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Kobo has proven big brands can seldom afford to beg forgiveness

By Leo Valiquettekobo_logo

While Canadians lament the shaky future of BlackBerry, I wonder how many have been following the PR nightmare that’s been faced by another Canadian brand, Kobo.

I heard Kobo chief executive Michael Serbinis speak in May at the Canadian Digital Media Network’s Canada 3.0 conference. I enjoyed the image of patriotic pride that he painted, characterizing Kobo as an upstart in the ebook world that has successfully challenged, not one, but many entrenched Goliaths for global dominance.

He also spoke of Kobo’s commitment to independent authors through its Kobo Writing Life self-publishing arm. About 10 per cent of its best-selling titles, he said, are from self-published authors.

But the warm and fuzzy relationship with the indie community hit the skids earlier this month.

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Are surveys the last great Potemkin village of media relations?

Fireworks_crimeaBy Francis Moran

Grigory Potemkin was a Russian nobleman who, in an effort to impress his benefactor, empress and lover, is supposed to have erected facades of villages throughout Crimea when Catherine the Great came on an excursion through the southern regions of her empire in 1787. The purpose was to suggest that there was something far richer and more substantial behind the facades, which is what people mean when they say something is a Potemkin Village.

Now, most scholars agree that Potemkin’s fraud on his lover was probably not anywhere near as extensive as was once commonly held. I wish I could say the same for public opinion surveys, that great Potemkin Village of media relations that persists into today.

You’ve read, heard or watched enough of these to know what I’m talking about. Indeed, it’s a rare edition of any major daily newspaper or newscast that doesn’t feature at least one story built around a survey commissioned by some corporation or association. The media gloms onto the survey’s easy numbers as well as onto the illusion of accuracy and authority associated with the supposed scientific methodology of public opinion surveying and, in the process, readily serves up the sponsoring organization’s agenda or point of view in a way that no self-respecting journalist would ever agree to do if the opinion was presented in any other fashion.

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Unshackle your local marcom efforts from head-office control

By Leo Valiquette unshackled

“We will embrace blogs just as they cease to be effective.”

Such was the lament of one of my clients during a recent conference call.

Here’s the context. This is an organization in an industry where thought leadership and subject matter expertise are fundamental tools for business development. News bulletins and newsletters have, to date, been the most popular means for publicizing and promoting the organization’s principals as both service providers of choice and as sources of comment for the media.

But this organization’s own internal metrics and pilot projects are suggesting that a blog might represent a better expenditure of resources. Blogs can build loyal followings and they can be better tweaked for search engine optimization.

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Bringing the spies in from the cold: PR lessons for spooks

csec-crest-largeBy Francis Moran

Almost 20 years ago, I worked on a marketing and communications strategy for Communications Security Establishment Canada, the Department of National Defence surveillance agency that leapt into the headlines this week for allegedly snooping on a Brazilian government ministry. At that time — and probably still today — CSEC had two main functions, the signals intelligence, or SIGINT, stuff that is getting all the attention this week, and communications security, or COMSEC, which was responsible for making sure that the telephones and other communications equipment used by the prime minister and other high-ranking government officials was secure. It was the COMSEC side of the house that hired us because it was considering marketing its expertise to banks and other sectors in Canada that could benefit from the espionage-grade hardware, software and know-how it had available.

I believe it was the first time CSEC had contemplated lifting so publicly the veil that had shrouded its existence since its formation at the onset of the Cold War and that had earned it the moniker of “Canada’s super-secret spy agency.” To say it was a fascinating assignment is an understatement. In that pre-911 world, CSEC’s main headquarters across from Canada Post on Heron was a fortress. In a day when people could still drive their cars onto and around Parliament Hill and walk into the House of Commons public galleries without any security checks, it took 15 or 20 minutes to be processed through the security gate at the periphery of the compound. Once inside, red lights would be flashing everywhere to warn those working there that uncleared personnel were on the premises. I vividly recall that filing cabinets had huge red or green panels on them to indicate at a single glance whether they were still open — forbidden so long as we were in the house — or safely locked down.

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The ultimate marketing challenge: Final Fling helps plan your own death

By Maurice Smithfinal_fling

How do you get people interested in planning for their own death?

It sounds like the ultimate marketing challenge.

As Tom Farmer, the founder of KwikFit, the UK tyres-and-exhaust chain, once remarked, “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says ‘I wish I had a set of new tyres for the car’.” Very few of us really want to plan our own funeral.

But that convention is changing. Driven, perhaps, by the decline of traditional churches and the growth of agnosticism, people are more open to the idea of planning their funerals, just as readily as they might prepare a will or bequeath personal items to loved ones.

Funerals are becoming less religious and more like joyous celebrations of life. It’s not unusual to hear rock music at the end of a funeral ceremony these days. It is also becoming more common to find burials taking place in remote and beautiful parts of the country, with the deceased buried in environmentally-friendly cardboard or some other sustainable container.

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