6 Canadians among final 100 up for one-way trip to Mars

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I just had to re-post this blog because as Canadian how could you not be fascinated by other Canadians who are brave enough to risk their lives for the rest of mankind?

Maybe this might the moment (or at least in the next 9 years) that all people on earth finally start to realize that we are one kind -race and religion have no baring on our future.  Our future will be based on human collaboration.

In order to survive the next ventures that are going to exist for our species, we are all going to have rise above the pettiness of fighting for land and ideologies. It will be this planet with or against other intergalactic species in the pursuit of exploration, technology, energy and co-habitation.

Taking warring ways beyond our stratosphere can have no positive contribution to our civilization and our ability to advance as a species.

Updated: To Centralize or Not Centralize Digital

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centralized-vs-decentralized-md

 

I was inspired to write this post because of taking a new role, and having had the opportunity (at this point in my career) to see all variations and attempts at different digital business models.

While digital is a technology driven field, I do think that there lies some significant differences between digital and IT. For these reasons, there are markers between the two and for the most part the people who play in these arenas are able to identify them while understanding where the blur is. At the same time we understand that we also need one another.

All that said, I think that digital taking on IT business models may no longer the most efficient use of time and resources. Digital is considered disruptive in nature. It surprises me just how much of an IT business model digital departments adopted in the push to centralize things, rather than looking for business models that challenged the traditional architectures of what frustrated digital people about IT in the first place.

Without a doubt there is need to have a centralized place where there can be an inventory of digital assets, and aligning with enterprise wide technologies, standards and securities.  I agree that it makes sense to have guardians of the realm so that people aren’t running all willy nilly all over the place inventing broken experiences and orphaned or abandoned digital assets.  I get it.  I really do.  And more than anything I am a big proponent of not allowing things like this to happen in companies because of negative brand impact, user experience and more critically adoption and engagement that is such a central focus of Digital ROI and big data.

That said, most digital departments really need to look at their business model.  In small to mid sized companies a completely centralized digital business model makes sense.  They are more agile and flexible, making adapting to change and new technologies less rigid.

However, once you move into larger organizations this stops being efficient.  Now you have business units competing for dollars, shifted around as priorities of importance and girdlocked in process that allows technology and user experiences to become outdated and frustrating. This very quickly turns into brand trust and perception, things that take forever to develop and can so easily be broken.

Digital fluency needs to exist in all areas of the business, all the more reason why centralizing digital no longer makes sense as a business model.

Here is the structure I propose and why digital needs to become a more decentralized business model:

  1. Each business unit should have a dedicated digital team that controls, manages and governs their digital assets.  This dedicated team needs to sit within the unit to best understand the business needs, audience and goals they are trying to achieve.
  2. Having a dedicated team means that there needs to be dotted line reporting.  These roles should ultimately roll up into digital but have a dotted line reporting structure into the business unit.
  3. Vendor contract negotiation and relationship management for any technology that plugs into digital assets for the business unit, should reside in this group.  Ultimately at the end of the day, vendor shortfalls impact the digital experience.  Users have one experience.  They can’t see the difference.  If a vendor isn’t delivering which ultimately impacts brand perception and users, this group needs to have the authority to let them go and find better options.
  4. Digital Departmental budgets.  More and more independent business units need to begin considering that their budgets need to be inclusive of digital spends.  IT needs to take care of the enterprise wide infrastructure without a doubt.  Parametres need to be set, however digital departments within the unit should have their own budgets to provide ongoing website maintenance, ad hoc campaigns, or added features that may not have risen to the top of the IT priority and budget chain enterprise.
  5. This structure should also remove lock downs on existing or new digital assets.  It made sense in the past to have front end dev, CMS’s and SEO locked down in old world structures.  People in the business unit  were not digital or tech savvy enough to understand what they were doing or the ramifications of what an error on their end could cause.  With digital people in existence, much of this has changed, therefore the ability to do front end things needs to be opened up to allow for customization and elements that may short term in nature.
  6. Lead the overall strategy with regards to device roll outs within the unit. Sounds insane right?  But digital needs to work closely with the business unit and with IT to determine what makes the most sense.  Otherwise you end up in what I call the digital  “black hole.”  That’s the place where your sales team all got new iPads that would enhance their abilities in the field all while the enterprise infrastructure and business unit technology was never optimized or able to support a mobile experience.
  7. Regular regroups with the enterprise wide digital team.  Being ultimately tied back and part of the digital team, means that regular meetings need to happen.  Weekly with the reporting manager, and monthly with the digital team as a whole.  This would allow for idea sharing, resolution sharing, and identifying what the common trends are across the enterprise that may require deeper and more extensive research or dedication.

 

A CIO’s Christmas List

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I know that this is a little early in the year – but I don’t know if this just for CIO’s or for any techie. In 2013 I posted my list for tech girls, 2014 my cousin posted this…. it gives everyone a full year to get thinking about their techy loved ones.

A CIO's Voice

aciosvoice.jpg2014 has been a great year. Things are looking better. Hopefully the momentum will carry into 2015.

I have tried to be really good by being the best CIO I can. So Santa, this year, I would like the following:

  • Apple iPhone 6 plus. I have decided bigger is better but I haven’t figured out how to carry it.
  • A development team that can hit the ground running and fix code quickly.
  • An approved IT budget where I don’t have to make drastic cuts and figure out how to do more with so much less.
  • A migration plan to get legacy applications into the cloud.
  • Not to be hacked by foreign governments.
  • One of those toy helicopters. I think your elves are messing with us. I have yet to fly one of those straight and have it last longer than 3 days without breaking it.
  • A new set of golf clubs…

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What Jian Ghomeshi has Taught Everyone About Digital Communications

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CBC_JianGhomeshi-394Like many Canadians, I’ve been watching Jian Ghomeshi’s personal and professional life collide in a cataclysmic way.  Some could argue that when you are a celebrity the lines between personal and professional are blurred, and much of what most people wouldn’t lose sleep over are things celebrities need to think twice, three times or even eleven times about.

I’m not going to get into what my personal thoughts are regarding this case.  I think this needs to be tried in court of law and not in the court of public opinion, however the fact that much of this is taking place in the realm of public opinion brings me to the point of this post.

Everyone has a personal brand, many people’s personal brands are tied to their professions, many of these professions use digital tools in public to promote and/or talk about their work.  My blog is an example of that for me.

Jian chose to use the digital space to begin the dialouge about his personal situation.  On October 26, he tweeted this, which links to a very serious and very public Facebook Post. As of this post, his tweet has been re-tweeed 5,400 times, and those re-tweets will also be re-tweeted. I assume he was doing this to take control of a  situation that he suspected would spiral out of control.

What Jian needed was to have a strategy in place for his digital identity.  Sounds silly right?  Like, how in the world during a personal crisis would anyone stop and plan?  The fact is, most businesses have regular communications plans in place, but they also have crisis communications plans there as well.  Those plans are created when there isn’t a crisis and when everyone was level headed and thinking clearly.

We’ve watched many celebrities have digital melt downs (Charlie Sheen, Amanda Bynes – who’s still having one apparently).  Their public posts and commentary resurface in media stories or as evidence in court. For Jian, his statements made about consensual sex and safe words are things that he will be held too, especially now that there is a pending police investigation.

What could celebrities do to plan for a potential digital crisis?

  1. Create separate accounts, one for their personal use and the other for their professional use.
  2. Use their personal account for close family and friends, and their professional accounts for work related activity – this would definitely include “stunts” that they want leaked as private.
  3. Determine a digital crisis communications “team”, including approval and posting processes.
  4. Ensure that their management team has access to their professional accounts.  This would assist in someone being able to take control of the brand in the event the user becomes reactionary to negative circumstances, or in the worst case scenario…if it needed to be shut down and deleted.  (Hey – this is also an option and a completely viable and realistic option.  Sometimes if the situation is bad enough you just don’t need millions of people hurling insults at your brand that you can get real time notifications about.)
  5. Craft messaging that is consistent around all of their digital channels, that is practical given the situation.  Not everyone needs to know everything.  (The media can leak things all the want, but you will have your chance to defend your brand publicly.  Your digital spaces just might not be the appropriate channels.)
  6. Think of the tough questions that may be directed towards them during the crisis and what the decision will be on answering them via digital channels.  (Direct to a spokesperson, provide a phone number, a blanketed statement, advise that the individual will not be using their accounts for some time).

I know I’ve labelled this a digital crisis communications plan for celebrities, but realistically this applies to anyone and everyone who has developed a digital brand presence.

Observation as part of Digital Strategy

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observationOne of the most fascinating aspects of digital communications to me, is that more than ever does observation play a critical role in determining an appropriate strategy.

For those who love people watching, well – this is for you!  Being able to observe and make deductive decisions assist in creating insights that will strongly benefit your overall strategy.

Here are 5 reasons why observation is necessary:

1.  People have behaviours.  These behaviours are usually habitual.  If you are able to tap into a human habit digitally, it means that you have found a way of integrating into a users life if what you put forth provides a value ad or solves a problem for them.

2. Observing allows you to identify a problem that a user may not even know that they have.  People tend to compensate a behaviour when they assume that there is no other way to do something.  When you find what that is, you can create a product/service to fill a void people did not even know that they had.

3. You can better understand how the user actually uses something.  Professions such as Information Architecture and User Expereince come from this.  Understanding how people typically use an app or website means that you can design to make it easy to use or teach a new behaviour.

4. You can make it better.  Apple is famous for this.  Every year people camp out for a new iteration of something that is even just a minimal improvement.

5. Data alone does not provide you enough contex.   Numbers in surveys or reports and analytics are just that.  They are numbers.  In order to be able to find insight and create a compelling story for those numbers having actual context and opportunity to obseve how these number fluctuate and for what reasons means that you can make stronger decisions for a better strategy,

All about Storify….

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Storify.comSo… today I participated in a webinar about Protecting Your Brand: The State of Social Infrastructure in The Enterprise, hosted by which was to their credit was incredibly informative.

It looked at the state of social media and what organziations – specfically Thomson Reutors and The United Nations. Through the webinar I received a plethora of tweets and retweets and follows. and very interestingly I received this tweet:

@SocialMediaStef @RickA2Z @ShaLaLaLeigh You’ve been quoted in my #Storify story “State of Social Infrastructure” sfy.co/tiAt  from Rene Lisi.  It turned out that he was able to use many of the things tweeted throughout the webinar to create an online story.

So what is Storify?  I ended up needing to look it up because I thought the end product was super cool. So maybe some of you have heard of this, and if so I am admittantly late to the game. If not, than this post is for you.

1.   Storify allows you to  Collect media from across the web;

2.  Publish on Storify, embed anywhere; and

3.  Share and notify sources, go viral
The best part is that it is free to use!

As a communications person, we are all about the story!  As a digital person – I think I found my new favourite toy.  I think it also such a great way to gain and attract followers as well build your social/digital imprint. Happy Storyifying everyone!

Digital Strategy

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As you flow through my blog, you will see I mention a lot about strategy.  The more and more that I have grown in my career is the more and more I have invested in trying to see the bigger picture and how all of the pieces connect.  I have recently started taking the Digital Strategy certification program at the University of British Colombia – and  I have to say that the introductory course totally has my creative juices flowing.  I have not been able stop consuming the content and I’ve spent pretty much all day online clicking on links and reading some very interesting articles and blog posts.

There was an older blog post referenced for reading and it was a list that the author created in what he felt were qualities of  great digital strategist.  It’s entitled What Makes for a Great Digital Strategist? and his list includes 4 items that I totally agree with.

He looks for qualities such as being an inventor, an integrator, empathetic and unyeilding. These are definitely qualities that are integral to a digital strategist role. I would add to this list with 3 other qualities.

Big Picture Thinking
You have to be able to see the forest through the trees and understand in that tangled mess how you will get through to the other side.

Calculated Risk Taker
Inevitably you will at times need to take things and throw them against the wall to see if it sticks. It might not work, and you will have to take a few steps back to sort it out and try again.

Intel
Someone who is constantly in pursuit of knowledge. Gathering intel to make better decisions, learning from others mistakes to make better decisions and products. Using that knowledge and understanding how to action theoretical insights.

Uniquely me….

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Sometimes the interesting thing about being both a communications person and a digital person, is that there can tend to be an assumption that I lean heavily one way or another.  The majority of my career has been in communications and worked my way up through the ranks starting out as an intern at a communication agency.

My interests slowly gravitated towards social and eventually digital, well because I just so happened to part of the era that launched yahoo chat rooms, ICQ, msn chat, the early stages of lavalife etc. etc.  The move into the social space was interesting because it was happening to me and those in my generation and I also happened to be a communications person pondering what it would mean for my career and what it meant for communications as a whole.

Later on I became much more heavier in the technology aspect, and I saw this as a wonderful blend for a communications person.  How useful would it be to really understand the intricacies of how the technology worked and what it could and couldn’t do, and be able to leverage this expertise from ac communications perspective.

The irony however, was that the transition back into communications and the few years in digital that I spent, has turned me into what communications people consider to be a highly technical person that more closely resembles someone from IT.  IT teams relate well to me because they understand that I understand, and that I really get it. It is always a bonus for them to have someone from the client/business side that actually understands what they can and cannot do.

Understanding technology doesn’t limit or reduce the ability for anyone to perform as a communications person.  To write, to lead strategy, to edit and/or approve.  It is highly difficult to do that when you are relegated to a role understanding as the IT person.  I would add to this that my communications background is what landed me the digital role in a media company famous for its content and published brands.  It’s a very odd place to be – to not actually be the IT person or considered to be an IT person by IT people, nor the communications person considered to be a communications person by the people in communications.  I think you can be both roles and really strategic in both of them – which to me is ultimately what makes the most sense since the world of communications is going digital!

How to Develop a Strong Digital Content Strategy

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Credit: Inbound Marketing
Credit: Inbound Marketing

This is what most companies – if not all companies struggle with.  Content strategies can be complex at best, and when you tie in digital content – the level of understanding required takes things to an entirely different level.

Digital content strategies require a different line of thinking than traditional content stratgies – namely and primarly SEO and engagement (think time on site) in real estate that constantly competes for the users attention while encouraging them to go visit other things.

Here are 7 simples steps to take your digital content strategy to the next level:

1.  Know your audience and who you are trying to reach:  from television netowrks, advertisements, magazine content to the web.  Everyone has always known that content is king, but only if it is talking to the right people.  Know who you are speaking too, and who you are trying to reach.  Use analytics, surveys and behavioural tracking to assist in defining who these people are.

2. Define you digital objecties:  Do you need more visitors to your site?  Do you want them to stay longer on your site?  Do you want them to click around on more content on your site?  Do you want them click over to other sites?  Do you want them to comment? Do you need to improve your SEO? Do you want to grow your social following? Do you want to go responsive because your mobile audience is growing?  Moving into ecommerce?  Want to upgrade your technology platform or CMS?   You can’t choose them all, but choose the ones that are most required for your current situation.

3. Ensure that you are properly resourced:  What and who do you need on your team?  If it is a specific CMS/platform, an SEO strategy, community management etc.  you need to make sure that you have the right  people in place to support where you are going  Don’t forget your Information Architects and UX specialists!  Prioritization of information, site layout and taxonomy play a critical role in content strategy for tagging and archiving reasons!

4. Plan your content:   That’s right – the good old editoiral calendar.  Know your dates, themes, company priorities and ensure our site and content managers are prepared.

5. Get geographic: Knowing your audience (point 1) also means knowing where they are.  Region specific content/offers = awesomeness.

6. Think Like a Human Being: Based on your objectives and your audience, remember that you should probably make decisions from the perspective that your audience would appreciate.  What are your CTA’s, are they continuing to ask your audience clearly what to do while at the same time driving to assist in hitting your objectives.

7. Assess content performance: Stay on top of what works for your audience and what doesn’t.  Clean up your content, remove what is old, repurpose content that may be more relevant or previously performed well.  Be the ultimate curator and historian of your own content.

Moving Through Digital Landscapes: One Company at a Time

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The-Changing-Digital-LandscapeIt’s always interesting when you enter into massive organziations and begin to look at how big brands interact with the ever changing world of digital.  Especially when the organization has a complex structure and IT systems that can make digital strategy easier said than done.

I heard an interesting and salient point from someone the other day, that I think really impacts the way that digital people often approach new landscapes and roles. Myself included!

We are often able to come into new environments and quickly “detect” what is “wrong”, or which “process” needs to be implemented/improved, or where there are huge “gaps”.  I put those in quotes because our wonderful changes today are also the major pain points for those that come into replace us tomorrow.  The situation we enter today, was also once someone’s solution for some other issue they were trying to solve yesterday.

Often times, we bring in processes, ideas and stop gaps that are not net new,  but borrowed from previous places.  This doesn’t make us innovative ( A word that digital people love to associate with themselves).   Every new company that you enter will provide you a new digital landscape that you are facing.  This can be something as basic as not having an environment where everyone is working from the same operating system and know very little about digial at all, to incredibly forward thinking places where you feel inadequate because you don’t seem to be on the pulse as much as everyone else is.

When I first began at Rogers media, I felt so inadequate.  I joined their digital team, and as a communications person I had very basic understandings of technology.  In my almost 3 year tenure, I learned so much and at such a quick pace that I was often the only person in many scenarios who had either encountered, heard about, solved through some abstract digital strategy or solution.  In my new role, I am super savvy in an environment that works on antiquated platforms that have limited technological capabilities for core things like search and analytics.

What I am learning every day, is that it has less to do with how forward thinking and innovative I believe I am – but more so in understanding the culture and environment and determining what  digital strategies make the most sense based on the technologies I am working with.  Part of my role involves pushing forward and challenging my team to think outside the box including being current with technology.  However, driving the company into a digital direction that I have seen before may not be the answer that complex matrix type organizations with strong history and culture need.  What is needed is a lot of observation and finding technology solves that can marry old with new allowing for a smoother and more unique transitioning of those landscapes.