Why I’m Hesitant About Moving My Blog to Medium

I’ve been thinking about blogging on Medium—it seems to be the cool new thing for “thought leaders” to do. It may be the most common topic for articles written on Medium (both about the site and literally on Medium). It seems every other article on Medium is about Medium—why you should move your blog there, why the editor is so great or, ironically, why you shouldn’t write for Medium.

I rarely write blog posts anymore, which makes switching to Medium attractive for some of the reasons mentioned in this article posted by one of Medium’s co-founders. (such as having a place to publish infrequently, that I can then point to from Twitter, without the need to pay for a domain and web hosting). There’s just one problem: when you publish on Medium you give them royalty-free access to your content.

You keep your copyright, but they can do whatever they want with what you write. They can sell a blog post, use it in an ad, or anything else, without paying you for your work.

Maybe that doesn’t matter. I don’t make money directly from any of my blogs, and Medium doesn’t appear to ever sell anyone’s content—it seems they only have the “non-exclusive license” clause in their Terms of Service because they can’t publish your content on their site without it—but the fact that they could makes me uneasy.

This concern also seems silly because I’m fine with posting to Twitter and Facebook, despite them having effectively the same clause in their Terms of Service. The reason I’m more bothered by Medium than these other services has more to do with the length of content I’d be posting there. I don’t necessarily care if someone “steals” a tweet, because tweets are usually fleeting, ephemeral thoughts. I do care if someone makes money from an essay I’ve written for free.

I also wonder about the whole “personal brand” thing. If I reduce my online presence to things owned by other people (LinkedIn, my Twitter and Facebook accounts, and a few articles on Medium), does that weaken my personal brand? Does it hurt me in future job hunting, as the type of PR I tend to do becomes more and more tied to social media and online activity? Or is it actually a smart move, showing I use the right tools for the job (which may not be a personal website that I own and pay for)?

There’s a lot to think about.

What I may do, in the short term, is keep this blog, but cross-post the occasional article to Medium, since it gives me a way to reach new readers. If it makes sense to do so — like if I’m writing about a topic that doesn’t “fit” on my own sites — I may even make some posts exclusive to Medium.

A version of this article was posted to Medium on July 24, 2015.

Why I Removed the Disclaimer from my Twitter Profile

I used to include a “my views don’t represent my employer” disclaimer in my Twitter profile. I removed it after Scott Stratten made a great point during his talk at the 2014 CPRS National Summit: those disclaimers don’t mean anything. The public will still associate you and your tweets with your employer—especially if you work in public relations—but you’re likely to think of it as a get out of jail free card, potentially tweet irresponsibly and then point at the disclaimer if you get called out on it.

I’ve been without a disclaimer for about 8 months now, and I certainly think more carefully before I tweet since removing it.

I still tweet about politics, and I’m still sometimes a sarcastic ass on Twitter, but I’m much more careful about what I put online. When I worked for the City of Edmonton, I was careful not to post much about municipal politics (or City projects). Now I’m careful not to post much about education (particularly the provincial politics side of things). Rather than spouting off and claiming that my opinions don’t represent those of my employer, I simply refrain from tweeting about things that could get me in trouble with my employer—or which could get my employer in trouble with its publics.

Exactly what you will and will not tweet about while working for a particular organization is a personal call (which may be influenced by organizational social media policies). I’m not going to tell you how to make that call. But I do recommend removing your disclaimer. Having one creates a false sense of security and won’t protect you if you say something stupid.

Shaw TV Interview: #YegOldSchoolTweetup

Shaw TV interviewed me recently, as part of a story about #YegOldSchoolTweetup and the ways social media can be used to connect people offline.

I tend to be more of a behind-the-scenes guy, and prefer to put my clients in front of the camera, but it was fun to give the interview and get some real world experience as an on-camera spokesperson. I think I did pretty good, considering I’ve only done this once before (in a classroom setting).

That Tweetup in January…

Logistics: an unavoidable reality

When I agreed to organize an informal, old school tweetup, I thought it would be easy. After all, it was going to be super informal. No reservations. No RSVPs. All I had to do was write
a blog post, pick a venue and send some tweets.

I could not have been more wrong.

The reality of organizing an event in Edmonton—even an informal, weeknight event—is that a lot of people might show up. There has been quite a bit of interest for this tweetup already, which is great, but most of the venues that are large enough to accommodate the potential size of the group require reservations. With reservations comes the need to have a sense of how large the group will be. And with that comes RSVPs.

So that “super informal” tweetup in January? There will be Eventbrite tickets after all. They’ll be free and you won’t need to show them to get it, but you will need to RSVP via Eventbrite to give us a sense of how many people will be attending.

The trouble with names

A few people have also expressed concern with the name and hashtag, noting that “Take Back Twitter” sounds a lot like “Take Back the Night,” and that the similarity is potentially offensive since there is no association between the two. There’s potential for a #TakeBackTwitterYEG hashtag to be used in support of Take Back the Night Edmonton or other worthy cause, so we’re going to drop that name to avoid any confusion or offense.

Neither Tamara nor I thought of the association with Take Back the Night when we picked the name, and I apologize if I offended anyone as a result of the original name.

The new name and hashtag (but not theme! It’s definitely not a theme!) is #YegOldSchoolTweetup. The intent with the “Take Back Twitter” moniker was to take it back to the old school, which the new name makes clearer.

TL;DR

Due to the popularity of the event and some issues with the original name, we’ll be requiring that guests RSVP and we’ve changed the name to #YegOldSchoolTweetup. You can RSVP by following this link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/yeg-old-school-tweetup-tickets-14759759839.

YEG Old School Tweetup: An Edmonton Tweetup

Twitter's bird logo
Join us for a tweetup!

**NOTE** This post was last updated on January 6, 2014. The headline and some details have changed since it was originally posted. This post explains the changes.

Recently, I was talking to Tamara Vineberg on Twitter. Our conversation turned into a rollicking chat involving many members of Edmonton’s Twitter community.

What it boiled down to was a desire for the Twitter of old, with less advertising and self-promotion. We also wanted a tweetup—an in-person meetup of Twitter users—that had no theme, no “cause,” and no real purpose other than to meet and chat in person.

Somehow, I ended up volunteering to organize the tweetup. Tamara jokingly suggested we call it Take Back Twitter (or #TakeBackTwitterYEG), so I’m going to roll with that. Because we’re trying to take it back to the old school, the name and hashtag will be #YegOldSchoolTwitter. But don’t call it a theme!

Instead of having a very formal event with Eventbrite tickets and RSVPs, we’re just going to have an informal social. Show up at X place at Y time and hang out. There are no tickets (or free drinks). Alas, for logistical reasons, we’ve had to ask people to RSVP using Eventbrite, but the tickets are free, so show up, have a drink and shake hands with someone you’ve only connected with online.

If you’re interested, here are the details:

Because of how informal this event is, I’m not making a reservation. Whoever shows up will show up and we’ll try and snag as many tables as we need.

Networking Tips for Introverts

In a training session for a previous job, I arranged for a colleague to speak on a number of topics, including networking. Toward the end of his talk, he said, “I hope that was helpful. I’m not sure why you asked me to speak about networking since I’m a pretty big introvert.”

He was downplaying his skill in networking. The reason he’d been asked to speak on the subject is because he’s very good at it, despite being introverted. Many of the people he was speaking to were introverts, so it was helpful for them to get an introverts guide to networking.

I don’t have a copy of my colleague’s presentation, but I did find some networking tips for introverts on the weekend.

As an introvert who is often nervous about attending networking events, I find these tips useful, especially the first one:

If networking events make you nervous, don’t psych yourself out with unrealistic expectations. You may not meet 20 new contacts or impress others with your best joke — and that’s okay. One quality conversation is more beneficial than 20 superficial ones.

That’s a key takeaway. You don’t need to meet everyone at the mixer. You just need to meet two or three people, make a meaningful connection, and then nurture that connection after the event is over. After all, superficial connections are worthless when you need to call in a favour from your network (and you’ll be less willing to do them a favour when they ask).

Note: A shorter version of this post was previously published on my personal blog, but I figured it made at least as much sense to post on my professional site. If you subscribe to both blogs, sorry for the double post!

Moms more social than dads; brands shouldn’t join Ello

Marketing Mag is reporting that moms are more social than dads (and people without children) online. This isn’t exactly world-shattering news, but the fact that they’re most likely to share in the morning but hit the peak of their sharing in the early afternoon is a bit, well, impossible.

The time of day moms spend on social was also shown in the study, which found moms are more likely to share in the morning, with sharing on social peaking between noon and 2:00 pm.

Which is it? Morning or early afternoon?

Despite that confusing bit of reporting, the article does provide some interesting insights—notably, that brands shouldn’t join new social network Ello.

Ello is ad-free. More than that, it’s anti-advertising. It’s unlikely to stay that way for long—brands like Sonos have already signed up and Ello founder, Paul Budnitz, has created a profile promoting his bicycle company, in apparent defiance of his own rules—but for now, at least, brands should stay away.

Even if it weren’t for the anti-advertising manifesto, I’d advise brands not to bother with Ello (at least for now). It’s invite-only and it’s still in beta. There’s not a critical mass of people, so unless your target audience is people on the bleeding-edge of social trends, Ello probably isn’t worth your time (assuming you can even get an invite).

Scripts are for computers; conversations are for people

Too often, we develop scripts for communicating with external publics. Call a help desk and the person on the other end is likely reading from a script. The same is true when you answer a call from a telemarketer.

The problem with scripts is that they lack authenticity.

I say: toss away the script. Scripts are for computers. People want conversation.

I’m not saying we should do away with key messages. Key messages are vital to ensuring that we’re communicating the right things to the right publics. The problem is when key messages become scripts and when those scripts become robotic.

Key messages, not scripts

Part of my job is to respond to inquires from the public—both by email and on the phone. Before responding to anyone, I make sure that I know what information they need. I research the answer if I don’t already know it and, whenever possible, I make sure that what I’m going to tell them aligns with our key messages on the topic and ties into the overall communications plan. If necessary, I prepare speaking notes.

What I never do is write a script.

When I speak to a citizen or business owner on the phone, I talk to them as if they were in front of me. I have a conversation. I try to be as casual as the situation allows, while maintaining an appropriate degree of professionalism. People tend to appreciate this.

This is especially important when dealing with someone who is angry. It’s easy to fall back on a script when dealing with an angry person—it allows you to remain detached and professional while someone yells at you—but they can usually tell what you’re doing and it tends to make them angrier.

Often, when people are angry, they just want to know that they’ve been heard. By having a real conversation—even if you’re telling them things they don’t want to hear—you allow the other person to be heard and to feel they’ve had a genuine interaction. They may still be angry, but they’ll usually appreciate that you explained the situation and treated them as a person rather than an issue to be dealt with.

Be conversational on email, too

The same is true with email. It’s harder to convey a sense of authenticity over email, but writing in a conversational style helps. Avoid copying and pasting from previous inquiries. It takes a bit of extra time to write a new email to each person who asks the same question, but it’s more meaningful and authentic than a canned response.

It’s hard to gauge the success of this approach to email, as many people never write back once they’ve received an answer, but those who do reply generally seem appreciative of the response they received.

Too long; didn’t read

All of this is to say that key messages are important—they’re vital to effective communications. But scripts and canned responses are inauthentic and can actually make things worse if you’re dealing with someone who’s angry with your organization.

Be authentic and you’ll be a better communicator.

Building a Portfolio

My practicum with the City of Edmonton is now more than halfway over. It’s been a great experience so far.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on more projects, both big and small, than I ever thought would be possible in just two months. I’ve developed and executed a communications plan to promote a public engagement initiative, written responses to citizen inquires on behalf of city councillors and the mayor, and I’ve written for a regional trade publication. And that’s just a very small selection of all the things I’ve done.

I think I’ve been more productive in the last six weeks than in six months at any of my previous jobs. That’s not to say that I didn’t work hard in the past. I’ve just found a job and an industry that I’m truly passionate about—one that is never dull and rarely slows down.

I made the right choice when I decided (with a little prodding from my wife) to go back to school and formally study public relations. This is the career I was meant to have and I’m looking forward to a long and rewarding future in the industry.

And Now For Something Completely Different

It’s done. The classroom portion of my public relations education is finished. I made it through.

We all made it through. No one dropped out or flunked out along the way.

With the end of classes comes the start of the practicum. In my case, that also means the end of the job I’ve held for four years. I’m moving on to pursue a new career in public relations.

Both of these things bring a bittersweet feeling. With the end of class it’s the excitement and relief of being done, and of moving into the work world, combined with the fact that I won’t be seeing the same 29 faces five days a week.

With the end of my job, it’s similar. I’m excited about the new career path I’m embarking on, but there’s always something a little bit scary about leaving a job you’ve been at for a while. I was comfortable where I was and, I think, I was good at what I did. But I think I’ll be even better at public relations.

It seems fitting that all of this is happening while I’m 30. Having some big life events line up with a nice round number feels appropriate, like there’s a sense of order to the universe that’s normally lacking.

Onward and upward. It’s time to put what I’ve been learning into practice.