10 reasons why “Sid and Nate: Drive thru rookies” went viral

This week Tim Hortons uploaded a series of commercials to Youtube featuring Nova Scotia hometown boys, Sidney Crosby and Nate MacKinnon serving up coffee at the Dartmouth Tim Hortons Drive Thru. The stunt was called “Sid and Nate: Drive Thru rookie”. The pair bumble their way through orders, charmed surprised patrons, and peppered their speech with just enough “sorry’s” to make something already pretty Canadian, even more so. It’s a series of ads destined to be aired more widely, but not before the chain ensures they garner lots of word of mouth plus a good dose of media tossed in. If you haven’t seen the spots, have a look at the Youtube link here.

The original stunt was conducted and filmed back in July. Here is a tweet from July 28

Crosby_TimHortons_TweetIt garned CBC TV coverage at that time. Have a look here.

But the timing to leverage additional WOMMM + M (word of mouth, mouse & mobile + media) was now, because that’s when hockey season is set to ramp up. Plus, as the weather turns colder and Canadians head to the rink, coffee is perhaps more on their mind then in the summer.

Here’s a sample of media received just this week:

Huffington post

Global TV

Toronto Sun

So, weaving all this back to lessons for word of mouth, mouse & mobile + media, let’s consider why this campaign works so well.

  1. Strong visual: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts with visuals helped fuel the initial WOMMM + Media. But it was arguably the Youtube video that injected the latest round of coverage. All these media had strong visual components. So did TV and newspapers that got on board. And let’s face it; Crosby and MacKinnon are not hard to look at. Plus they’re hockey heroes. Any picture with them will garner interest.
  1. Use of a #hashtag: Normally things that go viral have a #hashtag. I’ve looked, and as best I can figure on Twitter and Instagram, this campaign DID NOT receive one! It screams for a #DriveThruRookies. Perhaps a missed opportunity by Tim Hortons? I’m pretty sure their ad agency would have suggested one! Hashtags help channel content so that people who hear about it through media or WOM can quickly tune into the conversation.
  1. They understood timing: While WOM is subject to timing for tapping when people might care more, the media is absolutely governed by it. Media looks for stories that play out well for when their audience will care. Canadians care about hockey at the end of September. Back in the summer while camping and travelling, hockey was not top of mind. There is far more mileage to this campaign uploading those videos and generating media now then back in the summer.
  1. It got the attention of powerful social media users: Tim Hortons has over 350,000 followers on Twitter, over 120,000 followers on Instagram, and over 2.7 million likes on Facebook. There are about 10,000 subscribers to their Youtube channel. Simply by promoting it through their social channels, they got immediate exposure. Add to that, some well-known sports and media folks in those databases, and the exposure became exponential.
  1. Media monitor online media for stories: Both online and traditional print and broadcast media monitor online for stories to cover. Twitter is heavily used by reporters to find breaking news. Because they are in the business of gaining readers, listeners, viewers or followers, they need to know when something is “hot.” Twitter is their tool to find stories and detect if they are growing. Online feeds traditional media, and traditional media such as print and TV or radio broadcast, in turn feeds online again. It becomes a vicious circle of momentum building. That cycle explains why the story got exposure back in July and again gained momentum this past week.
  1. Discredit authority, poke fun at a hero: It’s fun to watch two guys who are stars playing hockey mess up the simplest of orders. The heroes are made humble, which makes them more personable.
  1. The use of humour: Of course the spots are heavily edited, but that was done to make them fun and entertaining. I have a hard time believing Sid the kid is that funny all the time. The repetitive “sorry’s” left me chuckling.
  1. Media craves the bizarre or unusual: Driving up to a Tim Hortons Drive Thru is pretty usual for most Canadians. Being served by your hockey hero is not. In the face of ISIS terror, faltering economies or an election campaign running a marathon, lighter news sells. This one delivered surprise and everyday Canadians response. We lapped it up.
  1. The use of celebrity: Not only did the spots feature celebrities, they tapped their social media circles, which had extensive reach.
  1. The power of storytelling: It’s human nature to love a story. This one had classic story composition: A hero or villain, a tragedy or challenge, a climax and resolution. The people entering the drive through were characters that helped flush out the richer details through their reactions and responses. They became heroes along with the hockey stars. It’s a story that will continue to unfold, as the people who were filmed continue to tell their story of meeting these hockey stars at the drive thru.

Ultimately it was a very Canadian feel good story. A perfect match for the Tim Hortons brand in Canada. And it followed the 10 point formula for going viral perfectly. Here’s my question to you: How could you tell your story using these 10 points, to generate more word of mouth, mouse, mobile plus media?




Marketing SOS: 5 Tips to minimize distractions

SOS is an international code signal of extreme distress used especially by ships at sea. But the SOS I want to talk about here is “Shiny Object Syndrome” in particular as it relates to our limited attention spans, constant interruptions, the need to chase down endless links online, monitor social media push notifications, and in general spending our days multi tasking in endless distraction. Let’s face it, it’s a nasty environment to try to stand out and get noticed in your marketing efforts. Collectively our target audiences are incessantly chasing shiny objects daily.

SOS_logoSo how does that play out on your business website and in your social media?

Are you spending your marketing efforts to land people to your website, only to entice them with a shiny object that chases them away? Framed more directly does your website contain countless links to videos hosted on YouTube, articles hosted on other media sites, or an endless parade of social media buttons that beg to be pressed? On one hand we want lots of back links to content, in particular content hosted on reputable sites, as links since it boosts our SEO. That article in the Huffington Post or New York Times immediately rockets you to the top of the respect list, but once there, do your readers return? And haven’t you been told that you need to get more followers, friends, subscribers and likes because it builds a following? But the very act of enticing folks to those pages, away from your site, also increases the likelihood that they will become further distracted while they’re chasing the next shiny object. We’ve all done it – linked to Facebook for an article, checked our newsfeed while there, and “poof” off we go looking at some other new piece video or quiz result. My fellow speaker friend Jane Atkinson calls these phenomena squirrels chasing nuts. Once they’re gone, they are not coming back to your content.

So how do you stand out, fuel search, build a following, while grabbing and holding the attention of an increasingly distracted audience? Frankly it’s a quandary.

The secret may lie in simplicity.

I got a glimpse of that earlier in September when Vancouver was hit by a massive windstorm, knocking out power to over 400,000 residents in the Lower Mainland. We personally were without power for 3 days. While it was an inconvenience for sure, many people I spoke to actually remarked that they enjoyed the serenity of being forcefully unplugged. Some played board games. Others made dinner on the BBQ and then sat around a family dinner table by candlelight and talked. We got out Scrabble and played for several hours. We made our own music with voice, piano and guitar. It was all so simple and there were no distractions.

What if your marketing could land in an environment of few distractions and one of peace? Here are a few ideas to achieve that.

1. Pick personal engagement media and be consistent: One of the reasons I stand by a regular newsletter is that it is one-to-one communication and personal. It’s permission based. Readers have granted me the key to their inbox and it’s an honor. I know I’ve got their undistracted attention for 5 minutes each week if I keep up my promise of providing value and arriving with predictable consistency. For my readership, the weekend, and Sunday morning in particular is a time of less distraction, one where they’re still thinking business, just in a less hectic state. Depending on your audience, I don’t think the date so much matters, but the consistency once chosen. (*If you’d like to view sample back issues of my newsletter or sign up yourself, click here to check it out)

2. Schedule social media posts to arrive at times when your audience is more apt to be receptive: Scheduling can be done within Facebook for business pages for example, but a more time efficient method is to use a dashboard service such as Hootsuite, where you can schedule posts for all your social media platforms for an entire week.

How you use scheduling will vary by audience. An entertainment company might use Thursday evening for people planning their weekends. A healthy food take out company might use the 3-4pm window weekdays, knowing that busy Moms and Dads will be on smart phones waiting to pick up or drop off kids and be looking for a solution to dinner. A client targeting downtown business people might consider having posts show up during morning commute, for those riding transit, or during lunch time – both times when folks tend to be focused on scrolling their smart phones.

3. Host content on your site as well as offering links for SEO: By all means post videos to your YouTube channel for search and organic discovery, but consider hosting the really important ones directly on your site as well. Then visitors can view the video and remain on your site undistracted. I’d suggest a similar approach for media coverage and article links. Hosting the content on your site ensures it can be read or viewed without leaving, but also providing a link to the media site where it appeared gives the authority angle while also boosting back link SEO.

4. Tame down or remove unnecessary social media distraction buttons: This one is a little contentious. You want visitors to be able to like and follow you on social media, but you don’t want it to be the first thing that causes them to immediately leap away from your site. A measured approach would be to make them easy to find, but not the equivalent of a neon banner when they first land.

5. Consider the use of non-digital to engage: Digital by its nature is distraction friendly – a dine and dash rather then a full course meal. We read differently on digital platforms – skim reading rather then taking more time. We expect links as we search for that next meal to graze. Non-digital media such as direct mail offer far less distraction. Tell me this – if you received a hand written post card in the mail tomorrow, would you not read it? A handwritten note by mail is a rarity these days. If you’re looking to be personal and not compete with other distractions, that’s about as simple as it gets. Kind of like having the power go out!

So beware how SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome) can foul up your marketing. Perhaps it’s time to consider the time, place, media and context of your message from your customer’s perspective, with the goal to hitting when there are fewer distractions.


What Iceland and Sweden can teach us about social media marketing: Trust & authenticity

Trust and authenticity.

You can’t buy it. You just have to earn it. And the only way to earn it is through being yourself and not hiding behind corporate speak or bureaucracy. That can be a challenge for some companies as they grow and figure out how to manage their message online using social media.

Enter Iceland and Sweden. Arguably, they aren’t corporations, but they are countries with a lot at stake. Tourism is a major industry in these far reaching northern areas, and nobody jets off there for a weekend like going to Vegas.

This spring, and continuing into this fall, Iceland is targeting global travelers with the help of a few friendly Gudmundur’s. 4,000 of them to be exact. Apparently there are 4,000 guys and gals named Gudmunder in Iceland out of a population of 329,000. Go figure. The Gudmunder’s have become “the world’s first human search engine.”


Launched as the #AskGundmunder social media campaign highlights the diversity of year-round experiences in the country by allowing people to submit questions on Iceland’s social media channels using the #askgundmunder hashtag, and one of 4,000 Gundmunder volunteers will respond to the question – unedited, and with authenticity. It’s a really cool initiative based on trust. Would you be willing to give the keys of your social media to 4,000 employees? Too scary? How about 5-10? I’m willing to bet for many readers, that is still scary enough. The approach is based on trust, and you know as a potential tourist, you’re getting the authentic goods. You can read and watch more about the campaign here.

Three years ago, Sweden launched a campaign called “The Curators of Sweden” where the country essentially allowed different citizens each week to tweet as the manager of the @Sweden Twitter account. The idea was to bring the voice of Sweden to Twitter. Arguably Sweden is a progressive country and socially liberal, but it was still an incredible act of trust to make such a move. It played out politically well too, as a demonstration of free speech in a world increasingly muffling citizens in many countries. You can learn more about the campaign through this recent NPR radio interview celebrating the third anniversary of the campaign.

But it’s what both of these campaigns have in common that really intrigues me: Trust and authenticity. Is there something to be learned here in our approach to social media for business? I think so. The more human you are, faults and all, the more authentic you will seem. People buy from those they know, like and trust. Authenticity is a huge part of that equation.





10 Reasons Why #DeadraccoonTO Became a National News Story in One Day

On July 9 a raccoon died in Toronto. By July 10 it was national and international news, which begs the question – why? And more importantly, if you’re in marketing – how?



Although it’s unlikely, for those that missed the story, a report of a dead raccoon was called into Toronto City Animal Services the morning of July 9th, and despite a timely initial response, the raccoon was not taken away for over 14 hours. In the ensuing hours a growing vigil spontaneously sprung up around the raccoon, as news of its untimely demise and neglect by city authorities went viral online and in the media. You can read all the details and see the Twitter visuals on Buzzfeed.com

Why did this story go viral?

  1. Strong visual. It was a toss up between poor taste and touching to see a dead raccoon up close with vigil items such as a framed photo, a rose and a condolence card later added. The key was visuals being added as the story unfolded, including a video of his final departure with a city worker. Everyone has a camera and video at their disposal these days on their mobile, so the fact that visuals told the story in a play-by-play fashion by random citizen reporters further added to the appeal.
  1. Discredit of authority. If there’s one universal appeal, it’s critique of those in authority, especially when they mess up, as became evident as the day unfolded and the raccoon remained unclaimed. Whenever the little guy can take revenge on the big guy, or someone with authority, the story will gain traction. In this case it was city workers. But it could just as easily be a business, an individual or an organization.
  1. The story got a #hashtag. Within a couple hours, as the story gained momentum, someone applied the hashtag #DeadraccoonTO. From that point on everyone on Twitter who was talking about it used the tag, which made it easier to “channel” the content and see how interest was building. It also allowed others to immediately tune into the channel of conversation and understand the whole story from a multitude of reports and perspectives.
  1. It tapped human psychology. There were a number of elements at play, but most prominent was “Statistical numbing” which helps explain why a single victim moves us more emotionally than many. It’s why we care about one child in a war zone with a survival story more then reports of 100s killed. Urban raccoons are not something we normally care about as a perceived menace. But given a single one in distress, it took on an emotional angle. You could also argue that anthropomorphism was at play, where human characteristics are applied to things no human. The vigil that grew resembled a roadside human death, complete with a framed photo of a raccoon, a rose, a condolence card and a candle.
  1. It got the attention of powerful Twitter users. Key to a story going viral online is the impact of key influencers. In this case several users with large numbers of online followers took to the story. Prominent was Toronto City Councillor Norm Kelly.
  1. Media monitor online media for stories. Both online and traditional print and broadcast media monitor online for stories to cover. Twitter is heavily used by reporters to find breaking news. Because they are in the business of gaining readers, listeners, viewers or followers, they need to know when something is “hot.” Twitter is their tool to find stories and detect if they are growing. Online feeds traditional media, and traditional media such as print and TV or radio broadcast, in turn feeds online again. It becomes a vicious circle of momentum building. That cycle largely explains why the morning of July 10 local and national news sources where talking about the raccoon, and why you likely saw it on some social media platform within the day.
  1. The use of humour. You might wonder where the humour is in a dead raccoon, but they found it. It was suggested online by someone on Twitter, that in solidarity for the lost raccoon and his forging urban counterparts, those citizens of Toronto leave their garbage can lids open for one night. Someone also posted on Twitter an image of Stephen Harper in parliament, with head bowed, obviously out of context, suggesting that the government of Canada was going to hold a national day or mourning.
  1. Media craves the bizarre. Starved of Rob Ford antics, the citizens of Toronto obviously needed new fodder. Enter the raccoon. The reality is that in the face of other important hard news such as ISIS terror or the plight of Greece in the EU, bizarre news sells. Call it human nature to want to hear about weird stuff. Perhaps its escapism from reality, but media knows that odd things make great headlines, and great headlines gain a following.
  1. The use of celebrity. Tagging a celebrity is usually good for gaining traction, since their followers, usually in the hundreds of thousands, will chime in. In this case, someone tagged a Drake photo, suggesting he was concerned for the raccoon. Momentum continued to build.
  1. The power of storytelling. It’s human nature to love a story. This one unfolded throughout the day. It had classic story composition: A villain, a hero, a tragedy or challenge, a climax and resolution. Along the way various characters added themselves to flush out the rich details. It was a story told live and developing, but the plot was built out by contributions of all who added online details to help tell it and spread the word. Never under estimate the power of storytelling for universal appeal, especially if you allow others to participate in how it unfolds.

Who would have thought a little raccoon that died could gain so much attention. The story certainly is an insightful example of how things go viral.

Triple threat media: Earned, pushed & paid

Media for our marketing efforts really fall into 3 buckets. I call them your triple threat if you get the combo right. The 3 buckets are: earned, pushed and paid.



  1. Earned media: We don’t pay for this media and we have little actual execution control over it, but we can certainly influence how it is attained. Earned media can come in the form of an article being printed about you, a TV or radio broadcast featuring your business, or in the online world, that article appearing on a website, blog or featured in video or audio form on someone’s site or podcast. The key is, the material is actually produced and hosted by someone else other than you or your business. Earned media can also come in the form of earning the right to have a submitted article that you wrote published on a news site, blog, or in actual print. Here, while you produced the content, it was still published, hosted and distributed by someone other then you or your business. Earning the right to have someone distribute in some way your stuff means you were worthy on some level. Your business was deemed successful; you were doing good, or what you submitted to be published was in some way of interest to the distributing media’s audience. That’s how we get earned media on our side. Earned media is awesome and authentic, but it is also the most labour intensive.
  1. Pushed media: Pushed is all the media that you personally “push” out there. It could include the anchored content from your blog, enewsletter, podcasts, website, infographics, whitepapers, videos or tips sheets. Pushed media is also content that you push and broadcast through social media channels – be it photos, comments, article or video links etc. While social media by its nature should provoke two-way engagement, the first act of engagement is to put content out through channels to reach a defined target, in order to have the basis of engagement. Pushed media feels like the new frontier with endless channels and a seemingly hungry audience. It can be like sipping from a fire hose at times. Pushed media is totally within your control, but you need to either curate content or create it, and the effectiveness is dependent on the reach and how well targeted your social media footprint is. The space is also getting more crowded making it increasingly difficult to stand out.
  1. Paid media: Paid media is that stuff, you guessed it, that you pay for. I classify paid media in both digital and traditional form to include paid placement of ads in print, broadcast, outdoor and direct for example, as well as paid targeting and boosting of online digital content such as paying to boost Facebook posts to a targeted audience, or paying for Google ad words. Paid media is within your control and can be either hyper targeted, or offer a mass broad reach like no other media option. Paid media has fallen a little out of favour with some folks currently enamored with push and earned media, but it’s clout should not be under estimated.

The honest truth is, while earned media may appear the holy grail, a solid combination of earned, pushed and paid is really what drives broad reaching awareness to a defined target audience. The reason for that is, the components of pushed and paid allow us to highly select an audience, ensure large numbers of exposures, and to a certain extent ensure multiple repeat exposures, that generally result in elevated awareness or whatever the defined goal of the campaign originally was. I’ll go one step further and suggest, not unlike when rock climbing, that at least 2 points of contact are needed to maintain balance, and 3 to be moving forward. The same applies to your media buckets. If you only have one, you will literally be just holding on. You need at least 2 of earned, pushed and paid, to achieve balance, but adding the third could really propel things forward.

3 tips for getting your articles published

Nothing screams you’ve got authority and are an expert quite like being published. And these days the options are far greater then before; traditional publishing and self-publishing of books, feature columns, op-ed pieces and one off editorial contributions. Distribution has expanded from traditional print newspapers and magazines and their online counterparts, to new digital only news platforms such as the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed (Canadian edition just launched this week) and local news sources such as VanCityBuzz.com which are gaining traction. Add to that well-read blogs, and there’s no shortage of publishing options.

So how do you get ink?

1. Pitching the idea: You can pitch media on an article idea, but in my experience having written for BIV, Strategy, Marketing Magazine, the Toronto Star, Cottage Magazine and Zoomer, a pitch accompanied by a solid draft or even tightly edited piece has always been what got me in the door. Knowing the audience demographics of the publication and reader interests in critical. Also knowing typical article lengths, topics covered in the past, and writing style is helpful. If an editor wants 700 words, don’t give them 750 because you can’t edit it any shorter. They will, and guaranteed they’ll chop something you wouldn’t have!

Pitch based on the geographic area of the people who will benefit from your message and find it relevant. Also keep in mind seasonal factors and lead up times, especially if it’s a magazine. For example a lifestyle piece I did for Zoomer Magazine about mother/daughter hockey passion ran in October, but was written and pitched back in March.

Think strategically about your email subject line when sending a pitch. Editors are writers and email subject lines are like headlines to them. As they scan their inbox, be sure to give them something that will grab their attention. Clever can be good, but don’t over complicate things.

2. The content: The who, what, where, when and why of the story is important if you are writing a pitch. But pay particular attention to the “why now” piece. Connecting your article to something timely is key to getting an editors attention. For example, my blog piece about disruption and flipping the airline model to charging for carry on and making the first checked bag free tapped into a current hot topic of frustrated flyers dealing with carry on restrictions and the approaching heavy summer travel season. It proposed a simple innovative solution. It also tapped into the growing use of social media as a feedback tool and the need for corporations to manage their brand through active engagement of consumer complaints. After the piece garnered considerable discussion the last couple weeks online and off, I blasted off a pitch to the Huffington Post last week to see if I could get pick up. Today, June 18, that piece appeared in their business section!














Be original and different. If you’re giving tips, make sure it’s not something that could just be Googled. Tap your expertise. Give the publication something they couldn’t otherwise get access to. General, generic vanilla won’t work. But sometimes being the contrarian can work – see above. Countering conventional viewpoints and backing up your argument can make for a solid piece.

3. Contacting media: While tagging media on Twitter can certainly get their attention and cut through the clutter, in my experience this is best if there is a pre-existing relationship. Otherwise email is a solid place to start. These days it’s pretty easy to scope out contacts online for the editorial desk and feature editors. Use the method of contact they list – some will list emails, some Twitter handles only. Do follow up. Just because you don’t hear back right away doesn’t mean they might not be interested. Their in boxes get jammed, but most diligently comb emails for content. It’s their job to find gems, and yours might be what they’re looking for. Don’t call them by phone unless they’ve contacted you already for a story. And know their deadlines if you are trying to reach them. Texting a reporters cell directly is likely one of the best ways to get an immediate response if they know you. But this should really be reserved for breaking news events where you are looking to be quoted, or helping them with a story, not trying to get your own piece published!

All these points apply to being a guest blogger as well. I’d suggest picking 3 or 4 well written and leading blogs in your area of interest. Follow them for a couple months and get a sense of content and readership through the comments. Make valuable (but not spammy promotional) comments to contribute to the conversation. Then consider contacting the blog host about guest posting in the future. I’d also recommend having a solid portfolio of written work on your own blog, so your content and style can be reviewed easily. The synergy of cross posting and guest blogging can be great, especially if the two blog audiences are well aligned and both parties have something to benefit from the relationship.

And what do you do when you score the big one and get ink? Be sure to share it on your digital platforms, put it out on social media, and in particular if it’s a publication with reputation such as the New York Times or Huffington Post, be sure to add the bi-line to your bio, and their logo to your promotional materials. Getting ink is about gaining recognition as an expert. Put it to good use.


Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is the next big thing. Select businesses have already figured this out, but the vast majority is yet to put it on their radar.

We’ve all got our “go to” guy or gal. That expert, the one you immediately think of when you need an area of expertise. We also all have certain people we follow, perhaps see as mentors, or just those that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. Influencers cross all age boundaries. An influencer could be an IT guru, a respected business leader, an amazing chef, a great writer or musician, a “dope skateboarder” (my son’s term not mine!), a fashion goddess, or someone who has a great music playlist. Influencers are highly respected and garner clout in their circles. (Incidentally “dope” means good in teenager1) Influencers are tapped in. They have tribes that follow them.


Influencers help take content to the next level. They lend credibility, and they help amplify reach and awareness, which in turn helps ensure the target audience, will consume the content.

Why are influencers so powerful? They have a pre-established audience that is receptive to their recommendations.

  1. Their followers trust them.
  2. They are a person, not a business or a brand, which makes them more personable and willingly received.
  3. Their voice cuts through the clutter of information overload, to their followers.

To get influencers onboard is to have their entire tribe working for you. And that’s pretty powerful stuff.

Consider this research into the power of influencers:

  • Offers shared by trusted advocates convert at a 3-10 times higher rate than offers sent by brands.
  • Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
  • Brand advocates are 70% more likely to be seen as a good source of information by people around them.

So how do you harness the power of an influencer?

  1. Identify the primary goal of your marketing strategy. Are you building brand awareness? Wanting to achieve more engagement? Do you need to generate more leads? Or perhaps you’re more focused on retention and loyalty. Depending on your goal, some influencers might be more powerful in some areas then in others. Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve.
  1. Indentify influencer types. Influencers might be current customers, industry experts, bloggers, members of the media, business partners, or internal team members. It’s important to consider the types first, then move on to individuals. That will keep you focused.
  1. Within those types, select specific individuals. Consider their capacity to reach others through writing, speaking or broadcasting in some way. Consider their involvement in public or private groups, online and off. Look at their level of expertise in the chosen area. Consider their social media footprint, in particular on platforms and in channels where your target market spends the most time. Your initial list of influencers doesn’t have to be large to be powerful, but you do want to grow it over time.
  1. Create great content worth sharing. Stuff that’s authentic and not overly promotional. Something that keeps the trust between the influencer and their followers. Think one-to-one-to-many when creating content. Your content will not be blasted out to the masses. It will be shared to that one person first, who will then choose (or not) to share it with their many. Framed from this perspective it’s about them, not about you. Give them something that will make them look smart, funny, insightful or connected to an inner circle in some way.
  1. Nurture the relationship. Always acknowledge and thank those that share your content. Help them out in other ways. There doesn’t always have to be a personal pay off.

Many times influencers are already within your scope of contact, but further outreach is always good. How do you find them? Read blogs in your area of interest and see who publishes good content and who makes intelligent comments and contributions on other blogs. Follow folks on Twitter who tweet within a channel (or #hashtag) of interest, are employed in the industry of focus, or who keep popping up as active with something valuable to contribute. Comb LinkedIn for contacts. See who is active on Facebook or Instagram in your area of interest. Read industry publications for who is being written about and who is contributing. Old fashioned network, and get to know who the players are. Even pick up the phone! (How novel – yes you can still talk on those things)

So there you have it. Get out there and harness the power of that green goldfish leading the others. And get the influencers tribe swimming in your direction!



5 Public relations tips to get more INK and AIR

Getting ink and getting air is the ultimate goal in the “earned media” game of public relations and publicity. Whether it be print media such as newspapers and magazines, or broadcast media such as radio or TV, getting noticed, talked or written about in traditional media can go a long way in forging greater awareness of your business, brand or ideas.

Press_old_fashionedIn an era where it seems we are all fighting to be heard above the noise within social media, it is easy to dismiss the simple and massive reach of more traditional media methods. All successful print and broadcast channels these days are also amplifying that content via digital means online, which means you actually achieve even further clout should you get coverage. And, once that coverage is online, it is there for you to further broadcast it through your own channels. The magic of course being that it is third party endorsement, and you can attach your success to the media’s brand. Not bad when that media might be CBC, NBC, the Globe and Mail or the New York Times! But it could just as easily be local media such as your community newspaper or local radio station, that might have tremendous clout with your existing and potential customers.

Achieving media coverage is a pretty compelling value proposition and certainly one worth devoting some effort towards. So here are five tips to make the task simpler and increase the likelihood of success.

  1. Know a reporters expertise. Reporters are inundated with press releases and pitches daily. If it’s not related to their area of coverage, they will hit delete. Ideally you are familiar with a reporters beat and have read or heard their stuff. Over the long term this will also gain you a respectful relationship with them, so that when you do send them something well targeted, they are more likely to respond. If you’re always shouting to everyone, nobody will listen. If you selectively speak to some when it’s genuinely important, they will listen.
  1. Make the reporter look good and help them serve their audience. Your real job in writing the pitch is to make that reporter look good to their boss. The best way to do that is to help the reporter serve his/her audience. The reporter lives and dies by how they serve their audience. The media outlet is also in the rating and social sharing game. They are obsessed with going viral. They want a story that readers or viewers will share online. The bottom line here is: it’s about them, not about you. If you can frame your pitch from that perspective, you will be ahead of 95% of the pitches sitting in reporters email boxes right now.
  1. Send media a story they are hungry for. What is in the news right now that is hot? (NDP winning in Alberta? Tanker traffic and spills? Foreign ownership and real estate prices?) These are local Vancouver examples, but you should frame it from the geographic area where you are and where you want to achieve coverage. What are some trends of interest? Is there a celebration day that is relevant for timely coverage? (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, International Women’s Day forexample). Lists are hot. Browse the headlines of Buzzfeed or the Huffington Post and you’ll see lots of lists – The 5 things you need to know… How to get a promotion in 3 easy steps…) Lists are good because they are finite, organized, have a takeaway and are shareable. They’re also idea for a population conditioned to receive information in bite size nuggets, which is increasingly the case in our time-starved society. How to and personal memoir success stories are also popular. We can attribute that phenomena to the Opera effect, being conditioned to crave success, or overcoming obstacles stories. The key here is to look at the publication or station you would like to target and see what would fit with their editorial style and reader or viewer interest. This of course requires you to do some homework, but it is that work which will help you stand out from others.
  1. You absolutely, positively need a compelling subject line. I’m talking email subject line here, but it could also be a catchy headline on Twitter if you were tagging or personal messaging a reporter on Twitter. Make the subject line clever, but simple. Shorter is better, and if you’re not sure how it will display on mobile (which is where it is most likely to be previewed or deleted), send yourself a test to your mobile device. These days your subject line needs to be mobile friendly. You want that headline to display fully and grab the reporter to click and read more. Frankly it doesn’t matter what is in the email if the recipient never makes it past the headline. Do your research, and model the existing style for the particular media you are targeting with your pitch. Check what kind of headlines they write. Get creative and draft yours in a similar light. Just remember while clever is good, don’t over complicate it.
  1. Keep the pitch short, simple and tight. If your communication is written poorly or is unclear, a reporter won’t have time for you. Make sure you tell the reporter what is in it for them and their audience first right at the very beginning. Essentially respond to questions such as, why is this relevant, and why now? Try to make a human and emotional connection. Put a short bio and contact information at the end. The reporter will read the headline, if it captures their interest, they will skim the text. Keep all of this relatively short, and again, remember the context of mobile viewing. Send yourself a test copy. Did it grab you? How long did it take to skim the copy? Sometimes an image within the body of the email (no attachments!) can tell the story quickly and hit an emotional hot button. If you’ve got an image that tells the story in fewer words, by all means use it, but be sure to size it right for the email so it loads quickly and displays properly. Again, send yourself a test first to your mobile device.

Of course these points are just about how to get the reporters attention. There is a lot more to consider if you score coverage, especially if interviewed. Practice thinking and talking in sound bites, since your interview will likely be edited.

The bottom line here is this: getting media coverage is free, but it requires a lot of work, and frankly you have to earn it. But that’s what makes it so valuable. It’s certainly worth the time to pursue, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

There are many great resources out there to help you with this (including a great marketing consultant that writes this fabulous marketing blog!) If you’d like to tap into fresh content and ideas about PR, www.prdaily.com is also a good place to start. They also have a great newsletter you can sign up to receive free tips.


Social media: Are all animals created equal, or are some more equal than others?

For anyone who read George Orwell’s 1949 book Animal Farm, you’ll likely recall this telling quote:

“All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

This politically fueled satire featured animals organizing their farm and occupants not unlike a state and its people. The eventual downfall of the system rife with alliances and greed pointedly was Orwell’s comment on a distaste of socialist dictatorship society.

Animal_FarmBut viewed from a different context, this quote has a modern day meaning when applied to social media. While there are many platforms out there, and many of us tend to treat them as all deserving our attention in the competition for eyeballs and engagement, some platforms are indeed more deserving then others.

A frequently occurring conversation in business circles is how busy people have become, and how hard it is to keep up with all the emails and social media. Add to that an uncertainty about the effectiveness of that time spent on social, and it becomes a murky place to navigate.

I believe seeing all options and social media platforms as equal largely fuels this frustration. Indeed as Orwell noted, some are in fact more equal then others. But which ones are “more equal” and thus deserving of your time, really depends on your business, your audience and your objectives.

So here are some 2015 statistics courtesy of Pew Research about some of the major social media platforms.


  • 71% of online adults use Facebook. Of those:
  • Women: 77%
  • Men: 66%
  • 18-29: 87%
  • 30-49: 73%
  • 50-64: 63%
  • 65+ 56%

Of relevance here is the broad cross population coverage of the platform, and particularly 18-49 with the highest concentration in the 18-29 year old bracket. While Google + has tried to break into this market, Facebook remains the dominant player for a broad based audience channel. It’s part of the reason they have been successful monetizing sponsored posts and getting companies to pay to boost their content. They have a huge repository of personal information and profiling, and for the time being, the cost to boost posts is relatively inexpensive if done well. It is however the 2015 equivalent to being a display ad in a paper people are reading, it’s just that you get to select who will see your ad buried in their news feed. For smaller companies or individuals perhaps using a personal account rather then a business page, the non-monetized options are actually not bad – if you post publically, have solid followers, and have enough clout to have your content rise in search.


  • 26% of online adults use Instagram. Of those:
  • Women: 29%
  • Men: 22%
  • 18-29: 53%
  • 30-49: 25%
  • 50-64: 11%
  • 65+ 6%

Of relevance is the fact that it is not as broadly used as Facebook, but the heavy use by 18-29 group is relevant if that correlates well with your target market. It is also very visual and conversational, so if your content is visually oriented towards a younger audience and you want to build community this is a good one. Of frustration for business use is the limited ability to link to other stuff except through your home identity, so the key seems to be to change that URL when you have something relevant to link to (such as a blog post or offer) and refer to it in the post.


  • 23% of online adults use Twitter. Of those:
  • Women: 21%
  • Men: 24%
  • 18-29: 37%
  • 30-49: 25%
  • 50-64: 12%
  • 65+ 10%

Of relevance is the profile of the 25-37% who do use it, as well as the heavier use by younger populations. Those that do use Twitter regularly are generally highly engaged in a topic or area of interest. Twitter is also heavily used by media to monitor stories and get tips on content. The nature of the medium in being able to follow and tag, can give easier access to journalists then email is some cases. Twitter is also becoming much more visual with the sharing of images and video. The bottom line is, Twitter will never have the broad uptake of Facebook, but it has strategic uses for growing the audience for your content and for getting media attention.


  • 28% of online adults use LinkedIn. Of those:
  • Women: 27%
  • Men: 28%
  • 18-29: 23%
  • 30-49: 31%
  • 50-64: 30%
  • 65+ 21%

Of relevance is the broad use across age groups, the profile of who is using it being business oriented, the type of content shared also being business oriented. The 30-64 group has the highest use frequency. This makes it an excellent platform for B2B sharing and networking as well as personal brand building.


  • 28% of online adults use Pinterest. Of those:
  • Women: 42%
  • Men: 13%
  • 18-29: 34%
  • 30-49: 28%
  • 50-64: 27%
  • 65+ 17%

Of relevance is the high percentage of women who are engaged on the platform, in particular younger women 18-29 but the platform has solid uptake by women 30-64 as well. This platform is highly visual, so if you have a lot of visual content and women are your audience, this could be a good one to focus on.

My suggestion for those who find themselves time starved is to pick one or two to focus on with effort. Pick those that make the most sense for your business and audience. Only add others when time and effort allow, or put them in “maintenance mode.” Additionally using a platform such as Hootsuite, which is a dashboard that integrates all your social media and allows you to monitor and schedule posts, can make management easier. You then have a one stop shop to check once a day, or to set things up for the week and get back to work.

Really it comes down to good time management and having a strategic focus. In the end, while it may appear that all social media platforms are equal and deserving of your time, in fact some platforms are more equal then others!

Is it “time” for Apple to disrupt again?

Last week Apple launched the long anticipated and rumor rampant Apple Watch. As with all things Apple, product leaks and speculation had been swirling for some time. While not widely available for retail until April, CEO Tim Cook’s launch week was aimed squarely at building momentum and desire. Starting at $349 and spiraling upwards to over $1,000 with deluxe bells and whistles, and even available in a gold plated $10,000 model, this is obviously a product aimed at affluent early adopters in advanced economic regions of the globe.

Apple_watchThe question then begs, who is the target market? And will it be deemed a necessary addition to an Apple dedicated owners suite of products to compliment an iPhone and likely an iPad and Apple laptop or desktop?

The watch itself appears a slick marriage of technology, fashion and lifestyle. Christy Trulington Burns, an American model currently representing Calvin Klein’s Eternity campaign was chosen to launch the watch, no doubt for her fashion credentials. She is shown training for a half marathon in Africa using the watches fitness devices, highlighting her charity, Every Mother Counts, which works to combat maternal mortality. You can watch a video about how she uses the watch here. Given the watches personal trainer capabilities, Apple Pay system to tap and go like a wallet, and hands free messaging, being able to listen and dictate messages and emails, as well as general web browsing capabilities on a micro scale, my take is that the target market spans the fitness buff, the fashion forward, and the tech early adopter in general, and anyone who has already committed to other Apple products with fierce loyalty.

As such, the tap and go wallet or the hands free messaging capabilities on their own are enough to be a disruptive technology with significant uptake.


If you’re curious to learn more about the Apple Watch, here’s a link with some features and video about it.

Apple has a history of disruptive technology.

Just think about what the iPod did to the music industry, disrupting CDs and retail music distribution with iTunes. Just think about what the iPad did to ebooks, book retailing and distribution, and the way we interact with printed matter in general spanning to newspapers and magazines. And consider what the iPhone did to cell phone communication in general, launching the mobile internet, and a litany of apps we arguably can’t live without now, as well as disrupting the camera industry. One could argue their latest technology is now even disrupting their earlier technology. Why would you buy an iPod when your smartphone can hold it all? Maybe you don’t need an iPad mini if you have an iPhone 6 plus.

So could the Apple Watch do the same thing?

Certainly it changes the competitive turf for watch manufacturers. That’s a direct hit. What about credit cards and payment services? What about fitness bands like Nike Fuel and other fitness product devices? And what about smart phones in general? Could wearable voice activation communication eliminate the need to type on a device? It’s starting to feel a little like a Star Trek episode. Too bad Spock didn’t live to see it! The watch certainly could change the issue with distracted drivers texting. And it represents interesting challenges for faculty supervising students during exams.

Only time will tell once the early adopters have gobbled it up. If there is significant uptake, it certainly could be disruptive. There seems to a lot of buzz about wearable tech and the Apple watch could well be the gateway drug for broader acceptance.

What’s the lesson is all this for marketers?

I think we need to accept disruption and look for opportunity in it. Rather then fear the threats that come with it, focus on the changes needed now to possibly capitalize on shifts that could be coming. What might that look like?

  • Apps with simple interfaces suitable for super small screens.
  • Voice activated Apps.
  • Voice activated mobile friendly websites. While such a thing may not exist now, it likely will in the future. Perhaps I’ve just given you your next $1 million dollar idea?
  • Medical monitor of fitness vitals and wireless, remote one on one personal training.
  • Hotel room key free entry.

Remember, many people were stumped initially as to why we would all need an iPad when we already had a laptop and iPhone. And what on earth would we do with all those album covers if we could fit over 2,000 songs on a little thing called an iPod?

The marketing lesson ultimately is this: Sometimes we don’t know what we need until it arrives. And when there is significant uptake of a new disruptive technology, business needs to anticipate and prepare for the permanent shift taking place.