Get the &*@$ out of my way

This last month I have taken the challenge of riding my bike to work everyday. This is a challenge because my bike is a piece of crap that was handed down to my by my boyfriend’s mother, I have never been a big bike rider before, and my physical condition I’d say is only so-so. Here is what I have discovered: I love to ride! I live in the King and Bathurst area and work at Bloor and Church. I did the appropriate mapquest calculations and found it is about a 5km ride – not too bad if you ask me.

Biking is great in a city like Toronto because it is relatively flat, some streets have bike lanes and biking is encourage as the city attempts to be “green”. I’ve noticed that as the weather gets warmers the streets become more and more populated with riders (who are usually zooming past me) who share a common bond.

In my month of bike riding I have almost been hit twice (one really close call) and I’ve seen a bike accident once. The girl was not very hurt and it appeared the mirror of the car smacked her elbow, but still!!!

Yes, it can be dangerous, but no more then driving in a car. Many people use that excuse but it’s probably one of the safer ways to travel. . I may be bias but I don’t think there are bad bike riders, just bad car drivers. Thank God for that little bell on my bike because I swear, some drivers just don’t see me.

On one occasion, a driver flew by me so fast and so close I could feel his van braise my arm. I speed up and caught up to him just to tell him to slow down and watch out. My tone was a little harsher then it could have been, but then when I was riding away he honked at me and gave me a dirty look. WTF!

I may not be the most experienced rider, but here are a few pointers to drivers looking to make a biker’s life a little easier.

1. Please look before opening your door when parked on the side of the road.

2. Please do not hug the curb when driving, waiting for a light to change or making a right-hand turn. Please leave room for me and my bike.

3. Please don’t make me ride over potholes (Bloor Street is a disaster). They hurt.

4. Play your music loud enough so I can hear. I like to jam when I ride but find putting headphones on is pretty dangerous.

5. Please do not give me a dirty look if I cut you off you am moving too slow. I’m on a bike – cut me some slack!

Thanks and happy riding.

 

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No one likes me anymore :(

Well, that’s not exactly true, but traffic to my blog has seriously declined. This may be in part due to the fact that I rarely post anymore (compared to my pervious attempt to post twice a week), but I also don’t comment on blogs anymore. Commenting on other blogs is like free advertising. If I comment on your post, you are likely going to check out my site to see what kind of person I am, especially if my comment provides insight (which it rarely does).

During school it was easy to post as my 30 or 40 school chums were also posting and writing about things that I directly related with. Since we have been out of school for eight weeks, I say a maximum of five people from my PR class still blog. I debated giving it up too as I figured there was no point to blog now that I had entered the workforce and am working at my ideal agency. The truth is, I like posting even if no one reads it. It is fun to get my random thoughts out and just write about whatever I want. In school we had a mandate to write and comment on six PR based posts by the end of the term. It was easy and fun as I hosted one of the most popular sites. The challenge now is to continue what we started.

I hope to start posting more frequently writing about anything and everything. Will that populate my site? Probably not. Like I said, it is rare for someone to come across your site by mistake. I once made a comment on the Inside PR podcast and instantly my blog was a happening place. Now I no longer do any blog promoting and my audience (aka classmates) no longer blog, making my site one lonely place.

I still read blogs and check my bloglines at least once a week, but just don’t invest the time in it to really make it work. To be a successful blogger required commitment and dedication and time I just don’t have.

So the point of this blog is:

If you want others to read and comment on your blog, you have to read and comment on other blogs.

My Dad and Grandparents still read my blog – I guess that counts for something. Thanks, Guys!

 

PR Myths

Now that I have spent a solid seven weeks working at a PR agency I have the experience required to write a post about something I have wanted to write about for a while: PR myths.

Let me first explain to what I am referring to. The world has a lot of misconceptions about what public relations is, mainly due to the media and TV shows. Being in PR and having gone to school for it and having done plenty of research beforehand, I had the general idea of what I was getting in to. The general public on the other hand, not so much. I just want to set the record straight.

1. Being in PR is not like being Samantha Jones from Sex and the City (I wish it was….).
Most movies and TV programs take the best out of every job and make it look so fantastic just to jazz up the characters. Now that I actually have a job in PR, I get so mad when I see movies where people have these glamourous jobs and they claim to work PR. I recently saw some stupid Lindsey Lohan movie called Just my luck and she was like in some junior position at a PR agency and when her boss got stuck in an elevator, she had to make a pitch to this big shot celebrity all by herself. She of course, made up some totally innovative ideas and got the client. NOT LIKE REAL LIFE AT ALL!!!

2. It’s not all about celebrities.
Every campaign does not involve a celebrity, in fact, most don’t. If you want to work in PR because you think you will get to meet Brittney Spears, think again.

3. It’s not all about free stuff.
Now even I was expecting something. A little promotional stuff, some perks. I know a girl who got a free phone, that’s about it. Clients aren’t handing out free stuff to their consultants, they’re already paying you! If you want free stuff, PR may not be for you. I am not getting designer handbags, and neither will you.

4. Drinks with clients rarely happens.
Again, another media misconception, but I was under the impression I would get to go to fancy restaurants and have martinis with clients after work. As an intern, this of course would never happen, but even the highly skilled employees don’t have drinks. First, you shouldn’t really mix business with alcohol…it’s a recipe for disaster. Second, who wants to go out after business hours. After 5 p.m. I want to go home, watch America’s Next Top Model, not do more work. Third, business meetings take place in conferences rooms, not at bars.

5. I do not compromise my integrity at work.
A lot of people think of PR and think of lobbying. Now I can’t speak for every person and every agency, but I am not doing unethical work. Most people wouldn’t stand for it these days with new social media technologies and the whole trend of transparencies. I’m not lying either, or stretching the truth to sell a story. The media are too smart for that. I’m not withholding information or doing anything sketchy. I am simply a relayer of information.

6. The media hate PR people
In my six weeks here I have made a lot of media calls, and never have I met anyone rude. There are some people who are writing to deadline so they do not have time to talk to me, but no one is mean. I’ve heard horror stories but if you are polite and courteous, then you’re fine.

7. All PR people do is push releases over the wire.
My god I wish that was true. I do MUCH more than that; news releases are just a part of it – a very small part. PR campaigns are complex and require a lot of work and a lot of planning.

I’m sure there are many more myths to explore, these are only some I could think of while sitting at my desk, taking a much needed break from my media list.

The point is, PR is not what you think it is. It’s not glamourous, not even a little. It’s not about media relations or brand management or event planning or crisis communications. It’s about all of it. It’s hard work and it’s not always fun. Some of it is tedious and boring, but what job isn’t. It is challenging, it is never the same and it is a job that required dedication.

Now it’s almost 5 and I have to get going. If you are considering PR, let me know what you think it is If you are in PR, share with me some of the myths you have encountered either through personal experience, or the public’s misconceptions.

 

Social media platforms on facebook

Let’s face it, social media is in and everyone wants a piece of it. Big companies are taking stabs at using social media as a way to connect with audiences, but few are being successful at doing so.

Facebook is one of the most popular web 2.0 tools, which only makes sense as to why so many organizations are using it to sell products, raise awareness, build brand recognition, etc, etc. Facebook has over 70 million active users, is the 6th most-trafficked website in the world and is the 2nd most-trafficked social media site in the world (comScore). 

What is the purpose of facebook? Is it to keep in touch with friends or is it an online marketing tool just like everything else is the world is becoming? Facebook was a seemingly harmless and fun way to connect with friends, until applications began to take over my profile page. Applications exsist as marketing tools used to attack users. Get this, there are over 20,000 applications which have been built on the Facebook Platform. There are 140 new applications added per day and more than 95 per cent of Facebook members have used at least one of these applications. Sounds like a pretty extensive audience outreach to me.

I am just a victim as I have signed up for many of these applications falling into the trap of curiousity. My facebook page has games, horoscopes, maps of where I’ve travelled, my blog, a zombie war, surveys and even a social profile which tells me how I am ranked among my friends. Go facebook.

Don’t even get me started on those gifts. Who would pay $1 for something so ridiculous!

Now although I have lost my train of thought and carried on about how facebook is really an outlet to sell me crap I don’t need, there are some companies who are using it successfully. I recently clicked on a sponsored link by Subway (the sanwiches) and was pleasantly surprised.

Subway has a sponsored ad on facebook and when you click on it a small video pops up and you can watch a 20 second or so ad from Subway. It is not the best ad but is similar to what they have showing on TV right now with the monkey not fitting into a healthy lifestyle.

If you then click on the actual link (not the sponsored video), it takes you to a memory game. Now who doesn’t love memory?

The game only has 20 or so cards which have pictures of vegetables on them that you match up and then get points. However, there are also two monkeys in the mix and if you match them you lose points. I don’t think the points get you anything (even though it would be better if you did), but you can register for promotions and coupons and stuff and then if you play enough, you name will get added on the high scores list. The page also contains links to Subway locations and other crap., but focuses on how eating subway is a part of a healthy lifestyle (like Cheerios is part of a complete breakfast).

I mean, its not overly innovative or original, but a neat concept to get the idea across. Check it out and let me know what you think. In the meantime, next time you log into facebook, take a look at all the subliminal ads and marketing gizmos that are targeting you. It’s sad and scary.

Me since school. What did I learn and how did it help.

Week four in PR career and I finally feel like I am settling in and getting used to things. My first week was spent reading and doing orientations. My office is huge and there are too many people to remember. I love my team and although I probably have a bias I think they are the best bunch in the group.

There is quite an adjustment between school and work that really takes getting used to. Firstly, the whole 9-5 thing. Most people my age have worked at least one 9-5er in their life, but not me. I find that some nights I am going to bed at 10, and sometimes earlier (like last Thursday, after a few drinks after work). I’m exhausted much of the time, and even on weekends it’s hard to sleep in. I have to dress up, which isn’t a big deal, but owning one pair of dress pants is. I really have to go shopping. But really, everything else is a learning process just like every other big step in my life.

To be honest, I was weary and unsure about how prepared I was for this job after leaving school. I think everyone is nervous coming into a new job, but this is something I am meant to have the skills to do, and what if I wasn’t good enough?

Well, thankfully I am. I find that even if I don’t understand something all I have to do is ask and someone will explain. I often get complimented for asking so many questions. A lot of the words and tools are the same as we were taught in school. Communications plan’s are WAY different (and not as complicated, thank God) and although I am doing basic level tasks, I am given more responsibility each day and am learning so much.

So how did school help? My social media experience definitely gives me an advantage. I love del.icio.us and use it for everything. I know how to ask questions and to make sure I am asking the right ones. I always take the assertive approach and will e-mail my colleagues and ask them for stuff to do when I have finished my work. My CP books sit on my desk at all times and I am very careful when writing anything (except my blog).

Most importantly, I mesh well with my team. Everyone likes me (I hope) and the fact that we all get along makes it much easier to approach people when I need help.

There are also lots of other exciting things that take place that are totally not school or PR related. Things that make me feel special and important. The exciting first big job perks:

I get business cards. Very professional
My outlook invites me to meetings and stuff, and then reminds me of them! (hotmail lifetime user here)
I am having a bio photo and write up done
I have my own cubicle with a name plate thing and all the office supplies I want
Beercart (need I say more?)
Coffee, pop, juice, snacks; it’s like a buffet in here (It’s called the H&K 10 for a reason)
My own phone and extension, oh and e-mail signature
Responsibility, people tell me to do things and I get them done
Confidentially, people trust me, great feeling
Training sessions
My desk can be as messy as I’d like and no one can say anything

So there is no message to be told or lesson to be learn in this post. Just an update of me and how exciting my job is.

P.S. I just heard my AD sing the words to Brittney Spears “I’m not a girl”. Ya, doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Blog shame

I’ve lately been struggling with the question “Why do I blog?”

If blogging was not trendy or a related part of my desired profession, would I still do it?

Let’s be honest. I am not really into my computer all that much. I would way rather watch a movie, go for a walk or hang out with friends then sit at home in front of my computer. I don’t really like meeting people over the internet, playing computer games or learning about new media tools.

Does that make me wannabe blogger?

The truth is, if I ended up in medical school as oppose to PR school, I probably wouldn’t really even know what blogging is. (Gasp!) Instead, I ended up at Centennial where I was introduced to the wonderful world of social media.

Some students were entirely opposed to the idea of blogging. I was excited and read, commented and even researched what I wanted to say. I would write twice a week and get butterflies as I hit ‘post’ worried that I had made some crucial error.

School is now over, and I’m lucky if I post once a week. I am seriously beginning to question my loyalty to my blog. In school I was learning new things every day, and could post about my discoveries and share ideas with students and professionals. Now, as an intern, I feel most of the things I am learning now I am not allowed to share. My day-to-day activities are new to me, but by no means worthy to discuss, not to mention confidential (well, not really, but you get the idea).

But anyways, my point is, blogging was my way in. My chance to get my name out there and build a reputation for myself as someone interested in social media and someone good at PR. Now that I’ve done that, is there really a need to continue?

This basically leads me back to the question, “Why do I blog?”

The simple answer, I want to be ahead of the PR game. I work at a big agency and I don’t have exact number but I beleive that there are 10 or less people who I work with that blog, and even less on Twitter. I’m not saying that these are things you need to be good at PR, but when the time comes to perhaps promote somebody, and I have the knowledge and experience with social media, it’s going to be me to excel.

So as shameful as it may seem, that is why I blog. I applaud people who do it for the satisfaction. I don’t dislike blogging, but to me its work.

A few questions to consider:

If no one read your blog would you still write it?

If you write about your profession, why?

What do you hope to achieve by blogging?

Why do you blog?

 

It’s a small, small world

Well to start, Mexico was a blast. We had almost perfect weather everyday, our resort was beautiful and we were able to take part in a lot of really great activities. We went to Coba for a day and were able to experience the Mayan ruins, we went to Xel-ha and went snorkeling and swam in cenotes, did a zip-line over the jungle and took part in a lot of fun stuff right at our resort.

Interestingly enough, on the bus from the airport to the resort, I saw a girl walk on who I thought I recognized. I said her name, and realized that we work together at East Sides. Totally random, but we were on the same flight and going to the same resort. It was great spending time with her and her boyfriend, but it just shows how small of a world it really is.

This leads into my topic of discussion for today which is networking. From day one of PR school it had been recommended to us students that we take part in as many networking events as we can, for the experience and the opportunities. In my head I thought this was great, as I am great at meeting new people, but by my first networking event I was actually pretty nervous. I am going to meet professionals! What if I make a bad impression or say the wrong thing? What if they think I am stupid and then they go and tell everyone that I’m a big loser and then I never get a job in PR? Things are the kind of things that I stress out about.

After my first event, Talk is Cheap, (where I spoke to no one), I decided try something a little more my pace and attend a Thirsty Thursday event. It’s held by and for young PR professionals, and it involves beer; sounds good to me.

To my surprise people were (and are) really nice. They did not drill my on my knowledge of PR, but instead offered ideas and insight. Sure we talked about PR, but we talked about a bunch of other things too. I made a lot of friends, gathered a few business cards and made some great connections.

The moral of the story is, go to networking events. They are put on for a reason. Don’t go to all of them (unless you want to) but making an appearance every now and then keeps you face out there. It’s also a great way to get people reading your blog and following you on Twitter, therefore making even more connections and increasing your online profile.

Tonight is Third Tuesday Toronto, another networking event that are also quite causal but focus on a key topic usually with a guest speaker. Tonight, I get to watch another live recording of Inside PR.  It’s like a triple whammy. I get to watch a production of a podcast, I get to network with a bunch of other PR professionals, and I get to hang out with some friends from school who I have not seen since we started internships, which coincidently, was just this week.

So like I said, it’s a small world, and you never know when or where your contacts may come in handy. Plus everyone likes making friends. 🙂

The sun won’t come here so I’m going to the sun

That’s right, I’m outta here.

I am leaving tomorrow and will be going to Mexico for one week!!!

I am committing the ultimate sin and staying at an all-inclusive resort. However, I will spend much of my time experiencing Mexican culture going on canopy tours and snorkeling, checking out the Mayan Ruins and working on my Spanish.

I will have many pictures to share when I get back, not to mention a hot tan.

Here’s my resort link to anyone’s who is interested: Catalonia Yucatan

Until then,

hasta luego!

Me on the beach

Twitter: What and Why

Twitter

Many people are extremely cautious of Twitter and I don’t really see why. It takes up very little time, it’s incredibly easy and is a great way to network. Twitter, as described by Wikipedia is a “free social networking service that allows users to send “updates” or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long to the Twitter website, short messages or a third-party application.”

In layman’s terms, you write short messages and post updates on the web about what ever you want. Twitter describes itself as a tool “for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing.”

Twitter has done a lot for me even though I am one of less active users. I rarely post but do follow what other people are talking about. I have been linked to great articles, blog posts and websites, and have really learned more about social media tools. Yes, many of the posts on Twitter are useless updates (e.g. “I just got out of the shower” or “I’m hungry”), but it really is a great learning tool, and is respected by social media professionals. I was asked in an interview if I was on Twitter and I was thankful enough to say yes.

I am not in the social media circle. I am bystander looking in just wishing I could get in on the action. Twitter lets me do that at, and is much faster than reading blogs and is much less formal.

Dave Fleet suggests, “What’s more (let’s be honest) we self-censor a lot less on Twitter than we do on our blogs. That’s not a negative – Twitter’s format lets us share links and thoughts much more easily than blogs do. Still, that means I post links and thoughts on Twitter that I wouldn’t write about (on my blog).”

Among PR professionals involved in social media, Twitter is a big deal. An entire session at PodCamp Toronto was dedicated to Twitter and has been a frequent topic on the podcast Inside Pr.

Needless to say, Twitter is a growing phenomenon with a new application designed every day (so it seems). I’m not the expert. In fact, I can barely keep up. But, for anyone interested in learning more about Twitter, here are some great sites that give a better description than I could ever give:

CBC News In Depth: Technology CBC (Twitter takes wing on mainstream social web)

BuzzMachine by Jeff Jarvis (Tribute to Twitter)

Webware by Rafe Needleman (Newbie’s guide to Twitter)

And since I hold no bias, here is an anti-Twitter post:

Webwalker by Douglas Walker (Twitter Rant)

Whether you love it or hate it Twitter is here. Is it really going to make that big of an impact in terms of PR and social media, I don’t know, but I’m going to be in the know-how and be familiar with the applications just in case.

Take my challenge. I dare you.

For those of you who actually remember the early 80’s, I want to take you back to a time when people sent personalized mail through the post, had conversations in person and had to go to a library to get information. Back to a time before computers and before the internet.

I’m only 24 I remember (vaguely) what it was like.

This past weekend I went to my friend’s cottage in Grand Bend. Lots of people, beer and bbq. Good times. But as fun and crazy as the weekend was, it was very peaceful to be without some of the basic amenities that I have come to rely on so much in my busy life: No internet, no cable, no cell phone. Sign.

Sounds ludacris, I know, but imagine the freedom one can feel by not being controlled by having to refresh your browser every 30 seconds waiting for that ever-important e-mail.

Martin Waxman from Palette PR recently blogged about his attempt to go 24 hours without the internet. Like myself, he found that the temptation was hard to resist as the internet has become a second nature to many of us. Then when he finally reconnected, he discovered that there was nothing “earth-shattering” awaiting him. My reconnection resulted in a ton of e-mails and a few missed calls, but nothing that was important enough to interrupt my somewhat peaceful weekend.

The internet is still a very new phenomena and most of us have lived long enough to watch the technology grow. Sometimes it bothers me how much we rely on it, especially in situations when kids are engaging so much of their time in online activities. I understand the benefits of the internet heavily outweigh the cons, but I fear for the time when the internet begins to consume society, even more than it already does.

So I am challenging each of you follow in Martin’s footsteps and pry yourselves away from the computer for 24 hours. See what happens, how often you go to it unaware you are even doing so. I think we could all benefit from some offline time.

Give it a shot – Let me know how long you last.