I am sorry to see this happening. Dear gentle folk who are cranking out urgent pushes for email list verifications in order to be compliant with the new anti-spam law (aka CASL) before July 1:

Please. Stop. Wait. Think.

Today I received no fewer than 20 verification requests from a wide range of enterprises. And that’s fine and good, because of course you need to do it, and I admit I do have a lot of subscriptions.

But in your quest for compliance,  remember that you are still communicating with actual people (and I might add, people who may be about to go on summer vacation after the longest winter ever.) The variation in approaches to this verification was a bit staggering. So here are some of my thoughts:


(It’s only urgent, because you have left it late (just judging, just saying). And it’s summer, so please don’t use all caps on us poor subscribers.)

Ask, don’t demand. Engage, don’t dictate.

How about: “We’d like to keep in touch with you.” “Could you please help us keep in touch?” “Hello friends, may I tell you about a thing called CASL?” “Let’s not let The Law come between us.” “Here’s our recent news, would you like to keep hearing from us?”

Remember who is on your list: clients (and potential clients), patrons, stakeholders, friends, donors, investors. Use this verification process remind them about why they should care about your messages and why they should want to click through. Engagement is the key; don’t miss an opportunity.

And if this whole anti-spam business is new to you and you use email for business, I suggest you read this quick summary  by Anna Mathew at Young Associates, and get in touch with me if you need help.

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Will your words come back to haunt you?


This is Mario. He is like Hipster Elmo.

The internet never forgets.  And it is especially fond of remembering comments that you made on YouTube when you were up late at night working on a complex project, and while on a brain break,  viewed something that set off your irresistible comment reflex.

This fact came home to roost with me today, but thankfully, it was all good fun and no one lost an eye or their job.

I was about to call it a day today, and in my “social” tab of Gmail, this appeared:


What? Really? My go-to oddballs? They like me?

For those who don’t know, Glove and Boots is a goofy web series with puppets that are deeply concerned with pop culture and modern society: Fafa is the knowing groundhog, Mario is the inquisitive red guy with strange facial hair, and … well … there’s also an inarticulate gyrating gorilla that I adore . I have had a life-long weakness for puppets (but not the creepy kind, like Punch and Judy or ventrioquist dummies, ). And  I have been a big fan of G&B  for a couple of years, because at the end of a day of developing strategy or writing any number of things for clients, you just need some reliable nonsense to refresh the brain, yanno?

And nonsense is what I got that night 10 months ago, when I saw their really bizarre riff on my beloved Dr. Seuss. (You can watch it here.  If you are a Seuss fan, be prepared, it’s weird … don’t say I didn’t warn you.)  It caught me off guard, but I love their deranged humour, so I commented: easily
Today, they called me on it in front of 130,000 subscribers (even though only 4 intrepid people gave that comment a thumbs up.). The link is below. They generously give examples of weirder things they have posted. Ok ok ok, I sit corrected. I concede, boys, you have done many varied weird(er) things over time, and that is all part of your charm. Thank you for reminding me.

Glove and Boots Responds [sic] to Your Comments

Lots of people are getting a great laugh from what G&B did with (what I thought was) an innocuous comment.  I am glad that I can stand by the words I post online (you never know when they will come back to haunt you.)

The moral of my story, friends: before you hit that enter key, be sure you say what you mean, and mean what you say.

And dear Jennifer Katchur, wherever and whoever you are  … girl, I hope you are having fun with it.

My name is Lisa N,  and I support this message.


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New Facebook privacy considerations

Facebook privacy

Facebook’s “graph search” is now rolled out and running. This new feature makes your information more searchable than ever, perhaps in ways that you don’t want, drawing on your “likes” and tags.

Huffington Post  has written one of the better articles this week on how to update your  Facebook privacy settings.

You can read it by clicking –> here

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Excellent infographic for the long weekend!


victoria day infographicMy artist chum Kinnon Elliott makes really fantastic infographics (for those who don’t know what an infographic is, it’s a type of illustration that explains a big pile of information with the help of pleasing visuals, a smart narrative, and a readable layout).

Earlier this year she made hilarious infographics about Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. She’s done it again with a hilarious study of Victoria Day Weekend (aka May Two Four), the unofficial start of Canadian summer.

(And keep her in mind if you need to find a clever way to make complicated information more accessible.)

Click here to view the May Two Four infographic


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Summer’s coming. What’s your online reputation management plan?

YSH-180x180-v2 2013

Spring green Leafs - defocused Background

Because online reputations do not take a vacations.

Ah, the May long weekend.  Happy times in Canada.  In Toronto, everything is bursting into bloom (though my friends in BC have been gloating about their gardens for WEEKS, the meanies). Harsh contrast to my brother John Leclair’s home in Cranberry Portage, Manitoba where the ice is still thick on the lake, but Spring is gradually arriving there too.

Spring will quickly turn to summer, and maybe the rhythm of your work week will be shifting: with folks going on vacation, dealing with their kids’ activities, weddings here and there, maybe staff going on flex time or summer hours, having summer students or interns at your site.  So how are you going to keep your business communications flowing smoothly as the days get warm and relaxed, and things are much less routine?

I have a three suggestions now, and will probably have more later:

1. Make a summer communications plan. I don’t mean vague things like “blog on Tuesday, e-newsletter on the 15th of month”. What do you want to say over the summer? What typically goes on in your industry during the summer? What are your colleagues and customers thinking about and talking about? What can you (or your team members) write about that will keep you at the forefront of your sector?

Start making a list now of topics you want to cover between now and Labour Day to keep connected to your customers and clients. Don’t let your presence or level of engagement slip because of the change in routines. At the same time, try to avoid automating too many of your postings (more on that tomorrow).

2. Find one thing you can do to make your company more human to your customers. I know the common parlance is business-to-business, and business-to-consumer, but as I’ve said before, we are all just people talking to people.

Maybe you could have a special feature once a week on your blog or facebook page, that encourages your folks to talk about the great things in the warm season: maybe a Monday “How was your weekend?”  post; a Friday “What’s cooking?” post; invite your people to share photos of their gardens or a vacation highlight.  (Be sure to track the site traffic for these posts, so you can learn more about what clicks with your people.)

3. Please do not put your online reputation in the hands of students or interns. Back when I ran STAF, I LOVED the fresh air that students blew into our office every summer, and they helped us with some great projects. Would I put our business reputation in their hands? Not a chance.

Even if you hire some great kid who seems to know everything about life online, they don’t know your business or customers, and they won’t be invested in those relationships. Pick their brains for tips and tricks, sure; but reputation management requires maturity, diplomacy, and experience. There are too many stories to mention about reputation management gone ka-blooey when the kids were left in charge; you do not want to be one of those stories! Your reputation is vital to your success: handle it with care.


Enjoy the great weather while it’s here! Send me photos of your garden (or join the Toronto Gardeners group on Facebook  and share with more of us!). And if you need help with your summer communications strategy, monitoring, or upkeep, give me a call and I will be happy to lend a hand.

Posted in All posts, Blogging, Social Media for Beginners

Words have power … choose them well!

word cloud

word cloud The Power of Words

I think we can sometimes forget the power of words we use. We know (or should know) to steer away from language that sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted or hurtful.  But do you ever stop to think about the true meaning of commonly-used words?

Take “tolerance”.   Often in the media or in common discourse, we hear talk of being “tolerant” of others, of creating a “tolerant” society.

Let’s look at a definition:

1: capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurance, fortitude, stamina
2a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
b : the act of allowing something : toleration
3: the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
4a (1) : the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure <developed a tolerance to painkillers>; also : the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2) : relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor
b : the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food

Not very nice, really, is it?  How about choosing a different word …

1: the act of including : the state of being included
2: something that is included: as
a : a gaseous, liquid, or solid foreign body enclosed in a mass (as of a mineral)
b : a passive usually temporary product of cell activity (as a starch grain) within the cytoplasm or nucleus
3: a relation between two classes that exists when all members of the first are also members of the second — compare membership 3
4: the act or practice of including students with disabilities in regular school classes

I vote that we avoid the word “tolerance” in day to day speech, and try to opt for “inclusion” instead.

Posted in All posts, Blogging, Thoughts on Writing

Giving Credit: how to handle copyright right


Giving credit where it’s due is a biggie for me, as I have said before, and copyright matters. Here is an excellent article on one way to do it right, and it uses my friend John’s Vintage Social Media cartoon as its base! (The cartoon has gone viral, but he’s not getting nearly enough credit for it).

Click here to read: Facebook Image Sharing and Copyright


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What Not to #Tweet

While this article was directed at not-for-profits, the tips are good for anyone. I am particularly fond of advising people against too much automation:  remember that it’s “social” media, not machine media.  Take the time to craft your message for the different platforms that you are using, so that you can effectively communicate with the people who use that platform.

Click here to read:  Five Types of Tweets Nonprofits Should Never Post on Twitter


Posted in All posts, Social Media for Beginners

Copyright: Do You Have Permission to Use that Photo?

By John Vance (Flickr: WW2 Camera) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A cautionary tale for you today, my friends, about public domain and using other people’s photographs on your website or blog.

A client of mine who has a really elegant website has now received four different letters from lawyers, stating that images on the website and blog are not, in fact, public domain, that the images are owned by their clients, and that they are demanding compensation for usage (and we are not talking pocket change!).

Copyright is a tricky thing.   For example, most public buildings can be photographed without any problem, but some, like the Atomium in Brussels, is considered a work of art and protected by copyright.  (See this letter from 2003 regarding a photograph that was used online.)

As this article points out, there is no such thing as International Copyright Law.  Saying you “found” the image you are using online is not going to cut it with the legal world.

If the image is core to your branding or logo, be sure you secure the rights to use it. It may take some digging to find the original creator, but you must make the effort, and get permission in writing.  Another alternative it to use a stock photo service and pay for the use of the image. If you are using a graphic designer or content manager to source your visual materials, be sure that you have a clause in your letter of agreement that confirms they have permission to use the images provided.

Wikipedia has a list of “public domain” image sites that you can find by clicking here. Award-winning graphic designer Avery Swartz points out that the Creative Commons is a great place to look for images. But remember:  it’s still your responsibility to determine whether or not the image is truly copyright-free before you use it, and to give credit where it’s due.  And when in doubt, leave it out.

On the other side of the equation, I would urge artists and photographers to watermark their images (or at the very least, include your URL, Flickr name, or email address in a text overlay), and email them to yourself so you have proof that they are yours, BEFORE you release them into the internet sea.

(And for the record, all my words are mine too, so please credit me if and when you share :))

(Photo By John Vance (Flickr: WW2 Camera) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons) (see what I did there?)

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Posted in All posts, Blogging, Social Media for Beginners

The value of LinkedIn for business-to-business communications

An interesting article on the value of LinkedIn for business-to-business communications.

Many members just use LinkedIn as a virtual Rolodex … but it can be so much more if you actively participate in discussions (or start some!)

Click to read:  LinkedIn for business-to-business

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