Rebecca and Tracy Speak: Headstart 2011

Last year, I met Rebecca Johnston right before a panel hosted by Third Tuesday Vancouver got underway at Ceili’s Irish Pub & Restaurant .

This September, we’ll be co-presenting at Headstart 2011, a grassroots conference run by and for Royal LePage realtors across Canada.

During the intervening months, Rebecca and I have become good friends, sharing war stories from our professional lives as well as our personal aspirations, interests and foibles. When she asked if I’d be interested in working together with her on a presentation for Headstart 2011, I jumped.

We’re now putting the final touches on our presentation entitled “Making the Message Matter: Five Dos and Don’ts of Successful Communication for Realtors.”

Working with Rebecca, I’ve learned (or been reminded of) a few key lessons:

  • Tell a story. When planning your script, don’t forget that people love a good story. We’re wired for storytelling and listening, not dry statistics. I can geek out when it comes to social media and content so Rebecca has pulled me back from the ledge a few times.
  • You are your presentation—not your slides. God knows, I despise PowerPoint. But it’s easy to get sidetracked and let the software drive your story if you let it. Rebecca has prompted me to remember that the slides should play a supporting role like a prop in a play.
  • Set the ground rules for collaboration early. Rebecca and I are both writers  and both passionate about content. We worked together during the early brainstorming stage and then decided to draft two complete scripts on our own. We’re in the process of collating the two scripts together now. This has worked out very well for us—Rebecca is great at setting the stage and providing context whereas I like to dive in to the “body” of the presentation right away.

I’m sure there’ll be more to make note of as we get closer to September and start practicing how we want to deliver the presentation. Do you have any tips to share? Drop a comment to share your killer presentation ideas or tell me what you hate presenters do!

Examining Your Digital Footprint with Kimberly Voll

Last week, Veronica Heringer invited Rebecca Johnston and myself to attend the Canadian Women in Communications’ Fireside Expert Series on digital footprints by UBC’s faculty member Kimberly Voll. I was glad I did—the speaker was knowledgeable but personable, the room intimate and the conversation candid and engaging.

A transcript of my live tweets are included below if you’re interested in reading the highlights.

Live Blog: #NetCulture: Stories of Culture + Diversity in Social Media

Woot! On Tuesday, April 5, I’ll live blogging #NetCulture: Stories of Culture + Diversity in Social Media right here. Speakers from our culturally diverse communities will share how social media has helped them strengthen their identities, roots and friendships. Go to for the full agenda and list of speakers, bios and presentation topics.

Social Media—Where We All Share Status

Immigrants among Vancouver’s highest social media content producers

Twitter escultura de arena

Last week, Delvinia and Environics Analytics published a new online study about Canadians’ social media habits. Among other trends, the study revealed the high rate of adoption of tools like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn among immigrants trying to maintain old networks and establish new ones.

#NetCulture: Stories of Culture and Diversity

The results struck a chord immediately given the fact I’m volunteering to support #NetCulture, an upcoming event on April 5 where six local speakers from Vancouver’s culturally diverse communities will share how social media has helped them strengthen their identities, roots and friendships.

Based on the study, it’s no coincidence that #NetCulture will take place in Vancouver. In fact, Canada’s three largest and most diverse cities— Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal—are responsible for producing “more than three-quarters of all Canadian social media content.” And as major urban destinations for immigrants moving to the country, these cities are natural hubs for events like #NetCulture.

Stellar Speakers

Veronica Heringer, one of the six speakers at #NetCulture, immigrated to Canada from Brazil and now runs where she writes about social media marketing, PR, advertising and the ups and downs of being a foreigner in Canada. From documenting her quest for citizenship to publishing periodically in Portuguese, Veronica epitomizes the “young, upwardly mobile immigrants” building a network by creating engaging content online.

Immigrants are also more likely to meet in person with people who they connected with online than rural Anglophones or upscale suburban Francophones. This thread will weave through Paola Viviana Murillo and Norma Ibarra’s presentation at #NetCulture. is a virtual plaza that links Latinos and educates local Vancouverites about Latin America. Paola and Norma will discuss how they help create virtual connections on that translate into successful offline events.

“A disproportionate number of older immigrants are also contributing to the online dialogue,” the study reveals.

Aptly, retiree Ashok Puri who came to Canada in 1969 will speak at #NetCulture about his experiences couch-surfing in Nepal, Mexico, China and India. Plus, he just launched his own blog, Papa Puri’s Kitchen, where he’ll post on travel, food and Ayurvedic health topics.

Jay Catalan and RJ Aquino—recently profiled with other emerging leaders from the Filipino Canadian community in Living Today—are using tools like Facebook to drive awareness of their initiative. Tulayan, Tagalog for “bridge,” is a volunteer-run group that hosts cultural events as diverse as a 10-week language program and Pinoy story time at VPL to networking over wine and keso (cheese).

Way Too Azn’s Ray Hsu and Zi-ann Lum will showcase how they harnessed social media to respond to recent portrayals of Asians in the media—helping to spark a national debate about multiculturalism and inclusiveness.

For the “interculturally minded,” Jordana Mah will uncover how Schema Magazine has used social media and the web to highlight people, events, and issues that speak to a generation that is moving seamlessly through cultures rather than between them.

C U @ #NetCulture

The survey of 23, 144 Canadians’ social media habits nicely sets the context for next Tuesday’s discussion. But statistics are only half of any story. For a far more intimate and lively look at how each of us can use social media to share stories of culture and diversity, I’ll be in a front-row seat at #NetCulture.

To register for this free event, please visit

Photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa

Spin Often Masquerades as Strategy

Recently, I received the following critique about a draft I had written:

“That’s not strategic—that will lead to more criticism about X, Y and Z.”

For a strategic communicator, that type of response is like a headshot from Zdeno Chara.

So I had to step back and consider—was the reviewer right? Had I missed the mark?

But then my 5PM epiphany—he equated “strategy” with avoiding criticism.

But sometimes the truth means you’re going to tell people precisely what they don’t want to hear. You can frame the message to its best advantage but, in the end, people may be genuinely unhappy. And vocal.

Risk management is a key part of building a strong, proactive communications strategy, but if you sanitize the message in order to avoid negative publicity, then you’re spinning.

Spin often masquerades as strategy.

Criticism can be hard but you have to face it—not duck it.

#NetCulture: Stories of Culture and Diversity in Social Media
Photo Credit: nrivera

On April 5, local storytellers from diverse ethno-cultural backgrounds will share how they’ve used social media to create meaningful communities online with interested members of the public at the Vancouver Public Library. #NetCulture: Stories of Culture and Diversity in Social Media is a free event co-sponsored by the VPL, Net Tuesday Vancouver and Cooperative Culture—an initiative spearheaded by my friends, Ajay Puri and Sean Stiller.

The event is designed to showcase how individuals (and organizations) are using tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to strengthen and celebrate their diverse identities, roots and connections. In Kety Esquivel’s words, “multicultural social media looks at difference and acknowledges we are not all the same.”

As the VP of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy Public Relations and a long-time advocate for the Latino community, Kety will join the event as the keynote speaker via Skype. She will take questions so I’ll be re-reading her article, 3 Reasons You Should Care About Multicultural Social Media & 3 Tips for Multicultural Social Media Success in preparation.

The main act is six rapid-fire talks loosely based on the “PechaKucha” style of presentation. Each of the speakers will have seven minutes to share their personal stories. Stories will range from Ashok Puri’s tips on joining the global couch-surfing community through Facebook and YouTube to how Jay Catalan and RJ Aquino are using social media to create a bridge for young Filipinos in Vancouver to connect with their culture, heritage and history.

Kety & Ashok
Kety Esquivel
Kety Esquivel
Ashok Puri
Ashok Puri
Jay & RJ
Jay Catalan
Jay Catalan
RJ Aquino
RJ Aquino
Ray & Zi-Ann
Ray Hsu
Ray Hsu
Zi-Ann Lum
Zi-Ann Lum
Paola & Norma
Paola Viviana Murillo
Paola Viviana Murillo
Norma Ibarra
Norma Ibarra
Veronica & Jordana
Veronica Heringer
Veronica Heringer
Jordana Mah
Jordana Mah

Once all the presenters have spoken, they will form a panel and field questions from the audience. For me, this is another excellent example of peer-to-peer sharing in the local community that complements events hosted by industry experts.

What will you ask #NetCulture speakers? Step up to the mic on Tuesday, April 5 at the VPL or post/tweet your question to @CoopCulture. On the day of the event, you’ll also be able to follow along via live blog.

#NetCulture: Stories of Culture and Diversity in Social Media

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch

The event is free, but advance registration is required.

#NetCulture Registration

Live Blog: Transmedia Storytelling with Brent Friedman

How to Build a Universe Worthy of Devotion

Brent Friedman
Photo by GigaOM Events

Brent Friedman, Founding Partner of Electric Farm Entertainment, is in Vancouver to speak about the basics of transmedia storytelling, from definition to uses in both mainstream and digital experimentation, using his company’s recent MTV hit series Valemont as a case study.

Filter the Flood: How to Curate the Social Web with Storify

information hydrant
Photo by Will Lion

To consume all of the data published online over the next year, you would have to watch TV for 125 million years straight. Clearly, the ability to filter the din is critical if we want to craft compelling stories for our readers and followers. In response, co-founders Burt Herman and Xavier Damman launched Storify—a new social reporting tool in beta for professional and citizen journalists. Storify lets you create a digital narrative from the deluge of posts, photos, videos and links uploaded to the web every second.

“We’re flooded with Tweets, YouTube videos, Flickr photos and everything else. Everyone can be a “reporter”…But not everyone is a “journalist”—making sense of an issue and giving the context. So we built a system to help people do this, take the best of social media and make it into a story—to “storify” it,” explained Herman in an interview with Robert Hernandez.

I discovered Storify earlier this year at a retreat where a participant used the event hashtag to pull together the most relevant tweets, photos and slides. Soon, I had registered to gain access to the service and created my own story.

How Storify Works

Click the screenshots to see a product walkthrough.

Home Page

Storify Home Page

New Story
New Story
To start, click "New Story."
Create Story
Editing Screen
Drag and drop to create your story.
Edit Story
Refining your story.
Publish Story
Publish Story
Publish your story and start promoting to drive traffic.


  • Protect Your Sources: Storify maintains links to the original source so attribution is easy and transparent—precisely what you’d expect of Herman, a former foreign correspondent who worked for the Associated Press for 12 years.
  • Interactive: Videos remain playable and links stay “active” so that stories are layered and enriched by multimedia.
  • Drag ‘n’ Drop Navigation: Editing a story is as easy as dragging and dropping elements into place.
  • Embeddable: Once a story is published, you can tweet, email or embed the link in your blog/website. When one of the YouTube videos “broke” in my story, it was a snap to fix and have the correction picked up automatically everywhere it was embedded.


  • “Spammy” Notifications: While it’s important to notify folks when you’ve included their content in your story, Storify sets up a separate tweet for every notification. Depending on your number of sources, this could mean a high volume of tweets—which will read like spam in your timeline. I’ve turned this feature off but then I’m left manually trying to notify folks.

I love Storify—this tool makes it easy for anyone to quickly get started curating content of value to their audience.

What are the stories you need to be telling your audience? Request an invite to join the private beta and start testing Storify now.

Be Your Own Editor in Chief with

A recent post on’s blog has led me to revisit my original review to amend and expand my analysis of this free tool that lets each of us become the “editor in chief” of our own online newspaper aggregated from our Twitter or Facebook feed.

Five Types of Papers

When I first wrote about, I griped about the lack of granular control in terms of the contributors who I could include, exclude or highlight. But in her post, Kelly at clarified the five kinds of papers that users can generate—some of which provide a much defter ability to control the list of contributors and/or focus of each publication. Creation Page

1. Your @Twitter account – composed of links and articles that either you or your followers have shared
Minimal control

2. #tag – tweets across all public timelines filtered by hashtag
Minimal control + you don’t “own” the paper since hashtags are “public domain” in the social sphere

3. @list – based on a public, user-based list you curate
Maximum control over contributors

4. Custom – Mix and match the other paper types or create a custom query
Maximum flexibility over contributors and/or focus

5. Facebook – draws on all public posts
In beta testing

Collecting vs. Reporting

Different types of papers provide varying levels of control. Still, you won’t be able to hand pick your top stories and contributors or comment on individual links.

But if you want that level of influence over what goes into your paper, then you should consider alternatives like Storify. (See mine here) is a dependable tool for aggregating content from Twitter of Facebook. But Storify is a social reporting tool that allows you to comment on every individual tweet, photo, video or link you use to build a story.

Your choice will depend on the level of effort and time you have to invest in the output. With, you essentially “set it and forget it” so it’s easy to jump in and start a paper. But minimal effort means minimal opportunity to add value to your audience.

But if you’ve done a good job of setting up the paper, then you can build authority over time—daily in fact if that’s how often you want to publish. Then, use more in-depth services like Storify periodically to enrich your followers’ experience.

My final word: is a formidable player in the field of aggregation that can be used in combination with curation tools like Storify to build credibility through sharing.

Are you ready to start your own daily?

CCO Magazine: Pros and Cons

Chief Content Officer Magazine CoverLast month, Joe Pulizzi and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) debuted CCO, “the magazine dedicated to content marketing for senior marketing executives.” For the industry, this is a milestone worth acknowledging. After all, as Joe and Ann Handley discuss in the feature story “Talking Innovation,” content marketing is relatively new which makes the position of CCO, or Chief Content Officer, experimental and even suspect among some folks. A magazine dedicated to content marketing helps validate and legitimize the field as a whole—much in the way that the creation of CMI and books like Content Rules are helping it go mainstream.


  • Multimedia: Each quarterly issue will be distributed in print to 20,000 senior-level marketers across North America and digitally to countless others. European and Australian versions are also in the works. While other publishers fret over the iPad and the digital delivery of their content, Joe and CMI are confidently demonstrating why print remains relevant.
  • Embedded Goodies: Audio podcasts and QR Codes sprinkled throughout the issue supplement the articles just as one would expect of a publication devoted to integrated, enhanced storytelling.
  • Tech Tools: I enjoyed the feature where social influencers share their favourite online tools, making it just a wee bit easier for me to keep up with the latest and greatest in a fast-moving industry. In this issue, I found out about slick bar code stickers by from Katie McCaskey.


  • Editorial Slant: I found the first issue to be unusually weighted to B2B content, including an article on “what B2B can learn from their hip B2C cousins” and a case study of Kinaxis, a Canadian B2B supply chain management company. Is this a direct reflection of the fact CCO is a supplement to BtoB Magazine? Then, this is a publication for senior marketing executives in the B2B industry and the mission should be amended accordingly.
  • Content Smorgasbord: This free-for-all is one of the final editorial pages and it seems like an afterthought, shoehorning whatever didn’t fit elsewhere in a “smorgasbord.” Meh.
  • Design: In her review “CCO: Good Enough?,” Christine Thompson provides a detailed look at the digital production quality of the magazine. While there are some quirks that are surely being tweaked and refined in terms of its delivery, I’ll add that the layout and design of the magazine could use the same love.

At minimum, the cover needs to tie more closely to what’s covered in each issue.CCO Cover
“Content is the new black”? What’s that related to? Nowhere in the magazine is this clarified. Net-a-Porter’s weekly digital fashion magazine is briefly mentioned in an article but it’s a stretch to connect it back to the cover. Readers shouldn’t have to work this hard. Add an Editor’s Message to provide a high-level preview of each issue’s topics and discuss the cover.

CCO Table of Contents
Plus, proofreading matters. The table of contents is out of sequence.

CCO Call-Out Box
There’s a call-out box appears right above the quote in the text it’s trying to highlight. O.o.

Marketers aren’t likely to be very forgiving when it comes to design, layout and creative.

Last Word

I’m definitely looking forward to upcoming issues of this publication and congratulate all who are involved in launching CCO. When so many are happy to trumpet the demise of the publishing industry, it’s nice to rally around a bold, new project that challenges the naysayers.

Agree? Disagree? I want to know your take on CCO—post a comment below or email me.