This year’s hottest Christmas toy will surprise you

Forget what you’ve heard about the hottest toy this Christmas being the Barbie Girls MP3 Player, the Transformers Movie Ultimate Bumblebee or even Guitar Hero 3.

According to toysrus.ca, the hottest toy this Christmas is an 8-pack of alkaline batteries. Really. Think of all those little kids who will wake up on Christmas morning wondering if there will be alkaline batteries under their tree, or if they’ll be the one who will have to return to school in the new year and watch enviously as the other kids roll their batteries around, engage in battery sword play and put on battery puppet shows.

This screen grab — captured just a few minutes ago — is just too funny.

mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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The is isn’t on Facebook

A couple weeks back, I reported that the much-hated “is” on Facebook’s status line was going to disappear so awkward sentences like “Keith is loving Burrito Boyz” could be replaced by the much more sensible “Keith loves Burrito Boyz.”

Problem is the is still was. But now it’s not. Thanks to Rich Bloom for pointing out the change that will shake the social graph to its core.


mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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Lessons in social media from a horse on a stick

When I arrived at Veritas, with a mission to spread the social media gospel within the organization as well as outside, I began writing a weekly e-mail to my colleagues which I uncreatively called “Social Media 101.” I churned out two of them before I got sidetracked by other things. I hope this blog is now providing my colleagues with a bit of 101. (Inside message to fellow Veritasians: If you mention that you read this post, I’ll buy you a Sambuca shot at Friday’s Christmas party).

Now Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo of Vancouver’s Capulet Communications have written a 101-type ebook, which they call Getting to First Base: A Social Media Marketing Playbook. You can buy it for $30 here, but Darren was kind enough to send me a copy.

I haven’t had much time with it, but after a quick scan on the subway ride home, there are a few things I really like about it.

First, it looks like it has some great case studies — both the obvious and some more obscure ones.

Second, it is surprisingly up to date (there’s a long entry on Facebook Beacon).

Third, they specify that the social media techniques in their book don’t apply to kids under 16. That’s important, because I find that a lot of marketers still think of social media as something specifically intended for kids under 16. And that’s just wrong. In com.motion’s recent social media poll, we found that 71 per cent of Canadians 18 and up have used social media tools. Predicatably, the number was much higher (93 per cent) for those aged 18 to 34, but still surprisingly high (49 per cent) for those aged 55 and up.

(Daren and Julie’s book would probably make a nice companion to com.motion’s Social Media training seminars. Contact me for more information on those.)

Finally, check out Daren and Julie’s promotional video in which a horse on a stick (I think it’s a horse) says — and I quote — “this books sounds very interesting. Maybe we should buy it. Maybe for some of our friends at Christmas. Mmmm. yes. Because nothing says Christmas like Social Media Marketing.”

Happy holidays.


mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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A press release you can’t send through snail mail

I’ve written a handful of press releases since I arrived at Veritas. I must have read thousands of press releases as a reporter — out of hundreds of thousands that I received through e-mail, fax and even good old fashioned snail mail.

Much has been written about the press release lately — from Tom Foremski’s call for the death of press releases to Shift Communication’s proposed template for a “social media release” for the world of social communications.

As part of com.motion’s launch last week, we quietly “released” our first Social Media Release (shown here). We have others in development for clients which will be released in the coming weeks. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we tried to adapt what we saw as the best practices in the design and functionality of other pioneering Social Media Release efforts. (Our biggest tinker was to move “contact information” to the bottom of the release in an effort to improve search engine optimization.) The idea is to host a press release on the Web, but make it easier for a reporter/blogger/consumer to access the facts and quotes they are looking for, while supplementing it with multimedia tools like video and images and social media tools like social bookmarking and the ability for bloggers, reporters and/or consumers to leave comments.

As blogger and a former reporter, I believe Social Media Releases have tremendous potential to reach both groups, as well as to serve as an additional marker on the Web for consumers. It is a product we strongly recommend to clients who have big announcements and are looking to maximize coverage in the mainstream press and on blogs. As you can see from all the coverage we received over com.motion’s launch, it certainly worked for us.

mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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Facebook fumble: How can the poster child for social media conversations be so bad at it?

Back when I was working as a reporter, I was struck by the fact that the companies with the strongest brands are sometimes the worst at public relations. I won’t name names, but suffice to say that some of Canada’s most iconic brands are among them.

The most recent (non-Canadian) example is Facebook, which had come out of nowhere in the past 12 months to establish itself as one of the English speaking world’s most loved brands. No exaggeration.

It’s also no exaggeration to say that the Facebook folks are precariously close to losing all that good faith.

In an online piece yesterday Josh Quittner, the former editor of Business 2.0 magazine, warned that Facebook is being harmed “perhaps to a terminal degree” by “enormously bad PR.” He writes:

For a social media company, these folks don’t understand the first thing about communication; they have alienated the press by being arrogant, aloof and dishonest. Their idea of press relations is sending a stupid message to a What’s New at Facebook Group that directs you to another website for a canned statement. … Facebook has turned all the people who rooted for it into a lynch mob. In the space of a month, it’s gone from media darling to devil.

His harsh words relate to Facebook’s PR efforts around its Beacon advertising program, which allows Facebook advertisers to send users’ personal data — like what books or movies they order — to their friends.

Also yesterday, Robert Scoble (author of Naked Conversations), dumped blog criticism on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for his turtle act around Beacon:

I don’t see ONE SINGLE INTERVIEW that Mark Zuckerberg, or top executives at Facebook, have given ANYONE. Hell, don’t like me or other bloggers? Then give a press conference with professional press. ANYTHING would be better than the way that Facebook is handling this.

It appears that Zuckerberg may have got the message. For the first time in 15 months, Zuckerberg posted today to the Facebook blog. (Interestingly, his last post was also an apology).

Here’s what he wrote today:

We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. … It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share. Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution. I’m not proud of the way we’ve handled this situation and I know we can do better.

He took responsibility, apologized and announced that Facebook has released a privacy control that allows users to turn off Beacon altogether. This may be a case of too much, too late. Zuckerberg failed to follow one of the primary rules in crisis management: Apologize because it’s the right thing to do, not because you have to. By waiting too long (until he had to), he may actually have had to make greater concessions than if had been able to get ahead of the crisis early on.

Facebook is the poster child for social media, conversation marketing and online communities. But while it facilitates and enables those communities, it is surprisingly ignorant in how to converse in them.

mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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com.motion Poll – Part 1

When we launched com.motion, our new social media division, we knew we wanted to get coverage in traditional media outlets. After all, breakthrough public relations is what Veritas is known for. And indeed, we received great coverage in outlets including the National Post, Marketing Magazine, CBC Radio, CFRB and the Globe and Mail.

But we also recognized that for an offering specializing in social media marketing and online public relations, it was critical to reach out to bloggers covering the space.

Since it’s always better to experiment with your own business than your client’s, we tried something new. Ahead of our official launch date, we reached out to key social media bloggers and offered them exclusive results on one or two questions in the social media poll we commissioned to promote com.motion’s launch. A couple replied that exclusives don’t matter in the blogosphere.

But about a dozen social media bloggers have covered our launch and/or the poll results. In the coming weeks, I will be digging into some of the juicier findings in the poll. But first, I wanted to take a look at how some other bloggers have covered our launch and survey.

Kristen Nicole at Mashable looks at the finding that two-thirds of business leaders surveyed don’t want employees using social media sites at work, while 34% want employees to know their way around a social media site:

That means, spend lots of time at home getting to know your way around social media so you can impress your boss with all the creative ways you’ve found to make him more money by advertising on blogs. Hop to it.

Canuckflack says the results seem to expose senior executives lying when three-quarters of them say they’re as or more familiar than their customers:

To be fair, they could be glaringly unaware how little they know about new technology. Or, they could be underestimating the extent of their clients’ knowledge.

iAnts, a blog about digital music marketing, points out that marketers don’t appear to be putting their money where their mouths are:

The good news is that one in two business leaders say social media is becoming more important than mass media. The bad news, half of them feel that employees shouldn’t use social networking sites at work. Makes no sense to me, it’s like the blind leading the naked. How do you expect your employees to understand the medium and educate themselves if they cannot participate.

And Sean Moffitt of Buzz Canuck has some very kind – and much appreciated – words about the way we launched com.motion.

…no grandiose statements on being an unsubstantiated first, an appreciated overture to seed some of the findings of the study ahead of time with resident bloggers like myself, a double barreled insight approach from polling Canadian professionals, a nice social media-friendly PR release and consumers and what appears to be a very smart extension of Veritas’ brand into a new media space.

To view all the coverage, please check out this del.icio.us page.

mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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Marg Delahunty confronts bigtime ad execs on YouTube

When I covered the airline industry at the Globe and Mail, I got to write about some great characters, including Robert Milton, Clive Beddoe, Mark Hill, Michel Leblanc and Angus Kinnear. But that was nothing compared to the characters I encountered when I moved over to covering the advertising business.

One of the biggest personalities in Canadian advertising is Geoffrey Roche, chief creative officer at Lowe Roche in Toronto.

Check-out what happens in this video when Marg Delahunty confronts Geoffrey on behalf of OXFAM.

Oxfam has produced similar videos with other personalities including Glen Hunt (the man behind Molson’s famous “My Name is Joe and I am Canadian” spot and Nancy Vonk (one of the creative directors behind the team that created the Dove Evolution spot.

mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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Causing a com.motion

This a very exciting day for all of us here at Veritas. Today we have formally launched com.motion, our social media division.

Our offerings include:

  • Blogger relations and blogger events
  • Online reputation management
  • Social networking campaigns (Facebook, etc).
  • Building movements online through the proprietary Grassroots Multiplier
  • Social Media Releases
  • Blogs and podcasts

As part of the launch, we worked with Pollara Strategic Insights on a survey that measured attitudes and opinions about social media marketing among business and marketing leaders as well as the general population.

I’m going to blog more about the survey results later, but here is the social media release we created for the announcement.

There is a tremendous team of people here at Veritas who made this new division possible. Thanks so much to all of them. Watch for us to cause many more com.motions in the months ahead.

mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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PR people, journalists, bloggers: How they stack up in high-mindedness and credibility

As a PR guy (I mean communications professional) who only recently left journalism, I was interested to read my former colleague Jeffrey Simpson’s take on the difference between the two jobs. It’s contained in his Saturday column about Brian Mulroney (paid subscription required). He writes:

“Mr. Lavoie, fondly remembered as talented journalist some years ago, since leaving that occasionally high-minded but usually underpaid occupation, has devoted his considerable talents to the seldom high-minded but often overpaid business of advising various companies and individuals on their public relations, notably Mr. Mulroney for whom he once worked in office.”

Later in the day, I came across a blog post from Mitch Joel of Twist Image with the intriguing title Bloggers Pass Journalists On The Credibility Barometer – Mark This Day. He relates his recent experience with an unnamed Marketing publication. When he asked the editors to write about an award won by his agency, he received an e-mail back telling him that if he expected coverage, he should subscribe to the publication:

“We have an overload of information to publish every week, so we have to give priority to our paying subscribers. If we are important enough to promote you, we should be important enough for you to count you in as subscribers.”

As a former journalist, I find this morally offensive. There’s a fine line between writing stories about subscribers and writing stories for brown envelopes full of cash. My concerns as a PR guy are more selfish. In a pay for play world, the importance of our craft gets diluted.

Joel goes further: He says the days of blogging without authenticity are dead, but suggests the opposite is true in journalism.

So journalists are more high-mined than PR people, but bloggers are more authentic than journalists. I’ve done all three jobs. I’ve loved all three jobs. I respect people in all three jobs, and disrespect others in all three jobs. Is that high-minded enough?

mcarthur (at) veritascanada.com

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Is was and has been on Facebook


Much excitement in the blogosphere today about news that Facebook is eliminating the requirement that users build their status updates around the word “is.”

Effective tonight, status entries such as Keith McArthur is blogging, Keith McArthur is tired and Keith McArthur is writing a press release can be replaced with gems like Keith McArthur blogs, Keith McArthur dreams of sleep and Keith McArthur shall save the world one press release at a time.

As Betsy Schiffman at Wired points out, some Facebookers chose to ignore the structure, leading to status entries such as Betsy is loves to dance.

Virtual champagne will no doubt flow tonight in Facebook groups like I die a little bit inside when I see grammatically incorrect status updates (411 members) and Facebook Petitition to Remove the World “IS” from the Status Updater (995 members).

Update: The is is still there. Betshy Schiffman reports that a note went out to developers last Monday saying it would disappear, but it (is) stubburnly refuses to die.

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