December 26, 2012

Turkey & the F-35...a Christmas Delight

Christmas dinner at my house always entails a heated debate. Well, every dinner hosts a heated debate with my family actually, and Christmas was no different. Usually we discuss things going on with the healthcare system or the pros/cons of education in Canada and the UK. But, this year, the debate turned to the F-35 program. We’re an exciting family, aren’t we?!

Having been part of many discussions and presentations about the program with Industry Canada and select contractors involved in the development and sustainment of the aircraft, and coming from the point of view of a PR person, I was amazed to hear my family – normally more savvy to marketing spiel – spout off the program’s opposition so heavily covered by the media. Should I applaud such marketing efforts? They seem to have the two ministers who once supported the program with vigilance stopping in their tracks and turning the other way as if it was their decision the entire time to explore other options.

If the rising costs of the program are the ONLY reason to rescind our support of the program, then statements such as these from respected officials to the National Post must be false, “We point out that the costs of operating the CF-18s over their lifespan has also turned out to be roughly $1-billion a year, just what the F-35s will cost going forward. The F-35s cost a lot of money, yes, but not much more money than any other jet would require. And we’d get a lot of plane for the money — including advanced sensors and computers that are absolutely essential to patrolling our half of the continent. The F-35’s project cost can only be fairly measured against what any other comparable plane would cost….The cost of the F-35 fleet would constitute barely 5% of the total defence budget and 0.4 % of the total federal budget. We can afford that.”

Is it then also fair to assume that other expert opinions given during the development of the JSF program are also false? Is the Eurofighter without the F-35 reconnaissance and stealth capabilities now something we’d consider? Should we grab Boeing Super Hornets and pretend the price tag might be different? Never mind, let’s ignore the money already spent on this program to enter into a competition – which let’s face it was the Achilles of the F-35 from the beginning.  

I can’t pretend to know the answer here. I don’t fly jets and I’m not in the military. And should Lockheed answer why costs are rising and timelines are being delayed? Yes. But I don’t understand why the position has changed so drastically and why there has been no conclusive evidence to show that any other plane would cost us less, give us more capabilities to suit both domestic and foreign efforts, nor be delivered in a timeframe that would keep Canada’s Air Force strong.  

I'd be interested to know how this is going to impact the hundreds of Canadian companies that have already invested in the program.... let me know!

December 10, 2012

And the winners are....

Washington Technology posted an article listing the biggest defense contracts in 2013. The top ten contracts listed total more than 25-billion and go to companies like Honeywell, BAE Systems, General Dynamics and others to support key programs like the F-18 program, the Navy's Portable Radio Program, and others. What was interesting was that maintenance and training was listed as a major priority within at least two of the contracts and that others could surely leverage simulated training capabilities related to the modernization of equipment. Great news for our M&S friends.

December 8, 2012

The Overview Effect

Sometimes you just need to look at things from a different perspective.

Our family friend Guy Reid and his team recently put together this amazing film about the Overview Effect described by NASA astronauts. In this amazing piece of artistry, Guy and the Planetary Collective speak with astronauts who describe the change in the human philosophy of earth once we saw it from the view of space in the 1960's, as well as the perspective it gave us on the governance we owe the earth and our intrinsic connection of our own understanding.

If you have an interest in space, the earth, or the people who work for NASA, this is going to change your perspective on where you fit into the world when sitting on your couch.

Check out the film at: 

December 5, 2012

I/ITSEC 2012 and My (fave) Usual Suspects

I am officially out of the kool kids club for M&S these days, but it doesn't mean I'm not paying attention. Particularly this time of year. I've been watching what's been happening down in Orlando at I/ITSEC and it is seemingly a quieter show from a news perspective - though no less exciting on the show floor!

The I/ITSEC Show Daily is jammed with some amazing news - not least of which is NGRAIN's new Augmented Reality demo that blends the company's 3KO with mobile computing deliver a compelling and interactive maintenance training solution. As a former NGRAIN-er, this was really awesome to see.

TSJ, which is now incorporated into the Defense News site, reinforces that a continued theme at this year's show is declining budgets. LeAnn Ridgeway, vice president of Rockwell Collins simulation group, highlighted the attractiveness of COTS products when maximizing budgets but with the desire to move forward quickly.

At the same time, Nick Giannias, CTO at Presagis spoke about the business drivers that make COTS software attractive when reducing costs, and enhancing training for defense customers. CM Labs and Presagis continue work on ground vehicle simulations that are highly accurate - using COTS solutions to "create and deploy a high-fidelity, real-time simulation core" based on large quantities of data.

[Ya, Ya, I get it. My friends do really cool stuff. And yes, I'm sitting here slightly jealous - ok, well a lot actually! But I'm also just so dang thrilled to see that innovation is really moving forward for these companies and that the "cool" factor is going WAY up!]

But with all this cool stuff, the show still seems kind of quiet. Twitter is barely moving at all with posts using #iitsec and #iitsec2012 crawling by hourly. Blogs like unfortunately retired earlier this year, but others which have kept things going aren't making much noise from the show floor at all.

In a world where things should be integrated from a marketing, PR and social media perspective, I'm wondering how so much AMAZING stuff can be happening on the show floor and not making its way to the news pipeline and online quickly. [Maybe I'm just too much of a NERD? Or maybe it's time companies take charge and create their own forums for news?]

Either way - I'm following the news! And encourage everyone else to get more involved - reTweet, share, post, follow and engage! Get activated! There's so much cool stuff going on and it's up to everyone to get more people talking.

And if you only do one of those things today, "Like" the I/ITSEC Facebook page. If they get to 1000 by tomorrow, the NTSA will be donating $500 to Wounded Warriors.

December 2, 2012

I/ITSEC Kicks Off Tomorrow...But Will it be Quiet?

It's my favourite time of year, the time when all the best get together in Orlando for what has always been my favourite tradeshow. Wireless technologies, operating systems, optical networking, consumer electronics - these industries all have a plethora of events to build brand and connect with partners and customers, but there is none like I/ITSEC. Thousands of square feet covered by every kind of training system available to support the most advanced weapons, vehicles, aircraft, procedures, missions and people of today.

But for some reason, it seems like this year might be a little quiet. Little news has been pushed out in advance of the show. The regular crew of news has come from companies like DiSTI, BARCO, and GL Studio which leveraged releases to drive awareness for activities at their booths. But the list is short this year. I also haven't seen much in social either. Twitter's relatively quiet apart from "check out our booth" posts and LinkedIn is a ghost town.

Yet I know there's a lot going on with companies like CM Labs which has released Vortex 6.0, NGRAIN is making Producer freely available (big news for its users!), and MakeMedia continues to dominate with its use of Presagis tools to create construction simulation applications.

So, looks like attendees are going to have to do a little digging this year - venture a little further outside of their booths this year and pick up that trusted Show Daily from Darren Lake and his team. While unfortunately I'm not heading down this year, I hope that everyone has a wicked time. I can't wait for the photos, stories, and to see what news comes out of the show.

November 8, 2012

October 11, 2012

September 16, 2012

Social Media is a Great Way to Connect, But What's the Risk?

Like any new technology, we often focus on the benefits to help it gain mainstream adoption before we can predict the potential risks that come with it. Social media is one of the greatest modern examples of this. While our lives get busier, our desire to connect with people around the world has grown as well, and social media has been a driving force behind our ability to do this no matter how crazy life gets.

Whether it's sharing photos with friends and family, meeting new people, or dating, social media has firmly entrenched itself in our every day communication with just about everyone. So much so that it's easy to forget that we need to be savvy and responsible when online. Just as we have to remind ourselves to obtain more than one source to get balanced news, or remember that Wikipedia isn't necessarily verified information, so too should we be skeptical when we're engaging in social networks.

Take this recent example written by Dara Kerr at CNET of Taliban members engaging with military troops in Australia with false Facebook profiles to gain important mission information. And if you're unsure, use this rule of thumb: be ware of hot women randomly "friending" you on the popular social networking site. And for more info, check out the US Army's Social Media Handbook which has a lot of great information for anyone - in service or not.

September 12, 2012

I must be missing something in the Avro Arrow vs. F-35 argument

As you all know, I like learning about pretty much anything aerospace and defence and the Avro Arrow is one of those stories that is just so full of complex engineering, politics and scandal that even if you're not Canadian, it's hard to resist (yes, I have the movie..whattup Dan Aykroyd!).

But then I read this article in the National Post. Which indicates that the Arrow has been proposed as an alternative to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets. Now, I'm not a pilot, I'm not an engineer, and I'm not an accountant, but how on earth does this even make sense? The Arrow designs have not been revised to meet the needs of our current Air Force. It certainly hasn't been approved for tender. No one's bid on its business. It's most certainly not in production. And it definitely hasn't been tested.

How is this even a logical proposal? Even if all of the aforementioned could be accomplished in the next few years, the cost of the aircraft (claimed to be cheaper) would need to account for the loss of time and money already in the F-35 program. On top of that would be the loss to future business within the F-35 maintenance and sustainment programs around the world.

I'm not saying the Arrow couldn't be revisited as an overall design for the future, but it seems a bit daft to cut your nose off to spite your face just because the F-35 has had a rocky political start here in Canada.


August 28, 2012

Work Life Balance

Here's what I know. I used to have it. And now I don't. Any ideas on how to get it back when you've been catapaulted into sheer madness at break-neck speeds?

2009 in Exeter - The last place I found balance....

August 19, 2012

Simple Ideas and the Unexpected Create Magic

I'm a big fan of the KISS principle. In general, simple ideas when executed well can have big impact and often have the bonus of not being a logistical nightmare to pull off. If you can add in a little element of surprise or a dash of unique, you've got a winning recipe.

Flesherton is a small town near to where I grew up. The town has one traffic light and a handful of stores, not least of which is the Leslieville Cheese Shop (yes, of Toronto), Munshaw's Bistro (try the mustard chicken), and an art gallery. If you drive through, you might not think much of it, but Flesherton is also the home of Opera in the Barn. And yes, it is literally that. An opera played on a big screen in a barn.

It's based on a simple idea that you often see in rom-coms. Show an opera on a big movie screen for local people to enjoy. Serve them great food and wine and what's not to love? But, do it in a barn? Well, now you're talking. This little extra je ne sais quoi was surprisingly the best part of the evening. The barn is not an event space. It's on a farm complete with animals and the ... let's call them "earthy" smells you might expect. But it was precisely this juxtaposition between farm and culture that made the evening so extraordinary.

We were treated to Pavarotti in 1976 in La Boheme at the MET. Over a six course meal. And a little kitten that crawled up my father's leg so that it too could join us in the magical evening. It was a simple concept. A film, a dinner...but the barn. It went from simple to sublime and I can't wait to do it again.

Keep your events and campaigns simple.  Find the dash of creative and unique. And your programs are sure to be a hit!

August 2, 2012

My Klout has Taken a Beating

Are you paying attention to your Klout score? I used to when I used CoTweet as a free tool. Since that time, I've kind of forgotten about it other than getting the odd notification if a friend gave me a +K in a particular subject (incidentally I'm a bigger influencer in the subject of the Huffington Post and eBooks than I am in PR...not sure what that says about me).

My current score is 43. And it's taken a nose dive recently - mostly because I haven't been engaging much lately. So, what the heck does all this mean, you ask? It means a couple of things:
  • I'm "effectively using social media to influence my network across a variety of topics" - makes sense as I don't tend to post about one particular subject and am lucky enough to work in PR resulting in an organic network of cool people that I like to share with. I've recently added to the mix, so maybe that'll give me a boost.
  • My true reach is 233 people. Given I have 308 followers on Twitter, 389 friends on Fbook, and maybe....a handful of people reading this blog ,that's not the best percentage. On the flipside, 233 people in a network that actually pays attention to you is pretty awesome. Silver lining on that one! 
  • Amplification and influence however clearly need some work. A chart that looks like this just ain't pretty!

Conclusion... it's time to go to work people!

July 21, 2012

In case you didn't think LinkedIn is for you

An interesting post on LinkedIn today reinforced the notion of six degrees of seperation...and that through social media those degrees are reduced to one or two. A man in Bahrain posted about a bet he made with his boss: that for ever comment or "like" on his LinkedIn post, his boss would pay him a dollar.

Now, whether or not his boss holds up his end of the bargain or whether this bet is even true, the image below clearly demonstrates how quickly people can connect. For me, this post was highlighted by two of my own contacts neither of which have direct connections to the original poster I suspect. In less than five days, this post made it my way....and yes, I liked it!

Don't underestimate the power of social media and the desire for humans to connect. For good, bad, or otherwise, online communication travels quickly and in directions you cannot always plan. Here's the result:

July 13, 2012

The art of time suckage is contagious

I have always been early. Overly early. I would much rather arrive well in advance and end up waiting for someone, than be making a mad dash to be on time or running late. And for the most part I realize that I am one of few people built this way and so it doesn't bother me when someone else is a bit tardy. Life is busy right? The public transit is tricky. A neighbour stops to chat. And forgetting something can force a quick run back home. I get it.

But in business I find myself getting more and more agitated at the lack of respect for the function of time. And not because I find myself waiting. But because I now find myself pushing meetings (3, 4 times), rescheduling tasks, adjusting timelines, and making excuses because the :00 and :30 that signify a meeting start/end have seemingly no value to many other people.

July 12, 2012

Infographics....why are they awesome?

Today Kobo posted an infographic about the romping fun of readers to help promote our Fifty Shades of Grey titles. It's the first infographic I've been personally involved in from conception to completion and it's been a great exercise.

Things I like about infographics:
1. If the subject matter is remotely personal/embarrassing/controversial, creating an infographic will send you on wild searches for imagery.
2. In our case, we used the infographic to present survey results about romantic rendez-vous-ing. This infographic is now like a badge of honor for all the hard work that went into the overarching campaign.
3. Infographics are easy to share through social media. People look for these things online which means a simple #infographic in your Tweet can go a long way.
4. Your friends and colleagues will love you. Seriously, I'm amazed at what an infographic can do to have people recognize the work you do.

Things I learned about infographics:
1. Online tools like are pretty amazing. If you've got basic design skills and have access to PhotoShop you can create some amazing things. Keep in mind however, that the templates may limit your creativity.
2. You can post the infographic as a JPG or PNG, but it's so much better if you get your web guys to host it for you so that you can embed URL back to your site.
3. Remember to post the infographic direct to Twitter pics as well as URL (even if in separate Tweets). Otherwise, you'll miss an opp when people check out your pics online.

Have you done an infographic lately? Tell me about it!

Here's ours:

July 11, 2012

See's Candy

All right....time for a complete departure from defense, technology and PR. Has anyone heard of See's Candy? I have just been introduced by a colleague and it is DEE-LISH! Based out of San Fran this company has been around since the 1920's .. how do they not have a Toronto store?!

I just had an assorted molasses chip and my world has been changed. Any ideas on how I'm not going to eat the whole box for dinner while I sit at my computer for a late night office sesh? I make no promises!

There's a serious time warp

I find it amazing that whether you're doing the managing, or being managed, there is an incredible time warp that seems to happen. You know the one, where your boss asks you for five-million things last minute and the next day wants to know where you're at with previously planned tasks you clearly had no time to get to. Or when as a manager you expect something to take an hour and your team looks at you like a crazy person as they've barely made headway into the project.

While certainly not perfect, I've learned  that in these instances I must remember that my team is full of brilliant people who do great work. If there's a time warp going on, it's worth a discussion to see if a process can be improved, a new direction taken, or my expectations need to be adjusted. That's just fair.

Anyone experiencing a time warp today?

July 1, 2012

Attention to Detail

It's something that most PR people pride themselves on. From making sure your messaging covers every possible angle, to placing people at a roundtable to generate the best discussion. From TDRs and work-back plans, to project timelines and reports, we are known for making sure our executives have a fresh shirt for a photo opp and that signage is conveniently placed for the highest visibility.

Apparently however, this doesn't apply to me when it comes to doing things around the house. It's like all those skills suddenly disappear the minute I walk in the door.

Case in point....the curtains I bought from IKEA.....should have double-checked the package!

June 27, 2012

I Love a Little CYA.....but it's Really About Communicating

In my experience a little CYA can go a long way. And while the general intent of CYA is to protect oneself, the best way to do it is often to simply be transparent and proactive. If you don't have the resources to respond to your customers on a daily/hourly basis on Twitter, let them know in the corporate description when they can expect a response. Do you have web-forms that seemingly send customers to an abyss of "did they even receive my inquiry?"

In today's world of social media and market competition, a lack of response can do you more harm than good - even if the response isn't what the customer wants to hear. Be sure to state how requests are managed, which ones (if any) will receive a response, and what the timeline is. From a customer's perspective, there's nothing worse than taking the time to reach out to a company to receive no response. So CYA people, be clear in how you communicate with your customers, and transparent in setting expectations. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble in the long-run and build a better experience for your customers at the same time.

June 24, 2012

Perspicuus Refero (PR)

Ok, so I don't speak latin and totally just made that up. But after reading about the Mercury employee that posed as a journalist at an event seemingly to provide intel back to Walmart, it reminds me that PR should really be Perspicuus Refero (my version of transparent storytelling). That's right, just because we have become known for our positioning and "spin", doesn't mean that truth shouldn't be at the core of everything we do. The sad part is, this isn't the first kind of story that's marred our profession and it won't be the last.

Here's my take on things:
  • If you can't be honest and transparent you likely aren't working for the right company/person or doing the right thing. As much as we often have incredible insights into the different departments across an organization, we aren't the CIA. If it's a covert operation that requires you to lie, it's probably reputation suicide and you shouldn't do it.
  • I've heard of similar situations and for some reason it's always the naive junior employee that seems to have been running around rampant with no guidance and subsequently gets fired with their former employer having no knowledge of their goings on. While I can't comment on this situation specifically, my response is "Balls!" A junior employee likely isn't this creative or independent enough to make this kind of decision. I just don't buy it.
Good PR focuses on building credibility and that is always based on the truth. If you have to hide something, fight the urge people and instead fix the problem. Do the right thing. Help change your organization to act better, be better, do better. After all, if you do no evil there won't be any evil to see, hear or speak of.

From Other/Fun

June 21, 2012

Social Media as a Source?

Ok, so it's been a long time. A VERY long time since I've posted. I went on vacation in February for a friend's wedding and came back to a new job. One that has me deeply entrenched in consumer PR. Ah the shock and horror of it all. I'm sure many of you are still wondering what the hell I'm doing. But rest assured it's been a great ride so far and I'm learning a lot that one day I'm sure I'll bring back to the land of communications for the aerospace and defense industry.

I had debated whether or not to continue this blog or to create a new one. And, given my lack of time to post anything these days, I thought I'd keep DTP going though the scope of the posts may get a little broader.

What prompted this return you may ask? A UK study that showed more than half of journalists use social media sources to source and verify stories. More shock and horror? This really is turning into a mixed-feelings kind of post isn't it?

I have two streams of thought on this. The first is WHOO HOO! All that effort (it's been years people!) getting executives and experts at your company has paid off. Journalists are using blogs as a credible source of information. That's a huge win for us PR folks. What was often viewed initially as an opportunity for blatant promotion, has now turned into a go-to-resource for people to find information. That's great news!

The other thought is, how much does the telephone-game change the truth. We all know that messaging, positioning, and a variety of angles are used to present information in the best way possible. In many cases that can get diluted and twisted around while it travels through social media forums. After all a lengthy bylined article can get stripped down into 140 characters in a matter of seconds.

I recently experienced such a challenge when a local reporter used a UK-based blog that referenced an article about a report to request an interview. Let me tell you, the premise of the interview was so skewed and in fact had nothing to do with the original report (though that was where the reporter's credibility was meant to lie) that the resulting piece was completely unfounded and off-base. I won't tell you that I was the only one in this mess who actually downloaded and read the original report ;)

The bottom line, is that social media can be an incredible resource - one that provides information in near-to-real time. The challenge is that ensuring sources are credible requires much more research that it did before. Food for thought on this happy Thursday.

Looking forward to connecting with you soon!

February 10, 2012

Heading On Vacation

Looks like I'm leaving just in time as Toronto is scheduled for a cold-snap this evening. I'm taking the next week off to recharge the brain and hopefully get a little creativity and inspiration back into my life. I can't wait to share the experience with you when I'm back!
Don't expect a tan though!

February 8, 2012

What do you Fan on Facebook?

Just a few Facebook pages that I like to check in with - what are your fave pages?

1. Become a fan of the services they're all on Facebook with millions of service-men/women along with family and friends actively chatting. The Marines page does a particularly good job with engaging its members with photo contests, news updates, and human interest stories. (just make sure you get the official pages) - seriously smart PR peeps working there!
2. Social Media for the Military - correlating to the blog of the same name, the site is a good place to check in on news related to social media in the military. Articles, videos, analysis, and additional resources are provided.
3. defence.professionals - of the community, this page is a great way to stay on top of the incredible amount of news this site covers. Throw this page feed into your NetVibes dashboard.
4. TechCrunch and Inc. - both great biz/tech publications with a talkative community. I like reading the feedback about articles here. Be warned though, sometimes you have to wade through the "hate."

Happy reading!

February 5, 2012

Workplace Incivility, It's on the Rise

For parents out there, you're likely aware of, or dealing with bullying at schools. Anti-bullying campaigns are everywhere. But did you know it's on the rise in the workplace in a much more devious guise? Incivility. It's the silent-bullying that could be killing your business according to this article in the Calgary Herald. We've all experienced it or witnessed it, heck you may have even participated in it at one time or another. Incivility at the workplace are the emails without using a person's name, purposefully omitting to say "please" or "thank you," and can go so far as to be condescending and passive aggressive to colleagues.

There are a number of reasons for this behaviour: stress, lack of self-awareness, lack of empathy for others, and it can also be a response to the incivility already occurring at the office. Frankly, I think if you're aware you're doing this, you're just a bully. I can't be bothered to sugar coat it. If you're unaware of your behaviour then someone needs to bring it to your attention ASAP.

In the "real world", if someone treated you this way you might tell them to "get stuffed" and eliminate them from your life. In the workplace however, this incivility can be difficult to identify, prove or address and quickly become a de-motivator for employees impacting overall morale and performance.

Are you paying attention to this more subtle type of bullying? Are your managers setting the example to inspire others in the organization to follow?

January 30, 2012

Our Generation's Question: To Blog or Not to Blog?

The Inc 500, published by Inc magazine (my guilty pleasure/bible for creative ideas), has brought up an interesting analysis of how these successful companies use social media. Interesting to note is that there seems to be fewer companies blogging these days preferring Twitter and Facebook to engage with customers. As a blogger, Tweeter, and poster I can appreciate this. When life gets busy it is very difficult to make time to compile thoughts in any kind of coherent way that might be interesting to people. On the flipside, the people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook are family and friends with an entirely different taste in the kind of information I deliver. No, my Mum does not really care about defense technology. She only cares that I still have a job (go budgets!).

Frank Reed from Marketing Pilgrim breaks down why this trend may not be something companies in the B2B space should use as a beacon for driving their social media program. He points out that "Twitter and Facebook responses are a mile wide and an inch deep"meaning that real, valuable feedback can't be given. Really, are thousands of "I love my new shoes" and "I hate bananas" all that valuable to you? I know from past experience that tracking the "I love you" Tweets was nice from a quantifiable reporting standpoint. But it was the detailed responses with valuable insight that enabled my clients to foster change and develop better relationships with their customers.

January 26, 2012

Andrew Elvish Brings Tailored Services to M&S with Atelier ID (Part Two)

DTP: Can you describe one of the programs/initiatives you are most proud of?

AE: Well, obviously, I am exceptionally proud to have been a part of the team that created Presagis.  CAE made a very savvy move in acquiring the leading software companies in their respective technical specialties, but aligning all of those companies and products and technologies under one umbrella brand was a major undertaking.  Having the opportunity to lead such a significant rebranding effort was something that was both exciting and scary at the same time.  We wanted to honour all of the hard work that went into building the individual company and product brands that made up Presagis, while at the same time creating something new, powerful and industry changing.  But what made the Presagis project so rewarding was not just the re-branding that went on, it was the fact that I was working alongside a team of highly skilled engineers, product managers, sales executives and customer support experts, who were busy at work ensuring the products and technology lived up to the vision of a unified company and technology roadmap.  It was extremely challenging, but Presagis both as a brand and a portfolio of products, has gone from strength to strength over the past five years.  It is something for everyone who was involved to feel proud of.

DTP: At I/ITSEC we saw one of your clients, MASA Group really amp up their presence at the show. What is the company working on and how is Atelier ID helping them to achieve their goals?
AE: Thanks – I’m glad that you could see the change!  MASA is an excellent example of a company that is taking advantage of the changes in the M&S market to further the penetration of their constructive simulation products in both this market and others.  As a growing company, it became clear to MASA that both demand and competition were increasing for their brand of cutting-edge AI technology, and their potential market was expanding as well.  To ensure that they were maximizing their exposure and clearly communicating their competitive differentiators to their global audience, they turned to Atelier ID to begin working with them on a variety of out-bound marketing and PR initiatives.

Right now we are working with the MASA team to support them in their public relations outreach in North America and the U.K. as they continue their expansion into the homeland security, emergency management and serious games markets.  A move like this requires a company to leverage its skills and successes in its traditional markets while making its commitment to the new markets and their constituents clear.  So we are working with the team at MASA to ensure a strong central message that is meaningful across their worldwide M&S, homeland security and serious games markets, while developing stories that are resonant specifically to the concerns and needs of each group of potential clients. We also have a few other exciting new projects coming down the pipe, so you’ll have to stay tuned!

DTP: You and I have talked at great length about the value of integrating marketing and PR programs to get the most out of a campaign. Do you have any advice for companies that may just be starting to approach this?

AE: The first thing, and it seems obvious, but know who you are before you do anything.  How do people perceive your company and its products?  How do you want to be perceived?  What is your story?  What is your brand promise?  Who are you now, and who do you want to become?  If you have trouble articulating answers to these questions then you would do well to take a bit of time to solidify some thinking around these points.  The reason I say this is that if a company does not have a solid, well-articulated picture of who it is and where its going then increased marketing and public relations could serve to underscore this lack of direction, and it could have serious consequences for both the brand and the company.  The good news is that the vast majority of companies intuitively know who they are and where they are going, and it is a matter of firming up the story, getting internal buy-in and writing it down – start simple, but stay consistent.  This way, you have a central document that can act as a guideline for all of your outbound activities whether that is PR, email marketing, events, tweets or graphic design.  In so doing you have a fundamental thread that runs through all of your activities and enables one activity to enhance and amplify the next activity.  The more you stick to telling your unique story in a consistent and disciplined way, the more your customers will ‘know’ you and feel comfortable approaching you.

DTP: One of the fun things about working in marketing is the opportunity to shake things up with a BIG idea. At the same time, this can be scary for companies that aren’t used to taking risks in a creative capacity or within a conservative industry. What advice can you give to people looking to create transformational programs?
AE: Don’t be afraid!  Trust me, if you take a calculated risk and execute it flawlessly, I can guarantee you that your competitors will be following your lead in six months.  The key words are calculated risk, and flawless execution – those are the parts that take planning and preparation.  Also, part of this comes back to knowing yourself as a company – is your big idea consistent with who you are, or who you would like to become, or is it simply a big idea?  Once you know the answer to that then you need to build a plan and flesh out the details – if the idea is big enough, or if it’s a bit off the beaten track, you can be sure you will get lots of questions about why you are doing it.  That’s nothing to be afraid of, but you should know yourself how to address skeptics, or naysayers – the best plan for this is to know why you are initiating a big idea and what the desired outcome is.  Next be sure and build buy-in, both internally and externally.  Having your entire company excited about a project means that they are likely to endorse and engage with the big idea, helping spread its effectiveness and reach.  Externally, bring on board some key influencers outside of your company, or at very least solicit their input and opinion.  Again, having a core of support for your initiative out of the gate is an excellent way of ensuring success.  Finally, set out a plan to build anticipation and buzz around your initiative whether it’s a new advertising campaign, a micro-site, a conference or seminar, getting people curious is important.   It isn’t easy to launch a new big idea into the market, but if it is thoughtful, well-planned and relevant to your target audience then you stand a strong chance of success.  (and afterwards when you see your competitors doing the same thing six/twelve months later you can take the satisfaction that you did it first … and probably better ;)

DTP: What can we expect from Atelier ID in 2012 – any hints on your big ideas?
AE: Right now all of our big ideas are for our clients!  Honestly, starting a new business with a roster of clients, means that you have very little time for the promotion of your own business – I am actually still surprised we found the time to get our website up and running!  Nevertheless, 2012 is already shaping up to have a slew of interesting new projects on the horizon.  Our experience in 3D graphics and M&S software has given us entry into some new fields including the RFID market, personal and retail security, as well as high-end electronic component design.  So I doubt there will a dull moment in 2012 for Atelier ID.

January 23, 2012

Andrew Elvish Brings Tailored Marketing Services to M&S with Atelier ID (Part One)

Name: Andrew Elvish
Title: President & Lead Strategist
Company: Atelier ID
Home Base: Montreal, QC
Twitter: @AtelierID
Pets: an abnormally intelligent pug with an addiction to off-track betting
Quirks: a strong desire to stamp out the use of the phrase “At the end of the day” – it must be stopped!
Contact Info:

DTP: You’ve recently started Atelier ID, tell us about the company and your services.
AE: Atelier ID is a company dedicated to the creation of powerful and intelligent brand and identity campaigns.  The word atelier means “workshop” and like a workshop our company brings together the right team to address our clients’ needs and draws on a select group of like-minded publicists, designers, analysts and web technologists.  We bring our clients the skills and robustness of senior marketing expertise without the overhead and long-term commitment of fully staffing a marketing department.  I like to think of Atelier ID as a marketing-team-for-hire.

What makes us most unique is our knowledge and experience in a very targeted and challenging market: modeling & simulation software technology.  There are very few marketing and design firms that can fully understand the complexity, demands and challenges of this particular market, and even fewer who can produce exciting, interesting and compelling brand and identity projects for their M&S customers.
DTP: How is Atelier ID different from an agency? What can clients expect from your team?

AE: Atelier ID is founded in a strong business-oriented approach to servicing the needs of our clients.  Having worked in-house for several software companies over the past 15 years, most recently as the Vice President of Marketing for Presagis, I have found that traditional marketing and PR agencies often do not have the time or desire to fully understand the specific demands and drivers of markets like M&S.  Thus, my teams and I often decided to assemble our own teams of designers, PR experts, analysts and web technology specialists.  Teams that are specifically appropriate to our business needs and strategic goals.  Many companies can benefit from this type of specific approach to marketing and communications, but do not have the in-house expertise, connections, budget, or bandwidth to build such a team.  Seeing this need in the market was a key driver for the formation of Atelier ID – we bring strong domain-specific knowledge and the resources to build and execute world-class marketing campaigns for our clients.  Campaigns that align to our customer’s strategic vision and product roadmap and deliver results for both the business and its investors.

Probably the biggest difference between an agency and us is that we don’t have an army of Vice Presidents that get trotted out in front of the client, only to be replaced on signing with an 18 year-old intern.  We are a small team of dedicated marketers, designers, PR executives, writers and web specialists, and we don’t take on a vast number of clients.  Thus, clients can expect to receive a high-level of attention and service at every stage of their project – even after the project is delivered.  Combine that with the low overhead of a small team of individuals, and our clients get a powerful team of hand-chosen experts, focused on our client’s business, for a fraction of the cost of a traditional PR or marketing agency.
DTP: In your experience how is marketing in the M&S community different from other industries (ex. Consumer or enterprise technologies)?

AE: The M&S industry is an exciting realm – especially for companies willing to take a bold stance in the marketing and publicity of their products.  My feeling is that many M&S companies – especially COTS software companies – shied away from focused marketing and public relations, as their business models were often based on tight service-oriented relationships with one or two major clients.  However, over the past ten years a greater level of industry consolidation has been taking effect and smaller companies are being combined into larger companies.  As companies grow it is not as practical, or profitable, to maintain a service-only style organization and there is an increasing need to diversify the client-base, geography, and product offering.  As this shift takes place, companies are finding that targeted marketing and publicity are key tools to helping them speak to their customers while at the same time providing and effective platform for differentiating their product offering from their competitor’s.  Thus, the companies that take an early and strong lead in building awareness around their brand and identity stand to reap greater rewards in the increasingly competitive M&S software market.

One of the key differences about the M&S market grows out of the fact that it hasn’t had need to market itself as vigorously as a consumer technology, nor even as hard as other business to business technologies.  As a result there has been a traditional reticence towards publicizing or marketing one’s technologies – indeed, many customers in this market demand a high level of discretion from their software vendors due to the sensitive nature of the projects that they are undertaking.  While this is completely understandable and part of the unique characteristic of the M&S market, many companies err too far on the side of caution and often let great opportunities to communicate pass them by.  There is a strong sense of community in the M&S market, and even amongst competitors there is a camaraderie, so the desire to know more about one another, about successes and innovations, ideas and opinions is certainly there.  At this year’s I/ITSEC you can see how much the industry has changed in a few short years – only two years ago it was considered almost comical to leverage Twitter and LinkedIn to promote your company at the show, and now we are seeing even the most reserved companies tweeting and re-tweeting each other’s news.  So, yes, M&S is conservative by nature and by necessity, this is a fact, but what we are seeing is that companies who can take an intelligent, measured and strategic approach to marketing and public relations can gain a real competitive advantage – and this is what excites me about the M&S market.

January 18, 2012

Taking Human Out

This post from Skyler Frink at Military & Aerospace Electronics has been sitting with me for a couple of days. It describes the way we discuss (market) the weapons that ultimately kill people by removing the human element of our targets. Rather than stating the weapon is used to kill people, Skyler makes the point that we reduce the living, breathing, person to an enemy target that may as well be a rock, tree or germ.

It's interesting to me because we as a society are very good at disassociating the human element from any corporation, strategy, or tool. How many times have you blamed a corporation for poor customer service when in fact the poor customer service came from a person and that the corporation responsible for the bad experience is made up of people.

This post from Skyler makes me realize that we have become very good at absolving ourselves from the decisions we make by removing the human factor out of the equation. By doing so corporations become entities larger than ourselves - corporations provide bad customer service, drugs make people sick, and weapons are responsible for killing.

It may just be language, but ultimately we have a role to play in this and its something that I believe should be carefully considered as it impacts how we view the world and make decisions.

January 13, 2012

Show Daily Madness Means Working Together....Our Interview with Darren Lake

Today we're chatting with Darren Lake. Darren hails from the UK and makes the trek to Orlando to produce the I/ITSEC Show Daily. I've been fortunate to work with Darren in spreading the word about my clients' news at the show but I've always wondered why anyone would sign up for such a task. With hundreds of vendors - and inevitably hundred of PR people and hundreds of press releases - I can only envision the insanity and hard work that must ensue. So, today Darren shares a little insight into how we can help out his team in the development of valuable news for the Show Daily and Shephard Media Publications.

Name: Darren Lake

Beau - Whose face is not to be trusted.
Title: Publishing Director, Land & Support Editor

Publications: Shephard Media Publications, I/ITSEC Show Daily

Home Base: Slough, United Kingdom
Twitter: @ShephardNews

Blog: Not yet, it’s a bit scary
Pets: Beau the cocker spaniel

Quirks: Not too many I hope
Contact Info:, +44 1753 727022

DTP: Tell me Darren, we’re hot off the heels at I/ITSEC where you along with your team have the insane task of writing and producing the Show Daily. Do you have any advice to PR pros who want to pitch you at the show?
DL: The best advice I can give is to get your story ideas and press releases to us early. We start to work on the Show Daily in the week before the event and quite often we’re full in terms of stories by early in the event. 

The second bit of advice is to make sure you have good print quality images to go with your news. It helps us make a decision on what goes in and of course enhances the story. 

DTP: Regarding PR and Marketing, how do you think the defence industry is changing? 

DL: Well certainly in the case of North America and parts of Europe there is a much greater emphasis on using social media to keep in contact with journalists. On the marketing side it tends to still be a very traditional and conservative culture, but I think that really reflects the client base. 

DTP: Where do you get your story ideas from? 

DL: All sorts of places. There are obviously press releases from PR contacts, we watch a lot of social media feeds, but you can’t beat face to face time with people at shows or conferences.

DTP: What is the biggest mistake (or missed opportunity) you see PR people make when pitching you and your colleagues? 

DL: I guess the main one is not always understanding what the news angle is for us. I can’t count the number of times that the most interesting bit of news in a release has been buried somewhere in paragraph 18. 

DTP: What advice can you give to PR and marketing pros when sending you a pitch? What distinguishes a great pitch from those that get tossed in the bin? 

DL: Well for us it really has to have a business to business angle. Contracts, new technology, that sort of thing.

DTP: What makes a great spokesperson? 

DL:Someone who can be candid and has been well briefed by their company. Also, someone who is happy to trust journalists and go off the record when necessary.

DTP: Shephard Media has an established brand and well-respected group of publications. What’s next? Will you be heading online? 

DL: We’ve just revamped our website and changed the company name and domain to Shephard Media. That reflects an increased emphasis on the online part of the business. We recognize that it’s an important way to get the news out there with our magazines being journals of record. 

We’re also looking at digital versions of the magazine and have an established twitter presence. 

DTP: What is your perspective on the influence of social media and journalism? 

DL: I think it has become increasingly important. You speak to journalists in other sectors and it’s having a huge impact. I don’t think aerospace and defence has been an early adopter, but I’m sure that we’ll see the influence continue to grow over the next few years. 

DTP: Any last words of wisdom – opinions, suggestions, etc. – for the PR and marketers out there? 

DL: Not really I guess the main thing is to just make sure that you don’t forget us B2B guys. There’s quite often a focus on high profile online and national media – but where do you think they’re getting their story ideas and information from in the first place?

January 12, 2012

Why Books Should Become More Important

There has been a lot of discussion happening online lately about the influence of social media on Search Engine Optimization. Jeff Sonderman writes in an article for The Poynter Institute that Google has again made a move that will significantly impact the information you receive when you search for something online. Now when you search the information presented to you will be as Jeff writes, "shaped by each user's online friends and social networking history"

I think this is 'neat' and certainly makes the networks we live and work within increasingly tighter and more influential. But should it make our social networks more or less relevant? While I appreciate learning what my friends are reading, listening to or watching, will that enhance my ability to find the right information?

Think about this for a moment. Searching online is now an acceptable practice for almost every student - from public, to high school, to university. The information presented to them is determined by a search engine ... the people at Google ... I mean the advertisers paying Google to make sure that their information is presented at the top. Now, add in this new social element and students are going to be presented with information that is further convoluted by what they did online yesterday.

As much as we know the information on the internet shouldn't be trusted, even someone like me who works in PR has to remind myself every now and again to validate sources and that sites like Wikipedia aren't verified to be accurate. At what point will we not be able to trust any of the information we receive? How will that impact us? Will it matter?

It makes me think that books, newspapers, and magazines that create vetted, peer-reviewed content using multiple sources have a serious responsibility and opportunity to help keep us from ourselves in the land of (in)-convenient content.


January 10, 2012

A New Definition for PR

PR does not stand for press release. PR is no longer just media relations. And PR should not be an add-on to your business. Public relations can help to elevate your brand, create the foundation you communicate with, and engage your customers, employees, and partners in ways you've never even dreamed.

The advantage PR people have always had is that they keep a birds' eye view on your company and are quick to identify trends, issues, and opportunities - and not just for media - but for your marketing, R&D, product, and human resources teams. Paying attention to every function of your business and trained to analyze perception, the role of the PR person has changed from the gal (or guy) that used to spend the entire day on the phone asking journalists, "Did you get my email?"

The influence of social media and the integration with marketing and internal communication initiatives now has PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) revisiting the definition of public relations. Check out #PRDefined on Twitter and the PRSA discussion PRDefined to keep up to date on the definition development. Then get ready - tomorrow, three definitions will be shared with the public. In three weeks PRSA will then compile feedback to make revisions. Fingers crossed with another round of feedback we'll have a final result by end of February, early March.

Side Note: Crazy to think that this is the modern way of creating definition of words and phrases. I wonder if this was recommended by Oxford?

January 9, 2012

Jumping in with Sebastien Loze at CM Labs

Happy Monday everyone. I can't think of a better way to kick of this week than with a discussion with my friend Sebastien Loze. I had the pleasure of working with Seb when he was the Product Marketing Manager at Presagis - where his creativity was well-known and his ability to make the most complex concepts (to a PR person like me) simple. Working with Seb is always a great experience and now that he is the lead of marketing initiatives at CM Labs I expect we're going to see some big things in the very near future!

Name: Sebastien Loze

Title: Director, Marketing & Partner Sales
Home Base: Montreal, QC
Twitter: @SLFeeding
Pets:  Does a 4 year old daughter qualify? 
Quirks: Many along with a passion for photography and surrealist poetry
Contact Info: / 514.690.5693

DTP: Seb, you’ve recently taken on the role of Director of Marketing at CM Labs. Tell us, how has the transition been?
SL: CM Labs is a company full of expertise, passion and bright people working to deliver solutions for a very complex problem in the industry: “How do I ensure that my training and analysis of complex equipment is more accurate and effective than “good enough” simulations?” It’s a common question asked in our industry – one that many of us need to consider and resolve – and for operators of equipment it’s one that when answered correctly saves time, money and more importantly keeps people safe.  

My role is challenging and exciting; it requires me to leverage both my marketing (and market) experience as well as my computer science/engineering background. I’m surrounded by a team of savvy and passionate engineers and like with any new job, am focused on communicating their incredible expertise to our community. There is a learning curve as with any new role, but the idea of developing CM Labs’ corporate and technology story is incredibly exciting.  

DTP: You have always been an ally to PR – you’ve helped me cultivate many a trend and customer story – now that you’re responsible for PR have there been any surprises you’ve learned about the profession? 

SL: I am still ramping up on this aspect of my work and it is very interesting to see that our community is a very small world when it comes to the PR community and through this small network there are a lot of people offering to help PR newbies like me develop best practices and build relationships with the media. By the way thank you Cerys ;) 

DTP: Many think that PR is synonymous with media relations. What does PR entail at CM Labs? Do you see its role growing within your company? 

Storytelling and public relations has been a missing piece of the communications puzzle at CM Labs in the past. We’re now making this a priority to help share our expertise with the community as a whole – not only related to our products and services – but related to the great people we have at our company.  

As we build our marketing team moving forward, we’ll expand our initiatives to further embed PR into the fabric of CM Labs.  

DTP: How would you describe the integration of PR and marketing at CM Labs? Where and when should the two roles intersect most? 

SL: They are feeding each other in term of content, but I support a vision where marketing activities embed the PR activities in a holistic combined activities approach. Marketing tells a story, define the path and PR is both: sharing the story and ensuring that feedback and trends are properly brought back to marketing.  

DTP: How do you balance the idea of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” with the latest tactics and tools you’re dying to try?  

SL: Today in our stage of development of our PR and marketing activities, I am facing a much simpler paradigm: “if it doesn’t exist, make it happen!” So I am having a brutally candid approach to PR. We’re identifying what we are able to do now, and what we will work toward in the future. 

DTP: Are there any tools that you find particularly useful? (i.e. web-based tools, video, monitoring, distribution, etc.) 

SL: I am a serial browser so I had to simplify and limit my time searching the web. I created a few dashboards with Netvibes which allow me to view all the content I want in a single webpage – it’s sorted and organized the way I want it to monitor news, track blogs, and to make sure I have all the newswires monitored without having to surf for hours on many different websites.

DTP: Over the last few years we’ve seen a shift in how marketing and PR people are getting their information in front of their customers. Can you share one of your favourite, “go-to” tactics?

SL: We work at both ends of the spectrum - we have very good relationships with existing customers where we focus on 1:1 conversations and direct communications. At the same time we are working strategically with large international organizations like NATO to bring awareness to an audience that may not be familiar with CM Labs. For me, it’s important that we accurately assess the different groups we communicate with and ensure that we develop content that is valuable to each audience. From there we can best determine what tactics we use – whether that’s a webinar, speaking opportunity or video campaign.