing Communications, Media Relations, Social Media, The Worldwide Connection | Leave a Comment »

Who is a Trust Agent?

Posted by AHA Creative on September 9, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

I am a big fan of Chris Brogan and I read his blog post this morning with great interest.  I have to admit, Chris is one of my favourites and I always look forward to reading what he has to say.

Today, he talks about “Trust Agents” and what they mean in the online world. Chris is one of those people who really “gets” social media, I would call him an “A Lister” for certain. (I just realized that we didn’t have Chris listed on our blogroll… shame on us!! We’ve added him.) He has a real talent for opening up new ideas and guiding us through what that means as we shed the old paradigm. He’s a bright guy that sees the world through a social media lens and can clearly explain the value, opportunity and responsibility that we can find there.

Chris is working on a business book – co-writing it with Julien Smith (now also on our blogroll). In true interactive, collaborative fashion – Chris is looking to start a conversation on trust agents… which he says they have defined, for the moment, as “people who use the web in a very human way to build influence, reputation, awareness, and who can translate that into some kind of business value.” What does trust agent mean to you, who do you think fits that description?  

I can tell you for my part – one of the people that fits description is Chris. I look to his blog posts for information, for a new way of thinking and thought provoking ideas. I trust him (doesn’t mean I always agree with him, but I trust him), he has influence with me, through his blog posts I gain awareness of other bloggers, social media instigators and products and services. He has earned this positive reputation with me by being authentic, smart, funny and consistent — he is out there all the time, talking to us. 

Take a read of Chris’ blog and see what you think. It would be interesting to hear who you see as a trust agent online and in your organization  — and to hear if you think that a “real world” trust agent (I love Chris’s example of Oprah Winfrey) can translate to the online world. If you have an opinion or ideas, let Chris know — us too please!!

This is the magic of social media … we get to have these incredible and valuable conversations with people we might never have met otherwise. 


Posted in Interesting, Social Media, The Worldwide Connection, Things That Make You Go hmmm... | Leave a Comment »

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Posted by AHA Creative on September 5, 2008


Cineplex has just launched a social networking site at that allows moviegoers to check the reviews of average people — other moviegoers. Marke Andrews wrote a good overview of this site in yesterday’s Vancouver Sun.

 These kind of reviews are becoming very important in the decision-making process. According to The State of The News Media 2008 report which is an annual report based on American stats*, eight out of 10 people, 17 years old and up say that the Internet has become a critical source of information.  We are going online more and more to research where to go, where to eat, what movie to see, what camera or computer to buy.

Traditionally, most reviews were written by experts – specialists in the field, people who made a living reviewing restaurants, hotels, books or movies.  These reviews appeared in mainstream media, in books and on websites. I know I have bought more than one Fodor’s Guide when I was planning any kind of a special vacation.

 There are still expert reviews out there, but the average person has also found a voice in this arena. An individual can respond or add to an expert’s review or they can write their own online.  I know that I check restaurant reviews before I make a reservation and I check travel reviews before I book a flight. I love the reviews that are written by people like you and me.  I trust them. There is a connection that happens when you find someone like-minded, even if it is on a travel review site. There is a trust factor that comes from the review being authentic and “real” – if sometimes a bit raw. Reviews by real people are transparent, we get to share their experience – the good, the bad and the ugly.

 This is a growing trend and I began thinking about what it means in the context of business. What impact would this kind of citizen review process have on your organization?  Are people out there right now – in the “real” world or online – reviewing your organization’s services or products or perhaps they are looking at your role in the community? It’s an interesting thought. And since many reviews are based on personal opinion, perception and other bias, what would happen if there was a bad review – justified or not?

Citizen reviews are a growing influence and I think it’s something worth thinking about. Would your organization get two thumbs up?

 *We’re working on finding more Canadian stats, if anyone has suggestions on where to look – we’d love the advice!


Posted in QUAY | Leave a Comment »