#journchat LIVE Toronto Roundup

#journchat LIVE took place this past Monday night. The event was hosted in seven North American cities: Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and of course, Toronto.

The Toronto event took place at the office of Thornley Fallis and the great eats were supplied by Marketwire (thank you again to both organizations for your generosity!). Yours truly was both event champion and moderator.  (Photo’s from the event can be seen here).

We had a great group of people attend, including @davewire @thornley, @justmelinda, @davefleet, @vmiddleton @kjrose @karensnider @martinwaxman @jarodvhale @kaleneelizabeth, @mikesgene and of course, me (@jodiechakowitz).

Instead of getting into a full recap of what was discussed, I’ve decided to share some key takeaways from the event itself:

  • We began networking (and eating!) at around 6:30pm ET, an hour ahead of the usual 7:30pm #journchat start.  After an hour, we were itching to get the conversation started, but #journchat only kicked off at 8:00pm ET.  Takeaway: Each location should allocate a set arrival time (an hour or so earlier) to keep the official start time as scheduled. For a small group like ours, the extended networking time was almost too much.
  • The first question thrown out was centered on social media being banned from college stadiums. Few of us in the group were aware of the issue and it also didn’t seem to be relevant from a #journchat perspective (or at least our group didn’t think so). Fortunately, those that were in the know gave us the lowdown on the topic. Takeaway: When putting forward a question, don’t assume that everyone has seen or heard of the issue at hand. Provide links so that we have some context for the question.
  • When participating in the Twitter only version of #journchat, many folks will multi-task, making a few comments here and there, checking periodically to see where the conversation is headed. Having the conversation live provided an opportunity to thoroughly discuss (and stray from) the topic at hand. Takeaway: The LIVE event opened up a lot of new avenues for continuous conversation, something that would never have happened on Twitter alone.
  • Actively participating in the discussion, trying to moderate the flow of conversation and tweeting at the same time became challenging at times. Takeaway: Twitter is great for a virtual conversation, but it may not be the right tool for a LIVE event. @jarodvhale suggested that we may want to look at using Ustream for future LIVE events as an alternative to Twitter.
  • In Toronto, we didn’t end up having journalist/media participation (although it looks like @mathewi and @thehartley may be on board for future events if the timing is right).  @mikesgene, who has a storied background in journalism with the CBC and is still a journalist at heart, did however add tremendous value to the conversation. Takeaway: Active media participation is the one thing lacking in this conversation – whether virtual or LIVE. Comments by folks like @antoniaz on the topic of media involvement are very telling.
  • The group in Toronto seemed to be the smallest amongst those cities participating in #journchat LIVE. And I have to say that I think it worked out to our advantage. Attendance may have been much higher if #whuffaokeTO wasn’t at the same time, since a lot of PR folks chose to network with @missrogue instead. Takeaway: An intimate setting means that we got to meet and engage with other folks on a much deeper level than in a large audience setting.
  • While we all agreed that the smaller setting worked well, our conversations in response to a particular question likely ended sooner than in other locations (even when we went off topic or discussed other responses we were seeing). Takeaway: The time lag between questions needs to be a bit shorter. I would recommend this for both LIVE and virtual #journchat conversations.
  • We requested some clarification on Q3 (how do you define a media company?) so that we could respond accordingly, but unfortunately never got it. Takeaway: Ensure the question being asked is not ambiguous in any way so that it can be easily responded to within the right context.
  • At the end of each #journchat, participants have an opportunity to get in ONE PITCH. People often provide links to their blogs, or make note of great initiatives they are working on. For the Toronto group, we chose to show our support for a local initiative, @Kilos4Kids. Takeaway: The idea of self-promotion is a great one, but why not use a forum like #journchat to spread the news about a great cause instead? On Monday night, @Kilos4Kids had less than 100 followers. Less than 24 hours later, there were more than 220. I have to think that we played a part in getting them to more than double their followers in a short space of time.

Overall, those of us in Toronto agreed that #journchat LIVE was a success, and are looking forward to the next one. Thanks and congrats to @PRSarahEvans for getting everyone on board for this initiative. All we need to do now is figure out when the next LIVE event is going to take place.

UPDATE: @PRSarahEvans also posted a #journchat LIVE recap. You can check it out here.

If you participated in #journchat LIVE from any of the seven locations, I would love your thoughts on what you thought did/didn’t work. Your input will be invaluable in ensuring successful events in the future!

~JE

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#journchat LIVE Toronto

I recently provided some info on the concept of #journchat LIVE and am now very happy to share details about the Toronto event:

Date:  Monday, August 17, 2009

Networking:  6:30 – 7:30 p.m. ET

#journchat LIVE:  7:30 – 10:00 p.m. ET

Location:  Huge thanks to @thornley for providing boardroom space and Internet connectivity for #journchat LIVE Toronto. A total of 14 people can be accommodated in the Thornley Fallis boardroom.

Address:  Thornley Fallis, 21 St. Clair Ave. E, Suite 800, Toronto, ON, M4T 1L9

Refreshments: The generous folks at Marketwire will be sponsoring refreshments and snacks for #journchat LIVE Toronto.

Cost:  There is no charge for you to attend. The only commitment you need to make is to show up, share your thoughts on the topics being discussed, and enjoy connecting in person with your fellow PR peeps.

As space is limited, we encourage you to register ASAP if you plan to attend. 

You can register online at http://journchatlivetor.eventbrite.com.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

The art of self-promotion

A couple of days ago, Beth Harte (a smart marketer who writes a terrific blog and is also Community Manager for MarketingProfs) wrote a very interesting piece on the topic of self-promotion.  

For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I’m not big on self promotion. While it’s a great concept that I agree others should embrace, it’s just not for me. Perhaps the closest I’ve come to self promotion in recent months, is using Twitter to tweet the occassional link to recent client coverage.

But on this very rare occassion, I’ve taken Beth’s post to heart, and am exploring the waters of self promotion. Provided below is a brief snapshot of recent coverage that some of our clients have gotten, thanks to the talented folks on the Echo Communications team.

 

 A. Farber & Partners Inc. is one of Canada’s leading independent licensed bankruptcy trustees, with 30 years of experience solving money problems for consumers. In response to the latest Canadian bankruptcy statistics, we proactively pitched the folks at Farber as experts on the topic. Here’s a snapshot of their coverage in response to our outreach:

Globe and Mail / BNN /  Toronto Star / Metro  

 

Wishabi is an online shopping engine designed to make shopping easy for Canadians. To address the needs of consumers who want to make even smarter buying decisions, Wishabi launched the e-Commerce industry’s first predictive intelligence technology, enabling both price and value comparisons of more than three million products. We got a great response to our inital outreach, and although only a few pieces of coverage have appeared to date, a number of top tier opportunities are currently in development.

Vancouver Sun and Gillian Shaw’s Blog / CTV

 

Descartes Logo

Descartes Systems Group enables global organizations with logistics-intensive businesses to save money by improving the productivity and performance of their operations. We secured coverage around their recent earnings, with a focus on their incredible turnaround story. I’ve also included links to some older feature coverage (since February, they have received over 250 pieces of coverage, including byline articles, features, mentions, etc.).

Globe and Mail / BNN / National Post / Fleet Owner

 

BlackBerry Partners Fund invests in companies that develop applications that make smartphones a compelling platform for media, commerce, enterprise, entertainment, and lifestyle applications. We recently secured some great coverage regarding their second annual BlackBerry Developers Challenge.

CrackBerry / ITWorld Canada / Fierce Developer / RIMarkable

We also worked directly with Nexage, one of BBPF’s most recent investments, to get the news out about their Series A round of funding. A snapshot of that coverage is listed here:

Mobile Marketer / Digital Media Wire / GigaOM / Wireless Week / Mass High Tech / Private Equity Hub

 

In early Spring, we began working closely with the smart and creative folks at Capital C on a project titled Hypercube. If you’re engaged in social media in one way or another, then you’ve likely heard about this Nissan Canada campaign to launch the all-new Nissan cube. Our role was to reach out to social media influencers and mainstream business and marketing press to secure coverage. And did we ever! This is a glimpse into coverage around this campaign.

Toronto Star / Wired / Calgary Herald / Marketing Magazine / Strategy Magazine / Metro / Social Media Explorer

 

Hopefully the approach that I’ve taken here is what Beth was referring to in her blog post. And if not, I’m not surprised. I still have a lot to learn about the art of self promotion.

Freelance PR: It’s not for everyone

Over the past eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an amazing and talented group of virtual (freelance) PR consultants. They aren’t full time employees, but rather PR pro’s that choose to work with me and my growing roster of clients, while continuing to support their own client needs.

What I’ve learned over time, is that working in a virtual environment is not for everyone. It takes a certain skill set and personality to make it work. So I’ve compiled a brief list of traits that (in my experience) I think PR folks should possess if they want a successful career as a freelance PR consultant. This list may also be helpful for those looking to bring someone on board to help balance their work load or grow their PR consulting practice.

  • Independent Workers – Works very well in an independent setting. In other words, knows what needs to be done and will do whatever it takes to complete the task at hand – without being asked to do it.
  • Self-motivated – Does not need a ‘boss’ to coach, guide or encourage them. These self-starters are go-getters who motivate themselves to get the job done.
  • Passionate – These PR folks love what they do and wake up each and every day ready to hit the ground running. They embrace life and are driven by their own passion for a successful career.
  • Proactive – Will not wait for media, analysts, clients or anyone else to call or email them back. They proactively reach out to the right people to get the job done, on time and within budget.
  • Outgoing – Shyness is not an option for this set. Whether in a crowd or on a call, the outgoing PR consultant can easily engage in conversation or lead a discussion. They will gladly pick up the phone and call a member of the media that they don’t know, have never met or never spoken to.
  • Excellent Communicators – Unfortunately, not all PR folks are good communicators. We may work in a communications role, but not all of us remember to keep the lines of communications open when it comes to interacting with colleagues, providing feedback or keeping others in the loop of important updates.
  • Story Tellers – Can identify a strong story angle when they see it. While this is a trait that every PR person should have, it is even more important when working as an independent consultant.
  • Deadline Driven – Can easily prioritize all tasks on hand. Since freelance PR consultants work on a few different client accounts at any one time, the ability to prioritize is key, especially when trying to meet deadlines across a diverse client base.
  • Multi-taskers – Juggling program execution across several clients is a breeze. This includes multi-tasking and easily switching their mindset from one client to another at a moment’s notice.

Do you agree with my list? What have I missed? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Happy birthday to us!

It’s hard to believe, but eight years ago today Echo Communications was born. For those of you that don’t know the history, I’ll give you a quick run down…

After many years of  handling in-house PR for technology companies – namely Delrina, MGI Software and Delano – it was time to go out on my own.  I had just been laid off from my job at Delano along with the rest of the marketing team (the company was faced with a huge dose of reality after the dot.com bubble burst) and figured that no one would hire me in my pregnant state (I was about four months into my second pregnancy). That’s when I made the decision to accelerate my plan (by five years) to work as an independent PR consultant.

After a month of networking, there was no going back. And on July 23rd, 2001, Echo Communications (a play on my name, of course) was officially registered.

Before long, I signed up my first client for a writing contract, and was given the opportunity to work as a PR consultant for a network-based PR agency.  It was in this role, as a white-labeled PR consultant, that I formulated the model for my own consultancy:

  • As a virtual agency, I wouldn’t have any overheads in my business(no employees, no offices, etc) and could therefore lower the cost of services provided to clients;
  • Consultants on my team would have no less than 10 years of PR experience (it didn’t matter if it was in-house or at an agency);
  • Flat rate billing would means no surprises for clients. Regardless of who on the team would be involved in an initiative, expertise would be guaranteed and the rate would not scale based on that expertise;
  • We would establish budgets for our clients, not retainers. Rather than being billed a set amount each month, clients would only pay for actual time used;
  • I would be involved in every client account.

Eight years later and I’m happy to report that I’ve never looked back. I love what I do and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that each day brings.

Of course, Echo Communications wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for the amazing clients we work with (current clients include Anyware Group, A. Farber & Partners, BlackBerry Partners Fund, Capital C, Descartes Systems Group, Farelogix, Iristel, Jazinga, Schenker of Canada, Wishabi, and Xenos Group) and the incredible team of virtual consultants who put their hearts and souls into the accounts they work on. I’m also extremely proud of the fact that all of our business (yip, every single client we’ve worked with over the years) has come to us through referral – perhaps a testament to the model we’ve embraced, the service we provide and the results we deliver.

Thanks to everyone for making the last eight years so memorable. Here’s wishing that the next eight years continue to provide each of us involved in Echo Communications with an opportunity to: achieve our goals; learn more; teach others; set new benchmarks for success; and work in an environment that is stimulating and rewarding both personally and professionally.

The Addicted iGeneration

If you’re anything like me, the idea of going off the grid during a vacation is more stressful than dealing with the day-to-day challenges we come across when in the office. Which is precisely why I don’t do it.

This week I’ve taken some time off with the family for a little R&R, and to nobody’s surprise I have my BlackBerry, iPhone 3GS (don’t ask why I have both a BB and iPhone – that’s a topic for another day) and ultra-portable notebook computer with me. 

Given that I run my own business, people generally understand that staying connected means I can stay sane while away from the office. But what surprised me more than anything, is just how connected my kids also need to be. 

In taking some time to explore the resort we are staying it, I realized that my Generation Z kids actually belong to a new class – the addicted generation. At home they each have a computer, watch more TV than I would like, and love playing games on their Nintendo DS or Wii. While on vacation, if it’s not the DS or iPhone that’s grabbed their attention, it’s the TV or ‘net access on my hubby’s Acer Netbook (yep, he brought his with him too!).

Within minutes of leaving their connected world for a walk in the park (literally!), my kids appeared grumpy, agitated and full of anxiety. Why? They didn’t have something digital in their hands or a screen in front of their eyes to distract them from the real world. While my kids aren’t willing to admit it, I see these symptoms as signs of addiction – a net addiction.

More than anything, today was an eye-opener for me. A reminder that the ever-present opportunity to connect isn’t a good one. Our kids are less active than they’ve ever been and our society is more overweight than ever before. Is this the destiny for today’s addicted iGeneration? I certainly hope not.

As a parent, I’m going to do what I can to ensure my kids embrace the real world. I’d love to hear your tips, tricks and thoughts on the topic.

#journchat LIVE

Yesterday I wrote about two suggestions I put forward for improving #journchat. Today, I’m very happy to report that @PRSarahEvans (who initiated #journchat) has taken one of the ideas a step further and is leading the charge for simultaneous #journchat tweetups in key city centres in the US (and of course Canada).

On Monday, August 17, 2009 from 7:30 – 10:00pm ET (6:30 – 9:00pm CT), the usual Monday night discussion will be replaced by #journchat LIVE.

Following is a snapshot of the #journchat LIVE concept from a Facebook message that Sarah Evans sent out last night:

So I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring and help champion #journchat LIVE in Toronto. With your help and input, we can come up with the perfect location and ensure the night is a success.

If you are interested in attending #journchat LIVE, please let me know and also provide some suggestions for locations that you think could work. Thanks and looking forward to meeting you there!