Sporting Events in a Twitter Era

The Olympic Games (and other major sporting events) have an amazing way of uniting countries. In fact, this was the premise behind the movie Invictus, which looked at how Nelson Mandela brought together a splintered nation through the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which South Africa hosted.

But with social networks, and in particular Twitter, this is a very different Olympic Games. Here’s why:

  • We can share in the spirit of the Games with a bigger group of people than previously possible (what pub would be big enough to accommodate me and all my followers?);
  • We can show our support for athletes in a way that can be tracked, recorded and shared (using tools like Radian6);
  • We can make our voices heard  (like when silver medalist Dale Begg-Smith barely showed any emotion at the medal ceremonies);
  • Share our excitement (or disappointment) before, during and after an event (like when USA beat Canada in tonight’s hockey game);
  • Be alerted to an event that we may not already be watching (like the two-man bobsled event that took place while the USA/CDA hockey game was on);
  • Find out the status/results of an event without having to watch it or look it up online;
  • Use trending topics to see what everyone else (not just those in your immediate network) have to say about a particular event or athlete.

Ultimately, I can see tools like Twitter being used to track comments in real time to influence how broadcasters cover an event; to share thoughts with athletes on big screens immediately following an event; to help advertisers gain feedback on their event sponsorships, and more. 

Even NBC has taken an interesting approach with their Twitter Tracker, which is being used to keep viewers in tune with buzz on the Games via Twitter.

But I think the Olympic Games are just the beginning. I suspect that Twitter and other social networks will also impact this year’s Soccer World Cup, which is also being hosted in South Africa. 

What do you think? How has Twitter changed the Olympics for you?

~ @JodiEchakowitz

iPad – What’s in a name?

Today’s launch of the iPad created some serious hype, the likes of which I haven’t seen since the initial launch of the iPhone. While there have been some mixed reviews about the device, the product’s name itself has drawn quite a few snickers and been the butt of a few jokes.  Even the Wall Street Journal reported on it.

This got me thinking about how (or if) I would respond to the silliness surrounding the product name if I were on Apple’s PR team. On one hand, having the WSJ write about the issue does raise some concerns; but on the other hand, the product name is not going to change and people will ultimately pay more attention to the news itself and product reviews. Without overthinking it, I would let the whole thing blow over.

I asked my Twitter followers what they would do, and it seems my thinking is spot on. Of course, I’m curious to see what approach Apple takes. 

One thing is for sure, while some folks take pot-shots at the iPad’s name, those of us in PR and marketing can use this as a reminder about the steps we can take to try and avoid similar situations. These are the two most basic approaches that come to mind:

  • Use focus groups or surveys during the planning stage to get feedback about a product’s potential features, naming conventions, etc.
  • Embrace social media monitoring tools like Radian6 or Sysomos leading up to a launch. Whether it’s a movie, a product or a service that you’re bringing to market, gaining insight into consumer sentiment before you launch can help guide your marketing plans; provide some direction on product features/functions to add/remove; help you tweak your messaging, etc.

What would you do? Would you also let the storm blow over?


“Passion + Purpose” or “Pay + Perks”?

In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney’s company is hired to help organizations downsize. Clooney’s character [Ryan Bingham] travels across the country to fire people. He encourages those that question what to do next to follow their dreams and do something that they love. Of course, I couldn’t agree more with the idea, which inspired this post.

In 2001, when I was laid off from my corporate PR job (along with everyone else that felt the sting of the bust), I did exactly what Bingham suggests. PR had always been my passion (not just a career choice) and I realized that the key to my future was to embrace it with purpose. That’s when Echo Communications was born.

By making the decision to combine Passion + Purpose, I wake up each day really excited about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Unfortunately, too many people I know have taken on a job because of the Pay + Perks instead of doing something they love.  (Of course, there is something to be said about paid vacations, annual bonuses, etc., but quite honestly, it comes nowhere close to the perks you get when you follow your dreams).

I’m curious to know your thoughts. Which would (did) you choose: Passion + Purpose or Pay + Perks? Or were you fortunate enough to find that perfect career opportunity that combines both?


C’mon Sony… you can do better!

For the past three years, I’ve been using a Sony Vaio VGN-TX751P notebook. This highly portable notebook (about the same size as a netbook, yet faster processing power, more memory and bigger hard drive) has served me well, but it has not been able to keep pace with me over the last few months.

So just like any other gadget-loving freek would do, I decided that I would upgrade to the latest notebook from Sony – the X Series Vaio (billed as the world’s lightest laptop).  While I’ve yet to get the laptop fully operational (I only got it yesterday), there are a few things that irk me about it and the way that Sony has offered it to the Canadian market (making me wonder whether Sony really even cares about us Canucks):

  • The only option currently available in Canada is one with a 64GB hard drive. Our friends south of the border have the option of purchasing an X-Series laptop with a hard drive double that size for not much more money.
  • The only colour available to us is black, while it’s available in gold as well in the US.
  • The X-series does not come with an integrated optical drive (one of the reasons why it’s so lightweight), so it would make sense for Sony to offer an external optical drive as an accessory. Of course, our friends in the US are not only offered the optical drive, but are offered a discount on one when purchasing the X-Series (online). Canadian Sony stores don’t even have them available for sale (I had to get one from Best Buy).
  • The other slight irritation is that the Cdn version of the X-Series provides French translations on a number of keys. This was not the case with my TX, so why make it the only option for the X-Series? I speak English and don’t live in Quebec, so why do I need to have French on my keyboard?
  • So you’re probably wondering why I didn’t order the laptop with the bigger hard drive and without the French writing online from (the US site)… well, my answer leads me to another issue that irks me. The warranty offered by Sony is only valid in the country from which it was sold (i.e. if I bought it in the US, the warranty would not be valid in Canada and I would have to pay for servicing or any other issues I may come across).

Hopefully Sony is listening and will take the necessary steps to change their ways and perhaps pay some more attention to those of us in the frozen north. Heck, the least they could do is let the sales folks in the Sony store know when they can expect to receive a laptop with a bigger hard drive, other colours and even the external optical drive, which I believe they’ve never had.

So now that I’m done ranting, I guess I better get back to setting up my laptop.


Time flies when you’re having fun

The last couple of months have been incredibly busy. While we usually wind down in the fall in anticipation of the quieter holiday season (as it relates to PR), this year we’ve had a number of client initiatives that have kept us on our toes (and kept me from blogging).

So you have a sense of what we’ve been up to, here’s a brief snapshot: 

Hitachi Data Systems Canada hosted an Earth Friendly IT event featuring David Suzuki (keynote speaker);  HDS green data centre expert, Asim Zaheer; and Claus Mikkelsen, HDS chief scientist. The event was a great success, and of course I loved that I had the opportunity to talk with David Suzuki about a number of very interesting topics, and meet (and re-connect with) some terrific members of the Canadian tech media.

The Echo team has also been focused on the launch of the Portable North Pole.  This free and secure application – offered by in collaboration with UgroupMedia and UNICEF Canada – lets users create a personalized video message from Santa Claus, which their kids, family members and friends can watch online and share with others. While I don’t celebrate Christmas, I absolutely love this video letter from Santa and by the sounds of it, so does everyone else who’s seen it and written about it.

And most recently (last week actually), we supported the launch of SPRK, a travel selling platform developed by Farelogix. Seven members of the travel press came to Miami for an exclusive media preview of this agent desktop solution. And judging by some of the coverage we’ve seen to date (e.g. Aviation Week and tnooz) it looks like Farelogix is well positioned to capitalize on the merchandising of ancillary services by airlines.

Of course, there’s so much more on the go than what I’ve shared with you. But hopefully you now understand that I hadn’t purposely abandoned my blog, but finding the time to write has been challenging.  And as we all know, clients come first.

I’m looking forward to kicking off the new year with regular posts about topics that I’m passionate about. So stay tuned! In the meantime, all the best over the holidays and for a happy, healthy and successful new year.

~ JodiEchakowitz

Are we authentic?

Ever find yourself over-thinking your own tweet or @ reply on Twitter? While we all have to think about the best way to say something so that it fits within 140 characters, on several occassions over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself preparing to respond to a tweet or put forward my own thoughts, only to delete what I had typed. 

Generally one of these three reasons are to blame when I’ve backed out of a tweet:

  • Not wanting to offend the person I was replying to
  • Deciding not to voice an opinion that was perhaps against the general concensus
  • Didn’t feel it was appropriate to share a particular thought in a public forum

Digging a little deeper into the reasons behind my own actions, I’ve begun to wonder how many others have done the same thing. I can’t image it’s just me.

I think the bigger issue lies with how authentic we are when we engage with others behind a veil of social media. I’m not talking about honesty here (i.e. telling the truth) – that’s something I do without fail, never even giving it a second thought. I’m talking about being true to ourselves by sharing what’s really on our minds.

While it’s easy enough to find articles and blogs of interest and share them with others, how many of us actually say what we’re thinking and are willing to put the time and effort into a conversation to defend our thoughts? How many of us simply go with the flow and agree with the status quo?

We all engage in and leverage social media for different reasons, but if we can’t be authentic in our thoughts and in the online conversations we strike up with others, then what’s the point? We shouldn’t have to over-think each tweet (or blog post we respond to). We have the luxury of freedom of speech, and we should be willing to use it.

Do you speak your mind? Do you think we’re authentic? Would love to hear your thoughts…


Blogging therapy… but at what age?

Over the last month, I’ve been remiss in sharing my thoughts and observations through my blog. But with so many ideas still swirling in my head, I’ve come to realize that blogging for me (and perhaps journaling for others) is perhaps the best therapy when it comes to clearing through the cobwebs and making sense of reality.

So to no surprise, after sitting down with my 12-year-old son to talk about some issues that arose today, I suggested that he may want to consider blogging as a way to get things off his chest. While a journal would be more private, a blog would allow him to not only speak his mind, but also provide an opporunity for others to learn from him.

You may be wondering what people could learn from a 12-year-old, but you see, my son has Asperger Syndrome.  It’s an autism spectrum disorder that impacts his ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. A more detailed look at this disorder can be found here and here.

As an Aspie, my son is a frequent target for bullying; he learns differently from others; has some unique traits, talents and gifts; and battles an emotional rollercoaster daily. By publicly providing his perspectives on life, we could all see the world through his eyes.

As parents, we are constantly advocating for our children. But with more kids going online and embracing social media, I’m hoping that by sharing the best and worst of his life as an Aspie, people will gain a better understanding not only of him as a person, but also the struggles faced by the Aspie population as they wind their way through life from childhood to adolescence (and into adulthood), and as they try to make sense of things that everyone else takes for granted.

Of course, my “brilliant” idea also leads to some interesting questions (each of which could serve as an individual blog post):

  • Is there a right (or wrong) age to begin blogging? And if so, what is it?
  • If a tween decides to blog, what is the right platform for them to use?
  • What is the best way to build a following so their message doesn’t fall on deaf ears?
  • Given the issues of privacy and safety when it comes to kids going online, is it best to blog anonymously or using a pseudonym?

If you have thoughts on this topic or answers to any of these questions, please share away.

~ JE