Each week at Embrace Disruption we introduce you to an influential person in the digital, blogger, arts, culture, film, or media world! Every Thursday, you can check back at EDPR to find out who we think is particularly amazing at ‘embracing disruption’ within their respective industries. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Online Reputation Strategist, Tom Liacas!
What’s your official job title, and where did you go to school?
You can call me an Online Reputation Strategist. I’m a freelancer now, though previously I was Co-Founder and Chief Strategist at #engagementlabs.
I’m an M.A. graduate in Media Studies from Concordia University.
Elevator pitch. Describe yourself in a nutshell (or sea shell, or any shell for that matter).
I’m a senior social media strategist who first cut his teeth as a digital activist.
Innovating in the trenches with groups such as Indymedia and Adbusters in the 90s, I gained a deep understanding of what makes corporations and governments vulnerable to social media crisis and, conversely, how to adapt their communications to create productive exchanges with their stakeholders.
In my career so far, I have overseen the sale, design and management of millions of dollars’ worth of social media projects for clients in the Fortune 500, the resource and energy sectors.
I have also just published the #Social Survival Manifesto, an eBook that warns corporations about the risks of doing social media poorly or not at all. It is available for free download here:
Why did you pursue what you’re doing now? What was the inspiration?
I have always been passionate about social innovation and social change. For a long time, I worked with green and fair labour projects for little to no money. I definitely put in my time earning good karma. As corporate social media communications started to go mainstream, I saw an opportunity to work with larger clients without selling all my values down the river.
I sincerely believe that social media has hard-coded certain expectations and values into its culture that force corporations and institutions to behave more responsibly. I am more than happy to be the bridge between citizen and activist demands and corporations that need to maintain their reputation and a constructive dialogue with their stakeholders. This is essentially my sweet spot.
What is the best part of your day-to-day?
I love teaching and storytelling. When I get some time to myself to draft a strategy for a client or do a training session with a group, I’m at my best.
What’s the most challenging?
The most challenging part of my job is when strategies go ‘live’ and when I have to reaffirm the right way to do social and fend off backseat drivers. This kind of education is tricky because tensions run high when real interactions start to happen.
If you took a look in the cliché crystal ball, what do you see for yourself?
For the next while, I have a lot of skills-transferring to do. This means training and capacity building with new teams that want to build big budget Online Reputation campaigns. There is early talk of a book deal arising from my Manifesto and I am flirting with several agencies to see where I might fit best as a partner. Maybe I will feel like starting up my own social media outfit later but not for now.
How do you embrace disruption in your work and personal life?
My area of expertise, social media as applied to corporate reputation management, is disruptive in itself for most of my clients and event the PR firms I work with. I guess I am at ease being a disruption facilitator though I try to smooth the edges of these transitions for the uninitiated.
At home, my kids are pretty disruptive too and I continuously learn how to live with more and more chaos in my surroundings.
What is the most memorable moment in your career?
Convincing Canada’s oil and gas lobby to open up to questions and answers with the public through social media. Pioneering project, good budget and very hot topic. It was a colossal learning experience for me and my team!
Do you support any initiatives or charities?
I love crowdfunding and microcredit initiatives like Kiva.org. Everyone should give it a try. It’s easy to participate and you can keep tabs on your community investment and reinvest in others. It’s the best mix of gamification and global development and does not feel anything like a typical charity.
Tell us what you see yourself doing at 65 years old.
Writing from the woods somewhere, teaching some courses at a distance. Doing manual work, mountain biking, skiing and keeping fit. Spending time with grand kids. Doing work, but only for good causes.
Just for fun: if you had to pick one app in the whole APPVERSE, what would it be?
Evernote! Can’t imagine how I lived without it. My daily planning is there, my random ideas and my grocery lists, all travelling neatly from device to device. Priceless.