8 Takeaways from Communications Week #CommsWeekCA

CommsWeeksCA

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!

7 Ways to Manage Your Digital Footprint

If you visit here often or we follow each other on social media, you would have noticed some changes last fall to my photography and branding.

It was just some simple, subtle, yet positive changes that helped to spice things up around here and on my social platforms. Hello, new headshot! :P 

Its like when I re-arrange furniture in my house when the seasons change, it is the simplest thing to do and the BEST feeling when its done. In the social world, you really always have to be changing it up to keep fresh, continue to evolve and be noticed as you and your brand grow and evolve.

The intended change was good because it made me realize how you have to take continued stock or inventory of your digital footprint. Simply put, you have to keep track of all your social profiles. Sounds easy but it isn't.

Even if you’re not rebranding, having all of your passwords and log-in information in one place is a good place to start. This made things SO much easier for me when I went to do my rebrand and proudly post my new headshot across all my social platforms last fall.

This blog post can serve both individuals or even businesses and social/digital managers that manage their company's corporate communications and brands. Here are 7 things I learned last fall with my rebrand for how you too, can easily manage your digital footprint at any point in time.

7 Ways to Manage Your Digital Footprint

  1. Create and maintain a locked password document (that requires a password to get into the document). This should contain all of your social media platform passwords. This is an easy way to keep organized, period.
  2. Establish and set your brand guideline. This will ensure you execute your brand with consistent colours, fonts and look/feel across all social platforms you use. It is best to create a mood board and then a brand board to always refer back too. I've provided my latest rebrand branding board below for your reference :)
  3. Once you've set your 'look and feel', hire a professional photographer to capture your brand - it’s a wise investment and some of the best money you will spend!
  4. Have a consistent logo/photo/headshot across all of your social platforms.
  5. When/if you decide to change your logo/photo/headshot, take the time to update your bio and descriptions with the same consistent wording and put this across all of your platforms.
  6. Update your website or your blog at the same time to reflect any of these new changes and introduce your new rebrand.
  7. Review your analytics on each of your social platforms and website/blog to determine what platforms are working best for you. When you rebrand, its a perfect time to add new platforms, change the function of existing platforms or decide altogether to stop using certain social platforms if you find you're not getting the ROI for the value you're putting in. Your followers on each of your social platforms will tell you a lot about what they consume from your brand.

If you have questions about your own social media profiles, need help in rebranding or want to know more about the analytics behind your social platforms,let's get in touch!

Airplanes: A Destination for Silence

There aren't many places where you can now fully disconnect. Places where you can't access wifi and be hooked to the internet and your smartphone. Places where you can totally be #offline.

Thinking back to my first trip to Europe in 2009, I couldn't call home on my cellphone, let alone get a wifi signal to use my cell (notice I called it a cellphone not a smartphone, that dates me already!) That was less than a decade ago. Oh how technology has advanced in such a short period of time!

While in Europe, I had to go to Internet cafes or use pay phones with calling cards to call home to let my parents know I was safe and sound. I remember taking photos with my camera here and there at the most memorable tourist attractions but I couldn't be bothered with documenting my entire trip through the lens of my camera. I wanted to experience it all in person. And let's be serious, even if I wanted to document it all through the best filters and apps, my flip phone didn't even have the capabilities to take photos. God, I really am dating myself. 

Fast forward almost a decade later, and you can now connect almost anywhere in the world at any time of the day. They even now offer wifi on some planes which seemed like the last place we'd ever see access to internet introduced. I always thought it interfered with the airplane signals?! #GuessIwasWrong

On most flights where they now offer wifi, they at least have put a price tag to access wifi. Its a hefty price tag, but I am glad they put the price high so it discourages me to pay for internet. 

Here's why....

Airplanes are one of the last places where we can put boundaries or restrictions on using our smartphones and accessing social media. Its one of the last remaining places where we are guaranteed silence. Where we expect to be left alone. Its one of the last places where we are forced to sit alone with our thoughts... scary I know.

Its where you can read a book quietly or watch a movie... with no dings, no alerts, no vibrations.

On airplanes, I get some of my best ideas. Its where my creative juices get a flowin'. Its where I pull out pen and paper and write down blog post ideas, work on my editorial calendar, brainstorm content for upcoming presentations, process ideas and thoughts and let my mind wander. 

Its one of the best feelings.

I've come away from my recent trip visiting my in-laws in Manitoba with many blog posts written and random thoughts documented. Some samples from my most recent two hour personal brainstorm session plane ride?

  • Agriculture faces a re-branding challenge. I tweeted about this idea this week. Its one of the biggest challenges I believe we face in the industry I grew up in and love to work in. I'll be elaborating on this thought later this week when I serve on a Co-operators ag panel.
  • On the topic of agriculture, it just recently dawned on me that for the better part of my political career, I have been the minority. Working in agriculture in downtown Toronto, surrounded by consumers who don't know much about agriculture and farming is where I've realized I'm not the majority. When I was a kid growing up, I just naturally assumed everyone knew about farming because hey, that's what everyone did right?! Do those who work in agriculture sometimes forget, including me, that we aren't the majority anymore in the circles we need to be selling our industry too?! And are we comfortable being the minority?
  • Social media is changing the operational functions of customer service departments for companies and businesses. Both good and bad. I talked about this at a presentation I gave earlier this week from a customer service experience I witnessed on Twitter recently. Blog post written on this = check.
  • A 'Someday File' - we all have one. Places we'd like to travel too; things we want to buy; books we want to read; things we want to learn. What holds us back from doing any of it?! After reading more of Mark Manson's 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' it got my mind racing on so many topics he writes about and my own 'someday file' and why I keep making lists but don't DO alot of them.

So many thoughts I know for a two hour flight :P So much writing, so little time. Also, here is to our first successful trip and plane ride with Blake. Thankfully it was a smooth ride and experience. Thanks little man for making this mom feel like she hit the baby jackpot #MotherWin 

Wise Words

I've had two experiences recently that have reminded me of the power of our language. With the click of most of our smartphone keyboards, our words are now auto-corrected and fixed for us. This has allowed us to "lazy up" on our language skills and need not worry about how to spell words, let alone check a dictionary to expand our vocabulary. We aren't choosing the most sophisticated words to reflect our thoughts and feelings anymore. 

To say our vocabulary as human beings is becoming quite basic in this social media, technology-driven age is an understatement. Its probably why I enjoy reading books as much as  I do. I love the lessons a good book can impart and the rich words that good writers use to tell a story.

When I started my career, I had a flip book in the top of my desk drawer. I would try and find a new word a week and write it in this flip book to learn and refer too as a way to expand my vocabulary and better my writing. It was a helpful exercise (that I have since stopped doing) but it was a great way to continue to learn and expand my personal dictionary of words. 

Recently, I engaged in a conversation on Twitter that I thought would be productive but it began with words from the other party that were quite abrupt to start off the conversation. These words didn't help to foster a productive conversation, or at least make me feel like we were going to have a positive experience and engage in meaningful dialogue.

It was a good reminder. If you want to have a productive conversation with someone, don't tell them their opinion is bad by using words that aren't conducive to the conversation. In order to have a conversation, people must go back and forth with words. The words you choose to use can alter the direction of a conversation quickly - both in a good direction and bad. 

[Tweet ""The words you choose to use can alter the direction of a conversation quickly." - The Passionate Voice"]

Productive conversations, regardless of where you stand on an issue, includes language that is inclusive, respectful and meaningful. Using words that insults a person, aren't respectful in nature, or aren't used in the right tone can turn someone off from having a conversation with you the next time.

The second example includes a night of playing scrabble with my family at our cottage.

I haven't played scrabble in years. Scratch that. I couldn't remember the first time I played scrabble. I must have been bad at it when I first played otherwise I would have remembered the experience vividly (#SoreLoserAnyone?!) Off topic, sorry...

While playing scrabble, it reminded me of that first experience earlier on Twitter and how an expanded vocabulary doesn't hurt anyone.s 

Playing a game like scrabble teaches you words you didn't realize you could even come up with let alone know the meaning for. Until you are asked to put together words with 7 of the most random letters of the alphabet and you have a killer instinct to want to WIN, it can be an exciting challenge for your brain. Scrabble made me think of words beyond the basic Twitter speak, smartphone auto-corrections and the latest acronyms like FOMO and YOLO (you only live once for those who have to google it like I first had to do!)

Examples of words from our game that you may be surprised to learn the meaning for, like I was....

Fid - a thick peg, wedge, or supporting pin.

Yucha variant of the word yuck..

Xi - the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet (and yes, it can be used in the game of scrabble!).

An expanded and robust vocabulary only helps you to better articulate your thoughts and feelings... oh, and wise words just makes you sound smarter. Go figure! I may just be pulling that flip book back out again to continue to add to my word bank. 

On a side note, the photo of the books above arranged by colour has totally inspired me to want to do the same with the zillions of books I've collected over the years. Problem is, I need to find wall/bookcase space in my house. On to my next project!

[Photo Source]

It All Begins With a Lemonade Stand

With a newborn, you can find me most days outdoors, gallivanting  around with the baby in the stroller, enjoying the summer sun. I always love seeing what adventures I'll get up too or things I'll encounter.

Last week, I was out for a walk in our neighbourhood when I came upon a young girl selling lemonade.

I looked like I was going to be her next customer as I was walking closer to her. It was then I realized I didn't have $$$ on me so I quickly turned around to run back home and grab change. I can only imagine the look of sheer disappointment on this girls face thinking she was losing a customer as I ran away from her. I was happy to return a few minutes later to buy a cup of her homemade lemonade.

There was nothing better than watching the pride on this young girls' face when I returned and asked her 'How much?' With the biggest smile on her face, she confidently said, "$1 please." She had all the right things going for her - a well-written, visible sign with the $1 per cup cost; she had the cute little table and chair; she had manners and spoke well; and she genuinely looked like she loved what she was doing.

And to top it off, she was so pleasant when I approached her with the baby - she even asked questions about me and the baby, the customer. Who taught this girl proper marketing etiquette at such a young age?!

It was one of those moments, as a random stranger, that you take so much pride in doing what you did to help encourage this person.

It also brought back so many memories for me as a kid... because I did the exact same thing! I held many a rummage sale and (tried) to sell lemonade to no avail.

The difference for me was that growing up in the country, trying to sell things on a random weekday in the summer, half way down a long driveway was not that financially viable or successful. There aren't that many customers who probably think stopping in a car and walking up to a young child in the country looks OK to those driving by. I get it now, but it was hard to swallow at the time.

Clearly my entrepreneurial spirit was evident already at a young age.

The acts of this little random stranger last week was an amazing reminder of what we're all capable of and how it all begins at a young age:

  • The ideas we have that spark within us;
  • How unafraid we are of big, hairy, audacious goals (and we don't even know what 'goals' are yet);
  • How we take a pretty basic product and only because of how we sell it, the product becomes a hit;
  • The complete, random strangers we are OK with meeting in order to make a sale (and a buck);
  • When we realize we can make money doing something we love or at least enjoy doing;
  • And ultimately, we have the guts to do something we have never did before (and don't know the outcome of as to whether we'll be successful or not) and we still go ahead with the idea and sell the lemonade!

It takes some serious guts as a young kid to have the motivation, confidence and persistence to want to do something like sell lemonade, while other kids are out playing with their friends.

At what age or stage in our lives do you think we lose that self-confidence and belief in our abilities that so many of us clearly have as young kids? When do we lose that entrepreneurial mindset of fending for ourselves and running with our own ideas, only to worry what others think of us and our skillset to land a job that may not be for us?

As a quote I found perfectly says, "When life gives you lemons, you build a lemonade stand and profit."

[Tweet ""When life gives you lemons, you build a lemonade stand and profit.""]

As the young girl packed up after selling me her last cup of lemonade, I encouraged her to make sure she sets up shop more this summer because I'd be sure to be back. She said she would.

I better start saving my loonies now because she has a repeat customer that will guarantee her sales for her young start-up venture (or college education) ;)

[Photo Source]