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Mack the Flack

Our blog, Mack the Flack, explores PR, journalism, and communications trends in the digital age

Breaking News – CEO Sleeps In

July 2nd, 2014

Just when Mack, a former journalist, thought the mostly middle-aged guys who run the world’s legacy media were aware it was the 21st century a variation of this headline appeared online, on air and in print:

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer oversleeps and

Is late for dinner with ad executives

That’s right. The woman who heads up one of the largest technology companies in the world slept in and it made international news.

Now ask yourself, is this news? Would it be news if the Yahoo CEO was male? Since when has ANY CEO sleeping in and missing a meeting been news?

Mack plans to sleep in many times as he takes some time off this summer. He will return after Labour Day.

Until then let’s hope the wise old media men find some real news to cover.

Taxi to Nowhere

June 17th, 2014

The taxi industry is getting kicked to the curb in more than 110 cities worldwide by the latest disruptive mobile technology — smartphone apps such as Uber and Lyft which provide low-cost online ride-sharing services that ignore the heavily-regulated and taxed taxi monopoly.

Worldwide reaction from shaken taxi companies and city governments has been swift and angry, but largely inconsequential. The online ride-sharing movement is moving faster than a New York taxi meter. Uber, the San Francisco-based leader in this disruptive new field, is currently valued at $18.2 billion US.

The Uber app allows people to arrange a ride with a few taps on their smartphone. The rider’s smartphone GPS locates the nearest ride and even tracks the ordered ride’s progress on the app’s real-time map.

Imagine, a world without yellow cabs.

The Boring Conference

June 9th, 2014

Summer is almost here, marking the official kick off of the conference season. Mack is heading to a conference in Halifax where he plans to learn new stuff, connect with interesting colleagues and eat too much lobster.

But all conferences carry a risk of getting stuck in a session with a mind-numbingly dull PowerPoint presentation.

This is a guarantee at the Boring Conference – a one-day celebration of the mundane, the ordinary and the overlooked, held in London last week.

According to founder James Ward, this year’s 4th annual Boring Conference featured 20 speakers giving 10 minute talks on everything from inkjet printers of 1999 and German film titles to cooking meals with equipment found in hotel bedrooms and a comparison of 198 national anthems.

James knows of which he speaks. Later this year he’s publishing a book called Adventures in Stationery.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

May 26th, 2014

Mack spent the May long weekend working on projects at his cabin in the mountains. One such job, replacing rotted stairs, required some careful measuring.

“Measure twice and cut once” is the old carpenter’s adage. Something the French National Railway, SNCF, should have heeded.

SNCF has ordered 2,000 new high-speed trains that are too big for 1,300 station platforms. The company’s failure to measure twice will cost more than $74 million: they need to modify 1/6 of all platforms across the country. At some stations, two new trains can’t pass each other on adjacent rails.

The rail operator failed to verify all platform measurements before it ordered the new trains.  They checked the dimensions of platforms built in the last 30 years, but not built more than 50 years ago.

In the digital age, a simple tape measure still has its uses.

Buying Staples in the Internet Age

May 12th, 2014

Doing business in the age of the Internet has created many opportunities. At the same time, it has shaken many legacy industries—from music to movies, publishing to photography, newspapers to real estate—to their cores.

The latest digital casualty is the office supplies sector. In Canada, Grand & Toy, recently bought out by OfficeMax, is to shut all 19 of its stores. In the U.S., Office Depot, which has merged with OfficeMax, has announced it will shut at least 400 of its stores by the end of 2016.

The closures are a response to a rapid shift in the purchasing habits of customers, most of whom do their buying online, rarely stepping inside a retail outlet.

Twitter Fail for the NYPD

April 28th, 2014

Twitter currently has 241 million users worldwide, and 77 per cent of the company’s users access the social media platform via its mobile app.

So, with such a huge mobile audience, it must have made sense to some at the New York Police Department (NYPD) to launch #myNYPD, a Twitter PR campaign that asked citizens to tweet photos of friendly interactions with NYPD.

Instead, many New Yorkers posted an angry stream of photos depicting police brutality, including violent take-downs and images of police shooting victims.

The NYPD, responding to media questions about the department’s social media outreach effort, declared the #myNYPD campaign successful.

Mack begs to differ. Social media can do wonders for brands, social causes, charities and communities. But it can also turn around and bite you as fast as an out-of-control police dog.

Hard Times for Old-School Journalism

April 22nd, 2014

Mack’s daughter is looking at life after high school. Mack wants her to keep her options open and get a good job.

He, as a former journalist and journalism school grad, had one piece of advice: Steer clear of any traditional journalism post-secondary programs.

Why would anyone go into old-school print, radio and TV journalism? Earlier this month, the CBC announced more than 650 layoffs over the next two years, many of them in news rooms. Last week the Toronto Star laid off all 11 full-time page editors, outsourcing the work to a third-party company.

Legacy journalism has been gutted by the Internet. Online ads have decimated traditional revenue and online news sources render old-school journalists irrelevant.

But the technology-pounding legacy journalism is creating a new media and digital journalism. Learning new media skills and becoming more entrepreneurial, digital journalists are finding jobs. Seems the Toronto Star is hiring eight new digital journalists.

First Impressions

April 7th, 2014

One of Canada’s spring rituals is that high school and university students across the country learn how to write a cover letter, a resume and how to prepare for job interviews.

The other day, Mack’s daughter, clutching her much-revised resume, cover letter and wearing one of her mother’s navy blue outfits, headed to class for her mock job interview. Apparently it went well.

But after years of interviewing applicants for jobs and training programs Mack has sat through some very bad interviews. Here’s how to make a good first impression:

• Be on time – a basic time management skill.
• Be prepared – it says you care.
• Be interested – it’s not all about you; ask questions.
• Be focused – keep to the point and fill in details if asked.
• Be clean – shower, shave, clean, shine, press and brush.

Deadly Digital Distractions

March 31st, 2014

Mack’s daughter can start driving this summer. It’s going to be a stressful summer. It’s not her new skill that worries him; it’s all the other distracted drivers.

This month the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) reported that distracted driving is the top cause of youth vehicle accidents. Over the past five years 34% of young drivers 16 – 21 years old involved in crashes resulting in injuries or deaths were distracted.

While young women were less likely than young men to be involved in a crash, when women were in an accident it was most often because they were distracted drivers, says ICBC.

On average 39 young people are killed and 7,100 are injured in vehicle accidents each year in BC. Increasingly the cause of the crashes is driving while texting, talking and being online.

35 Million Free Images (Lemur Selfie Included)

March 24th, 2014

Mack added “Selfie” to his laptop dictionary this afternoon after reading about a 12 year old lemur at the London zoo named Bekily who, grabbing a camera from a zoo keeper, snapped several photos, including a pretty good selfie.

The animal’s easy adoption of digital technology happened on the very same day the world’s largest photo agency, Getty Images, announced it would share more than 35 million images from its vast library for free.

Getty will now allow online, non-commercial, sharing of its news, sports, entertainment, archive and stock photos for personal and educational social media and blogging use.

According to the agency the decision is in response to widespread and copyright-flouting use of its images online.