COM0015 – Blog #1 Tools and Sources

As a part-time contractor working in social media metrics and as a student of the Social Media certificate program, I have utilized a variety of monitoring tools. Some of the tools were meh or just okay, others were better but the ultimate best one that I have used is Sysomos. Before you decide to check out Sysomos, you have to have a BIG budget. Thanks to my contracting work, my employer pays for the access that I have, therefore I never pay the bill, but I have seen the invoice – think of the cost of a small bathroom or kitchen reno and that is the cost for the year. For that much money, the tool does in fact monitor everything and anything thanks to some advanced Boolean queries. I am not going to lie but it is an overwhelming tool that takes practice to use but once you have the hang of it, Bob’s your uncle.

 

I have also dabbled with a few other tools and can recommend Hootsuite and Google Alerts. Each tool gave me a partial piece of the puzzle while Sysomos gave me the whole picture. You really can’t compare free or budget friendly tools to an expensive search engine.

 

When I am not working part-time, I am also a full-time mom to two young girls (4 and 7 this month). My time is split between shuttling kids to their activities, maintaining the household, and homework (mine and my first grader’s – ha). My social media time for personal usage is dramatically less than my social media usage for work. I am hardly active on my personal social media pages preferring to scan and creep with an occasional post here and there. During my scan and creep times, I do look over the trending headlines on both Twitter and Facebook but leave myself some research time to legitimize the sources and stories. I also find time flies by when I peruse the many posts of Huffington Post or Buzzfeed.

 

At the rate that new information is released into the social media stratosphere it is no surprise that an blog I came across lists 20 tools that I had never even heard of until I read this article. In order to be successful in the social media monitoring world, you really do need to brush up on the ever changing technology that is social media. I have some homework to do tonight.

COM0014 – Blog #7 – Personal Reflection

Verbally telling a story has always been easy for me. I time myself well, I can capture people’s attention, and I don’t miss a beat. The same can’t be said for writing. It takes me so much longer! Before I started my career as a PR practitioner and a marketer, I was continually writing, editing, over and over and sometimes my story takes on a new direction that wasn’t originally intended. Over time I had honed my writing – it took time for me to get there. But that’s okay.

 

I learned that simple is so much better. I can be too wordy. This class re-taught me on how to focus on specific tidbits of information and disseminate using the appropriate tools and mechanisms.

 

I want to leave an impression in my stories. I want to leave people wanting more. I think any prospective writer wants that. Blogging gave me a chance to connect with a group but also maintain a semblance of privacy. It is a genuine social media catch-22.

 

As my career path is up for a change in the coming months (September I am looking at you), I can honestly say I feel better suited to the challenge. I can’t say I am looking forward to the interviews that I will be partaking in but on paper and in my head, I am confident in my new path.

COM0014-W17, Blog #5: My brand

My background is public relations/marketing; as a professional, from the time, I step out into the work world, my personality, smile, conversation, how I conduct myself at work will be my brand. In the field of public relations, reputation is everything.

It’s also important to me that I maintain a neutral to positive presence on social media. Rarely do I share a video or a news piece before verifying the authenticity of the material shared. How am I to be perceived as trustworthy if I share fake news? Forbes wrote a branding article almost three years that is still relevant about building a ‘awesome brand.’ Most of the tips/tricks I had already been practicing just unaware that it was my brand. As I have further delved into the course material of Algonquin’s Social Media certificate program, I realized that I’ve been fine tuning my brand all along as my experience grows especially in a professional capacity.

One of my characteristics that I feel strongly is my #1 in both personal and professional lives is my trustworthiness. Not to toot my own horn but I am an awesome listener and secret keeper! Luckily, I have never been put in the position where I felt the need to escalate action (authorities, management, etc.) outside of my conversation with my colleague. Followed by my trustworthiness my team regularly tells me that they value my directness as I can be relied to give honest feedback while being tactful.

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well,” Jeff Bezos (CEO, Founder, Chairman of Amazon.com)

COM0014-W17 Blog# 4 case study – Mabel’s Labels

Mabel’s Labels is a Canadian business and success story. In 2003 Mabel’s Labels was started by four moms in a basement creating durable labels for the items that kids so easily lose. The company designs, creates, and sells these labels in a crazy amount of sizes that are guaranteed to last going through the dishwasher, washer, and dryer. We have plenty of labels in our household for the boatload of stuff leaving the house to go to school and various care programs that makes it easy for us to identify what is ours. We have labels on our backpacks, lunch kits, jackets, boots/shoes, water bottles, I could go on and on about the fabulousness that is Mabel’s Labels :).

mabels-labels-2

credit: Facebook @ Mabel’s Labels

 

The social media team at Mabel’s is incredibly interactive with its followers and customers. Recently, it was Justin Timberlake’s birthday and so the morning of Justin’s birthday Mabel’s posted a fun challenge for its followers, for the customers who typed JT’s name within their online order via the comments box, they would receive a special gift. What is also worth noting is that many of the customers who didn’t see the birthday post were lamenting on the fact they missed out; the staff at Mabel’s stepped right up and commented within minutes that not to worry, we’ll look for your order and add the surprise as they had mentioned JT within the post. Super fun engagement on behalf of the social media team at Mabel’s.

 

Not only are there random fun posts with surprises for customers, they also have polls sporadically all related to kids in some way (asking followers how they chose their child’s name; asking for your favourite holiday traditions with your children; etc.). And within their social media community, there is also a blog with topics that every parent can relate to.

 

Kudos to the social media team at Mabel’s Labels for their positive interactions with their customers by creating a friend-like atmosphere within their social media platforms.

Love is in the air

With Valentine’s Day approaching I thought it would be interesting to consider a genre of books that I enjoy on a regular basis – romance novels. I kept it generic enough as there are so many sub genres within the broad scope of romance novels. Who knew!? My personal tastes run to romantic suspense and/or romantic fiction – almost all my books that I enjoy have the HEA (happily ever after). Corny I know but I confess that I adore the fairy tale. Anyhow I digress, just searching ‘romance authors’ alone results in thousands of suggestions within seconds of hitting enter. Who other than me are reading romance novels? Huffington Post published an article a couple of years ago, breaking down the romance novel audience with myths and facts of who makes up the audience of the romance novel genre.

meme

The audience in question has valuable interactive forums at their fingertips with goodreads, Romance Divas, and Amazon just to name the top three popular sites for lovers of the genre to find their next author to binge read.

meme2

The Ottawa Public Library has thousands of romance books in all subgenres in both traditional and e-book formats and within the OPL’s site; you can be a part of the community by sharing your reviews of the books and authors searched.

meme3

As of right now there is no Romance Writers of Canada however our southern neighbours have a comprehensive site at Romance Writers of America otherwise known as RWA, they too have broken down their target audience. I think what surprised me most about their statistics is that 16% of romance readers are male. Clearly everyone needs a little romance in their life whether they are lucky enough to find it in person or through the pages of a well-written book ❤

Storytelling and communication styles

In my past life, I wore many hats working in public relations and marketing for a retail corporate office. My role and responsibilities had really evolved over time however one area I consistently had a hand in was our corporate newsletter. This newsletter reached all staff within two corporate offices, three warehouses and over 200 stores across Canada. The newsletter celebrated milestones both professional and personal, extended sad news, shared tips and tricks, recipes, etc. But most importantly celebrated each store’s grand opening with a play by play of their grand opening weekend that usually included a summary of the weekend’s sales, customer turnout, a list of thank yous, and several pictures to accompany their story.

 

Receiving content was generally easy enough, most of the owners and managers would supply their contributions well within the deadlines however their stories needed a lot of editing to make it readable and easy to understand or even translate for our French speaking/reading staff members. Or you have the opposite side of the spectrum where the submission was a plain paragraph that lacked pizazz to make the reader interested in the story.

 

Most of my colleagues had gone to post-secondary for business or another similar minded field that didn’t focus on how to write a story.

 

If I could have, I would have sent each manager a link to Five Tips for Better Business Writing or Harvard Business Review’s How to Improve Your Business Writing as these articles hit all the key points without intimidating a newbie writer. And of course, I can’t stress enough about taking time in proofing spelling and grammar!

 

At the end of the day we are all on the same team with a common message – to make lots of money but also to celebrate each other’s achievements. There is no better way to do other then highlight in a newsletter of their perfect grand opening and I felt a part of their grand opening by effectively communicating their message to the audience.

My vacation

 

Truthfully, I haven’t traveled with my kids on an airplane. My youngest is incredibly headstrong and difficult, and the thought of going on a plane with her makes me cringe.

My husband took a contract in the spring of 2015 with a hectic travel schedule and minimal time off. In fact other than weekends and occasional long weekends thanks to a holiday, he has not taken vacation time. Fast forward to summer of 2016 and with him working long hours traveling, I thought I’ll take the girls on a road trip to Barrie, Muskoka, and Toronto solo. I had taken them on a similar road trip the summer before with great success.

Here are my tips to surviving a road trip with young kids:

  1. Upgrade your hotel room to a suite if your budget allows for this. The extra space along with kitchen amenities really saved our behinds.
  1. Book a hotel with breakfast included. Our meal expenses for this trip were significantly less as I had one less meal to pay for per day we were traveling.
  1. Book a hotel with a pool – godsend!
  1. Because we had a full size fridge in our room, I was able to cut down on dining expenses by prepping sandwiches and snacks in the room that kept in the fridge until we’d leave which we’d put our lunch/snacks in a cooler with ice from the ice machine at the hotel.
  1. Accept that our regular routine would go wonky. The less I stressed about how quickly they were going to bed, the more relaxed we all were.
  1. For the drive I chose the scenic route as the girls were busily occupied with movies, games and books, the pretty scenery kept me refreshed versus the boring 401 route. Another plus side to taking the scenic route with pretty towns, lots of parks! We stop a few times to stretch our legs and I let the girls get their energy out by hitting the play structures and splash pads.
  1. Because bathroom accidents can happen – hasn’t happened yet but just in case and also I let the girls get soaked at the splash pads, I always have a bag of spare clothes and towels in the car ready to go.
  1. Before we left I hit up a Dollarama and made little surprise activity bins. Again if your budget allows for it, I think it is worth it! I spent under $50 for two activity bins packed with puzzles, games, colouring materials, books, magazines. While it was $50 out of my wallet, the bins did keep them busy for hours in the car. We not only had the travel to get to our hotel but also our daily excursions to neighboring towns and cities to visit family and our activities.
  1. As we have a portable DVD player for our car, I made sure to hit up the library for some DVDs that we didn’t currently own to ensure the selection was kept fresh and I didn’t lose my mind listening to the movie’s dialogue. There is only so many times you can listen to Frozen! And it was also important that the girls took turns selecting the movie. I can’t make them agree on a mutual title to watch so I have them take turns. Key is to remember whose choice was last so no one is slighted :).
  1. And finally, when I selected the hotel, of course price and amenities were important to me but I also made sure there was a full service park not far from the hotel. So when the girls are getting antsy in the room, or even before a long drive as the girls are regularly up EARLY, we would hit the park. The park not only had plenty of new and cool play structures that Ottawa’s parks didn’t have, there was a skateboard park so they could gawk at boarders doing their thing, a splash pad, and a bathroom all within a short walk in the park.

What are your travel tricks when hitting the road?

IMG_20160712_092208009.jpg

Simple pleasures

My children have nightmares on occasion, it has become routine in our household is as we say our goodnights, we rhyme off good things that make us happy to keep the night terrors at bay. It had me thinking, what are some of the pleasures whether they be simple or guilty that I enjoy. So in no particular order, this is my list of good things that I enjoy:

Netflix

netflix

Our kids go to bed early enough – before 8 o’clock and my husband frequently works late. During the day I am at home with my youngest, so a lot of my daily chores are done by late afternoon. So, come 8 o’clock, Mama has Netflix queued up. I especially enjoy emotional, campy, and smart TV shows. I rarely watch movies on Netflix as TV shows are perfect for keeping my interest for 45 minutes at a time.

Some of my guilty pleasures that I’ve streamed via Netflix are: Nashville, Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, The Fosters, Homeland, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and I am currently hooked onto Quantico. I have an embarrassing amount of shows bookmarked in ‘My List’.

Is it just me or are TV shows getting better and better? I haven’t been a teenager in at least fifteen years, yet half of my guilty pleasures on Netflix are teen shows.

 

Icy cold beer

beer

I very much enjoy an import tall boy while watching some of my TV shows. Beer just about goes with anything in my opinion!

 

Glee music

glee

I adored Glee while it aired. I laughed, I cried and I sang along with the characters. Even though the show has ended over a year and a half ago, I still play Glee covers while I am cooking, doing my own schoolwork, cleaning and often in the car.

 

Spa visits

Every six months or so I enjoy a facial at a local spa. I enjoy the whole process from the start to the finish.

More frequently than I get facials, I get pedicures. Bright/flashy polish colours while getting my tootsies pampered? Yes please! My girls enjoy coming with me and my esthetician always gives them their own special pampering for their toes.

Reading

                                                                         

I read every day, mostly before bed. I enjoy heartfelt emotional stories, murder mysteries, suspense, and dabble in horror on occasion. But my guilty pleasure is… trashy romance novels. These books can hook you easily and they make for an easy read. Now I am not talking about the 50 Shades of Grey series; the books I read are somewhat similar but are better written and the books don’t take themselves too seriously.

Red velvet cupcakes

cupcake

This decadent treat is one of my favourite treats to have on occasion. I am not a huge chocolate lover so this cupcake’s hint of chocolate paired with cream cheese icing is perfection, it goes nicely with a hot cup of tea.

Date Night

date-night

Hubby and I were great at getting out for a date night once a month but life has a way of intervening. With my husband’s busy work schedule which includes travel, our date nights haven’t been happening as frequently as we’d like. Fingers crossed, we get a new date night routine in place. I love nights where I don’t have to cook!

Newborn/baby photography

I follow several local (and area) photographers on Facebook just so I can gaze at brand new squishy babies. I get my baby fever cooled down and I don’t have to get up in the middle of the night with the bambino. Win win! Equally fun for me is to look at baby’s first smiles as they start growing and their first birthday with a messy cake smash.

 

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

–Colleen

Romance isn’t dead

I lead a relatively quiet life with my husband and children. My husband and I’s start to our relationship was pretty low-key. We met, fell in love, got engaged, got married, and have two girls. This coming December, we will celebrate ten years of wedded bliss. For the low-key undramatic relationship we have, it is somewhat amusing that I LOVE romance movies. The tragic, the unrequited, the unrealistic obstacles, the drama and the humour – I love it all!

After I recently watched Before I Go, I thought of sharing some of my favourite romance movies. These are films that I can watch over and over and still shed a tear at the sad parts and bust a gut during the funny moments. Some are classic, some are newer to the cinema world, some appear on every romance lover’s list, and some are unconventional. Here are some favourites in no particular order:

Dirty Dancing

I remember being as young as ten years old, watching this movie with my Mom and her sister (my aunt); they would always fast-forward the scene where Baby and Johnny consummate their love. As I have watched this movie over 24 years now, I never get bored and always look forward to the final dance.

Phantom of the Opera (2004 version)

This one is a nostalgic one for me. I grew up familiar with the Phantom of the Opera, seeing the play in downtown Toronto with KISS’s Paul Stanley as the Phantom in the nineties. When this version came out, I instantly was drawn to the more rock and roll sounding Phantom played by Gerard Butler. This actor I thought was better at capturing the pain of an unrequited love.

The Notebook

I bawl like a baby every single time at the very end, it never fails. And that kiss in the rain, ‘nuff said!

P.S I Love You

Another Gerard Butler entry on my list. Can you tell I like him and his movies? Though Gerard Butler’s Irish accent could use some work, I still love the initial story and again shed a tear every time I see this movie.

Pretty Woman

The ending wraps up this movie with a pretty bow. Edward climbs up the fire escape to declare his love for Vivian. Classic man-rescues-lady, but after he asks what happened next, she replies: “she rescues him right back.”

The Princess Bride

The humour, action and romance just about make this a perfect romance that everyone will watch and enjoy.

Ghost

Again another tearjerker but Whoopi Goldberg’s comedic cracks lighten up the teary moments.

Crazy Stupid Love

The comedy is smart and the chemistry between the co-stars makes this movie a favourite in my movie collection.

Beastly

This movie is a teen version of Beauty and the Beast. A teen who by all accounts is a catch – good looking, rich but has an ugly heart. A witch changes his physical appearance to match his heart as someone he never noticed before at school sees something good in him. A bit cheesy but I still enjoy this movie from time to time.

Moulin Rouge   

Another tragic story but musical style! A love triangle mixed in with a dying lover all the while music and dancing are flashily displayed throughout this movie.

Romancing the Stone/Jewel of the Nile

An 80’s classic in romance films as both of these movies have humour, action and adventure. By today’s standards, both movies would be cheesy however I see nothing wrong with a little cheese factor!

 

Now that I have shared some of my favourite romantic movies, please sound off in the comments about your favourite movies!

 

–Colleen

Things I wished I knew about caesarean births

As an expectant mom, I devoured everything online that was pregnancy related and as my pregnancies neared the end, I would read up on everything I could about the early days. Then eventually progressed to reading about baby and toddler stages and so on. I now have a preschooler and a school ager.

My fascination about pregnancy, labour, delivery, and early days have yet to cease. I continually read birth stories gone viral – the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. I must have been a doula or a midwife in a past life.

One viral post that touched me to the core was Raye Lee’s c-section post on Facebook. I too had c-sections and her post had me thinking of my post-delivery care and my interactions with family, friends, healthcare professionals, and even strangers.

During my pregnancy with my oldest daughter, I was considered high risk. Though I felt fine, my blood pressure was through the roof. I was extremely lucky that I was on modified bed rest versus strict bed rest. My work hours were reduced from 40 hours to a mere 12 hours. I stayed off my feet and had all the time in the world to prepare for my baby’s arrival. My pregnancy had been pretty hippy dippy – though I had an OB as I was high risk, my plan was to go au naturel, i.e. no pain meds. My plan was to check out of the hospital in under a day from birth, I was going to be a granola crunchy labouring mom.

My water broke on Mother’s Day night as I was typing an email to a friend saying ”Mother’s Day has passed and no sign of her.” As I was high risk, I was to go to the hospital if my water broke first – which it did. Fast forward 26 hours later (no pain meds) and my blood pressure was at its all time highest it had ever been, my health care professionals deemed it necessary for my health’s sake that I deliver my baby via caesarean. No other words to describe it other than I was heartbroken. At 10:36 pm on May 10, my beautiful baby girl was born at 8 pounds and 12 ounces.

briar-baby

Fast forward to pregnancy number 2 – two years later. I felt horrible the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. I was constantly nauseous and the porcelain throne and I were good friends but I had no blood pressure issues. I was on the road to having the type of birth I originally envisioned. I had a supportive OB who had a high success rate with natural births post caesarean births. My rules in order to have a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) were as follows: I had to go into labour on my own with no medical interventions, I had to go into labour before my due date, and the baby’s weight had to be average (8 pounds or less). My due date was on the May long weekend; my OB’s office had booked me an elective c-section for the Tuesday after the holiday weekend should baby not make her appearance.

In late April during a routine doctor’s appointment and after going to an ultrasound to track baby’s weight/size. My doctor indicated that the hospital had sent over my post-op reports for us to review to ensure I was a viable candidate for a VBAC. My baby was measuring size-wise larger than she should have been. My OB went through my post-op report that summed up the fact that my labour stalled due to a narrow pelvis. My doctor recommended that based on this new information and the fact that baby was measuring larger, I have a c-section but moved up from my original elective date. The doctor knew I was devastated, she checked in on me as I was leaving with a sympathetic arm rub and a “I know it isn’t the birth you want but the main thing is yours and your baby’s health.” My OB’s office called me later at work that day to indicate my new delivery date would be on May 9. A day before my oldest daughter’s birthday! At 12:33 pm on May 9, my beautiful baby girl was born at 7 pounds and 15 ounces. One-ounce shy of my capped baby’s size and 10 days earlier than my due date.

brooke-baby

That being said, here is a list of things that I wished I knew about caesarean births and care during post delivery:

  1. You sign a waiver at the hospital in the event of your death, your family or estate cannot hold the hospital responsible.
  1. The common misconception is that you won’t feel anything during the operation. Completely, 100% false. While you are laying there, with a screen up in front of you and your arms strapped down you can feel every tug and snip while the doctors and nurses work to get baby out – the pain is significantly less than without a spinal but you are aware of every slice and snip. Even now, I shudder to think about the sounds and feels during my operation.
  1. Your partner will see you in a whole new way. While the screen is up, chances are, he or she will see your organs while you are open waiting for baby to make an appearance.
  1. The spinal that you are given during the procedure, makes you as cold as ice in recovery. I was violently shaking as I was so cold while the spinal was wearing off. Imagine having your newly sliced abdominal muscles protesting with every shake. When the shakes do wear off, you are exhausted and all you want to do is sleep.
  1. Your partner may not cut the cord. In emergency situations, the doctor will snip quickly to attend to the two patients in need of care. In both of my cases, the cord was cut by the doctor however my husband was able to do a ceremonial second cut.
  1. When you do finally hold your baby in the OR while the doctors are attending to closing you up, your arms are numb from the spinal. The nurses have to put the baby on your chest and they manually move your arms to hold baby in place. It is downright freaky!
  1. You have a catheter for 24 hours. Not much else to add to the embarrassment or loss of dignity as childbirth other than having a catheter.
  1. You dread having to sneeze, cough or laugh post birth. Hospitals are so damn dry! I drank so much water to prevent even a tickle in my throat because it was so painful to clear my throat never mind to cough. And my hospital visitors were on my bad list because they all made me laugh.
  1. Your incision site/scar tissue. My incision has very little feeling three years later. The nerve endings are likely never going to regain their feeling. My doctors have indicated that I have a nice, even pretty scar but for the rest of my life no matter how much ab exercises I will do, I will always have a bit of an overhang over my babies entrance to the world. Even though you are lacking feeling at your incision site, the scar tissue build up can make you feel like you recently had a c-section instead of three years ago if your toddler executes the right ninja move. Hoo boy, it is intense!
  1. People’s lack of knowledge about a section. Three weeks post section, some family members were over visiting with my newly expanded family, and a well intentioned family member noticed I grimaced as I moved funny stating “you are still in pain?” Well yeah, they sliced into my uterus, moved my organs around, my bladder came out momentarily, baby came out and then I was repacked and stitched up. Crazy, how I am still in pain right!?

Raye Lee’s post is important because in the age where mommy wars are rampant, it seems that the tone of birth turns to a negative turn when we discuss medical interventions during birth. Yes, there are unnecessary caesarean births that occur in this city, country and world however as a c-section mom of two, I can passionately tell you that I did them for the necessity of mine and my babies health.

Colleen

girls-together