December 1, 2010

World Aids Day December 1 2010

Posted in current events tagged at 4:17 pm by Jennifer

Every day two people are infected with HIV in Toronto, gay and bisexual men account for more than half of all new HIV diagnoses in Toronto and one out of every five people diagnosed with HIV in Toronto is a woman. (

As shocking as locally relevant statistics can be we all largely have the same type of reaction; “that’s terrible” followed by feeling safe with the thought that “it will never happen to me”.

In 2006 the current mayor of Toronto Rob Ford made the following offensive comment; “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably”. The backlash was immediate and lasting but I think Ford’s comment is a reflection of the stigma that still exits in society.

The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s dangerous. The fact is AIDS/HIV has become a “blame the victim” infection and neglects the many personal stories of the people who are living with this illness. At the end of the day does it really matter what circumstances led to infection? What matters the most is what comes next including treatment, education and public/community support.

HIV/AIDS awareness is a cause I have felt strongly about for years, and I wanted to share why on World AIDS Day. The truth is there are many reasons I support this cause but one in particular sticks out in my mind and has impacted me for years.

One day I was on my way to work just like any other day, when I saw a woman standing on the subway platform. It was rush hour but there was still a pretty big space around her. I then realized she was wearing a t-shirt that said “I have HIV”. A million things rushed through my mind; Was this part of a campaign? A personal choice of hers? A study being conducted? Does she really have HIV? How does she feel, standing there all alone? Why is she doing this?

The train pulled in and I automatically stepped on it, but once the doors slid shut she and I made eye contact through the window and right away I regretted not walking up to her, talking to her and showing my support by bridging the distance between us. The truth is social stigma and my own fear prevented me in that split second decision but this chance moment between absolute strangers has always stuck with me and I still think of her. And then I think about the many people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto and around the world. I realize I can’t change my actions that day but I can choose to stand with people living with this illness from that day onwards.

All of the things I want to do and become involved with are still taking shape but for today, I wanted to be a part of the dialogue and recognize the importance of World AIDS Day. I hope you’ll do the same.

For further resources, support and testing;


November 12, 2010

The world is (literally) going to the dogs…

Posted in current events, fundraising at 1:34 pm by Jennifer

I usually only post once a week, but after seeing this recent article in the Globe “There are children starving in Africa – but I’ll still spoil my dog “ a week after THIS article I had to comment on it. That comment is;

… seriously?!

I love my dog. I spoil my dog for quite a few reasons; he had a hard life before I rescued him and deserves extra love, I’m an animal lover, he’s a good roommate and also because look at that freaking face!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Look, I understand pampering your pet but instead of extravagances that (let’s face it) your companion won’t really know the difference (my dog tries to eat discarded food off the sidewalk, there is no way I’m giving him a bag of $50 dog treats!) I’m hoping some people will realize there are animal shelters in dire need and spend a bit of money where it will make a difference.

SO – for the first 5 people (that live in Ontario – sorry) who email me proof/a receipt that you have donated ($25 minimum) to an animal shelter or animal based charity in the GTA/Ontario (such as the Toronto Humane Society) I will bake you, pack up and mail you a batch of homemade dog cookies personally made by yours truly. Your dog will like them; I’ve tested many recipes on my slightly “rotund” pug. Also donations are usually tax deductable.

And oh yes, the fact that you will be doing a good thing. That’s always a great reason.

UPDATE: Thank you thank you for participating! I’ll be mailing out cookies soon, so keep an eye on your mailbox.

September 22, 2010

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain*

Posted in current events, events, social media tagged at 4:48 pm by Jennifer

I can’t write a post about transparency and not mention that while I do talk about Netflix in this post, I won’t be going into their services etc. I work for Mansfield  and is a client of ours. So while this post isn’t about Netflix per se, their services or even really Netflix as a brand I thought that I should put that out in the open from the very start. And now that’s out of the way, on to my post!

Public perception of the PR industry is not always favourable. It seems to either glamorize all night parties and rubbing shoulders with celebrities or it paints us as huddled around a long boardroom table plotting evil schemes to make big bad companies look good. That just isn’t the case, and PR companies that try to “spin the truth” or “trick the public” tend not to have the respect of their peers or survive in this industry. The reality is despite devastating cuts to the media industry there remain savvy and dedicated reporters ready to flush out a balanced story as well as a rise in bloggers who truly do their homework. Social media has given way to an army of tech-savvy super sleuths and the last thing I would ever advise a client or colleague to do is try to deceive them! These days it seems the truth is just a click or link away.

So what’s this about? It’s a lesson to all of us in being open, honest and transparent with the public when sharing information with them. Recently Netflix launched a press conference and public event in downtown Toronto. It was right around the corner from my office and flyers were being handed out yesterday, I just so happened to get my hands on one.

Their concept was really creative with actors dressed up as movie characters passing flyers out – really fun and I thought this was a great way to promote the launch of their new streaming movie service. Those actors were a great idea. The ones paid to “play types, for example, mothers, film buffs, tech geeks, couch potatoes etc.” – not such a great idea. Especially when media are asking those same extras for their opinions on the product thinking that they are average people who just so happened to stop by the launch.

This isn’t the first snag in a public relations campaign where a company was not transparent in their activities. WalMart suffered a major blow when the blog “Walmarting Across America” instead “WalMarted across the internet”. It was exposed to be a PR campaign disguised as average couple Jim and Laura’s roadtrip to various WalMart locations. As my coworker pointed out when we were talking about this, “Why would anybody do that?”

This post isn’t meant as a hand slap to Netflix or WalMart’s PR agencies by pointing out what happened. When mistakes are made we should learn from eachother and apply better techniques to our overall practices. At the end of the day we need to relate to the public, earn their trust, understand the power of social media and engage people openly on behalf of our clients but also protect our own reputations. Not being transparent can lead to situations where you will have to work really hard to rebuild public trust.

Also check out Chris (a.k.a Nachosatmidnight)’s take on the launch including some funny graphics that made me ha-ha.

– BB

* From The Wizard of Oz – I did a paper my graduating year about the importance of “the man behind the curtain” and the statement this makes on “political spin”.

September 7, 2010

A tweet can cost you plenty

Posted in current events, Social Life, social media, Work-Life at 3:17 pm by Jennifer

Love it or hate it, Twitter is steadily gaining in popularity and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Celebrities, athletes, CEO’s and everyone in between are communicating these days in short sentences, but 140 characters is still enough to get into big trouble.

Professional athlete Stephanie Rice may have won big at the Olympics, but when she tweeted an offensive statement during a heated rugby match she immediately experienced international backlash. Despite making a public apology and taking down the offending tweet, Jaguar soon dropped their endorsement of Stephanie.

Jaguar spokesman Mark Eedle released the following statement on the issue; “We have terminated our agreement with her. It’s to do with how we want to associate our brand and unfortunately this … is not an association we want to have going forward.” (Source: AP)

While I firmly believe that in many instances a person’s private life should remain private and outside the realm of corporate/public scrutiny, when you enter into certain careers or accept corporate endorsements you accept the terms and the level of public accountability that come with it. Tiger Woods is another example of companies making a judgment call and ending endorsements based on the personal life of their spokesperson – and he lost a lot more than his wife over his scandal. Stephanie may not have meant to offend anyone and chose her words in the heat of the moment, but the result is a lesson for all of us.

A few lessons learnt;

  • It’s good practice to brief your clients in social media usage and etiquette, even as a refresher. People have varying levels of experience in understanding new mediums of communication.
  • If your company or client sponsors and/or uses individuals as spokespeople, they are linked to your brand. It’s important to know what they are saying/doing in the public eye as well as messages they are sharing through their public profiles.
  • When in doubt, don’t post it. While you can “remove” things there is always an online trail, and you don’t know who may have seen the information before you had a change of heart.
  • Offensive, racist or derogatory words? I’m of the opinion they’re never okay no matter the context.

 Do you think Jaguar was justified in terminating their endorsement over her tweet?


August 19, 2010

A New Reason to be Afraid of Chatroulette

Posted in current events, social media at 4:08 pm by Jennifer

When Chatroulette made its debut on the internet I was excited. The simple concept was intriguing to me, being able to connect with complete strangers from across the globe at random via webcam. The ability to have face to face real-time interactions with people of different cultures and backgrounds. To be able to hear about how people live in different cities and countries. To…. see body parts I really don’t want to see blown up on my computer screen.

As Chatroulette started to gain momentum I began writing a blog post about how this new social application could be used as a unique PR and marketing tool – having heads of companies online randomly interacting with users about their brands (imagine Bill Gates popping onto your screen to tell you about the new version of Windows), TV show characters making the rounds online in advance of a show’s new season (what I wouldn’t give to pick the brains of the True Blood cast) or musicians self promoting through one-on-one concerts via webcams. There are countless possibilities.

So for my post, I went online eager to experience this new phenomenon and do a full write up including screen shots. I was left… a bit dejected and having seen things that I can never unsee. The Chatroulette blog post was put out of my mind. Until today.

Today Mashable spotlighted a brilliant campaign for “The Last Exorcism” movie that took place over Chatroulette, where unsuspecting men got a glimpse of more than they bargained for. Their reaction shots are priceless.

I think this campaign successfully and creatively used Chatroulette, finding ways to “interact with” rather than “market at” people. Bottom line – something that catches my attention or makes me laugh is much more impactful in my opinion than some of the advertising “wallpaper” we are largely becoming desensitized to.


–  BB

July 1, 2010

Man is free at the moment he wishes to be*

Posted in current events, events at 2:05 pm by Jennifer

I was Tweeting quite a bit throughout but I wanted to wait a few days after the G20 weekend to blog about it. I usually like for the dust to settle and to have a chance to look at all of the sides before I talk about something. Sometimes social media makes it a bit too easy to toss anything online without taking the time to research and reflect on it first. On the other hand, access to immediate information and updates has been useful time and time again… Either way, I waited until today.

I had a great conversation last night about the G20 protests, riots and actions of the police and was asked point blank “So how do you really feel about it?” (I love direct people.)

I think that there are so many “shades of grey” in this situation, and I’m just plain tired of people choosing sides. How much worse would things have been without the police force present? What progress would be made for social issues without the activities and organization of legitimate protest groups? What makes for a “legitimate” protest group? Was the expense justified in the end?

I was caught in the Queen/Spadina “kettle” and live on Queen Street West so I took a lot of photos over the weekend. I could have shut myself in my apartment, but locking your door doesn’t make something go away. Sometimes the best way to appreciate social issues and freedom is by exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations (obviously within reason, I kept relatively safe). That’s just my opinion.

So back to the question, what is my honest opinion on the G20 weekend?

I think it could have been much worse, and I’m glad that no one (to my knowledge) was seriously hurt or killed. Pick a side if you have to, but let’s not forget that we’re lucky to live in this country.

Happy Canada Day.

– BB

* Voltaire

June 9, 2010

BP – The new acronym for “Bad Publicity”?

Posted in current events, social media at 8:35 am by Jennifer

I am very curious to find out who does the PR for British Petroleum (BP), and have the feeling this will end up being quite a case study on crisis management (as well as the worst oil spill in history). What is shocking me and frustrating millions worldwide is that they (BP) don’t come across as accountable, caring and throwing everything they have at this problem. The public want answers and action, not a veil of silence.

Breaking this silence and taking BP to task in a humorous way is the new Twitter account @BPGlobalPR – pretending to be the BP Public Relations team and releasing a stream of tweets “on behalf of” the corporation. An interview with the anonymous individual behind it is on Popeater – a great read. A few examples of his tweets;

“We’re paying Google a lot of money to make sure you only have access to the best possible info on the oil spill: our info.”

“Catastrophe is a strong word, let’s all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy”.

There is even a fictitious “BP Exec” named Terry, sharing his thoughts and activities in 140 characters or less online:

“I just spent 4 hours on the coast waving my wand at the ocean and yelling magic words.”

This spotlights a number of larger issues that companies can learn from, including being social media savvy and present online. Corporations can have mixed feelings about social media, whether they like it, hate it, want to use it or want to hide under a rock and ignore it. But the bottom line is that the public uses it and any medium used by the public should be understood by corporations and members of the company who deal with/are accountable to the public.

BP should make much more of an effort to be transparent, fund large scale cleanup efforts, open ideas to outside experts and the public to demonstrate to the world that they are doing everything humanly possible. In my honest opinion it’s much too late for them to save face, but better late than never.

Thoughts on the fake Twitter account? On BP’s relative silence?