Archive for July, 2008 Delivers Excellent Proactive Customer Service logo is a Toronto-based food delivery service. The service lets you order food from a wide range of restaurants in the Toronto area and have the food delivered to your door. A food delivery aggregator, if you will.

Last Sunday, as Caralin and I were settling down for a quiet night in, we ordered a meal from their website. After well over an hour of waiting, the food arrived. I wasn’t happy about the wait but didn’t say anything to the driver about it as the company doesn’t have a guaranteed deliver time. I accepted the food, made a mental note of what happened and enjoyed the meal. Case closed and largely forgotten as far as I was concerned.

Yesterday however, I received a letter from a Customer Service Manager at that floored me. I’ve excerpted part of the letter below.

Remember, this was completely unprompted. I didn’t say a word to the driver, I tipped well, and I didn’t submit any complaints to the company.

Here’s the letter. Emphasis is mine.

Dear Mr. Fleet,

We owe you an apology.

We know that when you order a meal for delivery from, you are entitled to receive your meal within a reasonable period of time. This past Sunday evening we did not deliver that meal to you within a reasonable period of time and for that we are very sorry.


I have been in contact with the management at [restaurant] as well as our Logistics department to reduce the chances of this occurring in the future.

It isn’t our intention to provide excuses for your poor customer experience; however we do feel that the situation deserves a proper explanation, and an assurance that we have made some immediate modifications in order to ensure that this type of situation is not repeated.

As a small compensation for your inconvenience Sunday evening, we would like to offer you a credit of $5 on your next order in hopes that you will allow us to serve you again, in our usual timely manner.


We thank you for your understanding and look forward to serving you next time!



Customer Service Manager

I wonder if’s excellent GPS tracking system helped them to identify the problem. As the IT Business article notes, “ draws a geo-fence around a 40-meter perimeter at each of the restaurants it services…” This allows them to see whether restaurants are preparing the food on time, or if drivers are late to pick the food up. It would also let them know that my meal took more than their one-hour target to reach my house.

Regardless of how they knew about my experience, well done to I’m thoroughly impressed. With one piece of proactive customer service they’ve erased any bad feelings I had about my experience and turned me into an ambassador for their company.

How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 13 – Evaluation

Measuring This is it – the last stage of preparing your communications plan – evaluation.

As with several parts of this communications planning series, the stage at which you write this part of your plan is fairly arbitrary. I recommend you turn your mind to it after, not before, you finish considering your analysis, objectives, strategy and tactics (you do need to know what you’re measuring, after all), but beyond that point it’s largely up to you.

Evaluation is a tough area to tackle, and one that’s often neglected in public relations. There are plenty reasons for this:

  • The challenge of trying to find a measurement system that accounts for the wide variety of tactics possible in a public relations campaign
  • The reluctance of clients, be they internal or external, to dedicate budget to evaluation
  • The lack of well-established criteria for measuring social media success
  • The fast-moving pace of communications that moves us on to the next announcement as soon as the last one is finished.

Your goal for this section

Your goal in your evaluation section is to lay out how you will measure your communications success. In a high-profile initiative this may be through the various stages of your announcement (we identified three – pre-announcement, announcement and post-announcement, when we looked at tactics earlier); in others, it may have a smaller scope.

Staged Measurement

If you’re planning a staged rollout of your communications program, try to measure your results over time. Alongside providing more credible results, this has the added benefit of allowing you to take corrective action if you sense your activities aren’t getting the desired results. Take a look at the different milestones you’ve identified for the project and consider which are suitable points to measure at.

Of course, you should also measure at the end of the initiative to see whether you’ve accomplished your objectives. Ideally, you’ll be able to compare that to the results showing whether the business objectives were accomplished too.

Potential Metrics

I’m certainly not an expert in measurement tactics, but here are a few measurements you may want to consider, depending on your objectives:

  • Media coverage
    • How much coverage did you receive?
    • What was the tone of that coverage (positive/negative)?
    • Which media outlets was the coverage in? Where in those outlets? What’s the audience of those placements?
    • Did you achieve the desired visuals?
    • Did they pick up your key messages?
    • Were your spokespeople quoted?
    • Were the mentions of your initiative the focus of the coverage, or a side note?
    • Methods for achieving these metrics vary. While I haven’t used it personally, the Media Relations Rating Points system has achieved some traction (see Ben Boudreau’s One Degree post for a case study).
  • Interactive
    • How many visitors saw your content?
    • How long did they spend on the site?
    • What pages did they visit?
    • Did they hit specific landing pages?
    • What was their bounce rate?
    • What was their conversion rate (identify a goal for visitors – purchase/registration/download, etc.)?
    • Social media measurement is even more debatable than regular PR. Comments, inbound links, etc are lovely, but at best they’re just proxies for more meaningful measurements.
  • Stakeholders
    • How did your stakeholders react?
  • Public inquiries
    • How many letters/emails/calls did you receive on this topic? Is that higher or lower than usual?
    • What was the tone of the incoming correspondence?
    • What did the correspondents say/ask?
  • Benchmarking
    • Conduct market research/polling before and after (perhaps also during) your communications to show improvement in metrics over time, for example in public attitudes
    • Focus groups

These are just a few metrics. What others can you suggest?

The “Communications Plan” Series

This is the final post in my series of 13 posts on exploring how to create a good strategic communications plan. To read the rest of the series, check out the other posts here.

(Photo credit: verzerk)

Newspapers: A Growth Business?

Newspaper I just stumbled across an news release from last month entitled World Press Trends: Newspapers Are A Growth Business. With a headline like that, you bet I read it!

According to the World Association of Newspapers, newspaper circulations world-wide rose 2.57% in 2007 and 9.39% over the last five years. The source of this data, the association’s annual survey of World Press Trends, was released this June.

This stands in stark contrast to the state of the press in North America, where leading publications like the Toronto Star and the New York Times have resorted to significant layoffs in recent months. As a sign of where the association’s bias lies, the release tries to position that positively too:

“”And even in places where paid-for circulation is declining, notably the United States and some countries in western Europe, newspapers continue to extend their reach through a wide variety of free and niche publications and through their rapidly developing multi-media platforms,” he [Timothy Balding, Chief Executive Officer of the World Association of Newspapers] said.”

Some other interesting nuggets from the lengthy release, which provide a useful reminder that the newspaper industry is much bigger than the US and Canada:

  • Daily newspaper circulations were stable or up in 80% of the countries surveyed in 2007
  • 74 of the world’s 100 best selling dailies are published in Asia
  • The largest markets for paid dailies are China (107 million copies), India (99 million copies) and Japan (68 million copies). US circulation is about 51 million copies – 17 million lower than Japan

The release does acknowledge some of the problems the industry is facing, however:

  • Paid daily circulation in the EU dropped 2.37% in 2007. However, if you factor in the free dailies, circulation rose 2%
  • Most of the US decline came at the expense of evening papers, with a 10.08% drop compared to 2006 and a 25% drop over the last five years.

Of course, the World Association of Newspapers is far from unbiased. Among the association’s activities, it “represents the newspaper industry in all international discussions on media issues, to defend both press freedom and the professional and business interests of the press.”

I take these findings with a sizeable pinch of salt. Still, this remains an interesting reminder that even with the frequent reports of the decline of the traditional media in the western world, it isn’t the case everywhere.

(Image credit: somadjinn)

Where Do We Go From Here?

As I’ve just wished this site a happy first birthday, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to consider what I can do to improve it.

Happy 1st,

(Image: Caralin baked my blog a cupcake)

I’m turning this one over to you. What do you think? I’ll take these ideas, mash them up with my thoughts, and see where it leads.

Here are a few questions to start you thinking. Pick one to answer, pick them all, or pick something else entirely – your call.

  1. Topics – I aim to write about communications, social media and marketing – do the posts I write fit within that?
  2. Content – how can I improve the posts themselves? Are they too long, too short, too detailed, to high-level?
  3. Style - am I too formal? Too personal? Too bureaucratic? All over the shop? What styles do you prefer?
  4. Post Series - did you enjoy the communications planning series? Would you like to see more, or did it bore you to tears?
  5. Site - do you like the design/layout of the site? What could I improve?

Let me know what you think!

13 Tips From My First Year Of Blogging

First birthday Today marks the one-year anniversary of my blog. I’ve had this site for years longer, but this is the one-year anniversary of signing up for Blogger (which I used back then) and officially starting to blog. 201 posts later, I’m feeling as inspired as ever.

The Best So Far

Here are my personal favourites from the last year – my top five posts so far:

  1. How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 1 – An Overview
  2. 8 Questions To Ask Before Using YouTube As A Communications Tool
  3. 6 Ways To Make Life Easier With Delicious
  4. Enough With Blogger Strategies!
  5. 42 Top Social Media Tips And Tools

I’ve learned a lot over the last year from reading other peoples’ sites, reflecting on my own thoughts and absorbing other peoples’ comments on this site.

13 Tips I’ve Learned From The Last Year

For your benefit, here are 13 things I’ve learned over the last year that your blog should have:

  1. Goals – decide what you want to get out of your blog. Have a reason for writing other than “I think I should have a blog.”
  2. Purpose – if you have nothing to say, say nothing. Don’t write a post for the sake of it.
  3. Commitment – writing a blog isn’t all easy. It takes time and work to keep coming up with relevant, interesting content. Stick with it.
  4. Opinions – let people know what you think. I’d avoid attacking people or criticizing without being constructive, but don’t be afraid to have an opinion.
  5. Questions – it can be hard to encourage people to comment on your blog. Prompt people to think and respond by asking questions.
  6. Focus – decide what you’re going to write about and focus on that theme. Make sure you consider your audience – who it already is, or who you want it to be.
  7. Simplicity – unless you’ve consciously decided to focus on a knowledgeable audience, assume that your readers know nothing about the topic.
  8. Debate – make people think about what you’re saying. Provoke a reaction, not necessarily in a negative way.
  9. Conversation – if someone comments on your blog, write back. Take the time to start a conversation. It’s called “social media” for a reason!
  10. Limits – comments are great, but some people will come to your site with malice aforethought. It’s worth having a comments policy to fall back on when nasty situations occur. Mine is here.
  11. Checks and balances – if you’re reporting on breaking news, try to get a second source to make sure what you’re reporting on is true. I’ve fallen into the trap of not checking my facts in the past. Learn from my mistakes.
  12. Personality – make your blog personal. Give your take. Don’t just regurgitate what everyone else is saying. Heck, you don’t even have to write about the same topic as everyone else.
  13. Passion – Write about things you care about. If you don’t care, how do you expect your readers to?

These are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far; check out some other perspectives – Chris Brogan, Liz Strauss, Darren Rowse, Vandelay Design, Jason Falls.

What’s the top tip you’ve learned from blogging?

(Photo credit: missxyz)

Ready, Aim, Fire – 2 Ways That Poor Planning Can Hurt You

Ready, Aim, FireWhen someone asks you to help communicate an initiative, what do you do?

Do you immediately find yourself coming up with cool ideas about how to gain attention and generate coverage? It feels good to do that, right? It certainly impresses non-communicators – “oh, we could do a media event for the launch, podcast this and that, and approach this reporter I know at the Globe & Mail.”

If you do that, you’re doing your clients a disservice. You’re guilty of failing to plan – of putting tactics before strategy.

Plenty of people have written about the importance of proper strategic planning, whether in social media, in communications or in marketing.

Here are two strategic planning approaches that can hurt your company.

Ready, Fire, Aim

I recently left the public sector after several years in government communications. That experience gave me a few insights into the way communications is conducted in that environment.

One thing I noticed is the possibility of this kind of planning discussion:

“We’re announcing this on Friday… so we’ll need a news release and backgrounder, ok?”

This ‘ready, fire, aim’ planning process leaves the strategic thinking to hindsight. There’s little opportunity for consideration of alternative strategies, of the wider context or of stakeholder needs. That results in sub-optimal approaches and a resulting lack of awareness and understanding of how the public sector is serving the public.

As any communicator will tell you, unfortunately this problem isn’t just limited to government. Fortunately, the people I worked with are aware of this potential and are working diligently to address it.

Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire

Another tendency I’ve experienced falls on the other extreme – a tendency to over-plan, to think of every single possible scenario, to eliminate every single risk. This is especially prevalent when dealing directly with the public – for example, through social media. The fear of the unknown can lead to an ultra-risk averse approach, to constant checking and re-checking and a failure to act.

This ‘ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, fire’ approach can be as risky as the ‘ready, fire, aim’ mistake I mention above. By taking way too long in the planning process you can:

  • Miss a time-sensitive opportunity, for example an ideal time for an announcement or a gap in the market before competitors appear
  • Stifle an initiative with overly bureaucratic rules and procedures
  • Kill any enthusiasm that your people have for the initiative.

Ironically, by planning too much you can increase the risks within your communications.

Ready, Aim, Fire

Good communicators, in an ideal environment, will research, analyze and plan before executing their communications. However, they also let go when the time is right. Once you’re at that point, you can only achieve ever-decreasing returns on the time you spend fine-tuning your plan.

It’s obvious, right? Time to set your plan free.

How have you addressed these tendencies when you’ve noticed them?

(The guys over at the Manager Tools podcast have some great terms that they use to describe personality traits in the DISC model, which I’ve appropriated to describe these situations. I highly recommend you check out their show – it’s the only podcast that I pay for to get their premium content.)

(Photo credit: .:: LINUZ ::.)

How Will You Grow Today?

RIP Today Since starting my new position at Thornley Fallis Communications recently, I’ve experienced a new kind of pressure – that of accounting for all the time I spend at work.

I’m adjusting to that new pressure pretty well so far and finding that it keeps me accountable to myself as well as to the company.

As I don’t have a large number of clients right now, though, it often leads me to wonder:

“How have I grown today?”

What have I done to advance myself? To move further ahead, personally and/or professionally? Today is almost over; I won’t get to live it again. Have I spent today wisely, or have I thrown it away?

  • Did I land a new client?
  • Did I pull out the stops and advance my career?
  • Did I help out a colleague or friend when they needed help?
  • Did I make a new connection that will improve my life professionally, personally, or both?
  • Did I strengthen an existing connection?
  • Did I learn something that will help me in the future?
  • Did I improve my abilities at something, at work or outside?

I’ve lived my life with this in mind for a long time. That’s probably why I enjoy being busy at work, why I’m dedicated to my running and why a friend once gave me a book, which sits in my office to this day, entitled “You Know You’re A Workaholic When…” I guess I just think about it more now.

What about you? How will you grow today?

AideRSS Google Reader Extension – Filter Your Reading, Easily

aideRSS_logo AideRSS, the excellent free RSS filtering service, just made their service even more accessible with a new Google Reader Firefox extension. This is the first application to be based on AideRSS’ newly-released Postrank API.

The AideRSS Google Reader extension makes it easy to separate the wheat from the chaff in your RSS subscriptions by integrating AideRSS’ PostRank™ system within Google Reader.

AideRSS ranks posts based on measures of engagement including traffic, comments, trackbacks, saves to social bookmarking sites, and discussion on micro-blogging sites like Twitter. With the extension, you can filter your feeds, from within Google Reader, based on that ranking.


I’ve used the extension for a few days now. I’ve found it very helpful when I don’t have much time and need to try to absorb the best of my subscriptions quickly- by setting the filter level to “Great” or “Best” you can pick off the best of the crop and leave the rest for when you have more time.

I really like this extension (and AideRSS in general) as a way to help filter my massive backlog of posts. However, there are a few issues:

  • It takes time for AideRSS’ measures to kick in – comments, trackbacks etc don’t come immediately. If you read all the latest posts in your feeds throughout the day, the extension is largely meaningless.
    • This isn’t just a problem with the extension – I also found this problem when using AideRSS as part of my simple blog monitoring solution a little while back. If you’re looking for time-sensitive results, it’s not for you. I don’t see a way around this – AideRSS just isn’t built for this kind of application.
  • The extension slows Google Reader down considerably as it re-calculates the ranking for each post whenever you switch between feeds.
  • This kind of filtering, while valuable, lowers the chance that you’ll stumble upon that ‘hidden nugget’ that other people haven’t found.
  • Apparently, my ‘Advertising and PR’ feeds, with way over 1000 unread posts at time of writing, doesn’t have any posts that are worthy of the “Best” category.

It my seem like I’m tearing into this extension, but I’m not. I like it. However, you should be aware of the limitations if you start to use the service so you can adjust your use appropriately.

A few recommendations for how to use the AideRSS extension effectively:

  • Don’t bother filtering the feeds you stay on top of throughout the day.
  • Use the filter when you just have a few minutes to spare and want to pick out the best of your backlog of feeds. However, leave your favourite feeds unfiltered.
  • If you want to apply more persistent and flexible filtering on your feeds (just subscribing to a site’s best posts, for example), use AideRSS’ full service through its website (Side note: I would love it if the extension remembered how I like to filter each feeds and apply that filter by default on those posts .Clarification: The extension does remember your settings for each post – see the comments below – I’d love for it to remember the settings for each feed and apply them when you roll-up to the aggregate view).

Have you used this extension? What did you think? If you use another service to filter your RSS feeds, what do you think of it?

For information on how to install and use the AideRSS Google Reader extension, check out this video:

Many Computers; One Life – How I Synchronize My Information

Keeping your life in sync can be a real problem. You have your professional contacts and your friends, your work calendar and your personal schedule, tasks you’ve been assigned at work and things you need to do for yourself, and so on. It’s nigh-impossible to keep your work and home lives separate, especially if you work as much as I tend to do. Things just cross over, and you need to be prepared for when that happens.

I’m a bit of a geek. I have two computers at home – my desktop and my laptop – and my work computer. All of these used to have different sets of information on them. Different files, different contacts, different everything.

No longer.

This is how I keep my life in sync:

Calendar, Tasks, Contacts

This drove me nuts for a while. I have Outlook 2002 on my computer at work, I have Outlook 2007 for my desktop and I use Google Calendar on my laptop.

If you only have to deal with Outlook 2003 and 2007 , Google offers a nifty application called Google Calendar Sync, which offers a neat way to keep your calendars synchronized. Install the app, enter your login information and it takes care of everything for you. However, Outlook 2002 is a different beast – the app doesn’t work with that version. A few people told me there was no way of syncing an older version of Outlook. They were wrong.

The key to this puzzle: Plaxo.

How Dave Fleet syncs his information

Slammed by some for spamming people with invites without asking permission when it first came out, Plaxo has learned and evolved into a very useful service for managing your information flow. Sign up for an account, create a ‘sync point’ with your Google account, install the Plaxo toolbar for Outlook on each machine and you’re good to go.

What’s more, Plaxo also takes care of syncing your tasks and your contacts. Fantastic. If you want to pay for Plaxo’s Premium Services – about US$50 per year – you can synchronize your Linkedin contacts with your local machines too.

I have a pretty bad memory for birthdays, so this next app improves things no end for me. Facebook app fbCal grabs all of your friends birthdays from Facebook and creates calendars that you can subscribe to in Outlook. It does the same thing for all of the events people have invited you to via Facebook, too.


A while back I was searching for a way to synchronize my monstrous iTunes library on my two home computers – right now it’s all on my desktop. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way of doing it (grrrr) other than just copying over the files. However, while I was looking into this, I stumbled upon Live Mesh.

Live Mesh is an ambitious project by Microsoft. As their original blog post/announcement said:

Our design goals for Live Mesh are to have…

  • …your devices work together
  • …your data and applications available from anywhere
  • …the people you need to connect with just a few clicks away for sharing and collaborating
  • … the information you need to stay up-to-date and always be available

We’re achieving these design goals by combining the power of ‘cloud services,’ with the convenience and rich experience of your many devices

I’ can’t wait to see more of this functionality (bring on the shared apps!) but for my purposes now I focus on one thing: I can sync up to 5Gb of information between all of my computers, and if I’m on someone else’s computer I can access it through a browser too. Files update in the background without any work from you, and it’s extremely easy to set up. What’s more, Live Mesh just came out of closed beta so you don’t have to apply to use it any more.

Five gigabytes isn’t that much any more – I’ve taken more than 2.5Gb of photos in the first seven months of this year alone – but it’s plenty for keeping your most frequently-used files available, and for now I do have my 2008 photos on there along with my other files.

Even with this stuff, I’m no Tommy “Living In The Cloud” Vallier. I’m sure there are ways I could bring other things into this system.

How do you keep your life in sync?

From Corporate To Agency – Reflections On My First Day In A New Job

Thornley Fallis Back in June, I announced that I was leaving the Ontario government to join public relations agency Thornley Fallis Communications as a Senior Consultant.

Today was my first day in my new job, so how did it go?

Bottom line: I loved it. The day flew by and, from start to finish, my new colleagues were friendly, helpful and made me feel like I’d already worked at Thornley Fallis for years.

Here are a few things that stood out for me today:

  • Demographics – the company has a great mix of experience and youth that make for a dynamic, educational and fun work environment in equal doses. Coming from the public sector, the increased number of fellow young professionals at Thornley Fallis is a pleasant change.
  • Accountability – I’d been warned about timesheets previously, but the level of detail involved surprised me today. I spent some time this evening reading over the “how-to” guide that I’ve been given and I think I have my head around it now but, knowing me, I’m pretty sure I’ll have screwed-up my first day’s activity logging, though!
  • Work ethic – I walked into the office at about 8:30 this morning and was greeted by several smiling faces. When I left just after 6, plenty of people were still around to wish me a good night. As a guy who received a “You Know You’re a Workaholic When…” book from an old girlfriend, that was a good sign.
  • Varied clients – in my first meeting today, I sat down with Terry Fallis (yes, that Terry Fallis, the rock star/author and podcaster) as he walked me through several client projects he’d like me to get involved in. Each is different from the others, each has its own challenges and they all sound fascinating. Coming from a job with a very focused portfolio, this was exciting.
  • Into the deep end – from heading out to a briefing by a potential client in the morning to plowing through piles of reading to get up-to-speed on projects as quickly as possible, today was a very pleasant change from the twiddle-your-thumbs first days I’ve had in some previous jobs. I’m happiest when I’m up to my armpits in alligators so this was a good first step. I look forward to getting stuck in to those projects, and more, very soon.
  • Welcoming – I said it earlier but I’ll say it again – I know I’m the new guy and I have a tonne to learn in my new role, but all of my new colleagues made me feel so at ease that it was more like coming back from a vacation than walking into a new place.

The most noticeable difference for me today between the public and private sector: the difference in demographics and the resulting level of energy in the office.

For those of you who’ve made the switch from corporate to agency communications, or vice-versa, what’s the biggest difference you noticed?