Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Where were you when the power went out?

Ten years ago today, the power went out across the Northeast and Midwest US and across Ontario, Canada. Wikipedia tells me it was the second most widespread blackout in history at the time. It took two days for many people to get their power back.

Licks Hamburgers in Barrie

Licks Hamburgers in Barrie

I remember exactly where I was ten years ago when this happened. I’ll always remember, as it’s a reminder to me of where I’ve been in life and how much things have changed since then.

I was sitting in Licks Hamburgers in Barrie, Ontario. I had just moved permanently (I hoped) to Canada after graduating University, had zero money in the bank and was working a door-to-door sales job to pay the rent of my windowless basement apartment in Thornhill. 14 hours a day, often 7 days a week – rain or shine. 100% commission – if I didn’t sell anything, I made nothing. That day I was selling Domino’s Pizza coupons in Barrie. It was steaming hot outside, and I was wearing a full suit and tie.

To be completely honest, it was right in the middle of one of the worst periods of my life.

I remember that as soon as the power went out, the restaurant manager kicked everyone out of the store for health and safety reasons. I spent the afternoon trying to sell pizza coupons to people who would ask me, “don’t you realize there’s a power outage?” My response would be, “well then you’re not missing anything on TV while you’re talking to me, are you?” As I remember, I made about $60 that day.

Two months later, I quit that job. Five months later, I got a temp gig in the Ontario Government – days before I was due to fly back to the UK because I was about to run out of money. I postponed my flight, and never took that return leg. I haven’t looked back since that day.

Feels like a lifetime ago. How things have changed. I guess I can feel pretty good about the last ten years.

Where were you when the power went out? What has changed for you since then?

Where has Dave been?

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here. In fact, I’ve only posted four times in the last seven months. I got to thinking it might be helpful to explain why.

Six months ago, I started to transition into a new role at Edelman.

For Edelman’s largest global clients, we have what we call the “Global Client Relationship Program” through which we appoint a senior leader – a “GCRM” – to head-up our global teams for those clients. As we say on the Edelman website, the GCRM, “is responsible for overseeing the global client relationship, setting the strategy and managing the core client team. GCRMs are dedicated to bringing the best of Edelman resources to our clients – wherever and whenever required.”

Supporting those people, we have Regional Client Relationship Managers (RCRMs). In July I began to transition into the RCRM role on one of our largest digital clients, with whom I had been working since 2010. In doing so, I moved from leading one key piece of our North American work for that client, to leading all of the work we do for them in North America.

Almost simultaneously, our team began planning for a major program for that client. I soon found myself leading that program globally within Edelman.

Suffice to say, my spare time became very limited. I’ve spent the last six months with a single-minded focus on working with our team, our clients and our other agency partners to do a kick-ass job for the client. That was a conscious choice and one I made willingly, but it brought with it sacrifices. One of those casualties was the time I spent writing here.

Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t change the last six months for the world. I’ve loved every second of it (those of you who know me well know that I’m happiest when I’m busy). I’ve been working with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met and doing the most interesting work I’ve ever done. I’ve learned more things than I can count and they’ll stand me in good stead for a long time.

With that said, I’m now looking ahead to when I begin to emerge from this project (we’re not done yet, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel). With that emergence will come change. First and foremost, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my long-suffering wife, Caralin, who agreed to let me take on this role in the first place. Secondly, I’m going to work to get back in shape (hopefully, a non pear-shaped variety). Thirdly, I’m going to start writing more here again.

The good news is, I’ll have plenty of things to write about given the last six months.

A few things I expect I’ll have words on in the near future:

  • Organizing global social teams
  • The balance of global/local
  • Content strategy in a multi-stakeholder mix
  • Engagement at scale
  • Advocates vs influencers, and why that difference matters
  • Setting effective and appropriate objectives
  • Measuring social throughout the campaign lifecycle

I expect a common theme to emerge throughout – that of the practical realities of operationalizing social media at scale.

Now I just have to find time to write it all…

Remembering Michael O’Connor Clarke

Michael O’Connor Clarke passed away this morning, sadly losing his battle with the esophagael cancer that he was diagnosed with this summer.

I knew Michael both as a friend and as a colleague. From memory, I believe we first met online in 2007, through social media channels that were a shared passion between us. It wasn’t until mid-2008 that we met in person when work brought us together, but when we first met I remember it being as though we’d known each other for years. (I remember the meeting clearly – we had lunch at the Rebel House in Toronto, and I remember he convinced me to order the lunch special)

Over the next 18 months or so as we worked together, Michael became both a friend and a mentor. I spent countless hours sitting (on a massive exercise ball) in his office, as he did in mine, talking strategies and tactics, the latest online tools and trends, or how to resolve a difficult client situation. We pitched new business together; we presented at events together; we laughed, sighed, argued and relaxed together. That time shaped how I approached my work, not just then but now too.

I fondly remember the bizarre situations we found ourselves dealing with.

I remember the phone calls I made to him from a remote campsite on an island in the middle of Georgian Bay, when a client issue erupted over a weekend and we found ourselves defending our client from a backlash on the Daily Kos.

I remember Michael convincing us all that it was a good idea to put two otherwise normal actors in red lycra suits, name them “Tee” and “Vee” and walk around Toronto – in the middle of winter – with a shoulder-mounted projector to promote a client’s new online TV service.

I remember Michael, trying to figure out how to get coverage for a client’s new ultra-thin TV, drafting an email pitch that was as thin as the TV and having it re-printed verbatim in outlets.

All of these and more. Throughout it all, Michael was thoughtful, calm, strategic, quick-witted and hilarious.

More than this, though, I remember the side of Michael that matters more – the one that shone through outside work.

We talk a lot about community in this industry, and that word is often horribly abused. In Michael’s case, though, he really was part of a community – both online and off. Michael could name-check some of the first wave of social media pioneers as friends, and was himself an early social PR pioneer. Offline, he also made a big impact – as one of the founders of HoHoTO, he helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Daily Bread Food Bank, for example. The impact of his passing on his community can be seen with a simple Twitter search for his name, as tributes pour in from around the world.

Above all, Michael was a devoted family man. He spoke constantly – incessantly – about his beloved wife Leona and his three children. The look on his face whenever he spoke about them, and the way he followed through on that with his actions, left no room for doubt about his priorities. It kills me to think of them losing such a devoted husband, father and companion.

Michael passed away aged 48 – far too young for the world to lose such an incredible, inspirational man.

While this is a sad day without doubt, a Facebook post from his Eamonn made me smile:

Enjoy life.
Hug your loved ones tight.
Be happy that he lived.
and raise a glass to him tonight

Michael, rest well my friend. One of these days we’ll share another beer. Until then, I – and many, many others – will dearly miss you.

Edit: Here are a few other posts from some of Michael’s friends:

Thoughts on Disconnecting

You may have noticed that things have been quieter than usual here recently. If you didn’t know, two weeks ago I got married and as I type this, I’m sitting on a plane on the way back from two blissful weeks spent completely offline on honeymoon in Italy.

At the Colosseum in Rome

While many of our vacations focus on adventure and exploration, this time we made a conscious decision to set aside at least half of the vacation for relaxation as the last few months have been… well, manic, to say the least. So, I had plenty of time to think, and I got to thinking about the effect that being offline had on how I thought and acted while we were away.

A few words come to mind:

  1. Old-school!
  2. Refreshing
  3. Disconnected


Yu know how you don’t appreciate a good thing until it’s gone? As I rapidly discovered while staying in a villa with no Internet access on the Amalfi Coast (it’s a tough life, I know), I use the Internet for a lot. A lot. No Internet meant no Google Maps; no Trip Advisor; no online bus schedule; no Google searches; nothing.

Was this tough? Absolutely not – it’s not that long since we didn’t have any of these things. However, it did make me reflect on just how much we use the Internet for nowadays. We had to search out real maps (you know, the ones “old people” use) and ask around for recommendations from local people. We had to use a phrasebook instead of Google Translate.

Again, I’m not crying “boo freakin’ hoo” here, but every time I take an offline vacation I find that the Internet had filled more and more functions for me, and I find that fascinating.


The view from Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast

The last six months have been, in a word, exhausting. We bought a house, renovated it, got married, and I was working long hours in the office. With everything that was going on, I found the opportunity to go completely offline reinvigorating.

Going from 300+ emails a day to none; waking up in the morning and not checking Twitter and Facebook; and not feeling like I should be Twitpic-ing photos of the sunset on the coast was completely refreshing. I highly recommend everyone unplug occasionally and just unwind.


Setting aside the hugely positive aspects of being offline, I did feel disconnected. I wondered what was going on with my friends. I wondered what was going on with my family. I wondered what was going on at the office. Not being able to reach out and connect with people whenever I felt like it was strange. And, yes, I did often think “I should totally post this photo” before realizing I couldn’t. It was unsettling at first, but the feeling passed.

Still, social networks are all about connecting with other people. I did miss those connections.

Looking ahead

The last two weeks were absolutely blissful and we couldn’t have had a better honeymoon. With that said, I return from it reinvigorated and re-energized, and I look forward to diving back into the things and relationships that matter to me – friends, family and colleagues – with more energy than ever before!

11 Things I Wish More People Knew About Me

If you didn’t already know, I’m a huge Amber Naslund fan. Her latest post, over at the Brass Tack Thinking blog, focuses on the things she wishes more people knew about her, and it got me thinking.

As Amber notes, and as I’ve found, social media enables immensely valuable connections and relationships, but it’s all too easy to mistake loose, weak connections for strong ones when you really don’t know the person that well. A few posts don’t make a close friend; they make a passing acquaintance. Those acquaintances can and do grow into real relationships and real friendships over time, but in many cases they remain loose connections.

I loved Amber’s post, and it made me think about the things I wish more people knew about me. So, here goes – here are 11 things you may not know about me.

I’m an extrovert… but only just. Our team recently did a Myers Briggs workshop, and I’m an ESTJ. However, while the last three aspects of the assessment are strong, I scored just “one” on the extrovert scale.

In real life, I’m comfortable in and enjoy meeting new people and interacting with others, which is the side of me that people generally see. However, when the day is done I’m very protective of my “Dave time” – I’ll often turn down social engagements to get time alone with my thoughts, play a video game or just to switch off and enjoy the opportunity to relax alone.

I give 110%, or nothing. I’m an all or nothing guy. I’ve burned out on all sorts of sports and hobbies because I throw everything at them, then get tired of them. I’m the same at work — I throw everything into it, and adopt it into my own sense of who I am.

Measurement turns my crank. I have a business degree, but I was very, very close to doing math at university. Numbers have always come easily to me; I took my GCSE in math a  year early, and got an A* grade (above an A). I took A-levels in Math and Further Math. Measurement and analytics let me return to my comfort zone.

Moving to Canada was like a rebirth for me. Moving to Canada let me completely redefine who I was. When you grow up in a small town with the same bunch of kids following each other all of the way through the education system, you can find yourself boxed-in in terms of peoples’ expectations. By the time I was done with university, I was tired of being what people wanted me to be.

Moving to Canada nearly 10 years ago let me hit the reset button. No-one knew me; no-one knew what I was “meant” to be and that meant I could really be who I wanted to be. I found that incredibly liberating, and it let me become the person I wanted to be.

Running is my therapy. Because I throw >110% into my work, and because I need my personal space, running is very therapeutic — I retreat into my own world, where I can think the day’s events through and clear my head by the end of it. I haven’t found the time to run for the last few years; getting back into it remains a huge priority for me moving forward.

It’s easy to mistake satisfaction for ego. On a daily basis, I marvel that anyone cares what I think, or wants to read what I write. To this day, I find that astonishing and exciting.

Some people mistake that astonishment for bragging; it’s not — I’m genuinely excited when people care what I think as, at my core, I have a lot of insecurity around my abilities.

I adore dogs. Not those annoying drop-kick dogs; I’m talking about big dogs — golden retrievers, german shepherds and the like. For years, my parent’s dog (Guinness) was like a close friend to me. I’ve been pining for a dog ever since I moved to Canada, and I long for the day that my lifestyle will allow it. Right now, though, that all-or-nothing approach to work and life means it’s just not feasible.

Laughter and music are my drugs. I prefer comedies to other movies; I love going to stand-up comedy nights, and unfortunately for my colleagues I exercise my own sense of humour (I’m fluent in sarcasm, have a bit of a potty mouth and continuously self-censor — or try to (sorry, gang)) constantly.

I come from a musical family (my mum is a piano teacher); I played the violin and piano, and sang, as a kid. Nowadays I just listen to a lot of (rock) music. I go to a bunch of shows, and I get cranky if I haven’t managed to zone out and listen to music for a while.

I love the outdoors. I’m pining now because it hasn’t happened yet, but normally we try to go camping half a dozen times or more each summer. I love the outdoors; I love the peace that being out of the city provides and I love unplugging and just relaxing. Oh, and I love monstrous breakfast fry-ups cooked over a fire.

I’m a small-town guy at heart and will eventually become one again. I spent my first 18 years in a village with 30 or so houses and zero shops in Cornwall, England. I spent the next four in a small city (Bath). My last 9 have been in a big city, but I don’t expect that that will be the case for the next 30. I need my space  too badly to be able to stay in the city scene for good.

I’m a big mushball. My sense of humour sometimes makes it seem like I have a hard edge, but when I come home after even the longest days in the office, there’s nothing I want to do more than just cuddle up with Caralin and spend time with her. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that in just over two weeks she will become my wife makes me the luckiest guy in the world.

What about you?

Drive. Learn. Commit.

I have so many thoughts running through my head about 2011 right now, it hurts.

First, though, I want to look back and reflect on the 2010 that was, for me, a huge year.

To use Chris Brogan’s three-word approach in hindsight, I could characterize my 2010 with drive, learn and commit.


I don’t often get personal here, but I thought I’d share a personal story with you:

In June 2003 I moved to Canada (I came here for the first time just over eight years ago). I moved here as a new graduate with one suitcase and almost no money, and spent the first few months working 85-hour weeks for little-to-no money (some days I would literally make nothing) to pay the rent on my small, windowless basement room.

I moved continents for a relationship that lasted only nine months once I was here, and once it ended I found myself, at age 22, with no friends (“mutual” friends turned out not to be so mutual), no real job, no money and no light at the end of the tunnel.

This was, without a doubt, the darkest time in my life so far. So, I set myself a goal. I set myself the target of hitting the leadership level by age 30.

That goal drove me forward – hard – for the last seven years (I’m pretty single-minded when I have my sights set on something).

Fast forward to 2010.

Early in the year I hit my goal, becoming Vice President of Digital Communications at Thornley Fallis.

Then, in August I joined the Toronto office of Edelman, the world’s leading independent global PR firm, as Vice President of Digital, at age 29.

What a contrast from just a few years ago. I still clearly remember that basement room, and the dark times that happened there. It makes the current situation feel all the more satisfying.

Now that I’ve hit my goal before hitting 30, I need a new goal so I don’t find myself on cruise control. That’s step one for me in 2011.


I don’t draw a line between work and home life. I’m fortunate to have found a career that I enjoy, where work doesn’t feel like work, so a lot of my “personal” growth overlaps with my professional life.

Take my reading challenge, for example. I finished 27 books last year; 17 of them non-fiction and the majority of those work-related. However, as I wrote recently, the knowledge you gain from reading widely will make you better at your job AND more interesting outside work. So, I found that reading project very satisfying in 2010 and plan to continue it in 2011.

Al the while, my job (see: drive, above) has forced me to learn constantly as I’ve been challenged with new tasks that I haven’t encountered before. The part of consulting I enjoy the most is that each situation is unique; even though I may have executed numerous programs of a certain type before, each one brings its own nuances so I’m constantly learning to deal with different combinations of challenges.

This is one of the most satisfying aspects of my work, as if I’m not challenged then I get bored. When I’m bored I look for the next challenge. That rarely happens in the consulting world – especially in the digital communications field as change is pretty much the only constant.


If I were to summarize my personal life in 2010, “commitment” would undoubtedly be the  definining characteristic. 2010 was the year I got engaged to Caralin and the year that we bought our first house together (if we’re connected on Facebook, you’ll see that I post about little else but the renovations nowadays).

Both of these things will have a huge knock-on effect on my 2011 – the wedding is set for July this year, and we’re currently working 12-hour days gutting and renovating the house.

I derive massive satisfaction from my professional life and my personal life sometimes takes the back seat. However, 2010 was a year when both areas of my life leapt forward.

I’ll look ahead to 2011 in future posts, but one thing I know is that the year will certainly involve dedicating more time to life outside work.

How was your 2010?

My 2010: Drive, learn, commit.

Meanwhile, I’ve watched people around me moving on, moving up and sometimes moving away as they also continue to grow. 2010 seems to have been a good year for many of the people I know.

How would you describe your 2010?

[Personal] Proud of my Brother

I usually keep this blog to work-based content, but I’m making an exception today.

My brother Simon lives with learning disabilities. Cornwall Council, which offers programs to help people in his situation find work, just produced this video about him.

I have a tear in my eye right now. I couldn’t be more proud of my little bro’.

Change, Change And More Change

The last few years have been wonderful for me, both personally and professionally. I’ve lived happily with my girlfriend, Caralin, for several years now, and I’ve enjoyed a rewarding career that has so far brought me more opportunities than I could have possibly hoped for.

Today, I’m happy to announce the next step in both of those areas of my life.

Moving on professionally

I’ve spent the last two years of my career at Thornley Fallis Communications, joining the company as a Senior Consultant in 2008 and being promoted first to Account Director and subsequently to Vice President.

Over this time years I’ve worked with some incredible people on great projects for wonderful  clients. I’ve also been fortunate to become friends outside work with people like Terry Fallis, Joe Thornley, Eric Portelance, Jeremy Wright, Andrea PietkiewiczJennifer Gordon and more, which makes this next part a little bittersweet.

As of this week, I’ve joined Edelman‘s Toronto team as Vice President of Digital.


Firstly, I should say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time at TFC. I love the people there and I’m immensely grateful for the many, many opportunities to grow that I experienced while at the agency.

So why the move?

For me, the decision came down to two opportunities:

  • An opportunity to work on a bigger scale;
  • An opportunity to learn from the industry’s best.

Scale: Edelman is the world’s largest independent PR firm, with over 3,300 employees in 52 countries. They work with some of the world’s biggest companies, spanning industry and geographic boundaries, and the digital work they do is cutting-edge. To say that I’m excited about joining a team of this scale, with the client roster they have and with the resources and opportunities that a company like this brings, would be an understatement.

Learning: Over the last few years, Edelman has systematically hired some of the best people in the digital communications field. Whether it’s the great team in Toronto and across Canada, or international thought leaders like Steve RubelDavid Armano, Phil Gomes and Rick Murray, the best people in the industry work here and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn from them. This – the quality of people – is the primary reason I decided to make the move. It’s an exciting time in digital, and Edelman has positioned itself right at the head of the field. I’m delighted to join this team.

I’m getting married!

As some of you may know, Caralin and I recently headed down to Peru on vacation. While we were there, we did a five-day trek to Machu Picchu. On the second day we climbed a mountain pass between two glaciers which peaked at about 4,600m (about 15,000 feet) above sea level. At the top of the pass, I proposed to Caralin and for some reason (altitude sickness??) she said yes!

Needless to say, I couldn’t be happier – I’m grinning from ear to ear right now. As things stand, we’re aiming to hold the wedding next summer.

There you have it. Change, change and a little more change.

To my ex-colleagues, a sincere and heart-felt “thank you.”

To my new colleagues at Edelman, who have already welcomed me so warmly, I’m beyond excited to work with you all.

To my new fiancée, you’re amazing and I love you.

It’s an exciting time for me. The last few years have been beyond amazing, and it looks like the next few could be even better.


A New Look For

I’m re-launching today with a new, sleeker look and feel and a whole load of new functionality.

The big changes include:

  • Professional: The old site was built from a template when one man (me) and his dog read my posts. The new design was created by my colleagues at 76design. I hope you’ll agree it’s a big improvement.
  • Focus on conversation: I write this blog for the conversation. I learn more from you than you possibly can from me. The new design is based on conversation, and the layout is focused on making that easier – from featuring my latest tweets to the Facebook Connect integration (update: teething problems with this one; disabled for now) to threaded commenting.
  • Connection: Making it easier for you to connect with me – whether you want to subscribe to this site via RSS or connect through any of the other social networks I inhabit.

What do you think of the new site?


Old homepage


New homepage

The Importance of Downtime

If you didn’t notice, my site has been quiet for the last week. That’s because, for the last nine days, I was on vacation in Cape Breton on Canada’s east coast (yes, the picture below is me a few days ago).

Dave Fleet relaxing, looking out at the sunsetWhile I was away, I unplugged completely – no Internet; no BlackBerry; not even a phone signal for most of the trip. In the past I’ve stayed in the loop while I’ve been away, but not this time.

It felt great. This surprised me a little – I expected to get a little twitchy after a while – but it never happened, and I feel all the better for having disconnected.

What did I miss?

From what I can tell, a few things happened while I was away:

My thoughts on this were perfectly summed-up by Matt Singley:

“I wonder what non-geeks are talking about today? Not Friendfeed.”

It’s easy to get caught-up in the daily excitement over developments in social media. I do it all the time. It’s easy to feel like the minutiae within this world are all that’s important. That’s part of the reason I needed to disconnect for a while. There’s much more going on in the world outside the social media field and it’s easy to miss out on that if you aren’t careful.

I’ve been extremely busy over the last year or so and will continue to be that way. To keep this pace up, I’m going to make a concerted effort to balance work and social media (which overlap somewhat for me) with other activities. That will mean more running (which has been non-existent recently), more time with friends (ditto) and more downtime… and slightly less blogging (you may have already noticed that change) and online time.

How about you – how do you keep things manageable? How do you unplug?