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Mack the Flack

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

The Last Mack, Maybe

May 6th, 2015

Grief is both intensely personal and necessarily public. We grapple with it internally as we move through the public ceremony of the service, ceremony, and farewell/celebration reception.

For Mack the public stuff is done. Now it’s time to work through the private stuff. Part of this process is to give the Mack blog a rest after more than 4 years.

Mack has enjoyed the ride, and he has a feeling he will be back.

The take away – Don’t let too much time go by before you call someone you haven’t seen for awhile, someone you care about, someone you love and say “Hey, I was thinking of you. How are you doing?”

PR Is Winning the War

March 23rd, 2015

Mack has lived long enough to perhaps see the end of the war for supremacy between PR and Journalism. PR seems to be winning. There are more of them, they are better paid and the digital age has delivered a means of message control without the media filter.

Today there are 4.6 PR specialists for every journalist in the US and the gap is growing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Journalism numbers are expected to shrink as the PR profession grows 22.5% by 2020.

The average journalist now earns 65% of the average PR agent. PR is the profession of choice of 65% of students in North American journalism schools.

The take away – Journalists are still important, they just need to figure out their place in the New Media world.

Binge Watching and the Digital Divide

March 9th, 2015

Mack spent the recent weekend binge watching the third season of House of Cards. He loves the “watch what you want, when you want” world of digital programming.

A few days later, dropping his daughter’s overdue book at the main branch of Vancouver’s public library he realized the intersection of Hamilton and West Georgia is the perfect symbol of today’s digital divide.

• Public libraries are struggling with a post print reality

• Vancouver’s main Post office will soon close as mail becomes irrelevant to many people

• The often empty Vancouver Playhouse is a victim of digital entertainment

• Poor CBC, broke and facing yet more layoffs, circles the drain as viewers turn the channel to watch hockey or just turn off

The take away – It’s a connected world – but only if you’re connected.

Digital Killers and Cookies

February 18th, 2015

Digital media is killing off traditional TV in North America.

According to the latest Nielsen ratings, U.S. TV viewership fell by 12% in January 2015, the eighth consecutive double-digit drop.

Viewing of Internet video has increased on both sides of the border (60% in the last year in the US) as consumers select their content via on-demand streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple and Shomi.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Girl Scouts (Girl Guides in Canada) will launch a “digital cookie” online sales platform for its boxed cookies. It’s a big step for the organization, which sold its first box of colourful cookies back in 1917.

The take away? In the digital world, the consumer’s “on-demand” rules.

A World Without Newspapers

February 5th, 2015

Mack just watched a documentary film, Humans Need Not Apply, which predicts that 45% of the world’s workers will eventually be replaced by technology that already exists today.

This dramatic forecast is a grim reality for print journalists as the newspaper industry spirals downward.

Postmedia, the company that owns the Vancouver Sun and Province, saw its 2014 revenues drop $224 million lower than three years ago, representing a 25% decline.

Meanwhile traditional journalism programs at universities and colleges are restructuring, shrinking or even closing due to lack of enrolment.

But brand journalism – snappy journalistically-writing branded content that pulls in page views for everything from toothpaste to environmental causes – has created a new and growing market for new media journalism.

The take away – it’s not all bad news for journalism, but the skills have changed.

Horse, Gate, Bolted, Close

January 26th, 2015

Here we are a new year and yet another controversy at the scandal-prone CBC. The public broadcaster has announced that on-air journalists and hosts are barred from taking cash for appearances, speeches and other “paid outside activities”.

The policy follows a series of reports that CBC’s senior business correspondent Amanda Lang was paid to speak at events sponsored by RBC, ManuLife and Sun Life.  Lang was also alleged to have tried to interfere in a story about RBC’s use of temporary foreign workers.

For its part CBC bosses say the “no cash for outside activities” policy had nothing to do with the recent allegations.

The take away – CBC’s decision to shut the door to its outside pay for its journalists reminds Mack of the old saying “closing the gate after the horse has bolted” – a little late and pointless.

North Pole Bullies

December 17th, 2014

Half a century ago this week, a children’s Christmas cartoon debuted across North America. The 1964 show told the story of a genetically disabled hero who, after suffering years of verbal and physical abuse by his peers, leaves his northern village in search of acceptance.

Arthur Rankin Jr., the man who created the stop-motion “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” one of TV’s longest running annual specials, died at the age of 89 earlier this year.

Created by Americans, filmed in Japan and full of Canadian voices, the classic tale of how Rudolph overcomes social rejection to heroically save Christmas with his luminous red nose and how misfit toys are accepted and loved by children is one of Mack’s favourite Christmas stories.

The take away? Have a very politically incorrect Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Smartphones Are Tools—Not Weapons

December 3rd, 2014

Smartphones are everywhere. Mack, who frequently has to dodge inattentive smartphones users on sidewalks, often considers them a pain in the neck.

They might be even worse than Mack thought. According to a study by New York spinal surgeon Kenneth Hansraj, using a smartphone flexes your head and shoulders forward, dramatically increasing the force on your spine.

People who spend two to four hours a day hunched over their phones put excessive stress on their spine, which can lead to “wear, tear, degeneration and possibly surgery,” says Dr. Hansraj.


It gets worse: Smartphones can also destroy your career.

Elizabeth Lauten, a US Republican communications director, was forced to resign this week following the backlash to her criticism of President Obama’s daughters at a US Thanksgiving event.

Lauten used her phone to cyber bully Malia, 16 and Sasha, 13 with her comment that the teenage girls should “dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar.”

The takeaway? Smartphones are tools—not weapons. Be careful how you use them.

Social Media Speed Kills

November 24th, 2014

It was a month ago today that Jian Ghomeshi hosted his last uber-popular CBC radio show Q with Jian Ghomeshi. In less than 30 days, he went from Canada’s “creative class” golden boy to just another loathsome creep after more than a dozen women came forward accusing him of violence and sexual assault. It seems Ghomeshi used his public fame to literally hit on fawning, much younger women.

After being turfed by the CBC, Ghomeshi turned to Facebook to argue for his sexual “human rights.”

For a few days, playing the victim worked. Supporters, including federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, jumped on social media to defend Canada’s politically correct media star. But as the accusations snowballed, these BFFs fled, stunned by the social media backlash to their misguided support.

Fired by the CBC and his PR firm, agent, publicist, and music client, Ghomeshi has lost his lucrative speaking, special event MC and publishing gigs and is in hiding in either LA or Ontario’s cottage country, according to reports.

The takeaway? With social media, being first isn’t the same as being right. Think before you “send.”

Modern Social Media Manners

October 29th, 2014

The latest version of Debrett’s—the long trusted source of British manners and deportment—is now available online. Pity it doesn’t cover 21st-century conundrums such as when to tweet (or not).

Such social media etiquette advice may have saved a couple of dumb dudes their jobs recently.

Vandon Gene, a Sun News Network reporter, got fired last week after a Twitter spat with none other than CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Gene wanted Cooper to take a selfie of them at Ottawa’s National War Memorial during a break in covering the shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

On Twitter, Cooper wrote, “Dude, you were rude and asking for a selfie where a soldier was killed. It was completely inappropriate. Think about it.”

Ted Bishop, president of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA), was sacked after he called a British golfer “a little girl” on Twitter for criticizing a tournament.

Later, the ex-president called his statement “unacceptable.”

“This is a classic example of poor use of social media on my part,” he added.

Mack agrees.