A spinning good idea

11 April 2007

By: Kathryn Hanley

I recently noticed a clever new service called Spin-my-Blog was quietly launched at CTIA by nifty solution provider SpinVox Ltd. Upon closer examination this new offering actually seems really, really cool. Now because I’m generally an early adopter of new technology (I was the first one here to try mobiTV for example) I’m likely a bit more excited about this then the average consumer.

But, with Technorati currently tracking 74.9 million blogs world-wide and estimating 1.6 million posts per day (18 per second) SpinVox may be onto something. The freedom to post from anywhere, at any time, may appeal to avid bloggers who update regularly and could bring a new meaning to the term ‘live’ blogging. Just imagine – blogging from anywhere a mobile phone will work (which, these days is pretty much everywhere).

The challenge for SpinVox will be to create buzz and properly market its product, spread the word online and allow bloggers to test the service first-hand (something we at H&K are doing with our KRZR bloggers program).

The UK-based company touts Spin-my-Blog as a simple, three step on-the-go blogging solution. Here’s how it works:

1) Dial into the service and speak your blog post.

2) SpinVox automatically converts your voice message to text.

3) The text is posted to your blog automatically within minutes.

Sounds simple, right? Right! It’s enough to make even this girl think about starting her own blog.

SpinVox’s first Canadian carrier partner will be SaskTel, or, there is an online test available at the Spin-my-Blog website.

Kathryn Hanley is an Assistant Consultant with H&K Toronto’s Technology Communications Practice.


Have your Facebook – but use it wisely

05 April 2007

By: Jennifer Drogell

As my colleagues have commented in past posts, Facebook, the wildly popular social networking site, has finally gone mainstream. And in doing so, I have finally bowed to the pressure being exerted on me from all sides that I must too, climb aboard.

There is no doubt it’s fun and a great networking tool, but it’s also key to note it’s a great time-sucker and a possible career limiting move for unwitting employees.

Take, for instance, the hords of PR people who would gather around their PCs in Toronto in years past to read the latest installment of the legendary PR person whose blog explored her personal life in lurid detail… and I do mean in detail.

Imagine an employer’s reaction to that. Now translate that reaction to a massive site like Facebook where everyone and their dog are on there reading these details about your private life. When your clients start adding you to their Facebook, where do you draw the line between your personal and professional life?

Take also, for instance, the tale of the poor UK securities trader who felt it was a badge of honour to receive a letter of warning from his employer that he was spending too much time on Facebook.  Too much being 500 hours over a six month period – that works out to about 4 hours a day. Well – really – there’s not much more to say about that is there?

So I say have your Facebook, but be aware of all of the crazy photos your friends are posting of you and whose eyes are seeing them. It could be a prospective employer’s.

Jennifer Drogell is an Account Director with Hill & Knowlton Toronto’s Technology Communications Practice.


Scrapbooking goes online

05 April 2007

By: Ian Barr

We’ve written about the transformation of scrapbooking and how new technology has changed the creative process, but how is Web 2.0 affecting this hobby? Via Darren Barefoot, I learned about a new online scrapbooking company called Scrapblog.

According to the site:

“We created Scrapblog because we wanted to go beyond sharing our photos and videos online. We made Scrapblog drag-and-drop-easy so that everyone can tell their stories and create beautiful multimedia scrapbooks.”

Those in the printing and supplies business should pay close attention to sites like these and determine how to best integrate their services and products.

With an integrated partnership, there is opportunity for an offline print offering, specialized product discounts for users, and a wealth of opportunities to deliver targeted messages to a very niche audience.

A few brush strokes for Nintendo’s ‘Art of Wii’

03 April 2007

By: Ian Barr

Hey Nintendo Canada! Looks like you’ve got a clever promotion out called the Art of Wii. You’ve commissioned six Canadian artists who’ve painted one-of-a-kind Wii consoles, and are now giving them away in a contest promotion. LOVE IT!

From a media relations perspective, you have a great hook. Not only is it localized through its support of homegrown talent (artists) but it’s also quirky enough to be topical for mainstream media. You’re already getting some coverage for it too, I see.

While your campaign concept and prizing is creative, I can’t help but feel the execution of the online presence should reflect it.

After visiting your site, I felt these suggestions could improve the contest homepage, increase interactivity and ultimately drive more entrants. Ideally, it would be fan friendly and get more people talking about, and linking to it, online:

Art of Wii photo site – why not upload shots of the artist’s work in progress, conceptual sketches or even rough ‘throw away designs’ that were left on the cutting-room floor?
It’s just as much about the creation of the product as it is about the end result. By showing the artists’ efforts, you’re giving the prize a higher perceived value (currently listed as $279.95 by those damn lawyers. I feel your pain…they make me feel the same way). 

Add video interviews of the artists – why not let the artists explain the inspiration behind their designs or even discuss what video gaming means to them? Some of these artists, like IllScarlett, have rabid fans who would love to link to a video like this from their blogs and/or MySpace page. 

Interaction – invite people to submit designs for their chance to be one of the unannounced artists of Wii. While you’re at it, why not offer to print out entrants’designs on ‘Wii wraps’ and mail them to the entrants. Even if they don’t ‘win’ they get something and feel like they’ve ‘won’. Get it?

‘About’ – if I’m a rabid Nintendo gamer or fan of one of these artists, I want more info about the contest. A simple ‘About’ link explaining how the concept came about, how artists were selected and the theme that was presented to them would be an easy, but effective add-in. 

Use those artists! - let’s ask the artists to add links or banners on their site or Myspace page for the duration of the campaign. In doing so you also get the brand association from their fans.

Ian Barr is an Account Director with H&K Toronto’s Technology Communications Practice.

MOTOKRZR blogger relations programme

26 March 2007

By Ian Barr

If I haven’t been posting as frequently, it’s because I’m on double duty.

Brendan and I have been working to launch the KRZR bloggers programme for Motorola Canada. We’ve built some useful elements into the campaign  (see the flickr and YouTube groups) and are seeing our blogger participants create their own KRZR groups on sites such as Facebook.

While still in the early stages of outreach (expanding further in the near future), the participation and feedback is encouraging.

Ian Barr is an Account Director with H&K Toronto’s Technology Communications Practice.

Informational equality or an infringement of expression?

16 March 2007

By: Emilija Businskas

I wrote a blog in November about the rise of online content during the 2006 Mid-term Election, both from bloggers and traditional news networks.  This led to a discussion with my colleagues Elliott Silverstein and Mike Ras, a VP within our Public Affairs group, about how candidates can benefit from using online tools while campaigning and what rules apply to bloggers when publishing election results. 

When we began our discussion, there was a case before the Supreme Court of Canada regarding a section of the Canada Elections Act which prohibits the publication of election results until all the polls have closed.  The case began in 2000 when software developer Paul Bryan posted Federal Election results from Atlantic Canada on his website before the polls had closed on the West Coast.  In his final appeal, Bryan argued that the Canada Elections Act violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by infringing on the guarantee of Freedom of Expression. Part of the reasoning behind his argument was that modern communications technology, such as the internet, had rendered the law obsolete.

Yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the legal ban on reporting election results before the polls have closed.  The court wrote that the ban was a “reasonable limit” because “it maintains informational equality among voters and contributes to the fairness and reputation of the electoral system as a whole.”  The decision goes on to say that although the ban might be inconvenient for the media it is important to the goal of protecting Canada’s electoral democracy.

The Court’s decision means that the Canadian media, bloggers, website hosts, etc. are all prohibited from publishing/posting poll results until the last ballot has been cast.  The key thing to consider is that the ban only applies to Canada.  I agree with the court that the ban helps protect our electoral democracy, but how can a ban like this be truly effective when the Court’s jurisdiction doesn’t include foreign websites?  What happens when a website outside of Canadian jurisdiction goes ahead and publishes results before the polls have closed?  What impact does this have on the “informational equality” among voters?  Does it really make our electoral system unfair?  More importantly, should/can we do something to prevent this or should freedom of expression reign? 

Emilija Businskas is an Assistant Consultant in the Technology Communications Practice at H&K Toronto.

Exploring Facebook Pt.2

16 March 2007

By: Ian Barr

In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of Facebook as a recruiting tool. What I continue to hear amongst Facebook users is the addiction they have with the site. Facebook has created one of the ‘stickiest’ social networking sites I’ve used to date. In fact, I’ve been on Hi5 and LinkedIn for a few years now, and they can’t compare. While Hi5 and MySpace appear to cap off at a younger demographic, in my eyes, Facebook has been able to attract a demographic that reaches as high as early thirties in age.

I think a young, 30-something HR professional would benefit more than say someone in their late 30’s/40’s. While I wouldn’t discourage someone older from joining – and still think they would be welcome with open arms from anxious potential new recruits – success will result from being comfortable with the network demographic AND the technology. I’ve heard many comments from older peers that they just feel out of place on it.

On that note, LinkedIn has been a professional networking site that HAS caught on with older professionals. The problem I have with LinkedIN is that once you add a contact, there’s really nothing that keeps you coming back. Essentially, I have all these contacts and I never do anything with the site. It’s like used flypaper — it just isn’t sticky!

So what keeps people coming back daily for more Facebook? Here’s my opinion:

Friends (duh) – When I say everyone’s on it, I mean it. People from public school, lost university/college friends, former peers, etc. It’s a great lost connections tool.

Simplicity – it’s easy to use and has a clean layout that’s easy to navigate.

Updates – It does a great job at keeping you updated. It’ll send emails to your email account notifying you every time someone has commented on a photo, asked that you join their group or sent you a message, etc. On your ‘wall’, a public section that keeps you updated with all of your friends’ actions, you can see every update that your friends have made and click on those updates to see, for example, a comment someone has written on your photo.

Status – Believe it or not, people will tell you what they’re currently up to through their status. I’m ‘on the phone’, ‘heading to China for work’ or ‘away from the office’…which leads to my next point…

Messages – Once they know your status, they’ll contact you if you’re online. People are constantly messaging on your ‘wall’ or through the e-mail-like message service. This makes me wonder whether or not instant messaging service providers (MSN and Yahoo! Messengers of the world) need to be alarmed. I know countless people who’re now messaging their friends through Facebook vs. Messenger.

Photos – it’s not only easy to upload photos, everyone is doing it. Why? Because once you’ve uploaded photos, all of your friends get an update of the ‘new album added’ and can comment them. The coolest part of this application is that you can click on a person in the photo and ‘tag it’. Once you’ve tagged a photo with someone else’s name, that person is alerted and can see the photo. Additionally, that photo of them will now show up under their profile photos.

Groups/Events – you can join a slew of groups just for fun. My personal favourite is the ‘I don’t care how comfortable crocs are; you look like a dumbass’ group, of which I’m a proud member. On the events side, you can create and invite people to a gathering and have them RSVP instantly (no more having to worry about old email addresses or ensuring all your contacts are in one place).

Dating –you’ll find people contacting you for no reason at all just to say hi or to perhaps let you know they’re interested. I’m witnessing friends hooking up friends through their network. There isn’t the pressure of being on a ‘dating site’ where people are forthcoming about their intent to ‘date’ or ‘get into a relationship’ or have an ‘intimate encounter’. Personal status is made available for those to see whether or not you’re single and what gender you’re interested in.

Other – And finally, for a $1 you can find out when people’s birthdays are and send them a gift icon – everything from a steak and a cake to a bone or a bear. No word yet on whether or not Facebook will allow corporations to offer icons of their products as virtual gifts. I have a few concepts of how to integrate this into the service and make it much more interactive.

In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the challenges I think Facebook may encounter in the future.

Ian Barr is an Account Director with H&K Toronto’s Technology Communications Practice. He’s been with the agency for over 5 years.

A New Outlook

15 March 2007

By: Terra Pobuda

I’m not that old. I don’t mean to sound defensive but I’m actually not that old. [Damnit - :) ] I do however remember the work world in the days before email AND voice mail.

[For a different perspective, check out my colleague, Emilija Businskas’ recent posting on the topic of life and work before the Internet.]

Well, I worked summers through high school and part way through university as a receptionist and recall meticulously filling out stacks of tiny pink telephone message notes and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the daily mail. I spent my days answering a phone and typing my boss’ endless correspondence on a … typewriter! My two best friends back in these days were liquid paper and a rusty letter opener.

Those days have faded into my memory and are thought of less and less. I, like many of you out there, have adjusted to the deluge of emails I receive each day, and I find time to check (and leave) my share of voice mails.

Well, I just ran across the most interesting article that brought the days of old vividly back to mind – No Email Fridays Transform Office. The article discusses how some companies are experimenting with ways to lessen the email burden and recapture some of the traditional ways in which work is done – namely, offline, face-to-face.

I, for one, hope this movement catches on and more companies look to adopt this back-to-basics approach. It’s a great way to reconnect with clients and colleagues in a more personal, and perhaps even more effective, way.

Could you adjust to a full work day away from your email? Let me know.

Terra Pobuda is a Senior Consultant in the Technology Communications Practice at H&K Toronto. She has been with the company for over six years.


A blog virgin

13 March 2007

By: Hilda Kinross 

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am not an avid – ok, not even close to avid – reader of blogs. Never mind posting them. The reason is twofold: Firstly, I have a jam packed schedule at work (packing full time work into a part time schedule) and at home (two kids, traveling husband). Secondly, I rely on some wonderful folks on the account team to update me on everything Web 2.0. – including the latest and greatest in the blogosphere. So, whilst I am still in touch, so to speak, and up to date, I am in no way, engaged first-hand.

My colleague, Ian Barr, has been bugging the hell out of me to blog for months now. I have responded with a curt ‘buzz off’ and for the most part that has worked. But now, I am trapped. I have been told that I HAVE TO BLOG. Yes…..I have to blog. OK, I don’t have to, have to blog – I could opt out, but it would be (unofficially) frowned upon.

At first, I pooh-poohed the idea of being forced to engage in this medium. Surely, if the desire grabbed me, it should be a natural urge to want to purge in this way. And until now, the blog urge hasn’t registered in any way. But, I guess the responsible thing to do, (being a manager in the tech group at H&K!) is to at least take a stab at it…and live to tell the tale.

What the hell do I write about so that I am:
1. appropriate
2. interesting
3. relevant
4. insightful
5. entertaining

So, I decided to write about ….me. Specifically, the trials and tribulations of the first-time blogger. Here is how I went about my first ever blog posting:
1. I researched what a blog is…..ok, I am kidding. I knew (kinda) what a blog is.
2. I read a whole bunch of different blogs posted on H&K’s Collective Conversations. Hmmmmm, interesting stuff (well, most if it anyway).
3. I analysed who wrote, how many clicks and comments there were. There are a few folks who either have nothing better to do than blog (you know who you are) or like doing it.
4. I tried to figure out if each blogger had a specific theme they tended to stick to. The operative word here is ‘tried’. My analysis did not yield much.
5. I went to grab a cup of coffee (I was falling asleep and was feeling rather chilly. My husband has flu or something, so I am guessing I may be coming down with something too…but I digress)
6. I then realized that I was bloody scared to do this. I am usually a pretty brave gal. So then I got angry about being scared.
7. Finally, I decided that the best way to do this, was to just do it (thank you Nike)….and to be me the whole way. OK, that is so beyond corny, but I don’t care.

I have posted a blog and I have survived.

Hilda Kinross is a vice-president in the Technology Communications Practice of H&K Toronto.


What does your cellphone say about you?

06 March 2007

By: Tara Hendela

Do you remember the days when telephones were used to actually call people?  You know – the dark ages – when cellphones were by necessity only, and when pay phones actually had a purpose beyond calling 911?  It was really only about 15 years ago – and yet who can imagine not having their cellphone, Blackberry, or MotoQ in the palm of their hand?

Times have changed and people are busier than they have ever been before. The telephone as we once knew it is relatively extinct; having evolved into everything from a business tool, a portable computer, a wristwatch replacement, to the final “bling” in our most fashionable outfit. In a world of text-messaging, smartphones, ringtone downloads and bluetooth accessories – it’s a wonder we make any calls at all.  Check out this week’s article: “Mobiles” in Japan: I Want My MTV! by Jason Young. Our phones are so much more complex and multifunctional – that their role has become completely re-defined. 

Recently, I joined Hill and Knowlton’s Motorola team and subsequently switched handsets. Once a flip-phone junkie, I have now graduated to the MotoQ. Although I am still trying to figure out how to use all of wonderful multi-media features that this device offers – I seem to stand taller knowing I have a Q in my hand. It’s like I’ve just bought a new pair of Christian Louboutin shoes and I must strut down the runway. It’s official. I have arrived. (Into the competitive, ever-so-populated world of the smartphone that is…)

The handset has become one of this decade’s most identifiable status and style symbols. Do you have a RAZR or a KRZR? A Pearl or an 8800? How big is your screen? Do you have the latest download? What carrier are you with? Do you have a tattoo? Accessories? You could almost draw a parallel between your phone and the type of car you drive. Both offer freedom, facilitate more efficient living, are integral to our day-to-day life, and are style and status indicators. The design, whether colourful, sleek, sophisticated, or plain – says everything about you. Who says you must choose fashion over function? These days– you get both!

Whatever your style – there is no doubt that the role of the handset is evolving.  Mobile technology continues to rapidly change the way we lead our lives. Our smartphones help us balance our work lives and personal lives, give us access to information at all times, make a personal statement,  and act as mini-entertainment centers on-the-go – enabling us to enjoy a wide variety of content.

So I guess it really comes down to one question: What does your cellphone say about you? 

Tara Hendela is a consultant with H&K Toronto’s Technology Communications Practice and works reguarly on the Motorola account.