COM0014 Blog # 7 – Personal Reflection

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For the last 24 years, I have been trying to entice readers to get past the first sentence, the first paragraph, through the entire article, news release or children’s book. Digital Communications has reinforced the importance of telling strong and interesting personal stories to achieve this goal.

No matter what the topic or issue is, or what message I am trying to convey, there are people impacted by it or involved in it somewhere along the way. If I can focus on those people and get readers to identify with them, my story will be more widely read and therefore, more effective. This will deliver the message to a wider audience, making the content more successful. Unless we tell exceptional stories that matters to people and get them to read beyond the first 10 words, they’ll never get to the heart of the content or message and the opportunity is lost.

This course has reinforced for me that it is important to create a story that makes people personally and emotionally care about what we are trying to say. If you’re lucky, after you’ve convinced people enough times that what you’re writing about is relevant, perhaps even important, you might be fortunate enough to develop a personal or corporate brand as a writer who has something to say. This is my goal: to show the people in my community that I write genuine content and real stories about the people and the issues around me.

 

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COM0014 Blog # 6 – Do People Know Your Story?

What is your favorite customer story?

My favourite customer story is about Karen, a Grade 1 student who joined Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club last September. I always start the year off with a pizza lesson because it’s a fantastic ice-breaker and almost all kids love to make and eat pizza.

We start the year off by setting ground rules. Karen’s shyness shone like a beacon even during the group discussion. It amplified after we’d washed our hands and gathered at our prep tables. Karen seemed to shrink in size as we went over the steps of pizza preparation, as if she was trying to disappear under the small tables. When I approached Karen, she looked down at her shoes and did not raise her head again, no matter how hard I tried.

I was worried Karen wouldn’t show up to the next class, but she lined up on Friday. I was overjoyed. We made tacos that day, and during the explanation, she managed to look at me a few times. Fleeting eye contact was a major step in the right direction.

As the weeks progressed, Karen gained confidence and began to interact more. She started to laugh and smile and became more comfortable preparing food and eating it. Her mother even sent me a message telling me how much fun she said she was having.

This might seem like a silly story, but it illustrates how our club is reaching kids and teaching them to prepare healthy food. Regardless of previous skill, our kids learn to feed themselves healthy food in a fun environment. When Karen graduates from Grade 5 and leaves our school for new adventures, she will be armed with recipes and skills. That is success.

COM0014 Blog # 5 – Personal Brand

I am a mother who talks the talk and walks the walk. Case-in-point: I wanted children in my community to have access to the same cooking lessons that I provided for my son. I planned to offer these in my home, but when my son started school, I saw the existing kitchen and lobby space and knew it was a perfect fit with a captive audience. Bingo! I approached the school principal, found funding, and launched the program. Instead of letting a great idea wilt on the sidelines, I made it happen. This is what separates me from my competitors: I don’t shy away from hard work or long hours and I do it on a volunteer basis.

Called the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club, the program has developed a solid reputation of success in just three years. We’ve had ample traditional and social media coverage, and were recently selected to present Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla with flowers. It means the world to me that my club was selected to be part of an official international event. I’ve also recently been offered a book deal to produce a cookbook.

If you were to ask my colleagues what my best trait is they would likely say I am resilient and don’t let obstacles stop me. I always find a way around the hurdles.

I’ve accomplished many things in my lifetime, but I am most proud of the things I have done since becoming a mother. My son fills me with ambition and drive: everything I do is for him. The programs I run, the books I write, the money I earn, the trips we take: everything is meant to provide him with the skills he needs to become a loving, successful person.

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COM0014 Blog # 4 – B2C Case Study

My case study involves Iqaluit musicians, The Jerry Cans/Pai Gaalaqautikkut. A self-described Inuktitut alt-country, throat singing, and reggae band that started in 2008, The Jerry Cans heavily engage with their audience online. For the purposes of this analysis, I will focus on their Facebook interactions.

The Jerry Cans are skilled marketers who use their Facebook page to connect with their local fanbase and to build an international following. They broadcast worldwide performances, tour schedules, merchandise, and profile and celebrate various aspects of Inuit culture. They have 10,710 page likes, 10,626 followers, and their numbers are growing steadily. They regularly host like and share Facebook contests to give away merchandise, Inuit food or tickets to their events. They respond to Facebook messages within the hour, which is very important when growing a brand; have links to their website giving fans an easy route to purchase albums and merchandise; highlight the work of Indigenous performers; and regularly post pictures with their Inuit and non-Inuit fans around the world.

Perhaps most importantly, The Jerry Cans are popular cultural ambassadors who spread positive messages about Inuit culture. Recently, there were highly publicized violent incidents in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). Following performances in those communities, The Jerry Cans posted a heartfelt note on Facebook about the beauty, kindness and generosity they encountered while performing. As a business, The Jerry Cans used their social media clout to combat negative perceptions, which is very important to their consumers.

Check them out today on Facebook at The Jerry Cans / Pai Gaalaqautikkut. You’ll have a lot of fun following an entertaining band that is part of a dynamic social media movement working to create a positive dialogue about Inuit. And you can buy their music and hoodies while you’re at it.

 

COM0014 – Blog 3: Target Audiences

At work, we have increased our Facebook audience through various communications initiatives to reach a wider target audience with key messages. Because of Facebook Insights’ thorough date collection, we know who we are reaching and how we are reaching them. We also know who we are not reaching as well as we’d like to: youth.

Reaching youth in Nunavut with relevant messages is very important. Demographically, youth in Nunavut are predominantly Inuit, some from traditional families, some from modern families, some from a mix of both, many of which are blended. Many youth are in high school, some have chosen to leave school. Youth are active in sports, are hunters, participate in cultural performances. Some youth are employed, others hang out at youth centres or participate in youth councils. Some youth are not participating in many activities at all. We will conduct focus groups and surveys to get a clearer picture of the psychographics of Inuit youth so that our initiatives are relevant and inline with their values.

The goal is to reach this diverse target audience with current messages that instill hope, empowerment and resilience. We will test our initiatives to ensure they reflect regional and community realities. We will use Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat and look at other online sites where Inuit youth are hanging out. And most of all, we need to have Inuit youth at the table when we are drafting these messages to ensure they are relevant.

There is a growing musical movement among Inuit youth that is documenting struggles and empowering youth to be proud. Young performers are successfully reaching their target audiences by posting their new music online at Facebook, SoundCloud and YouTube. We plan to host an audio/video song contest for youth to produce music that provides uplifting messages.

COM0014 – Blog 2: Storytelling and Communications Styles

I write constantly. I write for paid work, I write for course work and I write children’s books. Over the last 24 years, one of the most important skills I’ve honed is the ability to take a complex issue and turn it into a simple piece of writing. I apply this skill to all my writing projects to ensure I write in a way that readers grasp and enjoy. Every single project is written with the intended reader in mind. I often picture my reader sitting across from me to help figure out how to say what I need to say to them in the best way possible.

For example, I use formal and professional language in the annual reports I write, but I keep the writing simple to assist readers to understand the content. News releases, paid and social media advertisements, social media posts, election information, curriculum initiatives and speeches all require distinctive styles of writing, but they all have one thing in common: I need to hook readers at the start and keep them engaged to the end. Only necessary details are included. I am forever negotiating with our legal division over length of communications initiatives.

When I’m writing children’s books, I write specifically for my eight-year-old son. Often, I read him various drafts of projects and if his eyes glaze over, I revise immediately. If I can’t keep my kid interested, I’ll never keep other kids engaged.

Ensuring transition between sentences and paragraphs is also important. Readers quickly lose interest if you are unable to write clearly. The final trick I use is to read my writing out loud. I’ve written speeches or proposals in flowery language, only to read them out loud and realize they sound silly.

COM0014 – Blog 1: Hockey Holidays

I am a hockey mom. I didn’t discover this side of myself until I was 45, the year my son turned five and started to play. He’d been skating for three years by then, so when he suited up the first time, he was pretty confident on the ice, a natural-born player for sure.

If you are also a hockey mom, or a hockey dad, then like me, you dedicate precious vacation days to go on hockey holidays. There are tournaments to play in, camps to go to. Because I am an Iqaluit hockey mom, these hockey holidays always involve planes. This past March, we headed to Ottawa for a weekend trip to play in the Ottawa East Novice B Championship tournament. If you are unfamiliar with Canadian geography, Iqaluit is located on Baffin Island in the territory of Nunavut, so playing in an Ottawa tournament means flying 2,085 kilometres south to compete.

It was an eventful trip from start to finish. We almost missed the plane because of a blizzard in Iqaluit: we were minutes from being turned away at the gate. The plane ride was fun, if you like flying with a rambunctious team of eight year olds. After we landed and checked in, we grabbed a bite to eat with other hockey families and formed new friendships that are now cemented and important to our family.

We had the first morning of our trip free so we walked to the Rideau Centre to take advantage of Sport Chek. It sounds uneventful, but with all the construction happening in Ottawa this spring, a short stroll turned into a noisy and hazardous trip around cranes, dump trucks, detours and hostile traffic.

Back at the hotel, we rested before the game, making sure to eat carbs and drink lots of water. I always tell my son he has to feed the machine. I run the Facebook account for the team so I make sure to post helpful hints about prepping for games for all the players.

When we headed to the rink for the first game, the excitement was alive in the school bus. The kids felt confident as a team, even though they’d only played together twice. They easily won the first game. The second team was tougher. They had a man-sized goalie who stopped all the shots. That same team would be the only team to defeat us the entire tournament. Unfortunately, they beat us twice, the second time in the gold medal game.

Although I wanted the kids to go home with gold medals, I was disappointed in the coaches. They were more upset than the kids and instead of being able to lead them to understand they’d won silver, they were sad, thinking they’d lost gold.

As I type this, we’re taking three planes to get to Charlottetown, PE for hockey camp: another memorable hockey holiday in the works. Have I gone mad or is this just part of being committed to my son’s health and well-being?

 

The Facebook Success of Iqaluit Sell and Swap

Nunavut is short on shopping options. We have very few stores in our communities and what is available is high in price and low on choice. Several years ago, an Iqaluit resident helped changed this by creating a Facebook group called Iqaluit Sell and Swap, https://www.facebook.com/groups/172087872826266/.

With nearly 25,000 members and growing daily, it continues to be one of the most vibrant and successful social media sites in Nunavut. I love it: It’s like an online garage sale full of interesting and necessary things you’ve been looking for forever.

Sure, I shop online at Amazon or Old Navy, but Iqaluit Sell and Swap, and similar sell and swap sites in other Nunavut communities, have given residents of Nunavut access to a closer online market stocked with new and used items that make sense to our lives North of 60. Whether you’re looking to sell a polar bear hide or buy a parka or mitts designed to withstand minus 50 windchill, Iqaluit Sell and Swap is the place to look.

Every day, a constant stream of new items is advertised for sale, including traditional and modern Inuit clothing, artwork, housewares, houses, vehicles, tools and food. Iqaluit Sell and Swap has something for everyone. And the beauty of it: it’s 100 per cent free to advertise your wares. Say good-bye to classified ad fees. You just need access to your Facebook account.

Prices are generally reasonable, and have led to significant inter-community sales in Nunavut, and to other parts of Canada. For example, the harvest of caribou on Baffin Island is currently limited to give local herds time to repopulate. In the central and western regions of Nunavut, the herds are more populous so often, hunters advertise their fresh catch for sale on Iqaluit Sell and Swap. Facebook has been so successfully used by hunters that wildlife officials warn of possible adverse impacts on other herds, and local airlines are struggling to keep up with the demand for cargo services.

Similarly, many Nunavut artists have had great success in selling their products worldwide using this Facebook site, as well as their own personal Facebook pages. Iqaluit Sell and Swap has provided filmmakers, artists, jewelers, musicians, writers and seamstresses with a free tool to reach international markets and audiences.

And if you can’t find the item you’re looking for listed on the site, simply post a want-to-buy (WTB) message and chances are within a few days you’ll have exactly what you wanted.

But, buyer beware: more and more people are using Iqaluit Sell and Swap fraudulently. People pay for items they never recieve or in some cases, the item they receive is not what they paid for. Just like when using any social media site for any purpose, exercise extreme caution.

So, whether you live in a remote community with little access to shopping options or you just want to shake up your online shopping experience, start a Facebook sell and swap site. You won’t regret it. Happy shopping.

Facebook Promotion Post:

Looking to buy a polar bear hide or sell your mother’s wedding dress? Have we got a site for you! Check our Iqaluit Sell and Swap, http://ow.ly/Ygnm309dBJ2.

Twitter Promotion Post:

Looking to buy a polar bear hide or sell your wedding dress? Something 4 everyone. Check our Iqaluit Sell and Swap, http://ow.ly/Ygnm309dBJ2.

Setting up Your Own After-School Cooking Club: What Not to Do!

I’ve written lately about the joys and successes that come with running the #MamaqtuqNanookCookingClub, http://bit.ly/2kjZXyd. I’d be remiss to leave out the many failures I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned. These might be helpful to you if you’re thinking of starting your own club. Keep in mind, we think failures in and out of the kitchen are important for kids to learn how to cope with a complex world http://to.pbs.org/1MVKeyb.

No Gingerbread Houses

I’ll start with this, and though this may seem like an odd statement from someone who loves kids and baking, I encourage you to heed my words: Never, ever undertake assembling DIY gingerbread houses with 30 kids under the age of 10. Don’t do it. They’ll be crazy excited because it’s fun and Christmas is coming. Teachers and parents know this means chaos at the school. Add gumdrops and candy canes and icing to this and they’re uncontainable, one could say unmanageable. All that frenetic energy means one thing: heat. This means the icing will not set and none of the walls will stay up; the roofs will all cave. The kids will cry. Some will get angry. Others will eat all the candy. You get the picture. http://bit.ly/2llOVbt. That nostalgic memory you tried to create will go up in flames. Even opening the school door to the Arctic winter to cool things down won’t be of much help. Still determined? Good luck.

No Big Topic Discussions

Early on, the kids caught on to the idea of field trips into the community and to guest speakers coming in to speak to them. They were immediately receptive to the idea of fostering community spirit and volunteerism, whether it was in the form of raising money for club infrastructure or feeding people in our community. This is now one of our main principles and we reinforce it weekly. All good. However, I learned that discussing this topic for 20-30 minutes with a pack of kids isn’t such a good idea. I thought we were off on the right track at first. What constitutes volunteerism, I asked. Picking up garbage, helping out a feast, were some of the answers I received. Why do we help people? To help them. What can we do in our communities to help? Pick up your shoes. It deteriorated from there. It was just a bit too sophisticated for young kids. I guess what’s most important is to teach them to volunteer early in their lives so it becomes ingrained in them. http://huff.to/1FihcGw.

Flour is Flammable

We make pizza a lot. After three years, I have helped develop dozens of seriously good pizza makers. I’m proud of this. But, make sure you wipe the flour off the bottom of the pizza pans before you put them in the oven because flour is flammable and you’ll have to deal with a bunch of freezing kids and the fire department at 40 below. http://bit.ly/2kjZw70

Keep it Simple

Don’t overestimate the kids or your cooking space. Kids and complex recipes, like croissants, are best left for home and not two hours on a Friday afternoon. The most important thing is to teach them the basics of food preparation and to have fun. http://bit.ly/2kL4n4w

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Facebook Promotion Post

How to avoid calling the fire department and other important tips for setting up your own after-school cooking club http://bit.ly/2kjZXyd.

Twitter Promotion Post

How to avoid calling the fire department and other tips for setting up your own after-school cooking club http://bit.ly/2kjZXyd.

 

Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club: Feel the Community Love

There’s that old saying that it takes a community to raise a child. Those are words we live by at the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club. Without the tremendous support of so many people, businesses and organizations in the community of Iqaluit, our after-school cooking program wouldn’t be nearly as vibrant or have such meaningful impact on the lives of our participants.

To recap, the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club is a weekly after-school cooking program that we offer to Grade 1-5 students at Nanook School in Apex, a tiny suburb located outside of Iqaluit, Nunavut. We receive a small amount of funding from the Brighter Futures program each year to run the program. Between 20-30 students show up each week. We try to offer a fun mix of cooking lessons, literacy exercises, physical exercise, field trips, outdoor activity and guest speakers over the school year.  I coordinate the program, (write proposals, budget, plan, shop, prep, clean) and work with a teacher at the school to host the program every Friday. We’re in our third year and it’s getting more popular every year.

Why We Rely So Heavily on Social Media

The popularity of the program with people who don’t attend it each week is a direct result of the reach of social media. Every week before the class begins, I use Facebook to let parents and other community members know what our plans are for the week. This builds interest. During the program, I photograph each stage of the lesson and post these images on Instagram. Everyone loves to see the progress the students make each week. At the conclusion of the program, I post the images and a short summary to the school’s Facebook page, which is linked to the Twitter feed so our activities are immediately broadcast to our audiences using social media.

This social media presence is very important to our program. Because of the positive conversation that we have generated, we receive continuous donations of food, discounted services, free transportation, financial donations, and simple words of praise. This all helps build and promote our reputation as a successful program, which continues to provide leverage when we go to our primary funders.

Donations Make Our Program Thrive

Our budget is small and our cost of food is high. This is why it is so critically important to maintain a strong reputation on social media. We need businesses to fall in love with us so they will continue to want to support us. For example, the local small-guy grocery store, Baffin Canners, gives us a five per cent discount on all purchases. This makes a big difference. We also have the amazing support of Doug Cox who runs the Uquutaq Men’s Shelter in Iqaluit. He receives a lot of food donations and he is generous enough to share with us. This is Doug with one of our young cooks during a field trip to the shelter. Teaching the kids to volunteer and give back to their community is a mainstay of the program.

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Nanook School is gracious enough to let us use the school, its kitchen, lobby and gymnasium for free every week. This is Mat Knickelbein, the principal of the school. He’s very supportive of our program. That’s Doug again, and all the cooking club kids sitting in front of the new stove, microwave and range hood we bought in year number two after hosting a community car wash. We raised $2,000 by washing cars one summer afternoon. We advertised the event on Facebook and it was a huge success! Again – community love.

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One of our local airlines gave us a break on the freight to fly the appliances to Iqaluit. To say thanks, we hung up their banner and invited them down for a meal one Friday afternoon. Part of the arrangement was that we would thank them publicly on Facebook.

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And then there’s the monthly field trips. Community organizations open their doors to us every year. We still plan to get to the grocery store, a restaurant and the homeless shelter again this year. And how do we get there? By school bus, donated by RL Hanson. We’re always sure to thank them using social media so that our audiences know how generous they are.

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We are inundated with community visitors each year. For example, we have a Star Wars group in town. The kids dressed in all their finery that day. They still talk about that a year later.

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Because the vast majority of the kids at our school are Inuit, I also try to make sure there is a cultural component. This is Joanna Awa talking about what it was like to grow up in Nunavut 50 years ago. She talked about hunger and the importance of seals and taught the kids a game to play with seal bones.

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Get Out and Volunteer!

Without Facebook , Twitter and Instagram, we wouldn’t have community members and businesses lining up to volunteer in our program. So, the next time you’re leisurely scrolling through Facebook and see a call for volunteers, get out and volunteer! You’ll make your community a better place to live.

Facebook Promotion Post

You’ll never know how much love there is in a community until you start to volunteer! Check out the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club (https://www.facebook.com/ApexDEA/) and see how some residents in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada’s tiniest city, unite behind an effort to teach kids how to cook!

Twitter Promotion Post

You’ll never know how much love there is in a community until you start to volunteer! Check out Iqaluit’s #mamaqtuqnanookcookingclub.