March 15, 2016

Spring is here! How did we get through the winter? Well, it helps to be one degree of separation away from Obama, as his office’s previous communications director joined GoFundMe, for whom Yulu is the Canadian PR agency for.

We also made like a hedgehog. To explain a bit, in Good to Great (a Yulu bookshelf staple), one chapter talks about being a “hedgehog,” which is fantastic at one thing, which is rolling up into a protective ball at the first hint of danger. Despite not having any other weapons at its disposal, it manages to deter predators and enemies simply by being able to do this one thing really well. The book makes the comparison to businesses, that a business should find the one thing it can do best in this world and keep doing that.

As a PR agency, we often find ourselves at the crossroads of taking on a client that’s nothing short of exciting (like a dating app, to which we have tried to convince ourselves, but helping people find love has great social benefits!), but doesn’t fit into our “socially innovative” hedgehog. Or we’re confronted with the changing reality of the communications and media landscape, and the seven million creative skills we could then hire for and offer alongside media relations.

That being said, there’s a difference between a hedgehog and a fossil. We’ve welcomed a new managing director, Clare Hamilton-Eddy. We’ve also signed on great new relationships with Andrew and Dan, the illustrator/videographer and copywriter duo who shares our office space, who are giving Yulu’s creative edge a quirky hairstyle and punchy tweets. Here’s a couple of quick sketches and illustrations from Andrew, who did all the colouring in the second picture on a smartphone.

Gastown By Andrew Hogan

We put ourselves out there. To make connections, be a connector. People are busy and burned out by organizing, so even for a small operation like ourselves, it makes sense to have a community cultivator working in tandem with business development. We know Yulu has something great to offer, we just have to get people through the doors to see us. As it turns out, that’s what we do best.

We’ve hosted an influencer meetup connecting brand managers from Lush, Herschel and Whistler Blackcomb with lifestyle influencers and bloggers, like Elaine Rystead of LocalWanderer for a candid conversation about what it would take to work well with each other, touching on topics generally taboo or tiptoed around in the industry, like pay-for-play.

Coffee and muffins have brought our building neighbours through the doors, and as a result we’ve gotten to connect more deeply with Koho and SES Consulting, while we’ve also been hard at work supporting the BLD B Corporation conference in May (If you’re a fellow B Corp reading this, did you get your ticket yet?)

We pitched people, not products. A daily mantra repeated in the Yulu offices is, “Pitch a story, not a product.” That then begs the question – what makes a story and how do we uncover these elements from the people we’re working with? A story is comprised of characters, people, players, forces that may be opposing, parallel or simply from entropy. Very often, our clients are focused on their products (for good reason, it’s their baby) that they forget they are the key element to the story. The media want to hear about vision, process, rationale and impact, not features, media or deals. The media is not the reader, and need to be sold on an exciting idea to devote the time to write about it. The facts will simply follow the vision.

This is an ongoing lesson for any creative agency, to find better questions to ask, ways to build trust and friendliness with another company, and to know that we’re working to find the best story they’re comfortable telling, not just looking for something sensationalist. Nor are we here to put a spin on things, but we do always look for a way to use storytelling as a positive force in driving the way we do business (with facts, figures and statistics to show for it).

When we pitched a documentary shorts series featuring solutions to homelessness, we realized the importance of sharing the creative director’s vision, rather than the films themselves. The films were the medium, where the message was the key players and their visions. Sorry, McLuhan.

What’s coming in Q2:

To do all three things, we’ve made many tough decisions to protect our time and integrity, while still keeping ourselves fresh and remaining transparent in communicating that balance. As it stands, we’re a lean team, but we’ve also found it completely possible to work in the social innovation and social justice field, while still having our worth met. We represent, to start:

  • B Lab, the nonprofit behind the B Corporation certification
  • A wealth management firm leading the fossil-free investing movement, continuing down our path of socially responsible investing storytelling
  • An medical organization of General Practitioners who actively acknowledge that there are imminent improvements to be made, and consistently seek to increase medical systems efficiencies.
  • GoFundMe, to get the word out about people raising money, usually to help get their lives back to baseline after a tragedy, emergency or otherwise, unavoidable circumstance.
  • Hawkers Wharf, an open-air market opening this year on the North Shore that’s keeping rents low for restauranteurs by putting them up in decked out shipping containers.