Dr. Charles Drake: Medical Miracleworker

Dr. Charles Drake: Medical Miracleworker

This year marks my 20th anniversary of getting into the corporate communications business. But before making the leap into the corporate world, I did work as a journalist for a few months. I was going through some old things recently and found this article, which was the first freelance story I had published after getting my journalism degree. It was published 20 years ago this week in a short-lived newspaper called The Forest City News, based in London, Ontario. It tells the story of a great Canadian who passed away in 1998. And two decades and millions of words later, it's probably my favourite thing I've written to-date... 

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A TV journalist's tips for your first on-camera interview

A TV journalist's tips for your first on-camera interview

This usually goes down in one of two ways: 

  1. The moment is finally here. You've pitched, you've pressed, you've cajoled and there you have it. Your first TV interview. Congratulations! Or...
  2. The moment is finally here. You've been pressured, you've been cajoled and you've contemplated therapy to help you cope with the knots in your gut as you await your first TV interview. 
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Why media relations is a must-have skill for today's municipal leaders

Why media relations is a must-have skill for today's municipal leaders

Municipal leaders, particularly mayors, have been in the headlines in Canada this past few years for a wide variety of reasons - some positive and others, well, not so much. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has to take the prize for the sheer amount of media coverage, but virtually all of that media coverage was negative. Michael Applebaum resigned as ...

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Advice for PR and CorpComms grads

Advice for PR and CorpComms grads

I received a tweet yesterday from @AntoineSarpong in the PR program at Centennial College asking for advice for PR and communications grads. Getting that first job in your chosen profession can be a big source of anxiety. I wanted to reply with something a bit longer than 140 characters. So here, in good old long form, is my advice for the PR and corporate communications grads of 2013: 

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Are Rob Ford's talking points working?

Are Rob Ford's talking points working?

Rob Ford and his brother Doug launched an ambitious media blitz last week to hit back at critics. But how effective was their strategy? I had a chance to chat with Elissa Freeman of Canada.com a few days ago to give her my two cents about Rob Ford's PR strategy (or lack thereof). Other PR folks who weighed in with their opinions were Jodi Echakowitz of Echo Communications and Diana Conconi

You can read the article here. Thanks to Elissa and Canada.com for asking me to participate. 

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Rob Ford beats Obamacare, Fukushima and Lady Gaga for news searches

Rob Ford beats Obamacare, Fukushima and Lady Gaga for news searches

Thanks to the six-month long Crackgate scandal and the ensuing media coverage Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is one of the most recognizable people in the world. Ford has become a running segment on The Daily Show. He's been ridiculed by David Letterman, Jay Leno, the Jimmies (Kimmel and Fallon), Howard Stern and Saturday Night Live. It seems like the whole world is talking about Toronto's mayor. But is there an objective way to see how big the Rob Ford story really is?

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Shoving reporters is not a great media strategy

Shoving reporters is not a great media strategy

Another day, another media circus around Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. CBC reporter Steven D'Souza just posted this Vine video of one of the Mayor's aides physically shoving reporters out of the way. As you can see from the video, this is pretty aggressive stuff. D'Souza said in a later tweet that the shoving was much worse inside the office area.

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How big is the Rob Ford story? Let's ask Google Trends

How big is the Rob Ford story? Let's ask Google Trends

Mayor Rob Ford is (once again) dominating news headlines after Toronto Police announced they have a copy of the infamous cellphone video from last May. But just how big is the Rob Ford story? To give you an idea, here's a Google Trends comparison of worldwide news search volumes over the past 30 days. To put the media attention around the Rob Ford story in context, I wanted to compare search volumes around other big names in the news this month...

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Stonewalling the media only delays the inevitable

Stonewalling the media only delays the inevitable

 A little over five months. In the end, that's how much time Toronto Mayor was able to buy himself by stonewalling the media when faced with accusations of appearing in a video smoking a crack pipe. 

Ford was swarmed relentlessly by the media for weeks last spring. At his home. At his office. At official events. His response was to ignore their questions. His most fulsome statement, made on May 24, 2013, one week after the allegations first surfaced, included the following quote: "Number one, there's no video, so that's all I can say. I can't comment on something that doesn't exist." 

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"Should I ask the reporter for their questions in advance?"

"Should I ask the reporter for their questions in advance?"

"Is it okay to ask the reporter to send me their list of questions before the interview?"

I get this question at least once a week. And the answer I give is a qualified "no". 

I get the impulse to want to ask the reporter for a nice list of all the questions they're going to ask you. After all, you want the interview (and resulting story) to be a success. You want to give yourself an edge. To have an early warning system for any potential surprises. Here's the problem: Getting the reporter's questions in advance is really a false security blanket that can cause more problems than it solves...

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Jaymes Diaz's 'deer-in-the-headlights' TV interview

Jaymes Diaz's 'deer-in-the-headlights' TV interview

It's a textbook example of the importance of making time to prepare for your media interviews. Australian politician Jaymes Diaz was recently being interviewed by TV reporter John Hill when he was asked about his plan for addressing illegal migrants entering Australia by boat. Diaz cites his party's "...six point plan to make sure that we do stop the  boats". When the journalist prompts Diaz for details, however, the politician is unable to recall even a single point.

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Burkhardt's poor media relations skills making bad situation worse

Burkhardt's poor media relations skills making bad situation worse

It's been nearly a month since the deadly train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which claimed the lives of 47 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Several days after the deadly derailment occurred, Edward Burkhardt, chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, the train company involved in the crash, held an impromptu press conference in the town. Burkhardt was widely criticized by communicators, the media and the public for what appeared to be a completely tone deaf and insensitive response to the unfolding crisis. So when the CBC interviewed Burkhardt on July 31, listeners might have assumed the railway executive would have undergone extensive media training and that he be able to demonstrate some level of sympathy, regret and a commitment to get to the bottom of what caused the disaster to help prevent something like this from happening in the future. 

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The perils of 'off the record'

The perils of 'off the record'

As communications director to Anthony Weiner, Barbara Morgan was probably secretly awaiting some controversial gaffe by a public figure that would distract the media's attention from her serial sexting employer. Well, mission accomplished. The problem (for Morgan, at least) was that she, herself, was the source of the controversial distraction. While reacting to news that a former intern had written a disparaging article about Weiner and his mayoral campaign in the New York Daily News, Morgan launched into a hard-core, foul-mouthed tirade about the former intern while speaking to a reporter...

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Twitter metrics show extent of backlash against Weiner

Twitter metrics show extent of backlash against Weiner

For the second time in just over two years, Anthony Weiner, the former New York congressman and NYC mayoral hopeful, held a press conference apologizing for sending explicit photos to women over the Internet. In 2011, his indiscretions forced him to resign from Congress. This time, however, Weiner says he isn't going anywhere and will remain in the race for mayor of New York City. But will the voting public let Weiner (and his alter-ego, 'Carlos Danger') off the hook yet again? Using Twitter as a barometer to gauge the public's reaction to Weinergate-2, early indications suggest the serial sexter's luck may be running out... 

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Marketing to #RoyalBaby: Clever or overkill?

Marketing to #RoyalBaby: Clever or overkill?

News of Tuesday's royal birth sparked millions of tweets from around the world. Minutes after the official announcement that William and Kate's first child had been born, Twitter activity peaked at 25,300 tweets per minute. Many of the messages were from well-wishers, those questioning the amount of hype surrounding the birth, and others trying to inject some humour into the occasion...

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Quebec mayor by day, kitten killer by night

Quebec mayor by day, kitten killer by night

What is the deal with Canada's mayors? There's the crack video allegations swirling about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. The resignation of Laval Mayor Alexandre Duplessis after being linked to a sex scandal. (Oh, and Mr. Duplessis was appointed after Laval's former mayor was forced out of office because of corruption allegations). Then there's the resignation of Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum, who faces charges involving fraud, conspiracy and corruption... 

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You can run, but you can't hide (from reporters)

You can run, but you can't hide (from reporters)

You've been ignoring their calls and interview requests for two days, but here they are, a throng of reporters, in person, demanding your company's side of the story.They're shouting questions at you, following you as you walk down the street. You can feel the giant TV camera lenses focused on you. The bright lights are searing your retinas. Your heart feels like it's in your throat. Your mind is racing as you search your memory banks for the right thing to do or say -- but to no avail. You feel like a caged animal. Your 'fight or flight' instinct kicks in. You need to make a split second decision:

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Three steps to better media pitches

Three steps to better media pitches

The Internet has brought the world many wonderful things: the ability to instantly share a photo of your dinner with everyone you know, viral cat videos and never-ending news about celebrity antics. One downside? Way too much information. Now, imagine being a reporter...

 

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Media relations is like a BBQ

Media relations is like a BBQ

Who doesn't love a good barbecue? The sizzle and smoke-infused goodness of your favorite meat on the grill. The tantalizing texture and flavor of grilled peppers, onions and buttered asparagus. And, of course, the palpable anticipation of family and friends as they await a meal, expertly cooked under the open sky. Few summer activities can rival the awesomeness of a barbecue that goes according to plan. But you might be surprised at how often things don't go according to plan...

 

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