COM0014 Blog post #2: How zombies have improved my writing

COM0014 Blog post #2: How zombies have improved my writing

Writing well is hard work. I have been in communications for nearly two decades now and even now, I’m still learning. And after 20 years in the industry, I learned my two favourite tips only in the last couple years, both of which are referenced in this week’s course reading:

  1. Passive voice vs active voice
  2. Asking questions

Passive voice vs active voice and how zombies can help.


Isn’t this guy cute?! You can get him on a shirt here:

One of my more recent assignments was to rewrite several hundred customer letters for a national bank. And no one likes passive voice more than a bank that doesn’t want to be blamed for anything. Everything was written in the passive voice: “the error was caused …”, or “the credit will be refunded…”, and the list goes on.

But here’s my zombie trick… if you can put “by zombies” where the action is taking place, then you have a passive sentence. “The error was caused… by zombies.” “The credit will be refunded… by zombies.” If there are zombies in your writing, then you need to rewrite!

Asking questions and generating discussion.

I took a training course in a methodology called “Kepner Tregoe.” Essentially, it’s a way of thinking to help determine the root cause of an issue, whether it’s a technology issue, or a personal issue, it can all be solved by KT. What stuck with me was the way they provoked thinking and discussion.

Instead of asking if anyone has any questions after a presentation, which is a closed question anyway, turn the question around and ask “What questions do you have?” This forces the audience to think back on the content, and uses an open question to push the audience into responding. It’s an effective technique and I find I use it all the time!

What tricks do you use to help you remember grammar rules? And… what questions do you have? 😉

COM0014 – Blog #1: My culinary tour of Toronto, Summer 2019


I don’t watch wresting but I can name all these WWE stars! Photo courtesy of

For Christmas last year, my partner and I gave our boys tickets to one of the biggest events in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) calendar – Summer Slam. But we didn’t just get them tickets to the one pay-per-view event – we signed them up for the whole kit and caboodle, which was four (yep 4!) nights of wrestling events. It was going to be all wrestling, all the time… but not for me.

Sure, I enjoy the WWE on a soap opera level, but it’s not one of my favourite things in the world. On the contrary, one of my favourite things in the world is to eat out!

So instead of staying home in Ottawa while all the boys in my house left, I decided to join them on their Toronto adventure, but not for the wrestling activities. When they would head out to the Scotiabank Arena for their daily dose of choke slams and suplexes, I would head out to a different restaurant in a different part of Toronto to eat as many of the things as I could!

I live in a small town outside Ottawa and my kids are not culinary adventurers so this was my summer vacation!

  • I ate at the Irish Embassy on Yonge Street – classic Guinness and pub grub.
  • I ate at Rickshaw Bar on Queen Street – an Indian/Pakistani/African fusion restaurant, which was amazingly fabulous. The head chef escaped from an arranged marriage, and eventually made her way to Toronto. She’s only in her 30s and her “to-be” wedding dress is hung on the wall!
  • I ate at Banjara on Bloor Street West – a decades-only classic Indian restaurant where you could have your own private buffet at your table!
  • I ate at Chula Taberna on Dundas Street East – a Mexican restaurant that featured $5 margaritas and had the most delicious guacamole and burritos.

Yes, I ate it all. At the end of our four days, my boys were very full of wresting and I was very full of food. A win-win for everyone!

Enjoy food as much as I do? Where’s the best place you’ve eaten? What’s your favourite type of food?


Social media: The rise of the little guy

I live in a craft beer household, and I have for many years now. Craft breweries are a growing part of the beer fabric of the country – in Ontario there are now over 270 registered breweries, according to the Ontario Brewers Directory. However, they are still relatively small, especially when you think of the large conglomerates like Molson and Labatt, who themselves are owned by even larger conglomerates (Molson Coors and Interbrew, respectively). But even the small can be mighty when they feel threatened, and social media has a significant role to play in enabling those smaller groups to amplify their message.

Case in point – this week the Ontario PC government rolled out their “Buck a Beer challenge,” fulfilling a promise they had made on the campaign trail to lower the minimum price of beer to $1 from the current level of $1.25. (If you live in another province, or under a rock, click here for a recap of the news.)

Apart from the one brewery where Premier Doug Ford made his announcement, the response by the craft brewery industry was unanimously against the idea. Immediately the social media engines (which likely means 1 person at each brewery who does 5 other jobs) of the craft brewery industry sprung to life, denouncing the government “offer” to sell beer for $1.

Ottawa brewer proposes its own buck a beer challenge (Dominion City Instagram)

A full-on social media onslaugh ensued – the craft breweries were all over Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more, telling their followers why they wouldn’t be participating in the “challenge.” From there, the impact spread to the traditional networks, with representatives from breweries around the province speaking to their local media, and in many cases, spreading to outlets across the province and the nation – all within a couple hours of the announcement.

Muskoka Brewery offers other buck a beer option (Muskoka Brewery twitter feed)

In the pre-social media days, sure the traditional media outlets would have picked up the story, and the local craft brewery spokesperson would have trotted out their message, but it wouldn’t have had the power that it does today, or the reach. As beer writer, Jordan St. John, noted on Twitter: “Coming through the #buckabeer channel. I think this might finally be the situation where Ontario breweries, regardless of @OntCraftBrewers membership realize they outweigh the government 260:1 on social media. Took you long enough.

What do you think? What other “little guy” stories can you think of where social media has helped them outweigh the “big guy?”

 The craft brewer vs the government – a story of the little guy on social media. #buckabeer #ontcraftbrewers

Goliath the government vs David the craft brewer – how does social media help the little guy?

Should our social media history haunt us?

Image from Psycho

Still from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho

Last week we were talking about personal brand, and the value of maintaining your personal brand through careful management of items that you post to social media. With that in mind, what do we do with posts that are from before we started cultivating a particular image? This is a question that I’ve been considering this past week thanks to two recent examples of social media past coming back to bite public figures where it hurts.

Example 1: Atlanta Braves pitcher, Sean Newcomb, has a great game and a fan on the opposing team goes digging through his Twitter history to find a few offensive posts from when Newcomb was a senior in high school. On a side note, following this, a Braves fan went digging through the Twitter accounts of all the Washington Nationals players looking to even up the score. (All the fun details are posted here in this article:

Example 2: James Gunn, director of the very popular Guardians of the Galaxy movies, has some of his old tweets called out for offensive language (You can read this one summarized here:

This is not an uncommon occurrence in this day and age. As noted in the above article, any agent worth their salt will take their first task upon hiring to go through their new client’s past history and delete tweets and anything that might have been posted when said person was young, and presumably, stupid. The author of the article, Barry Petchesky, went on to say, “This is not ‘covering up’ bad stuff, mind you, but a proactive acknowledgement of what players are currently admitting only after the fact: that they’ve changed and matured since high school.”

But here’s my problem with that argument – what if they knew better then and still posted the comments? Or, what if, even today, they don’t think there’s anything wrong with the comments? Sure, they trot out the old song and dance with the company about how bad they feel and the sensitivity and diversity training that they will take, but that doesn’t mean much if the person in question doesn’t really feel they did something wrong.

There’s another interesting element here that I want to discuss as well. In the second example, James Gunn was fired by Disney after the old tweets came back to light. Well, yea, of course Disney did. That’s standard company protocol these days, and Disney was likely expecting to be congratulated for it – similar to what happened when ABC fired Roseanne Barr a couple months ago. But here’s the interesting piece – many people, including the actors on the films who have a very public voice, derided Disney for firing Gunn and want him reinstated (“Marvel stars want James Gunn rehired despite his vile tweets“).

I can only imagine what’s going on in the executive suites there as they try to balance public opinion with doing what’s right.

So, we’re back at the question at the start – should our history haunt us? If something from our past comes back to life as we’re older and (one would hope) wiser, should we have a free pass because it’s from our youth, or is it something we should be held accountable for, even today? Or, even more challenging, does it matter what it was that we did/said?

Facebook Logo Should our history haunt us? Are we responsible for the ghosts in our social media closet?

Twitter Logo Should our history haunt us? Should we acknowledge our social media history or delete it? #socialmediaghosts

Wherefore art thou, Privacy?

Private sign

Many of us go about our days assuming that no one is really paying attention to us and for better or for worse, that leads to an assumption of privacy. However, in an age of smartphones and social media, it may be dangerous to make that assumption.

Consider this story – a couple “meet cute” on an airplane, have a generally pleasant conversation and then go about their merry way. What neither of them realized was that someone seated behind them was live-tweeting their entire story and it fascinated the nation – capturing more than 800,000 users who followed the account. The story was widely covered in the media, with the man in the story showing up on the Today Show, but the woman in the “romance” didn’t find the attention welcome and subsequently deleted her online presence. For a deeper take on this, click here for an article posted on The Business Insider.

Should these individuals have had an expectation of privacy, or, as they are in a public place, should it be assumed that there is always the risk of being filmed?

And what about this widely shared YouTube clip that showed up in my social media feeds numerous times last week:

Sure, it’s funny to watch this man look silly in front of the entire plane but does he deserve to have thousands of people make fun of him for doing something many of us might have done once or twice? Should the person filming the video have asked for his permission to share his image across the Internet?

While there are regulations in place for a business to require permissions to use photos and videos online, there are no such regulations currently that dictate how or where someone can use photos or videos on personal sites. Here are a few articles I found on the subject:

Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, University of Ottawa:

Global News (April 5, 2015):

Toronto Star (June 18, 2016): – june 18

As more and more content is shared online and people are looking for that viral post that brings them a measure of Internet “fame,” we can clearly see that it still remains up to each individual person to guard their privacy when out in the public world, as much as they can anyway.

What do you think? Is whatever happens in public up for posting? Is legislation required to regulate personal content use?

Wherefore art thou, Privacy? Is everything that happens in public fair game for posting on social media?

Wherefore art thou, Privacy? To post, or not to post, that is the question. #publicvsprivate

Big Mother – Monitoring my kid’s social media activities

20180625_195534My oldest son just “graduated” from Grade 6 and he came out with a stellar report card. My partner and I had told him at the beginning of the year that if he did well, then he could ask for an end-of-year gift to represent his hard work. His request this year was an iPhone. Uh-oh.

This is something I’ve known was coming. Some of his friends have phones, and some are already on Facebook. I’ve been lucky so far that my son really only seems interested in playing soccer outside and soccer in video games.

How on earth do you monitor someone’s cell phone without seeming like Big Brother (or in my case, Big Mother)?

An iPhone won’t really be his first interaction with social media. He plays “Fortnite”, the online game these days, where you land on an island with 99 other random people from around the world and you battle to be the last person standing. YouTube is full of videos of people playing the game.

In this game, you can talk to other players and be “friends” with them, which is where we try to step in. All the microphone and online settings are set to locked, and we’ve educated our son so that if anyone asks to be his “friend” or to chat, that we first validate the person, as much as we can. So far he’s only chatting with people he knows from school, but we know more is coming, especially with the iPhone. The challenge will be helping him negotiate that with a device that is much more personal, and not a stationary object situated in the middle of the house.

I’ve read a number of articles about social media monitoring kids and social media strategies for parents and will use those tips and tricks as much as I can and still be a cool Mom. And we will also continue to talk to him about what it means to be online, what information is going out into the world, and how best to protect it. He’s his own person who needs to make his own decision, but he’s still my person and I want him to be safe. I can only trust in the learnings that we’ve shared and, ultimately, trust him. But, man, that’s hard!

Do you have kids who have already gone through this? Where did you lock them up for life? Please share your own tips and tricks and help me be a cool Mom!


Facebook logoBig Mother – Monitoring my kid’s social media activities. How to enter the social media world and still be a cool Mom.

Big Mother – Monitoring my kid’s social media activities #enteringsocialmedia #coolMom