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!

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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Why 'STEM' Should Be 'STEAM'

Today marks Agriculture Day in Canada.

I’m not sure how many Canadians knew this day was being celebrated by people like myself - a dairy farmer's daughter whose passion for agriculture and communications (with politics thrown in there) led to an agricultural communications role working in provincial politics at Queen's Park.

Agriculture is an industry I really love working in.  

According to my Instagram poll late tonight, which includes a mixed audience of both those in and outside of agriculture, thankfully 67% (or 130 respondents) knew it was #CdnAgDay.

Whether you knew it was Ag Day or not, or work in agriculture or not, we all have one major thing in common - something we can relate too - and that is food.

The other thing we can all most certainly relate too, is having a job.

We all need food to eat and most of us have a job or aspire to have a job. So there, we at have at least two things in common now to continue this productive conversation.

On a day like today, in some instances, it feels like we in agriculture across Canada are a passionate group of people..... who preach to the choir.

It is on days like today, I am reminded of how our industry needs to position ourselves in a way that catches the attention of the 98% of Canadians who do not come from a farm or know anything about agriculture-food.

We need to sell our agri-food industry in a way that is cool and makes young graduates and people WANT to come work with us, much like how the STEM movement has captured the attention of many soon-to-be high school graduates and young career professionals.

Its why I think the movement around STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) should actually be called STEAM, with the 'A' proudly standing for Agriculture.

I am fascinated by the conversation around STEM-related careers. Even here in Canada, we have made it a trendy topic, promoting STEM jobs to Canadian youth. Our Canadian government even launched a campaign in 2017 to encourage young women to choose science. Bravo!

In a fast-paced digital society that is becoming more of a knowledge-based economy, attracting top talent to our agri-food sector will be imperative to fill the more the more than 100,000+ jobs we are going to need to fill in the next decade.

The crazy part? The demand for students with an agriculture-related degree far outweighs the supply of graduates! Just read this University of Guelph report that states "there are 4 jobs for every OAC graduate entering Ontario’s food and agriculture sector."

In all the excitement discussing STEM, we're missing a critical industry that continues to push the envelope in innovation. Agriculture.

An industry that really, in some instances, combines science, technology, engineering and math ALL in one. Agriculture and food combines practical know-how, research and application to create things that we use every day and perhaps take for granted. Things like environmentally-friendly coffee pods, the Yukon Gold potato and for some Canadian dairy farmers, an app for their smartphone that helps farmers monitor and treat ketosis in their dairy cows. How cool is this?!

[Side note, people maybe don't even realize just how tech-savvy farmers really are and how actively they use their smartphone to do business and participate on social media! If you're looking for some examples, just ask me for some savvy farmers and agri-food professionals, I'd be happy to share]

These examples above are just a few that showcase leading-edge technology, research and innovation that takes place every day in our Canadian agri-food industry that consumers and industry benefits from. Examples that combine science, technology, engineering, math and agriculture to produce some pretty awesome results.

Agriculture has even embraced the conversation around the much-needed role of more women in our sector. Groups like Ag Women's Network in Ontario and Saskatchewan Women in Ag, have created a positive atmosphere to promote more women getting involved in agriculture and food. In fact, in the 2016 Canadian Census, the proportion of women who are farm operators increased to 27.8%, for the first time in 15 years! Its been a breathe of fresh air to see this movement take off.. and its a movement that is here to stay.

Canadian agriculture and food needs more savvy individuals to help us in our sector.

Enthusiast individuals and young graduates who can help us grow food; create sustainable and sound food policy; get food from farmers to processors; work in trade so more Canadian-grown food can be exported around the world to address food security; get food from processors to consumers; communicate agriculture's message to the masses; and market food more effectively so it eventually ends up on consumer's plates.

I know why this gap most likely exists in attracting top talent.

Its because we don't make our sector attractive enough or 'sexy' enough to market it and attract young graduates from non-farming backgrounds.

Much like the picture above of me in front of Queen's Park, when you think of agriculture and food related jobs, you probably don't picture someone like myself. This is the game-changer of our industry - you don't have to look like the stereotypical farmer with the straw hat and pitch fork in hand to work in agriculture and food. And you certainly don't need to come from a farm to work in agriculture and food.

Gone are the days where these stereotypes exists. Or at least, they should be by now. Its 2018.

We in the agri-food sector are savvy, sophisticated and passionate people who believe in what we do. Everyone along the value chain is playing a role to ensure the highest-quality, safest products are delivered 365 days a year to Canadian consumers and consumers around the world. For many of us, agriculture and food isn't just an industry we work in but a lifestyle we enjoy 365 days of the year. Not many industries can say this.

It is time we embrace the STEM movement and begin to promote STEAM.

This way, many needs are addressed - those of our agri-food industry who needs top, innovative talent; those of young millennial graduates looking for exciting new careers in an already tight job market; and those of our Canadian consumers who continue to need/want the best food possible.

Its a win-win for all. Now let's get out there and promote STEAM!#MakingAgriFoodCool

"Embrace Bold:" My 2018 Buzzwords

This is a big post for me.

Not only is this my first post of 2018 but this is my first ever PODCAST! (Can you hear my excitement through the cap locks?!)

Starting a podcast was a goal I had in 2017 but I kind of had a baby, so I wasn't able to get around to getting this goal done. BUT, I'm kickstarting 2018 off in the best way possible and I'm making my first post here on the blog, my first podcast!

2017 - Beautiful Chaos

In my first episode, I reflect on 2017 and the 5 goals I committed to achieving last year. I'm happy to say, I accomplished 4/5 of my goals but by far, the best thing we did in 2017 was welcome our healthy baby boy Blake in May!! He is by far the greatest thing we'll be able to say we EVER did. Its incredible to think love creates life like this. I summarized last year as 'Beautiful Chaos' but I also stuck to my buzzwords 'Adapt and Adjust.' Isn't that what parenthood is all about.. adjusting and adapting... all.the.time?!

2018- Embrace Bold 

I also share in my first episode, my 2018 buzzwords which are 'Embrace Bold.' This was partly inspired by the Little Book of Hygge and Oprah's recent Golden Globes acceptance speech which if you haven't saw it yet, you can watch it here or read the full transcript here. Based on this mantra of 'Embrace Bold,' I'm also sharing my 5 goals for 2018 on the podcast.

Take a listen to my first podcast by clicking on the play button directly below. I hope you enjoy listening and I'd love to hear what you think.

Oh and by the way, HAPPY 2018!