Living in a Calculated World

Stories From a Country Girl

Its hard to believe it was 10+ years ago I first entered the world of blogging.

I look back on those days fondly.

{Now I know how most seniors feel when they talk the good ol’ days.. you know, those days before smartphones, technology and all this craziness}

But in all seriousness, even 10 years ago, the digital sphere was a different time.

(OK, now I definitely sound like a senior).  This may be the first blog post that ‘dates me’ as a human. Sigh.

Yes, it’s been that long since my ‘Stories From a Country Girl’ days for those blog readers who have so loyally followed me here all the way from then, to my Passionate Voice blog and now to my new home. Thank you to those readers for your continual support and readership throughout all these years 🙏 Even if there are only 6 of you 😉

I’ve been doing a ton of listening, conversing and reflecting throughout the month of January for work. It has me thinking of how we’re living in such different times than even a short 10 years ago from so many standpoints – in life, in work, with social media, technology, consumer behavior, disruption, the list goes on.

I’ve been thinking long and hard lately about the role of social media and the impact it has on our lives and our mental health. Its something that bombards us and inundates us both personally and professionally every day. We’ve never been properly trained in it and the research isn’t quite there yet to show the long-term lasting effects, yet we continue to use it at such rapid rates. I see firsthand and realize its benefits but I also see the cautions we need to talk about more, to engage productively and healthily with our social media feeds.

And this comes from someone who does social media for a living!

Even blogging 10 years ago was a completely different landscape. It wasn’t so ‘calculated’ as the entire world now is with blogging and social media. When we were blogging back in ‘those days’, we didn’t have to have well-curated graphics that had consistent branding with the ‘right’ fonts. We didn’t care about likes/followers, we just blogged about what we thought about and cared for and if the likes followed, then great but that wasn’t the end goal. We didn’t care about promoting our messages beyond our followers, trying to make our content ‘salesy’ for people to eat up and then buy from us. Hell, we didn’t even give the proper credit for graphics/photos when we searched on Google and used them for our blog posts.

Side note: If you previously read my SFACG blog when I first started, yes, the image above is my old header and no, I didn’t end up purchasing the image for $20 but I am at least giving image credit below 😉

I sometimes wish we had that type of freedom again.

To read blogs written in the ‘old school way’ of blogging. Or think in that easygoing way #FreeThinking. Or blog in the carefree way, whenever we wanted too, without the branding, the content calendar and the perfectly placed hashtags. Blogging in a world where we didn’t have to worry that if you said something that not everyone agreed with, you didn’t have to face the social media wrath you probably would today. I wish we all had that freedom to only care about ourselves and what we thought. And not in a selfish, narcissistic way, but a way that was healthy for us. A time where if you had something to say and wanted to passionately say it, you just said it (HECK YES!)

I really do wish some days we were living in a less calculated world. I miss those days of off-the-cuff randomness. Whose with me?

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Daydreaming and Boredom

Daydreaming and Boredom

These are two words you won’t hear a busy person say together very often. Or a parent.

I read these two words recently in an article and it hit me – just how much I wish I could pair these two words together in my life after a very busy fall.

I have never been a fan of ‘boredom.’ I was never that child that was ‘bored.’ I always found something to do.

And that translated into the rest of my life. I have never been bored and I never want to be bored. Period.

But it’s something that motherhood has made me wish for now. Those days as DINKS (double income, no kids) where we could get up at whatever time we wanted and do with the rest of our day how we wanted. Not on anyone else’s schedule but ours.

I miss those days of freedom pre-kid when we could let our brains ‘wander’ and daydream. Where if you got groceries and watched a movie, it was a ‘big Saturday.’ I never really appreciated parents saying this to me before kids. Now I completely get it.

The new mother in me craves these days. Especially recently. I wish I could let my brain have days where I was bored so I could only daydream. On days like Sunday’s before children, where I would get the best ideas because there was no expectation for my brain to ‘be on.’

If anything, becoming a mother and now an entrepreneur, I’m trying to train myself to daydream but in a more regimented/routine way. (Does this even make sense when you’re trying to daydream?!)

Isn’t the whole point of daydreaming to let your brain wander when IT wants too, not when YOU want it too?

Its hard to ask yourself to show up on Monday morning at your desk and ask your brain to ‘daydream’ as if its like a scheduled meeting.

But in this content-driven, communications world I’m living, now as a profession, I have to ask myself to do daydream in a more scheduled way.

Can other parents and entrepreneurs relate?

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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!

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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The Power of Unity Through Social Media

I've been finding this post hard to write. For someone who wordsmiths for a living, I found the words hard to come by - to properly formulate thought into sentences. It reminded me though that in times of crisis, sometimes all we have is our words.

Thirteen days ago, we witnessed anyone's worst nightmare. The tragic bus accident that resulted in the death of 16 people who were part of the Humboldt Broncos hockey organization. It is something that no family, friend, team, community or country should ever have to experience. They were a team of passionate individuals on a bus travelling together to play hockey, the sport they love. Its a sport that our country loves - a sport that is ingrained in our cultural fabric as Canadians.

As things unfolded that night as I watched on social media and in the days following, our country came together, united, to help a small Saskatchewan town mourn at an unimaginable time. It really was incredible to watch as everyone dropped what they were doing, to mourn together. It didn't matter who you were or where you lived, no matter where we were across Canada, we mourned and showed our support together in any way possible. Because of the physical distance, a lot of that was done through social media.

It dawned on me that Monday morning after, as I walked past the local Canada Post office that had their hockey stick taped to the window in support of the Broncos, just how powerful social media really was in this time of grief.

I use social media on a daily basis and for work, but never before had I witnessed something like this on social media that brought us together in the way this did. Social media really played a crucial role in how information was not only shared, but how it brought people together. Here are just a few incredible examples of just how powerful social media has been:

  • Watching the initial updates from people posting about the accident late that Friday night, Twitter seemed to be the platform as to how parents, friends and organizations were initially communicating about the accident.
  • Once news began to break about the horrific accident, social media was where people began to mourn publicly and share their memories of the people who had passed.
  • It was how information was being shared publicly for those who needed to seek mental health assistance to cope with the tragedy.
  • The Go Fund Me page, that has now surpassed $13 million, was created and it became the place that people could go too to help provide financial support, which so many people have did.
  • People registering for organ donation spiked after one of the players, Logan Boulet gave the incredible gift of life through his organ donation. This was shared throughout social media and it reminded all of us to consider organ donation {If you would like to check if you're an organ donor or to register, you can visit beadonor.ca. I just checked the other day and had thankfully already signed up as an organ donor}
  • Those from near and afar, from all around the world, put out hockey sticks on their porches in solidarity to pay tribute to those lost in the accident and pictures were shared using the hashtag #SticksOutforHumboldt
  • Last Thursday on April 12th, everyone across the country wore their hockey jersey using the hashtag #JerseysforHumboldt which was documented across social media. Even Drake wore his Broncos jersey at the Raptors playoff game.
  • And social media is how the team is honouring and remembering its loved ones who were tragically lost. A website has now also been created and shared online to honour their memories.

In an unimaginable time like this, I couldn't be more proud to be Canadian. I also couldn't be more grateful for social media and the positivity that was harnessed throughout social media platforms to bring us altogether, united as a country at a time like this. It truly is incredible how powerful our words have been and how they have been used on social media to bring us together. Humboldt, we are with you!

#HumboldtStrong