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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

COM0014 – Blog Post #1: What I Did On My Vacation: Nova Scotia In The Spring

COM0014 – Blog Post #1: What I Did On My Vacation: Nova Scotia In The Spring

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

I have never been one for taking vacations. This mainly had to do with the fact that for most of my adult life I either never had the time or the money to take one. On the rare occasion where I would go somewhere, I would be sitting in a lounge chair beside a pool thinking to myself “what else could I be doing?” More recently, my circumstances have changed and I have developed an appreciation for slowing down and unplugging from work. My last vacation was around this time last year when my wife and I travelled to Nova Scotia and spent a week crisscrossing the province.

Evangeline, Grand Pré, Nova Scotia

We were in Halifax because my wife was attending a conference in the city. After the conference, we stayed with my uncle and used his apartment as our home base as we took day trips and the occasional overnight trip.

Bluenose II, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Our plans included trips to the South, North, and Eastern Shores, Annapolis Valley, and the Minas Basin regions of the province. Sadly, we did not get the chance to visit Cape Breton Island. The weather is always a popular topic of discussion everywhere, but especially in Nova Scotia. While we were there, it was… well… bad. It was cold and rainy some days, while other days it was overcast and dreary. However, the people we met on our travels were always friendly and welcoming and made us feel welcome.

We hit all of the classic spots in Nova Scotia: Lunenburg where we visited the Bluenose II and other spots; Grand Pré, the home of Evangeline and the Great Upheaval; Halifax Harbour, home of the life-sized replica of Theodore Tugboat; and, of course, the Shag Harbour UFO Centre, site of Canada’s most famous UFO sighting.

Theodore Tugboat, Halifax, Nova Scotia

A major part of any vacation is, of course, food, and Nova Scotia is renowned for its seafood and other delicacies. I got to enjoy food that doesn’t turn up in Manitoba very often, mainly lobster or scallops which were caught the day before. I also enjoyed a donair at its birthplace, the King of Donair.

Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia

Vacations are about disconnecting from work but they’re also about reconnecting with friends and family. My wife’s conference gave us both an opportunity to see people in person who we hadn’t seen for a while. The visit also gave me a chance to see all of my Nova Scotia relatives, many of whom I had not seen in a decade.

Social Media and the Art of Fundraising

Social Media and the Art of Fundraising

All of the fundraisers, unless otherwise stated, were picked randomly among the thousands of existing campaigns.

We have all heard the stories through the media of people using online fundraising websites to fund their business startups, charitable events, pet projects, or even healthcare. Sites such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe have led the way for crowdfunding and fundraising for individuals and businesses while other websites like CanadaHelps or CauseVox focus on raising funds for registered charitable organizations. While these sites do charge for their services (a percentage of every donation), they can be an effective means of raising much-needed funds.

These websites provide users with some social media tools but they tend to be more generic and may not be as helpful as other methods to create interest in your campaign. A more effective method for fundraising is to pair these websites with a robust social media campaign.

Organizations create campaign-specific pages on their websites and then shared links on their own social media. For several years, the Manitoba Museum has run a successful campaign around Christmas called “Adopt An Artifact” which consisted of a campaign designed to mimic an advent calendar, where people donated to the museum and were given a certificate and photo indicating that they had “adopted” an artifact in the museum’s collection. The artifacts varied, depending on the price, ranging from $35 up to $500.

Campaigns such as this one are successful as a result of a successful social media campaign whose planning starts months ahead of time.

The not for profit resource website TechSoup provides a list of 7 Tips for Social Media Fundraising. It recommends the following:

  1. Create a Campaign Plan – Figure out what you want to accomplish with your campaign so you don’t get sidetracked.
  2. Decide Which Social Platforms Are the Most Relevant – Some platforms are better for raising money than others, depending on user demographics.
  3. Reach Out to Influencers – Find a spokesperson or “Face” to help promote the campaign. This also includes reaching out to the media for exposure.
  4. Select Appropriate Fundraising Tools – This is where sites such as CanadaHelps or Kickstarter come into play. Some organizations also use plugins or tools on their own websites.
  5. Tailor Your Message to Each Platform – Having the same message on all platforms can be repetitive and cause potential donors to lose interest.
  6. Show Your Supporters How Their Donation Can Make a Difference – Show and tell people what the money raised will be used for, and be specific.
  7. Celebrate Milestones and Thank Your Donors – If you hit 100 donors, celebrate; if you hit 50% of your target, celebrate; when you reach your goal, celebrate.

Speaking from personal experience, in spite of best efforts, fundraising campaigns can fall flat. I ran an Indiegogo campaign for my website when I wanted to expand the site but it fell well short of my fundraising goal. I also tried to raise funds for several local non-profits but again, failed to reach my goals. The fault was not with the causes, but rather with me for not creating a more effective campaign.

The key to creating a dynamic and successful campaign is to use all of the tools available to you to their full advantage. Find successful campaigns and use some of what made them successful. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Both Sides Now: Social Media and the Wet’suwet’en Protests

Both Sides Now: Social Media and the Wet’suwet’en Protests

Image Credit: “The Spirit of Resistance” by Gord Hill

For the sake of decency, I have chosen not to share some of the more extreme social media posts which I stumbled across related to this issue.

For the past several weeks, Canadian news coverage has been bursting with stories about protests in support of Wet’suwet’en First Nation Hereditary Chiefs and their opposition to construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their traditional territory in British Columbia. Every media outlet has written articles about the protests by the Hereditary Chiefs, local protests across the country, and the blockade of rail lines by Kahnawake First Nations protesters near Belleville, Ontario.

The media coverage has saturated the airwaves and on social media, there is enough blame to go around for everyone involved. Several “camps” have developed both in favour of and in opposition to the Hereditary Chiefs, ones in favour and opposed to the rail blockades, ones which are blaming the Provincial government for the situation and ones which blame the Federal government. And in the midst of all of these disparate voices, posts to social media both in favour and opposed to whichever issue you are concerned with, and the vitriol to back it up. For the most part, the media has done their best to remain impartial and unbiased, but there are some media outlets from both ends of the political spectrum which are attempting to sow even further division.

The Coastal GasLink story touches on a number of contentious issues in Canada; pipelines and environmental protection, indigenous sovereignty, reconciliation, racism towards Indigenous people, western alienation, and political divisions. While everyone involved is trying to get their message across, social media has a tendency to muddy the waters by taking comments out of context, inflating certain details and injecting their own biases and preconceptions. As a result, the comments being shared are more and more extreme. Searching for #Wetsuwetan on any social media platform will bring up posts calling for negotiations between the parties affected, the abandonment of the pipeline project, or even military intervention to break up protests.

One of the greatest issues is the degree of confusion over who has the final decision-making authority in the region. There are the elected members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation council, and there are also the Hereditary Chiefs, who are not elected. The council along with other First Nations along the path of the pipeline support its construction, while the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are opposed to any construction within their traditional territory. First People’s Law have created an explainer called “The Wet’suwet’en, Aboriginal Title, and the Rule of Law” to explain it a lot better than I can. Until there is a resolution which may be seen by all sides as a win, the protests will continue, the media will continue to write article after article, and those on social media will continue to sow dissent and hatred.

Both Sides Now: Social Media and the Wet’suwet’en Protests

Both Sides Now: Social Media and the Wet’suwet’en Protests

Who Wants to be Leader of the Conservative Party

As someone who follows politics on a regular basis, I find the current situation with the Conservative Party of Canada to be fascinating. After what many considered to be a significant loss to the Liberal Party, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced that he would be stepping down as leader at their leadership convention. I won’t be performing a post-mortem of the election but I will be making some observations about the leadership race.

Political commentators started talking about Scheer’s future as leader almost immediately after the election. There were calls for him to step down, rumours of dissent among members of the caucus, and talk of whether Scheer would survive as leader until the party’s upcoming convention. Now that Scheer has stepped down as leader and stepped up as interim leader, the contest is on. There also seems to be a lot of discussion about who will run, who should run, and who will not run for the leadership.

With announcements that prominent conservatives such as Rona Ambrose, Jean Charest, and Pierre Poilievre, are choosing not to run, there has been discussion about whether anyone really wants the job. The most prominent leadership candidates so far are Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole.

One of the criticisms being leveled against the leadership contest are some of the requirements for contestants. There is a $300,000 entrance fee, $200,000 of which is not refundable and there are 3,000 signatures required from 30 ridings across Canada. There has been discussion about how the requirements may exclude candidates with a lower profile.

Rumours are circulating about who may throw their hat into the ring but time seems to be running out. The deadline for candidates to meet the entrance requirements is March 25th and members will vote for their new leader on June 27th.

Conservative Leadership 2020

This is a scandal? That’s adorable

Photo by Cindy Colford
Photo by Cindy Colford

During the recent Liberal Caucus retreat in Winnipeg, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was photographed picking up several dozen doughnuts from a local business called Oh Doughnuts. Almost immediately, there was an apparent backlash against Trudeau for purchasing doughnuts at the specialty bakery rather than from Tim Hortons. The complaints centered on the PM’s spending taxpayer money on fancy, expensive doughnuts, rather than from a Canadian institution like Timmy’s.  There were cries that he was an elitist, he was out of touch, un-Canadian, and fiscally irresponsible.

Tim Hortons is perceived to be as Canadian as the Mounties, Canadian Tire money, and comparably laughable scandals. While Tim Hortons may have started out as a Canadian company, it is now majority-owned by a Brazilian hedge company. The arguments against Trudeau kind of fell apart once supporters of Oh Doughnuts came to its defence. Oh Doughnuts is locally owned and operated with two locations. They use locally-sourced ingredients and offer their employees a living wage. Meanwhile, Tim Hortons has also been under fire recently for its poor labour standards, locking out employees, and its poor environmental record.

In short order, the social media posts could be divided into a few different streams: Pro-Timmy’s, Pro-Oh Doughnuts, and “Really?” The pro-Timmy’s faction were outraged that the Prime Minister used taxpayer money to pay as much as $47 per dozen for premium doughnuts. In fact, it was likely much less because they got a discount because they ordered in advance and didn’t get any specialty or premium doughnuts. It was also apparently Trudeau, and not taxpayers, who paid. The customers and fans of Oh Doughnuts came to their defence. The defenders also seemed to frame the argument as one of favouring small businesses over large corporations. The third, and by far largest faction were those who were annoyed that, with everything else happening in the world, it had even become an issue. Global News even went as far as to create a poll which asked “Should the PM have bought Tim Hortons instead?” A shocking 13,413 people responded to the poll. 7.2% said ‘Yes’, 41.4% said ‘No’, and 51.4% said ‘Don’t care’. Media both nationally and internationally picked up on the story, even going as far as a segment on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”. The general consensus among those stories was this so-called scandal paled in comparison to those being experienced in other countries (such as the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Brexit, Coronavirus, etc.).

I have lived in Winnipeg for a few years now and I can attest that Oh Doughnuts are amazing. They have a variety of interesting and creative flavours, as well as several gluten-friendly and vegan options. Unfortunately for me, as a result of this whole “scandal”, Oh Doughnuts has been selling out even earlier every day since the media latched onto it. This means that there are fewer doughnuts for me. I’m not saying that Tim Horton’s doughnuts aren’t good, it’s just like comparing hamburger to steak, or fish sticks to smoked salmon. Not necessarily better, just different. With this publicity, I’m sure that Tim Horton’s has possibly seen an increase in business with those who are not Trudeau supporters and are buying their doughnuts to “own the libs”.

facebook This is a scandal? That’s adorable. The Oh Doughnuts Scandal

Twitter Doughnutgate. This is a scandal? That’s adorable.