Public Relations made easy.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Musings of a PR pro - an interview with Martine Bordeleau

A bit of background on Martine Bordeleau, my PR pro:

As the Communications Manager for Radio-Canada (Manitoba and Saskatchewan), Martine is well-known in the Franco-Manitoban community. Although we had yet to meet and despite her busy schedule, she quickly accepted my request for an interview. Martine has had a diverse career, working in both agency and corporate PR as well as marketing. Her educational background is also varied: radio journalism and communications. For more details about her schooling and past experiences, have a peek at her Linkedin profile. 

With her easy smile and charming personality, it’s obvious for all to see that Martine Bordeleau loves her job. I sat down to chat with Martine on a blustery October morning in her office in St. Boniface.

Martine Bordeleau
Public relations - French style

With a title like Communications Manager, you’d think her tasks would revolve entirely around...well...communications. However, it’s a lot broader than just that; a large part of her day involves marketing. As she explains, “In reality, it’s hard to disassociate marketing from public relations”. And forget about nailing down a typical week. As she sees it, the only thing you can count on is the unexpected.

Write, right?

Martine stresses that strong writing skills are non-negotiable in communications and public relations. Even more importantly, in her position, it’s critical to be able to write well in both French and English.

She adds, “Obviously you need writing skills for everything you write, like press releases. What’s equally important is clarity in everything you write, whether it's for an individual or for a group. It must be done with diplomacy and politeness. You represent yourself and by extension your company, so it has to be professional.” 
She also warns that you have to be careful with anything you put out there because your career can be ruined in 140 characters. And while grammar is important, content will always be king.
Social media: a PR pro’s best friend.

Martine is a big fan of social media. It sets the stage for friendships. It's an important tool that allows companies to reach out to people that traditionally they wouldn't have had access to. You can widen your net by getting your followers’ friends to follow you. The trick, she explains, is to strike a balance between social interaction and content.

“You have to be very adaptable. Things have changed so much in the last few years. Plus, you have to vary your message according to what medium you're using. The language you use on Facebook will be different from emails or Twitter. You have got to target your market.”

How do you keep up with times?
Linkedin is probably her number one go-to website for social media. She likes groups like Canadian Women in Communications, although she admits to not following it all that much anymore. She adds, “There are times in your life when you need more of that kind of support. I’ve come to a point in my career where I don’t really need mentorship anymore.” She does however keep up with current events and case studies by following a few PR blogs.
If only I had known...psychology.

When asked what she wishes she had known, Martine admits she wishes she would have studied more about human psychology. Not the lie-down-on-the-couch kind of psychology, but rather to understand what motivates people. It’s an invaluable skill to recognize personality types and reading body language because then you know how to approach people. In Martine’s opinion, it’s a skill everybody should learn but it’s especially important in the communications field.

She also feels a guide on diplomacy would also have been very beneficial, kind of  like an Etiquette Guide for PR pros. She even knows what the first chapter in the book should be -  First impression: don’t screw it up.
Her proudest moment?
Martine loves to find partnerships and develop tailor-made communications plans. Earlier this year, she was able to get some mileage for a documentary for the French series Tout le monde en parlait, a documentary called La cloche de Batoche, produced by Radio-Canada. It was about the 1991 disappearance of a famous métis bell, originally taken as the spoils of war by English soldiers from the fields of Batoche in the late 1880s.

She was able to get all the stakeholders involved by having a pre-screening for  the public. It allowed them to get feedback – good or bad – for the project. Explains Martine, “We were even able to project the film it Batoche, on the field where the battle had taken place, in a barn, projected on a blanket. You could feel the history.”


Tips for newbies?

  1. Listen: it's probably the hardest thing to do. Martine explains that there’s this assumption that, as PR professionals, we should be talking all the time. However, listening is actually the most important thing. You need to listen, sit back, mull over the info you’ve been given and then come up with suggestions.
  2. Adaptability: in your relationships, even when you're working with someone you may not personally get along with, you have to be able to set that aside. You have to be able to deal with all  kinds of personality types and you have to be able to schmooze.
  3. Feu sacré: you better have it (translation: sacred fire). “You better be passionate about public relations because it’s a tough job.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pssst, Target, need some help??

Tactically speaking, I mean.

So, Target’s coming to town in 2013.  It got me thinking “does Target know how to target (pun intended) Winnipeggers?”

I have absolutely no doubt Target has a giant, well-oiled PR and Marketing machine. I don’t presume to know more than they do but I thought I would take a crack at it.

Winnipeg is like most other North American cities, with a two notable exceptions: 

We’re notoriously cheap. We shop the sale bin at the discount store.

We’re unfailingly generous.  We’re second only to Ontario when it comes to giving to charity. “Friendly Manitoba” aren't just words on our license plates!

The takeaway?  We’re nice and cheap. You know what I mean.

Knowing this, how does one win the heart and mind of a Winnipegger?


In a recent survey conducted by Bloomberg industries in August of 2012, Target has a 46 cent advantage over Wal-Mart by a whopping 0.46 points. In other words, $100 worth of Wal-Mart stuff would cost $99.54 at Target. A savings of 46 cents? Mind won.


Winnipeggers love a feel-good story and we love an underdog. How else would you explain the unfailing support of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers right up till the end of the 2012 season?

To win the hearts of Winnipeggers, Target has to promote the fact that they have a long history of supporting the communities where they do business. Since 1946, they've given 5 percent of their profits back to the communities as well as sharing their resources and volunteering. Heart won.

Target’s main challenge in Winnipeg will be to differentiate itself from Wal-Mart.

Sylvie Laurencelle-Vermette
First of all, I think Target could take a page out of Ikea’s playbook. A few weeks prior to their grand-opening in Winnipeg, Ikea mailed out a booklet to Manitobans. What was really interesting about this booklet was that this was not an advertising brochure but rather a “This is who we are, what we do, what we stand for” kind of document. I think Target would do well to emulate this tactic. It would be the perfect opportunity to talk about their Corporate Social Responsibility practices. In other words, let’s get to know each other first and see where this leads.

Next, use one of Malcolm Gladwell’s tactics: reach out to the mavens, connectors and influencers. At its very core, Winnipeg is still a small town. Everyone is connected on some level. Reach out to people like Ron Cantiveros, Ace Burbee, Elisha Dacey, Ian McCausland, Chris D. and Nadine Chappellaz. Get them involved. Have them tour the store while it’s being built. Let them take pictures. Give them some swag. They'll take things from there.

Send out those Press Releases. Tell the media what makes you tick and why you’re different. Go get some ink.

A contest is always effective in Winnipeg. Remember, Winnipeggers love a deal and a $500 shopping spree is as about as good as it gets.

Of course, social media is a must:  Facebook and Twitter. Do it up. Use them. Promote your contest, promote your Grand opening date, promote your brand names and create some buzz!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Following my last post discussing RESEARCH from the PR acronym R.A.C.E, this post will take a look at the letter A for ACTION.

So, PR professional, you’ve done your research. You're good to go, right? 

No! Wait! Stop! You’re not ready!

You need to figure out your plan of ACTION, my friend. By determining the best course of action, you can plan your response, and then implement these plans using your RESEARCH findings. What happens if you skip this step?

Surprise: a PR pro’s worst nightmare.

Good surprise – Your home city is trending on Twitter. Yay! Let’s take advantage of it by tweeting about our clothing line!
Bad surprise - Your home city is trending on Twitter because a mentally disturbed man went on a shooting spree, killing multiple people. Crank up the old damage control machine.

Of course, the example above was unfortunate but it was most-likely a one-off; it was an opportunistic tweet from an out of country employee who was too lazy  to check why "Aurora" was trending.

Let's have a look at a real "A" failure case study

The usually PR savvy team at McDonalds recently experienced a social media #McFail.

While attempting to capitalize on a the success of their #meetthefarmers campaign, McDonalds invited people in the twittersphere to share their McDonalds' stories by using the #McDstories hashtag. The result made for highly entertaining tweets, but probably not the kind they were looking for.
A well thought-out and carefully planned campaign could have avoided this backlash. Conducting a survey or sitting down with a focus group would most likely have shut down that tactic and saved McDonalds a lot of embarrassment. They rushed to capitalize on an opportunity, didn't follow the plan and paid the price. 

Lesson learned: don't forget the ACTION!