If you’re a regular social media user from Vancouver, you’ve probably heard of Vancity Buzz. Launched in July 2008, the popular website is one of Vancouver’s best read blogs today with impressive signs of engagement as readers share Vancity Buzz posts widely.
With more than 35,000 followers on Twitter and 11,000 likes on Facebook, Vancity Buzz is right on the pulse of the city with everything from major local events to health and fitness news featured.
We recently caught up with one of the website’s co-founders and editor, Karm Sumal, and talked about what makes him tick and advice he has for PR pros trying to get their stories on VCB.
As the co-founder and editor of VanCity Buzz, what do you love most about being the man behind one of the city`s top websites?
There are many things I love about working on VanCity Buzz but I love meeting new people the most. Starting this website and carrying it through its transition from a small time blog to a much larger city website has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of great people.
In the process of meeting new people, I've built some great business contacts, learnt from them and most importantly made some life-long friends.
Keeping Vancouverites in the loop on all kinds of local happenings, tell us how the site got started.
Vancity Buzz got started in an East Vancouver basement roughly 4 years ago. At the time myself and co-founder, Manny, knew nothing about the Vancouver blog scene. We jumped in head first and adapted to the challenges that were thrown our way. As time went on, I realized I have a great outlet to showcase the city I love so much and the website became a passion project, something that holds true to this day.
We have some exciting ideas in the pipeline — stay tuned.
Any kinds of posts, type of content that is especially popular with your readers?
Our readership is quite diverse and as such all aspects of our website garner a lot of readership. If something fails to garner readership, we usually tweak the formula or simply scrap the idea.
Posting updates on everything Vancouver, as it happens, how does your team keep up?
Our team is working 18 hours a day to stay on top of things. From time to time we'll miss things but if it's a big deal in the city, it will find its way onto the site. Smart phones and social media are our friends when it comes to staying in the loop.
Any tips for PR pros contacting you with the hope of landing their news on Vancity Buzz?
Be proactive and learn about the people you’re pitching to. Read the media kits and check out website ranking sites to see the validity of the numbers being thrown around by some of the sites out there.
Oh, and please no mass, generic emails. :)Karm is a busy guy, and we’d like to thank him for taking the time to answer our questions! Be sure to follow Vancity Buzz on Twitter and Facebook to stay in the loop with Vancouver news and happenings. You can also follow Read More
Careers in public relations are in demand. Earned media is becoming increasingly important, and the ubiquity of social media means that companies need communicators more than ever. New grads and students recognize this demand and are flocking towards a PR career.
Recently, we asked our Twitter followers what blog topics they’d like us to write about, and one student wanted some tips on how to stand out from the competition. We’re happy to provide our thoughts. Here are some tips for students and new grads on how they can get their foot in the door.
1. Know the media landscape.
Digital media is becoming increasingly important, but for many industries, traditional media relations still plays a significant role. Be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of local media when interviewing for a PR position.
Consume all type of media (blogs, radio, print, etc.), and notice what stories make the news. If you’re interested in doing PR for a specific industry, note the name of the journalists and bloggers who cover that industry and follow their stories. Use tools such as Pinterest to remember blogs or media outlets you come across.
More importantly, start engaging with media and bloggers on Twitter and other social networks. It’s easier to pitch media later if you already know their beats and personal interests.
2. Take control of your online presence.
Recruiters and other professionals you meet will almost always Google you, so make sure you are aware of what comes up when they do.
Although it might sound narcissistic, setting up Google Alerts for your name can help ensure that what is published online is factual and flattering.
If you don’t like what you see when you Google your own name, consider approaching websites for guest blogging opportunities and open your accounts on prominent social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
If your name isn’t unique, use search engine optimization(SEO) tactics to help your profile prominence on Google.
3. Show a positive attitude.
What you share on social media platforms counts. Do you frequently complain about your job, projects, and assignments? Do you tweet about procrastinating? Is it your regular practice to post inappropriate jokes?
Authenticity is important, so strike a balance between showing some personality and maintaining some level of professionalism on social media.
4. Write, write, and then write some more.
As a PR pro, writing is one skill that you will use everyday. For example, communications with clients, journalists, bloggers and colleagues are done primarily through email at most agencies.
Practice makes perfect, so write often. Know the difference between active and passive sentences, and learn when to use them. Aim to be concise, and learn how to edit your own writing to flesh out awkward sentences.
Also, practice writing for different mediums. Writing a press release differs from drafting a blog post or crafting a tweet.
To demonstrate your writing skills, you might want to maintain a blog. Doing so also allows you to showcase your expertise on a topic. Blogs rank well on search results, so they can also help enhance your online presence (see tip #2).
5. Develop tech skills.
Videos and images drive engagement on social media platforms, so employers and clients prefer new grads who can produce these types of content. Take the time while you’re still in university to learn about the latest video and photo software.
A working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite is helpful not just in producing content for your employer, but also in creating documents such as your cover letter and resumé.
Most websites use the content management system WordPress, so play with this platform. Although PR pros are not expected to be programmers, knowledge in HTML and CSS will improve your efficiency.
6. Connect with other PR pros.
In a city like Vancouver, the old adage “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” applies.
Start networking with PR professionals as a student. Thanks to Twitter, this is now easier than ever. See what kind of topics they tweet or blog about, and if appropriate, reply with insightful comments.
Remember to eventually take it offline. Don’t be shy about asking for informational interviews. Most professionals are happy to ‘pay it forward’ and give you some time out of their day — just make sure the interview is brief and you come prepared with specific questions.
Volunteering is a great way to meet other communication professionals in Vancouver. Trade organizations such as the BC Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators and the Canadian Public Relations Society Vancouver offer opportunities to volunteer your expertise. Non-profits also appreciate PR volunteers.
A career in PR is rewarding, and we like seeing passionate young professiona....Read More
Last week, as reports surfaced that the 5-Hour Energy brand is being investigated by the FDA, the company’s CEO sat down with CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. As first reported by The New York Times, is it alleged that the FDA has received reports of 13 deaths over the last four years involving 5-Hour Energy, a highly caffeinated energy shot.
Although these reports have not been confirmed, 5-Hour Energy CEO Manoj Bhargava did more harm to his brand than good during his interview.
What NOT to do during a contentious interview
1. Avoid basic information.
Lack of transparency is (rightfully so) interpreted as admission of guilt. In this case, Bhargava didn’t provide concrete details to convince the interviewer and the public that his company had a handle of the situation.
Bhargava’s lack of knowledge of the product ingredients undermined his credibility. He also became defensive when asked about the exact amount of caffeine in his products.
2. Dismiss claims with lack of concern
Instead of focusing on what his company was doing to ensure that 5-Hour Energy drinks are safe for consumers, Bhargava dismissed the accusations completely. He claimed that banning 5-Hour Energy drinks made about as much sense as banning peanuts because some people are allergic to them. Logical soundness aside, this response didn’t work as it belittled the accusation, implying that people’s concerns over safety are not worth investigating .
3. Forget key messages.
Overall, the interview lacked focus. Bhargava jumped from one topic to the next without offering solutions or specifics. Bhargave drove this interview without any focus on key messaging and it showed.
4. Deflect all blame
During the 14-minute interview, Bhargava repeatedly tried to pass the blame to others — including the interviewer. "I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to consumers," he told the interviewer, a physician, when pressed about the exact amount of caffeine in his products.
He also blamed competitors — "the other guys" — such as Red Bull and Monster Energy Drinks. “Ours is more of a functional product, not a style product,” he said, continuing to dodge questions about the need to regulate 5-Hour Energy drink and other similar products.
Bhargava also blamed parents for what he perceives to be irresponsible parenting. By taking no responsibility for his product, Bhargava came off defensive and dismissive.
What PR lessons you can learn Bhargava
Thankfully most companies will never have to face a crisis as big as the one currently facing 5-Hour Energy. But a crisis communication plan is more important than ever — especially given how quickly messages spread across social networks.
At the very least, your company should have a crisis communication plan, including a solid media policy. Also, provide media and social media training to your employees of all level so they know how to engage with journalists both offline and online. Work with your PR firm to train your spokespeop....Read More
First up is our firm founder, the woman behind our agency’s name. Before moving into public relations and communications, Patricia Dunn was a Vancouver journalist, producing a three-hour daily live news affairs show on CKNW Radio as well as BCTV News (now Global).
We quizzed her about her thoughts on the current state of PR and what it was like to be a reporter ‘back in the day’.
How is the Vancouver media landscape different today from two decades ago?
When I was a journalist, we had electric typewriters and there was no Internet. Then, newsrooms could afford to assign reporters on feature stories that took days to research. Now, most newsrooms get by with a skeleton staff and research is negligible. This translates into fewer opportunities to pitch stories to media, and when you do pitch, it better be right on. However, because reporters are so stretched, they do welcome your timely and relevant news ideas, as often they don't have the luxury of doing the research themselves.
Let's chat about PR today. What is your favourite part about working in PR?
Generally, I work with clients that I personally enjoy, so when I am able to help them gain publicity for their achievements, it gives me a sense of fulfillment. I've always enjoyed the hum of the news business and it' rewarding to see my behind-the-scenes work get picked up by media. I was a broadcast news producer, but now I'm proposing stories from the "other side".
PR is constantly evolving, so my role is never boring. The growing importance of digital media, for example, challenges me to think of ways to integrate new mediums into our clients’ PR mix. I have adapted my PR practice by bringing in Rachel Thexton as partner, ensuring that our clients are ahead of the curve. We also brought in Kelvin Claveria, whose strength in online marketing will help us find breakthrough ideas for Dunn PR clients. We keep our knowledge fresh and relevant by keeping our fingers on the pulse of the industry.
What are the biggest challenges facing PR pros today?
Shrinking newsrooms mean there is less opportunity to pitch stories to media. Often editorial has been replaced by advertorial, which has shrunk earned opportunities further. Conversely, it also means that online media increasingly offer opportunities to pitch content. Many websites are niche and highly focused, which is beneficial if you are looking to influence a specific target audience.
Any tips for PR newbies?
Focus on what you know and avoid general interest PR. For example, if you are interested and educated about health, you could seek employment with a lifestyle company that would appreciate your knowledge in that field, such as a yoga chain or organic foods producer. It makes the learning curve so much faster and you'd offer an authentic voice or lobby on behalf of the brand.
You spend a lot of time in Summerland. Any must-visit spots?
The old Kettle Valley Railway is now a walking and biking trail, and one of the most enjoyable places in the Okanagan to see vistas of mountains, lakes and vineyards. The Bottleneck Drive takes you on a tour through rolling hills to some of the more charming, smaller vineyards in the South Okanagan. And the place to stay is right on the lake, at the Summerland Waterfront Resort.
Bonus question: Besides PR, what are your other passions?
Watching racehorses run, roses bloom and Gree....Read More