Event Participation: My Journey to Volunteering

The path that led me to want to volunteer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre was a humbling experience that left me feeling helpless. We all carry experiences with us. Some are good, and some not so good—but each has the power to define us and help us grow. Volunteering will turn helplessness into helping and that’s just one of the many benefits.

While the volunteering process may not be considered a typical professional development event it was a learning opportunity for me. Volunteering is something I have always wanted to do, and I am so happy to be able to finally take the skills I have developed over the years and give back to an organization I value so much.

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Quick Overview of The Royal’s Volunteering Process

I didn’t realize how in depth a volunteering application was until I started the process. Here are the steps:

  • Fill out a Volunteer Application and get two references to fill out Volunteer Reference forms
  • Have a personal interview
  • Go to the police station and get a Police Records Check (The Royal will provide a letter so you can get his done for free, otherwise there is a charge)
  • Arrange for a mandatory TB test (free at The Royal for volunteers)
  • Complete a 2-hour online course
  • Complete 2.5-hour Orientation

royal ottawa

Impressed so far

I am signed up to attend my orientation next month and after that I will be ready to begin volunteering. What have I walked away with so far about the volunteering process?

I am surprised about how long the process is but see the necessity of each step. In moving through the steps I realized that the process was step one in the commitment to be a volunteer. Simply put: if you can’t make it through the process then volunteering for this cause isn’t for you.

Quotable Quote

“We can’t wait to have you on board.” Wow, thank you. The Royal sees their volunteers as vital to their operation as paid staff. It’s always nice to feel wanted!

Looking Ahead

I am looking forward to participating in educational events and workshops as they become available so I can continue learning about mental health issues and in turn continue contributing.


Is there a cause you would like to volunteer for?

COM0015–Out of the Box

Years ago I was editing newsletters for a major telecommunications company. I remember reading about the ‘information superhighway,’ how people would someday go shopping directly from the comfort of their own home making purchases from their computers, and how we would be able to have visual phone calls.  I should have paid more attention. I should have invested in some of the companies I read about, but at the time I thought it would never fly. I was wrong.

What I continue to learn is that anything is possible.  I am still blown away when I can talk to someone half way around the world ‘face-to-face.’ Texts amaze me. How can they travel so quickly? Don’t get me started on Snapchat, that’s just fun! Or the fact that I can visit my parent’s birthplace by inputting their village into Google Earth and getting a spectacular street view.

maminashouse                                            papashouse

I am always amazed by what can be done either by computer, smartphone or tablet. For me, I think the most important discovery about online marketing and social media is how complex it is. At first I thought social media was just that—social. I thought of it as something you did on your free time, but it’s much more than that. Companies use it as a strong marketing tool and they are able to listen to customers in real-time and make business feel more personal. It is a vital part of any business now and companies are hiring people who are trained in understanding social media to manage this very important aspect of their business. It can’t be an afterthought and just because most everyone uses social media it doesn’t mean that everyone is a social media expert.

What other out-of-the box applications can we expect in the future? That’s anyone’s guess! What’s your take?





Professional Networking Now and in the Future


I don’t have a strategy for developing my professional network online or in person. When I first started out in my career I would literally knock on doors and make cold calls. I had business cards printed up and handed out more than I care to admit. I hated every minute of this type of networking. Sure some businesses were really nice, but others were just plain rude. When I finally got some contracts I stopped networking and I have been pretty busy for 23 years so I guess everything worked out fine.

business card

Over the past few years I have seen a decline in the number of contracts I have been awarded. The reason: my main clients are changing the way they do business. So what do I do? I have two choices: either I throw in the towel and retire (earlier than I intended) or I hit the streets again. I decided I love what I do for a living too much and not doing it just isn’t an option for me yet. Happily it’s a different world and I don’t need to  knock on doors or make cold calls. I do need to learn how to network online and even though I don’t need to knock on doors I should make a more concerted effort to network in person.

Developing professional networks online and in person

Like many people I don’t really like change, but sometimes change is good. This change in work has forced me to look closely at what I want to accomplish over the next few years. I knew I needed to learn more about social media, and that’s what led me to the Social Media Certificate program at Algonquin. Much to my surprise I really enjoyed completing assignments and reading class notes.

Having a plan

In order to succeed at what I set out to do I need to jot down short- and long-term goals.

Short-term goals (most of these are in action now, but I am one of those people who likes to write down things I have already done so I can cross them off!):

  • Learn about social media
  • Improve my LinkedIn profile—it’s embarrassingly sparse and boring because I basically just cut and paste from an old resume
  • Be more consistent with my blog
  • Volunteer—I am in the process of completing my application to volunteer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre where I will be providing my services to their communications department

Long-term goals (6-12 months):

  • Develop a website that houses my LinkedIn profile, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc and showcase the work I have done and the clients I have worked for
  • Find work that is more socially driven so I can use my experience for something I am passionate about
  • Attend workshops and other functions so I can meet people

What have you done to develop your online and in person networks? Do you have short- and long-term goals?



COMM0015: Strong and Weak Organizations

There are so many products and services available on-line having to pick one business with an impressive social media strategy and one with a weak social media strategy was difficult. In the end I decided to look at Nutella and Amy’s Baking Company. For both organizations I will look at its social media participation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


First of all Nutella is a good product. For lovers of Nutella there isn’t anything better. I grew up with Nutella being a staple in our pantry. It was as common in Italian homes as peanut butter was in what I referred to as ‘typical Canadian’ homes. I often went to school with a Nutella sandwich. In the early 70s not many people knew about the spread, but its popularity has really taken off and most people recognize the name and know the product.

What makes Nutella’s social media strategy strong? All their social media is up-to-date, engaging and features timely information.



Likes: 30,365,671 people

They have timely recipes using the product along with photos. People are able to comment on the page. It also showcases the breakfast fund they developed.


Followers: 169,000

Nutella has different Twitter accounts and each participates in conversations about the product. They even have a World Nutella Day (February 5) using #nutelladay


Followers: 369,000

Nutella takes advantage of Instagram by using photos to show appetizing ways of using Nutella.

Amy’s Baking Company

Amy’s Baking Company is infamously known for trying to defend itself after negative comments were made on social media. I chose this company to review as the weak organization because even though they may have had a good product, they destroyed their business by the way they handled themselves on social media. They appeared on the Kitchen Nightmares show and the host, Gordon Ramsay, kicked them off because they were too difficult to work with. From there their nightmare continued on social media. Not only did they react too quickly, they called people names, threatened lawsuits and claimed they were hacked when they weren’t.

What makes Amy’s Baking Company social media strategy weak? The information on social media is all negative. Instead of apologizing they became defensive and abusive and they left their dated sites up. The list can go on and on.


Facebook: 11,699 likes

Oddly enough the Facebook page is still up and all the negative comments can still be read. The owner’s took to Facebook and called people who had negative things to say about their company ‘punks,’ as well as used profanity and threatened legal action to those who were posting negative reviews.



Amy’s Baking Company Twitter account is also still up with negative comments on it. The last comment was from May 27, 2013 stating that some customers were just kicked out of the restaurant.



Their Instagram profile showcases their work and it does look good.

There are lessons in how social media should be used by looking at both strong and weak organizations. Do you have any favourites for either category?



Post 7: Personal Reflection

I have really enjoyed the Digital Communications course. I have always enjoyed writing on a more personal, creative level, but life got busy and between work and family the time just wasn’t there. This course allowed me to carve out the time to think as a storyteller again and it was a lot of fun. Writing for a specific audience is not a new concept for me, but being able to write about a service, product or myself as a storyteller is. I was able to see the importance of telling a story rather than just giving the facts, while still being precise and to the point.  I think this is the most valuable part of this course for me.

Storytelling is so important to digital content because it evokes emotion and people want to feel engaged and connected. Instead of just stating the facts, having a good story makes it personal. Think of the emoji—they help place emotion to a text and a good story does just that to digital content. It’s that simple (and that hard). This is what will get your information read in a sea of so many blogs and online sources.


In COM0012 we were tasked to write a tagline for our personal blog. My blog entitled ‘Just an Ordinary Person’ is made up of my opinions. No hidden agenda, just everyday stuff that comes up. I want my content to be guided by my personal view, which will help in the stores I want to tell.


What draws you into online stories? What makes you choose another site?

Post 6: Do People Know Your Story?

When I decided to start working for myself I thought it would allow me the flexibility I needed to be with my children and husband while still having a career I loved so much. It did just that, but there is one thing I never considered when I started this one-woman shop and I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but here it goes—I will never have a award for a great job done, or a company Christmas party, or a team building party.

This is one thing I never thought about when starting out on my own. I have made wonderful friends along with way: fellow contractors, clients. Some I see outside of work on a more social level, but who will throw me my retirement party? Who would come?

Apart from getting myself a plaque with ‘Thank you for your years of service’ engraved on it I don’t know how to recognize my years of service without it being cheesy. Who would present the plaque I had made for myself to me?

My secret wish is that I had started to recognize my achievements as they happened. I wish that after so many years at the same job I would have trinkets that recognized my achievements.

My business will be 25 years old in two years so I have time to think of a way to celebrate. I am going to do it no matter how cheesy it is—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


What would you do if you were self-employed? Would you recognize your accomplishments? How would you reward yourself?

COM0014- Personal Brand

I must admit that this was one of the most difficult blogs to write. I don’t think I actually took the time to sit and think about my personal brand or much less ask myself these types of questions. After much deliberation, this is what I came up with.


What are some personal qualities or characteristics that set you apart from your competitors?

As a mom I am enlightened by my children. They are extreme opposites and each has taught me more than I could ever teach them. In watching them grow into adults I realize that I am resilient. We never know how strong we are until we are smack in the middle of a situation that doesn’t give us a choice.

As a wife I am devoted. I am married to a first responder. For those who know someone in this position you understand that they simply cannot leave work ‘at the office.’ They see people in horrible situations and are part of people’s worst days. I have come to understand that I sometimes need to step away and realize I can’t fix or help. Some things just take their own time.

As just an ordinary person I try my very best to see the good in people. I have understood, from a very young age that everybody has a story, so we must be kind. Balancing this view, I also understand that you can’t get along with everyone, and that’s okay. I have to admit that it is very difficult to accept that not everyone likes me, but embracing those who do certainly makes up for them.

As a worker I am focused. I have worked independently for over 23 years. I did not have any maternity leave and was back to work after three weeks. This required dedication, organization and a lot of self-discipline.

What have you done lately to make yourself stand out?

At the age of 51 I decided to go back to school to build on my communications background and study Social Media. I am also using all the communications experience I have gained over the years to begin working as a volunteer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I will be joining their communications department in the new year.

What would your colleagues say is your best trait?

Based on some reference letters that I have received, my colleagues say:

  • Great time management
  • Always meets deadlines
  • Quick learner
  • Self starter
  • Team player
  • Enthusiastic
  • Motivated
  • Positive
  • Attention to detail
  • Personable
  • Professional

What have you done that you are most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that I decided to work for myself at a very young age in order to create a work/life balance. I have been consistently self-employed for over 23 years. In those 23 years I was able to be a full-time mom and wife and I was able to provide my clients with exceptional service that had them coming back again and again.


How would you answer these questions? Do you know what your personal brand is?



COM0014–B2C Case Study

The Lokai bracelet is unique in that it holds the water from Mt. Everest and  mud from The Dead Sea, which are found in the white and black beads,  respectively, and each holds its own powerful message.

When you are on top of the world, stay humble.

When you’ve hit a low, stay hopeful.




This B2C model is a success and is geared for the younger generation—14 year old to early 20s.  While most of their customers are female, they also appeal to males. The tagline for the bracelet is “Find Your Balance” and it builds on feeling of community and making the experience personal. This feel-good bracelet also gives 10% of its proceeds to charitable partners such as breast cancer awareness, Save the Children, World Wildlife Fund and more. They have also introduced different coloured bracelets for different causes, which increases their sales while making the company socially responsible.


Lokai is using social media to get the word out about their product, and it doesn’t hurt that celebrities are seen wearing the bracelet.images (2) Many of the photos and tweets are creative and artistic, which increases the interest of the product. The social media applications are driven by its customers who are showcasing the product rather than through the company.

Lokai’s use of social media includes inviting customers to tag a photo of their Lokai on Twitter (#livelokai) or
Instagram (@livelokai) for a chance to be featured in their gallery.They call this ‘Join the Circle’ , which allows customers to feel like they are part of a positive movement. To date, Instagram has over 1.2 million followers and Twitter has 64,117 followers.

This B2C company is succeeding in using social media. They are able to showcase their product based on real customers who are the storytellers of the product. After researching this company I have a sudden urge to purchase one myself!


COM0014: Communicating to a Varied Audience

One of the first things we learn about effective communications is that we should know our target audience. I decided to research The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre out of personal interest and because I will be volunteering in their Communications department in the coming year—so understanding who their audience is will be of great use for me.

The Royal Audience

The Royal provides care and treatment for those living with mental illness. It also conducts research and provides education on mental illness and its effects on those struggling and their families and caregivers. Given the sensitivity of client information it is difficult to get typical demographic breakdowns. That being said, The Royal’s audience includes:

  • Male and female patients aged 16 years and over who are either inpatients or outpatients
  • Families and caregivers who support the patients
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, occupational, speech and recreational therapists,  addictions counsellors, child and youth  counsellors, pharmacists, dieticians, social workers, and spiritual and religious services
  • General public

Strategies for Effective Communications 

Because the audience is varied and much of the demographic information is confidential, the communication needs to be clear and easy to read for everyone. Some things to keep in mind include:

  • Be sensitive to cultural, religious, gender, abilities, class and educational differences
  • Use simple, straightforward language
  • Proofread for grammar error and typos
  • Revise and edit

You Know Who I Am Campaign

The Royal’s ‘You Know Who I Am’ campaign in support of research, education and advocacy initiatives for those facing mental illness is a clear example of good communication for its varied and complex audience. It is a caring and effective campaign that speaks to each and every one of us—a task not easily done.

Do you know of other organizations that have a varied audience? How effective is their communication?

This blog was written as an assignment requirement for COM0014: Digital Communication. To learn more about this program go to Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate.

3 Ways to Make your Writing Web-Ready

Going to the web for information is like talking to an infinite number of people at the same time. How do you make your writing or message stand out in the crowd? You need to get and keep your reader’s attention! It’s that simple.


Here are some tips to help you write for the web so your message is heard:

Be a Storyteller

  • Get to the point right away and then add detail: Put important words and messages up front and then add detail.
  • Less is more: Avoid using unnecessary words—get to the point quickly.
  • Check and then double check: Nothing stops a reader faster than typos and grammar errors.

Have an Engaging Communication Style

  • Write in active voice: The passive voice takes more words to say the same thing, so using the active voice gets the message across faster.
  • Know your audience: Figure out who you are writing for and how best to get your message across to that audience.
  • Use bullets and headings: By using bullets, headings and subheads readers are able to skim the titles and quickly move through the information.
  • Add links: Links allows readers who want more information to have it at their fingertips.

Encourage Interaction

  • Involve your reader: Ask questions to promote comments. One or two questions may be enough to get some reader involvement.
  • Ask for a share: Ask your reader to share the post so you get more exposure.

What are your favourite blogs? Do they follow these general rules?