One Year

Jeff Leal’s Re-election campaign team on the night of the 2018 provincial election in Peterborough, ON.

Jeff Leal’s Re-election campaign team on the night of the 2018 provincial election in Peterborough, ON.

It was one year ago today, June 7, that the provincial election of 2018 took place, sealing the fate of the government I worked for.. and not in the outcome we were hoping for.

It’s hard to believe it has already been a year.

Today is just as beautiful and sunny as June 7th was a year ago. I can remember in great detail, where I was on this day a year ago and what I was doing. It is amazing how my entire #onthecampaigntrail experience is burned so vividly in my memory. I left Blake, who was not even a year old yet, to work on the re-election campaign of my Minister, someone I greatly admire and respect. “Human being first, politician second” as I always said. It’s why I chose to go and work for him in provincial politics at Queen’s Park. And of course, because of the agri-food sector.

Politics, agri-food and communications… who would have thought three of my passions would have all combined into one experience?! That campaign experience last May-June, which was my first, was an experience like no other. I met so many people, and left with so many friends. You really do feel like family after spending that much time together - seeing everyone at their worst and their best - all trying our hardest to work towards a common goal. Believing so hard in someone and the platform to which they stand behind.

I’ve did a lot of soul searching since last year’s election. And I wasn’t even the politician who lost.. I was just a staffer who supported them! I can’t imagine. But really, 400 staffers lost their jobs that day when the government changed, which is a detail a lot of people don’t know. While I look on my time as a political staffer with great fondness and the campaign experience as something I’ll never forget, I’m also so thankful on a day like today for what those opportunities afforded me in what I’m doing now in running my own business. Only politics could have prepared me to do what I’m doing now. Seriously.

To network, to think strategically, to have perspective that aims to connect people not divide people, to have a thick skin that is 10 layers thick, to be good at something and keep being good at it for others to recognize, to continually learn, evolve and grow, and most importantly, to learn how to relationship manage and work with people to bring out their best…. I have my former political life to thank among other things, for gaining these skills that are now so necessary and required to run my own business here at Crowley + Arklie Strategy & Co.

A few days after last year’s election, feeling emotional about not only the election outcome but also that reality that our time #onthecampaigntrail had come to an end, I started writing done all the things I learned and the following list came to fruition. I never did share this list at the time, I’m not sure why, but today more than ever, feels like the right day to share. Here’s to more experiences #onthecampaigntrail I’m sure one day.

For anyone interested in politics (especially YOU women out there reading this), please do us all a favour - volunteer, work on a campaign, read up on it to become better informed, pursue politics as a career, or better yet, RUN. We'll be better off because of it!

50 things I learned while #onthecampaigntrail:

  1. Motivate more women to get involved in #politics.

  2. More people need to understand how the elections process works.

  3. Getting more women and millennials out to vote can change the outcome significantly.

  4. A smile goes a long way… in any circumstance.

  5. Want ideas on how to decorate your front porch? Go door knocking for a politician.

  6. Always stay hydrated.

  7. Volunteers are the backbone of a political campaign, full stop.

  8. If you can find something in common with voters, your interaction with them goes a long way.

  9. Climbing stairs in apartment buildings is an exhausting feat.

  10. There are still women who say they’ll ask their partner who to vote for…. it’s hard to believe that.

  11. A lot of men comment on Facebook during the day, who would have thought?

  12. If your social media profile doesn’t have a photo of you, I automatically assume your a bot.

  13. Remembering to eat makes a difference while on the campaign.

  14. Coffee on the campaign trail is a necessity, need I say more?

  15. Meeting babies on the campaign trail made me miss Blake even so much more.

  16. Driving by houses you’ve door knocked at makes you appreciate them even more.

  17.  GOTV= “Get Out the Vote”

  18. Turf in politics means something more than grass.

  19. Walking fast when door knocking makes ALL the difference to identify more voters.

  20. Phone calling makes you see what names are most popular in a city.

  21. A lot of people think you need a voter card to vote when you don’t!

  22. Love hard and find time for loved ones - hearing the stories that elders share so quickly about their partners who have passed is so heart-wrenching.

  23. Goodbyes from people who quickly become your friends that feel like family are never easy.

  24. Working for someone fearless reminds you why your making the sacrifices you are. #SorryNotSorry

  25. Seeing how passionate people are post-debate really ups the motivation of supporters.

  26. Always be prepared for calls from mainstream media... at any time of the day.

  27. Never walk on someone’s front lawn when door knocking.

  28. Don’t wear pants while #GOTV on 30+ degree summer days.

  29. No matter how many I meet, I am always star struck by renowned journalists.

  30. Former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B Pearson lived in Peterborough growing up, who knew?

  31. People thought I was the candidates daughter a lot when I arrived with him to houses and events?!

  32. Directing video is actually really hard.

  33. Meeting voters & hearing their personal stories beyond politics is the BEST.

  34. Messages of support from family and friends mean so much when you’re working so damn hard on such long days and wondering at times what this is all for.

  35. You have to have thick skin in the political arena #toughasnails

  36. There was a hockey playoff game on E-night.. who planned that out?!

  37. The Montreal Canadiens owned the Peterborough Petes at one point in time, who knew?!

  38. Also, who knew that baby squirrels can be trained to be pets?

  39. The right background music in a video makes ALL the difference.

  40. Karl Rove was a campaign pioneer.

  41. Homemade food after a long day hits the spot.

  42. Rain makes you walk faster when you’re #GOTV.

  43. “Dipper” means something different in politics than what it means to an Aggie.

  44. Just because the polls predict one thing, does not change the fact that you should get out and VOTE.

  45. Seeing the ads you designed in print and online never get old.

  46. The people of Peterborough really are the nicest and makes me so darn proud to hail from this community.

  47. Ensuring all is ready for the advertising “blackout” period which begins tonight at 11:59 p.m. the night before E-day is mayhem.

  48. Each day, I have so much damn respect for our campaign team & #voteLEAL volunteers.

  49. There is nothing like those last few hours before the polls close and your trying your damndest to do anything you can to help the outcome in the favour you’d like.

  50. Expect the unexpected & go with the flow because you never know where the campaign trail will take you and ultimately, the hard work you put in will pay off at the hands of the voters, so be proud regardless if you win or not. Know it was still all worth it. I would do it all over again.

Why Empathy is the Communications Secret Weapon


em·pa·thy ' ˈempəTHē/' :  

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

In the conversations I’m having lately when discussing communications and social media, I’m trying to remind people of the importance of empathy.

It’s a character trait that is becoming more and more extinct in our current culture.

It is the root of communicating effectively and the basis of good marketing and customer service. If your customer feels like you are understanding them, or at least trying to understand them, they will reward you for it.

I always ask myself, when working with clients; when talking with people; when giving presentations - what are THEY thinking/feeling as I talk with them. I was reminded everyday working in politics how important empathy was. It goes along with the saying,

“Its not what you say, its what they hear.”

As the picture above so accurately also reflects, going into any situation where you have to communicate with someone, ask yourself, how can you see the world through their lens or perspective? How can you relate to what they're most likely thinking? How can you make that person feel like you’re hearing them and listening to them… before you decide to share your opinion?

A classic example we’re working on right now in the agri-food sector is with consumers and the misinformation they believe about their food. I constantly remind myself, and those around me, that instead of placing blame solely on the consumer, take back the responsibility of why consumers may not know where their food comes from.

Try and see things from their perspective. If they are a generation remove from the farm, live in an urban centre and see no effective advertisements, pop-ups or videos on a daily basis featuring how their food got from the farm to their fork, how should we expect them to know what is right and what is wrong in terms of food truths? Perhaps once we’re more empathetic and open to understanding where consumers are coming from, we can get into their heads to know what information they want to hear and how they want to have those messages delivered to them.

Empathy. Its our communications secret weapon that we don’t use often enough. If we start using this secret weapon more, it could just change our communications game and ultimately, the outcome.

[Image Source]

The Tale of Two Coffee Shops

Tale of 2 Coffee Shops.png

There are two coffee shops in two small, rural Ontario towns that I love visiting. They’re about 15 minutes apart from each other and couldn’t be more different in how they sell their product. It’s a perfect tale of what constitutes good marketing.

The one coffee shop has arguably the best coffee I’ve tasted. Better than the other coffee shop and better than the big name brands like Tim Hortons and Starbucks…. hands down. But their marketing is soft. They don’t have a strong brand - the cups aren’t branded, the shop doesn’t have a consistent look/feel that exudes their brand in an inviting way that makes you want to stay.

Meanwhile, the other coffee shop has decent coffee, not the greatest coffee, but the differentiating factor is that their marketing is standout. They have their cups branded with their coffee shop name, they have the right ambiance in the coffee shop that it makes you want to sit down and stay awhile (and drink a few more cups of coffee!), they have the right magazine available to read and the visible art on the walls (that include historic paintings of a prominent cow and bull!) is what makes it an Instagram worthy place to visit. You want to stay and you don’t know why.

Simply put, the difference between the two coffee shops doesn’t come down to their product quality.. it comes down to marketing.

Its hard to believe that we put more weight on the one coffee shop simply because of how good their marketing is when the whole idea of why we go to a coffee shop is to drink the coffee in the first place. I keep thinking to myself that if the coffee shop with the best coffee were to invest even $1000 on a new logo, some new outward facing marketing materials (including branded cups), hang some local art and a create an ambiance with a certain look/feel within their space that matches their brand, they’d be Instagram worthy too.

All in a days work, right?!

[Image Source]

The Time is Now

Farmtario article

I keep reminding myself daily that the times we’re living in are pretty darn cool. Society is moving at a rate of change we’ve never seen before. Across all sectors. We’re rewriting how we’re storytelling, how we’re communicating and how close we’re getting to the consumer.

Which is where all the potential lies. Our relationship with the consumer (see quote below!)

We now have data to support out communications and marketing decisions, which is powerful. The data tells us what consumers like and dislike. This is powerful! But more importantly than the data, we now have ways to communicate directly with the consumer. That’s because of mediums like social media. We’ve never seen this before which is why we’re experiencing the disruption we are.

All the brands I work with, I can’t stress this enough. Especially in the agri-food sector. The consumer, who is our customer, is who keeps us in business. I use a bus analogy to explain that it is the consumer we need to have in the driver’s seat, while we sit in the passenger seat navigating them in a way that helps them go in a direction that is mutually-beneficial.

There is nothing more powerful than having direct access to the people we want to serve and should be serving.

I recently wrote a piece in Farmtario for the agri-food community, discussing this idea of the disruption we’re experiencing and how we can use it in a positive, transformational way to bring about change for our industry. But a lot must happen in order to bring about this change. If there was ever a time though to do something about it, the time is now. Which is exciting! The best part, is that it is not just millennials asking for this change. People of all ages within the agri-food sector are wanting to bring about change.

We all know why we need to change. It’s how we must change though now.

It will be how we can harness and channel all of this energy and the ideas we have, in a collective way that brings the masses together, to work on solutions that actually stick and work in the long-run. This is where we’ll see success for our industry and its future viability.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Bernadette Jiwa. Onward and upward from here!

Disruption quote.png

My 'Feel Good' Brands

Untitled design.png

Truth be told, I love branding.

I’ve been working on a few client branding projects lately and I’ve loved being immersed in their details. Branding really is the most important part of any marketing or communications strategy - it is the foundation/beginning of how you tell your story, hence why it is so vital in being a good communicator.

Branding helps establish who you are and how you are different in a very crowded marketplace. It stands for how you connect with people - it is how you make people ‘feel’ once they hear your name or see your logo.

I put alot of work into my own personal business brand last summer when I was starting Crowley + Arklie Strategy & Co last fall. Of course, there is always more work that can be done on your brand - that is the thing with a brand - it is constantly evolving, growing, changing as you and as your target audience changes, but at the core/foundation, it remains the same of who you are and what you stand for.

I recently listened to a really inspiring podcast of Oprah’s and the minute I heard her voice, it reminded me of coming home after school at 4pm and sitting with my mom to watch the Oprah Show. It’s amazing how hearing her voice so quickly took me back to a time that I remembered so vividly. Just hearing Oprah’s voice alone brought back a calmness that the marketing God’s would probably say is the ultimate marketing goal.

You can’t exactly find the words to describe what it is that you love about Oprah but you just automatically trust her and feel good when you hear her.

That is when you know you’ve hit the branding jackpot. Oprah does it damn well.. really, anyone who goes by one name like Madonna, Beyonce, etc as their ‘brand’ has hit the branding jackpot.

My recent client branding projects got me thinking of the brands and/or influencers I follow on a daily basis and why I enjoy following them as a brand. This is also one of the questions I ask in the branding survey I send to clients - what brands outside of their industry resonate for them?

For me, brands like Saje Wellness, Starbucks and Candian lifestyle influencer Jillian Harris are quick personal favs that come top of mind when I think of my favourite brands.

Each of their marketing efforts subliminally make me feel a certain way that I want to buy from them or take their advice. They are consistent in their efforts so day in and day out, they are always there, they are always the same and you know what to expect when you interact with their brand. So many influencers on Instagram or YouTube have this same appeal. You don’t know who they are and aren’t friends with them, but you trust them in the same way you would a friend in real life- you want to hear how their day was, their opinion on things, etc.

THAT is what the ultimate goal is for any business/person (aka. brand)…. if you have a strong brand, your followers will want to engage with your marketing campaigns and efforts because they feel a loyalty or allegiance to your brand.

You make your target audience/consumer ‘feel good.’ This article reminded me of this.

I’m taking this Oprah reminder with me in everything I do going forward for my clients but in my own personal brand. There is more work to be done ;)

Happy long weekend, friends!