Thornley Fallis at the 2014 IABC World Conference

Thornley Fallis at the 2014 IABC World Conference

Starting June 8, Toronto plays host to the 2014 IABC World Conference, a gathering of the world’s leading business communicators for four days of learning and engagement. This year’s event features an exciting lineup of speakers, including Thornley Fallis’ very own Martin Waxman and Sherrilynne Starkie.

Before Martin and Sherrilynne take the stage, we thought they could share several highlights from their talks.

Martin’s session is called Social Media Barometer and focuses on emerging digital and social trends impacting businesses today.

1. What is one new social media trend or platform you’re watching and what has your strategy been for incorporating it into a client’s communication plans?
One thing I’m following closely is the shift to mobile and how we’re adapting to it as an industry. We’ve been hearing that mobile’s ‘around the corner’ for the last several years, but based on the data, most marketers and communicators agree it’s here. I recently read a study on how search advertising in mobile is moving from browsers to apps. Very different than what we’re used to. And in the same way that social media is not simply an add-on, the rules for mobile are being created practically in real-time and we’ll be seeing another transformative change. We need to start thinking big ideas for the small screen – moving from a digital to mobile first approach.

2. Which social media platform has been the most underused by businesses and why?
I think the answer to this question is it depends – on the business, its goals and especially where its customers are. Too often marketers and communicators are swayed by popularity and big numbers. But really – you need to ask your customers where they’re most active on social networks and if they’re interested in engaging with you there. And you need to figure out how to create the type of content that stands out and simplifies their lives. In any social media endeavour we should remember our manners, ask permission, observe, listen and strive to add value and help. It’s also better to select one or two platforms where you can really be active rather than being passively present everywhere.

3. What company do you think is currently leading the pack when it comes to incorporating social media into their PR program?
I often point to the Mayo Clinic in the US as a leader in social and digital communications. Rather than a comms department, they act like a newsroom and actually produce stories that people and media are interested in reading and sharing. And their team integrates written and visual storytelling – each news item features a short, simple video with the spokesperson – to produce content that’s discoverable on multiple platforms. 

Sherrilynne’s presentation is about Reaching Hard-to-Find Audiences and focuses on the agency’s work developing a members communications program for the United Association Canada (UA). The success of this award-winning campaign has been using social media to strengthen the relationship between the UA’s head office and its 54,000 members right across the country.

1. What surprised you most about how the average UA member has used social media to connect with their union?
At first we couldn’t find any sign of UA members using social media. Not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not blogging, nowhere. Local managers cautioned us that their members didn’t really like computers and often wouldn’t even check email. But, we found them!  Surprise! They were disguised as their wives and girlfriends on social media! Many UA members use their partners’ Facebook profiles to see and participate on the UA Canada Facebook page. Only a small fraction of union membership is female, but almost 40 per cent of the page’s likes were from women.

2. What audience question are you most hoping to get asked during your session?
If the research showed that members didn’t use social media, why did you decide to go this way? The thing is, we knew that there are half a billion people using Facebook; we figured that some of them have to be plumbers and pipe fitters, right?  So we ran some tests. Quite quickly the results showed that yes, UA members and potential members were on Facebook and that they liked our content. They liked, commented and shared in droves, and before long we were reaching hundreds of thousands of people each day.

3. What group of traditionally reluctant social media adopters are you hoping to work with in the future?
I believe that social media reaches just about everyone, in some way. From very young children to the very oldest of grandmas, the Internet touches most Canadians’ lives is one way or another. You just have to do the research, be creative and strategic and you will find a way to reach any audience.

2014 IABC World Conference, June 8-11, Toronto’s Sheraton Centre Hotel
Monday, June 9
11:10 AM – 12:10 AM Social Media Barometer with Martin Waxman
4:00 PM – 4:30 PM Reaching Hard-to-find Audiences with Sherrilynne Starkie

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