Sunday, October 9, 2011

Does Barb MacDonald work for Skate Canada or does Skate Canada work for Barb MacDonald?

This post is about priorities and focus. The first part is about how lazy Skatebuzz and Skate Canada appear to be when it comes to effectively promoting their skaters and following through on that promotion, how absent with giving shout outs to what sponsors they've got, and the next part is about how industriously Barb MacDonald uses Skate Canada to upsell Barb MacDonald.

Skatebuzz's coverage to date of Tessa and Scott's win in Finlandia. Love the quotes from Scott and Tessa! This piece creates excitement for a new season about to start and demonstrates Skate Canada's commitment to keeping us connected.

Skatebuzz's ad for the upcoming Skate Canada Grand Prix:
Oh, my bad. Now it's promoting the GPF in Quebec. I guess Skate Canada is sold out. No sense continuing to promote it - you might boost television ratings and get sponsors interested.

If I were a figure skater or figure skating parent with Skate Canada, I'd be getting pissed. I'll explain why further down.

Meantime - that very "now" Mahler photo in Skatebuzz's Finlandia report is rotating on Skatebuzz's front page with other very cool things like the thrilling HPC Backstage Pass and exciting photos of synchro teams.

(That "promotion" logo on Skatebuzz looks like adsense. Is it selling Zoloft or the GPF?)

Finlandia is only a senior B. But the Canadian Olympic medalists and 2010 World Champions competed for the first time this season, earlier than usual. Finnish fans and media provided tons of fresh on and off-ice photos that are winging round the web.
To dress up the post.
Photo source: @eelinpaas

As competitors, Virtue and Moir were cat-and-mouse last season. Now they appear early, with two programs already on near-full blast, Scott hinting they may even do Finlandia again next season. They seemed to be a hit with Finnish fans, so how about some reports on that - a little local color?

The programs appear to have gotten a fantastic reception and Virtue Moir compete at Skate Canada in a couple of weeks. Come see it! Or watch on television! It will be even better then!

Or, you know, check out our album of 44 Skate Canada logos.* You can do that too. Hey - did you see Barb's scrum?

It is just to wonder. At HPC, Barb kept us up to date on "what's been keeping me busy" via her twitter. She also devoted focus to retired figure skater Craig Buntin's wedding guests via two different platforms (icenetwork and above the crowd).**

At HPC, we got a lot of stage .... craft (is that really the word?) a ton of logo promotion and of course, a lot of Debbi/Barb sneaking their names and faces in.

(Skate Canada is soon, so heads up for sham sneaks, photo ops and profile pic rotation. They are ever on the job with that stuff.) 

Skate Canada didn't send the usual Skate Canada suspects to Finlandia. No Thompson. No Slipchuk. No Barb or Deb. Is that why such cursory coverage? It was only skaters!

They suck a lot.

I wonder about the priorities of the Skate Canada marketing infrastructure. If I were a Skate Canada skater or skating parent, I'd ask in whose interests Debbi and Barb are actually working.

As part of what appears to have been a recent "panel discussion" featuring Barb MacDonald, media-involvee Kelly Rusk uses the Olympics, Virtue/Moir and Joannie Rochette's dead mother to promote Barb MacDonald on twitter:

Per this twitter, the death of Joanne Rochette's mom credentialed Barb as a crisis communications consultant.  

Rusk's twitter enumerates the ways Joanne's loss of her mom showcased Barb MacDonald. 

On Joanne's behalf, Barb (or "Barb's team") had to turn down calls from Wayne Gretsky. And Celine Dion!

Joanne's mom and Virtue Moir's Olympic gold created media interest!


It's not your every figure skating press attache assigned to the Olympics who could handle such a trial by fire.

I hope someone invents the press release, because addressing all those thousands of unanticipated media requests during an Olympics could be overwhelming.

Barb was also able to tally normative Olympic figure skating media statistics and break them up into incremental units of Barb MacDonald promotional elements.

So, to the late Mrs. Rochette - thanks for the opportunity!

I feel as if Barb's expertise is in trying to create the impression there's a crisis that she can be seen to oversee, versus being effective in promoting Canadian figure skating during an economic down-turn and fall-off in public interest.

(And how are we defining crisis? Does a parent's death, though tragic, during an Olympics, constitute crisis? Is it really kosher to go using that to pad your resume? How about an HPC? Is that a crisis?)

It's also striking how here, Barb completely understands promotional synergistics - how A ties to B and how to integrate public relations platforms when it comes to promoting Barb MacDonald.

Yet I feel like before you start upselling, you should first produce for your primary employer. You don't land in a very cool job and leverage it while functioning half-assed and fake in the job itself.

Joannie Rochette's dead mom = Barb Opportunity.
Don't let this resume-enhancement opportunity go to waste.

"Barb has a rich background in
Olympic sports communications."

Hmm. She's been to one Olympics as a Skate Canada "press attache'" for figure skating, was not yet Director of Corporate Communications and was still working for One Way Ministries. What are the components of "rich" background? What, in particularity, are the levels of responsibility and time on the job that merit that designation?

Oh "levels of responsibility" is too broad. I'm just opening the door with that.

I think Barb should apply what communications experience she has towards promoting figure skaters, not converting figure skater family tragedies and what-every-press-attache' does tasks into a platform promoting Barb.

And Debbi spent more time sticking her mug on Skatebuzz last season at this time than Skatebuzz spent on Virtue and Moir this season at HPC and Finlandia.

No, a skating competition like Finlandia, with Scott and Tessa mingling in the audience, posing off-ice (gasp!), being charming, accessible and reducing onlookers to mush is not as exciting as watching Barb and Debbi meander in the background of canned interviews at HPC, or splicing together a fake scrum-centric HPC video clip. 

But girls. Get off your ass!

Finlandia feels like - eh - only one set of figure skaters were there and no officials. So what's in it for Barb and Debbi?

Over on icenetwork, they don't pretend this is a Grand Prix. But icenetwork did ask Evan Bates to write a blog. It's not icenetwork's fault Evan is a slacker (one entry last I checked). But when you go to his blog, there's a nice link to his and Madison's page, and a nice recent photo.

You know why this icenetwork blog feature and other outreach is good apart from getting the public interested in figure skaters and figure skating? It gives individual skaters publicity - even skaters who are not medaling at GPs and Worlds. This could - GOD FORBID - garner the individual skater a new sponsor or two. 

Skate Canada's skaters have no need of any of that. _________________________________________________ 

 *Shout out to anon on post below this commenting on this special Skatebuzz attraction.

Jessica Dube, Scott Moir

P.S. and OT:  One wonders if either Scott or Tessa plotzed for a moment when in the Finlandia press conference an interviewer refererenced the forbidden word: "facebook".  For a second, worlds collided like George Costanza's.

P.P.S.: I don't think Skate Canada's budget is an excuse. It doesn't look like the Russian Fed has a budget, or a marketing scheme apart from trying to tell us some of their ice dancers are in love just like Virtue/Moir. But their figure skaters are getting out there and creating buzz anyway. Volosozhar and Trankov have a blog they update regularly and they share colorful reports from each competition. They went to NYC for choreo and some dance training and uploaded their own photos. They shared what seemed to be a do-it-yourself photo shoot including some shots in what could have been a furniture store (there were price tags attached to stuff). So what? It's direct communication with fans, they didn't dwell on their personal lives, but we're getting to hang out with them as they prepare for and start their season. I bet Russian fans are getting interested.

Russia also has a slate of wunderkinds in its ladies divisions. Fans across message boards are spitting on their hands and flexing up for an upcoming Tara/Michelle/Sarah/Sasha-style nuclear throwdown, Russian style. Their coaches have talked, the girls talk -  it's very entertaining and informative and the girls are great skaters to boot.

No idea what Russia's logo looks like.


  1. This entry is a good example of why skaters like Tessa and Scott need to get outside management. Their interests are not being served nor will they ever be under the current Skate Canada leadership.

    The way SC is dropping the ball on behalf of the skaters, while still managing to promote themselves, is a disgrace.

  2. It's the weirdest thing to read all over the skating boards what a big hit V/M were in Finland and to have Skatebuzz give such a cursory mention of the Finlandia competition. Not a single photo from the event or like the blogger pointed out, any quotes from V/M themselves. V/M are Skate Canada's biggest stars - I hate to think what little regard SC must have for other skaters, who might not be on a podium this season.

    I agree that SC has propagandized the Scott-Jessica story instead of appropriately promoting this amazingly talented ice-dance team. I don't understand why V/M continue to allow SC to be involved in this personal stuff and seem oblivious to the very great incompetence of SC regarding their marketing.
    It baffles me.

    Oh, and these Barb twitter exchanges?
    It's absolutely disgusting. I have no respect for either Barb or Debbi.

  3. What comes across to me with all the Barb self-promotion is perhaps she is working towards finding another job. I know, highly improbable, but I can dream.

  4. V/M's FD performance from Finlandia Trophy was uploaded to youtube three days ago and it already has over 15,000 hits. People are flocking to look at this performance. Their skating is superb, even though it's incredibly early in the season. That's what people are drawn toward. The interest is there. Look at what they're doing on the ice!

    I seriously hate to resort to this pun regarding V/M, but it seems like their federation has the goose that lays the golden eggs in their possession but they're too interested in being seen with the goose or something, than they are in actually taking advantage of all the golden eggs can bring. Sponsors. New fans. Revenue. Ways to usher the sport forward and grow in popularity, niche as the sport may be.

    And that doesn't mean V/M have to spend countless hours being shepherded around to promotional events all over Canada. They can stay at their home base and train like they're supposed to be doing for much of the year. Public outreach that sells skating can be done in a variety of different ways. But outreach has to actually happen for potential growth to follow.

  5. ^^^Sorry, I meant their SD performance. Though I'm sure their FD performance is racking up the youtube hits as well.

  6. "But outreach has to actually happen for potential growth to follow."

    It's hard to do outreach when SC is focused on marketing V/M as "Are they/aren't they? They aren't! Come see and hear about Scott's girlfriend!"
    So Scott and Tessa have to stay hidden and this tends to kill the outreach possibilities. And when you add to that the SC egos that apparently can't have anything happening of any importance with any of their skaters unless they are personally right next to the skaters... It sounds like the perfect recipe for losing sponsors and public goodwill.

    Oh wait, they already did lose sponsors, and I personally don't see anything that promotes goodwill.

  7. thanks for the shout out Oy Canada, I appreciate how you've created a space to come and vent this stuff instead of keeping the wtf inside

  8. I really was expecting Skate Canada to do better coverage of the Finlandia Trophy, but this isn't at all surprising. They're always slacking, and it seems like they don't really give a shit. I wonder if they're even going to upload that Funny Face promotional shoot for TSN. Here's hoping we get HQ pictures.

    I agree that V/M don't have to be shipped to promotional events all over the country. Skate Canada should have just hired someone to make a V/M twitter and update it with stuff from V/M. At least the fans will get something.

  9. "What comes across to me with all the Barb self-promotion is perhaps she is working towards finding another job. I know, highly improbable, but I can dream."

    Even if Barb left SC, would that really change anything? Debbi seems to also be very involved in the promotion of Jessica/Scott and all that entails and is just as incompetent and ego-driven as Barb. It's all of Skate Canada's leadership that has created this atmosphere that is about themselves instead of what is best for the skaters and the Federation. The incompetence is across-the-board and I think even if one person left, like Barb, they would probably hire someone just as unqualified. For sure they aren't going to let someone come in and shake things up and lodge anyone from their comfortable, cushy position.

    It's such a shame for the skaters. They're the ones who pay.

  10. "I wonder if they're even going to upload that Funny Face promotional shoot for TSN. Here's hoping we get HQ pictures."

    Didn't they say they were saving the pictures for their Above the Crowd publication?

    In which case, I wouldn't expect either quantity or quality. Every other organization in the world posts everything immediately on their webpage and social media pages. Only Skate Canada is still in the dark ages, hoarding the few pictures they intend to publish and sharing them only through email and only to those who signed-up to receive this exclusive publication. Forget about openly sharing anything on the internet, that might bring in more fans. We can't have that!

  11. Those photos are going to be in "Above the Crowd"? One step above thumbnails?

    Incidentally, Scott's profile pic: many fans hoped/took for granted his current profile pic was a placeholder til he had Finlandia pics. He's drowning in Finlandia pictures. I wonder/would bet the current profile pic is up there for season's duration.

    Considering how important pictures are to fans - it's a mistake to minimize the importance and messaging of a profile picture - there's calculation by the skater and great interest from the fans. It's the one thing even Skate Canada doesn't underestimate.

  12. The TSN piece might run - it could be for its coverage of Skate Canada. I hope.

  13. (The TSN piece might run - it could be for its coverage of Skate Canada. I hope.)

    If it's something TSN is handling, it will probably be done right. The problem is when SC is in charge of any skater-promotion that things have a way of not turning out well.

  14. Scott strayed from the script a little when asked about spare time at Finlandia....any hope they're relaxing their pr plans or did he just forget that Finland has TV too?

  15. Scott may have strayed from the script but Tessa was right on it emphasizing they don't spend time off the ice. She gave the impression it doesn't happen at all except for golfing, which they do together, "oddly enough."

    Oddly enough? Whey did she need to say that?
    It's like she wanted to imply they never are together off-ice (contradicting other times when they talk about how much they really are together off-ice). To me it looks like they make things up as they go along - whatever fits the moment.