COM 0014 Blog 7

Personal Reflection : Social media is my solution.

It is hard to believe that this course is wrapping up. I am still getting used to my new found voice.

You know, I used to be an interesting person…

When I was younger I had loads of great adventures! As soon as I was finished high school I headed out west looking for work and enjoying the freedom of travel.

I have been a tree planter, a fruit picker, a fashion designer, a tractor driver and a brush cutter. I worked in a t-shirt factory.  We drove a car to Costa Rica, on two different occasions. We built two houses; one in the jungle and one in eastern Ontario. We lived in an abandoned warehouse filled with artists, and bought an 1860’s stone school house. We own a newspaper.

After awhile, we settled down and made a little family. I have to say, that is when the real work began and I lost myself in it. Now, the kids have grown up, and moved on.

So, when I am asked to ‘tell a story’, I am happy to report that I have some experience to draw on. I feel like I am able to look inside myself and draw out some of the interesting ideas that I have in my head and express them in a quick and easy format, like a blog post.

For years I worked from home. I have to admit that can be very isolating. There is a big commitment required for successful self employment.

Now, I am realizing that the ‘social’ part of social media is what is so appealing to people. It is like old fashioned speakers’ corners where any one can stand up and say their piece. I too feel like I can formulate my ideas on paper and share them online — even if there really is no audience.

I also know from past experience that it is crucial to be specific while communicating to avoid confusion. This course has helped me to refine my writing skills and encouraged me to be precise. The short format encouraged me to be concise. Like a good short story, every word has to be here for a reason, and no extra words should be included.

I feel like there is so much more room for people to be creative in the social media sphere. Most blog posts follow the same formats and styles; probably by necessity.

I think that there is a chance for people to explore the media and I am guessing that it will transform itself over and over again.



Grassroots Communications online


Catherine Whittaker – COM0014  Blog # 6

Whether we are running for office, advertising our new shop or trying to gather a group of volunteers together to host a community fundraiser we all need to be able to communicate.

In my experience as a reporter at a community newspaper, people would shy away from having their picture taken, saying ‘oh no, I don’t want my picture in the paper.”

However, after publication, when their friends and neighbours reacted to the story in the paper, with local folks saying ‘hey, I saw your picture in the paper’ they loved it! And rightly so, credit for a job well done, or congratulations for a specific achievement, really makes everyone feel their very best.

These days, we can apply that same idea to the online media world. We all agree that the internet is here to stay. In fact, it has become indispensable. People are happy to share their stories. Stores, businesses, farmers’ markets and road side vendors need to get the word out to build brand awareness and drive sales. Candidates in elections need to reach as many potential voters as possible.

This is where I come in.

With over 20 years of experience writing for print media, and at least as many years of advertising experience, I am your results based communication expert.

How do we reach our audience?

The internet is a colourful, vibrant place. In fact, it reaches around the world! In most instances, small businesses target a market that is much closer to home. Realistically, there is a big need to be able to reach local markets in an online format.

With my years of experience in advertising and design, I can create a media package for you that will deliver your message to your local, and interested, target audience. It will be snappy, eye-catching and be connected to actual communities that you want to reach. At the same time, we have developed ways of targeting the folks that you really want to connect with; the people in your community.

Take advantage of me and my knowledge

All of the things that community newspapers have always done, a grass roots online media strategy can equal and surpass.

As your communications professional, Catherine Whittaker can;

  • Create a Facebook page that can get you connected to your customers and neighbours. Followers will know your story and become involved with you and your business.
  • Share your news stories, and give real time updates of your community events on your Twitter feed. We can direct people back to your webpage for more information.
  • Open interactive communications so that readers will be able to order your projects, join your groups and contribute to your projects.


Take credit for you success

Go ahead. Brag a little. Your world needs to hear your story.

Let us create a profile package for you, complete with professional, high quality photos, a story about your business, and your contact info. We’ll showcase you on our online platforms and connect you to our area communities through our social media connections.


Experience speaks volumes

Catherine Whittaker can deliver for you and your organization!

  • Excellent experience with home based business advertising, community group publicity and event promotion
  • Expert in print media – Let me apply the basics of good communication to new forms of media
  • Showcasing the ability that I have to meet deadlines – I can break big and daunting tasks down to smaller manageable jobs, and deliver results
  • My proven ability to multi-task, perfected over the years of experience in a newspaper and deadline driven workplace, will work for you.

What do you think about Ad Blocker?

100 million users can’t be wrong!stop hand

When I watch television these days, I usually record my favourite shows and watch them later. That way, I can skip the commercials. For the same reasons, when I use Google Chrome these days, I use Ad Blocker. That way I can browse without having to look at those pesky ads, and my Internet performs better.

Fast Facts

For industry insiders, that means that 20% of people are not seeing the ads that accompany ‘free’ websites.  Publishers are raising the alarm that Ad Blocker will be the end of the Internet. Personally I do not believe that. The same statistic indicates that 80% of users are not using ad blocking software.  That is a fairly high rate of penetration.

Consider ‘junk mail’ or Unaddressed Ad Mail, (recently renamed Neighbourhood Mail by Canada Post). I am sure that advertisers would be pleased if 80% of all flyers were read by householders!

Data use

An even bigger advantage is that Ad Blockers help to keep costs down for consumers.  Internet ads use up our data and that makes our monthly bill for service go up.

screen shot 2016-03-16 at 9.30.10 am copy

The distribution of mobile data transferred on news websites. A video was responsible for the big JavaScript outlier on the left. Enders Analysis

The study found that ad content accounted for between 18% and 79% of the mobile data transferred, depending on the site. JavaScript elements — often used by publishers for ads, but also for visual elements such as animations — added an extra 6% to 68%. Enders noted that the JavaScript it came across in the study wasn’t central to the articles being loaded.

“The researchers concluded that it is reasonable to say advertising accounts for half of all the data used by publisher pages loaded over mobile data networks on the iPhone 6.”  ( Ref 3

Clearly our precious mobile data is being gobbled up by ads. As a mother of 2 teenage boys I have paid hundreds of dollars in data over usage fees. I think that as consumers we should be able to have the choice to go ad free.

Do you use ad blocking software on your home computer?

Do you use ad blocking software on your mobile phone?

 facebook  Check out my latest blog post!  100 Million Ad Blocker users can’t be wrong!

twitter icon What do you think about Ad Blocker? Read all about it at #100millionAdBlockers


1. Reference:

2. Reference:

3. Reference: Enders Analysis – Ad Blocker Study Finds Ads Take Up 79 % of Mobile Data Transfer, March 16, 2016.

Retrieved from


By Catherine Whittaker Blog #4 COM 0011

Halfmoon Yoga

COM 0014 Blog #4, Catherine Whittaker

Colorful Leaf books. Book coverLast December I managed to do most of my Christmas shopping online. I used Canadian businesses whenever possible to eliminate duties and other shipping fees. While looking for gifts for my yoga buddies, I discovered Halfmoon Yoga which is based in Vancouver.

Their webpage was my first point of contact. It offered the bolsters and eye pillows I was looking for, as well as an offer of free shipping! So far, so perfect! When I was ready to purchase, I was asked to join the Halfmoon Yoga mailing list. In return I would get a small discount on my next purchase, and receive news about yoga  products and specials.

The first instalment of the newsletter came to me a few days later and offered 30% off Christmas gifts, including the items that I had just purchased at full price! So, as a savvy consumer, I sent a quick note saying that if I had known a special was coming up I would have waited until the 30% discount applied to make my purchase. Halfmoon Yoga responded promptly. My order had been shipped already so they could not simply cancel it. They did, however, refund the difference in purchase price, directly to my Paypal account and I received my yoga gear right on schedule. As a consumer, I was very pleased. The product was great, the customer service was great and I continue to buy from them.

The Halfmoon Yoga newsletter is pretty good too. Through it I have connected to their blog. The topics they cover have a uniquely Canadian perspective and they focus on yoga and other related topics.  Recently I read A Full Moon Ritual — Women Who Gather Under the Light of the Moon, ( and, in June, I’ll admit that I did look into Shopping for Dads (  in order to find some Father’s Day items. I have made a subsequent purchase and used the little discount that I received for joining the mailing list.

I have followed them onto facebook where I am a now a friend. The facebook page is a good one with lots of videos, contributions from “influencers” in the yoga world, and lots of tips and encouragement for those of us who need it.

Overall, I give Halfmoon Yoga’s social media efforts top marks. They connect with me in tone and lifestyle. The 30% refund of my initial purchase shows that they are listening to thier customers and willing to take offer the 30% discount in order to generate a long term relationship. The occasional email newsletter that they send has quality content.

Colorful Leaf books. Book coverHalfmoon Yoga benefits because I take the time to read their emails, and click through to the links that they provide.  For them, the newsletter is a way to connect with previous customers and to widen their social network reach by asking me to like them on facebook, and share them and so on. As well, like I am doing in this post, I am happy to recommend them because I received such good service.  CW.



Knitting will help your brain!

Catherine Whittaker COM0011 Blog #3 close up of knitted woolen sweater

As the days shorten and the evenings grow longer here in Canada, folks start knitting.  All across the country, socks, mitts and scarves will stack up, just in time for Christmas gift giving.

Knitting is not your grandmother’s pastime anymore! Knitting is growing in popularity with knitting clubs, social groups and even a IWDworldhat-smlittle bit of activism. Remember the Women’s March and those pink pussyhats!

Learning a new skill, being creative and making things with our hands all contribute to improved levels of self esteem. Nearly all knitters report that they feel a sense of accomplishment when they finish a project.

In addition, according to a recent survey conducted by the Craft Yarn Council, 85% of knitters reported reduced levels of stress and over two-thirds of participants claim that their mood improves while knitting. Over 40% of survey participants reported that knitting contributes to better concentration, and nearly a quarter noticed improved memory.

Knitting needles and yarn.There are plenty of online videos that will help you learn to knit. You can join a knitting club. Members get together and share tips and techniques. These can be in trendy coffee shops or in a someone’s living room. Knitting is social.

So during these winter months, do your brain a favour, and knit something.

facebook Help your brain – knit something! Find out how you can improve your memory and feel better by knitting on my blog.

twitter  Help your brain – #knit something!

Further reading

Forest bathing is for you!

For those of us who spend too much time at our desks, or are feeling our stress levels rise, a little forest bathing will help us feel better. We can de-stress, become more creative and give our minds and bodies a break from the routine of our hectic lives.

The forest at Bon Echo provincial park

The trees at Bon Echo Provincial Park in Eastern Ontario. Catherine Whittaker photo.

According to,  Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere”. The practice began in the 1980’s in Japan and has since become part of wellness culture around the world.

Forest bathing is easy to do. Simply get yourself surrounded by trees. There is no need to do anything once you get to the forest, other than enjoy it and absorb all of the good energy that nature gives off.

“The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:

  • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells.
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep


tree top in winter

Even winter landscapes offer benefits. Catherine Whittaker photo.

No special equipment is necessary to begin forest bathing. There are no membership fees and there is no schedule to follow. In fact, it is the perfect pastime for busy people. Even short amounts of forest bathing will help boost your mood and give you more energy.

In Canada we are lucky. We have lots of naturally occurring forests. Even our urban areas have parks with trees. They offer shade in the summer, and feel cozy and sheltering in the winter.

The benefits of trees are well documented. According to research published by Quartz media, there are proven benefits to spending time in nature.

Trees soothe the spirit too. A study on forest bathing’s psychological effects surveyed 498 healthy volunteers, twice in a forest and twice in control environments. The subjects showed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores, coupled with increased liveliness, after exposure to trees. “Accordingly,” the researchers wrote, “forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.”

Autumn is a wonderful time to explore the forest. The fall colours are terrific. The sound of leaves crunching under foot, or rustling up above, are soothing. Spend time some time in the forest — your soul mind and body will thank you.

facebook Learn the health benefits of forest bathing!

twitter Learn about Shinrin-Yoku  at #forest bathing  #surroundedbytrees You mind and body will thank you!

Have you spent time in the forest lately? Where is your favourite spot to get close to nature?

Catherine Whittaker Blog #3 COM0011



Social media is the newest form of gossip

That’s a good thing!

According to Wikipedia, Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. For centuries, gossip has spread stories and helped individuals shape their opinions and beliefs. The recent explosion of social media, across all platforms, helps us to tell our stories and share our points of view.

girls in cafe

Women meeting in a cafe to share stories.

Evolutionary adaptations are changes that occur over time to help a species evolve. This applies to physical changes as well as psychological changes. For humans, storytelling and advanced communication skills are in this category.  Consider what an advantage for survival it is to be able to share knowledge. For instance, the earliest shared recipe dates to about 1800 B.C. (

Gossip, too, belongs in this category.  The informal sharing of stories, both true and rumored to be true, gossip continues to be an important means by which people can share news, shape reputations, and contribute to social control. 

Social media is also a way of sharing stories. Some may be true, and some may not. It is up to the reader, or listener, to determine that.  It is also emerging as a powerful tool of social control.

Modern communication methods and the explosion of social media have breathed new life into the sharing of information. While gossip has generally negative connotations, it does help to keep us safe. Individuals can share their knowledge and experiences even if they are not powerful members of society or leaders of the community. Traditionally women were depicted as the gossipers, which in fact makes perfect sense. They would have been the members of society with the least power. By sharing their experiences, and the knowledge they gained from talking to one another, they could avoid harm and gain valuable knowledge.

Visits for tea, chatting with friends and social time with one another, helped women share ideas of homemaking, child rearing, cooking and so on, all of which help contribute to a stronger society.

Social media too has given a voice to individuals, and groups, who have not had a strong presence in main stream media. As a way of reaching an small or specific audience it can’t be beat.

In order to encourage interaction with a particular audience, social media makers need to be accessible and open to feedback. Just as gossiping is a two way conversation, so is social media. We have to be open to feedback, both positive and negative, and be prepared to be challenged on our ideas. Just like a good old-fashioned gossip, there are plenty of online tools that we can use to find an audience that will either help to spread our news around.

I am not saying that gossip is good or bad. Good manners usually dictate that we should not share news if we are not sure if it is true. The same self governance should apply to our online manners. We should not be sharing “idle gossip” as fact unless we know that it is true.



Catherine Whittaker COM0014

Travelling Arts & Crafts Show

Social media is perfect outlet for travel writing. It is also the perfect format for the rest of us to live vicariously through the experience of others who are more adventurous, or who have more free time and money, than the rest of us.

While loading my family into a sailboat for a year long circumnavigation of the globe is not feasible, following travels on Facebook, or reading a blog will be the next best thing.

Social media, in many forms gives us a chance to share the experiences. Facebook pages, photos shared on Instagram and daily tweets are perfect for quick and easy publishing.

Originally travel writers published in periodicals, or wrote books when the adventure was over. That means the trip is viewed as a whole, instead of the capturing the spontaneity and excitement of day-to-day journaling.

blog 1 - Mary Jane Makes screenshot

Mary Jane Makes blog.

So, imagine my enthusiasm when I stumbled onto the Mary Jane Makes blog! It is an inspiring story of creative Mary Jane Baxter,  a milliner and author, converting a camper van into her makeshift studio. In 2016, she headed out on the road around Europe, visiting crafty destinations and blogging about the trip.This crafty mobile business provides a perfect jumping off point for Mary Jane to meet other crafts people, create visibility for herself and her creative endeavours and to live a great adventure. The blog links to her web page which offers much more information; products for sale, upcoming events and more.


My background is also in the ‘maker’ businesses, with a degree in fashion design, a few good gigs at fashion and craft shows, and, for a short time, owner of a store that sold arty stuff. I continue to explore printmaking, textile arts, and knitting. I am feeling like my horizons have been broadened, and that my possibilities are endless.

This also reminds me of the Arts and Crafts movement, which according to Wikipedia “began in Britain and flourished in Europe and North America between about 1880 and 1920, emerging in Japan in the 1920s. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration.”

Perhaps one day, with my new found social media confidence, I will be able to create a “travelling arts and crafts maker” tour of my own. I’ll be able to share it online, publishing as I go, generating interest in my products and finding fulfilment in creative expression!

 Next topic:  Through my reading and online researching, I am finding more and more arts and crafts travel opportunities. Getaways to an English Knitting Hotel, tours to France that include 2 day paper making classes, and getaways to art studios where participants come home with paintings, or sculptures are all on offer.  Stay tuned for more!

References: Arts and crafts movement


twitter icon  Are you interested in travel that includes a session or two in an art studio?

Where would you go?  #artsandcraftstours


facebook icon  Find out what you are missing. Follow blogs of creative people!


Further reading

COM0014 – Blog #1: Micro Adventure for One

Micro Adventure for One

The stress was mounting!  

I have been working a full time job and running a home based business for more than three years with out a break. I needed a getaway. These days, my husband and sons are really happiest at home, hanging around with friends and sleeping until 2 pm  on weekends. None of them showed any interest in camping anymore. So I planned to go on my own.

Once I decided to go kayaking into backwoods Ontario, the rest was easy.

I booked a campsite, rented a kayak and said I was going away for a few days.  My family was surprised and wondered why.  Some of my friends said, “You can’t go by yourself, its dangerous.” I did it anyway.

Kayaking on Round Schooner Lake

This is the view from my kayak.

While I have been camping for years, including many trips into the back country, I usually had a canoe and fellow paddlers.  As a family, when we all went together, we took two canoes. Compared to my kayak, canoes seem big and roomy with lots of space for gear.

How do you pack a kayak? I really had no idea.  Before the trip, I spent time on the internet. Of course, online videos were great. Typically back country gear goes into dry bags; fancy water proof sacs with fold over tops that keep the contents dry if they end up in the lake.

Kayak packing means loading all your gear into dry bags that are small enough to fit through the front and back hatches of the kayak. The key to getting them back out again is the long cords that are tied to each one and looped back to a spot where you can reach them. Otherwise I’d be flipping my boat upside down and shaking the stuff out.

The trip in was a two hour drive on bumpy roads and it took about four hours of paddling to get to where I was going. The weather was fine and the conditions were good. After all, I was on my own and didn’t need to co-ordinate with other people. I could take my time and enjoy the day.

Site 5 on Round Schooner Lake turned out to be beautiful; sun shining through leafy trees, a nice smooth rock shore with a little sand beach off to one side, and a nice easy place to land the kayak.  Made it!

There was a breeze rustling the trees and little waves lapping on the shore. I stayed there for 2 nights and 3 days. I went swimming, did some yoga on the beach, watched the sunrise, went for hikes and lazed around my campsite. In the evenings, I looked at the stars, drank a little wine and ate some nice, simple food. The fire on the beach topped off my awesome days.

Have you been on your own in the wilderness?


Rock art on the beach

I am definitely ready to do it again and stay away longer!