PD Event Recap: Ask Me Anything with Sherrilynne Starkie

By Sherrilynne Starkie
What’s the recipe for the White House beer? What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics? How do you balance family life and hobbies with your job? Barack Obama answered these questions when he invited people to ‘Ask Me Anything’ during the run up to the last election.
One of the most popular social networks that many people have probably never heard of is reddit. Members submit comments and links and then users vote these submissions up or down; the most popular content is given prominence on the site. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits” and one of the most popular of these is IAMa. Here users can prompt others to ask questions about any topic. Many very high profile people have taken part such as Madonna and Chris Hadfield (while in orbit!) and Snoop Dogg as well as Obama.
It was the popularity and intimacy of the format that inspired IABC Ottawa (International Association of Business Communicators’ Ottawa chapter) where I invited senior communicators to Ask Me Anything about social media.
The AMA was a response to a need voiced by senior communicators who had taken part in a recent focus group. The discussion revealed that participants struggle with demands of fast-moving information cycles. They wanted to better understand the strategic implications of trends. Borrowing the AMA format for an in-person event proved to be an excellent solution!
The first ever senior communicator AMA took place on the heels of SXSWi so I opened the discussion with a report on what I had learned and who I’d met at the conference. I also shared a few tales about a couple of the recent social media campaigns I’ve been working on. That got the ball rolling and the next two hours were spent fielding rapid-fire questions about all aspects of social media, examples included:


  • Q. What are the best resources to keep on top of social media trends? (A. Mashable, Social Media Examiner, the Hobson and Holtz Report and Inside PR).
  • Q. How do you evaluate social media success? (A. Depends on the overall objectives. Did sales increase? Were votes cast? Did people visit the website?)
  • Q. What are the best analytics tools? (A. The market is getting crowded with new tools and software solutions coming out all the time. I like 76insights, Sysomos, Hootsuite and Simply Measured.)
  • Q. How do you make analytics meaningful for the C-suite? (A. Phew! I could do a whole-day seminar on that one, but the best advice is to use those metrics that matter—so not the number of hits and likes, instead tie performance to revenues, costs, or whatever matters to the CEO.)

The cool part of holding an in person AMA is that the senior communicators really enjoyed the opportunity to be among their peers and have quality conversations about their own work and challenges. The intimacy of the group made everyone feel relaxed and safe in asking questions and sharing.
It fit the trend of blending face-to-face (f2f) and digital communications to build and nurture professional relationships. The group agreed that the more digitalised communications become, the more f2f interaction is needed, to ensure messaging stays clear and memorable.

Sherrilynne Starkie is Vice President of Content Marketing at Thornley Fallis Communications. She volunteers as IABC Ottawa’s Vice President of Leadership Development and is a volunteer member of the United Way Ottawa Campaign Cabinet. Follow her on Twitter @sherrilynne.

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