Monday, April 27, 2009

Bow to the KING

My other passion in life is swing dancing. Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats stress like a good night out dancing. My prefered style is lindy hop - the original dance from Harlem in the 1930s named after Lindbergh and his 'hop' over the ocean. I can dance other styles but prefer lindy hop. I've even tried to figure out how I could live my life so I could just travel and dance. Never worked out a satisfactory plan that allowed for food... so I settled for a regular night out as often as I could.

Since having a little guy the dancing is now a trickle - every couple of months. But it is still my passion and I live in envy of people who keep the first of their passion for their entire lives. Frankie Manning is one such man. Frankie is one of the original Savoy Ballroom lindy hop dancers. He is credited with the first ever 'aerial'. He lived his life for lindy hop. Check him out on youtube

When the interest in lindy hop died in the 60s he became a postman. But in the 1980s when lindy hop was re-discovered he was right back in the game. He was a consumate gentleman - he always instructed the leads to bow to their queens before they started the dance. His passion for the dance was evident and contagious. I took some classes from him at dance camps and have had the honour to dance with him at Swing Out Northwest. But most of all he was an inspiring example of someone who lived their passion his entire life. He was dancing, teaching and travelling to dance and teach right up until his death. He died today one month shy of his 95th birthday.

Today I bow to the KING. And I hope to honour him by burning up that dance floor for years to come.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Make or break your brand

"Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can
change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead

The growth and power of the Internet and specifically social media only makes this quote even more true today. The topic of watercooler conversation is quickly moving from last night's tv to real time issues via social media.

This is particularly true with happy or unhappy customer experiences. It takes just one unhappy customer, with the right online communities to kill a brand. Just ask Amazon after their crisis last week when they removed 'adult' titles from its sales rankings, including gay and lesbian titles. One man blogged about it and the response he received from Amazon. Once the issue started gaining momentum on Twitter Amazon responded that it was a glitch. That only spawned #glitchmyass website, blogs, tweets. Search #glitchmyass on twitter and you won't believe the amount of conversation on this topic.

Amazing that a long standing internet company like Amazon could make such a novice PR error in dealing with this issue.

In light of the power of this medium there is a lot of interest today in best practices on how to use social media to your companies advantage in today's world. Jennifer Lowther from 6S made a presentation on just that last night for the BCAMA.

She covered some good basics on social media. But what I wanted to hear those best practices. She feels that every project is different and things change so fast there aren't any clear best practices. But she did list off several MUST dos or do nots during her presentation (feels like best practices to me...).
  1. Be real, honest and transparent - if you have something to hide it will be found on the internet
  2. Plan before you go - a poor social media campaign can do more harm than good
  3. At minimum you must monitor what is being said about your organization online - even if you aren't ready to jump into the social media game, people are talking about you in REAL TIME (this is also true of you as an individual - every potential employer, business partner or client will google or twitter you so you better know what it says)
  4. Social media is REAL TIME - you must be prepared to deal with negative publicity or to own up to mistakes quickly, ie: Motrin, Dominos, Amazon...
  5. must give more than you take... social media is a conversation not a push sales pitch
  6. Be consistent in whatever you decide to do... if you start a blog make sure it is updated on a consistent timeline... so many organizations start blogging multiple times a week and then find that hard to keep up... be realistic and consistent
  7. MUST have a social media policy for your staff - otherwise you could be Translink with a front page story on the Province.

The final and personal lesson is to understand the power of your online community... ie: NEVER piss off mommy bloggers.

Many of us still think of social media as a 'youth' tactic. This was demonostrated in part by Jennifer an 'expert' in her field who references using Wikipedia at University. Since University for me was 20 years ago I certainly felt old. But then Jennifer reminded me that social media is being driven by 35-50 years. And that reminds me that even as a newbie blogger my voice does matter and companies had better pay attention to it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I saw Adrienne Clarkson speak a few weeks ago at UBC (before all the fun with my husband's ski accident concussion). She spoke at length about an English teacher she had at Lisgar - the same high school she and I both attended although many many years apart. And this got me thinking about mentors and people who have influenced my career (coincidentally I was asked this question in an interview 2 days after the presentation).

There are 2 key career mentors that easily come to mind. They were my two first bosses at Cossette and are still friends today. I worked twice for Glenn Stanley-Paul and am currently guided in my foray into blogging by Chris Morales (his blog is Now that I'm out west I don't get to see them as much as I would like, but they are still good friends and 2 of my most trusted professional allies.

But I have to say one of my biggest breaks didn't come from them, it came from a former client. She had a profound influence on me at a key point in my career.

My first job in marketing was at Cossette in Toronto in the early 1990's (see former post for more on those Melrose Place flashbacks...). I worked on the GM account - specifically the female friend Saturn. I was one of the few women on the team. But our client was a woman named Susan Docherty. I had been in my secretarial 'start at the bottom' position for about a year. Our Account Executive Lili had recently resigned and there was an opportunity for me to take on more - really show that I was more than a great excel wiz at building complex competitive charts. But the men that I worked with were a bit anxious about moving me up too quickly on such a male dominated client such as GM. Our team lead was concerned the client may not take the former 'secretary' seriously. And Chris and Glenn seemed to be concerned that if I faltered I may not get a second chance with them. But Susan thought I could do more and she fought to get me a couple of opportunities to show my stuff. My bosses had no choice but to give me the opportunity.

And I needed Susan's help. I totally screwed up my first presentation to a small dealer co-op. She bailed me out about half way through the presentation - without my losing face with either the dealers or my bosses (who weren't at the meeting). She coached me and then pushed me forward again at the next opportunity. She knew I'd get there and I did.

I don't have a long term relationship with Susan. She and I weren't friends outside our client/agency relationship. I have no idea if she is still with GM today. But she was a strong female role model for me at a point in my career where the men around me needed a little push. Those men are still my friends and mentors today. But it is Susan I really need to thank for giving me the opportunity to fail.