By Linda Forrest
Yesterday, I attended several biotech-focused events that are part of National Biotechnology Week across Canada. In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend the Know the Money Life Sciences Financing Seminar featuring speakers from Gowlings, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Royal Bank of Canada, the National Resource Council and the Export Development Bank. Because a number of our clients, both past and present, are in the biotechnology space, it was interesting to learn about the challenges and opportunities that they face when seeking funding, whether through government programs, venture capital or other forms of investment. One point that stood out among the presentations was the fact that in the esteemed panel’s view, it’s the biotech equivalent to “rocket ships and not motor cars that are currently getting investment.”
After the seminar, it was time for Ottawa’s best and brightest life sciences companies and individuals to be honoured at the OCRI Life Sciences Achievement Awards Dinner. There were some fascinating projects and people that were recognized, including Variation Biotechnologies for its work in the creation of intelligent vaccines and Dr. May Griffith, the developer of an artificial cornea for both research and transplantation purposes who has created tremendous scientific success whilst moving labs multiple times, battling cancer and adopting a baby. Bravo! Our entire table was in awe of Dr. Griffith’s achievements in the face of such challenges. Congratulations to all of the winners.
By Jill Pyle
If you’re in the Ottawa area and interested in technology, I recommend you attend at least one of two great events this week, DemoCamp and Third Tuesday. The sixth DemoCamp, a small unconference-style event that gives software and hardware developers the opportunity to share their ideas with Ottawa’s high tech community, is taking place tonight at the Clocktower Restaurant on Bank Street from 7:00-9:00 PM.
Tomorrow night, Third Tuesday, the Ottawa PR meetup group, returns from summer hiatus. Mitch Jole, President of Twist Image and host of the Six Pixels of Separation podcast, will share his latest thoughts on marketing, social media and web 2.0 at Patty Bolands Irish Carvery & Pub, 101 Clarence Street, starting at 6:00 PM.
I’ll be attending both events so if you see me there, be sure to introduce yourself.
By Francis Moran
When I started this little tech PR agency, the world of online media outlets was still very much in its infancy. And an early fiction we had to deal with was a widely held belief that online media were some kind of a different beast from their print or broadcast brethren, and that only a PR agency that specialised in online media could reach these brave new e-journalists.
Our conviction was that these outlets might well be new but that there was nothing at all novel about a time-tested best-practices approach to pitching them, one based on pegging the natural news value of a client’s story and then pitching it only to those who would see that value. And we were right; from Day 1, our clients enjoyed the same widespread coverage online as they did in other media formats.
Our conviction that online journalists responded to same imperatives as their offline brethren actually cost us a client or two early on because our proposals didn’t specifically stipulate we were addressing them. We’d write that we’d target “all appropriate media outlets,” and assumed our clients were as canny as we were. We quickly learned to expand it to read, “all appropriate media outlets, including online outlets,” and to include key online titles in our list of examples.
Time passed and the requirement to single out these new media types passed with it as everyone learned that the same fundamental principles applied to pitching online media outlets and journalists, and that our phrase, “all appropriate media outlets” included online titles as a matter of course.
Then came blogs.
And the latest entry in a growing collection of what I call, “Francis’s favourite fictions.” Or, “Everything I know that’s wrong about public relations I learned from technology company executives.”
Here’s the latest one, tossed at me a few months back by a seasoned technology marketer who really should have known better. “Bloggers are different,” she insisted. “And only a PR agency that specialises in Web 2.0 social media can pitch them properly.”
Well, that was red-meat bait, and I rose to it. “Give me an example,” I challenged her. And she gave me two names, both of them critically influential bloggers in her company’s WiFi space with whom we couldn’t possibly develop a relationship, she said, because we weren’t a Web 2.0 agency.
I recognised one of the names immediately, and a check of our media contact database confirmed that we knew this guy very well. In fact, we first started successfully pitching to him when he was a columnist at a print trade magazine, then as a columnist for the online version of the same magazine, then as publisher of his own online newsletter, and now as a blogger. And guess what? He is just as pitchable, and he responds to the same things, now that he’s breathing the rarified air of the blogosphere as he had as an ink-stained wretch.
The second name was also in our database, and also had been for years, but we generally didn’t pitch him any more because his blog was the equivalent of what we used to call a rip-and-read outfit. That is, like small radio stations that just read wire copy for their newscasts, he didn’t do any original reporting; he just wrote about things he had read about elsewhere. A useful conduit, perhaps, but not one we’d bother pitching directly; better we get a hit in one of the media he watches and let him write about that. Which he does regularly.
Point is, in my world, the bloggers who count are either bona fide, and often dyed-in-the-wool, journalists making use of this latest communications channel, or they’re newcomers to the game who think, act, and respond to newsworthy pitches, in exactly the same way as journalists.
Problem is, too many people think like my favourite-fiction spinner. So we’re careful to once again add a phrase to our proposals, which these days read, “all appropriate media outlets, including bloggers.” This, too, shall pass.
By Linda Forrest
Last night, I attended the launch of the second season of the Young Business Network of the National Capital. This was my first time at an event put on by this organization, as it seems was the case for most of the attendees. It was a good opportunity to network with other young professionals and hear words of wisdom from Adrian Salamunovic from DNA 11, an intriguing company that we were first introduced to when its other co-founder spoke at a Junior Achievement of Eastern Ontario event last year, Kim Dixon from TalkSwitch, a celebrated businesswoman with a long history in Ottawa’s tech community and Kevin Dee, CEO of Eagle Professional Resources and the Ottawa Business Journal‘s CEO of the year in 2006. The theme was “inspiration” and each speaker had valuable insights into what they think are the keys to success. Adrian in particular talked about harnessing the power of public relations and how the coverage that his company has received in top tier publications has had a direct impact on the spectacular growth of his company from inception to 7-figure revenues in under two years. I’m looking forward to other events put on by this organization, of which I’m now a member, and am encouraged to see so many of Ottawa’s bright, talented young people looking to share ideas and network.
By Francis Moran
I heard some terrific counsel last night from serial startup veteran Mahshad Koohgoli at The Ottawa Network’s inaugural Venture Creation Group event of the season. Koohgoli, who helmed Nimcat Networks from launch through to a successful acquisition by Avaya Networks, was the key presenter at what the VCG hopes will be a re-energized forum for the local start-up community. Or, as gracious host LaBarge Weinstein lawyer James Smith put it:
“Our overall objective is to re-energize the VCG by providing a forum for hard, constructive networking among local entrepreneurs and enterprising service providers – facilitating management team formation, in particular – with a view to similarly re-energizing the nature, volume and impact of technology startups in the region. We welcome anyone interested in the same objective, and would be happy to hear from startup founders who would like to participate.”
The new format, sessions of which will be held at LWLaw’s offices in Kanata every second Wednesday starting at 5pm, aims to bring practical advice to entrepreneurs so they can, as Koohgoli more or less put it, “Learn what to do in your first start-up so you can avoid making the same mistakes in your next start-up.” Incidentally, his next start-up, called Protecode, is very much a consequence of some lessons he said Nimcat struggled to learn.