8 Takeaways from Communications Week #CommsWeekCA


What a busy week this has turned out to be - cannabis was legalized across Canada on Wednesday, we celebrated Small Business Week, a new Royal pregnancy was announced and who knew it was also Communications Week?!

This year was the first time we celebrated Communications Week in Canada beyond celebrating it in New York, London, Chicago and Hamburg. I had the opportunity to attend the first-time event on Thursday, bringing together some of the best communications professionals to network and discuss timely topics like media/journalism, diversity, and branding in the communications realm.

The speakers were brilliant and provided a lot of catchy take-aways (shared with a lot of honesty and humour).

Here are 8 tidbits from the event:

  1. Choose social media platforms based on time investment. How much time do you have to put in to create content that resonates with your audience/marketplace - David Pagnotta, Founder & EIC, Fourth Period Media

  2. Competition is healthy in the digital space - it pushes us all to be better, more innovative and think differently - Jacqueline Leung, Founder & EIC, Pressed News

  3. Its not why/what to influence, it is how. You can influence in person, not just on social media. Social media platforms are just distribution channels. You need to determine your message/brand voice first - Joanna Track, Founder & Executive Published, The Bullet

  4. [When discussing multicultural advertising and showcasing all the incredible people associated with Hip Hop like Drake, Serena Williams, Jay-Z, Lebron James, etc]. Hip hop has evolved with the times and reinvented itself. Hip hop is an economic powerhouse - its people have reclaimed its narrative, its confident in itself, it knows its worth, the leaders of the industry are from the industry and will ensure its art form. Its why Hip Hop doesn’t have a diversity issue. - Dabo Che, Founder CHE Industries

  5. Don’t build a brand, build an identity. You don’t have to build a brand if you have a strong identity. - Shaharris Beh, CEO Hackernest

  6. Canada is more socially-aware and socially responsible than the US. Before brands come into the Canadian marketplace (or you go into any marketplace) do your research and homework first (its why brands like Target and Sam’s Club have failed) - Sheryl Johnson, Chief Insights Officer, BTI Brand Innovations Inc.

  7. Develop a relationship with media before you need them - Jodi Echakowitz

  8. Telling our story hasn’t changed.. we’ve always been telling our story.. but the way we tell our story is what has changed (when referring to social media and the digital space) - Erin Bury, Managing Director, Eighty-eight agency

If anything, the event made me think of how so much of what the speakers were talking about is what we need to think about in agriculture and food:

  • have we evolved in the consumer space like other industries/brands have to leverage existing trends (i.e. social media, influencer marketing, etc)

  • our industry were early adopters of social media but have we continued to evolve and adapt as social media has changed?

  • we need to listen to our audience/marketplace first before wanting to tell our side of the story

  • choose communications/social media platforms wisely and strategically (not every social media channel is needed!)

  • have we truly built the relationships we need as a sector to further our message (i.e. media, brand influencers, other sectors)

Most importantly, the event reminded me that communications isn’t just social media. Communications involves many facets - media, photography, branding, advertising, print, radio AND social media (even though the digital space is the way of the future) A good reminder for all!

What Holds Us Back From Being Hungry?

Quebec City

Bonjour! I just returned from a trip to Quebec City, my first time to the capital city! I have to say, I’ve returned filled and fired up. And not just filled with the best pasta, escargot and local craft beer. Filled with gratitude and inspiration from the city, the charming old streets and our rich history.    

Oh, what a place Quebec City was.

I think every Canadian should make a point of visiting the oldest city in Canada to appreciate the architecture of our earliest settlers but also the history of our country. It is a seriously beautiful city with so much to take in – beautiful countryside, too many good things to eat and drink and the feeling you get while walking the quaint streets is a feeling like no other. It feels like you’re in a different place, far away from home. As if you’re across the pond walking down some European street.

It was not hard to be inspired while I was there. Inspired to write more, share more, do more, think more and just be more. As I opened my laptop each morning filled with excitement to write, it reminded me of why I hesitate to write when I’m ‘back at home.’

Why is it that in a foreign place or in the most random of times, we get some of our best ideas and want to openly share them? And then the minute we get home or ‘back to our routine’, we are more reluctant to share that same blog post, tweet or idea?

For years in my job in politics, I learned to watch how every word could be taken. Manipulated, spun, used against me and my boss. It just came with the job, I knew that. Every time I’d thought of blogging for the past number of years, I’ve always wondered if what I said would be taken and spun against me professionally. There was an instance that something was spun against me, but that my friends, is for a whole other blog post.  

So, now that my political days are behind me, it is a weird feeling to know that the only thing that is holding me back is ‘moi.’ There is no consequences to what I want to say now. I can’t get fired. My words won’t affect my boss. I only have me to think about me again and my personal brand. And yet, I still feel like I have to watch what I say because with our digital world, we’re never really sure when/where our words will be used against us. It comes with the territory of using platforms like social media to share our ideas.

I think this notion is why so many people hold back in saying what they want too. They are either:

  1. scared of what others will think of them;

  2. worried how their words or ideas could impact them/their family/their work

  3. feel like what they have to say has no value or that someone else has already said it

How fitting then, that while I was in Quebec City, I watched the movie The Star is Born (which everyone seems to be raving about BTW and I can see why.. go and download the soundtrack!). And how cliché then that while watching the movie and thinking of this notion of why people (like myself!) don’t actually do or say things they want too, that the main character, Jackson Maine aka. Bradley Cooper says the following:

“Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth. And there’s one reason we’re supposed to be here is to say something so people want to hear. So you got to grab it, and you don’t apologize, and you don’t worry about why they’re listening, or how long they’re going to be listening for, you just tell them what you want to say.”

So, where do we start and where do we go once we have the courage to finally say something? I don’t know. If I knew the answer to that, I think I’d be retired :P

But the point is to start. I think every self-help book starts with this premise. Start whatever it is that makes you hungry. Its why I’m going to get back into this writing thing and share more on my blog. No, but really, for real this time. I’m hungry again.

I'm Speaking to You

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One of the best things I did at the beginning of this business journey was to do some digging. It’s what I called the ‘the personal discovery phase’ which is what a lot of branding experts refer to this phase as. It had me dig into questions like:

  • who am I as a business owner?

  • who do I want to be in the long-term and what are my business goals?

  • what motivates and inspires me day-to-day?

  • what do I stand for and what am I willing to share?

  • what can I best offer others through my services?

  • and most importantly, who is my ideal target audience that I want to work with?

Its you.

The people who are here reading this blog, browsing through my website loving the look/feel, taking a glance at my Instagram account or reading my tweets to get ideas and responding. I know some branding experts say you have to narrow in and get very specific on defining who your target audience is when it comes to communications and marketing.

But what if you know you serve a wider audience? Because that is what I am doing. Working with clients both inside agriculture-food and beyond. Even within our agriculture-food sector, it’s comprised of a wider audience of people - people of all ages/generations, farming/non-farming backgrounds and even ways of thinking.

This blog post for example could resonate with a 65 year-old professor/journalist, a 20-something communications professional who is just starting their career or a 30-year old new mom who knows that the company she works for needs help in their social media efforts but doesn’t know who to turn too.

These are all the people I’m talking too and want to do business with.

Its OK to speak to many people. To attract a larger audience than simply defining one audience. To me, that’s brilliant communications when you can have a message that resonates with a millennial man and a baby boomer woman.

But that is at least the first step in being an effective strategic communicator: defining your target audience and knowing who you are talking too in your marketing-communications efforts.

And this is the first step that SO many brands, businesses and executives forget to take, especially in agriculture-food.

The personal discovery process was a good reminder for me. The messages I was left with after reading books and articles and doing the thinking I needed left me with one final thought:

When you or your brand/business says something, don’t say it for you, say it for the people you’re trying to attract and the audience you’re targeting.

The intent and goal of communicating should always be to have what you say, land in the ears of others. And have it resonate.

Good communicators don’t speak for themselves, they speak for the sake of what others want to hear or should hear.

You will be hearing more from me on the ‘how-to’s of executing successful social media and digital communications campaigns and how to use the right tools in the online world, but if you ever want to hear more from me on a certain topic, by all means, I’d love to hear from you with your ideas.

We're Live!

Welcome to our new home at Crowley + Arklie Strategy & Co.

This has been years in the making. We are proud to {finally} make things official and launch our digital communications agency. We have big ideas, a lot of creative juice and the tools to execute.

There are three things we’re passionate about, well I guess you could say four: people, communicating, agriculture and social media.

So what are we doing here?

We believe that every brand, business and executive should be good at communicating.

There really is no excuse in today’s digitally-crazed world where access to information (or anything!) is at our fingertips. That’s why we're on a mission to help transform the way brands, businesses and executives communicate in agriculture-food and beyond through digital and social media. 

The services we offer are what businesses, boards and executives need help in most: digital and social media, communications planning, campaign management and execution, media training, branding and more. Overwhelmed yet? Let us help you.

We’re glad you found us at our new home. Take a few minutes to browse and look around, learn more about our story, who we’ve worked with and by all means, get in touch with us so we can chat further about how we can help you.

Thanks for coming along and sharing in this new adventure with us.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

6 Lessons Learned #onthecampaigntrail

When people ask what I do/did for work, a lot of people seem surprised when I told them I worked at Queen’s Park in provincial politics. I’m sure a lot of people wonder, “How the heck does someone go about getting into a job like that?” The saying ‘Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” couldn’t be more true than the last four years of my career. I was in the right place at the right time with the right skillset that was needed. And it just happened to be in politics.

I was so honoured to serve in this capacity – serve the public and my agriculture community, using my communications skills to serve a man in politics who I was extremely proud to represent in the agriculture, food and rural affairs portfolio. This pride was evident when I made the decision to move back home to Peterborough this past May/June after my maternity leave, to help in the re-election campaign of the Minister I served, Jeff Leal. And thus began my #ONTHECAMPAIGNTRAIL journey that I shared on social media.

My campaign experience (and really, my time as a political staffer) was once-in-a-lifetime, simply because of the team of people we had. I shared my journey on social media to try and show the fun, quirky side to the campaign but also share the honest hard work, long hours and realities that are faced by volunteers when working a political campaign. And ultimately, to show people a ‘behind the scenes’ of what politics/campaigns really look like so more people know there actually is a real-life ‘West Wing.’

Disclaimer: I’ve never watched the full series of West Wing to know what exactly goes on, I’ve just been told I was the equivalent of C.J. Cregg 

And I speak so positively about the entire experience, despite the outcome on E-day, June 7th. Which was not favourable for us. Simply put, the voters practiced their democratic right and told us what they wanted. And it wasn’t our team. Despite that, I learned so much. I had 50 lessons I shared #onthecampaigntrail but I figured that may be too many to share for one blog post, so I narrowed it down to 6 lessons I wanted to share from the campaign:

  1. Respect means everything – My campaign experience was incredible because the voters were incredible. Full stop. The people of Peterborough were respectful, kind and cordial, even if they told us they weren’t voting for us. I was amazed at how many people knew about the election, knew of the candidates and the work that had been done for their city by Jeff. It was refreshing to see a city so engaged in politics and care so much for the people serving them. And yes, I was proud to not have one door slammed in my face during the campaign #goals. But in all seriousness, the same can be said for my time spent at Queen’s Park. Being respectful to anyone and everyone, regardless of party colour or role, is a simple yet smart tactic to use not only as a staffer, but as a human being.

  2. Nothing will replace face-to-face interactions with people – As much as I love social media, there is nothing more engaging then hearing what voters had to say in person and reading their body language (especially as I approached them with the red shoes I wore door knocking!) The conversations I had with voters were simply the best. I really wish that everyone had the opportunity to door knock on a campaign at least once in their lifetime. There is really no interaction like it – when you’re trying to keep things light while you’re bringing up something that a lot of people dread talking about = politics.

  3. There is no place like home – Rediscovering the city I grew up near, was magic. Walking the streets I’ve drove down so many times growing up; learning the rich history of the city (former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson once lived in Peterborough!); seeing the beautiful architecture, details and stories of the homes; and taking in the nature trails, waterfront and landmarks made the long hours of door knocking so enjoyable. Peterborough, you really are a beautiful city and gem to live in.

  4. If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life – Moving away from Blake and Andrew for three weeks wasn’t easy at first but doing the work I was doing with the team, made everything so much easier. Having the purpose and mission we had to represent a candidate that was so widely-respected made the long days bearable. I was so thankful for the technology we have so I could connect with Blake every night on FaceTime (and remind him what his mama looked like!). And an additional perk was that this was the longest time I had spent at home on the farm since before University 

  5. Small things make the biggest difference – Brewing coffee with your team in the mornings; picking up a sprinkled donut at the local coffee shop to refuel when you needed the sugar rush; finding a free book that you love, in a library on the front lawn of a voter’s house; seeing your campaign ad in the local newspaper; watching a young person interview your candidate; seeing your Premier knock it out of the park in a TV debate #SorryNotSorry; taking the time to stop to celebrate Blake’s first birthday during the campaign –  small moments like these kept things light-hearted at times when I needed to be reminded most that life will go on regardless of the outcome.

  6. Your dreams are bigger than you – And finally, by far my greatest lesson learned was watching Jeff Leal, our candidate on the campaign trail.  Watching a person of such integrity and commitment work the long hours he did, all for the sole purpose of wanting to make a positive difference in his community, reignited my passion for public service. There is a reason we have people in public office to represent us. To serve us. To uphold our democracy. To try and make our communities better places to live all for our benefit. If our public servants are motivated by the right morals and act from the right place in their heart, you only want to work harder for them. Canvassing and knocking on doors with Jeff opened my eyes to how much of a difference one person can make in the lives of others. He knew everyone – all of the small details, and he genuinely cared for each and every person he visited with. I wanted to work hard for him and succeed because of him. It didn’t seem like work, it felt like an honour. At the end of the day, while he wasn’t re-elected, I am certain that everyone in Peterborough respects him. They respected what he did for the city of Peterborough and are thankful for the time he gave as their MPP for 15 years. Working for a man of integrity & commitment who betters the lives of others made the outcome hard to understand but, I would do it all again. It was an absolute honour, Jeff. Thank you for allowing me to serve on the team.

One of the most common questions I got after the election loss was “Do you at least still have a job?” And sadly, no. All 400 political staffers lost their job as well that day on June 7th. But its something I’ve come to terms with. What’s the saying? “When one door closes, another one opens.”

The lessons I learned not only on the campaign trail, but as a political staffer over the last four years will be lessons I’ll take with me personally and professionally forever. Thank you to the party members, MPP’s, fellow staffers, media, personnel, kitchen staff, ministry staff, #OntAg stakeholders and to the legislature herself. It was a time, QP. This isn’t the end, politics.

One final thought from the campaign trail that couldn’t be more true for the times we’re living in but really, a reminder for life: Lose with dignity & never stop fighting for what you believe in.

Make sure to check back this week as I have some big, exciting news to share! 

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