COMM0015: Blog #4 From Gopher to Google

COMM0015: Blog #4 From Gopher to Google

Online marketing and social media are constantly evolving with new platforms and tools launching seemingly every week. As one tool gains prominence and popularity, another falls off the radar and into the trash bin of history.

I am old enough to remember the early days of the internet; dial-up connections, Usenet bulletin boards, Gopher, Netscape Navigator, and having to “get off the internet! I have to use the phone!” I am also old enough to have lived through the Dot-Com Bubble of the 1990’s where excessive speculation of internet companies led to thousands of companies collapsing almost overnight. These original internet companies had received billions of dollars in investment simply because they were internet companies.

For every Facebook, there is a MySpace. For every Twitter there was a NeoPets. For every SnapChat, there is an ICQ. For every Tik Tok, there is a RealPlayer. For every Spotify, there is a Winamp or Napster. The internet is littered with the remains of once great digital brands, the ones that for whatever reason, had fallen out of favour with the public. Whether they failed to keep up with their competitors or if they grew too large too quickly and ultimately destroyed themselves from within, they failed where other succeeded.

That being said, there are many tools and platforms which have recently come to my attention which I would like to explore.

Zoom

This has become a must for any office during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Allowing staff to communicate in a somewhat face-to-face way helps to maintain a connection between staff members. Being able to see each other gives staff the chance to read visual cues from each other during their meetings.

I remember being able to use MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger to do video chatting quite some time ago but the technology within Zoom is far beyond anything from those days.

Slack

Another tool which has become essential for offices during COVID-19 is Slack. The main advantage that I have found with using Slack is the ability to connect with other staff individually, in small groups, or altogether. It works like many instant messaging systems by allowing for instant communications rather than by sending emails. Another nice thing is the ability to integrate other services into the workspace.

I used to use different chat programs years ago such as ICQ and MSN Messenger but they were limited by the technology available at the time.

Hootsuite

I have used Hootsuite for several years and have only found it to be more and more useful. The ability to monitor several different accounts on different platforms and to schedule posts helps to make communications easier.

I had previously used TweetDeck to monitor social media but it is limited to Twitter.

Blog 3: Professional Networking in 2021

Blog 3: Professional Networking in 2021

Professional Networking is one of the keys to success in business. Building a network can take time but with a little effort, it will grow. When I ran my news website, networking became second nature to me. Any meeting or event I attended became a chance to promote my business. I regularly attended events hosted by local business groups and always had business cards ready to hand out.

Present Strategy

Currently, the majority of my networking involves communicating with people online, by phone, or by other electronic means. This means that the usual events are not being held. Virtual events have their advantages but there is nothing quite like chatting with someone in person, face to face, to develop a rapport and relationship.

I would hand out several business cards in a week, and sometimes, several during one event. Since I started with my current position, I may have handed out a dozen in a year. I also came up with a so-called “Elevator Pitch” where I gave a brief description of my business in a few moments.

Meetings with coworkers are limited to meetings on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Teams, and Slack. Being able to see your co-workers lets you read their body language but it is limited depending on their internet connection. In many cases, some attendees don’t have their camera on simply don’t participate.

I have several virtual events which were billed as networking events but they were mostly presentations. I have developed an elevator pitch which I use to introduce people to my organization.

Activities and Commitments

Covid-19 has created challenges for business owners on a number of levels. Not only do they have to deal with reductions in business which have forced some businesses to close but if they are allowed to reopen, they can only operate at a limited capacity. The same could be said for other organizations such as not for profits. Many organizations who depend on donations have seen their revenues drop significantly as many people simply cannot afford to donate.

Organizations have to adapt to the “new normal” of physical distancing, facemasks, and capacity limits. As vaccinations begin across Canada, life will return to a semblance of normalcy. This will let people get back to meeting face to face (while wearing masks). While in-person networking may return, the popularity of tools such a Zoom and Teams will likely continue to operate.

COMM 0015 – Blog Post 2: Strong and Weak Organizations

Oh Doughnuts is a specialty bakery here in Winnipeg which specializes in doughnuts and they have been extremely successful with their social media presence. Each afternoon, they share the next day’s menu along with an eye-catching photo of one of the doughnuts. This is an effective use of social media as a promotional tool. The posts receive a good amount of engagement and help to increase brand recognition for the bakery.

They also let their followers know when they are sold out at their locations and strangely enough, these posts also receive a good amount of engagement. They have thousands of followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and in addition to their bakery photos, they also share content on various social justice issues such as Black Lives Matter.

Their social media accounts are meant to show off the creativity of their doughnuts and they definitely succeed.

Assiniboine Park & Zoo is another example of an organization which has been using social media effectively. Because there are several components to the organization, they are sharing content which may be directed to different audiences. Also, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Zoo itself is closed to the public. However, the content being posted is engaging and entertaining.

For example, December 5th was National Volunteer Appreciation Day and they shared photos of their team of volunteers. Another was a of a Red Panda with the caption “That feeling when you bite into your first batch of holiday baking.” There is a variety to the content that they post and what they share is engaging and makes you want to go.

The Association of Manitoba Museums is an organization which is in serious need of a social media strategy. Their content seems to be a mashup of sharing news articles and content from (presumably) its members. The issue is, there does not seem to be any rhyme nor reason to what they post. It seems that they want to post as much content as possible which would be of interest to their members but much of the content is geared to a more general audience.

In the span of one hour, the AMM Facebook Page included a link to a newsletter from the Winnipeg Art Gallery about their online store, a news article about a Regina Legion closing their museum and bar, a repost from the Manitoba Historical Society about repurposing the Hudson’s Bay location in downtown Winnipeg, and a news article about an upcoming exhibit at a Calgary museum. The main issue being, two of the four posts are about things outside of Manitoba.

AMM needs to determine who they want their audience to be. Do they want to cater to their members? Do they want to reach those with an interest in Manitoba’s history? Do they want to reach the general public? Once they determine their audience, they need to put limits on what they post. If it isn’t happening in Manitoba or if it isn’t affecting Manitoba then it shouldn’t be posted. AMM also seems to post quite a few links to newsletters. This needs to stop. If there is specific content within the newsletter then yes, but posting the link to the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ (Business Improvement Zone) is unnecessary.

The Association of Manitoba Museums needs to decide what it wants their social media to do for them. They are primarily a volunteer organization and as such, they are very limited in their capabilities. As with every volunteer organization, their membership could be tapped to help to develop a new social media plan.

COM0015 – Blog #1 – Monitoring from a Communications Point of View

Worldwide, there are many more options for social media monitoring than there are social media platforms. Some offer free options but with limited functionality but there are others which are overpriced for the options provided.

Social Media Trend Listening/Monitoring

#1 Hootsuite

Source: Giphy.com

It happens to be one of the most popular tools available too. I find it easy to set up and use but it also provides enough functionality with the free version that you may not need the paid versions. I do however recommend a paid version if you plan on using Hootsuite to monitor several social media accounts. I use it to schedule posts to multiple platforms and to track analytics. Hootsuite also gives you the ability to search in a variety of ways and to monitor different searches and keywords.

#2 Google Alerts

Source: Giphy.com

I have been using it off and on for about a decade and it provides a flexibility to narrow down your search parameters by region, content type, keyword, etc. Currently, I have several Alerts set up. I receive digest emails from Google on a regular basis and I am also subscribed to the RSS feed for my alerts. These alerts provide me with invaluable information which I may have missed in my other searches.

News Sources

#1 Muck Rack

Source: Giphy.com

If you haven’t heard of Muck Rack, I’m not surprised. It’s a website for Reporters and Public Relations Professionals. It offers a number of services but the two I particularly like are the social media search functionality and their daily newsletter. It allows you to search across social media platforms to find individual members of the media, articles, and media outlets. These can be invaluable if you hear about something that a reporter tweeted and haven’t been able to find it. My personal favourite part of Muck Rack is the daily newsletter. It includes trending topics which includes “Stories journalists are talking about most right now”. It also includes their comments on the articles.

#2 iPolitics

Source: Giphy.com

iPolitics.ca is a Canadian news website with a focus on politics and government. In addition to posting articles on a variety of political issues, they post several digests throughout the day, providing news and analysis from other news articles. iPolitics AM provides a look at what is coming up that day, the Morning Brief looks at what happened overnight, and the Evening Brief provides a look back at the day’s news. There are also digests for specific areas of the economy such as agriculture and natural resources

COM0014 Blog #7 – Personal Reflection

COM0014 Blog #7 – Personal Reflection

Storytelling has always played an important role in my career. From working as a reporter for the high school newspaper, to various communications roles over the years, being able to convey information in a clear, concise, and engaging way has always been key to my career in journalism. By taking the Digital Communications course, I have been able to further develop my skills so I am more able to use new and emerging technologies when helping to share information. Technology is constantly changing with social media platforms falling in and out of favour on a rapidly accelerating timeline. For every platform like Snapchat and Tik Tok, which have seen a massive increase in usage there are other platforms like MySpace and Livejournal, which had their day and are now seen as old and outdated technology. The key to any social media worker’s success is being able to keep up with the latest technology.

Being aware of the latest technology may be important but being able to determine how best to use those new social media platforms for the benefit of your business is vital. You must also be able to use it effectively and make sure that it is a good fit for your business so that your efforts are not wasted. Creating a Facebook or Instagram account for a business such as a dry cleaner will allow them to share information about their hours of operation, any specials, show before and after photos of particularly dirty items and they could also offer tips and tricks about appropriate subjects, like how to remove a coffee stain from a silk blouse. There are other platforms, such as Snapchat and Tic Tok, which would not be worth the effort for the dry cleaner. While both are incredibly popular, the dry cleaners’ existing customers are not very likely to use them and those most likely to use them are less likely to use their services.

Image Source: Marketing Land

This course has allowed me to identify the benefits of different communications strategies, the importance of knowing your audience, and the power of storytelling to broadcast your message effectively. Simply knowing of the existence of different communications styles and strategies is only part of an effective strategy. Simply having the tools but not the knowledge is simply not enough, both are needed to allow your business to succeed.

Ignorance Is Bad For Business

Ignorance Is Bad For Business

There were two questions posed in John Jantsch’s article “Do People Know Your Story?” which I felt could apply to my current employer. As I have stated previously, I work for the First Nations Family Advocate Office (FNFAO) which helps Indigenous people who are dealing with the Child and Family Services system. The first question which jumped out at me was “What is your secret wish for your business?” The secret wish for any non-profit or charity is to be rendered obsolete. Anyone who works at a food bank, for example, will tell you that they would be very happy if they were to have to close up shop because nobody needed their services. The same could be said for FNFAO. We would be very happy if our services were no longer required.

Medicine Bundle

The true question which should be answered is “What is the greatest challenge your business must overcome?” FNFAO is funded by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and, as such, is limited in what it can do based on available resources. Our challenges generally stem from the availability (or lack) of resources. With any non-profit, there never seems to be enough money available to do what is needed of your organization. There also never seems to be enough qualified staff for your organization to meet your obligations. FNFAO does have somewhat of an advantage over other not for profits as is funded by AMC rather than donations which means that the funding is stable and will not fluctuate. However, it also means that FNFAO cannot raise additional funds for any special projects which may arise.

“Bringing Our Children Home”

Because FNFAO does not reach out to the public in the same way as other not for profits, there seems to be a gap between the perception of what the office does compared to the reality. There are many within AMC who are unaware or ill-informed about the FNFAO’s activities. As a result, ignorance of what we do hinders our staff in operating effectively. Part of my job is to inform people, internally and externally, about what the FNFAO does and why their support is so vital to our continued success.

COMM 0014 – Blog Post 5 – Insert Humblebrag Here

COMM 0014 – Blog Post 5 – Insert Humblebrag Here

As a communications professional, it is vital to develop relationships with the people with whom you work on a daily basis in addition to members of the public. Developing a successful relationship does take time, but I believe that this is one of my best qualities. I have always been the type of person who loves talking to people, listening to them, and hearing their stories. It is one of the reasons I chose a career in journalism.

Image credit: Drexel University

Since I have moved on from being a reporter to working “on the other side of the microphone” so to speak, relationship building remains one of the most important aspects of the job. I have been told that I have a definite way of dealing with people which is to connect with them on a more personal level. Many of my colleagues have commented about how easy it is to talk to me and how I am able to make them feel comfortable when dealing with serious issues.

When I was the owner of my business in Ontario, I was recognized by the local Chamber of Commerce with the Chair’s Award. This came about because of the relationships that I had built over time. When I was working to sell advertising for my business, potential customers remarked that I had a more appealing, conversational sales style where it was apparent that I wanted to learn about their business and how I could help to promote it.

Image credit: AZQuotes.com

It has been said that we are given two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak. The same could be said for developing relationships. When you first meet someone in a business or work setting, it is important that you listen more than you talk. You are trying to learn about the other person and from there you can determine how you can best use your skills to help them to succeed.

Blog Post #4 – B2C Oh Doughnuts

Blog Post #4 – B2C Oh Doughnuts

In Winnipeg, there is a specialty bakery called Oh Doughnuts which rose to prominence several months ago when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was photographed purchasing several boxes of their premium doughnuts. There was somewhat of an uproar over the fact that Trudeau didn’t purchase the doughnuts from Tim Hortons. I wrote about it in a previous class.

Oh Doughnuts embraced the controversy and put naysayers in their place with a thread on Twitter essentially outlining why they are better than Timmy’s.

Since the whole “scandal”, Oh Doughnuts has seen their presence on social media increase significantly. In addition to promoting the business and sharing the next day’s offering, they have also chosen to use their feeds to highlight numerous issues facing people in Winnipeg.

Through its social media feeds, Oh Doughnuts has shown its continued support to LGBTQ+ issues, protecting the environment, Black Lives Matter, and mental health awareness, all while promoting the business itself as a local option for fancy doughnuts.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they chose to close their doors in order to protect their employees from infection but continued to share the occasional post about doughnuts and issues important to them. When they reopened, their return was met with resounding support from the community and their sales rebounded quite quickly.

Oh Doughnuts is a small business which is having a big impact on the City of Winnipeg. Their social media following is very impressive, with more than 45,000 followers on Instagram, more than 6,500 followers on Twitter and almost 10,000 page likes on Facebook. They have been able to broaden their customer base and develop a very loyal following.

Oh Doughnuts opened its doors to the public in 2014 and has grown to a pair of locations which are constantly busy (until they sell out, usually in the early afternoon). I have been a fan since moving to Winnipeg a few years ago and that’s how they operate, they don’t have customers, they have fans who not only love their delicious doughnuts, but also share their commitment to the community. They cost a little bit more but they are a wonderful treat.

COMM 0014 – Blog 3 – Pandemic and Possibilities

Practice good #HandWashing to protect yourself, family, and community from #COVID19. #StopTheSpread #StrongerTogether

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the world to change in significant ways. In my role at the First Nations Family Advocate Office, I worked with other Indigenous organizations to develop a communications strategy which sought to inform members of the public about the virus and keeping themselves safe. The target audience for the campaign is Manitoba’s First Nations populations with a secondary audience being members of the general public who are also looking for information.

The demographics for the campaign are fairly broad, encompassing ages ranging from children to seniors, but primarily families. There was less emphasis placed on single persons because of the strong family structure within the First Nations community.

Our efforts focused on sharing information in a way which reached the greatest number of people, namely social media. By coordinating the resources of several organizations, we have been able to pool our skills and spread the work around. This has resulted in a campaign which engages with First Nations communities on a regular basis with information, presented in a way to which they can relate.

For example, one of the posts to social media targeted the families with elderly grandparents. The post encouraged people to keep in contact with their elders while practicing physical distancing.

Keep in touch and connect with Elders during #COVID19. We may be practicing #PhysicalDistancing but that doesn’t mean that we can’t stay connected. #PRCT #StrongerTogether #StopTheSpread

Another targeted parents with school children who had to stay home because of the pandemic.

Ideas for school-age children who are now at home on how to practice #PhysicalDistancing. #StopTheSpread #StrongerTogether #COVID19

A third post addressed staying physically active while maintaining physical distancing.

How are you staying active while #PhysicalDistancing? The #WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both. Share your ideas and activities! #StopTheSpread #StrongerTogether

Because the group was able to develop a very specific target audience, there was a greater understanding of the risks of COVID-19. As a result, outside of Winnipeg, there have been no cases reported on Manitoba’s First Nations reserves.

COMM0014 – Blog 2: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

The communications style for an author is as individual as the article itself. No two people are alike and so no two people will communicate exactly the same. An author will have to determine their preferred style based on a number of factors, not the least of which are subject matter, audience, and editorial context.

Image Source: clipartkey.com

The subject matter for a piece of writing will influence the style of the piece. An analysis of a business plan will be much more formally written than a movie review for example. A personal blog post will certainly be less structured than a dissertation on a mathematical theory. The author must engage with their subject matter and determine the style by which they will effectively communicate the desired outcome.

Image Source: clipart-library.com

The audience will also affect the communication style of a piece. In his article, How to Read, author Brian Clark speaks to the different “levels of reader”, namely the Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical, and Syntopical. An Elementary reader may not be a well-educated person but they still enjoy reading materials which they can understand. An Inspectional reader is one who may skim a piece to get a general sense of the topic or someone who reads on a superficial level, meaning, they read, then they move on. An Analytical reader may be someone who shares an interest in the topic and will drill down to get a deeper meaning of the subject matter. This allows them to absorb the content to a greater degree. Finally, the Syntopical reader is already well-versed in the subject matter and comes at the piece with the eyes of an expert. An author must determine who the ideal audience for the article should be and write accordingly.

Image Source: 123rf.com

The editorial context of a piece is another factor which will provide the author with opportunities to choose different communications styles. An opinion piece in a newspaper will allow the author to argue their case about a specific topic or issue in a way which is both informative and entertaining. An author may be presenting the findings of an academic endeavour in a peer-reviewed journal which requires more emphasis upon the communication of information rather than emotion. A news article should be written in such a way that provides the facts about an event or issue without any personal bias or distortion of information by the author. In this, the editorial context of a piece will have a similar influence as the audience, depending on which type of reader they are, will also lean toward specific editorial outlets.

Image Source: clipart-library.com

In short, the style of communication of an author will depend on what is being written about, who is the audience, and where will it be read.