COM-0015 Blog#4 -Out of the Box

Image created with Canva by: Christiane Bouchard Howden

Social media is constantly changing and evolving. Back in 2007 when I signed up for my first Facebook account, I remember thinking to myself how great it was to finally have a way to connect with friends and family that were miles away. I still think that, however from a completely different perspective. Now I look at the variety of platforms available and think of the endless opportunities they present to connect with potential clients all over the globe. The ability to network, create connections and build relationships with people I wouldn’t have the chance to meet in person. Coming from a traditional marketing mindset in radio, the possibilities of digital marketing still boggle my brain! The expansion of modern day marketing tools, platforms and software is exploding in new directions everyday, and they are taking the world by storm! The key however is to know how to use these tools, that are readily accessible for just about everyone, and think outside of the box on how to create a presence and brand for yourself that stands out.

Be Bold and Try New Things

TikTok is the prime example of a platform taking the world by storm…and surprise! What was thought by many (including myself) as being an entertaining platform used mainly by Gen Z’ers, has transformed into an incredible modern marketing method. With over 500 million downloads from the Google Play Store alone, this new channel is so great because there is still so much marketing ideas to discover! It’s a personal way to brand yourself and infuse your personality to create relationships with your audience. TikTok provides a creative space for you and your business, giving ample opportunity to step outside of the box. Keeping up and staying in the know with trending apps, software, platforms is an excellent way to stay relevant in the digital marketing game.

Use What You Know-In new Ways

Facebook has been around for years and seeing ads or videos is not new. However step outside the box and figure out ways to use the tools available in new to you ways. But using tools like surveys or polls can help you build your presence and get to know your target audience in a fun way. You get to connect with new people, and create a space that is welcoming engagement and participation.

Also creating a group for your niche is a great way to network with people that are like minded and have the same interests. While it may now be a new concept, it is introducing your brand to fresh eyes that may not have heard of you before.

Measure your Success

Metrics have incredible value in the digital marketing field. It is one of the biggest advantages over traditional marketing methods. You get to see result from your efforts, almost in real time. Take advantage of this and watch those metrics closely. If you are not getting the results you want from your social media marketing, change your delivery or tone. You may just need to tweak your campaign a bit to fit your target audience better. Those metrics might even indicate you need to step outside of the box in order to get noticed more. Trust those insights-they will lead you to success!

By staying on top of trends, trying new ideas on familiar platforms and measuring your marketing efforts, you can successfully create an online presence that builds your brand in a positive and authentic way. Remember that even though you are visible online, it’s more than just that. Always strive to keep your content engaging, and relative to who you are or what you are selling.

Do you have some out of the box methods for your marketing strategies? Share the in the comments below.

Networking now and in the future.

Image created by Christiane Bouchard Howden (Canva)

Networking Is Necessary

Networking is a key piece to my everyday job. As a marketing specialist for a tech company there is constant change. Without the right connections, keeping up with that change would be nearly impossible. Whether it’s connecting with other professionals in the field, or conducting industry research in target markets and even learning about the next up and coming technology, social media and online events has been a critical piece in staying in the know.

Are you searching for new ways to connect and network with people to help your business stay on top of industry trends? Take a look at the steps I use for creating and maintaining my network what methods of networking I look forward to in the future.

Image created by Christiane Bouchard Howden (Canva)

Keeping Track of your Network.

The first project I was tasked with in this position was to source a system that could track our contacts, marketing efforts and communications. A CRM, or customer relationship management system will store contacts, notes or emails you share with these contacts, and even metrics on marketing efforts such as email campaigns. Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers a versatile system that enables the separation of client contacts from my network contacts. It’s an invaluable tool for when you are adding someone new to your network, as you can keep track of details and notes of your first interactions. This helps to remember even just the little things-like how many children your new connection has or that they pitched an idea to the local business board recently. It’s the little things that build authentic relationships and will strengthen your network.

Image created by Christiane Bouchard Howden (Canva)

Sourcing from Social Media

The internet has a niche for everyone. With over 3.6 Billion users on social media in 2020, you are bound to have a place to connect and network with your people. My favorites are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Each platform serves it’s own purpose for networking. Facebook has groups with people of like-minded interests and hobbies. If I wanted to connect with people interested in cybersecurity technologies, there’s a group for that! Really…there is. There are now live events you can participate in on Facebook as well. For example, you are an artist wanting to learn new painting techniques from other artists. There are Facebook live events that give a tutorial on how to paint, and the chat is live-letting you connect with new people.

Twitter is an excellent source of quick and trending information provided by people that could potentially be part of your network. There are a lot of knowledgeable and interesting people on Twitter and by interacting with their posts and commenting, you can network with just about anyone. These do need to be filtered occasionally, however many people within my network stated as a Twitter connection. By using the chat and hashtags the possibilities are endless.

LinkedIn is a given in my industry because it is a networking site created for professionals. It does have some challenges, like rising above the noise of everyone else and standing out amongst the crowd. So why do I love and use it so much? Of course I have my network and connections there, but I use this platform to gain insight into competitors or people aligned with the same interests however is involve on a different level. For example one of my connections is a person that works for a children’s safety advocacy group. By connecting with him I was opened up to a whole network of people that are involved with cybersecurity protection for kids as well as how to protect children from being lured and groomed online for human trafficking rings. It opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of the cybersecurity technologies world that I would never have thought I would take interest in.

Other Sources Available Online

Opportunities for networking are endless online. Information sharing forums like Reddit and Quora are great places to source information and build your network. Knowing how to filter through these platforms and determine who is a viable and trust-worthy network possibility can take some time and skill, but eventually you develop a feel from those who are merely offering conspiracy theories and those that are legit interested in the same ideas as yourself.

There are sites that offer networking for small businesses, like Alignable. You can connect with other business professionals and set up meetings, informal chats and even introduce others into your own network contacts. Fivver, an online marketplace for freelancers also providers similar types of networking possibilities.

Image created by Christiane Bouchard Howden (Canva)

In-Person Events

I truly love in person events, and find it is where I make most of my best connections. There is something to be said for being able to look someone in the eye, see their facial expressions and read their body language to make an authentic connection. Conferences, tradeshows, info sessions, seminars…all these are rooms filled with people that have similar interests. With all of this said, unfortunately these have fallen to the wayside for now with the restrictions in place for COVID-19.

Image created by Christiane Bouchard Howden (Canva)

The Future of Networking

The future of networking is happening right now. With the fallout of in-person events, webinars and ZOOM calls have quickly become the replacement. Will this be a permanent solution? Time will tell. Businesses may choose to reduce costs by having their employees participate in an online summit rather than travel out of country to be part of a live event. Technology has made leaps and bounds with headsets and augmented reality, that in the future networking may become a full body virtual experience.

Have your networking strategies changed in the past year due to the pandemic? What seems to work for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

COM-0015 Blog #2: Social Media Strategies-When You Know You Are Doing it Right!

Written by: Christi Bouchard Howden (Marketing Specialist)

All images sourced by Canva

When it comes to marketing, some companies really have got their strategy nailed down, while others seem to struggle or even avoid trying to get their brand out there. Take luxury care maker Lamborghini for example when they claimed they don’t advertise on television because their audience doesn’t sit around watching tv. They know exactly where their resources will make the biggest impact and how to get the attention of their future clients.

With businesses venturing online, it only seems to make sense to have a presence where your sales leads are. More and more people, are spending their time online, there is no doubt about it! Having a digital marketing plan in place while using social media platforms is how companies will get the largest reach for their marketing budget.

Want to know how to tell if you’ve got it right online? Take a look to see which two companies are hitting the mark with their social media strategies and which company seems to fall short.

How Wendy’s Wins

Fast food industry giant, Wendy’s, knows how to win. They are right on point with their delicious food menu options, however how they get that menu across to hungry customers using social media, is just as genius. Wendy’s is notorious for their social media campaigns using Facebook and Twitter. They stay on trend with their audience and even released a spin the famous TikTok “Hot Girl Summer” fad, creating a post on National Burger Day for “Hot Grill Summer.” They have targeting an audience down to an art and by keeping with the trends they stay on top of the digital marketing game.

Wendy’s has also been known to be pull some playful punches with their rival competitors with roasts online. By using both Facebook and Twitter, they have sent out targeted messages directed at the competition. One tweet that was obviously pointing the finger at McDonald’s, joked about their ice cream machine always being broken. Clever pitch, that followers loved! Once again keeping on trend, and keeping their demographic target in mind, Wendy’s keeps on winning.

Keeping connected with their followers is another strategic move in their social media plan. This helps build trust with their customers and develop a brand that is authentic. When a client complains, you can be sure they respond. It’s not just the negative comments they comment on. There have been instances of customers raving about great customer service, and the restaurant will inquire which location to ensure the staff get the credit they deserve.

Airbnb a Social Experience

Airbnb is another brand that has the whole social media concept mastered. This booking company that hosts travelers in unique accommodations across the globe takes a different approach in their marketing. Remember when the term FOMO came out? Airbnb gives the term fear of missing out a whole new meaning! In 2016 Airbnb launched the “Experiences” campaign, giving Instagram followers plenty of gorgeous and dream worthy vacation photos and captions. They created the vision of the perfect getaway and used social media platforms to lure people into booking their dream getaways. They became masters of giving their audience what they wanted to see in a picture and made them feel like they needed to go there. They post photos of families playing together and having the time of their lives, or palm dreams with hammocks swaying in the breeze by the ocean to rid yourself of everyday stresses. The message is clear-you need to get away and live the life the image is portraying. Not only did their campaign speak to travelers looking for authentic and diverse locations, it also captured the attention of those wanting to rent out their own little havens of paradise for a little bit of extra revenue.

While many would think Airbnb would fizzle out during the pandemic, they proved us wrong and took their “Experiences” campaign and moved it a little closer to where everyone would be-you guessed it…online. Through YouTube and other platforms, “Experiences Online” brought the experience of being somewhere else right to you. The opportunities for experiences were endless and they could all be experienced form the comfort of your couch. Airbnb recognized that people needed connection adventure more than ever during this trying time and delivered their message in their unique fashion.

With the onset of COVID this company also provided several healthcare and frontline workers with accommodations and documented it with their #frontlinestays campaign. Airbnb acted fast and without hesitation proving they stay on top of trends (as awful as this situation was) and delivered in a heartwarming and generous way.

Out in Left Field

There is a small engraving shop located in the same building I work in. Some time ago there was an ad for this small business in the newspaper advertising they engraved trophies. Recently, they approached the company I work for to revamp their website, claiming it was the reason business was slow. After taking a look at the images they provided for content, it was very clear they did so much more than just trophy engravings! They had a whole print shop that did marketing materials, shirts, mugs, masks…you name it they printed it! It was then we decided to take a look at their social platforms to get a closer look, only to discover they didn’t have anything relevant posted in the last 5 years. It’s no wonder they were suffering financially. It’s because no one knew what they actually did.

Unfortunately many small businesses suffer from not using social media strategies. By simply incorporating a plan, quality content that provides your potential client with the information they need and connecting with them to establish trust and an authentic brand ,small businesses can get themselves known for a very small cost. Consistency will win every time with social media if you are implementing a well thought out strategy.

Companies like Wendy’s and Airbnb seem to have the science down, and that likely is due to their expansive marketing team and budget. Smaller business can still get noticed by creating and implementing a strategic social media plan. As long as there is the commitment to stay consistent with their content, delivery and brand, they too will be successful in delivering their message.

Do you have a favorite company or brand that has a great social media presence? If so, drop it in the comments below and tell us why their strategy is a cut above the rest.

COM-0015-The Top Social Media Tools and Sources -How to Use Them to Tell The Stories Your Audience Really Wants to Hear

Written by: Christi Bouchard-Howden

IT Company Marketing Specialist
Publish Date: May 19th, 2021.

Image created on Canva by: Christi Bouchard-Howden

What your audience wants.

Stories are one of the oldest, yet most loved, forms of entertainment in the world. It’s a bold statement, but think about it. Hearing the enthusiasm in a persons voice when telling a tale filled with drama, love, horror or cold hard facts; it can be such a rollercoaster of emotions. What’s not to love? The pitch, the tone, the intensity and the flow are all part of the experience. But it’s not just the listening part that’s exciting. Watching someone’s body language and facial expressions is just as entertaining, if not more so, than the actual words. The best part, in my opinion, is watching a story teller be completely aware of their audience. Next time you see someone telling a story, pay attention to how they read their audience, and you’ll notice they shift and change ever so slightly to adjust to the crowd and deliver a performance they think will knock their socks off.

Social media is my preferred method of marketing, and you can probably guess why. Because it’s filled with stories! A social platform is like a virtual library, filled with the chapters of peoples personal and professional lives. Before you go out and start writing your virtual novel using Facebook or Instagram, there are some rules and guidelines you should keep in mind. Just like telling stories in person, you need to be aware of your audience and monitor them to ensure you are holding their full attention. You want to keep them engaged by providing quality content that interests them. Staying on top of the types of stories they want to hear is just as critical. In the world of social media it’s difficult to gauge these parameters, but there are several tools out there to help you along the way. I’m going to share with you my favourite online tools and sources I use everyday to assist in my virtual storytelling.

Image created on Canva by: Christi Bouchard-Howden

Shhh…I’m trying to listen.

The good news is, the first step is done. Congratulations, you want to be a storyteller on social media platforms. Now the tricky part is determining what stories are you going to tell. Ideas for social media posts can be gathered from a variety of sources like your life experiences, emails, blogs, podcasts, websites, other posts on social platforms, the news…the list can go on forever. The issue isn’t having a lack of inspiration or content information, it’s gathering all the sources in a way that won’t cost you hours of your time. More good news, there is a solution.

Social media listening tools are readily available for you to help streamline your flow of content sources. Some of them are even free to use! There are literally hundreds if not thousands of social media listening tools out there, so how do you choose which one will work best for you? You can go through a list of the top trending tools ,get a synopsis of what each one does and try them on for size. While this is helpful and opens your eyes to the variety of options that are available, some of them are still relatively new to the market and don’t cover all the bases. I tend to rely on a selected few of tried, tested and trusted tools.

Good ol’ Google Alerts is my first course of action at work every single morning. It’s just so simple set up and I almost feel guilty for how little effort is required to collect my information. Because the IT company I work for offers such a variety of services and products, my strategy is entering in relevant keywords and phrases. Every morning at 8 am sharp, my alerts start rolling in. So for example, say we offer cybersecurity technology solutions. By setting my alerts to keywords or phrases to include things like Multi-Factor Authentication or security software solutions, my results will list a multitude of sources that include those keywords. I can then peruse the list of articles and sources and choose what to use for my content. It takes some time to adjust your keywords to get exactly what you need, but the system is effective and it works.

Another tool I use regularly is Feeder. This RSS integrated tool will connect you to the most relevant sources you need to collect. This includes blogs, news, newsletters and so much more. This tool connects me with not only news sources, but with the Naked Security, Paul Ducklin, podcasts I love listening to, and the newsletters by the tech savvy female boss girl, Amber Mac. No matter what I’m looking for, Feeder delivers notifications in real time to make sure I stay on top of the latest and greatest information.

Image created on Canva by: Christi Bouchard-Howden

Careful…watch where you’re going.

Gauging the reaction of your audience when you tell a story in person is easy. Body language and facial expressions are usually a give away into the thoughts and feelings of your crowd. Monitoring the reactions of your target audience online is far more difficult, unless you are equipped with the right monitoring tools.

Once again you can search through a list of monitoring tools and compare them against each other, but I can save you some leg work. While many on the list are excellent, they seem to lack in one way or another. I have tried a number of tools, some of them quite expensive, but there are a few that fit into my “favourites” category. The monitoring tools I prefer include a variety of functions, so I can minimize the number of I need to use. The top and most utilized one on my list is Semrush. This tool is nothing short of amazing. With an entire category dedicated to Social Media analytics, this tool will measure your audience and their engagement on your platforms. You will stay on top on key information for platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The only downfall is the cost, a $100.00 per month for the lowest package, but believe me when I say it is worth every penny.

Second on my list is actually the analytics tools provided on the social platform itself. Most social media platforms have an insights option on business accounts. For example, Facebook insights will provide me with a breakdown of the types of engagement on my posts, the demographics of my audience and even where they are located. So when I tell a story about a ransomware attack on a popular company in the United States, I can have full look at the reactions to the post, whether there was more engagement from woman than men, what my audience is interested in, what their hobbies are, and where in the world they reside. If the measurements indicate that my audience is not interested in this type of information, I can tweak and adjust my strategy to fit the needs of my crowd. This is similar to the way an in person storyteller will shift their performance to ensure their audience is entertained.

Image created on Canva by: Christi Bouchard-Howden

Data drives the details.

Storytelling is an art, regardless of the method you use. It takes creativity, and talent to be able to engage and entertain your audience. However, unlike telling a story in person, it’s difficult to measure your audience reaction unless you are equipped with the right tools. You need to ensure you are delivering quality content from reliable sources, to the appropriate audience. Data plays a large part in determining whether or not you are hitting your targets. Starting with a listening tool to collect the information you need to relay to your online message and then using a tool to monitor the engagement and other insights that let you know if your story is well received. Don’t sweat it if your audience doesn’t connect with your story the first time around. You can always source more information and retell your story and monitor if your changes worked.

Do you have a preferred tool for sourcing information online or providing data analytics on your posts? If so drop your suggestion in the comments below and tell me what insights you watch for most and how they help your social media strategy.

Till next time, stay safe and take care of yourself and others.

Image created on Canva by: Christi Bouchard-Howden

COM-0014 Blog#7-Personal Reflection

Tell your story-no one else has one the same as yours. Photo: Canva

Many years ago, in my ballroom dancing days (that’s a whole other story), my dance partner told me that everyone could write a novel because we all have a story to tell. Some stories are happy, others sad, some people tell it through writing or speaking and some prefer to tell their story through dancing or painting. No matter how you tell your story, as long as you use your true voice, people will feel your message. That hit me.

This course made me think of that day, over and over again. The message is clear-people won’t remember exactly what you tell them, but they will always remember the way you make them feel. Sounds simple, however there is a strategy involved in creating, telling and delivering your story.

Content should be authentic-your followers can see through fake facades. Photo: Canva

Putting the strategy to use.

When people can relate to a story, and picture themselves as the main character, you are giving them an experience. It doesn’t matter what the content is, your audience wants to be engaged and relate to the story. They want to pulled into an authentic story that is unique and informative at the same time.

For example, I work for an I.T. company. We specialize in a variety of things, mainly cloud storage solutions and customized software. Yesterday, I received an email, filled with a bunch of snore worthy facts about how a home office will not operate like an onsite location. Boring to most people-right? But what if I took this information and told a story with it? Most of our clients are working from home right now, and call in daily with frustrations on how slow their system is working from home. I decided to create a series of posts, incorporating the information the network tech sent me, and created scenarios based from their experiences and how we could help them. I really don’t care for the technical mumbo-jumbo, but I do care about solving the clients issues. So I’m telling the story in a way that makes the client feel heard and validated in their frustrations, and I am still able to get the information out to them. They very well may not remember all the network solutions from the post, however they will remember that we care about their work from home experience and we are able to help them with their issues.

Choose the platforms that suit both your story and your target demographic. Photo: Canva

The platform is key.

This may be the dancer in me, however I always look at the platform of telling a story, kind of like a stage. You need to know that you are performing to the right audience. It would be ridiculous to expect a beautiful opera to be appreciated by an audience of death metal fans. The same goes for social media platforms. If I am a photographer the best places for to tell my story would be on Facebook, interest groups or Instagram.

Let’s go back to my work example of creating a series of posts for professionals working from home. Once the story series is completed, I need to gauge who needs to hear it. Luckily we have already done an audience analysis. I will post the stories to the platforms and groups used most by our customers and future clients. LinkedIn and Twitter work well to target professionals looking for network solutions. We do have certain technology interest groups on Facebook as well. I can track the engagement of these posts using my analytics tools, like SEMrush, and be able to gauge if my followers and hearing my story. Then I can adjust appropriately to ensure that my consumers are getting the best experience possible.

Creating an experience is what your story is all about. The follower or consumer wants an emotional connection rather than a lecture. Your audience knows when they are being fed a line or getting set up for a targeted sales pitch. However, if you acknowledge your audience, relate to them in a real human way, and engage them with your story, you have built a bridge of trust. No longer are they just number on your followers list, but instead a relationship.

Following the strategies outlined in this course has given insight to my story telling techniques. I have more direction and know that I can still deliver an authentic message with certain structures in place. I am able to better identify my target audience and steps needed to expand my reach. If you have any tips or tricks on how you tell and deliver your story, drop a comment below.

Thanks to everyone in this course for your blog and discussion post feedback. I have enjoyed reading your blogs and discussion posts and feel like we have all developed stronger story telling skills along the way. Thanks to the course facilitator Sonia as well! I always look forward to your comments and advice. Best wishes to all and continue telling your story!

COM-0014 Blog#6-Do People Know Your Story? This is Why I Get Up In the Morning.

Sometimes the greatest challenges teach the most imporatant lessons. Image designed by: Christi Bouchard Howden

The rocky road.

A year ago my life was completely different, and not in a good way. Every single week day morning I would find myself near tears, stressing about what battles I would have to face. I dreaded the short drive to what I considered hell. I despised my workplace and it was slowly but surely tearing me and my family apart. It’s funny how what almost kills you, really does make you stronger!

I needed a job when I moved to the Quinte region about four years ago. Known for its incredibly high unemployment rate, the pickings were slim in the Bay of Quinte. Then one fateful day, I found an ad for a marketing/data management position at a small optical manufacturing company. Given my background in journalism, I figured the position would be interesting a definite change of pace.

It took a little while however to acclimate to the career change, but I loved it. I was designing ads, attending optical shows and conferences, writing content for optical magazines and I even created logos for some of the new and innovative products new to the market. Life was grand for the first little while, until the honeymoon phase was over.

I can’t even say when the environment shifted, but suddenly it seemed like every day there was new turmoil and upset. Unrealistic demands were made and expectations were unreasonably high. The owner regularly would scream obscenities and insults at the staff. While I was rarely a prime target, the stress of the atmosphere played a toll on both my mental health and family life. Eventually my position changed and I no longer was doing any of the tasks that I initially enjoyed. I was resigned to a back room inputting orders and other mundane duties. I felt stuck in an impossible situation and had no idea what to do to get out of it.

I lost my joy and found myself angry at everything. My family gave me an intervention of sorts, discussing how much I had changed over the years and how concerned they were about my health. Something had to change quickly before I lost everything that mattered to me.

Change is good!

Dancing With The Stars! Upper star is myself with my dance instructor and my dance partner. Image designed by: Christi Bouchard Howden

I took stock of my abilities and qualifications then hunted for positions that I would best thrive in. It didn’t take long! A small technology company was looking for a marketing assistant and even though the salary was low and it was an entry level position, I applied. To my surprise they accepted a 41 year old woman with limited marketing experience and radio broadcasting as a background, to fill the postion.

Since that day, I have worked my way into a Marketing Specialist position. Never in a million years did I think I would go back to school, but here I am, a 42 year old student. I love what I do and I adore the company I became part of. We truly are a team and the owner is a leader rather than a dictator. I am happy and have found joy again. I enjoy waking up in the morning and heading into the office.

The I.T. company I am now a part of, specializes in software and application development. I am incredible fortunate to be part of an amazing project called Here2Volunteer. This software platform is designed for both organizations and the volunteers that play a part in those agencies. Every day I get to help organizations like the Humane Society or local food banks in the area recruit volunteers and be part of something bigger than anything I have ever participated in. Volunteer agencies, like Volunteer and Information Quinte, utilize our software making an even larger impact on the community.

Something bigger than I could have imagined.

Myself and co-worker volunteering at the Holiday Train for the Gleaner’s Food Bank. Image created by: Christi Bouchard Howden

This marketing position has given me so much more than employment. I am a better person because of it. I find myself volunteering within the community and even became a participant in a local fundraising Dancing With the Stars competition. I spend time talking with seniors on the phone during the pandemic so they are not lonely, dress up as an elf for the local food bank holiday fundraisers and even volunteered as a parking attendant for the largest human maple leaf world record event last July. Just yesterday, I was able to help present the local Children’s Safety Village with a $500 sponsorship cheque on behalf of my company.

Living life filled with a purpose, being part of the community and helping people, change a person for the better. It makes getting up in the morning an adventure, filled with wonder of what the day will bring. Everyday I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the rocky path that lead me to where I am today. I am not saying this is my final resting place, because life is unpredictable and wonderfully full of surprises. What I am saying is- learn and grow from the tough times and remember that sunnier skies are always on the horizon.

Have you ever felt stuck in a dead end job? What did you do about it? Drop a comment below and tell me how you overcame adversity and your personal growth afterwards.

COM-0014 Blog #5-Personal Brand

Madonna created her own personal brand in the 80’s using traditional media-at a high cost. Image:

Who doesn’t remember Madonna for her iconic style and reputation, or Michael Jackson for his red leather jacket and sought after dance moves. Creating, developing and maintaining a brand was expensive 20 years ago, as it was shaped through television, radio and print. Back in the days of traditional media, personal branding came from an impressive resume, stylish clothing and other luxuries accompanied by a wealthy background. Today personal branding has evolved with new media and it has taken the world by storm. Social media platforms are available to everyone making it the ultimate way to to build your brand and show the world what makes you unique and stand out in the crowd. The tricky part is-how do you determine what your personal brand is?

It’s important to take a personal inventory and the opinion of others in order to create your personal brand. image

Do you already have a brand?

Self awareness and intentional development of a personal brand is key. Some people unknowingly have developed their brand with online pictures of partying and intoxicated nights at the club. This is not a desired reputation to be known for. Especially when you don’t know who may be seeing your content. Case in point-potential or current employers. In 2018, according to a survey by Career Builder, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process and 43 percent use it to check on current employees. Although your personal brand is targeted to your chosen audience, you never know who may stumble upon your content. Soft skills are often portrayed through a personal brand and they can be just as important if not more important than job skills. Several employers believe that soft skills like dependability, positive attitude, self motivation and team-orientation are just as important as acquired jobs skills.

In a world of virtual open windows, it is important to make an authentic impression by setting yourself apart from others and showcase the unique skills and attributes that make you who you are. Social media allows individuals to create a vision through creative tools of who they are. Colours, images, blogs and innovative posts tell the story of what your core values and intentions are.

Personal brands are more than just a perceived image or illusion. Your brand needs to be true to who you are, otherwise followers easily can see through the cracks of your facade. Social media is your tool to create a relationship with an audience and build trust. For example, if someone builds their personal brand around being positive, detail oriented with excellent organization skills they shouldn’t be a known complainer that makes spelling errors on published content and posts pictures of a messy living or work space online.

My Personal Brand: Areas of Specialization and Why I Stand Out

My three word self-created with the help of interviewing my peers. Image created by: Christi bouchard-howden

My official professional title is Marketing Specialist for an IT company. Although much of my work is spent with SEO and data analytics for our website and marketing materials such as email campaigns, a majority of my time is spent with social media. I specialize in mostly Facebook and Instagram however also use Twitter and LinkedIn. In addition to the products I market, I also have a few clients that have hired me to take care of their social media marketing. Content creation is what I enjoy most, as it allows me to tap into my creative side. I have been busy creating and defining a brand for my place of employment and for my clients, but what about my own personal brand?

When I began the Social Media Certificate program, developing my own personal brand intrigued me. There was a lot of reading and research directed into learning more about my own brand identity. I really wanted to find out what it was that I brought to the table that stood out to people.

Having a background in journalism, it was only logically to conduct interviews with some of the people in my life. I chose two family members, two friends and a coworker. The question was simply-name five characteristics that come to mind that would best describe me. It was made clear that both positive and negative characteristics are acceptable and that no hard feelings would be harbored. The results were very interesting and many were no surprise. Social was on everyone’s list. Empathetic, intuitive, dedicated, genuine and strong willed also appeared a few times. The one that really stuck out of the list was from my coworker. He described me as being incredibly confident and self aware. With this, I sat back and took inventory and realized that I needed more information (that would be the pesky journalist in me). I asked them which colors would best describe my personality. The answer was black and yellow. I had to laugh at this because quite often I see myself as a cheerful, round bee but willing to use my stinger when necessary! Black was chosen because it resembled elegance and professionalism. Yellow was for my sunny and positive demeanor. Then I inquired what object would describe me best. Three out of five people said a tree because it is ever changing in the most beautiful ways however it stays strong with deep roots. I finally had a picture and idea of what I can offer and why I stand out in the crowd. I am social, that means I have a story to tell, and am going to ask a billion questions until I get exactly the information I need to make an authentic, and educated theory on whatever my topic may be. I am incredibly intuitive and can pick up on cues that require sensitivity. Verbal interaction is often the smallest part of a conversation. The empath in me makes my audience feel heard. I can communicate effectively and build a relationship of trust with them. There is connection and engagement on all levels. With my confidence and strong will I am able to assure my followers will get exactly what they want, done with impeccable attention to detail and creativity. I stand out because I have a story to tell and it will be told while being real, raw and true to who I am.

Social media is imperative to my personal branding strategy. Without it I would not be able to build my content, and grow my audience. Social media gets my brand out quickly and gives the opportunity of my work catching the eye of a possible new follower or audience demographic. Of course as with anything there are downfalls but with the goal of remaining genuine and authentic to my brand, I hope to not only override the negatives but expand my horizons into other areas.

Do you need help developing your own brand? There are several sites, articles and books you can check out to give you some guidance.

What makes you unique and stand out from everyone else? Drop a comment below and tell us how you create your own personal brand.

COM-0014 Blog #4-B2C Case Study

“You’re more beautiful than you think.” 2013 Dove viral campaign video.
Video courtesy of:YouTube

Dove Real Beauty Campaign

When I think of beauty products and the way they are marketed to women, my mind automatically thinks skinny model, with perfectly contoured cheek bones, and a photo shopped body that is not even close to being achievable. I usually feel awful about myself knowing I will never look like a super model, and wash my sorrows down in chocolate and wine. That is, until I watched a commercial that changed my perspective and possibly my outlook on myself. Could it be there was a company that actually cared about its consumers, and was trying to deliver a body positive message?

Dove capitalized on the release of Victoria Secret’s “Perfect Body” campaign with their “real Beauty Campaign. Photo courtesy of:

What started it all.

Women have been held to an unrealistic standard of beauty for decades, and in 2004 an American company Unilever, owner of personal care and toiletries brand Dove, set out to change how women looked at themselves. The Dove “Real Beauty” Campaign was the beginning of a long marketing journey, a domino effect of successful campaigns that all delivered the same body positive message. Dove wanted women to see themselves as beautiful-regardless of age, race or size.

Dove Mission Statement.

The initial release of the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign was one that was three years in the making, and the exact same strategy was used for several other campaigns. Within a few years the idea of being consumer centric vs product centric, led the company to increase sales from $2 Billion to $4 Billion in only three years. The company used traditional media methods to spread their message, filling pages of magazines, posting on billboards, and spending millions on television ads.

Fast Forward

Once social platforms became mainstream, Dove quickly had a presence on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. They quickly understood that by using these channels of new media they were able to tell a story to their audience and open dialogue to create relationships directly with their customers. Dove uses social media to engage with consumers, asked their target audience to review their products, answer questions people have about their products and to promote campaigns with hashtags. Even their website is interactive, with games and quizzes women can take to find their real beauty product and hashtags they can use on other platforms.

While Dove does not post to all of their social platforms on a daily basis, they stay current to what is going on in the world and gear their posts to real life people and events. This creates a sense of integrity and trust for their audience because the brand is dealing with the same issues they are encountering.

Dove is a brand that stands for their audience and what they believe in.
Video courtesy of: Twitter

Dove has launched a series of campaigns, each focusing on real people and embracing their true beauty. They deliver a positive message to their audience while building relationship through personal interactions on their social media platforms. While their marketing strategy is not perfect and has raised concerns in the past, this brand has worked hard to portray an image of authenticity and trust.

Do you know of another company that focuses on the consumer rather than than their product with their marketing strategies? What about brands that reach out and engage with their target audiences? Drop your answer in the comment section below.

COM-0014 Blog #3-Target Audiences

Image created on Canva by: Christi Bouchard Howden

I have a goal to create my own blog/vlog. Actually, it has already been created, but to be honest, I find myself slighty intimidated by the possibility that no one will want to read my articles or watch my videos. Who in the world is going to want to sit there and consume the ramblings of some 40-ish year old, married with children woman, that is passionate about kindness, humanity and the world we live in? Apparently over 1.4K people to be exact. To my surprise, I already have an audience and I had no idea they were listening.

What a difference a week can make.

I’ll start with a bit of a back story. This past week was one filled with Oprah Winfrey type AH-HA moments, along with a side of rollercoaster emotions. I had the fortune of attending the very first Social Media North 2020 Conference (virtual of course), and I walked away inspired! One of my social media favourites, Amber Mac, was a panelist and I hung onto every bit of advice she had. The conference addressed many topics however there were a couple things that stuck with me. I will get to those in a minute.

I was having a great week, learning and growing. I was collecting valuable information and storing it away with a million ideas on how I could put my newfound knowledge into action. Then mid-week hit. On Wednesday evening, as I was scrolling my Facebook feed, I encountered a video that dipicted two business owners of a tattoo shop, located in my northern hometown, ridiculing overweight people. BOOM-I was triggered! The hateful and vial comments just kept replaying in my head. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t sleep that night. By the time I returned from work on Thursday, I knew this was the time to apply some knowledge I attained during the conference.

One of the panelists that spoke earlier in the week had emphasized the impact of video on social media. She talked about quality content being responsive in nature rather than reactive. She also said there were two types of content created- look at me content, or learn from me content. With these keypoints in mind, I decided to try something different. I created my own video responding to the hateful messages I saw the night before. I delivered a message encouraging kindness amoung people rather than judgement or hate. I figured a few people on my friends list would see it and that my voice would be heard by a handful of people. I almost pulled the video down, feeling exposed and afraid of judgement.

What happened over the next 48 hrs was so unexpected. Almost 1500 people watched the video, and messages of appreciation and thanks poured in. Some felt the same way and were afraid to speak up, others stated they were very upset and my response gave them hope that there were people that saw past their weight. Strangers reached out with their stories and thanked me for giving them the voice they didn’t have. I realized right then, my passion gave me a voice and I found my niche. I had an audience.

The message of kindness and the plea to treat everyone fairly was one the listeners reponded well to.
Photo credit: Canva

My target audience.

I began taking a look at the people that watched and responded to my video. There were a few things that jumped out immediately. The people that responded were mostly women, between the ages of 30-45. They were either married or in a serious relationship, with children and were educated. The people that engaged with my post belonged to pages and groups similar to the type I participate in. It was easy to see the demographics and psychographics of my audience were very much aligned to my own interests and passions.

As each comment was posted on my feed or inbox, I made sure to engage with every person. In turn conversations started and I felt like relationships were being built. It didn’t take long to see complete strangers interacting as well and a small community of support was forming.

Expanding my horizons.

By understanding some of the details about my audience, I can build and grow my listeners base by utilizing a listening tool. I have some experience with Google Alerts and Google Trends. Feedly is a tool used for my professional platforms and could it could be incorporated to listen to different blogs and sites my audience follows.

If there is anything that I learned from the Social Media 2020 Conference last week, it is to find your niche, be authentic and get to know your audience. With this knowledge I feel more comfortable moving into my blog space and letting my voice be heard, because there is always an audience somewhere-you just need to realize it.

Do you have any tools or tips that you use to grow your audience? Drop a comment below and share your experiences.

To see the video I posted in response to the “fat shaming” incident online, please visit my Facebook page.

COM-0014 Blog #2-Storytelling and Communication Styles

Poor grammer will have an impact on your personal brand.
Image created by: Christi BouchardHowden (Canva)

Does reading a post online filled with grammar, punctuation and spelling errors just “irk” you? Or have you ever scrolled past an article simply because you can’t figure out what the content is about? You are not alone if you said yes to either of these situations! Several factors go into creating an attention grabbing story, however the presentation and layout quite often is just as important as the content itself.

Seeking the Wrong Attention

The other day I read a Facebook post about the COVID-19 pandemic. The author was passionate about his plea, and I was absolutely riveted with his story. That is, until he used the word “your” in the wrong context.

The point of writing a story or an article, is to captivate and grab the readers attention. When publishing content riddled with grammar, spelling and punctuation errors, the reader is most likely turned-off, and scrolls past the story, in search of a more reputable source. The author sacrifices their credibility and personal brand when posting content that is less than perfect.

So what should you do to ensure readers are attracted to your content? Edit, edit, and just when you think it’s perfect, edit some more! Reading over your content is good way to catch errors, however quite often the author is too close and attached to the material. Have a friend or collegue take look at your work to ensure it’s ready for the public eye. Also keep in mind editing is not a personal attack, and constructive critisism is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Let’s face it, people have short attention spans, and if they are not capitvated quickly, they will go in search of something better elsewhere. When I read a news story online, I want to have an idea of what it’s about before investing time and attention into the whole article. Usually a quick glance over the material will pull out keywords and give an indication of the subject. If the message is not clear after a quick skim, I will continue to scroll or search for another article.

When writing a story you want to grab the readers attention quickily to get them hooked. That means being clear and concise with your message, and giving your audience an overview of what your story is about. If the reader is drawn into the article, they will want more information. Once the audience has the whole story, and if they are cativated enough, they will engage or comment on the content. The ultimate goal is to have the reader walk away with more knowledge and insight, because of your story.

So how do you do this? When studying journalism in college, we often were referred to the inverted triangle method when writing our stories. The mission was to get the most important information out first, and never to bury the lead with fluff or non-essential information. The method is simple, start with the need to know information, followed by the nice to know content and end with the good to know facts. By following this strategy, you are able to stick with an outline and flow to your story.

Simplified Inverted Pyramid Method taught in my college journalism program.
Image created by: Christi Bouchard-Howden (Canva)

Everyone has their own unique writing style, and that in itself is part of your personal brand. When you are publishing content, it is important to follow a few rules to ensure your audience stays engaged and interested. Edit your content and have a friend read over your story before publishing. Using an online proofreader is great way to catch any errors and imperfections in your work. There are also several tools, like Grammarly, to help polish your stories. Following a stragedy, like the Inverted Pyramid, will help provide some structure, so your message is clear and consise.

If you have any writing tips or tricks that work for you, share them in the comments below. It’s always great to have insight into different styles! Writing is supposed to be fun, and playing with what makes you unique is the best way to learn. As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”!