Archive for the 'Communications Strategy' Category


I’ve been a proponent of the Open Government philosophy for a number of years. Democracy and accountability need to go hand-in-hand. We, the people, elect our government. Our government is then held accountable to us. It began formally with freedom of the press legislation in Sweden in 1766, something most of us in western democracies take for granted, yet is being threatened by closed-door governments like Stephen Harper’s.

Open is the world’s first short film about Open Government, Open Data and Open Source (excluding documentary and editorial films). When my good friend Richard Pietro invited me to join the project, I was happy to share in the journey. First, he asked me to help as script supervisor – work with him to finalize the script and on shooting day, help coach the actors with their lines. Sure, I’d done similar work before on small projects.

From there, I joined in the casting process, the choice of locations, props, storyboarding, shot lists, and all. While Richard continued to make the phone calls and do the leg-work in coordinating things, it became clear that my creative input was touching every aspect of the film. He upgraded my title to Producer as we headed into the film shoot.

Julian Frid as Now, this was my and Richard’s first time producing a film project like this. We’d both tinkered with video in our own ways, but not to this degree. With the support of Make Web Not War, I think I can safely speak for us when I say we’re amazed with what we produced as a team. Everyone involved did their best to make this film as good as it could be, given our constraints.

The film has been live since Monday, and I’ve been amazed watching it spread around the Twitter-sphere and the world.

We don’t expect that you’ll finish watching the film and suddenly get it – Whoah! – like “Old School”.

Rather, we hope that it will inspire curiosity to learn more about the philosophy of the Open movement as it applies to #OpenGov, #OpenData and #OpenSource. After all, big-G Government is a made by us and for us. It is fluid and ever-evolving, and that evolution should be open and collaborative.

Please enjoy the film, and share it with your friends.

You’ve watched it? Good. You’ll notice there’s a gag inspired by Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That was an honest mistake – it was a 16-hour day and we forgot to capture a panning shot of the room. It would have been a challenging shot, to be honest. As Richard and I learned through this project, lighting a film is not simple. At. All. We discussed it, and decided to take our lumps, roll with the punches and inject some humour. We can’t be afraid of our mistakes, right? We learn and move on.

I hope the gag didn’t distract you from the story of Old School and New School – we kept it as short as we could. I also think by not showing you our version of the Open Workplace, your mind will remain open to every possibility.

Be sure to watch the credits at the end. A lot of amazing people were involved, and the music is good too!

Is The Brochure Dead?

Who still writes brochures? I mean, I do on occasion. Grudgingly.

Surely this time-honoured communications medium still has its place in marketing and communications. But do they still work, when nearly everyone has ubiquitous web access from connected smartphones?

Sometimes an organization’s clients like to receive brochures, even request them. They’re easy to file, they’re portable, and can be passed between hands.

Not everyone is immersed in the world of the social web, where links are shared like words at the water cooler. For those who operate outside of this space a brochure might be the equivalent to these hyper-sharable links.

But if your brochure is going to be effective, it has to resonate with the reader in some way. Think about the things people share online. They elicit a reaction; they make the reader laugh, or cry, or they inform and teach something interesting or useful. They connect with us on some level.

Does your brochure do that? If not, it’s inert. Maybe even dead and likely to wind up in someone’s recycling bin. My title wasn’t really asking if THE brochure is dead, but whether YOURS is.

I’m not suggesting that brochures are websites, photos or videos. I’m suggesting that a brochure is like a short story. Maybe it could be the 4-pane comic adaptation of your company or organization’s novel. Those 4-pane comics get stuck to refrigerators and bulletin boards all the time.

Maybe your story needs to be told with some slick photos or graphics, and words you could fit into speech bubbles.

Chinese Consumers Use Social Media to Tackle Multinational Appliance Manufacturer

Have you heard of “Refrigeratorgate?”

Luo Yonghao, popular blogger and owner of  Laoluo English Training School, discovered a little over a month ago that he wasn’t the only one having difficulty with the door of his Siemens brand refrigerator. Using the extremely popular Weibo (aka “Chinese Twitter”), he’s found more and more people whose refrigerator doors won’t close properly.

Early on Sunday, November 20, Luo gathered outside the Siemens headquarters in Beijing with 3 of the faulty fridges and a small cluster of protestors and media. They proceeded to smash the fridges with sledgehammers. Now, Luo didn’t want to create a public scene, so he hired someone to clean up afterwards. He was going for media attention more than public disturbance, anyways.

Now, the story is just reaching English media. Luo’s quite a character, and he’s made it his personal mission to seek justice for fellow consumers. He’s demanding that Siemens acknowledge the design flaw, apologize and offer a recall for the affected fridges.

So far Siemens of China has denied that there is a flaw in the design or manufacturing of the fridges. In October, Siemens published an offer to send repair technicians to owner’s homes to fix the faulty doors.

This story is a lot like the antennagate issue that came up with the launch of the iPhone 4 in July 2010. Apple didn’t offer a recall, but gave early purchasers a free case or bumper.

According to communications shared by Luo and reported in English on a Chinese blog (wait for it, this link loads slowly), Siemens’ PR agency spoke with Luo and discussed the issue with him. He made some recommendations for an announcement, which was then heavily spun before being released. Then the agency posted astroturf-style messages online defending Siemens.

This is all entertaining as an outsider, but this is a missed opportunity for a multinational manufacturer with a good international reputation in a gigantic market with the fastest growing economy.

Apple’s uniqueness, excellent customer service and a fantastic product easily overcame antennagate, but can a common fridge do the same?

One thing is for sure, social media is showing its ability to influence consumer behaviour in China, just as it’s shown here.



Communicating Green

How green is your workplace?

For most of human history, our day-to-day survival was intimately linked to the world around us. Small changes in weather patterns, over hunting of herds, over-harvesting of wild plants, and poor maintenance of soils, directly impacted the success of nomadic people. To the point where a tribe considered their impact on their surroundings with everything they did.

As humans developed farming technology, keeping of animals, and stationary civilizations, we gained a greater level of control over our success.

To the point where, over generations, we forgot how important it is to consider the impact of our activities on the environment. Technology and the industrial revolution accelerated the damage to environments, and people noticed drastic changes within individual lifetimes and we remembered how intimately we are connection to the environments around us.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of the leading environmental organizations in the world today. WWF has launched their Living Planet @ Work community, with major partner Hewlett Packard, to bring workplaces on board with considering the impacts of the decisions made in their offices every day, and placing people and the planet above profits.

Using clear calls to action, checklists, reference materials and whitepapers WWF aims to develop a community of Green Champions in companies around the world. These champions are asked to put green on their company’s agenda and support WWF programs through fundraising.

I’m involved in PWGSC’s “Green Team” in our Ontario Region office, to what extent I’m able. I’ve helped with editing and developing messaging for the team’s events or activities in the office. Most recently, for Waste Reduction Week, where the team aimed to increase awareness around unnecessary printing; asking people in the office to really think about what they print and whether it’s necessary to create paper copies of documents.

Clear goals and calls to action are absolutely key to bringing new people into these types of initiatives. I think WWF has done a great job with Living Planet @ Work.

The Cultural Firewall and Intrapreneurs

Today, GovCamp was good.

If I had to pick one session that really got me thinking…

Not even session… expression…

It would be the cultural firewall.

The elephant in the room when we discuss tools and technologies that enable communication and collaboration.

The barriers to collaborative technology are dropping and have little to do with technical know-how in  2011. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and most people are capable of learning.

It’s culture. The absence of willingness to collaborate on a broad scale. And no matter how much a majority of people in large organizations are rapped over the head with benefits to collaboration and open communication, they won’t do it. In some cases it’s perceived risk. In other cases it runs much deeper.

Grudges that co-workers have harbored for well over a decade can be a huge impediment to collaboration; grudges are very common in large organizations.

How can we begin to expect bottom-up collaboration within an organization under these conditions.

Senior managers need to force these changes in practices down to middle managers and to staff. Or, the only people who will leverage the tools that organizations offer are the “intrapreneurs” who gather with like minded colleagues to develop and implement innovative ideas.

Marj Akerley and Ryan Androsoff pointed out this elephant in the room during their Innovation, Culture and Risk session, but addressing it isn’t enough to affect growth.

In some cases the 90-9-1 rule (where 90% lurk, 9% contribute and 1% lead) is acceptable and to be expected. Like the case of the Mozilla browser. In other situations we need to expect better than 9% contribution in our organizations. We need to tear down the cultural firewall one worker at a time.

Intrapreneurs can achieve a lot by working together and sidestepping the non-innovators. But not as much as an entire organization of innovators.

Why the Hate On Sony?

Another attack on Sony. This time the Sony Ericsson Eshop online store in Canada.

There’s a lot of talk about word-of-mouth, and the internet giving customers a participating role in the lives of their favorite brands.

What about the internet giving ‘hackers’ a role in brands that offend them?

Are these the actions of a Bad World? Or the results of bad PR moves by Sony?

I have some issue with hardware manufacturers taking freedom from consumers to do as they wish with purchased products.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like Sony picked a fight with hacker communities when they went back on their word and told us that the PS3 couldn’t have Linux installed on it. Then Sony took legal action against people who cracked the hardware and software of PS3 systems.

I take issue with Apple’s control over iOS devices, and I take issue with Amazon’s control over Kindle devices. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about the openness of PCs and PC gaming.

But, I also believe people should pay for games they enjoy, and developers should make reasonable efforts to protect their properties from theft. Reasonable, being the key word.

With some exception, piracy has been shown to do little damage to game and music sales. In some cases, piracy has benefited the bottom line of some games – like Minecraft.

There’s the old saying “let sleeping dogs lie.” Sony picked a fight with a sleeping dog, and now the brand is getting bitten hard. To make matters worse, they’re flip-flopping on their messaging. Their CEO is blaming the cruelness of the world, where some hostile people have taken offense to Sony’s hostility.

Now the biggest losers are Sony and their loyal customers, who’s account data are being stolen. It’s time for Howard Stringer to own up to Sony’s failures. They need to issue apologies to their loyal customers and developers. They have some relationships to rebuild. While they’re at it, maybe they should open the system up to Linux installs again.

I sure hope Sony does something right and the attacks stop, so I can enjoy my PS3 and the PSN without concern for my account information.

Newtonian Physics Applied to Social Media Metrics

Some of those who know me personally might know that I began my undergraduate studies in civil engineering. I transferred out of that after realizing that engineering wasn’t what I expected and that I wanted to try other things.

On my path out of high school and in university, I had a lot of exposure to physics – particularly mechanics of the static and dynamic variety. Fancy words for figuring out the forces responsible for making things stable and stationary, or making them move.

So I said to myself, “Self, these ideas, information, memes, trends, and things we communicators work with – they all move.” Or they stay stationary. But in the fields of communications and marketing we want them to move.

I began thinking about how Sir Isaac Newton’s theories, laws and formulae for describing physical motion can be adapted to describe, measure and maybe even predict the spread of ideas through social media with some level of accuracy. I’m not sure if any of the numerous companies and individuals involved in measuring the web have explored this path. I’d love to have a conversation about it with people involved in measurement and developing tools to do it.

I’m not even sure this is a feasible concept. Particle physics and projectile motion are very different from human communication. I began from the thought that messages and ideas could be described as having paths with direction, speed, acceleration, force… but mass is my stumbling block.

If you’re interested in discussing this harebrained idea of mine, it could be a fun conversation. Or maybe there’s something to it.

What do you think? Have you ever tossed around ideas like this?

Photo credit – Claire Sutton (Flickr CC Search)

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