COM0014 — Blog No. 7 A Personal Reflection

Storytelling has always been one of the most important vehicles for engaging people, whether it was early humans telling hunting tales to their mates with cave-wall drawings, the Brothers Grimm imparting wisdom through fairy tales, or Walter Cronkite narrating the Apollo 11 moon landing to an audience of more than 700 million.

And digital storytelling is no different.

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What sets digital storytelling apart is its potential to reach an infinitely more vast audience – an audience even more vast than Cronkite’s audience on July 20, 1969 – and the speed at which that audience loses interest.

What this course has shown me is that it is however possible to not get lost in the vastness of the audience but to pinpoint the small piece within it that will be responsive to your story and, once you’ve identified that slice, to consider how you can craft your story so that they will be open to receiving the message within it.

Even blog posts that are not directly story can still contain the narrative arc and the interesting details that grab a reader, and I will aim for that in every post I create, whether classically “a story” or not.

I’ve also learned in this course that it’s not just the storytelling that’s important but the storyteller. A storyteller with a strong story – that is a strong and authentic brand – will have an easier time engaging their audience than one without.

I’ve always told stories about other people, been there when they were at their worst and at their best. Now, I think I’d like to try telling stories about myself. I have a lifetime of experience – and some wisdom – to impart.

Maybe I can find a target audience willing to listen.

What about you? Have you found your target audience?

Photo source: Pixabay

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COM0014 — Blog No. 6 A Copy Editor with a Mission

Copy editing used to be a venerable professional pursuit. For much of newspapering history, the copy editor was the last line of defence, the last journalist to handle the copy before it was put on the page and printed. They worked to protect the newspaper’s prime asset, its reputation, from assault by poor writing, factual errors, libelous statements, and mistakes of grammar, spelling, and typing.

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It seems to me it’s been a long time since copy editing was truly valued, yet in the internet age it’s more necessary than ever. Mistakes are so common in online articles it’s a surprise to not find them. Reading the comments on posts has become an exercise in deduction and patience. People just don’t seem to care anymore whether they have to make their reader work to understand them. This sloppiness has spilled over into all kinds of written material, and no one seems to care. There are some great examples of errors in this post that, if you’re anything like me, will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.

And that’s my freelance business’s greatest challenge: When people are accustomed to seeing mistakes in much of what they read, they accept this as normal and don’t see any need to fix it. Since I’m in the business of “fixing it,” I have to work harder and harder to find people and organizations that do value copy editing. And that value it enough to pay a reasonable amount for the kind of expertise a newspaper copy editor of 16 years can bring to their work.

But the story doesn’t end in despair. In addition to experience and competency, I now have a good plan for branding my services, a way to find a niche market, and the ability to create a social media marketing plan that will help me reach those people for whom getting it right does matter.

And maybe, just maybe, together we can turn back the tide.

What do you think? Is it too late to turn back this tide or do you even care?

And p.s. I won’t guarantee there are no errors in this post. It needs a copy edit!

Photo source: Pixabay

 

 

COM0014 – Blog No. 5: Personal Brand

I’m really good at doing things on the fly, whether at work or at home. The other night I arrived home from  work and my husband, who is a teacher and so off for the summer, planned a dinner consisting of a small pot of baked beans we’d carried home from a trip through Quebec a couple of days earlier. And toast. Beans on toast.

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My “on the fly” instinct went into full gear because, much as I love baked beans, I’d been looking forward to a “real” dinner. Within no time, I’d whipped up a wonderful pasta with a caramelized onion sauce and fresh basil.

It’s taken me a while to realize that I have this quality because, and I don’t think I’m unusual in this, things we find easy often don’t seem to us to be remarkable or distinguished. But I know this: Few of my friends and none of my family members would have been able to do it. They’d have just eaten the beans on toast.

Another one of my strong characteristics – which is a great complement to the first – is being highly motivated by deadlines.

Got a last-minute project on a tight deadline? Call me. I’m your woman.

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Just yesterday I went into high gear and pulled together a presentation on a project I’m only somewhat familiar with that someone else had dropped the ball on. Not to brag, but I had in short order produced a slick and comprehensive presentation that was a credit to the presenter.

And when I say “not to brag,” I really mean it. For me, the glory is in the doing. That’s where I get satisfaction. If I’ve produced something that will let others shine when they need to, that’s great.

And the beans? They were excellent. They were just more excellent with a last-minute side of pasta.

 

Photo source: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

COM0014 — Blog No. 4: Flying High

The Fly Lady has built a solid business through her creative – and genuine – B2C social media marketing. Marla Cilley, a.k.a. The Fly Lady, specializes in helping people bring the chaos of their lives under control, and she does it with great empathy.

Online Synergy

She has an online presence that’s anchored by her web page, where she blogs about getting organized by decluttering and establishing easy routines for home cleaning. She has links to her very active Facebook account, her Twitter stream, and to her YouTube and Blog Talk Radio pages. The Fly Lady also creates online synergy by having guests regularly blog on her page. Since launching in 2001, she has garnered more than 500,000 Facebook followers, some 42,000 followers on Twitter, and 40,000 YouTube subscribers.

Her Facebook activity includes responses to messages, typically within a few hours, regular posts on her prime subject, as well as daily quick hits asking, “What’s for dinner?” She regularly posts fun and encouraging sayings. The most-viewed Fly Lady YouTube video, with 138,153 views, is titled “Dirty Doors!” followed by “Mop Handle How-to Video,” with 54,172 views.

Email by Subscription

Some of the other ways she engages her market are by Facebook Live question-and-answer sessions and by daily task lists and encouragement emails to subscribers. She also has an app offering an online courses in her organizational/cleaning method, pre-loaded cleaning routines, weekly cleaning lists, and fun daily “missions.”

All of this activity supports the sale of Fly Lady cleaning products, including mops and brooms in various sizes, microfiber dusters, toilet bowl cleaner, and rags – all in her signature purple colour.

The Fly Lady has been building this online empire for many years, and her online strategy is very clearly working for her, and for her constituents. It can only be counted a success.

What do you think? When your B2C online marketing strategy is working, should you keep adding components or stay the course?

COM0014 – Blog # 3: Green, Clean and Wise with Money

 

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A 2014 survey commissioned by SCA, a company that makes hygiene products like hand sanitizer and hotel-sized soap and shampoo, picked up on an interesting fact: Shoppers over the age of 55 are more likely to shop “green” because it’s better for the environment than are the millennials who lead the pack elsewhere. Further, the survey showed 43 per cent of Canadians are willing to pay more for “green” goods and services.

Income and education do have an effect on what people are willing to pay for an ethically manufactured product, with the survey showing people with incomes over $40,000 more likely to spend more on such a product (58 per cent versus 40 per cent).

Since the average millennial income is just $34,700 versus the average income of Canadians aged 50 to 67, it’s no surprise that “green” shoppers are likely to be older shoppers.

When it comes to house cleaning products, however, there’s no need to pay more than you would pay for traditional products – no matter your age or income. Indeed, there’s no need to spend a lot at all.

Those at both ends of the age spectrum could benefit from learning about creating inexpensive natural cleaning products using simple recipes and easily-attained products. Indeed, the desires of each – the older wanting “greener” products and the younger wanting cheaper products – dovetail in these recipes.

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They also wrap together three things I’m passionate about: being “green,” being clean, and being wise when it comes to money.

A Facebook page devoted to “the green clean” and a YouTube channel focused on focused on frugally freshening up any space would between them draw heavily on both those target audiences.

What do you think? Is trying two hit two disparate targets with one message a recipe for disaster?

 

Sources:

http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/more-canadian-consumers-seeking-green-products-and-services-in-current-economy-515057131.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/millennials-have-more-spending-power-than-parents-did-but-also-more-debt-1.2644833

https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Most-Internet-Users-Canada-Dedicated-Using-Facebook-Daily/1014121

Photos: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

COM0014 – Blog #2: ‘The signal within the noise’

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Typical children’s books are image-laden and light on text. / Pixabay

Storytelling is not optional for communicating, it’s essential. It’s what grabs the reader, listener or viewer, what gives shape to the information they’re receiving. It’s what can move them to a new or different thinking pattern or action. This is true across time, across cultures, and across mediums.

As writer Frank Rose points out in Wired magazine, storytelling is fundamental to human existence.

“Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning,” he writes. “We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise.”

Whether our audience hears “the signal within the noise” will depend on how well we’ve understood our audience and crafted our stories to suit them.

Travelling in Different Circles

We can hardly expect a three-year-old, for example, to comprehend a Condé Nast Traveler article about the benefits of travelling to San Francisco in spring.

We could expect them to understand some facts about they city when they read “This is San Francisco,” a classic children’s book full of pictures and light on text.

Pictures – moving and still – are, in fact, great storytelling aids for the digital age. They convey much more quickly a notion or an idea than a mass of words do, and the best can tell a story on their own. No words necessary.

Pictorial Present: The Emoji

An understanding of our audience is still crucial though. Take the emoji, a great tool for digital storytelling, but only if the recipient can understand and interpret it.

In 2015, Chevrolet issued a news release written entirely using emojis in an apparent bid to reach a younger demographic than the one typically associated with the traditional U.S. carmaker. Car and Driver writer Bob Sorokanich reported that the release was written entirely in “the inscrutable digital hieroglyphs central to preteen electronic communications.” He clearly he wasn’t in their target demographic.

Emojis

Can you read this news release from Chevrolet?* / Chevrolet

Perhaps we’re not ready to go that far in our communications, but in a 2015 article, The Atlantic reported on a survey that showed more than 75 per cent of Americans had used an emoji in a work-related communication, a move that not long before would have been deemed inappropriate.

So it would seem that in the digital age there’s lots of room for growth in the way we communicate, as long as we remember that story will always need to be at the heart of our communications and that we need to tell our stories in a way that audience can hear – and it a way that allow them to respond.

What do you think? Are we ready to dispense with written words and return to the pictorials of the past?

*Here’s the translation. (See the full release here.)

DETROIT — In two days at the Fillmore Theatre at 7 p.m., a new Cruze will be born and you are going to love it.

The all-new 2016 Cruze blends innovative technology, striking design and impressive efficiency into one sporty ride. It’s the best new thing since sliced bread for stylish and socially connected people. A Chevrolet spokesperson said: “We had the idea that the new Cruze could change the world.”

 

 

 

COM0014 – Blog #1: My Book, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

COM0014 – Blog #1: My Book, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

swing-1188132_1920Someday, I’m going to write a book. “Playgrounds of Ireland” is the working title.

I’m sure it will appeal to that especially intrepid traveller, the one whose travel partners think chicken nuggets and fries are gourmet foods and who are best amused on swings, monkey bars, and merry-go-rounds.

How did I spend my last vacation? In the playground. In many playgrounds, actually. All over Ireland.

I could have stayed home and done this, I thought more than once during our three-week holiday. But if I’d done that I wouldn’t be able to share how awesome the playgrounds were. Truly awesome.

Doorly Park, Sligo

Our first visit was to Doorly Park Playground along the banks of the Garavogue River in Sligo, the “Gateway to the Northwest.” It’s in a riverside wetland park that also features a large wooded area with a five-kilometre path looping through it.

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Between the park and the playground neither child nor adult would have cause to be bored. For children, a really great climbing net was the highlight, and adults could use the equipment in the “green gym,” rugged versions of adult exercise equipment typically found indoors.

The children thought it was the highlight of Sligo. The real highlight was the dash we made for a beach on the coast, after the rain had stopped and the sun came out. It was 8:30 p.m. and the sun wouldn’t set for another hour and a half.

Active Ennis Tim Smythe Park

Off to Ennis, where we quickly discovered a very different – but equally excellent – playground in the Active Ennis Tim Smythe Park. The Park itself featured sports fields, another “green gym,” a running track, and walking paths, and the playground was no afterthought. There were swings, see-saws, and roundabouts – my favourite – as well as a great climbing tower that included several enclosed twisty slides. Fun for every age!

playground spring toy

It was much, much busier than the playground in Sligo was, and we passed the time  chatting with locals and visitors alike.

The children thought this playground was the Ennis highlight. The real highlight was trekking over to Miltown Malbay, where thousands of musicians and music-lovers from around the world had descended on the seaside town for the Willie Clancy Summer School. We didn’t go to school, but we did sit in on many of the music sessions held at the town’s 13 pubs, and we also headed to the Armada Hotel in adjacent Spanish Point for some Irish country dancing.

Malahide Castle

Last on this short list is Malahide Castle Playground near Dublin.

The huge playground was divided into sections suiting younger and older children, and had every kind of swing, slide, and climbing contraption a child could want.

And the children thought this was the highlight of Dublin. The real highlight was the evening we spent in Howth, just north of the city. We combed the beach, chatted with the fishermen on the wharf, and savoured a lovely meal at The Oar House Fish Restaurant.

But the real highlight of the whole trip?

The time we spent together and the gift of seeing Ireland through the eyes of our children.

What about you? Do you read up on the playgrounds before you choose your travel destinations? Do you have a favourite? Is it still worth it to travel with young ones or do you think it’s better to wait till they’re older?

 

Photo source: Pixabay
Staying sane. Enjoying the game.

Staying sane. Enjoying the game.

Are you still trying to organize your sports teams using email? Does this make it difficult to keep track of who’s coming to which game or practice and who’s not? Does sharing photos of your team’s events seem like more of a burden than a joy?

Maybe you need an online team management system.

There are lots to choose from offering similar capabilities, so deciding which one to use will likely be a decision about whether you want to spend additional money for a more extensive paid service and which interface works best for you.

The Basics

All of these apps replace the traditional tools of the coach, manager and player parent, like the clipboard, the telephone and the email used to send photos around to the whole team. And they offer much more besides.

They all offer a place to list games and practices, allow players to indicate their availability, keep team lists and statistics, and set up pre-event alerts. You can designate people to certain roles, and ensure everyone knows who’s bringing the snack or who’s working the clock. Most of them also allow parents to make team payments through them, eliminating the need to deal with cheques or bank transfers and lists of who’s paid and who hasn’t.

You can also synch the schedule with your calendar and share it with others. You can post and share photos easily, and for those who like to keep statistics, you can do that, too.

Free Offerings and Upgrades

All the apps offer free options, and some, such Teamer and Teamstuff, are entirely free, making their money on transaction fees or advertising. Other apps, like TeamSnap and RosterBot, offer a free plan as well as and one or more paid plans offering greater services. And they’re all optimized for mobile devices, too.

Beyond the Basics

TeamSnap even includes a Community section with blog posts and podcasts related to amateur sports on topics like communications for coaches, concussions, and easing the stress of athletes’ parents. It also has extensive skills and drills for numerous sports, all of which can be accessed without a membership.

Spoiled for Choice

The bid by numerous companies to get a small slice of the youth sports market, which was worth $5.7 billion in Canada in 2014, according to a Solutions Research Group study, is a good thing for the coaches, manager and parents.

It means we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to sports management apps, and the competition keeps pushing the companies to make them better.

What about you? Do you have a favourite sports management app? What was the worst thing about managing communications for a sports team before these apps came along?

 

Facebook:

Are you still managing an amateur sports team with a clipboard and a telephone? You need a sports management app. Read my blog to find out what some of the benefits are. http://bit.ly/2lDN4m5

 

Twitter:

Amateur sports team manager, coach, player parent? A management app can help keep everything organized. #sportssanity http://bit.ly/2lDN4m5

 

Photo: Pixabay

 

 

 

Here I am … but I’m not happy about it

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Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s social media shy. And that’s a huge relief. I am not alone.

Being “out there” on social media has long been a struggle for me. For example, despite Facebook offering the perfect platform for sharing the ups and downs of having a new baby with friends and family, when my son was born in 2007 I actively shunned the platform in favour of email. There’s still a folder in my Gmail account labelled “Baby has arrived,” which my husband used to send out an announcement. It has 64 contacts in it. Sixty-four!

And it would be more than two years more before I would join Facebook. I posted twice in 2009, not at all in 2010, and 16 times ins 2011, with the bulk of the posts being news story shares.

Far Behind the Facebook Curve

A Wikipedia entry about the history of Facebook puts the average monthly growth of active users in the early days of the platform at 178.38%. I could have been a part of that. But instead I was so far behind the curve I joined when Facebook’s monthly active user growth averaged just 6.99%.

I’ve posted a lot more on Facebook in more recent years, but even now my posts tend heavily toward sharing news from other sources, not my own.

And it’s not that I’m shy. My friends and family  especially the introverts — will tell you I’m anything but. What it comes down to is that I’m still trying to get over the feeling that I don’t want all my life out there for everyone to know about and comment on.

I suppose I’ve made some peace with Facebook. I feel like I contribute enough to be more than a lurker but — once again far behind the curve  I’m still struggling with Twitter and Instagram, where most of my friends post regularly but I can’t seem to.

Trying to Figure Out Who Cares

My biggest difficulty is trying to figure out who beyond the tight circles of friends and family I interact with off-line cares what I think … or even more so what I drink. In case you’re wondering, I have posted to Instagram once, coffee art, not original, but unthreatening. Like this:

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And maybe that’s the answer. I think what makes me uncomfortable is the oversharing on much of social media, Facebook particularly, and that’s tainted my own view of it and comfort with it as a tool for personal connection.

Being OK with Where I’m At

And maybe that’s OK. Maybe just because it feels like everyone else is putting everything out there, doesn’t mean I have to as well. Showing up at a party doesn’t oblige me to tell everyone else there my innermost thoughts, and showing up on social media doesn’t either.

What about you? Do you spill the beans about every aspect of your life on social media, do you keep most of your private life private, or do you fall somewhere in between?

Facebook:

I’m not quick to share much about my personal life on social media, mostly because I’m not sure any beyond my immediate circle is interested. What about you? Are your Facebook feed and your Instagram page full of intimate details about your life or do you hold back when it comes to social media? #notalone #whocareswhatIthink

shy

Twitter:

Discovering I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to spill everything on social was a relief. I don’t struggle alone! #whocareswhatIthink

Photo 1:  courtney guttenberg. Cropped. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Photo 2: Pixabay

Hands off the hashtag, Jim

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The old joke is that Jim Watson would go to the opening of an envelope.  The unveiling of a plaque marking a site of minor import, the pie-making contest at the local fair, the spaghetti-dinner fundraiser in the church hall. You can count on the mayor to be there.

You can count on the mayor to be there online, too, on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Twitter. He’s as savvy about the opportunities on social media as he is about the opportunities at the strawberry social. He’s so savvy, in fact, that in 2015 he was a guest speaker at a Third Tuesday Meetup, a monthly gathering of communications professionals and marketers interested in networking and learning about the use of social media in business and government.

The Mayor’s Three Tips

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He gave them three tips, according to a report posted on Thornley Fallis Communications’ website: Join the conversation, make it personal, and keep it friendly.

But Watson failed to follow his own rules – in spirit if not in letter – recently when he tried to start a Twitter-storm using the hashtag #SaveConfedPark.

It’s a great hashtag, actually. It’s smart, it’s clear, and it’s to the point. You know, “Save Confederation Park,” it screams.

Unfriendly

The only thing wrong with it is that Confederation Park doesn’t need saving. And by that measure alone it must be judged “unfriendly.”

The hashtag was a salvo in a battle that didn’t exist against a small – though vocal – minority of Ottawa citizens who didn’t like the location being recommended for a new public library main branch.

Just days before the Ottawa Public Library board was to vote on that new recommended location – chosen from a list of 12 that DID NOT include Confederation Park – the idea of locating it there turned up in a couple of spots, including in an Ottawa Citizen op-ed and in a YouTube video created by opponents of the recommended site, as Metro newspaper reported here.

Not conversational

So Watson used his considerable clout as a mayor — clout magnified by his more than 100,000 Twitter followers — to stir up opposition with this hashtag that suggests a fact the mayor knows not to be true. T

In using this strategy, Watson sowed confusion in the public conversation and left himself open to accusations of being a purveyor — or at least an instigator — of “fake news.”

This isn’t conversation, this is manipulation.

In the event, the hashtag didn’t get much traction. A few people retweeted the mayor’s tweet and a few more used the hashtag in their own tweets about not giving up the park to a  library, and there were a few, too, who pointed out the park wasn’t in need of saving.

Reputation at Risk

I get that the mayor was trying to head off what he saw as a potential threat to the park, but his hashtag strayed a little too far from reality and in doing so put his good name and his reputation at risk

What do you think? Did the mayor go too far with his hashtag? Do you think it will affect his reputation? What do you think about this kind of offensive play?

 

Facebook Post: Mayor Jim Watson’s trying to get people to stop the new public library being built in Confederation Park using the hashtag #SaveConfedPark. The problem is the park isn’t under threat – it’s not the recommended site and wasn’t even on the list for consideration. Did the mayor make a good offensive play or not? Do you think it will affect his reputation?

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Twitter Post: Ottawa mayor’s offensive to stop library from being built in park goes too far. There’s no threat of that. #saveConfedPark #jimwatsonploy

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Sources:

https://thornleyfallis.com/social-media-tips-from-ottawa-mayor-jim-watson/

https://www.meetup.com/third-tuesday-ottawa/

https://twitter.com/search?q=jim%20watson%20ottawa&src=typd&lang=en

https://www.tintup.com/blog/how-to-pick-a-good-hashtag/

http://www.metronews.ca/news/ottawa/2017/01/31/why-the-sudden-push-to-saveconfedpark-.html

Photos:

Confederation Park: Robert Linsdell. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Jim Watson:QUOI Media Group. Cropped. Licensed under Creative Commons.