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Quick MARCOM 2009 Debrief

It has already been almost 3 weeks since MARCOM 2009 took place at the Pearson Convention Centre in Toronto. Surely enough, the last 3 weeks have been so busy that I never got a chance to share my experience with you. Here’s a quick summary.

What is MARCOM 2009?

Basically the only marketing conference that is dedicated solely to marketing professionals working in the public and/or non-profit sectors. It is run by a sister company of CEPSM (our organization) called CMG Canada.

Why did I attend?

Besides the fact that I was chosen to speak and thus had to attend, I really love how niche of a conference MARCOM is and how much subsequent value I always receive. Most importantly however, I love surrounding myself with people that are passionate towards their jobs. The vast majority of private sector marketing conferences are about marketing product/service “X” whereas MARCOM brings together people that use marketing to improve such initiatives as classroom literacy,  public transportation,  spousal abuse, foreign credential recognition, etc…

What did I think of the speakers?

This year the line-up of speakers was outstanding. I was able to attend the following:

Arlene Dickinson (Venture Communications/Dragon’s Den) –> How can not-for-profit and public sector marketing get the respect it deserves?

  • Brilliant marketing mind
  • Emphasized “strategy before tactics”, which is what I live by.

Michael Cleland (City of Mississauga) & Rupen Seonie (Environics Analytics) –> Moving beyond demographics to psychographic segmentation

  • If you’re a marketer and you haven’t heard of PRISM C2 yet, get on it. It’s the most comprehensive segmentation of the Canadian population, period.
  • If you have a database of your target audience (with postal codes), then you can overlay the PRISM C2 clusters and find out crucial psychographic info.

Wayne Carrigan (ThinData) & Jim Jeang (Canadian Blood Services) –> Email and social media: natural allies

  • While I was skeptical at first as to what social media has to do with email, I did end up enjoying this presentation due to Wayne’s thorough knowledge of the email industry.
  • Jim spoke to the “tactical” side of social media , focusing on the tools he used within CBS as opposed to more strategic elements I like to hear (i.e. determining the best ways to meet objectives and desired outcomes before jumping into tactics). That being said, it is always refreshing to hear about social media initiatives within government that have actually been implemented. I will be adding this to the Gov 2.0 Wiki for sure.
  • Overall, both speakers were well prepared and placed a strong emphasis on measurement, which is always a good thing.
  • Some interesting stats:
    • On average Canadians receive 130 pieces of SPAM per week
    • 2005–> mass email deployments
    • 2006–> email versions deployed to specific segments
    • 2008–> 1:1 dynamic deployment
    • Great CBS initiative:

Rahaf Harfoush (Obama New Media Team/World Economic Forum) –> Yes we did: Strategic insights from the campaign that changed history

  • Rahaf gave a brilliant behind the scenes overview as to day to day life at Obama campaign headquarters and the many all-nighters that lead to such a tremendous victory.
  • Be sure to check out the Barack Obama and White House websites.

Louise Clements (Facebook) –> Facing Facebook today: How to use Facebook to stay ahead of the game

  • Louise has an extensive private-sector background in sales and has just been recruited by Facebook to lead the  Toronto office. She gave an excellent overview of the re-vamped Facebook social advertising platform (adverts), which to my surprise, few people even knew existed.

Brian Thwaits (Brainspeaker Inc.) –> Engage your brain!

  • I highly recommend Brian’s new book, “The Big Learn” ,to anyone interested in the latest theories and studies surrounding left vs. right brain thinking. Great closing keynote!

Overall thoughts

Besides listening to speakers, I very much enjoyed presenting myself. I conducted a full-day “social media 101” pre-conference workshop followed by a more advanced “social media research tools” presentation during the actual conference. For the latter, I paired up with Nick Charney from CPS Renewal who did a wonderful job tying everything in to a government work environment. I also had a chance to host two roundtable discussions, one on “government 3.0” and one on “attaining senior management buy-in for social media engagement”. Both turned into rich discussions during which I learned quite a bit myself.

To sum up, I will definitely be coming back next year.

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  1. Lisa


    First off, thanks for posting about MARCOM. I hadn’t heard of it before (probably because it was always in Ottawa). I enjoyed the conference, but while we attended many of the same sessions, my perspective is quite different.

    I found the two keynotes & the Facebook session to be interesting, but basically traditional conference fodder. They weren’t focussed on the gov’t/not-for-profit world which, as you rightly point out, is MARCOM’s USP.

    But I loved Jim’s presentation (from CBS). While the email portion of the session was interesting, Wayne used corporate examples which were irrelevant to my world. The CBS portion was a case study that actually made much of the theory real. Instead of talking about grand concepts, it showed how a not-for-profit is actually doing it and succeeding. How they handled risk, how they tackled legal, how they managed interactivity – those are my problems, and he spoke directly to them.

    Likewise, the Environics/City of Mississauga also took a concept and made it real.

    IMHO, there’s too much theoretical discussion about social media – I get why we should be there; I get that it’s a tactic that must link to your strategy; the problem is HOW to do it in a risk-adverse environment. I have several communications plans that include social media tactics (one of many tactics). But I have to preface it with “explore” because we haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

    Case studies make it easier to see how, and to bring an example back to the office to say “they’re doing it, why can’t we”?

    All in all, a worthwhile conference. But if your team is part of the planning process, I’d recommend less theory and more “real life” examples from our world, not the corporate world.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. Lisa

    Bah – that should be “risk-averse” not adverse!

  3. Hey Lisa, great observations. Unfortunately , I’m not on the planning committee but have made similar suggestions to the organizer in the past. Relevancy is essential and sometimes the problem with big name keynotes is that they have a hard time tying in their examples to such a specific niche that they aren’t actually a part of. That being said, the purpose of keynotes is to inspire and emphasize more strategic elements, whereas the conference sessions are supposed to be more practical. Did you have a chance to attend my social media tools presentation? or my workshop? I focus only on government and non profits…never use private sector examples.

    Be sure to fill out the marcom feedback survey (I sent mine in last week). I think your comments will be extremely valuable.

  4. I have attended the previous two MARCOM sessions in Ottawa, but didn’t get to make it out this year in TO.

    My favourite part about MARCOM is that CEPSM is one of the few companies out there trying to shift the public sector into social media. As for Lisa’s comment above, unfortunately the reason why there are is too much theoretical discussion about social media and not enough tactical, is that in most public sector environments there is a certain amount of education that needs to happen first.

    Lisa, you are ahead of the game. We need everyone else to catch up. But they’re getting there.

    I hope the conference went smoothly.

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