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About Donna Papacosta

Writer, speaker, podcaster, communications and social media consultant, workshop leader and part-time university instructor. As a consultant, I emphasize the importance of storytelling and relationship-building, and enjoy helping people understand how today’s technology, combined with tried-and-true tactics, can help them communicate better with employees, customers and prospects. In other words: Share your story, build your business.

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Here are my most recent posts

10 years of podcasting

On September 12, 2005 I produced the first episode of my own podcast. About six months earlier, my friend Dave, a geek of the first order, had suggested that I look into podcasting, since I’d been dabbling in audio production and had recently completed voiceover lessons. My reply to him was: “What’s a podcast?” As soon as I discovered what a podcast actually was, I dove right in. While walking on the track of the Y, I devoured episodes of For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report, The Daily Source Code, and anything Tod Maffin produced. By September I felt ready to record, edit and publish my first show, without much of a plan, other than to share “communication tips.” Just as I had built my first website to learn about websites, I put the first episode of the clumsily named Trafcom News Podcast out there so I could learn about podcasting. As I say in my workshops, had I known in 2005 that people would listen to my show, and continue to listen for 10 years, I would have put more thought into naming and branding it! (“Do as I say, not as I do.”) A lot has happened in the 10 years since. Both clients and organizations I volunteer with have enabled me to produce hundreds of podcast episodes. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson invited me to be the “outro” voice on For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. It’s nice to be able to give back to the show that’s taught me so much. Because I’d received so many questions from blog readers about podcast scripting I wrote my first book about podcasting, The Podcast Scripting Book. In 2014, I began collaborating with Steve Lubetkin on a book, The Business of Podcasting, now available in both Kindle and trade paperback. I’ve worked with some great people on podcasting productions, including Andy Donovan, Andrew Findlater, Chris Herbert, Cyrus Mavalwala, Ingrid Norrish and Lura Flynn, creating shows for Autodesk, SAP, Horizons Exchange Traded Funds, Front Street Capital, Grand & Toy, the YMCA of Oakville, the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners and other organizations. I’ve led dozens of podcasting workshops. The latest one will be on November 5, 2015. So many podcasters have become colleagues and friends. One of my favourite events is Podcamp Toronto, where I can hang out with my podcasting tribe every February. My life wouldn’t be the same without knowing (in no particular order, and I know I’m leaving people out!) Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson, Steve Lubetkin, Tod Maffin, Wayne MacPhail, Victoria Fenner, Mark Blevis, Bob Goyetche, Leona Hobbs, Eden Spodek, Connie Crosby, Martin Waxman, Joe Thornley, Gini Dietrich, Terry Fallis, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Chris Penn, Luke Armour, John Wall, Lee Hopkins, Heidi Miller, Dan York, Bryan Person, Rob Cottingham, Mignon Fogarty, Elsie Escobar, Karin Hoegh and so many others. Sheridan College invited me to teach a new course in Audio Journalism to post-grad students. I’ve created and taught a podcasting segment …Read More

Toronto Podcasting Workshop coming soon

I don’t know about you, but it seems I’m hearing about podcasting everywhere I turn. Just this week, I was mailing copies of our new podcasting book at my local Canada Post outlet, and the postie took one look and said, “You wrote this? Can I get a copy?” Yes, even the fellow selling postage is a would-be podcaster. He wants to launch a comedy show. How about you? Are you excited by the prospect of podcasting, but find the whole idea too challenging? Or have you thought about using audio on your website or blog but don’t know where to start? Then come to the Toronto Podcasting Workshop on November 5 to get your questions answered. Some of the things we’ll cover include: What podcasting is all about, and why it seems so hot right now Why good sound matters in audio, video and other multimedia presentations How to record, edit and produce audio clips and podcasts with both mobile and desktop devices How to write an audio script; when NOT to use a script An overview of popular, inexpensive gear How to make money podcasting, and how to use a podcast as a form of content marketing And much more. Content for this new workshop is being developed; when you register, feel free to email me with suggested topics to include. Each attendee will receive a copy of the newly published book, The Business of Podcasting, by Steve Lubetkin and Donna Papacosta, valued at $32.97 Cdn. Powered by Eventbrite

Thinking of upgrading your strategic and digital skills?

Many of my friends know I teach at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, in the Digital Strategy and Communications Management certificate program. Some have asked about this program, so I thought I would share a link so you can peruse the school’s website yourself. Of course you are more than welcome to contact me directly if you have questions about the Foundations course, which I will be teaching on Tuesday nights at the St. George campus, in addition to the Hybrid sections at the U of T campuses in Mississauga and Scarborough. The class on Tuesday nights runs from 6 to 9 p.m. for 12 weeks, while the Hybrid version features three classes interspersed throughout the term on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the rest of the learning online. I’ve been involved in this program since May 2014 and I have to say that each semester the course gets better and better, because we build on the content and the student experience each time. If you’d like to upgrade your digital skills, this might be the program for you. We’ve received excellent ratings from students. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone this fall. Maybe you too?

Tips for producing podcasts for clients

This is an excerpt from the newly published book, The Business of Podcasting, by Steve Lubetkin and Donna Papacosta. The book is available on Amazon. Organizations as varied as insurance companies, banks, professional associations and trade groups have recognized that telling their stories is essential. At the same time, your clients might need hand holding when it comes to designing podcast episodes with punch. Amazingly, some will ask you to produce a podcast series for them, even if they don’t listen to podcasts themselves. We suggest you gently encourage them to listen to others’ podcasts, both in their niche area and outside it, to get an idea of how different producers put their shows together. They should make notes about what they like and what they don’t. What kind of voice do they want to put out there? Authoritative, helpful, fun? You wouldn’t design a website without knowing what a website looks like, right? It’s the same for a podcast. Just as a writer can improve her skills by reading great writing, a podcaster can strengthen her abilities by listening to great audio. Make a point of subscribing to well-produced podcasts and continually discovering new ones. Let’s suppose your client wants to publish a podcast that will be easy to listen to, with valuable information and compelling stories. This sounds like a tall order, but with a little planning and a lot of energy, you can help them make it happen. You likely will not reach the lofty heights of This American Life, Serial or RadioLab – all outstanding podcasts – but that’s OK. We can all learn from the techniques they use. Here are some tips for creating great audio content: Be sure there actually is a story to engage listeners, not just a laundry list of “to-do” items. Book the right guest; a renowned expert may not be a talented storyteller, so be sure to conduct a pre-interview to evaluate his skills. Outline the content in advance so you know the points you want to cover and how the story will flow. Record high-quality audio; give your listeners the gift of pleasing sound. Edit, edit, edit so the podcast episode contains only the best bits. Don’t be afraid to kill an episode if it’s not good enough. In the book, we also discuss the ins and outs of dealing with the lawyers and compliance people, as in this cartoon by Rob Cottingham. For more information about the book, visit The Business of Podcasting site.

Toronto friends, come out to learn about podcasting

As the fall IABC season begins, I’m happy to be the guest speaker at the September 8 meeting of the Professional Independent Communicators group of IABC/Toronto, talking about my favourite subject: podcasting. If you have ever thought of adding audio podcasts to your communications plan, or if you’re just curious about this thing called podcasting, please join us on Tuesday, September 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. We will cover: What a podcast is, and why podcasting is enjoying a resurgence How podcasting can become part of your marketing or communications program Why good sound separates you from the amateurs Why Google hates your podcast, and how to get around this limitation A quick podcasting workflow; how to get started. I will share some of the things I have learned and the mistakes I’ve made. There will also be a draw for a copy of my new book, The Business of Podcasting, co-authored with Steve Lubetkin. Please register in advance; you cannot pay at the door. More info and registration here. You can listen to a sneak peek here. I hope to see you on September 8!

Early praise for The Business of Podcasting

My co-author Steve Lubetkin and I are gratified to have received early praise for our newly released book, The Business of Podcasting: How to Take Your Podcasting Passion from the Personal to the Professional, which focuses on the business aspects of producing audio programs for the Web. The Kindle edition is available now; the trade paperback edition is coming soon. Our book has been chosen as the first title in the new Inside PR podcast book club, and we’re looking forward to the opinions of co-hosts Joe Thornley, Martin Waxman and Gini Dietrich. Unlike other podcasting books that delve into the mechanics of creating a podcast, The Business of Podcasting describes the business side of podcasting: how to position clients’ expertise through podcasting, the best business models, how to find clients, contracts, legal reviews and much more. Here’s what a few early readers had to say: “Reading The Business of Podcasting was a pleasure … The book is a great blend of practical business and technical advice about the value, pitfalls and practical realities of producing a podcast series for money, not love (well, okay a bit of love is okay). For seasoned podcasters who have the chops to tell great stories with strong audio, the book will give you insights into turning your passion into at least a part-time paycheque. Professional communicators will find the text a great starting point to enter the podcast business, from a technical point of view. Anyone with an interest in the now re-emerging podcast market will find the book a concise, readable and practical guide to a medium that has been around for over a decade and feels brand new to a market ready (finally) for the pleasures of anywhere audio. Donna and Steve have been doing this since the early days of podcasting, and and it shows in their nicely chosen case studies.” – Wayne MacPhail, president, w8nc inc. “I have to say I love the book. Too often business books fall into one of two piles. Dry reads with lots of boring information or smarmy tactic books. This book is a fun read with very useful information. This isn’t a get rich-quick scheme; this is how to put in the work and make podcasting work for you. I love it! Doing things the right way is always hard work, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Seriously good read.” – Paul RJ Muller, host, the Caffination Podcast “Donna and Steve represent a perfect mix of knowledge – and experience – radio production, corporate communication and podcasting. Reading and using this book is a must whether you come from a professional background in communications or from a non-professional background as a podcaster offering your services to businesses. The book completely lacks ‘snake oil’ talk about podcasting. What a relief. The book is not an attempt to oversell the benefits of audio podcasting. If you know the medium, you already know the pros and cons. The book is, however, the perfect way to guide …Read More

The Business of Podcasting book is now available

At long last, the book I’ve been writing with Steve Lubetkin is ready. You can pre-order the Kindle version of The Business of Podcasting right now, or wait a few weeks for a print copy. In any case, it’s been a long time coming and Steve and I are delighted to reach this stage. We’re also grateful to the people who’ve helped make the book possible – the experts we interviewed as well as Rob Cottingham, who drew hilarious cartoons for us, and Val Sanna, who designed a cover we love. The Business of Podcasting is not a how-to-podcast book. Instead, it’s a book about the business side of podcasting. Why did Steve and I write this book at this time? To quote from the book’s introduction: Anticipating a growing demand for podcasts, we’ve come together to write this book. It’s geared towards the person who knows how to produce audio but is unfamiliar with the business of podcasting for clients. It’s one thing to record and edit your own podcast show as a hobbyist; it’s another matter entirely to create a podcast for a client, whether that’s a corporate entity, a nonprofit, an educational institution, or something else. This book is also aimed at professional communicators who have an interest in audio and who perhaps have taken a podcasting course or attended a podcasting conference or Podcamp, and who want to learn to integrate podcasting into their communications, whether inside an organization or for clients. Many of the skills you’ve developed as a communicator will help you to become an effective podcast producer. If you’ve wondered what it’s like to turn your podcasting passion into profit, we hope you’ll read our book. If you do, please let us know what you think! In the meantime, you can read more about the book on The Business of Podcasting website or listen to Steve and I discussing the book in this podcast.

Podcasting growth continues; thanks, Obama

By now most online denizens have heard that U.S. President Barack Obama was a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast last week. According to the New York Times, the episode set a new podcasting record, with more than 900,000 downloads in the first 36 hours. Wow. What you might not know is that the president’s office – not Maron – initiated the interview. Once plans were set, the president flew by helicopter and made his heavily guarded way to Maron’s garage in Los Angeles to record the interview, in which they discussed race relations, gun violence, fatherhood and more. You can read more about the background to the story in this Slate article. As podcasting continues to grow in popularity, we podcasters revel in the visibility an interview like this brings to our medium. If you want to learn more about podcasting and its possibilities, I can recommend a few of my resources: My most popular blog posts about podcasting The podcasting tip sheet Basic equipment and software for podcasting I also offer various podcasting-related services. And soon, Steve Lubetkin and I will happily announce that our book, The Business of Podcasting, is available for sale. Watch this space!

Toronto Twitter workshop

“Help! I have a Twitter account but I don’t know what to do with it!” is, hands down, the most popular comment I hear about social media, from colleagues, friends and even family members. That’s why I’ve decided to offer an intensive half-day workshop all about this micro-blogging tool. Participants will learn to use Twitter to follow news, to connect with influencers, to uncover business opportunities or to spread their nonprofit organization’s message. Here’s what we’ll cover: Optimizing your  bio Learning Twitter etiquette: following, direct messages and more Finding influencers Protecting yourself against hackers and phishers Hashtag best practices Safely scheduling tweets; the dangers of over-automation Dashboards like Hootsuite and TweetDeck Why you should use lists, and how to set them up The power of persistent searches Participating in Twitter chats and parties Benefiting from tools like Topicurious and ManageFlitter Curating tweets with Storify and Paper.li And more! Each participant will receive a Twitter workbook so that learning can continue after the workshop is over. Space is limited. I like to keep the group small. Interested? Please let me know. And feel free to spread the word to your friends.

Will Clammr be the Instagram of audio?

When I was at NMX in Vegas a few weeks ago, something Mark Ramsay said resonated with me: “People don’t share audio. They share conversations about audio.” Well, this may change. Soon. Shortly after Mark’s presentation, I met Parviz Parvizi, on the team of a new app called Clammr. Guess what? Clammr aims to be the Instagram of audio, allowing us to quickly share snippets of sound. This would be a boon for podcasters seeking to build their audiences. Over the next few weeks I hope to put Clammr through its paces for my own podcast and for those of some clients. Stay tuned for a report in the future. For now, here is my recap of the overall NMX show. And here is a Clammr (edits are a little rough to meet 17-second limit). You can download the Clammr app (iPhone only for now) here. Have you tried Clammr? Please let me know in the comments.

The Twitter Tip Sheet

The most common questions I hear from clients about social media tactics relate to Twitter. Those unfamiliar with this platform are often confounded by the lingo, the hashtags and the brevity. Here then is the Twitter Tip Sheet I often share with those who want to learn more about Twitter. Anything I’m missing? Please let me know in the comments. Getting started Decide why you want to use Twitter, and how you can complement your marketing and communication efforts. Sign up at Twitter.com Insert relevant and interesting facts in your profile, to help people decide if they should follow back. You have 160 characters for your profile (bio) and 140 characters per tweet. Don’t use all 140 characters; leave room for retweets. Add a photo or logo plus a link to your Web site and/or blog. Do not use the default “egg” avatar! This Mashable article will help you figure out the vocabulary of Twitter. Making the most of Twitter Write about 10 tweets before you start following others. Twitter notifies you by email when someone follows you, and people usually check out the follower’s profile before deciding whether to follow back. Find people to follow; start with your own address book. Use the “Find People” tab on the Twitter Web site. Follow people that your friends follow. Do not feel compelled to follow everyone who follows you. To retweet someone’s tweet, either write “RT @username” or use the TweetDeck or other system shortcut. To reply to someone’s tweet, put an “@” before their Twitter name. You can send a direct message (DM) to someone by putting a D before their Twitter handle; you can only DM someone who follows you. Think about using a Twitter client such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite instead of the Twitter Web site. It will make Twitter easier to manage. Create Twitter lists of clients, prospective clients, colleagues and other interested stakeholders. Note that you can see someone’s tweets in a Twitter list even if you are not following them. This is handy if you want to track your “competitors” on Twitter; use a private list for this purpose. For employee or volunteer use of Twitter, governance is important. Check out Social Media Governance for ideas. To search through Twitter bios for keywords so that you follow people strategically, use one of these techniques. For help managing your Twitter followers when the numbers grow, try Manage Flitter. Related content Why people don’t follow you back on Twitter How to use Twitter lists

Toronto Social Media Workshop

I’m delighted to announce my next Hands-on Social Media Workshop in Toronto: May 1, 2015 at the Toronto Board of Trade. The group will be small, so each person can get individual attention. If you want to devote a single day to sharpening your social media skills, this is it. I hope you can join us.

Pricing tips for independent communicators

As you may know, I belong to the Professional Independent Communicators, part of IABC/Toronto. On March 5 we’re featuring a panel on the hot topic of pricing for independent communicators. If you’re an indy in the Toronto area, I hope you’ll join us. Here’s a sneak preview from two of the speakers, Sharon Aschaiek and Randal Boutilier. More information and registration on the IABC/Toronto website.

How Google just blew my mind

When I moved my home office from Oakville to Toronto, one of the things on my to-do list was to update the Google listing for Trafalgar Communications, my business. While procrastinating on a project today, I suddenly remembered the Google listing. Avoiding actual work, I just had to accomplish this feat immediately. So I went to the Google listing for Trafalgar Communications and attempted to change the address. A box came up explaining there would be a verification step involved. At that point I decided I needed to finish some genuine work, so I closed my browser. Then the phone rang. The display said: “Mountain View, CA.” Could it be? Yes, it was Google – a real live human Google employee – phoning to verify that my business had indeed moved. Google, you blew my mind. I remember reading an article last year about how some unethical people had hacked Google Maps to destroy their competitors. Perhaps this is less likely today? I like to think so.    

My most popular blog posts of 2014

Looking at my Google Analytics for 2014, I spot a trend that doesn’t surprise me in the least: my most popular blog posts were all about podcasting. In case you missed them, here’s the list: How to read a podcast script and not sound like you’re reading. This is a perennial favourite, first published in 2008. The podcasting tip sheet. This post gets shared quite a bit among podcasters, especially newbies. How to publish a Google+ Hangout on air as an audio podcast. Inquiring minds want to know. Equipment for podcasting in a noisy environment. Say WHAT? Basic equipment and software for podcasting. A great place for new podcasters to start. The Podcast Scripting Book is now available. This post announced my ebook. If you like this you may want to check out my next book, co-authored with Steve Lubetkin, The Business of Podcasting. The podcaster’s checklist. Another handy resource, I’m told. Sharing stories with audio: podcasting for internal communications. I’m glad to see there’s interest in this topic. Check out my friend Sue Horner’s top posts for 2014. There’s some gold there for communicators. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

Hands-on Social Media Workshop back in Toronto

By popular demand (thanks to word of mouth!), I’m hosting another Hands-on Social Media Workshop in Toronto, on Thursday, February 5, 2015. If you’d like to wrap your head around social media in the new year, please consider signing up. Here’s what some previous participants have said: “Donna is an experienced, knowledgeable and generous presenter. I would highly recommend her Hands-on Social Media workshop.” – Patricia Davies, trainer, writer, editor “Great workshop! Very informative. Gave me more focus and confidence moving forward using these tools, both for my own business and in support of my clients.” – Lynn Woods, communications consultant “Impressed by the richness of content and the engaging delivery!” – Susanna Smith, communications consultant “Lots of useful, practical information… I am eager to put into action what I learned today.” – Amy Baskin, copywriter, author “Excellent. I will definitely recommend this workshop to my network.” – Randy Smook, HR professional “This was REALLY helpful. Thank you, Donna! I really liked your approach and generosity. I liked your patience with basic questions and your insight into more complex ones.” – Maryjane Martin, corporate communicator “Donna is extraordinarily knowledgeable and very generous in her sharing of information, and very responsive to participants’ questions and needs. As always, very professional and well done!” – Eileen Chadnick, Big Cheese Coaching “Donna is such an expert and explains social media in an engaging, informative manner. Fabulous day!” – Kristy Elik, Along the Lakeshore magazine  

A podcasting renaissance? No doubt!

Lately everyone’s talking about the podcasting renaissance. I must inform you I was aware of this trend earlier than anyone else, thanks to The Claire Index. Unknown to most prognosticators, The Claire Index (TCI for short) reveals emerging trends in both fashion and technology based on my 20-something daughter Claire’s tastes. Stay with me here! You see, about three years ago Claire came home from shopping with a bright orange purse. I thought it was a joke. Who wants to walk around toting a fluorescent handbag? Apparently a lot of people. About six months after my daughter’s purchase, I began to notice fashionably dressed women in New York and Toronto carrying bright orange bags. So, Claire was on trend. Again. (She owned half-leather, half-fabric pants before anyone I know. Ditto Lululemon yoga pants. Oversized men’s sweaters. You get the idea.) A couple of months ago, Claire waltzed into the kitchen and asked, “Have you been listening to the Serial podcast? It’s amazing! And did you hear the Alec Baldwin podcast where he interviewed Jerry Seinfeld?” (She knows I’m a fan.) I spun around in my chair. “Claire, YOU are listening to podcasts?” “Sure,” she said. “I even bought the app for This American Life because I don’t want to miss any episodes.” I may have rubbed my hands together with glee. If it were possible to buy stock in podcasting, I would have called my broker immediately. Yes, I knew the popularity of podcasting would go through the roof. The TCI told me so. Do you need hard evidence? Edison Research reported in April 2014 that 39 million people had listened to a podcast in the previous month, the highest number on record. A recent article in New York magazine also confirms the trend. “What’s behind the great podcast renaissance” explains some of the reasons behind the surge in podcast popularity, including the ease with which people can now play episodes in their cars. Week in and week out I’m witnessing renewed interest in podcasting in my own universe. People who used to ask, “What’s a podcast?” are now saying, “Hey, maybe it’s time we developed a podcast for our business.” For those of us in the podcast game since Year One (OK, 2004 or 2005), this rebirth is welcome and not surprising. After all, we recognized the value of podcasting almost a decade ago, when producing and consuming podcasts was a lot more complicated than it is today. Are you seeing the podcasting renaissance in your world? If you want to learn more about podcasting, I invite you to check out my top blog posts about podcasting as well as my podcast episodes about podcasting.

Equipment for podcasting in a noisy environment

When I started podcasting in 2005, I was able to carve out a space in my office to accommodate my audio needs. With a bit of trial and error, I came up with a setup that worked for me and produced a pleasing sound for my own podcasts and those of my clients. Fast forward to August 2014 when I moved to a condo in downtown Toronto where both my home and office are located. Even with the windows closed, noise intrudes. To top it off, a fan system that circulates fresh air throughout the high-rise building cannot be turned off within the suite. So I wondered: How could I record and produce audio in a less-than-pristine environment? Would I have to rent a studio to record? Enter the Kaotica Eyeball. I discovered this handy solution just a few days after I moved. A client had hired me to produce recordings for them at their offices, and had smartly purchased the Eyeball in anticipation of several audio challenges in their building. The Eyeball’s acoustic treatment worked like a charm to isolate and channel my voice directly to the microphone. How does it work? You simply insert your microphone inside and then add the pop filter that comes with the Eyeball. You may need to adjust your distance from the microphone and your audio settings to get things just right. Since that day at my client’s office, I’ve purchased my own Kaotica Eyeball, and it’s allowed me to record audio even when the fan is humming and the occasional motorcycle screams by outside. Well worth the investment of $200. The Kaotica Eyeball will fit many microphones. I have used it successfully with my ATR 2100. Forget about using it with your Blue Yeti, which is too big. A happy solution to a vexing noise problem! For more podcasting tips, check out these two posts: Podcasting Tip Sheet Basic Equipment and Software for Podcasting  

Recap of TEDx Toronto, plus advice for speakers

I applied for a ticket to TEDx Toronto on a whim and then found myself getting excited about attending. Some are surprised to discover you must submit an application to become a “delegate” at a TEDx event. These are independently organized TED-like conferences, but on a smaller scale than the famous California gathering. Kudos to the organizers of TEDx Toronto for running the day smoothly at the lovely Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor Street. From the moment the Toronto Symphony Orchestra played the opening notes of Ravel’s Bolero, I was a TEDx fan. Music was used nicely to break up the day, with performances later by Choir!Choir!Choir and Maylee Todd. But what about the content? I especially enjoyed the talk by Keith Vanderlinde, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. With beautiful photos and eloquent words, he showed us what it was like to live at the South Pole for a year. His use of humour was perfect and his delivery was well paced. Nav Bhatia was a surprise to me. Billed as the “Raptors Superfan,” he spoke about his experience as an immigrant who happens to be Sikh, and how he made his mark in Canada and continually gives back to the community. He is succeeding at changing peoples’ perceptions of Sikhs, he says. Child activist Rachel Parent is passionate about healthy food. She leads a campaign to have genetically modified foods labeled in Canada. How hard could this be? Pretty hard, it seems. Rachel is one to watch. For a teenager, she is a fabulous speaker. John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star, is concerned about voter apathy and a lack of engagement by young people in the political process. I enjoyed listening to him speak about media today; what a great communicator. Jamil Jivani of the Policing Literacy Initiative, a group with new ideas to improve police services and community safety in Toronto and abroad, grabbed our attention with his story of growing up in a bi-racial family. A brilliant young man, he is another one to watch. Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden spoke from the heart about how his mother supported his efforts in sports, and how he found his own ways (sometimes unorthodox) to learn and excel. My favourite of the day was comedian Sabrina Jalees, who talked about coming out as a gay person to her Indian/Swiss family. Sure, she’s hilarious, but her insights were also perceptive and thought-provoking. I don’t want to forget to mention the emcee, Drew Dudley. Hands down, he was one of the best I’ve ever seen, seamlessly seguing between speakers with the right balance of insight and humour. When I heard about his original TEDx speech, Leading with Lollipops, which went viral and transformed his career, I looked it up. Well worth watching, here. As you can see, when I attend a conference I consume the content from two perspectives: the ideas themselves, and how they are delivered. …Read More

The news release is not dead

The news release is not dead. So said the panelists brought together by CNW on the topic of “State of the Media 2014.” The speakers on October 3 in Toronto were Simon Houpt of the Globe and Mail, Amanda Lang of CBC News, Edward Keenan of the Toronto Star and moderator Steve Ladurantaye of Twitter Canada. I’ve captured the essence of the discussion in the Storify below, but here are my own key takeaways: Most journalists do not want you to call them. Email instead. Several on the panel said they never listen to voicemails; the red light on the phone flashes forever. Speaking of email, never ever put “re” in the subject line of an email to fake a previous exchange. Simon Houpt in particular will hate you forever! Do personalize your email with a “Dear …” salutation, but be sure you get the name right! The media wants you to provide voices who can give context to stories. According to Amanda Lang: “If information helps give us context, it’s important. Maybe not today but in the future.” Personal relationships between journalists and PR people are more important than ever. Amanda Lang said the news release is still effective today if the news is important. “We still rely on wires in the newsroom,” she said. Simon Houpt agreed that “stuff on the wire carries more weight than a news release on your corporate website.” CNW says they will be publishing a video of this panel, so watch their website. [View the story “CNW Breakfast with the Media: State of the Media 2014, Toronto” on Storify]