Blogger Relations

Has your brand been invited into the Blogosphere yet? Or do you have to ask what the Blogosphere is? If you fall into the latter camp, then its time to learn the importance of Blogger Relations and how it relates to your brand.

Blogger Relations is becoming a standard strategy used by marketers to establish relationships with popular bloggers, who will in turn relay the brand story to their audience. If a marketer is able to successfully make a connection with said blogger, then the results can prove incredibly valuable.

Bloggers are not hired journalists. They volunteer to express their opinion, and earn respect and credibility over time as they build an audience who values their perspective. This creates an entire online ecosystem of opinions being shared and appreciated by readers who want to hear what their favourite blogger has to say – versus absorbing a message that’s been pushed onto them through a more traditional media channel.

A company that successfully taps into this world, and persuades a specific blogger to jump aboard their brand’s bandwagon, is no accident. Marketers and bloggers worldwide are weighing in on the best practices of such a tactic.

Be Relevant

Many marketers will attempt to make a connection with a blogger, having barely read any of their posts. Some marketers will try and make contact based on the title of a blog alone. Make no mistake, bloggers are being approached by marketers every day, and if they get one whiff that you haven’t done your research on what they write about, your effort is pointless.

“Stop thinking about PR in terms of pitches and audience. The pitch is dead. The audience is dead. It’s all about trust and respect.”

Be Part of the Community

The world of social media has paved the way for an infinite number of online communities to surface, where people with similar interests join in conversation and share stories, opinions, interests, etc. A truly new-age marketer will appreciate these communities and become part of them to better understand their audience, and in turn deliver a better message. But take off the marketer hat. Show an honest investment in what’s being said, without any hidden agendas.

“You’ll find that more often than not you’ll change your story based on the insight garnered from simply observing. It’s the difference between speaking in messages and speaking with relevance and, most importantly, honesty.”

One tactic for getting a blogger’s attention is to comment on their posts. And to do so every couple of weeks. Show interest in what they’re saying, and do NOT make the comment about your product. Bloggers are known to check out who their repeat commenters are, so showing genuine interest in their posts could be your first stepping stone to building that coveted relationship.

“Comment before reaching out with meaningful content—participation is marketing.”

Be Strategic

Although honesty is paramount in an effective Blogger Relations strategy, it doesn’t hurt to go for the gold – also known as The Magic Middle.

“The Magic Middle is defined as the bloggers who have from 20 to 1,000 other people linking to them. It is this group that enables PR people to reach The Long Tail, and its effects on the bottom line are measurable.”

The ultimate goal is to establish relationships with those key voices in the Magic Middle, as they directly host valuable insight and discussion among your audience, in an authentic and thriving peer-to-peer environment.

To learn more on Blogger Relations, try these:




Denise Takes the Cake

This past Thursday BSL reached the end of an era. We bid farewell to our beloved Production artist, Denise Irvine, as she prepares for her next chapter in Kingston. Having worked at BSL for 16 years, Denise was more than just an employee, but an undoubted influence on the entire culture of the agency.

Always smiling, and always wearing at least one piece of vibrant attire, Denise was known to brighten up any room upon arrival. She was also known to keep that famous smile gleaming during even the most panicked projects brought her way (as a stand-in Traffic Manager, I know she sure made my job easier).

But beyond the sparkly attitude, and staunchly diligent work ethic, Denise was the Birthday Hero! In a staff of just over thirty, Denise took on the incredible task of baking each and every staff member a cake on their birthday. As nothing more than a colossal gesture out of the kindness of her heart, Denise truly brought the BSL family closer together, by making each of us feel acknowledged and appreciated on our birthdays, and of course - giving everyone else the excuse to eat a generous piece of layered chocolate cake at 10 in the morning.

There is much to miss about Denise, and I speak for everyone when I say she better show her face whenever she's in the area... possibly with a carrot cake for old time's sake?

Here are some highlights from her bittersweet send-off:


How to Manage a Cast of Hundreds

BSL has just launched a campaign for Canadian Geographic to promote their Canadian Atlas Online – now with History added! The first two videos can be found on YouTube, with the following two in the can awaiting post production. In an effort to spark a conversation amongst the audience, we have embodied History and Geography into two characters, who spar across the country to determine who holds more importance.

Telling the epic tale of History vs Geography has literally taken a cast of over 100 characters.

To begin, we needed to bring some real life to Geography and History, by recruiting some real life talent. We searched for the crème de la crème of character faces, voice talent and hand actors. When it was all said and done, a total of eight people were required to bring our two crusaders to life.

As for the stories themselves, over 100 cutouts were constructed to set the scenes. Our monstrous cast was made up of characters that ranged from Queen Victoria to Godzilla-sized beavers (see how these fit into the debate in “Montreal Mixup” – to be posted on October 1, 2009).

The action was filmed in one take (with many rehearsals and much sweat under very hot lights) to capture the spontaneous and irreverent style we were going for. This resulted in some hilarious mishaps. We may even have to release an outtakes video to show just how many fumbles we made. The end result seems so simply put together, but the concentration required to match the voices to the action was surprisingly challenging.

And a huge shout out goes to Bill, our Mock-up Master! You sir, are the man!

Be sure to check out the first two video installments online, and be on the lookout as the story progresses, with new videos to be posted over the next few weeks!


Dashed HOPE

HOPE Beach Volleyball. A booze and bikini fest that draws mobs of people every year to give selflessly to charity – by partying! And to play a little volleyball too, of course. Whether your team is a force to be reckoned with, or a complete calamity, HOPE is a guaranteed good time – rain or shine

Except for this year.

This year BSL rustled up some of its finest athletes and put together a long overdue team for the charity event. We were ready to represent.

Old school BSL team name: Check!

Custom team shirts: Check!

Grueling practice to ensure victory: Partial check!

Game-faces on: Check!

Optimism over intimidating weather forecast: Partial check!

Let's do this.

After playing one disgraceful (albeit fun!) match against Nav Canada, and having our dignity served up to us (overhand!), we were about to find out that Mother Nature was not in the mood for any fun, or fest of any kind.

At first we were only slightly discouraged by the rain, and the heavy blanket of dark clouds overhead. I know I sure had my party hat on (at a shamefully early hour I might add). So we spent our first batch of downtime blowing up branded beach balls and taking in the wide range of scenery.

By the time we headed over to play our next game, the conditions had apparently been upgraded to
extremely-dangerous-to-be-on-a-beach. So our game was cancelled.

A brief glimmer of hope arrived, thanks to a break in the rain, and we scarfed down our complimentary team lunch (yes!). But the torrential downpour soon returned, and we were left no choice but to take that party under the table!

So after another bout of time-killing with those blessed beach balls, the dreaded announcement echoed across the crowd and officially killed the buzz – every single game was cancelled. And a whole beach’s worth of people – from those dressed up in costume to those who were barely dressed at all – were ushered off the premises like a herd of crestfallen, half-drunken cattle.


Getting Bums in the Seats

What is the big deal about attending an orchestra performance? What causes such excitement when listening to live music?

When developing this year’s subscription campaign for the NAC Orchestra, these were the questions we needed to answer. Rather than just focusing on the world-class caliber of music performed, we wanted to frame the complete experience of attending an orchestra performance. Each element – from the venue, to the programming, to the performances – is cause for a real visceral, emotional experience. And what’s most important about these feelings is that they are universal, recognizable and resonant within all of us.


In short, we want to demonstrate the emotional scope that NACO performances evoke.

Working with Ottawa photographer
Tony Fouhse, we wanted to highlight certain elements that would vividly illustrate these emotional experiences. We didn't want to overburden with words. Instead, we wanted to make bold, impacting statements that are associated with these core emotions.

We also took into account that a successful campaign depends on frequency of the message. So we devised a strategy that would give the campaign a strong presence, along with a strong message. Over the next few months, we will be rolling out a wide range of campaign elements including bus shelters, wild postings, brochure distribution, web marketing, and more.

We want people to feel something when they see this campaign. We want them to imagine themselves experiencing these moments. And it is through this vital connection that we can cut through the clutter, build a sense of anticipation, and inspire a real willingness to subscribe... to get those bums in the seats!


Chalkbot: Creative Win

Nike and Lance Armstrong's cancer foundation Livestrong create a robot called The Chalkbot that paints user's messages along the streets of the Tour De France.

You can send in your message via the
campaign's website, text messages, or Twitter.

Watch the Chalkbot in action or submit your own message


QR Codes a Great Marketing Tool

Since 2007, QR Codes have been a mainstay on billboards and print advertisements in Japan. Here in North America, it appears that only highly tech-savvy people have shown interest in this potentially groundbreaking marketing tool.

QR or Quick Response Codes look like this:

Application developers have created mobile phone apps such as BeeTagg, that allow you to snap a picture of a QR Code that in turn will send you to a URL or display some text. The code above will take you to Wikipedia's main mobile page.

Campaigns that include billboards with QR Codes are being used in North America, but not with nearly as much frequency as in Japan.

The National Post has recently printed small QR Codes in their publications to encourage those who have abandoned reading a traditional paper to read their news articles via a mobile phone. See the National Post using QR Codes here, or watch this video for further explanation.


Takin' it to the Tweets

Microsoft has upset a certain group of people, and this time it's not Mac
fanboys. The Email Standards Project has integrated Twitter into a campaign, to let the software giant know just how unhappy they are. Their problem is that the Word rendering engine will be used to display HTML emails in Outlook 2010.

"This means for the next 5 years your email designs will need tables for layout, have no support for CSS like float and position, no background images and lots more."

The campaign has been successful in getting a
response from Microsoft, but who knows if they'll get what they're after. Microsoft is pretty good at "not getting it" and assuming they know what's best for everyone.


Social Media = Good News

The very touchy subject that is the latest Iran election and the subsequent protests has become an eye-opener to many about the speed of obtaining news through Social Media.

From the beginning of the election, results were being tracked through Social Media. The controversial Iranian Presidential results spread like wildfire through numerous websites, including
Twitter. Where things got interesting is when Twitter's host NTT America delayed a scheduled maintenance downtime due to the abundance of Twitter activity around the election. It appears Twitter was not keen on blanketing the news flowing from Iran to the rest of the World.

Multiple Social Media outlets have continued to cover the situation since the beginning.
Mashable Blogger Ben Parr has documented how Social Media has covered the chain of events in a timeline seen here.


Personalized Domain Extensions Pose New Opportunity

Early next year, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) who govern over domain names, will begin taking applications for top-level domain names.

For example, if you have '.bsl', you can create websites like 'blog.bsl' , 'casestudies.bsl' or 'portfolio.bsl'.

A personalized domain extension could enhance your location in search engine results, open up branding options, and allow you to organize your own domains specific to marketing.

Another example could be '.adidas' where you can create specific branded websites like 'running.adidas' or 'raceottawa.adidas'.

However, with an initial application cost for a of $185,000, it may limit applications to larger corporations and organizations.



Controversial Topics and Social Media

Often there is reticence to engaging in social media at an organizational level, out of concern for controversy, or losing control of "the message". I came across this site which engages a very controversial topic - the tar sands - using open (but moderated) discussion forums. I got to thinking: if they have found a way to make social media work for them, couldn't almost any organization?

The tar sands are a controversial subject if there was one: some see it as an important source of jobs and economic development, others see it as a key element in North American energy security, while still others see it as a massive environmental problem. Even the name, "tar sands" is up for debate (on the site they are referred to as "oil sands"). (I refer to them as tar sands because it's the more common term, and it's what I grew up with).

And yet ... the discussion forum engages in a wide variety of subjects - from water pollution, to shutting down the tar sands, to housing shortages. The organization learns from these conversations, and benefits from listening to a wide variety of perspectives. They claim to be developing new approaches and policies about environmental stewardship to reflect the insights they receive through audience engagement.

I urge you to have a look - there is something to learn here about listening, open dialogue, and about managing outcomes.

Canada's Oil Sands


Understanding Web Design Terminology: Glossary and Resources

Here is a great resource for understanding web design terminology:

There are specialized terms referring to all sorts of aspects of web design. For someone just getting started in web design, or someone looking to have a site designed, all the technical jargon can be overwhelming. Especially the acronyms.

Below is a guide to industry terms that should get you well on your way to understanding what web designers are talking about. In addition, we’ve provided some resources for each term to give you more in-depth information.



Make Wikis Work for Your Company

Technological advancements in Wiki software are broadening the range of businesses that could benefit from using a Wiki.

I used to think Wikis were only clearly effective if used by large companies or a consortium of businesses that needed a collaborative area to upload, read, and edit documents. After doing a bit more research, it has become obvious to me that almost any business of any size can benefit from using a Wiki.

On a large scale, Wikis can be used by a consortium of businesses that are in geographically distant locations to make changes or edits to the same document residing on their wiki software platform.

On a small scale, a start-up two person partnership venture could use a wiki for financial spreadsheets to reside on, so either partner could keep them up to date.

Recently BSL
was enlisted by The Canadian Cancer Society to develop a presentation on social networking. A wiki was used so we could collaborate on the presentation together and make sure we had their approval every step of the way.

Just as the uses of a wiki change depending on the type of business and its needs, the number of wiki software platforms to accommodate those needs has increased coincidingly.
Mediawiki has a completely free Wiki software package you can download from their site, though the time it might take to familiarize yourself with the syntax and coding might be discouraging. Sites claiming to have a more quick and easy learning curve include PBworks, Wikispaces, and Socialtext.


Meetup.com Proves Social Media Really is Social

While the vast majority of my peers have embraced social networking sites as a way to connect, keep in touch, and communicate with others, there are still a few who argue these online conversations take the human one-on-one aspect out of the picture. I would have a hard time arguing that communicating in an online world has the intimacy of an in-person chat, and that's why meetup.com has put the social back in social networking.

meetup is an events based social networking website that claims to be the World's largest network of local groups. What meetup does is ultimately "make it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face."

You make a personal profile just as you would with any
Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account, and you browse through "meetups" in your local community. I am most interested in attending business networking meet-and-greet groups, but the wide range of possible meetups include groups about parenting, dance, hiking, dating, and many more.

meetup.com takes the online realm to the real world. So, the next time someone tells you that social networking sites are hurting genuine, old-fashioned, in-person chats, tell them about meetup.com.


Eco-creativity at its' Finest

It is almost always the simplest of ideas that are the greatest. This morning when I was engaging in my ritualistic search for creativity, I stumbled upon yet another great idea that is almost painfully simple.

Andrea Romani is an
environmental consultant who had to find a way to produce her business cards in the most eco-friendly manner possible. Most businesses are requesting cards that are made from recycled paper or from trees grown in sustainable practice forests. Romani decided that using any new form of paper for a business card was wasteful. Instead, her card is a stamp that can be used on any previously used paper. Take a look at her business cards on carton paper, cigarette packs, napkins, or just about anything.


Social Media: A Strategic Mix

More now than ever, we are all trying to improve our online brand presence. There are numerous Social Networking tools that are being used effectively to do this. But before going overboard and trying to leverage each and every one of them, you have to think about the right mix and integration for your business.

Jumping into social networking headfirst and simply signing up for everything is like trying to shoot a fly with an elephant gun. One of the tools you use might actually be accomplishing your objective, but which one is it?

Doing some research on each
Social Media tool and coming to a definitive conclusion of the marketing objectives they can and can't accomplish seems to be a reasonable first step.

Once the most beneficial Social tools are decided upon, they must be properly integrated! Some companies have Facebook groups, but don't have any links to the group on their corporate website. The Facebook group page on it's own will not sustain itself unless it is integrated into the other Social Tools you are using.

Decide what objectives you want to accomplish, determine what Social Media tools can assist you, and link them all to one another.



Microblogging is the official term used to describe the massive trend erupting in the form of Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku, and the recently redesigned Facebook. If you haven't heard this term yet, get ready, because it's going to be coming at you from all angles very shortly.

What is
Microblogging? Well, if you're reading this then you're probably aware of what a blog is. A 'micro' blog allows a user to post text updates (usually 140 characters or less), photos, links, or audio from either a mobile device or the web. Microblogging takes the traditional model of blogging about current topics to a more immediate level. This is illustrated well with Twitter's prompt, "What are you doing?"

Why is
microblogging blowing up? While traditional blogging can require some research, style, and effort, a microblog takes up only 140 characters. The short messages work perfectly for a young generation not intent on focusing on one web page, application, or device for too long. Cellphone applications like TwitterBerry, Twitterific, and Tweetfon allow users to follow their Twitter social network where ever they go. This cellphone crazed demographic can't get enough socially connective applications. With microblogs being so short, users can text a brief status update from their phone in seconds. What the microblogger may or may not be aware of, is that by repeatedly blogging they are adding the user generated content to the website that keeps it continuously fresh and current.

Possibly the main reason there is such a marketing fuss over
microblogging is its relative infancy. It falls under the growing social media category that many businesses are dipping their toes into, but are hesitant to dive in head first. Many new ways are being developed to leverage these social networking sites, like Senator John McCain's recent live interview via Twitter deemed a 'Twitterview'. Other companies are creating branded Twitter profiles, like The New York Times, who post captions of articles they have written with a link to their web site and the full story.

One of the newest uses for
microblogs is enterprise microsharing. It is a way for corporate office workers to not only communicate to each other, but for file storage, filtering and tagging purposes. Check out Communote as an example of this.


How to Manage your Online Reputation

"You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do." - Henry Ford

I love this quote. It can be unpacked so many different ways. Your reputation is based on what you've done. You harm your reputation by talking big and not acting. And if we turn the quote around - you can build your reputation on what you've done - that you have control over your reputation.

I'm not sure the last statement has ever been entirely true because you don't really own your reputation. Your reputation belongs to those who are interested in you. In the rapidly expanding world of social media, that seems to be more and more true.

How do you manage your online reputation? One way is to know what's being said about you.

Some really interesting tools have recently come online that allow you to see what's said about you on forums, blogs, twitter, etc.

One cool tool is aptly called
Spy. Type your organization's name in the search box and see what comes up - and when it was said.


Real-world Action with Social Media

Our clients are asking more from social media than ever before. No longer is it enough to place a link to Facebook on your site, or to provide an RSS feed. The challenge, particularly for those clients who need to connect with their users in the real world (and which clients don't?) is: how do we use our online social networks in the offline world?

It's a really important question. One of our clients has found that their online networks are a great place to engage with users, and now they want to move their networks from connectivity toward knocking on doors, organizing events, contacting their members of parliament.

How you succeed depends on a number of factors. Some questions to think about are: who is your target audience? what do you want them to do? what do they feel comfortable doing? and what might they do if given the chance?

I will share one finding here: properly designed online functionality and features can motivate offline behaviour. Notice in the picture below how MyBarackObama.com invites, prods and provides options for different kinds of people who want to be engaged in real-world activity (in this case, supporting Obama's run for president). Notice the "Neighbor to Neighbor" section with direct calls-to-action, and the wide spectrum of ways to support the cause in the "Making a difference". Each of us may wish to make a difference, but we may be better suited for certain activities over others. The user interface acknowledges this.

Visit mybarackobama.com to learn more. You'll need a US zip code to sign up to explore.

Anarchistic Graphic Designers from Berlin

Seeing as how I spend a solid 60-75% of my life in Photoshop, I loved seeing these images. Some deviant graphic designers in Berlin decided to overlay giant stickers of Photoshop panels onto Britney Spears, Leona Lewis and Christina Aguilera posters in the subway.
Full article at
Brand Infection.


Using Social Media to Engage (and Keep) Customers

Or, free advice for Ford Motor Company

I am quite fond of my Ford Focus station wagon. It's (relatively) fuel efficient, big enough to put the snowboards and/or the dog in the back, and isn't bad looking. But it's a 2000 model year with pretty high mileage, and there is a problem with the fuel pump that makes the engine shudder around 2000 rpm. Ford could address this problem with an intelligent and diligent use of social media and help turn its fortunes around.

I visited a number of message boards and forums to find out what I could about the shuddering engine and there I learned the fuel pump was probably at issue. Message boards for Ford cars are pretty ferocious places. It felt like one out of two comments on the fuel pump ended with the contributor stating he (almost always men) would never buy another Ford, or that he planned on suing the company.

Now, this is a problem for Ford. But if Ford was to look at the issue differently by engaging with these angry users, they could turn the perception of the company around. Hostile posters could be turned first into advocates, and second into customers for new Fords.

Here is how Ford could do it:
1. Meet these angry users head-on at the message boards with an offer and an acknowledgement that they have had problems with fuel pumps. Maybe the offer could be a reduced price for a new pump, or a free tune-up if they bring the issue to a Ford dealer.
2. Monitor responses: do the users appreciate the offer? If so, provide a way for them to help get the news out to other motorists. Do they dislike the offer? Sweeten it by listening to what posters are saying.
3. Consider these motorists as possible new customers: help them get their old Ford fixed up so they can move to a newer car. Let them know about changes in the more recent versions of the Focus (I believe they are more fuel efficient, offer better handling, come with good financing options, and from what I've read they have great fuel pumps).

The great thing about this approach is Ford could do it all for the cost of some smart young web folks surfing, monitoring, listening and responding to what is actually happening on the ground. They could get customers into their service centres, and then on to showroom floors.

Now then, if Ford likes my advice, they are more than welcome to put me behind the wheel of a new Focus.