How to simplify complex ideas or technologies

It’s one of the things that companies, and particularly technology companies, struggle with most – how do they explain a complicated idea, product or service in a way that their target audience can relate to.  Here’s a great example from that uses coffee to explain what the various ‘as-a-service’ or ‘cloud’ delivery models offered by technology service providers really mean.

You can read the full post on the site.  If you’re a tech marketer that is struggling to explain your value proposition or technology then I’d highly recommend you share it with your teams.

Explaining a complex idea, using coffee – All Rights Reserved


How to get defamatory online posts taken down

NOTE: this is not a post on how to get negative posts removed.  For advice on what to do to address these, please visit 5 things to do to tackle negative reviews online

This post provides advice on how to deal with online comments and posts that are defamatory – untrue statements that are made as a matter of fact that do damage to the reputation of a business or its owner.  I wrote a post about online defamation last year, but as more and more of my clients ask for help with the problem I wanted to provide a quick guide to how you can get the posts taken down without resorting to legal action.

First, you must satisfy the following criteria:

  • The comments must be defamatory – they must be stated as facts, rather than as an opinion and be something that can do damage to the reputation of either your business or  your personally.
  • You must also be able to prove that the statement is false, rather than simply something that you feel is unfair [the burden of proof in defamation cases is on the defamed to prove it is false]
  • The evidence needs to be such that it would stand up to the evidential standards – and prove the statement to be false beyond reasonable doubt.
  • The statement has been published [the legal definition of publication in defamation cases is two people]

On the basis that you have fulfilled these criteria, then the quickest and most effective way to have defamatory statements removed from a website or forum is to present the publisher with an affidavit that the statement is defamatory on the grounds it us untrue, and asking them to remove the offending posts or comments.  It’s likely that they’ll remove the posts but, if they don’t, it’s worth reminding them that, while it may not be worth you pursuing the original poster, that repeating a defamatory statement [which is, as publishers, what they are doing] is not a defence in law, and you reserve the right to take action against them to have the content removed and recover damages.

If, at this point they still refuse to take down the defamatory content then it might be time to contact a lawyer to explore your legal options.

For advice on how to deal with negative or defamatory statements online contact


Yelp! 5 things to do if you get a negative online review

If you have a business – particularly one that deals directly with consumers – reviews are an increasingly important tool for growing your business.  With more review sites and an increasing number of reviewers, the chance you’ll get negative reviews is also higher than ever.  But, that’s OK.  It’s not the review, but how you deal with it that is important.  If you have no negative reviews then the modern internet-savvy consumer will likely suspect something is wrong.

So, what do you do when you get a negative review?  There are some quick and easy things you can do that may turn a negative review in to a positive business outcome.  It also shows that you take complaints seriously, rather than dismissing them.

1. Take responsibility – saying sorry is key.  It demonstrates that your business cares about negative feedback and shows that you take their complaint seriously.  Explain that you want to find out what went wrong and take steps to remedy  the situation.

2. Take it offline – ask for contact details so that you can contact the customer.  Reassure them that you are concerned about the problem they experienced and want to see what you can do to address it.  Asking for contact details also enables you to take the discussion offline, rather than having it in a public forum.

3.  Find out what went wrong –  without the facts you can’t stop it happening again and set yourself up for more negative reviews.  Talk with your customer and staff to understand what the truth is and what, if anything, went wrong.

4.  Follow up – often all a customer wants is to know that you take their complaint seriously.  Calling them to explain what you found out and, where possible, taking responsibility for the problem they experienced shows you care and demonstrates that you are doing everything you can to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

5. Avoid a repeat –  – the saying, ‘the customer is always right’ is an important one.  Whether they are, or are not – they need to feel like their concerns have been taken seriously.  Whether you feel their complaint is valid or not, offer them some sort of goodwill gesture – a voucher off of a future meal, or a replacement product.  It’ll be cheaper than the damage caused to your reputation.

Wherever possible take personal responsibility for making sure their experience is one to remember, for all the right reasons.

There will always be customers that are unsatisfied, but  by adopting this approach you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’ve done everything you can to address the complaint and fix it.

To find out how to deal with defamatory online posts online click here


How to use video to differentiate your marketing

Yesterday I was talking with @mone_Knows  about innovation in PR.  I mentioned how very few companies have worked out how to use video as part of their public relations, marketing and online customer service activities, and she showed me a video that glasses retailer Warby Parker had made for her when she was looking for a new pair.

I tweeted the company that I liked what the company was doing and they made me a video to say thank you.  Very cool – and not just because they made me a video.  They could have made it about them but they didn’t – it was about me.  It’s not a sales video, there’s no hard sell… it’s friendly, personal and – because it’s video – it shows a little of the personality of the brand.  It also demonstrates that using video as part of your PR, marketing and customer service activities can be quick [their video came just a couple of hours after my original tweet], cost-effective and builds a relationship with an audience – whether its customers, prospects, journalists or influencers.

Check out Warby Parker’s YouTube channel to see how they’re doing it.  None of the videos has a huge number of views – and that’s OK.  It’s not the point.  The videos aren’t about viewer numbers, they’re about building a personal relationship with their audience.   And, before you think that it only works because Warby Parker is a consumer business, think again.  Video works for B2B businesses too – you just have to figure out how best to use it for your target audience.

So, next time you’re wondering how to differentiate your business, and build a relationship with a target audience, think video.

Public Relations is long-term, not just real-time

DISCLOSURE: Ford Motor Company Canada provided me with a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid to drive from Toronto to SXSW, in Austin, TX, and back. I covered all additional costs including gas. Since my return I have also driven two other vehicles from the company – a CMAX and a Focus Plug-in Hybrid.

In return, Ford has not asked for anything. They have not asked me to write anything or that anything I choose to write be favourable. Nobody has seen or asked for editorial oversight prior to publication.

This post has been almost ready to publish on more than a few occasions, but each time I’ve read it one last time and thought it could be improved. I think it’s a more interesting piece as a result.

“When can I expect coverage” is the question I’ve been most often asked by clients during my public relations career. They’d done an interview and the focus has then switched to when the article or news piece will get published. Over the years it’s become a bigger issue: the real-time internet has grown and publications have switched to online-first and this has driven the the requirement for instant gratification.

Almost eight weeks ago Ford Canada kindly agreed to lend me one of their Ford Fusion Hybrid vehicles to drive from Toronto to SXSW, in Austin Texas, and back again. In total, I drove more than 7500km in the car and, as I’ve worked on this post in its various iterations, how often do you think they’ve asked me when something was going to be written about my trip? Not once. Never. Zilch.

If I’m honest, they’d have been perfectly justified in asking. They gave me a vehicle, worth more than CAD 30,000, for a week. They could, justifiably, be keen to see some kind of return for their investment. And yet…

The initial focus of my post was going to be on the car. I’ve never been a fan of hybrid vehicles and wanted to see how the Fusion worked. As a bootstrapping entrepreneur I wondered whether a hybrid could deliver significant additional value for people like me. I’ve not actually counted, but I think I went to the gas station seven or eight times during the whole trip – that’s about once every 1000kms, which – compared to the other cars I’ve driven, is pretty impressive.

I recorded more than 200 videos during the trip and, if you’re really interested, this video – as I drove back in to Toronto on March 14th – tells you everything you need to know. Would I spend my own money on the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid?

But, as time has gone by what I thought about the car has become less important.  I started with lofty, an unrealistic, ambitions of creating some kind of Top Gear challenge video, but with only a few days between finding out I could have a car and the trip, and a business to run, I wasn’t properly prepared. I had also hoped to tweet as I drove down the backbone of the US but driving 3000km in three days leaves very little time for tweeting or blogging. I could blame Ford – they hadn’t created a tweeting car – but that’s not accurate. OK, so they’ve not actually built a tweeting car, but they’ve created a vehicle that, had I had a cellular data package for the US and one of the voice to tweet apps on my handset, the car could have tweeted. Location, gas economy, temperature, photographs… it’s going to happen.

Earlier in the year I was invited by Ford to attend the company’s digital summit, held alongside the North American International Auto Show and got my first insight of how it is approaching public relations and is using social communications, bloggers and influencers. I spoke with the Ford’s Head of Global Social Media, Scott Monty and I was impressed, but it’s easy to present an image over a short period of time when you know people are watching – isn’t that what public relations is all about, after all? It’s delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time, in the right way… it’s all about perception, right?

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I questioned Ford’s commitment to its community-building PR and marketing strategy – just that, having worked in PR for so many years and helped companies to create the right perceptions, it’s not always easy to maintain the standards you set when the focus isn’t on you. It’s all too easy to forget one of the key, but often forgotten, parts of public relations – the creation of mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and an audience [technically described as a public].

It’s far easier to focus on the short-term “when can I expect the coverage” than it is to build a long-term mutually beneficial relationship, but if I had any doubt that FORD gets it the last few weeks have answered them. Their tagline says Go Further – and FORD’s PR and social strategy is focused on the journey – building long-term relationships with its stakeholders – not just the destination.  More businesses need to understand this.

Journalists hate management speak/buzz words

There’s been a lot of coverage of the worst buzzwords used by PR people in 2012 and it reminded me of something I’d seen a few years back.  One UK journalist, David Meyer, decided a few years ago that he’d illustrate the problem he faced daily, reading press releases and interviewing company spokespersons, by writing a song about it.  It uses ONLY management speak in the lyrics.

If you know somebody that uses management speak or writes press releases filled with buzz words send them the link.  When you’re writing a release or talking with journalists [or customers/prospects/influencers, etc.] put yourself in their shoes – would you understand what you mean?  Once you’ve seen the video for ‘Love Solutions’ it’s hard to use buzzwords again without a smile appearing on your face.



Will The Sky Fall In On Your Online Videos?

I wrote about a problem of poor audio quality a few weeks ago.  Whether it’s a webinar, a hangout or a corporate video too many videos suffer from poor audio – and it’s killing the value they have as a way to increase inbound leads.  It’s never made sense that companies make huge time and effort and, often financial, investments in online videos [both live and recorded] and then fail to make sure the audio quality matches that of the pictures.

I was listening to a few YouTube videos online this week and a couple illustrate the problem perfectly.  The performers, in my opinion, are equally talented – but the difference in the audio quality is night and day.

First, an example of a produced cover of the latest Bond theme, ‘SkyFall’.  The audio and video have been recorded separately and mixed in post production.

Then there’s this version produced in, what looks like, a lounge or bedroom.  I don’t know whether the tracks were recorded on separate channels and then edited together [pretty easy to do], but it’s clear that both were recorded at the same time.

Then there’s a version of the same song that’s recorded ‘as live’ with a bit of production.  You can’t see a mic in this version and, even if you weren’t watching the video, you would know that the main track was recorded on a mic some distance away from the singer.

And, finally, there’s this version that – I suspect – was recorded using the built-in microphone of the PC or Mac the video is being recorded on.  Either that, or it’s on a stereo microphone – perhaps the onboard mic of a camcorder.  You can hear some white noise at the start of the recording and the richness of the audio is not the same as the first two you heard.

If the albums released by your favourite bands sounded like the last example, would you buy it?

Oh, and then there’s 95% of podcasts, webinars, hangouts and corporate videos.  If they were as good – or even close – to the final of these examples then they’d likely be far more effective than they are.  So, next time you are putting together a webinar, webcast, hangout or online video remember which version[s] of the covers you most enjoyed listening to – and make sure your audio rocks.  Your listeners will thank you for it.

How To Build A Small Business PR & Marketing Plan

If you’re planning a big year for your business in 2013 then now is the time to start planning. As part of my second post for the Small Business Community Network [SBCN] I outline a few things that small and medium-sized businesses need to think about as they build their marketing plan:

  • Get to know your audience. Intimately.
  • Know your competition.
  • Develop a compelling proposition
  • Define your Message
  • Know what will your call to action will be
  • Identify the influencers
  • Develop both strategic and tactical plans
  • Execute

To read the article in full, including tips and tricks for each part of the process visit the SBCN website here.

Need help building a plan for your business?  Contact or call +1 647.773.2677


I was asked earlier this week what the PSY – GANGNAM STYLE videos were all about and why they are getting so many hits right now.  I have to confess I don’t get it, but I do understand why they, and the spoof videos, are getting so many views on YouTube.  It’s the perfect marketing storm of having the right product in the right place, at the right time, and targeted at the right audience.  The video above has been viewed more than 230 million times and has introduced the Korean rapper PSY [real name Park Jae-sang], and his music, to millions of people who wouldn’t already have known anything about his work.  As a result, I’m guessing he’s probably going to sell a few more albums – many of them outside of his traditional markets in Asia.

It’s also a perfect example of how things can go viral.  Why are the videos so popular in North America and Europe?  Because they were hot in Asia, were spotted by taste-makers in North America and Europe… the videos were then shared with their peer group, spoofs started to emerge [relevant to audiences unlikely to see the original videos], which prompted viewers to watch the videos that inspired the spoofs.  Repeat this a few times and you get to 230 million views.  If you want an example of the power of social media communications, I can’t think of a better one right now!

While I can’t guarantee that following this model will deliver hundreds of millions of viewers for your viral video, getting the marketing mix right will give you the best chance of attracting new customers.

Other posts you might like:

The Rules of Viral Success

Is Your PR Company Taking The P Out of Marketing?