How I awkwardly embraced and accepted Twitter

29 July 2009

Up until about six weeks ago Twitter to me was like the unwelcome guest at a party. You really didn’t want them around and were waiting for them to leave. In fact, my favorite late night host, David Letterman, summed up my initial thoughts about Twitter perfectly in a recent interview with Kevin Spacey –  found here –

I really like many aspects of social media, but my initial thoughts on Twitter were, why would I want to read about people complaining that they have to mow the lawn? It turns out I do want to read about that kind of stuff…if it’s coming from my favorite celebs/thought leaders.

After a few weeks I soon realized that I was missing out on a whole new world of information, cool links, and conversation. Plus, I think the best thing about Twitter is its forced brevity. With its 140 character limit there’s no room for people to drone on and on.

In short, sign up for Twitter, if only to read Shaquille O’Neal’s Twitter bio that reads, “very quotatious, I perform random acts of Shaqness.” Oh, and also to follow @MattSalvatore for my updates.

Please add to Oprah’s book club

27 January 2009

I’m not what you’d call a voracious reader. In fact, after staring a computer screen all day, by the time I get home from work all I pretty much feel like doing is putting on a DVD copy of Roadhouse, doing 600 pushups and calling it a day. However, sometimes I’ll come across a book that holds my attention and I won’t put it down. Case in point, back in 1994, The Client by John Grisham was tearing up the best seller list and I, like millions of others, couldn’t get enough of Grisham’s legal hijinx. Well, that was 15 years ago, and I’m proud to say that I’ve found another must read. It’s called The New Rules of Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott. The book was published in 2007 and in it Scott provides some wonderful tips on blog writing, podcasting, and media relations. I’m not going give anything away. I just implore you to visit your local book store or library and give it a read, you won’t be disappointed.

Congratulations Internet, Welcome to the Billion Served Club

26 January 2009

Every time I used to drive by a McDonald’s I would always check to see what the sign said underneath the golden arches that indicated how many people they’d served. For some inexplicable reason I really liked to know how many other people had Big Mac Attacks around the world. However, at some point a few years ago, they simply gave up counting, as most signs simply now read, ‘Billions and Billions Served’. My guess is that once you reach a billion, you’ve made it. That’s it, history is made and there is no need to count anymore. Today, it was announced that another one reached the billion served club: the Internet.

With the news that the Internet has over 1-billion users worldwide, the PR ramifications will continue to be felt in the months and years to come. Whether it’s the growing influence of bloggers, or how as PR professionals we are not simply tailoring our campaigns to reach only ‘traditional media’. It’s an exciting time to be in this profession. We’ve also seen time and again that the Internet can be the first source for breaking news, most recently in the case of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, as Internet users played a major role in breaking and contributing to the story. Be sure to check out my colleague Brendan Hodgson’s blog which features a great crisis audit of how the news played out online.

Congratulations Internet, your billion served club blazer is waiting at the tailor for you.


My 2008 PR Year in Review

09 December 2008

Well it’s been a little over 15 months since I last posted and since then the world has been flipped on its head. Is it all a massive coincidence that since my last post the economy headed south, Britney Spears got back on top of her game, and the Toronto Maple Leafs started doing better than the Ottawa Senators? I’m not saying that this blog has the power to keep the world on its axis…but then again maybe I am. With that in mind, here are the top three PR stories from 2008 that I found interesting, buzz worthy or just plain awesome…

1. The Singing Road from Honda

In Lancaster, CA Honda created a singing road that plays the William Tell Overture (better known as the theme from the Lone Ranger) when a Honda Civic’s tires rolled over the road at 55 MPH. The road quickly became a tourist attraction and complaints from local residents over the noise it created prompted city officials to pave over it. However, the amount of positive media coverage garnered from the campaign was incredible. It was truly a different way to get people talking…or in this case singing.

 2. Dr. Pepper delivers the elixer to fans of Guns n’ Roses

Back in March, Dr. Pepper offered to give a free can of their elixer to everyone in America if Guns n’ Roses released their long awaited album, Chinese Democracy, anytime in 2008. Well, fast forward to November and the unexpected happens as G n’ R release the album. Dr. Pepper made good on their claim by setting up a web site where Americans could redeem the offer for one day only. However, the beverage maker got into hot water when the web site had too much traffic and crashed, leaving many without a perscription from the Doctor. The promotion was extended by one day in hopes of ensuring everyone who wanted to was able to cash in on the offer. Despite the backlash from Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose over what he and his lawyers called, “an unmitigated disaster which defradauded customers,” I believe the Dr. Pepper campaign was a true success as it created an unbelieveable amount of coverage for both the Dr. Pepper brand and the release of Chinese Democracy.

 3. The Big Three CEOs taking cars to ask Congress for a bailout

After a Congressional hearing in which all three CEOs of the Big Three car companies flew in separate private jets to ask for a tax-payer funded federal financial bailout, the media backlash was immediate. The negative stories from the media triggered a change of heart from the company heads. Last week the Big Three returned to Washington, this time ditching the corporate jets for a more econonmical alternative…their own cars. This is just another example of how the optics of a very touchy situation are incredibly crucial to winning public support.

 Starting in January 2009, my colleague Anil Dilawri and I are going to be starting Podcast that will be housed here in which we will be discussing all things communications. Our goal is to start a discussion about relevent communications topics that are affecting us on a daily basis and will include a variety of guest appearences. Watch this space!

PR debacles: What’s wrong with professional sports?

19 September 2007

2007 has been a banner year so far for sports PR debacles.

First, unconfirmed steroid aficionado Barry Bonds, of the San Francisco Giants, became the all-time home run leader after he broke Hank Aaron’s record of 755 dingers back in August. Controversy has swirled around Bond’s ever since his arms and head have grown to almost twice the size since his early playing days in Pittsburgh. Is it steroid use? Or is Bonds stepping on Tony Little’s Gazelle Glider and toning and firming the natural way. Bonds maintains, “This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period.”

Despite the negativity surrounding the Bonds record, major league baseball continues to be America’s favourite past time. Strangely, major league baseball commissioner Bud Selig was not in attendance for Bonds’ record breaking home run, instead he offered Bonds a congratulatory phone call. Perhaps, Selig was advised by MLBs PR wizards to lay low and not be media accessible.

In July, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick was indicted on charges stemming from his role in owning and operating a dog-fighting ring. Vick, under severe media and fan pressure, owned up to the charges and saw his reputation rightfully ruined. The story became headline news for weeks, however after Vick held a news conference in which he said, “I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to bettering Michael Vick the person, not the football player,” the media and the public seemed to have moved on. Was his apology genuine? Or was it the work of a well orchestrated PR campaign to salvage whatever career Vick has left.

On a related front, the note that Vick used at the news conference fetched over $10,000.00 at auction. No word on whether O.J. Simpson was the lucky buyer…  

The Perfect Pitch Process: The Salvatore Way

04 September 2007

As a relative newcomer to the PR profession, I have yet to be involved in a face-to-face pitch for a potential client. I can only imagine what goes on in the boardroom as one-by-one competing PR companies present why they should be chosen as the agency of record on a project. In my mind the process would be a lot like American Idol, except with more flow charts, less singing, and less Simon.   

With this in mind, I have created some ways in which pitchers can set themselves apart from the competition. 

1. Have someone from your company knock on the boardroom door midway through the pitch dressed like a delivery person. Upon hearing the knock, one of the pitchers will open the door. The delivery person will then open up their delivery box, which contains case studies and say, “Our company ALWAYS delivers results!”. 

2. Wear t-shirts containing wacky photos of you using the product you are pitching (e.g. brushing your teeth with toothpaste or drinking the beverage you are pitching).

3. Rent a dry-ice machine, play the Chicago Bulls starting line-up theme and announce who is pitching. Have the pitchers be introduced and enter the room one-by-one mentioning their height, education, and favourite product that the company you are pitching manufactures.



Five things you must do while vacationing in Orlando

20 August 2007

As my plane touched down in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon, after six glorious days in the sunshine state roasting like a rotisserie chicken at Swiss Chalet, I suddenly realized a harsh reality…my vacation was drawing to a close. I, like most people, love vacationing. To me there are few things that compare to idea of having nothing to do but eat, drink and be merry. It doesn’t matter if I’m holed up in my apartment with a tub of Country Crock and ‘Who’s the Boss?’ on DVD or lying on a beach with Jimmy Buffett tunes cranked: vacations rock.

For my week of vacation I went down to Orlando to take in the mass amount of amusement parks, gator farms and sun. If you’ve ever been to Florida in the summertime you know that it feels like the hottest place on earth. I mean you literally feel like you’re hugging the sun. It definitely takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it. Most people go to Orlando for two things: 1) Walt Disney World 2) Conventions.  However, in order for the trip to be complete you must do the following five things while in the entertainment Mecca of central Florida:

1. Eat a turkey leg at an amusement park (even if you’re a vegetarian or vegan)

2. Visit Gatorland and feed overfed gators hotdogs

3. Make your own flavour of ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery

4. Tally the number of billboards for personal injury lawyers

5. Do not drink any fluids for twelve hours and go for a 2 mile jog

For now it’s back to work…


The White Stripes are PR wizards

17 July 2007

Detroit rock duo The White Stripes recently finished a full-blown Canadian tour that took them to each province and territory in the great white north. That’s right – they even played in Yellowknife, how many multi-platinum music acts have done that? My count is one.  

What’s more impressive is the Stripes recent slew of PR successes. Starting back in June when the band turned the recently bankrupt Hollywood landmark, Tower Records, into Icky Thump Records, named after their new album. Open for a week, Icky Thump Records sold only the new White Stripes album. The week culminated with a special in-store performance by the band for the first 200 fans who bought their record.

The White Stripes continued there PR tirade in most Canadian cities they visited on their tour, playing secret shows during the day of their evening gigs. The trend began with a free show in a Whitehorse park for nearly 1,000 excited fans. Over the course of their Canadian tour, the Stripes played secret shows at a day camp, on a school bus, and to sick kids. 

As a result of their stunts, The White Stripes are not only receiving positive press in every city they visit, they are also creating an incredible amount of good will with fans – both young and old.

Live Earth already a giant success

04 July 2007

This Saturday, Live Earth concerts headlined by major music acts such as The Police, The Dave Matthews Band, and Alicia Keys will take place around the globe in a 24-hour period in hopes of increased awareness of environmental issues.

Organized by former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore and Network Live CEO Kevin Wall, Live Earth has seen its share of detractors. Some, like Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof, fear that Live Earth will be nothing more than a rock concert that will have no long term effect on the climate change crisis.  

Others fear that the resources needed to put on a large scale event like Live Earth will do more harm to the environment than with no event at all. Endless tour buses and idling cars in the venue parking lots will no doubt affect the environment on the day of the concerts.

The detractors can say what they want about Live Earth, but the reality is the event is already a PR success. Even if Kanye West’s microphone was to cut out during “Golddigger” or Al Gore was to sing “Lump” by The Presidents of the United States of America, Live Earth will have done its job. Why? Because people are talking more than ever before about environmental issues. The concert will be just that, a concert. It’s what’s behind the concert that’s most important. Gore is successfully tapping into what will hold people’s attention and get people talking, and for many it’s music.

Al Gore and his organizing team have signed a seven-point pledge to combat the climate crisis and hope that people watching or attending the concerts do the same. I, for one, will be signing the seven-point pledge and watching Live Earth on television on Saturday, all while changing my light bulbs to compact fluorescent green savers.

Behind the message – a look into the underbelly of voicemail

31 May 2007

What would we do in a world without voicemail? So much important information is communicated ‘after the tone’. Technology has come a long way since the days of the original answering machine, which featured a miniature blank cassette housed in a box the size of a cinderblock. Personally, it’s taken years of practice to not be nervous when leaving an answering machine message. You’re leaving vocal footprint and you better be ready when that tone sounds. 

Everyone has their own code of conduct for leaving a message – for me the golden rule is to keep the message under 30-seconds. Anything over the half-minute mark verges on inappropriate. I challenge you, the reader, to find a colleague who enjoys listening to someone ramble on for over 30-seconds about who knows what on a voicemail message. We’re always told in the PR business to write in clear and concise sentences, well in my opinion there is no reason this shouldn’t extend into the realm of voicemail. I’m not saying that we should speak in robotic bullet points on a voicemail message, but the less “um’s and ahh’s”, the better.   

I love almost everything about voicemail. To me checking for messages never gets old. However, one of the most awkward things to do in my opinion is creating an outgoing message while in an open-air cubicle. Creating the perfect outgoing message while colleagues can listen in is a lot like going to the bathroom with the door open.

I still haven’t reached my goal of creating the perfect outgoing message. You know the one where everyone wants to call your number and hopes you don’t pick-up just so they can listen to it. However with a little talent, some perseverance and a lot of heart, I know it’s possible. Until this happens, I’ll keep my feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.