COM0015 – Blog #6: Event Participation

visions-2045

On March 2, I attended Carleton University’s Visions 2042 Conference, a three night, two day conference in which Carleton staff and students, government and nonprofit officials, and interested community members discuss “research and ideas that help imagine Canada’s future in 2042”. The conference offers tremendous multi-disciplinary appeal and included discussion of a wide range of topics, which is what drew me to the event.

presenters

I attended the session titled Grasping the Future of Canadian Governance: Using Strategic Foresight to Explore Canada’s Evolving Political Landscape. It featured several Carleton faculty as well as leading researchers and writers on strategic foresight from the Conference Board of Canada and Policy Horizons Canada. For those new to the concept, strategic foresight uses tools and methodology to research and understand possible futures and how to position your organization to survive within it.

It was a fascinating discussion. Strategic foresight in government was the main focus but reference to its applications in a variety of situations were made, such as military, end user technology, and international affairs. During Q&A, I asked the panel how practitioners of strategic foresight decide on the most likely scenarios, and what to advance to decision-makers in government as the one or two scenarios for which contingencies should be made. An interesting back and forth between the academics and outside speakers followed, with the final answer being, they don’t!

This session provided me with a new way of thinking about the future. Satyamoorthy Kabilan from the Conference Board of Canada noted that people generally think about the future in one of two ways: that what happened in the past will happen in the future, or what’s happening now will continue to happen in the future. My favourite quote from him about this way of thinking is, “You can’t drive a car without your rear view mirror, but you can’t drive a car with it.” This is where the value of strategic foresight comes in.

I really enjoyed this session and the opportunity to discuss big ideas and themes, such as the future of Canada. I am on Carleton University’s mailing list and I look forward to other conferences and events in the future!

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COM0015 – Blog #4: Out of the Box

In the course of this program, I have come across all manner of applications of social media tools and platforms, from fun and quirky to serious and sentimental.

You can browse Mustache Groups at stachepassions.com to find members by their preferred 'stache style.

You can browse Mustache Groups at stachepassions.com to find members by their preferred ‘stache style.

Personally I have been most intrigued with cause-related social media applications, where people work to advocate, raise awareness, or mobilize. I suppose it brings a distinctly human element to the use of social technology that warms me to its growing role in society a little more.

A recent story about actress Freida Pinto helping to feed hundreds with leftover food from Oscar events shone a spotlight Copia, a San Francisco-based company that developed an app that allows hotels, restaurants and grocery stores to call for a pick-up of leftover food to help feed communities in need. So there are two great applications of social media tools profiled here – Copia’s technology that helps reduce food waste and redistribute it to those in need, and Freida Pinto’s leverage of her social network on Instagram to raise the profile of people bridging the gap between excess and need.

In online marketing, I thought this “Social Price Drop” campaign by the UK grocery chain Lidl was pretty clever. For four weeks around the 2016 Christmas season, the company generated fun and excitement by allowing its customers to control pricing on four popular holiday items, promising that the more they tweeted about the product (eg. Christmas pudding), the more the price would drop. The campaign was a success, according to Rise founder and CEO Toby Beresford, “because there was a real incentive to share socially”. Brilliant!

 

Have you come across memorable cause-related social campaigns? Tell me about them!

COM0015-Blog#3: Professional Networking Now and In the Future

As someone currently preparing to re-enter the workforce, putting together a strategy for developing my professional network is quite the timely assignment. At first this struck me as a somewhat daunting task, but my research leads me to believe that with the right guidance, small, sensible steps can lead to big payoff!

I know my first step in this journey has to be my LinkedIn profile. Much of mine is complete, except for the summary of my expertise – what LinkedIn says most people look at when evaluating candidates. I recently read an article by Pamela Vaughan, How to Use LinkedIn: 35 LinkedIn Tips for Professional Networking, Business & Marketing that suggests posting work samples and articles on your account to keep your profile fresh and dynamic. It also has lots of other great tips for entrepreneurs and those responsible for their company’s LinkedIn page. If you are a job seeker like me, this article from the Daily Muse Editor is a must read. So my commitment for developing my online professional network is to get my LinkedIn act together – make it complete, and make it dynamic by creating content that showcases my interests and skills.

With respect to developing my professional network in person, I will commit to doing a weekly search of business events, seminars, and conferences of interest to me personally or relevant to my intended direction professionally. The Ottawa Chamber of Commerce has a convenient Events Page with lots of events open to members and non-members alike, some are even free to attend. Watch in particular for the Mayor’s Breakfast and Eggs n’ Icons events, they tend to draw great crowds.

Whether online or in person, after making connections it’s important to nurture them. In Ten Ways to Build and Maintain Your Professional Network, the critical components of keeping in touch are emphasized (don’t make it all about you – remember their birthdays, acknowledge professional milestones, etc) to help ensure your network maintains a genuine interest in helping you out as well.

COM0015-Blog #2: Strong & Weak Organizations

If there isn’t already an annual awards ceremony of the best in social, let this be a call to start one! There are many organizations out there that are doing crazy, amazing, or just plain effective things. Two that I think are meeting the challenge are the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and Hershey’s campaign for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (bet you didn’t see that coming). I am also asked to out an organization that I think needs help with their social media strategy, I’ll get to them later.

I count the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) among those with a strong social media strategy not because of any great flash or fanfare they produce, but because they have identified the platforms that best reach their audiences and have focused their resources on serving them well. Recently they initiated their #moremoments campaign, encouraging Canadians to support  heart disease and stroke research and make better choices, so that they can enjoy more of life’s precious moments. They have effectively carried this campaign on Twitter, facebook, their youtube channel and Instagram, with compelling content that users are happy to click through.

reesescake

Tempted? You’ll have to talk to theinternetchef.biz about this special cake!

Did you know it would take 7.25 billion Reese’s lined up side-by-side to reach the moon? You would if you followed the Hershey Company’s facebook page on January 24th, #NationalPeanutButterDay. Hershey’s social media presence also includes the consumer friendly Twitter and Instagram platforms. They are one of my pick’s for a strong social media strategy for the personality they convey – I love their cheeky humour and personification of Reese cups. The Reese’s product page keeps you coming back for the latest recipe creations and craft ideas (!) for those true fans.

Now for that organization I think could use a little help on the social media front: the Office of the President of the United States. Whether and how social media can be leveraged in service of the government-citizen relationship has been the focus of some discussion (see James Tosano’s piece in The Conversation). I think special attention to the way this office uses social media is warranted because a simple misread of 140 characters can have significant implications. There is lots of great advice from Dara Fontein’s blog on tips for Twitter (see number 16 in particular). The White House has a fairly solid facebook page with a good record of video and links to their latest activities and announcements, but their Instagram page could use more frequent attention, only 14 photos uploaded since the new administration took office.

 

 

COM0015 – Blog #1: Tools and Sources

Living in Ottawa, it can hard to escape the political drama that imbues the City, particularly around major events like budgets, throne speeches or the grand-daddy of them all, elections! So it’s a real good thing that I took to it so well, helped along with my work for a government relations firm that put me in the thick of it for nearly 10 years. Today, even as I enjoy my maternity leave and watching my little one learn about his world, I continue to keep one eye on the daily political machinations on the Hill.

changes-coming-media

Image fyimusicnews.ca.

My interest in federal politics is both in the policy work of federal departments and agencies, as well as the political angles spun by elected government and opposition officials. For these purposes, my favourite social media listening / monitoring tools are the email alerts of departments and agencies, and the Twitter feeds of the Minister and his or her counterparts in other parties. The email alerts offer the most comprehensive information on the department’s announcement, going into some detail on what the news is about and providing external links to related materials. The tweets from elected officials that accompany and follow the announcement reveal its political context and intent, and how well it passes muster in the political ring. Combined, they are a great indication of how well the government is doing on that particular file and are an early warning of potential weaknesses for the government going forward.

huff-post-canada-image

It is easy to while away the time with Huffingtonpost.ca’s daily videos.

My favourite sources of Canadian political news are National Newswatch and Huffington Post Canada. National Newswatch is a political news aggregator with an emphasis on federal politics but with highlights of provincial news as well. It features a great deal of opinion pieces and makes a point of carrying the views of journalists and pundits from across the political spectrum. Huffington Post started as a political blog supported by only a handful of journalists over 10 years ago, and is now part of the White House press pool. HuffPost Canada was launched in 2011, and has been a prominent fixture on the political news scene ever since.

So, if you’re even a little bit of a political animal, these monitoring tools and news sources must be part of your listening tool box. For my purposes, they’ve offered the best combination of timeliness and background!

COM0014 – Blog #7 – Personal Reflection

For me, Algonquin’s Digital Communication course offered solid guidance on connecting with an audience in a meaningful way through effective storytelling.

To begin, it brought back the importance of authenticity and maintaining a human touch to all of our storycommunications with our target audiences, especially the digital ones. It also covered important concepts in the art of storytelling, beyond following proper protocols and rules of language of grammar. Amidst the tools and measurement approaches and marketing theories we have covered to date, if we haven’t identified a compelling story for our audience our entire campaign can go askew. Understanding what kind of story we want to tell, as discussed in Lesson 4, highlighted this lesson best.

Going forward, my content will return to the roots of what has motivated consumers to engage with the company I work for. I would like to tell stories that get to heart of what makes my company and what we do great; that show we are listening to our consumers’ needs; that we understand and empathize with them and their concerns; and that highlight the contribution we can make to their lives in a real and meaningful way.

I’ve also appreciated the thoughts and reflections of my peers in this course. Thank you Nelly for your guidance, and best of luck to everyone in your online adventures!

COM0014 – Blog #6: Do People Know Your Story?

I didn’t think I could like Mister Rogers more, until I read this line attributed to him in John Jantsch’s article, Do People Know your Story?: “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.” It’s one of those observations we know intrinsically to be true but is so deeply insightful it begs to be mulled over a while. So I did, and now turn to Jantsch’s question, What part of your childhood shaped you for this moment?, as the part of my story that I would like to share.just-keep-calm

I’ve had a lot of surprises and unplanned life events happen in the last decade or so. Not at all unusual for those of us without a crystal ball to be sure, but how we manage sudden right turns when we planned on the slow meandering path to the left is all about how we learned to deal with change and the unexpected. I feel very privileged to have had role models in my life that encouraged me to take the reins of my own life and not let fear, self-doubt or even other people prevent me from choosing the life I want to lead.

Their lessons came to me subtly (critical for a stubborn gal like me). When I was a kid and complained about common childhood irritants I was asked, So how do you want this situation to end? What can you do to encourage that outcome? They turned a situation in which I felt “acted upon” into one where I felt empowered and capable of making a thoughtful decision about what I did next. Today, when setbacks strike, I don’t spend too much time moaning about it before I get busy. This perspective on life’s challenges are with me to this day, and I am forever grateful for it.

COM0014 – Blog #5: My Personal Brand

This assignment post is perhaps best titled My Professional Brand, since that’s what this is really about!

My professional brand is quite straightforward, and it’s central them is commitment – commitment to the people / cause / project, commitment to quality, commitment to seeing a job through. With the combination of my astrological sign (Taurus) and a work ethic learned from a series of summers working at family-run business, it simply couldn’t come out any other way. I think this is what sets me apart – my willingness, effort and ability to see things through with the same gusto as I started with.

While I am at home minding my 6 month old and not currently in the workforce, I am still working on setting myself apart. Learning new skills through this program in social media is one of my most important efforts at doing so, as is spending a little time volunteering to maintain the softer skills of leadership, motivation, and working in team environments.wordle

Before I left my last position, I asked a couple of colleagues what they thought my best traits were. (If you’ve never done this before you must absolutely try it, you may be amazed at the feedback you receive. As noted in Lesson 6, “Often we are so focused on the overall picture of the way we want to represent our brand, that we forget that it’s often in the smallest moments that the real stories lie.”).  They told me I was a great team player – offering leadership, hard work and stress relief through a funny line delivered at just the right time. And my position of remaining neutral and independent, both in office politics and in federal politics, made me seem more trustworthy and fair-minded.

With respect to what I am most proud of, I suppose it is not feeling like I have to be someone else for others to find my work, efforts and contributions worthwhile. And I am most definitely grateful for the friends, colleagues and mentors that I have learned from along the way!

COM0014 – Blog Post 4: B2C Case Study

For this B2C case study, I have chosen to highlight the example set by Canadian parenting expert Alyson Schafer. Seamlessly, it seems, she manages to maintain a fresh, engaging presence through several online forums while also meeting her audience in the printed pages and television programs often frequented by parents.

 

This is no small feat. As far as I can tell, she is a one woman show – I remember calling the phone number on her website for a question on booking tickets to her upcoming event, thinking it would be answered by someone representing Alyson Schafer Inc., and the lady herself answered! So I would not be surprised in the slightest to learn that she is the master of her brand online as well.

Still, one wonders how she can so successfully deliver impeccably timed blog posts, live chats on Facebook, emails and tweets about parenting issues on my mind now, or that peak my interest. I believe she accomplishes this by being incredibly personable even online, and by really listening to the worries, questions and advice being sought by her audience. She is also accessible – responding to tweets, emails and comments on her Facebook page lickety split. Finally, she delivers her content in easily digestible bits – she knows her online audience doesn’t have time to read a dissertation on bedtime routines – and she has an uncanny ability to deliver both empathy and advice timely and succinctly. A long time follower of hers for the smart advice she provides, I now have a new reason to appreciate her work!

COM0014 – Blog #3: Target Audiences and Next Steps: Where To From Here?

Like countless have before me, I am currently staring at the light at the end of my maternity leave tunnel and considering my career options. It’s a good time to be reconsidering some key elements of this part of our lives that occupies about one third of our waking time. Purpose and fulfillment; work-life balance; career, travel and learning objectives; compensation, pension and benefits – it all adds up to a complex balance that life rarely affords an opportunity to really consider anew.

uk-stats-work-over-lifetime

According to recently compiled statistics from ReviseSociology.com (UK based but with assumptions comparable to North America), we will have spent 35% of our total waking hours at work over a 50 year working-life period.

As noted in Lesson 3, identifying how and where your interests (or products or services) intersect with others (your target audience’s demographics and psychographics) are key first steps in being able to learn from and communicate with those audiences. My target audience consists of men and women currently going through career transition, with some greater focus on the experience of women. They are from all walks of life, many with at least some post-secondary education, and are unfulfilled at their place of work or situation. My empirical observation is that their age range is late 30s to early 50s.

Initial research I have conducted on this subject proved Google, Twitter and Facebook to be the most used platforms among my target audience members. By far, the greatest communications and listening value is with Twitter, with key organizations and groups (in particular, Women in Business Networking, Women in Transition, Women Business Leaders, Alliance of Creative Professional Women, Business Success Coach Network) devoted to my subject of interest and followers in the tens of thousands.

I think community colleges have done a good job in tapping into this particular audience. Their message that it is never too late to study something of interest and (re-) start your career doing something you love resonates on several levels, including a restlessness among those dissatisfied with their current work situation, and the hope that another path is viable. It has also become part of my career transition plan, as this social media program offers me new and highly marketable skills that I will leverage in my new career direction, whatever it may be!