Comforting Media By Reenergizing Your Relationships

Photo Courtesy of Talat Hussain C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Talat Hussain C.C.

The Thinning of Media

Managing our media relationships is even more important today as media conglomerates continue to downsize newsrooms and shift to digital platforms.

Editorial downsizing and media convergence is nothing new in Canada. There is not a year that goes by without a headline announcing serious newsroom cutbacks in broadcast, print and radio. In 1970 Senator Keith Davey began the national dialogue in Canada warning of media convergence. Although concentrating on print journalism, the Kent Report findings represented recommendations intended for all media holdings.

“What matters,” explained the Committee’s report, “is the fact that control of the media is passing into fewer and fewer hands, and that experts agree that this trend is likely to continue and perhaps accelerate.”

And accelerate it did! Flash forward to 2017 and beyond, over the last year alone upwards of 1,200 productions, editorial and administration staff have been eliminated by convergence and editorial downsizing in this country.

International media has not escaped the swath of fiscal efficiency as one of the world’s most respected and digitally presentable news institutions, The Guardian Media Group, are speaking of “…steep editorial cuts.”

There is no doubt that these are extremely difficult times for media. Not necessarily for the business entities, but for the journalist that lies at the centre of keeping their jobs and maintaining integrity where the players are few; and the direction of editorial still unknown.

“We’re going down the path where journalism and the convergence of news that’s important for a functioning democracy is at an existential risk in this country,” expounds Howard Law, Director of Media for Unifor, the union representing over 13,000 in media.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Rice C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Rice C.C.

A Business in Transition

Postmedia, one of Canada’s largest media arms just last year announced the combining of newsroom editors and journalists in targeted regions across the country. Cities that had enjoyed localized coverage would now share newsgathering resources even though their editorial desks lie hundreds of miles apart.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, lamented, ‘thousands of stories of interest to each of these communities that would be lost because there are not enough resources to cover them.’ Essentially providing a ‘weekend coverage’ to the news moving forward.

If newsroom convergence wasn’t enough, now we have the perpetual shifting of digital media. Looking back a few years, media executives were locked on the idea that digital platforms were the Rosetta Stone bringing much-needed dollars back into ad revenues. This has not been the case as most analysts agree, ‘media today is forced to embark on the creation and provision of transferable content.’ Traditional methods of newsgathering are declining feeding the rise of content marketing.

Photo Courtesy of GotCredit C.C.

Photo Courtesy of GotCredit C.C.

Journalists as Marketers

Do our journalist friends need to find a new calling in developing content? Is media itself another channel to share content? Will this migration of media talent further erode journalistic integrity? Many questions and few answers.

If we look at purely skills as opposed to ethics, marketers are essentially publishers. And if we look at media institutions as news marketers, these marketers will rely on the experts that intrinsically seek the good stories when developing their content.

This speaks to the essence of Andrea Miller’s analysis, “Career Change. From Journalist to Content Marketer.” She identifies 6 key transferable skills journalists will need as marketers when developing content: “They realize Lines are Blurred, They Cut Through the Jargon, They are Technology-savvy, The Know How to Conduct an Interview, They Meet Deadlines, and They Can Tell a Story.”

In my experience, managing media relations has rarely deviated from the tenets of outstanding customer service. Traditional media, as part of a larger digital and social tactical array, will always be central to our overall strategic planning.

Earned media will never waver from being the hallmark of your media success.

Photo Courtesy of Doctor Popular C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Doctor Popular C.C.

A New Relationship Management System

 As professionals, we need to do our best to meet the expectations of an industry in constant flux. We must tweak our approach and redefine our expectations. Below lie 6 basic rules. Some old some new but all critical towards providing excellent relationship management to our partners.

  1. Be Relevant

Cross-platform repurposing is a common tactic when practising an integrated communications strategy. Take the time to provide them with a unique and informative story. Research what is topical and look to build your pitch around what is relevant – today. Provide your media with elements and leads when building the stories that resonate above the usual diet of ribbon cuttings and product launches. Keep the message tight for the reporter. Always think to repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.

  1. Amplify Their Work

Layout for them how you will be positioning their story in your media strategy. Inform them of the media channels that will be utilized in order to amplify their contribution to the overall story. How their article or interview is ‘getting out’ and how critical it is towards providing the ‘right content’ for the right audience. Practice your 360-degree approach to integrated communications and marketing and share this with your media partners.

  1. Recognizing and Foster Content Publishing

Explore with your partner how his/her job has shifted regarding recent media landscape changes. Are they needing more video than previously? What platforms are they tasked with providing content for? Without a news at noon and the ‘6’ deadlines, ask about their new publishing deadlines. Remember, content publishing means both video and written. Use your expertise to help them understand how you can help them continue to provide top quality content.

  1. Understand Brand Journalism Needs

Brand journalism is becoming more and more popular for many journalists leaving print and broadcast organizations. Recognizing this new job description will help us understand what constitutes a brand journalist and what they are looking for from you. After all, you are also educating yourself.

  1. Always be Available and Reliable

This rule should never change. Utilize new technologies to help keep in contact with your media partner. Twitter direct messaging is a good example. When in doubt, ask.

Often deadlines are fluctuant across multiple platforms. This means you need to be reliable with media tools so they can plan accordingly. Having everything ready and neatly assembled primed to be tucked under their arms, or shoved into their pockets. This form of reliability along with being available at all times keeps your partner congruent when meeting their deadlines.

Reliability also means making sure our expert spokespersons are media trained, well rehearsed and positioned for illuminating interviews. Look at all opportunities being dynamic when positioning your experts. ENG can come from not only a news camera but also a regular DSLR or iPhone. Always ask, but be ready just in case.

No matter if you work in A, B or C markets, we as professionals need to shift with the times as much as our media partners. By showing the empathy and respect they deserve, will speak volumes now and down the road when establishing and fostering excellent media relationships.

Our media partners did not ask to be where they are today. Let’s just make it a little easier for them to do their jobs.



3 Easy Steps to Trust Your News.

Fake NewsAs values go, trust sits the highest on most of our moral dashboards. It has been this way for generations etched by the epitaph, “In God we trust.” Right from the get-go, our parents imprinted, “Trust me. You’re not going to want to eat that!” After a week or so with our heads in the toilet bowl, we get it. It only takes us one life lesson to understand how trust is earned. With religious attention, we carry this assurance forward into our daily lives. As we mature, we happily trust all that is earned – including how we get our news.

LikeThe migration to online news.

In 2013, traditional TV news continued to command the lion’s share of viewers at 60 per cent. Social media and newspapers followed in behind with just under 30 per cent and radio even further back at 19 per cent. Moving forward to 2016; viewer numbers continue to increase for social media as Americans now flock to the internet to get their news. Sites such as Buzzfeed, Mashable, Vice and The Verge have replaced more traditional news sources by homogenizing daily events into bite-sized stories. All relentlessly broadcasting through a multitude of social media news feeds and apps. But one in particular – Facebook – clicked its way to the forefront of fake news proliferation.

In May of this year, Pew Research in America reported that a whopping 44 per cent of adults get their daily news now from Facebook. This means, almost half of adult Americans have entrusted Facebook to be their main source for providing ‘credible’ news.

If the news is coming through Facebook, it has to be real. Right? Wrong.

This blind trust not only heralded Facebook into a firestorm of ethics, it eroded the credibility of traditional news reporting and its social media distribution. Facebook, the presumed vanguard of social media practices was no longer able to clean their own house.  All the while, millions of viewers continued to get their news from dubious journalists on shady websites. Money was to be made and opinions indelibly changed by countries such as Russia, Romania and the U.S. Each glorifying the hard graft of creating and spreading false news.

crystal ball

Swaying popular influence.

America was in the throws of a contentious election campaign. Mud was flying everywhere and here-say was abundant as two political parties battled it out for the public’s opinion. Hungry for votes, each engaged in unethical social media practices by developing fake news and memes authored by an army of clandestine journalists. Fake news was now funnelling fiction through Facebook to over 140 million users. By the end stretch of the presidential campaign, fake news was actively helping both political parties build formidable propaganda machines by spreading disinformation and swaying electoral opinion. Even a foreign power had supposedly invested considerable time and effort in spreading negative propaganda to levy support with their choice for president. In December of this year, the CIA officially recognized that Russian-hosted fake news sites were highly influential when determining America’s 45th president. Strategically sanctioned by their leader Vladimir Putin.

So how do we pull ourselves out of the quagmire of mistruths and propaganda and identify fake from real?

Two easy and practical steps can help you regain your trust in news.

BaitStep 1. Beware of click-bait. 

Click-bait is a term relating to links or websites that encourage you to read on. Once you click onto a site, the clicks become revenue generators for suspect web hosts and their authors. In almost all cases, the headlines are false or at the very least, misleading. One of the most notorious examples being, “He Found a Cure for Cancer with This Pill. Now Doctors Hate Him.”

If it seems ridiculous. Then it is!

PegsStep 2. Keep it clean.

One news site proclaiming to be the ‘truth,’ ran the headline, “CNN: ‘Drunk Hillary’ Beat Sh**t Out of Bill Clinton on Election Nite.” This headline is not only crass and illiterate but holds three glaring examples of bad journalism.

First, quoting another news competitor. This would never happen. When have you ever seen or heard of a media competitor mentioned on your favourite broadcast or news site? Unless, as in this case, where you want to deflect the chance of libel when calling Hillary a ‘drunk.’

Then there is the use of profanity. If and when a reputable news organization would need to include profanity, it would be prefaced with a disclaimer. And how about that spelling? Yes, Webster may differ from Oxford, but certainly not when aligning to journalistic writing standards as American Press or Canadian Press guidelines.

Guidelines and standards are the vanguards for quality and journalistic integrity.

News SiteStep 3. With integrity come standards.

With any credible news, the first part of developing a story is fact checking. Be it checking sources or proofing data, by executing this due diligence, your news integrity will gain the trust needed to be YOUR reliable source of information. In Canada, privately held news providers and their social media properties, are held to journalistic ethics by the standards of both the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council. As for public broadcasting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, represent its ethical framework. All under the approval of the Canadian government’s own watchdog, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission.  In print, including many of their online properties, the Canadian Association of Journalists provides similar guidelines and standards. Collectively, these represent the standards of journalism you would expect for news gathering integrity. If you find some of your local news feeds are not following these guidelines, then call them out.  Hold them accountable.

Believe me, their advertisers would not want to be in the middle of a fake news scandal.

SkunkFake news stinks.

Practising these three simple steps in fake news prevention will put you back into the driver’s seat when getting your news.  Remember, trust is gained. Like a bad piece of meat, if smells off then throw it out. Why should your news be any different?

Fake news stinks!

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2016. The Year to Manage Negative News.

There is No Grey in Black

Photo Coutesy of Yannig Van de Wouver CC

Photo Coutesy of Yannig Van de Wouver CC

No bones about it, 2015 was a year chock full of headlines and sound bites soaked in cruelty and barbarism. Some so unspeakable and horrific, discussions are rare and often muted. If you followed the news in 2015, this world of ours is becoming evermore unkind and gloomy. Mainstream media continues its duty-bound charge by providing us with stories draped in catastrophe and human suffering.

But is the tone and narrative of news any different from past years?

Granted, 2015 increased its volume of terrorist atrocities but is news any more negative year over year? Is the media taking an active role in sanctioning mental health issues?

In the Associated Press (AP) – Times Square Alliance survey to Americans, it is of no surprise that so many surveyed are having a hard time finding the good in the world.

57% feel the year as a whole is worse than last year. Up from 38% from 2014.

When looking to their own lives on a personal level, 29 % believe 2015 was better for them than 2014, while 21 % feel it was worse, compared with 15 % in 2014.

Of those polled, 68% said mass shootings were most important. Then the Paris terror attacks at 64% and finally, ISIL, ISIS activities at 63%.

Can all this adverse news be taking a toll on our positive mind-set?

The decades-old media trope, “If it bleeds, it leads,” rings truer now than ever. Mass shootings and terrorism continue to wet the media’s insatiable appetite for measurable advertising points. And most certainly this proclivity for fear-driven fare is going nowhere. To be fair, this is their job and their moral obligation.

Finding the Light in the Dark

Light in tunnel

Photo Courtesy of David Anderson CC

As viewers, and more importantly humans, we must filter out this harmful habit of digesting bad news and look for the good in all stories. Yes even terror – somehow. Not an evangelical approach to watching news, but a more cathartic and healthier way towards viewing and processing all the bad out there.

Abraham Lincoln said it best, “We can complain that the rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.”

It’s all about how you look at it.

Living our lives day-to-day we craft personal values to help guide us through adversity and hard times. These annual tenets are well fastened to both our work and personal lives. Drawing parallels from bad to good are how we navigate issues and problems on a daily basis. We process the heinous and abominable with the understanding that good (more than often) will triumph.

We are human beings and naturally seek the silver lining in all. We need to approach negative news content the same way.

Putting Our News Into Defined Perspective.

Photo Courtesy of Carbumba CC

Photo Courtesy of Carbumba CC

Many times our individual problems are magnified by what we see as an inconvenience or annoyance. More than often they are not significant problems as we are not processing them correctly. Within the right perspective. Personal bias clouds and distorts the issue and presents it as traumatic. If we take the time to offer further reflection, these same issues may not be as serious as originally thought.

With this analysis, here’s a thought…

We still enjoy getting our local news. What are the Jones’ doing? What is your councillor saying now? What about that new hospital wing? Where did the funds come from? Local news is easy and comforting to process. It’s safe – generally, and allows us to be informed at a speed and tone manufactured by us and acceptable to most. The good is easier to see as it is not immersed in multiple layers of politics, religion, or societal prejudice.

Let’s bring that micro-focus to world events. What if we relate each negative news item to how we receive our local news? Understand the themes and narratives and draw comparisons to our own lives. This ability to compare our everyday issues and crises to what is going on in the world would provide us with a practical more positive account for deeply depressing news.

Here is an example I experienced this past year:

Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees. (The Guardian September 3, 2015)

Quintessentially the most disturbing and haunting image and accompanying story of 2015. Even today it is hard to look at the photo that changed how the West acted on the Syrian refugee crisis. I know myself when I saw this during breakfast, I gasped and looked away quickly. Was this real? Had the Syrian refugee issue become this bad? We all know the answer to these questions but continue to look for reasons why it happened.

It’s time to start paying attention to the election. (East York Mirror September 3, 2015)

That evening, as I live in East York, Toronto, the weekly neighbourhood tabloid newspaper dropped onto my porch. Right there plain as day on the editorial page was an opinion piece on the upcoming election. I instantly remembered that immigration and the strife of the Syrians was a platform issue for one of the parties vying for my vote.* This offered me a direct and actionable correlation. I could process this mornings image knowing I can help make a difference so this doesn’t happen again by categorizing my vote.

I searched for a redeeming factor within the news item and plugged it into my own world. By associating the events in Europe with my local news, helped ‘softened the blow’ and allowed me to process this news positively and with hope that things will change.

Illuminate Your News

Photo Courtesy of John Ragal

Photo Courtesy of John Ragal

We zoom out of our closed worlds to watch, listen and read about heinous events in relative comfort knowing they are half-a-world-away. Consciously or subconsciously, this frustrates us into a feeling of mental exhaustion spurred by helplessness and inaction. We keep ourselves from looking for the good that can happen, by finding the light in the dark.

In 2016, as either a news junky or nonchalant viewer, we need to take the time to believe that you can find the good in the news. No matter how bad it is.

*Note: In October of 2015, Canada ushered in a new government whose platform was centred on accepting more refugees to Canada.

What Direction Now for Media’s Moral Compass?

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan LaChance CC

Editor’s Note:
Has filling today’s media gullet with “all things Trump,” reduced the role media MUST take when protecting personal information? And if it has, is it complicit when promoting unfavourable national agendas as the recent immigration policy in the States?

Below are my thoughts when this issue popped its ugly head a few years back after the San Bernardino terror event.

— Repost from the summer of 2015

Is Ethical Journalism Dead?

Evidently so if recent events are any indication.

Last week, MSNBC, CNN and other various local affiliates decided to forego ethical behaviour to enrich their coverage of America’s worst mass murder in almost three years. While the world slowly untangled the news of more gun violence coming from the States, local, national and international media decided to follow another lead.

This lead brought them – literally – to the front doorstep of another smaller but important story – media ethics and privacy.

As a person who makes his living creating media strategies, I was shocked to witness what happened last week as mob mentality overruled the tenets of responsible journalism.

Many questions continue to arise from this yellow day in media. Has the pressure to make the ‘6’ cast aside the ability of journalists to practice ethics? Has the voracious appetite for news content every minute of the day erased the parameter of respectable news gathering?

Privacy and Snoops


Photo Courtesy of Gianfranco Marzetti CC

We understand the media has the tendency to be intrusive. Equally, some intrusion into privacy can be essential towards informing the public. Responsible reporting has the ability to grow the story by telling an accurate account of the event or happening. It is only when we cross this line that media is presented with an ethical dilemma.

How much information do we share so the viewer is informed?

In the case of terror suspects Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, personal assets including passport documents, social security cards, photographs and worst of all, a baby’s crib, were displayed in HD splendour. Why these items were still on site and not in FBI inventory is a puzzle, but was there really the need for viewers to know the colour of the baby’s onesie? Thereby offering a clue to his/her identity? What about the photographs containing images of other persons that have not released their image to the media? Are they elemental to the right of information versus the right of privacy?

Absolutely not. And yet reporters took the effort to lay these items out to solicit sensational viewership.

Interpretation of Policy

Bull Horn_Fotor

Photo Courtesy of The Library of Congress CC

Here in Canada, individual media by practice have their own ethical guidelines that stipulate particular behaviour in newsgathering. By example, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Journalistic Standards and Practices states under “Fairness, ‘In our information gathering and reporting, we treat individuals and organizations with openness and respect. We are mindful of their rights. We treat them even-handedly.’”

It makes you wonder if the language was intentionally vague to support more leverage when intruding on personal privacy.

The Canadian Association of Journalist expands on CBC’s guideline by adding, “However, there are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy and the rights of all citizens to be informed about matters of public interest. Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.”

Let’s look at the last part of this statement, “Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.” With the understanding, I am basing my criticism on Canadian ethos of journalism, did the BBC, MSNBC, et al in San Bernardino, have ‘common sense’ when videotaping photographs of persons not associated with the two suspects? It’s also important to note, the suspects were not deemed terrorists by the FBI until the 5th of December.

And let’s not forget the ‘relevance’ of videotaping the washroom. Remember only psychos and murderers have messy washrooms! Right?

Language is Everything

Wires 1

Photo Courtesy of Nathalie Capitan CC

A day following the San Bernardino media circus, The Society of Professional Journalists in the States released a statement saying, “Walking into a building and live broadcasting the pictures, addresses and other identifying information of children or other people who may have no involvement in the story does not represent best and ethical practices.”

A statement carefully crafted not to call down the recent exploits of its members, but merely a gentle slap on the wrist.

What message does this send out to the general public when dealing with media? How can the public continue to trust the media to withhold their privacy with no recourse to improper process?

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) one of the media members reporting the San Bernardino suspects home, and one of the most respected international news organizations, seem to be very clear regarding their broadcast privacy policy, “The BBC will respect privacy and will not infringe on it without good reason, wherever in the world we are operating. Private behaviour, information, correspondence and conversation will not be brought into the public domain unless there is a public interest that outweighs the expectation of privacy.”

The language almost completely supports the broadcaster having the last say whether, “there is a public interest that outweighs the expectation of privacy.”

Clearly, broadcasters and media have a job to do by informing the public of issues and incidents that may impact their safety and well-being. The problem lies in the interpretation of ‘responsibility’ when privacy is concerned. As shown in California, the ethical process was unfettered and improvident. Not a single ounce of ‘responsibility’ was practised by any broadcaster that day.



The privacy of an individual continues to be centre regarding this issue, but what happens when the breach is reflective of an entire culture or religion? Especially relevant in these days of terror.

In the San Bernardino experience, we see ONE particular lifestyle on display – not all. But alas, the media in their frenzy to parlay any form of ethical behaviour in favour of ratings, paraded various artefacts including the Koran in front of the world. Sound bites emphasised these were ‘Muslim’ items and emblazoned this information across the TV screen.

A reckless exercise creating a stigma that all American ‘Muslim’ apartments contain the same contents and ideology.

Fortunately, many self-respecting Americans immediately lashed back through Twitter with the hashtag #MuslimApartment or #MyMuslimApartment. Their tweets offered the world a glimpse inside their homes sharing personal property as American football jerseys and Disney play figures. A resolute statement from American Muslims proud of their nationality and quick to remind the media not to forget, “…common sense, humanity and relevance,” when reporting their stories.

The media are integral to the business of sharing information for the public’s well-being. As citizens, we just need reassurance that the media follow the same set of common sense privacy guidelines we use every day. Especially in times of terrorism and mistrust.

5 Reasons Why Social Media Rocks!

2014 was a banner year for social media. When crunching the numbers we see 8,200 tweets, 1,500 Instagrams, 1,600 Tumblr posts, 46,000 Google searches, contributing to over 24,000 GB of internet traffic – per SECOND. In one day alone, over 860 million people use their Facebook accounts to post, share, and interact with online content.

This planet is experiencing a mass social experiment like none before. No matter your age, gender, or economic background, you are part of a technological crusade of evangelical proportions. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

How we connect, select community, access information and share ‘till it hurts, remains as it was when homo erectus walked the earth. This is what we do, we do it well and we will continue to do it, for many more years.

To close out 2014 let us look at the top five key reasons why social media is, and will continue to be, a good thing.

#1: Social Media Helps You Make Friends.

Survey Says: The need to connect is hardwired into our species.

The plain fact is we need to be part of something bigger. How else can we brag, or complain without knowing our euphoria or pain is shared by those around us? In our relentless pursuit of being part of something bigger, we desperately seek to connect. Whether with complete strangers, or past acquaintances, we yearn to develop trust by exchanging emotional discourse with others. Our minds subconsciously repeat, ‘I like them and I want them to be part of my world.’

Introverted? Shy? No problem. Social media is here to make this connection for you. 

#2. Social Media Makes You Smart.

Survey Says: The size of our social networks is directly related to the size of our brain.

Behavioural scientists like Robin Dunbar confirm, we have big neo-cortexes. This is the part of our brain that processes higher functions. Such as sensory perception, motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, and in humans beings, language. Being only two chromosomes apart from our simian ancestors (on which the finding is based) humans have the ability to grow our neo-cortexes with absolute ease by simply expanding our networks. All we need to do is add an extra Facebook friend, Twitter follower or LinkedIn group everyday and our brain naturally grows. How awesome is that!

Now I’m Feeling like @SmartyPants is not that bad of a Twitter handle after all.

#3. Social Media Can Change History.

Survey Says: Social media users will look to ‘real-time’ events in order to become part of the event.

Mashable’s 10 Historical Events Affected by Social Media lays out the bare truth. Social media has the capability to adjust historical outcomes. Take Super Storm Sandy, Arab Spring, even the tragic events in Sydney Australia this past week. How would these events have unfolded without social media’s participation?

Social media is the platform where news stories break – not TV. Equally, social media is commonly used in crisis communication. This is substantiated when law enforcement routinely call for social media blackouts during crisis. This allows authorities to converse in ‘real-time,’ therefore altering outcomes almost immediately. It seems not only do we have the ability to change history, we also want to be the FIRST.

Stamford University and Microsoft research confirms, when users search for ‘real-time’ events, hyper intensive topics as terror, often evolve so fast it creates a (virtual) ‘pile-on.’ Once the information is absorbed and shared, off we go to be the first to form another ‘pile.’ Humans now have the vehicle that allows us to be part of the much bigger cultural mainstream.

Social media allows us to change history and still retain a feeling of belonging. How great is that!

#4. Social Media Bites! (But in a good way)

Survey Says: The ‘Social Media Contageon’ is an epidemic of extraordinary force that infects everyone who dares to log on.

In the New York Times Insights study, Psychology of Sharing, sharing helps build self-actualization, esteem and connectedness. All the important elements of being social. The big difference today is; this gigantic concept called the Information Age is a game changer. Sharing is now on steroids. We share more, from more, with more, more often and more quickly than ever before. And the speed is breathtaking. If you thought the common flu virus was communicable, it holds nothing to a viral event on the internet – good or bad.

Actual pandemics have benefited from this capacity to share information through surveillance as the public clamour to follow the outbreak.

Social is infectious but satisfying. We have been bitten by speed, lured by trust and comforted by community. But what a great thing this new digital malady is. We can commiserate, cheer, applaud or cry – together; almost immediately.

We are able to share our sacred emotions within our own social community.

#5.  Social Media is Here to Stay

Survey Says: As we move into 2015, social media will offer bold new opportunities to all the counted millions of users.

Will it ever!

In business, social media will enable a multitude of businesses to strategize media convergence, utilize big data procurement, and monetize big revenues from e-commerce.

In society, social media will bring people together in growing numbers to grieve our soldiers or cheer on our national sports heroes.

However you use social media remember, it is loud, it is proud and it’s not going anywhere.

The presence and pace of social media can be summed up by Pete Townsend of The Who when quoted, “Keith Moon, God rest his soul, once drove his car through the glass doors of a hotel, driving all the way up to the reception desk, got out and asked for the key to his room.” Speed, tenacity and pure audacity is why social media rocks in 2014 and will in 2015!

In closing, with all rational thinking comes the other argument on social’s place in society.

5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing Your Brain Right Now.


Social’s Time to Shine with Ebola Surveillance.

Photo Courtesy of Tommy Trenchard

Photo Courtesy of Tommy Trenchard

Why Social Media Will Be Critical for Ebola Surveillance.

The Ebola virus disease is real. As of October 14, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost over 4,500 citizens to the virus and the mortality rate continues to multiply. Outside west Africa, America and Spain strengthen their preparedness in light of serious errors in standard operating procedures. The European Union heightens their preparations with possible new cases arising in France and Spain respectively.

There is no doubt; Ebola is a very serious medical event needing responsible story telling. Media have (a degree of) accountability to ethically inform the public with balanced and culpable reporting.

In which universe?

As before and always, broadcast and print deafen our senses hourly within a framework of fear and apprehension. For many, this seems like déjà vu. Media professed countless stories of doom and gloom in 2001 and 2003 (H5N1), 2002 (SARS) and 2009 (H1N1) viral outbreaks. Each of these influenza pandemics were wrapped with the same predictable means of anxiety and fear.

Let’s face it, news-gathering is driven by advertising revenues and ‘if it bleed it leads.’ We get that.

But what about the new (media) kid on the block?

Is social media merely a ‘media vector’ glad-handing news reports on Twitter et al? Is it not the time for social to stand apart from traditional media and provide a new purpose when telling the pandemic story? The public deserve more stories detailing how the world is managing the issue. Not countless minutes of video loops and talking heads proclaiming why no one is doing anything and how much money is being spent.

The time is now for social to take centre stage by telling the story everyone really wants to hear – surveillance.

After all, social media is the public’s media!

Top reasons why social will help control Ebola

Events Based Surveillance

Bioterrorism remains the number one issue for event-based surveillance (EBS) within the American and European governments. Recently billions has been poured into biodefense in something called a Biosurveillance Ecosystem.  An American early warning detection system wired to analyze and track bioterrorism in the U.S.. Something newly minted Ebola czar @RonaldKlain will tap into, right?

In the 2012 Olympic Games the U.K. implemented an EBS to great success and is now a standard in EBS technology and benchmark code for future algorithms. Considering public participation is imperative with good EBS data, let’s hear some these stories!

As with past pandemics, online giants as Google provided search tools as Google’s flu trends which mapped out influenza hot spots for early warning. Yes, Google was leery on giving away flu search terms as to ward off hackers, but clearly Rihanna or other celebrities have learned and will not claim flu-like indices on their Twitter handles regarding Ebola, right?


The world’s largest ‘micro-blogging’ platform now rings in half a billion tweets a day. Plus, as of March of this year, mobile apps have overtaken PC internet usage. This gives Twitter a huge capacity to broadcast from literally, anywhere. Equally, at 140 characters, the communication is more succinct and offers phraseology conducive to behaviour tracking. Past influenzas has underscored the importance of developing algorithms to parse off the Twitter slang and offer accurate data outside of Google search terms.

Twitter also offers Geo-tagging (GPS tagged tweets) relaying real-time metadata. Gone are the days of helicopters following white Broncos, now we can accurately plot a virus’ virulent path by tracking photos from mobile devices.

Crowd Sourcing

Invaluable towards the tracking and eventual capture of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects; crowd sourcing is growing as a premier surveillance tool. Groups as rely on public data to help track STDs, influenza, tuberculosis amongst other maladies. This beta site is funded by Salathé Group, CIDD, Penn State University and Health Map and is actively positioned for social integration.

People Have the Power

Social will help the world react to Ebola in a positive and proactive manner. Not by proliferating fear through misinformed tweets, but by uniting together with their devices as one true mechanism to track, analyze and ultimately beat this horrible and devastating disease.

Patty Smith sang it best, “People have the power!”

Footnote: This blog entry supports all the dedicated and selfless work rendered by the hundreds of medical workers in west Africa and around the world. In death there will be triumph and on behalf of all patients suffering from Ebola, thank you.

John K. Bromley

Can Social HR Help Today’s Workforce?

Photo Courtesy of Martins Bruneniecks

Photo Courtesy of Martins Bruneniecks

Management labour over what – if any – social media can do for them when engaging employees.

Disengagement breeds absenteeism. A fact most managers are aware of and the numbers speak for themselves. In 2012 Statistics Canada pegs the average Canadian worker was away from work for the equivalent of almost two weeks in a year. Fiscal translation: 9.3 days lost representing 2.4% of gross annual payroll, or $16.6 billion for Canadian employers.

Lakshmi Ramarajan from the Toronto Rotman School of Management identified,

‘lack of respect, ideas not being valued, lack of control and the absence of any feedback, the top contributors to burnout and disengagement.’

So how de we get employees back to work?

What about observing their behaviour? I’m not talking about charting coffee breaks and lunchtimes, but really taking the time to see into our staff. Many managers including myself, firmly believe by understanding employee behaviour we are directly enabling better engagement, respect and loyalty. Clearly, if we are to be successful managers, we need to know what makes our staff tick. We owe it to them, our company and to ourselves. So how do we do this without months, if not years, of polling, surveys and interviews?

Enter social media.

This new and constantly changing medium is a natural fit for internal communications to bolster contribution, feedback, value and the ever-important engagement. And of course the most important of all – human behaviours and the rhythms they create. Social media is built on the mining, extracting and fostering of various behaviours and their coveted traits. Why would we not leverage these tools inside our workplace?

Take the behemoth of social interaction, Facebook. CNN’s Doug Gross laid it out succinctly in his article, ‘5 Ways Facebook Changed us, for better, for worse.’ Facebook promotes and fosters good things as sharing, and bad things, as ‘over-sharing.’ If that is even possible in today’s accelerated world of online exchange. Facebook has the inherent ability to adjust and modify behaviour. A leading study at the University of Michigan details how our ‘seemingly’ harmless news feeds have the ability to promote both goodness and wickedness. In one second social media can envision instantaneous moon swings just by looking at images from our Facebook pages.

Are Mood Swings a Good Thing When Deciphering Behaviours?

I believe it is. If we recognize these ’emotional pendulums’ can act as enablers towards understanding how our staff communicate – why not? This is especially warranted where a good portion of workplaces today contain a generous mix of Gen X, Y and millennial employees.

Forbes Magazine’s Jeannie Meister reports in 2014, The Year Social HR Matters how digital immigrants have now caught up to digital natives. A statement aligned to Microsoft data where they polled 9,000 workers in 32 countries and found millennial employees will make up 50% of the 2020 workplace and distinctly see the business value of using technology on the job.

O.K. so this needs to happen. But how?

Everyone Loves to Play Games!

Barbara Swenson at All Business Experts takes it to a whole new level in extolling the virtue of ‘gamification.’ Organizations as LiveHelpNow will gamify your workplace to attain employee engagement quite literally by playing video games. This methodology is supported with further research done by officevibe where 70% of Forbes Global 2000 uses gamification to boost engagement, retention and revenues.

Seems like a no-brainer. What better way of harnessing these behaviour traits than by having our staff actively involved in social media. Whether it is simply bringing their own device to game on breaks, or logging into Facebook, you have a captive audience ready and willing to feed your corporate needs.

Not So Fast. What About Security and Reputation?

Guaranteed the perpetual vanguards of corporate safety and character – IT and legal, are aghast when they hear your new designs for internal communications and staff engagement. After all, they are being paid to look out for malevolent, salacious and damaging events as social engineering, viruses, reputation, liability, privacy and proprietary ownership. Those are pretty heavy words in any context for most companies. Issues needing very discernible and strategic attention.

Dan Pontefract of Huff Post Business reports on the 2014 Proskauer survey:

  • Only 17% of organizations have provisions that protect them against misuse of social media by ex-employees
  • 36% of employers actively block access to such sites, compared to 29% in 2012
  • 43% of businesses permit all of their employees to access social media sites, a fall of 10%

More use for sure but conversely a more rigid and restrictive communication culture.

Queue the social media policies.

So what gives? How much rope do we give our employees when it comes to their keen desire to engage with their personal friends, communities, groups, brands, etc., while at work? At the same time, how can we not use social media to infuse a culture of active employee engagement.

Not any easy solution, but if we don’t embrace social media in the workplace, we may loose everything, including our best and brightest employees.

John K. Bromley