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April showers bring PR Disasters?

Spring is a time of birth, renewal and PR crises it seems. Sony, Facebook, and a NHL player, agents and broadcaster are in the midst of protecting their image.

First up: Sony Debacle (here too)
Sony has been dealing with hackers stealing their users’ information. Sony has terribly managed the situation. It took them a week to notify their customers of a breach (7 days too late) and two weeks for the CEO to apologize (13 days too late).

Aside from debacles, a great article on how to use social media within your corporation: Implementing Social Media in Business

Sean Avery, his agent, and an NHL sportscaster (now fired) get embroiled in the same-sex marriage debate. Twitter can cause controversy quickly, and lose you your job. Always think before you Tweet!

And to round things up:
Facebook pays a PR company to send bad news and reports about Google to bloggers. Too bad the agencies forgot to tell the bloggers that they were working for Google… oops!

Tumblr: The next Star?

Recently I have begun to experiment with a new (2008+) and growing media tool: Tumblr. The tool combines Twitter and Blogging to create a “micro-blog.” Instead of short posts on your WordPress or Blogger account, you post small updates on your Tumblr page. These updates can be larger than Twitter’s 140 character limit, but users are encouraged to keep updates small. Multimedia can be uploaded to a page directly, much like a blog or a Twitter pic link.

Tumblr wants you to Save Twitter for short links and updates, blogs for longer discussions and Tumblr for longer than Twitter updates but not long enough to merit a new blog post.

On one extreme there are blogs (long, in-depth) and the other extreme is Twitter (short and shallow). Tumblr strives to hit the golden mean and let users post medium posts, enhanced with embedded multimedia.

My favourite feature is the news feed, which standard blogs do not have and acts just like the Twitter feed. Users can “reblog” their favourite posts directly from the news feed.

Does it work? From what I have seen so far, Tumblr is easy to use and is quite unique. If it was not for their technical instability I think Tumblr would be the next big social media platform.

The instability means that users can never know whether their posts will be posted or lost. They won’t know if people will even be able to access their page when Tumblr servers go down. Tumblr will not continue to grow if users become frustrated with technical glitches.

Tumblr is a neat tool and has a vibrant community if they can fix their issues I can see it becoming quite popular. I definitely recommend checking it out and see if it is useful for you and your organization.

Is Tumblr the way of the future, or is there some other site out there that is thriving and growing? Let us know what you think. You can check out my work-in-progress Tumblr at:

Tweet Up Outtakes

Thursday’s Tweet Up, at the Boathouse Restaurant, was a huge success! We had lots of fun, gave out a tonne of prizes and we were able to raise some money for a good cause. What better combination could you ask for?

We here at Engine wanted to take a moment to thank the students from Loyalist PR, who partnered with us to put together this evening of networking and fun. Special thanks to Marina, Jeremy, Michael, Jordan, and Eri for all of their hard work! Thanks to Kerry Ramsay, co-ordinator of the Loyalist PR program, for her direction and guidance.

Another huge thank you goes out to Winding Violets, for taking the time out of their busy schedules to photograph our event. They also donated our grand prize: A private portrait session! (So cool!) Despite poor (very poor) lighting, they took a bunch of great photos, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Make sure you follow Lucas on Twitter, and check out their Facebook Fan Page for an album of pictures from the event.

Thanks also to all of the vendors who donated door prizes: The Boathouse Restaurant, Classic Hits 95.5 & Cool 100.1 FM, Polish Day Spa & Salon, Essential Relaxation, Capers Restaurant, L’Auberge de France, The Organic Underground, The Empire Theatre, Chumleighs, Kernels Popcorn, Sweet Escape Dessert & Coffee Lounge, Belleville Art Association, Symphony Boutique, Stephen License Ltd., The Bull & Boar, and Foxy Hair Salon. Wow – that’s a lot of amazing donations!

You can take a look at our Facebook Fan Page for more pictures from the evening, but here are some outtakes that you won’t find anywhere else.

@brynajones (Me) having a great chat with some tweet up guests

@brynajones (Me) having a great chat with @KerryRamsay and some tweet up guests

@ariel_54 (Ariel) signing in with the help of @TweeterBird82 (Jeremy)

@ariel_54 signing in with the help of @TweeterBird82

What do you call a whole group of Tweeters? A flock? A gaggle?

What do you call a whole group of Tweeters? A flock? A gaggle?

@youresovanilla chatting it up

@youresovanilla chatting it up

@quinterecycles enjoying the company of @SaraHamil

@quinterecycles enjoying the company of @SaraHamil

@QuintePR and @jerikabradford

@QuintePR and @jerikabradford





@jayzeb deep in conversation with @ariel_54

@jayzeb deep in conversation with @ariel_54

@dantruman and @brynajones having some fun with @maltesefalcon behind the lens

@dantruman and @brynajones having some fun with @maltesefalcon behind the lens

Thanks again to everyone for a successful evening! My only question: Who’s hosting the next Tweet Up?!

Toronto Works for Haiti

torontoforhaitiToday is one of those days when I’m amazed by the connections, and opportunities for community building and business, that social media allows. I’m even more awestruck by being surrounded by so many people working passionately for the cause of Haiti.

Why focus on Haiti on a business blog? Because it’s the perfect example of how so many elements that we’ve been discussing in this forum (ie. social media, cause marketing, corporate social responsibility) come together to make a measurable impact on society.

Today my friend and colleague in the social media space, Sophie Bifield, introduced me to her friend and colleague, Elliot Ng. Elliot is the founder of Toronto Works for Haiti, a group of volunteers in Toronto offering professional services in exchange for donations to Haiti.

Their goal is to raise $5,000 for relief efforts before March 18, 2010.

Currently they stand at 20 volunteers with skills ranging from administrative services to professional editing,
social media marketing, and realty. There are no overhead costs, and they’re asking that all donation go directly to the organizations they support, namely the Humanitarian Coalition, the Canadian Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. All the recipients of the goods and services have to do is let them know how much they’re donating so they can keep track of their efforts.

Founder of Toronto Works for Haiti, Elliot Ng

Founder of Toronto Works for Haiti, Elliot Ng

Here’s Elliot’s take:

After hearing about the earthquake, I felt that it would not be enough to for me to just make a donation to the charities. I asked myself, “What can I do to offer more? How can I help people in Haiti even though I am in Toronto?” On top of that, my professional background helped me put my own spin on it: coming from the business background, I understand the need for businesses, and naturally I started connecting the dots. Why don’t I try to find other like-minded individuals who are compassionate and want to mobilize our skills for this great cause? So I picked up the phone and pitched to my friends: Roxanne Chow, Katherine Lee, Kilim Park, and Mark Savel. They liked it! Roxanne gave the group the name we are using now. Katherine started creating the structure of the organization. Kilim started writing on our blog. Mark suggested ideas on how to make this idea bigger. It snowballed and the rest is history.

There are a few things I love about this idea:

  1. It raises money for a great cause.
  2. It allows small business owners to make an impact on a global scale.
  3. It creates awareness for small business, and is a great PR opportunity.
  4. It creates opportunity for collaboration, and networking.
  5. It’s a simple idea that your business could easily adopt for any cause you’re passionate about.

What do I want you to do?

  • Take some of the ideas we’ve dissected and apply them to your own business strategy. The bottom line for you is increased awareness, networking and sales.
  • Get involved with Toronto Works for Haiti or another local group like New Mercy Ministries, both to help with relief efforts, and to network with some brilliant, talented people.
  • Join the Toronto Works for Haiti Facebook group, and voice your support. Put their logo on your profile to spread awareness.

Whatever you do, make sure you act now. If not for Haiti, then for the cause you care about. Everybody wins! And you know I love a good win-win.

Let’s Play!

Don't just sit there! You need to play as much as this guy.

Don't just sit there! You need to play as much as this guy.

I was reading Chris Brogan’s newsletter from December 15, again this morning, as I sat suffering from a small case of blog-writer’s block. If you don’t subscribe to his newsletter, you must do so immediately. It’s always a wealth of information, and Chris has such a transparent way of writing. He’s really generous in sharing the strategies he uses in his own busines. But I digress…

Chris was talking about playing games. He asked why, as adults, we don’t do so more often. Good question! Creativity and playing games help us engage in open possibilities. As adults we tend to forget how playing games helps us to understand the world.

Think about Christmas morning: Why do most young children like to play with the box more than the present inside? Because it allows them to use their imaginations. There aren’t any rules or boundaries; they just think possibility. As adults in business, we could stand a little childhood regression.

It just so happens that sitting on my desk is a great book that I love to pull out when I’m in need of possibility. It’s called Thinker Toys: A handbook of creative thinking techniques, and it’s written by Michael Michalko. Thinker Toys is really a big book of games for grown-ups.

Combining individual, and group, brainstorming techniques, Michalko helps the reader to open their mind up to inspiration from many directions. It’s stretching and motivating, and really fun. If you, like Chris, recognize that games are good for business, you should add a copy to your Christmas wishlist.

Then, take a look at our Facebook Fan Page for some creative thinking ideas to bring out your inner child.

How do you get creative in the workplace? Any tips or techniques?

Christmas with Our Kitchen


Once again, we have been blessed with another post from our friends from Our Kitchen, over in New Zealand. This time the recipe is for one of their Christmas specialties ~ Pavlova.

Susie from Our Kitchen writes:

Pavlova is an iconic Kiwi dessert, well, if you believe us New Zealanders and not our counterparts across the ditch in Australia.  It’s probably one of the more versatile desserts I know of.  It can be served in hot or cold weather, can make the grade for special dinners but can also be served up at a low key barbeque.

Typically the meringue dessert is slathered in cream and then decorated with slices of kiwifruit.  But I know and have seen many other ways to garnish it.  It’s definitely a dessert we savour at Christmas time, and since Christmas time marks the beginning of summer for us here in New Zealand we like to garnish it with fresh berries.  I definitely recommend having a try at it and getting a taste of an antipodeans Christmas.

Hope you guys have a fantastic festive season!

Traditional Kiwi Pavlova

Serves 4

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Fresh Berries
  • Whipped Cream for topping


1. Preheat your oven to 150°C on bake, if you would like to use a fan function for that extra crispy coating use a lower temperature like 125ۦC*.

2. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

3. Beat the egg whites on a high setting until stiff peaks form. To make you sure your egg whites whisk up nicely ensure there is no egg yolk in them and that all the utensils and bowl have been rinsed in scalding hot water to remove any grease.

4. Add sugar gradually whilst still beating on a high setting, usually a tablespoon at a time is the norm or if you have steady hands pour in a slow steady stream, making sure at each addition it is beaten thoroughly.

5. Once all the sugar is added beat for a further 10 minutes. This is important as it helps the mix to stiffen a little more, which will mean it will keep its shape when it’s baked.

6. Mix together the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla essence, decrease the mixer setting to med-low and add in the cornflour mix. Once just mixed in, turn off mixer.

7. Cut a ~40cm length of baking paper and fold along its length. Curl on tray to make a cuff with a diameter of ~17cm, either tape or pin it to keep its shape.

8. Spoon meringue mix into cuff and smooth out surface. Place into the middle of the oven, if on bake turn the oven down to 125°C and bake for one hour. After an hour turn the oven off and let the pav cool in the oven. For fan functions do everything the same just turn the oven a little lower, maybe 115°C.

Hull and wash some berries, whip some cream and serve! You can also opt for the sliced kiwifruit.

Tips and Tricks

  • Using a fan function forces convection currents and dries out humidity that the more gentle bake function has, which is why you’re likely to get more of a crust on the pavlova using a fan function. Because of the forced convection, fan functions transfer heat and energy quicker than bake, thus the golden rule of baking is to decrease the baking temperature by roughly 20°C when using them.

Thanks again for sharing Susie, from all of us at Engine, we wish you and your F&P team a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year! 

For more recipes from the team at Our Kitchen, make sure to visit their blog. Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter too!



The Rules of Engagement

This post is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants – an epic two-month journey of over 50 guest posts. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

You don’t need me to tell you, but the world of marketing and advertising has seen some pretty dramatic shifts over the past few years. Social Media is changing the face of the way companies do marketing. How? With the emphasis on B2C communication – tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are making it easier than ever for businesses to give and receive instant feedback from their customers.

But just because the tools are readily available, doesn’t mean businesses are using them to their maximum potential. The approach to Social Media has to be taken from a different angle than more “traditional” marketing mediums. Where selling, generating leads, and landing clients may be the end result – the approach with Social Media has to be to engage and build relationships first, before focusing on the sales pitch.

One thing that everyone can take a lesson in, and something I continue to work on myself – is the power of listening. Listen to what your customers are saying, pay attention to their conversations, and take note of their ideas. Becoming a good listener and eavesdropping at the right time and place is priority number one for Social Media marketing.

You’ll hear everyone tell you that listening is important – but that’s only the first step. The follow up, and most important element of communication is knowing WHEN to communicate. Those who are “doing it right” spend a considerable about of time listening, and when the time is right, take it to the next step and get involved.

What does “get involved” mean? At the end of the day, it’s about being a person first, a human representative and voice of your company. People don’t want to talk to a business – they want to talk to a person, they want a connection, a human on the other end of the line who genuinely cares about their wants and needs. If you’re that person on the other end, be yourself, be funny, share interesting and relevant information, become a resource for your community. Social Media works best when the line between personal and professional is blurred.

Once you’ve built a rapport with the members of your community, they’ll be more willing and accepting of your “sales” pitches. Engage first, sell second – A simple formula that’s often forgotten, but is the recipe of success for any business integrating Social Media into their marketing mix.

What examples do you have of businesses that are doing it right (or wrong) with Social Media?

Guest Post on

Henderson Bas, The Nice Agency

Henderson Bas, The Nice Agency

Hey all! Just a couple things:

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of working with the team at Henderson Bas, the most awarded interactive agency in Canada. They are an amazing group of creatives, strategists, marketers, and programmers. Some of their clients include Coke, Mercedes-Benz and Molson Canadian. Thanks for having me, guys!

I also had the pleasure of writing a guest contribution on Nate Riggs’ blog. If you don’t know Nate, make sure to take a look at his guest post on our blog from last week. He’s a brilliant creative, working in the field of social web strategy. He not only runs his own business, Social Business Strategies, but he is also the Director of Communication Strategy at Huber + Co. Interactive, in Columbus, Ohio. On top of that he’s a great dad, and a marathon runner. Not too shabby.

So today, rather than write something of my own, I encourage you to read my guest post over at

Question Period

Since early this morning I have been considering topics for blogging. I’ve been on this “know thyself” bandwagon, and I didn’t want to inundate you with more, “me, me, me.” But hopefully you’re seeing that it’s not simply about me–it’s about you and your business. (My friend Nate Riggs wrote about this for me on Thursday, and if you haven’t read his guest post, it’s a great resource on this topic.)

As I logged into the blog, I found a really interesting comment waiting for approval. It was in regards to my post from last week entitled, On the Road, where I introduced you all to my little experiment in self-discovery. Here’s an excerpt from that comment that I want to address today:

“[Bryna] I’m continually impressed that you are willing to be the guinea pig, or at least put your feet in the shoes that have to do the walking, as it were (mixing my cliches a bit). And so, in fearing all these traps, I am about to walk into the arena of social networking. I don’t feel I have a choice, at least. And because of it, I will be needing help. So for that reason I ask you for this advice — how do we balance the need to know ourselves with the need to know our audience or at least our customers? I don’t think they are exclusive, but I certainly can’t see them being the same, either.”

First off, let me say thank you. I’m not looking for accolades in terms of sharing myself with you all, but I do appreciate that this commentor understands that I’m not doing it out of a place of self-idolatry (their words–check out the full comment), but to really question the ways we communicate who we are in the social media world.

It’s All About Balance

“How do we balance the need to know ourselves with the need to know our audience, or at least our customers?”

Let’s start with self.

I started this journey of online self-discovery because there are a lot of voices in the social media world, and I wanted to make sure I knew what mine was. It’s not enough to just talk into space, and assume that people will listen. Some will, and depending on why you blog, that’s acceptable. However, for professional bloggers, finding your voice is key to success. My friend, and colleague in the SM space, Matt Cheuvront, actually just posted on this today, and he put it well–it’s ok to experiment with your platform, just be you.

That’s what I’m trying to do, and encourage you to do as well. It’s no longer enough to take the advice of others verbatim. The process of developing your SM platform is just as important as the final result.

We start with ourselves–looking in before we look out. It’s not self-idolatry to start here. I do struggle at times with the notion of “celebrity” in the online world. It can be a very self-centred place, but I don’t think that’s the real truth of the matter. I’ve met some of the most interesting, engaging, genuine people through SM. They aren’t fake. We’re all working with a new media, and it takes time to find your place.

There are definitely people out there with huge platforms and audiences.  At some point I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m not a Chris Brogan or Sarah Evans (yet). They are wonderful people to look at as mentors, but I still have to define who I am. You still have to define who you are.

We start inside, define who we are, but then we need to ask: Why? Why are you engaging in social media? What is the purpose? What I’ve started to do, personally, is compartmentilize. I blog primarily for Engine Communications. This is my professional space, and I share it with my colleagues. We pepper it with pieces of ourselves, but it’s different than my personal blog. It’s not about me.

Then I have my personal own spaces. I’m a writer. I love words. I love the visual of a sentence. I look at words the way a painter looks at paint. It’s my tool for self-expression. I’m playing with my tumblog, and my WordPress account right now. 

For awhile I was concerned that using those platforms might negate the professionalism here (which is why there’s so little content as of yet), but I’ve seen lots of writers use personal blogs in amazing ways (Sydney Owen is great at this). Just add a disclaimer. Get the voice part solidified, and the purpose part, then start thinking about your audience.

Your audience may or may not be important to you. Another colleague, Sonny Gill, has a terrific post on this issue. I’m happy if someone reads my personal blog, and gets something out of it, but it’s more for me than anyone else.

I also have a strong leaning toward social justice issues, and I’ve been blogging about them here for about a year (although I’ve been on haitus for planning purposes). It’s still me, sharing a part of who I am, but more importantly it’s a forum for my audience to connect with like-minded people from a variety of organizations, all doing amazing things to fight global poverty. My audience is very important to me there. Again, it’s not about me.

Our audience here in the Engine Room is also of utmost importance. We are a business. We want people to know we exist. We want people to know we’re engaged, that we understand how to navigate Web 2.0. We also want to be more than a business. Engine is made up of people, and this space allows you to interact with us in real time. We aren’t just a logo–we’re a community.

We also want to generate useful content that gives you insight into who we are, who you are, and how to communicate your message to your target audience. It is our goal to give a broad spectrum of information about communications, marketing and design, because those are our interests–where we shine. We assume our audience is interested in those things too.

It’s all about balance: Balancing your voice, with your purpose, with your audience and their needs. How do you do it? Experiment. Be genuine. I’m seeing now that the rest will fall into place.

Thanks for the comment!

Building Brand YOU with Nate Riggs

Nate Riggs, Principal, Social Media Strategies LLCThis is a guest contribution, by Nate Riggs, principal, strategy consultant, and speaker from Social Business Strategies LLC.

Have you Googled your name recently?  What do you find?  Was there something in the results you didn’t expect to find or something that surprised you? 

Today, the web has become a social marketplace and with it, search engines like Google seem to deliver the first brand impression.  The question is, what if anything are you doing to influence the impression being found by people searching for you? 

Building Brand YOU 

I was jazzed when Bryna asked me to write this post, because in my mind, building and using Brand YOU is more important now than it’s ever been.   

It’s no surprise that we are moving back into an era where business is done between human beings.  The alternative just wasn’t any fun.  But always keep in mind that all of the great tools on the social web is what is empowering us to get back to basics and open the doors to real relationships that create opportunities for business to happen. 

I want to share a few steps that I’ve followed when building out my human brand strategy and online presence.  Please, take what you can and use it.  Modify it and make it better.  And most importantly, please teach others whenever and however you can.

 Sound fair?  Cool.  Here we go… 

Part I: Know Thyself & Build a Strategy 

When I was establishing the foundation of my human brand, I spent some time reviewing what makes me me tick. One of the tools I used was developed by Katherine Cooks Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Meyers, just after WWII.   

Widely respected by most psychology gurus, this assessment tool asks a series of questions designed to classify an individual’s personality into one of 16 different types, using a combination of four pairs of “dichotomies” – introversion and extroversion, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling, judging and perceiving.  You can take the assessment for free here

Next, take what you’ve learned and try conducting a self SWOT analysis so you can outline your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats.  This is an age-old marketing technique looks both internal factors (like personality types) and external factors (like your competitive environment). 

Try writing this SWOT out in a personal journal.  In fact, get used to writing in it and then make a point to jot down a few lines every day after that.  This journal is for you and you only and can be very powerful in terms of your own self-analysis. 

When we humans write things down, they become real and we can begin to take ownership over our ideas.  Keeping a personal daily record of your activities will help you track your progression as a person and professional. 

Here’s one last important thing to write down.  My friend and mentor, Artie Isaac, once had me write a list of non-negotiables.  These are the things that you simply just cannot, and will not live without.  Maybe you can only work a certain number of hours per week due to responsibilities as a sibling or parent.  Maybe your non-negotiables have something to do with your finances, or politics or religion. 

Whatever they are, recognizing what you won’t sacrifice is sometimes more important than realizing what you will.  Once you have that figured out, you can being to see which rules you can bend, which rules you can break, and which rules you need in place to make sure you can play the game at all. 

Does this process work for you so far?  Have you discovered anything about yourself that you can apply in a brand strategy?