Bridging Two Worlds

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

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

The Obama Standard

Posted by AHA Creative on May 1, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is a very interesting blog post at focusing on the tech side of Obama’s first 100 days in office. Don’t let the word “tech” throw you off – the technology used is important, but it’s just a vehicle for communication and conversation. As a communicator, this article hits some key points that you will find relevant.

In speaking at events, delivering workshops and collaborating with clients – many of the points touched upon in this article come up. Obama has made a commitment to move toward a more open and transparent form of Government – and while there are steps being taken to do this, it takes time. This is a big paradigm shift. Not just for the people implementing the tools, technology and developing the strategy, policy and process, but also for the people who are being asked to join the conversation. The logistical side takes time and resources, so does the culture shift.

This article also points out some of the misses from the Obama team; some initiatives are slower on the uptake or haven’t hit their stride yet. There are no hard and fast “blueprints” for opening up the conversation and making it work. There is some experimentation involved and some things will resonate with your community (the people formerly called “The Audience”) and some won’t. Sometimes, no matter how much research you do, you won’t know until you try.

We often refer to The Obama Standard. He has done a good job of starting the process of creating a government that provides a voice – through a range of initiatives including social media – to the people. While he has a much bigger budget than most organizations, he is still working through it step-by-step, project-by-project, and asking for input as they learn what works and what doesn’t.

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Leadership, Social Media | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Conversation Over Coffee

Posted by AHA Creative on January 29, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Yesterday we hosted the first of what we hope will be a series of events focused on social/online media topics. We were very fortunate to have Kirk LaPointe, Managing Editor of The Vancouver Sun, as our guest speaker. (If you didn’t get an invite to this one, please don’t worry. Because of the small size of the events, we aren’t able to include everyone…but we haven’t forgotten you, I promise. We will invite you to the next one. If you want to make sure you are on the next invite, send me an email at

Kirk participates online. He has a blog, he has been engaged and involved for quite some time and is a driving force at the Sun in their online evolution. Kirk is insightful and his experience as a media executive (he has worked in print and broadcast) gives an interesting and highly valuable perspective on how media and journalism are changing in response to Web 2.0.

We had a group of about 25 senior communicators and their CEOs in attendance – a bright and early morning with a 7:30 am start, I might add. It was a room full of smart, experienced business people that are genuinely interested in understanding how our professional (and personal) lives are changing.

Kirk has a healthy balance of skepticism and a desire to authentically communicate, peppered with a solid sense of humour and an appreciation of the absurd. He has embraced social media, but he sees its challenges, its flaws and its potential, and he is realistic about it. I found his candor inspiring and refreshing – and his presentation and the following group discussion provided me with some great food for thought.

The discussion continued long after Kirk had headed back to the newsroom and our guests had left. We thought it would be interesting to share the points that Kirk made that resonated with us. For those of you that were able to attend, please feel free to tell us what you found of interest or of value and what you might like to hear about in future Bridging Two Worlds Conversation Over Coffee. (Or, as some of you suggested, calling it Connecting Over Chardonnay, Meetings Over Merlot, Brainstorms Over Bourbon…really, we got it!)

Some of the points that hit home for us:

– I was excited when Kirk touched on the opportunity in the future to “customize” news and information for specific audiences. This is an approach that makes sense to me. Rather than reach out to a huge audience and hope that someone in there is interested, creating a reason for those that are interested to connect seems like a much more effective, efficient – and valuable approach. Along with this is another point that Kirk made, it all comes down to content – interesting content. Whether it is entertaining, informative, controversial or inspiring, it has to be accurate and authentic and it needs to be well written, no matter what the medium. When I think about the opportunity that organizations have to open a conversation with individuals or groups; to extend their communities; to create a connection with people that provides an open, interactive, two-way discussion; or in the case of Twitter – more than a two-way discussion, it energizes me. (Ruth Atherley, AHA)

– I particularly liked his recommendation to communicators “don’t spin – be transparent.”  I also liked his view on newspapers of the future (hard copies) – that they are already evolving into a medium that provides more analytical views versus just presenting the news (because it is not new to most readers by the time their newspapers land on their door steps)!  Newspapers will become “viewspapers.” (Patsy Worrall, QUAY)

– I was very interested in their plans for using a wiki to let readers help report on some specific news items in the future. When I put that into context around how we work with clients to help them to engage their stakeholder communities both internally and externally, I think that it supports the idea that there is great value in inclusive and collaborative approaches. There is a great deal of talent and knowledge out there (in the world and in organizations) that goes untapped and unacknowledged. Wiki technology allows us to connect with this expertise and create a positive and valuable experience through collaboration. (Paul Holman, AHA)

– I was very interested in hearing Kirk’s perspective of the future of newspapers online.  Specifically, the pay-per-use feature where people could have access to all the information that gets sent to media (I’m an information junkie). Or rather than pay-per-use, the possibility that certain companies could sponsor a specific section (i.e. Nike and the sports section).  Another interesting point was the possibility of wiki-articles online where experts in a certain field would be encouraged to “add-on” to an article.  And finally, I was surprised to hear that newspapers write their content for the web first and then for the hard copy. (Fareedah Rasoul Kim, QUAY)

– I think that the part that resonated with me most was how Kirk spoke of the evolution of the online world.  As he said, we are hard-wired to read paper. Looking at a computer screen all day is not conducive to our nature and he feels that in the future we will be reading from digital ink.  I thought that this was a really interesting juxtaposition between what we are traditionally used to and what we have become accustomed to. It will be interesting to see, in a couple of years, if such a thing comes to fruition.

I loved the term he used in reference to linking to other sites – Link Economy.  The name says it all and as online media continues to become more prevalent, we will want this easy access to other sites to help reference the topic of interest.  (Julie Owen, QUAY)

– I really enjoyed how Kirk spoke about the opportunity journalists have to become a reliable and collaborative source for reporting online.  Bloggers can be motivated by their own interest or a rumour they heard “somewhere.”  I am reassured knowing that journalists who write online adhere to the highest standards of reporting and are being encouraged (by people like Kirk) to link and collaborate with other news agencies and reporters.  It will result in a higher calibre of reporting and information available online.  (Julia Cameron, QUAY)

– Kirk’s point about recognizing other media (your competition) and sources for good information resonated with me. You can only do that if you come from a position of confidence and strength. Sharing of knowledge and information is the way of the online world and is now transcending into mainstream. It reminded me of the old movie – Miracle on 34th Street when the Macy’s Santa starts recommending customers go to the competition and how that led to more business and a good reputation for Macy’s.  That movie was made in 1947.  We have always believed in friendly competition.  Life is too short to live any other way. 

I also was intrigued by the movement of media into the world of databases. Public sector salaries, parking tickets….what could be next?

It is great to have people like Kirk at the helm of our major daily papers. He truly demonstrates the transparency, candor and forward thinking the business needs to survive. (Della Smith, QUAY)

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Leadership, Social Media | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Interactive White House Website

Posted by AHA Creative on January 21, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is change in the air in America – and it smells fresh and new. As President Obama was giving his inaugural speech yesterday and taking over the office of the Commander-in-Chief, a switch was flipped on This site got a makeover that includes a new blog. With a focus on transparency, the new administration is posting all non-emergency legislation on this site so that the public can read it and comment before the President signs it.

Last year, I attended a social media conference where Bev Godwin, Director of spoke. It’s not as though President Obama is introducing the Federal Government to Web 2.0, there has been movement towards a more transparent and interactive approach online for quite some time. The Department of Defense, Homeland Security, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force are all active and interactive online. At the conference, Ms. Godwin spoke about the opportunity that social media presents in reaching out and creating authentic conversations that provide value for everyone involved, not just the politicians.

Now, with a leader who really “gets it,” it will be very interesting to see what happens when social media is embraced from the highest office in the U.S. and what kind of change will be created by embracing and increasing this kind of two-way communication.


Posted in Blogging, Demystifying Online Communications, Leadership, Social Media | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Most Wired President In History

Posted by AHA Creative on January 20, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Today is an important day in the United States.

A new president has just been sworn in and it seems that the underlying theme of everything that Obama does is “hope.” Much has been said, written and discussed about the value that social and online media brought to the Obama campaign. It has been said that social media was the reason he won the election. While I think that it had a huge part in connecting him with people who were hungry to feel a part of something special, it took more than social media to elect him president. It took the right message at the right time. It took reaching out consistently online and in person.  It took a team of excellent speechwriters and a group of intelligent advisors.

It also took understanding the community. And I think that is why Obama was able to use social media tools so well. He didn’t see the American people as his “audience,” he saw them as his people, his community and his fellow citizens.

He created a dialogue. He turned us (even those of us who can’t vote) into evangelists who helped to spread the message. He made us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. He created a digital tribe that had no boundaries and was made up of people of every race and of every religion – we were all different and that was celebrated. We all belonged and can all make positive change in our world and the world around us.

No matter where he was or what he was doing, he was interacting. He was listening. He was connecting. He had a blog, he sent out email blasts and he was on Twitter. He was everywhere and he was listening. I think that it’s been a long time that any of us in Canada or the U.S. have felt that politicians care what we think.  Many of us have never had this experience – it is new, fresh and exciting.

He has the right message and he understands who is a part of this conversation – all of us. Obama’s approach is inclusive, something that has been lacking in politics and our leaders for a long, long time.

Social or online media only provides tools, it’s how you use them that matters. All of the candidates had access to the same technology and tools that Obama and his team had.  It’s just that Obama understood how to use them. It’s obvious that he likes the connection that technology provides. When he won the election, he was picked up by the cameras emailing and texting on his BlackBerry. Reaching out is natural to him. It is a part of who he is.

Today he was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America, and Barack Hussein Obama had to hand over his BlackBerry. I bet he will go into connection withdrawal. How he personally connects with people will change – the Office of the President demands that. It will be interesting to see how he handles this aspect of his new role. Of course, Obama seems to see things as they could be. So as the most wired president in the history of the country, it will be worth watching to see how he blends technology and communication with the duties of President. 

Posted in Interesting, Leadership, Social Media | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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 »