Gave keynote speech at the Golden Horseshoe IABC AGM

Last night, I was honoured to give the keynote address to the Annual General Meeting of the International Association of Business Communicators on the topic of “Communications 2.0: How social media has changed the way we do our jobs.”It was a great night, full of lively and productive discussion.

After a delicious barbecue which featured one of my favourite things in the world: corn on the cob, I took the podium and spoke about how social media is affecting the practice of professional communication and how it is offering an opportunity for professional communicators to take their seat at the senior management table.

In the very lively ensuing conversation, we talked a lot about how professional communicators can take hold of the social media function in their organizations and use it to justify communications as a core management function. Social media is a whole organization function that impacts each of the brand, reputation and relationships of an organization. The challenge faced by many organizations is twofold:

  • How apply the principles of strategic management to social media management;
  • How to create necessary and sufficient KPIs, benchmarks and metrics accurately measure the cost, impact and return on investment
  • How to set up a measurement program for your organization on a small budget
We discussed these ideas in detail. I discussed two quick case studies on organizations using and monetizing social media effectively. I had some suggestions about how to achieve these three goals. We had to cut the discussion off after an hour. After that I stayed on and chatted with attendees for another hour.
What a great night. A big thank you to Robert Plant and Victoria Miecznikowski for inviting me to speak and coordinating my participation in the event. Finally, a big thank you to wonderfully articulate audience – interacting with you was an absolute pleasure. I look forward to our next occasion to connect and share best practices and strategies.
Dr. Alex Sévigny addressing the IABC AGM (Photo: Krista Bennett)
The crowd at the IABC AGM listening to Dr. Alex Sévigny (photo: Krista Bennett)

Gave a talk on social media metrics at #OHASM11

Today I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon at the Ontario Hospital Association Social Media Conference at the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto.

What a great group of communications leaders. There were a couple of speakers before me. Lee Aase from the Mayo Clinic Centre for Social Media, gave a great workshop on a sequence of case studies of physician engagement and media relations that his team has used social media for: very impressive. After that, Manuel Gitterman from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health gave a fascinating talk – using a well-conceived prezi – on the ways in which CAMH is engaging with social media. I was particularly impressed with their experiments in serious gaming and their use of Google Maps. Very progressive.

Needless to say, these were hard acts to follow.

I presented on how social media measurement is a part of institutional “social media hygiene,” that is to say that measurement should be a part of every social media communication strategy. I also talked about how many of the assumptions that corporate and institutional communicators have made are changing with social media: we are moving quickly to an oral culture. This move to an oral culture means that we need to develop metrics, KPIs and benchmarks that make sense for professional communicators and showcase the value of the practice to executives and institutional decision-makers.

You can check out the tweets during and about my presentation here. To follow the conference tweets in general, do a twitter search for #ohasm10 which is the conference hashtag. I kept my tweet deck live tweets going during the presentation, so the talk had an interactive component – lots of fun!

It was super to see two of our McMaster Master of Communications Management Program (MCM) students present: Cheryl Evans from Grand River Hospital in Kitchener-Waterloo and Anne Marie Males from the Scarborough Hospital.

It was great to go out for drinks afterward and continue the discussion. What a great event – hats off to the Ontario Hospital Association!

Giving a social media metrics talk at #OHASM11 Photo: @CarlosRizo



A Big Day: Visit to Cormex Research & PR/Social Media Talk

Today was an eventful day. First, I taught my French semantics class this morning. Then I got a little work done in my office until the COMM-Lab managers, Shelagh Hartford and Arun Jacob, joined me in my office and we drove in to Toronto to have a research visit with our lab industry partner, Cormex Research. At Cormex we met with Andrew Laing, the president, and Christophe his chief software engineer, who is our liaison on the QPMAP project. We had a great meeting, and then we drove back. The conversation in the car on the way back was really great.

When I got back, I spent a little time in the student centre having a Jamaican beef patty and revising my powerpoint for the presentation I had prepared for Heather Pullen’s Crisis Communications course in the Centre for Continuing Education at McMaster. Heather is Manager of Public and Media Relations for Hamilton Health Sciences and was part of the inaugural class in the Master of Communications Management. She is running a great course! Her students are really fortunate to have her as their professor. My presentation was on “Social Media: Building Publics and Measuring Attitudes.” It went very well – in fact they had so many questions and we had such great discussion that the session went overtime! We spoke about how to deal with crises using social media technologies and ran through a number of examples. It was a valuable night for all.

Then I went home and watched an episode of Magnum P.I.

Gave a lecture on “Social Media & Christianity” at Ernescliff College (Toronto)

Last night I gave a guest lecture at Ernescliff College, a residence and community for men in Toronto. It’s run by the Opus Dei, a Catholic lay apostolate (evangelical organisation) started by St. Josemaria Escriva. I had never had any experience with the Opus Dei – the only Catholic lay apostolate that I have been involved with is the Cursillo Movement.

It was a bad night for driving, so it took me over 90 minutes to get into Toronto from Hamilton, so I got there a little late – they had already begun their period of daily meditation and prayer, to which they had invited me. I slipped into the room a little late and was treated to a very thoughtful meditation on the unity of Christian churches from Father Cris Graas, Ernescliff’s chaplain. After that we had dinner and conversation about the good works that Ernescliff’s students are doing in the world. During dinner, I conversed with Anthony Schratz, Ernescliff’s director, and assistant director, Chuma Chukwulozie and learned of their youth program, how daily life works at Ernescliff – all in all, how these dedicated, kind people were having an hopeful impact on Toronto’s youth.

Once dinner was done, I gave my talk, on “Social Media: An Opportunity for Christian Evangelism or A Pitfall?” It was an exploration of the relationship of social media to Christian practice. Also, the “re-presentational” nature of social media poses a serious possibility for people to lose their humanity in the haze of images, videos, stories and status updates that make up the flickering shadows of the world of on-line communication. I talked about how social media, like Christianity, is about storytelling – but how this can be a place to lose yourself as well.

After the talk, we had a long question period and a very lively discussion. Many of the people in attendance brought up great examples from popular culture, YouTube, philosophy and scripture. It was a very savvy crowd. After that, they gave me a very generous thank you gift – a beautiful bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape, and I drove home, full of thoughts.

I thought about how having an orderly, principled life is so important to feeling like a whole person. I thought about how living in a warm community, where you know the others around you have willingly accepted a set of principles breeds a feeling of trust and ease that is hard to replicate. I thought about how daily, structured learning, meditation and prayer in community gives life depth and texture. We live such lonely, secular, individualistic lives – it feels almost strange to feel the support and invitation of community where you are accepted and asked to participate and strive to grow and improve yourself. I wonder if this sense of a structured “community of learning” where people eat, read, meditate, discuss and live together is somehow necessary to a full college or university experience. Something to ponder…

All in all – a wonderful evening. Many thanks to the folks at Ernescliff College for inviting me and listening to my talk.

Gave guest lecture at the Canadian International Council (CIC-Hamilton) on Wikileaks.

I just got home after a wonderful evening that blended all the things I like: politics, public affairs, government, food and fascinating people who wanted to talk. I spoke on the topic of “Wikileaks: Has government communication changed forever?”

I was speaking to the Hamilton Chapter of the Canadian International Council.

I was amazed to see that we had an overflow crowd with people standing. I spoke on what I think Wikileaks has done: served as a harbinger of change, a harbinger of a new society that is just around the corner. A society of the panopticon, a society of surveillance. I described how Canadian government communications works: that we have a relatively secretive polity, and that we would have less exposure should a wikileaks-style disclosure happen here.

After I finished talking, we had over an hour of questions and comments! It was amazing. People didn’t want to stop or to leave. Truly inspiring crowd.

Afterward, I went to dinner with the organisers, Tatiana, a McMaster science student and Dwayne Ali, a McMaster Multimedia alumni from my Department. We all enjoyed a very tasty dinner at Indian Garden on Main St. near the uni. Great conversation too – we closed the joint!

All in all, it was a wonderful evening. My heartfelt thanks to CIC-Hamilton for inviting me and affording me the opportunity to share my thoughts on government communication with such a great crowd.

It’s nights like this that make me very thankful to have the privilege of being a professor.

“TOO RUDE?” political civility panel a great success!

A note I sent to the people who participated in “TOO RUDE?” …
Dear Friends,

I thought that I would write to you and tell you what a great success TOO RUDE? was.

According the Hamilton Spectator’s write-up we had 150 people in attendance on Nov 10, 2010. We also made the front page of The Silhouette with a great pic above the fold. David Koots, a member of our COMM-Lab, wrote a great article before the event, situating its importance to students and politics.

Dean of Humanities Dr Suzanne Crosta gave thoughtful, humanistic opening remarks, and then the Hon Michael Chong discussed his proposals for a more civil politics, anchored in reform of parliamentary procedure.

The panelists all spoke candidly and passionately. Hon Carolyn Bennett and Mr David Christopherson spoke openly and candidly about their experiences in the House of Commons and tried to work toward a definition of civility. They were constructively critical of Mr. Chong’s proposals.

Our own MSU president, Mary Koziol spoke eloquently and passionately about the importance of political civility for student engagement and participation.

Dr Philip Savage presented the results of an empirical content analysis of Question Period that we have been running in the COMM-Lab: McMaster Communication Metrics Lab, of which I am the Executive Director.

The panel discussion was followed by some excellent questions from students, which the panelists spoke to very candidly and openly.

After the event closed, the MPs lingered for over 30 minutes, over coffee and cookies, chatting with students and giving interviews for a documentary that MacTV is making of the event.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who participated: the esteemed panelists for participating, Dean Crosta for her support, my student co-organisers, Doug Calderwood-Smith and Natalie St.Clair, and the whole team of over 20 volunteers. Finally I would like to thank our staff in the Dept of Communication Studies & Multimedia at McMaster for making sure that the logistics were perfect.

TOO RUDE? was a success. I look forward to organising more events that raise political awareness and engagement in the Hamilton community, especially among young people.


Dr Alex Sévigny
“TOO RUDE?” Event Coordinator and
Associate Professor of Communications
McMaster University

Gave a “Mac on the Road” Alumni Lecture on “Making Sense of Social Media”

I had a wonderful night giving a public lecture to a great audience at the Holiday Inn on Wyecroft Rd in Oakville. The lecture was in the “Mac on the Road” Alumni Lecture Series, so I knew some people in the crowd! What a pleasure to reconnect with people who were my students only a few years ago – it felt like a reunion among family members who haven’t seen one another for awhile. It was fantastic to make a bunch of new friends as well!

I spent most of the night talking about how social media is changing our social, professional and personal lives. I used some of Marshall McLuhan’s thinking to frame my arguments and then walked people through my insights on how social media is expanding and extending our personal and collective imaginations. I talked about how this is impacting our professional practices and how the line between physical reality and virtual reality is blurring. How virtual reality is just as important to many people as the physical reality in which they exist. I described what this means for business and how it’s changing journalism.

People were really into it. Some told me that they didn’t want it to end! What a wonderful compliment.

Afterward, we had a great question period that lasted 20 mins and then people lingered and chatted with me for another hour. What a great night. I truly enjoyed it.

If you missed this one, but would like to catch my next public lecture, it’s next Monday, November 8, from 7-8pm in the BMO Room at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga.

You can click here to sign up. I truly hope to see you there…

Lecturing to Mac Alumni on Social Media.