Monthly Archives: February 2014

Extracurricular Activities: POD Camp TO 2014 and CPRS’s Building Media Relationships

POD Camp Logo

Despite the fact that the busy weeks of the CCPR I mentioned in a previous post have ended, I have nonetheless been busy with school work.  Luckily I was able to enjoy some extracurricular activities last weekend when I had some free time.  On Saturday, I volunteered for Pod Camp Toronto 2014 held at Ryerson’s  and on the following Monday evening I was able to attend an event put on by the Canadian Public Relations Society entitled Building Media Relationships at the University of Toronto.  I thought I would share these experiences with my few readers.

Pod Camp

Pod Camp’s are “un-conferences” that happen in cities all across North America which bring a diverse mix of professionals from the world of digital media, communications, podcasting and basically anything else related to those fields that attendee’s might find interesting.  It’s called an “un-conference” because it is pretty free-flowing and informal.  Essentially, if you are someone who has done something interesting and you want to share it to a wider audience, POD Camp will give you some space for a presentation.  The first Pod Camp happened in Boston in 2006, and since then they have sprung up in different cities.  While they are all alike in their style, each city hosts these events individually, so naturally ours were all local Toronto people.  The main thing I can say about Pod Camp is that it is extremely diverse.  On Saturday there were talks about: analytics, podcasting, authorship, artificial intelligence and publicity.  The best part of all is that Pod Camp is free thanks to generous sponsorship.

My main reason for going was to meet some of these interesting individuals, including Samuel Dunsinger who is one of the key organizers.  I was also eager to meet some of the other Public Relations students in the cities who are at other colleges.  Of course I was able to meet Samuel and a few of my PR cohorts from Seneca College, all of whom were very friendly.  I also had the pleasure of using a new Microsoft Surface Tablet (they are pretty slick) and get a good look at a 3D printer!  Lastly, I was hoping to meet some PR Professionals who I could rub elbows with.  Even though I had pre-greased my ‘bows, I wasn’t able to rub them on anybody.

Fortunately I was able to attend a talk about getting publicity put on by Daniela Syrovy, the President of Clutch Public Relations, a boutique PR agency in Toronto.  She runs a small firm and in my opinion is pretty much living the dream.  Her talk was mostly about the need for small businesses to use Public Relations tactics to help their sales.  She emphasized the value of PR over advertising and stressed the importance of tailored and short press releases that will gain wide attention.  In many ways she reiterating lessons I had already learned in class, but it felt validating to hear them again.  One thing I would like to point out is how awesome her work sounds.  I assume the dream for many communicators is to eventually run their own agency where they can pick the clients they want to work with.  When an audience member asked about facing difficulties in getting her clients good press, she confidently replied that all of her clients were awesome, and she only works with clients she truly believes are awesome.  Since her main clients are in the Arts and Film industry, I’d say she is right.

Obviously there were lots of interesting presentations, but there are two that I would like to share.  First, Anthony Marco, an educator and podcaster gave an interesting presentation on how to create an authentic voice.  He was an excellent and engaging speaker who gave a pretty brief overview of how speaking for a podcast is fundamentally different from other forms of media.  He pointed out the intimacy that exists in a podcast between the speaker and the listener, how it is an individual experience for each member of the mass audience.  He also was really admirable for the fact that he is doing what he loves.  He does all sorts of podcast on pretty nerdy topics, but you can tell he is passionate about his work (or hobbies).  His audience was quite involved and asked many questions, which he happily answered.  While I don’t currently podcast, it is something I would like to do in the future and I’m sure I’ll keep his advice in mind.

One other presentation that I couldn’t attend (but did supervise) was Marco Petkovski who gave a really popular talk on helping start-up companies to use analytics. The small room he presented in was so full that people were sitting on the floor, and afterwards he was gracious enough to answer everybody’s individual questions for more than 30 minutes.  He is currently working at digital design firm Teehan+Lax, who have an awesome website and who are doing some very interesting work.  Though I haven’t started my course on online measurement and metrics, I feel his talk will prove useful in the future.  Anyway, I won’t describe the details because I have found a video of his Pod Camp presentation:

PodCamp Toronto, Helping Startups Use Analytics, Marco Petkovski, February 22, 2014, Ryerson University

CRPS Building Media Relationships



One of the best things about being a student again is getting the student discount for professional societies.  When I was working in Communications previously, I wanted to join one of them, but wasn’t prepared to pay the steep member price.  Just a few weeks ago I was minted as a student member of the Canadian Public Relations Society.  Naturally I was eager to attend any event that brought me together with others in the industry.  On Monday night CPRS Toronto hosted a seminar for students entitled Building Media Relationships.

The panel included two journalists and three public relations professionals: Carly Weeks from the Globe and Mail, Katia Ostapets from FAJO Magazine, Kelly Baita from Strategic Objectives, Robin Smith from National PR, and Nina Kalos of Veritas PR.  This panel was diverse as Carly Weeks writes on Health, Katia writes on Fashion Events, Robin respresents technology clients, while Kelly and Nina represent a wide range of consumer clients.  I really enjoyed having the opportunity to hear questions answered from both sides of the industry.  As a PR student, I am always getting valuable advice from my profs who were former PR professionals, but we don’t get to hear the opinions of journalists.  It’s nice to hear the opinions of journalists at the same time as PR folk.  One of the best things I took away from the panel was the kind relationship Journalists and PR people have.  I naturally assumed they antagonized each other, but each of the speakers really enforced the need to create friendships above and beyond the professional relationship.

I have to admit that the attendance was a little dismal given the amount of PR students and young professionals within the Toronto industry.  I figure any opportunity I have to interact with industry-types outside of the classroom is something I should capitalize on.  I hope CRPS keep hosting these type of events that support students who require all the help they can get.

Don’t miss PODCamp next year, and be sure to keep an eye out for CPRS events folks, you may live to regret it.

So long and thanks for all the commercials

Official 2014 Olympic Sponsors

                                                                Official 2014 Olympic Sponsors

Last week while driving home I was listening to Lawrence Ben-Eliezer on AM640 lament the corporate and political motivations behind the Olympics.  Specifically, he was disgusted that the Olympics feel like a two-week long advertising bonanza where corporate sponsors get to inundate the masses with feel-good commercials.  While I felt he was being overly cynical, I generally agreed with him.  On the political side of things, there was a lot of hand-wringing by the media over many elements that threatened to derail the Olympics before they even began: the threat of terrorism from the caucuses, Russia’s human rights abuses towards the LGBT community, the corrupt Russian plutocracy, the state of Sochi itself, and so on.

Now that the Olympics are over I feel many of these issues didn’t really matter, or at least didn’t define the Sochi games as they potentially could have.  Nothing overly terrible happened in Sochi that will be blight on Olympic experience when we look back.  I think we will look back on Sochi as a great Olympics despite some of the early gaffes.  Sure the Olympics are practically owned by giant multi-national corporations like McDonalds, Visa, Budweiser, Proctor & Gamble and Coca-Cola, but as a viewer the actual companies and their products didn’t really seem that prevalent.  After seeing Budweiser’s commercial for the Red Zeppelin that lit up whenever Canada scored a goal, I didn’t want to go out and buy a case of beer, I wanted to see Canada win.  After Proctor & Gamble commercial celebrated Canadian moms, I didn’t want to buy laundry detergent, I wanted to hug my mom.  All these commercials focused on stoking the fire of Canadian nationalism.  As a Canadian, it felt nice to spend two to three weeks awash in nationalistic propaganda.  We are generally a humble nation who are not prone to gloating or celebrating ourselves and our accomplishments, so it really felt good to be constantly engaged in this spectacle of pride.

From Canadian Olympic Committee's Instagram

                                                             From Canadian Olympic Committee’s Instagram

It also felt good to turn on the news and see stories about Canadians that were inspiring.  Too often the news focuses on crime, corrupt politicians, revolution, and useless celebrity stories.  Having two full weeks of Olympic coverage was a nice break from hearing endless about Rob Ford and Justin Beiber.  Between endless commercials celebrating Canadians and news coverage about the triumphs of our amazing athletes, I couldn’t help but feel great about Canada as a whole.  This stoking of nationalism isn’t just about celebrating our athletes; it’s about corporate advertising helping us to mold our national identity.  The “We Are Winter” rallying cry and hashtag created by the Canadian Olympic Committee was a perfect slogan to unite us.

On the projection front, Canada couldn’t have looked better. One of the best things about being Canadian is our status and reputation around the world for being humble, polite and generous.  As a citizen of the world, Canadians are generally welcome everywhere.  Even American’s are known for stitching a maple leaf to their travel bags so they can piggyback on our stellar reputation when they venture outside their boarders.  Our athletes, coaches and Olympic delegation are our faces to the world and they were fantastic representatives.  They were inspiring, generous, supportive, beautiful and most importantly competitors.  We owned the podium pretty damn well this time around.

To top it all off, the Olympics culminated in the men winning the gold in hockey.  As a final reminder of how gracious we can be even in victory, shortly after the game ended the hashtag #hardtotrashtalkSweden was trending across Twitter in Canada.

So, thank you corporate sponsors and partners of the Olympics for reminding us who are, for making us feel pride, and for allowing us to celebrate ourselves.

We were winter.  Now back to reality.

Team Building Reflection: True Colours Workshop (Assignment)

The True Colours Workshop is an interesting way to learn characteristics about yourself that you essentially already know.  The results of my assessment told me that Green Planet was my ruling colour by far, as I scored 24 out of 24 for that category.  When I read the description I felt that it was uncannily true.  In many ways I already knew that I had these qualities, but it was easier to identify these traits once it was told to me by an external source.  I think it’s natural to define ourselves not only by the colours our assessment revealed, but also in contrast to the colours that are least like ourselves.

On the positive side of things, I do feel that I bring a wide perspective as a team member, I am concerned with the bigger picture and striving for perfection, which I think is a useful trait to have in a group, but I can imagine how it might be annoying to others.  On the more negative side, I am definitely aware that I have never been one to care for the details or adhering to strict schedule as I prefer to live and work in my own organized chaos.  My desire to improve upon other people’s ideas or processes could also be interpreted as rude or insensitive. I’m sure that these types of qualities are frustrating to my team members and it is something I will need to improve upon. I don’t want this assessment to result in some rigid definition of myself, so I try to see it as an opportunity for growth.

One thing that surprised me is how well these colours actually defined us as groups.  Beforehand I didn’t truly believe that any sort of assessment with only four distinct types could be truly illuminating.  However, while the assessment may not be perfectly accurate on the individual level, I found it was certainly true at the group level.  I would be interested to see the groups sub-divided further into their primary and secondary colours, if only to see if that would be even more accurate.  Additionally I was also surprised to find our dear professor was an orange, as I imagined Project Management naturally attracted golds.  By contrast, I felt that Donna might also be a green, and for some strange reason I felt reassured when I found out she was.

When I think about the different groups that I have been working in so far, I can definitely see how the colours play an important role.  Rather than it being something positive or negative, I feel its information that is useful for breaking up tasks that play to each team members individual strengths.  For example, if I am working with a gold in my group, it only makes sense that they do the scheduling while I look at the process so that we get the best mark as a team.  Of course it would be equally valuable to do the opposite, so that we are forced to overcome our weaknesses.

In the future I would like to make sure I was working in a group with an eclectic mix.  Though I am clearly partial to other greens (and blues) I recognize that a successful group requires the diverse traits of all members.  In a professional setting, it would be useful to know the different colours of my co-workers, but I would rather try my best to understand their colour profile by interacting with them, rather than them being labeled beforehand.  If work was always allocated based on colour profiles, we would never have the chance to change and grow.

If True Colours was a movie, it would be a story about self-discovery that results in tribalism through the hubris of pride.  It would leave each viewer feeling strangely accomplished and self-assured, with a lingering distrust of others.  After it ended the viewer would turn to their friend to discuss the film, only to find that they had seen something entirely different.  Every viewer would feel that they were the protagonist of the film, even when it couldn’t possibly be true.  Each viewer would enthusiastically give two thumbs up to their own interpretation, while struggling to understand the viewpoint of other critics.  In the end it would be an eye-opening and valuable film to see.

As a team member I am definitely drawn to the larger elements such as: planning for the project, determining what is in and out of scope, and focusing on the project deliverables.  These elements naturally become my focus because they play to my strengths.  I have less interest in the scheduling the work, monitoring the progress and creating the critical path because I find those elements tedious.  I prefer to take a leadership role in the project and would have a difficult time having work delegated to me, which could be a real weakness if we had another member who also wanted to take a leadership role.  I feel that I would definitely need a gold team member to keep me on track throughout the project.

The major take away from Project Management has been to treat this whole certificate program as if it were a larger project involving the entire class. I am trying to think in terms of critical path and to have my deliverables ready when I have group work so that my group mates have the resources they need to accomplish their own work.  I have also tried to apply some of the elements from class to my blog.  For example, I think about not sacrificing quality in the interest of getting something done quickly.  Since I am not detail-oriented by nature, I would also like to create a production schedule, to keep myself writing regular updates.  It will take some time and effort to truly implement project management principles to my daily life.