COM0014 – Post #7 – Personal Reflection on Digital Communication Course

Story telling can warm the heart, excite the imagination and attract an audience you did not know was willing to listen. This course has truly been a fascinating ride exploring how communication online is the most successful when approached as though one is telling a story. When writing a story, especially one related to your personal brand, you are inviting people to get to know you. Often, people will be interested in your content, if they are interested in you as a person.

I consider myself to be a very approachable person in real life, and now I wonder if my online content reflected this. I certainly hope so, and will aim to reflect my personality more in my writing. For instance, my strongest writing is seen when I write as though I am speaking to a friend. Many things I have written online followed this personal style, but many were also very dry and specifically targeted at sending a business message. After taking this course, I look back on some of my posts and wonder how I could have made them more interesting for my readers.

Going forward, I plan on including more personal things about me in my writing online. This will include stories about things that happen to me in my life, or things that interest me (not necessarily related to my communications business). I want people to get to know me for who I really am, whether that is online or offline. Being myself online will hopefully attract an audience that is interested in hearing what I have to say. If they like me, then that will hopefully mean that they would be willing to use my services because they trust me as a person first and foremost, and that they see me as a capable person.

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COM0014 – Post #6 – My Real-Life Mental Health Story

I am finding myself more and more pleased with this year’s Bell Media Let’s Talk campaign. This is a campaign all about ending the stigma around mental illness. This year they released videos showing how people’s words about someone with a mental health issue can change the way we talk about these problems. Some of these videos reflect real life scenario’s, like in a workplace or at school, while some are testimonials from celebrities. For instance:

My Story

Growing up, I came from a very traditional family. Even though, I believe, they recognize and empathize with others, who have mental health problems, I do not think they are very intuitive or receptive to dealing with these issues when they are in their homes.

I have always been a good girl for my parents. I was the daughter they could always rely on, who rarely misbehaved and got top grades. I think over time, I created a pressure on myself, more than they did, to maintain this image for them. I never wanted to disappoint them or ever feel burdened by me or any issues I had. When I was younger, I had some issues with bullies at school, and struggled with a personal heartache when one of my closest friends moved away and stopped communicating with me (which I later learned was due to family problems). Throughout all this, I always kept a positive attitude. This is something I am proud of to this day. Yet, I now know that maintaining this image from such a young age had huge impact on my mental health. My world went upside down when I turned 13.

We moved out of the city and into the suburbs the summer before grade 7. I started at new school. This alone may not have been a problem, as it was not my first time switching schools, but this time, making friends was harder than I anticipated. I continued to strive to be my best, but it just got harder every day, as I struggled to find a way to fit in with these new kids. There were not that many minorities in the school and I certainly felt the difference between the personalities of the kids from the suburbs and the kids from the city. Somehow, I just was not comfortable and it affected my confidence significantly. That is when I started to have anxiety attacks. I did not know that is what they were and nobody helped me understand them that way. I recall screaming at my mom, “What is wrong with me!”, because I knew I was not being “normal” and that I did not feel the same. I once overheard her talking on the phone and sadly telling a friend that she did not know what to do for me. I knew her tone was that of confusion about my difficult attitude, and not necessarily recognizing that I was experiencing a mental problem.

I was very mature for my age and quite clever. I remember going to a doctor at a walk-in-clinic that implied he could prescribe anti-depressants. I walked out of that appointment telling my mom that he did not know what he was talking about. Of course, my mother, who was not very educated and did not speak English very well, took my word for it. I did, however, start seeing the school psychologist after a parent-teacher interview exposed my new behaviours at home.

I remember going to the bi-weekly appointments with my psychologist and putting on a great show of maturity, with little to confide. I always had this fear that if I said something not quite right, I may be putting my parents’ reputation at risk. Growing up in the rougher part of the city, I knew a lot of kids that were taken away from their parents, for what seemed like seemingly innocent things at the time. I was not sure if anything I ever confided could result in this. As smart as I was, I guess I did not know exactly what a psychologist’s job was?

My “Aha!”  Moment

I vividly remember the moment I started to recognize the importance of my mental health, and my desire to get better. It was after I heard some students mention that I was “crazy” and that I saw the school psychologist. This is something I had only confided to one person at school. I remember feeling so terrible and going to the main office to ask to see the school psychologist. He was not there. So I went home instead. I will never forget that my first instinct was to go look for my psychologist. Clearly, I knew that he was someone who could help me.

I share me story, like those in the Bell Media testimonials did, because I know firsthand that the stigma behind mental illness is what makes it so hard for people to get better. That was the most challenging year of my life, and I was only 13. That year taught me everything about expressing my emotions, having a good balance in life (with regards to school, home, work, and so on). I learned so much about being open-minded to others, and recognizing that each person has a story or a struggle of their own. I learned that the fact that there was someone available to help me meant that there were others like me. Going forward from that year, I could recognize symptoms of elevated stress or anxiety and understand the ways that I could cope. I am proud to say that I know myself and my limits, and I know that I can still be that awesome student, daughter and wife, without putting unnecessary pressure on myself.

What do you think about the Let’s Talk campaign? Do you find it an effective tool for making people understand mental health issues and reducing the stigma surrounding them?

COM0014 – Post #5 – My Personal Brand

The good thing about social media is that everyone has a chance to stand out (as noted by Tom Peters in his article ‘The Brand Called You’). Through social media, personal branding is arguably, “inescapable”. If you are posting content online, you are ultimately creating an image of yourself for people to see…your Personal Brand.

My Brand

When considering my own personal brand, it is important to note my area of specialization and the things that set me apart from some of my competition – primarily my work experience and my personality. I currently work as an Executive Administrative Assistant with the Federal Government. However, my background is in Communications, as I graduated with Bachelors with Honours in Communications from the University of Ottawa. I also worked several years in a Communications Department for the Canadian Army, in various positions. In addition to this, I co-own a Communications Consulting and Contracting business with my brother. Although we have not done too much work in our business in the past, we have started to do more with it recently, including working as a contractor with the Outreach Department for the Canadian Army and editing videos for various customers.

It is fair to say that my communication skills have been my strongest asset from when I was young, even to the point where I was nominated ‘Friend to Everyone’ when I was in high school. Most of my colleagues and friends would say that I am a good listener, which is an important characteristic for someone who works in communications, and that I am very easy to get along with, which is a great benefit to my clients.

Based on my past experiences, I feel that I have a lot of communications advice and guidance that I can contribute to others. In the past, many have to come to me for communications related information. Although I do not like to focus on this, I also feel that an element that makes me stand out is that I am a minority. To be more exact, I am a successful business woman of Lebanese decent. My background also gives me insight into communicating effectively with other Lebanese people (which is a huge diaspora worldwide), and with other women.

Your Personal Brand Anatomy by Olivia Omega (http://laughlivlove.com/)

Your Personal Brand Anatomy by Olivia Omega (http://laughlivlove.com/)

Some of my past successes in creating my personal brand include the fact that I have been able to create a website for my company, along with a Twitter and Facebook page. Through these, I have connected or followed some very successful communications consultants. This is something I am proud of, as I feel that I am taking the initiative to become more successful in my field. In addition to this, I have posted a couple of blog posts, though I hope to do this more regularly in the future. This is something I am proud of, since contributing to a blog, at least once a month, and more if possible, will help me build an audience. If I have people enjoying my blogs, using my personal style of writing, then they may share this with others. The more people that read my blogs, the stronger my personal branding will be. I can use my blog as a way of showing myself as a friendly person, but also an intelligent person. Hopefully these characteristics will attract people to me – and my personal brand.

What’s your personal brand, and are you finding it easy to identify it?

COM0014 – Post #4 – Old Spice, Not Stinky At All

There are many case studies of organizations that can be considered strong or weak in their social media / online strategies. Old Spice has been a strong contender for one of the best online strategies used by a Business to Consumer (B2C) business, particularly when it comes to interacting with its online audience.

The reason I was drawn to this organization is because so many others were. For instance, I do not even use Old Spice products, but I am now very familiar with the types of products they sell, from their deodorants, body washes, and even colognes.

Old Spice

Some of the things Old Spice is doing right is adding humour to their online content, which in turn has made their advertisements, both still imagery and videos, viral sensations on the internet. In fact, I was introduced to these through links that were shared by many of my friends and family.


Among others, Old Spice is big on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. At one point they had the number one most viewed “sponsored channel” on YouTube, along with 236 million YouTube Views. Within two days they had 80,000 Twitter followers. The success of their social media campaign also resulted in increasing their Facebook Interaction by 800% and gaining over 1.5 million fans. For the company, this also meant an over 107% increase in sales.

A key thing to note is how Old Spice truly connected with fans, by responding to comments from viewers and even preparing video responses to the average person, in addition to celebrities. These were often in real time, where even within a 24-hour period the company had responded to comments with 116 YouTube videos. It is often said that people are genuinely surprised when they receive a response to something they say online. By responding to the average person, the campaign exceeded the expectations of their audience and reached new people.

I think it goes without saying that I think Old Spice’s strategies are working and I don’t see any real need to modify their strategy online yet.

COM0014 – Post #3 – A Communication Consultant’s Target Audience

Target AudienceMy brother and I own a communications consulting company in Ottawa, Canada.  For starters, as a business focused on offering consulting services for a variety of communication needs, including, but not limited to, social media, writing and public affairs, our audience is twofold.  Our primary audience is of a professional context, which includes small and large businesses, as well as municipal, provincial and federal governments. However, we also cater to members of the general public with a need for communications products.

So, what do we actually know about our audience?

customersFrom a demographics perspective, we could look at the average and predominant gender of these groups, their education levels, things like marital status or family type of these individuals, and even their ethnic or religious backgrounds.  After this, we can look at the psychographics of this audience, which essentially focuses on the types of lifestyles/people they are. This includes personality traits (are they conservative or trendy), the types of products they own, are they general lower, middle or upper class people, do they tend to be leaders or followers, and their general interests.

I think, for us, because of our two fold audience, it would look something like this:

  • Professional Audience:
    • Mostly college or university educated; both male and female (pretty equally now – http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/2010001/article/11387/tbl/tbl001-eng.htm); various ethnic and religious backgrounds, though we find that the most active social media users in a professional context in Ottawa tend to be Caucasian.
    • Social media users tend to be more trendy, though those from a government background may likely be more conservative due to the rules they must follow; tend to be middle to upper class individuals; combination of leaders and followers (some are trying to be at the forefront of changes in technology, while others are trying to do what other government departments/businesses have already achieved).
  • General Public:
    • The demographics are very wide spread. We will focus on those with potential needs for communication services. In the past, these have been younger couples, such as newlyweds looking for video editing services.
    • Tend to be trendy, as they come looking for these types of services for modern needs and tend to be middle or upper class.

I think we certainly need to do more research on this area. Do you have any suggestions for us going forward?

COM0011 – Post #6 – A Wedding for All to See

I got married in 2007, in a time where social media was relevant, but not quite as booming as it is today.

My sister got married this past weekend. She is a successful event decorator in Ottawa, so needless to Picture During Weddingsay, many people were interested in her wedding. Even if you were not invited, you probably could find enough photos online to feel like you were there…from engagement to wedded bliss.

I always find it fascinating how connected everyone is. With a guest list of over 450 people, the first thing I did after her wedding was go onto Facebook. I had a feeling that guests would have been “live-feeding” photos from the wedding onto their social media accounts. Sure enough, I was right. My news feed was filled with photos from the big day.

You can imagine how stressful I find this, as a person who usually limits the number of photos of my family online. At the same time, I cannot blame the guests for their lack of consideration for privacy. After all, my sister, a connected business woman, was posting photos herself – and commenting on photos taken by others.

Status Update

Let’s start at the beginning. My sister updated her personal status from “single” to “engaged” on Facebook, and shared some of her favourite engagement photos. Then, prior to her wedding ceremony, she posted her invitation online for anyone interested to attend. This tactfully included a picture of her and her husband-to-be holding up a sign with the date, time and place.  After her wedding, she went onto social media to thank all those who helped make her day magical. Some would say that this is a fine example of using the internet to save you on wedding invitations and thank you cards.

Picture from Cake Decorator

Social media and my sister’s big day worked magically together to promote businesses, from hers, to the photographer’s, to the wedding hall and even to the cake decorator. Within 24 hours of the big day, I had never been so in awe of how different our weddings were – from privacy to commercialism.

I congratulate the happy couple, and wonder: Do you appreciate seeing photos of people’s weddings online, or do you feel they should be more private?

COM0014 – Post #2 – Where’s Your Holiday Spirit?

OrnamentsWhat does one do, when they don’t celebrate Christmas? As a first-generation Canadian, my answer is: you somewhat celebrate Christmas! Growing up, my parents raised us under the expectation that Christmas is not our holiday. They reminded us that we celebrate Eid twice a year (the Christian equivalent to Christmas and Easter). Yet, my parents always made it a point to take part in the holiday spirit. This can be such a sticky subject amongst others from my community – and I can understand why.

Every year, my mother sent “holiday” gifts to the teachers at school, and my father distributed log cakes to our neighbours. We did not decorate our house, or put up a tree, but we still recognized that it was the holiday season. We never hesitated to wish those around us a Merry Christmas, or a Happy Holiday. After all, in the gloominess of winter, the holiday season is a great way to keep cheerful. In fact, one of the highlights of my childhood was when my father would gather the family and drive around Ottawa, just so we could admire all the decorated houses.

As for myself, I was always the first to suggest we do “Secret Santa” at school or work, and I have all theChristms Movie Christmas songs memorized. Every year, I buy gifts for my neighbours and watch re-runs of all the Christmas movies with my family. Still, now that I am a mother of young children, I find myself in a slight dilemma. My daughters get excited when they see lights on the houses, Christmas trees across the city or Santa at the mall. I never know how stringently I should be reminding them that we celebrate Eid. There is always that fear that they will be so immersed in the hype of Christmas that they will lose interest in their own faith.

If you were in my shoes, what would you do? Would you approach celebrating the holidays differently, if your faith did not partake in Christmas?

COM0014 – Post #1 – Vacation? What Vacation?

It has been way too long since I have had a vacation, and let’s be honest, everyone needs a vacation. This is not a complaint….merely an observation. I can feel the vacation itch coming on, and eventually I will not be able to fight it any longer!

Majdel Balhis, Lebanon

My last vacation was in October 2012, when my eldest daughter was a year and a half years old. Most of my husband’s family lives in a small village in Lebanon, and his parents could not come to Canada to be here when my daughter was born. She was their first grandchild, so it was a pretty big deal.  (I am sure it was thrilling for my parents, but they already had another granddaughter – my niece – so understandably, it may have been less exciting for them).

A small village indeed.

A small village indeed.

This was actually our second trip to Lebanon with my daughter, as we went down when she was just five months old, so that she could meet her grandparents. I suppose, at that age, it was more for them to meet her. Since she was still the only grandchild a year after our first trip, it made sense for us to visit them again. Not to mention, she was still at a cute age  (before her “terrible twos”). To be honest, we probably just used our daughter as a good enough justification for us to go on a trip.

So, all that to say that it has been over two years since I have had a vacation. Of course, during these two years, I managed to have another baby and get pregnant with a third (due this upcoming February). Some may think that my maternity leave is a “vacation” and I that I am lucky I have another one coming up. On the other hand, most mothers/caregivers will tell you, particularly those at home with a newborn and a toddler…it is no vacation.

So, I sigh, as I say, oh when, oh when will my vacation time come….oh when oh when will that be?

Travelling with young ones is quite difficult, but enough is enough, I must have a vacation.

I am planning to try and go down to Lebanon this upcoming summer, but that will all be dependent on if Foreign Affairs removes its recommendation to stay away from that region due to political pressures. Until then, I will also need to consider being a tourist in my own town – or relatively close to town – since long car rides are probably out of the picture for the next little while too. I am sure there is plenty to do with my kids in Ottawa, but in keeping them busy, I hope I find time for myself to wind down. Otherwise, is that really a vacation?

I would gladly take any vacation recommendations for a mother of three kids under the age of four. Luckily, my husband can also be around to help. Any suggestions?

COM0011- Post #5 – A Little Bundle of Social Media Posts

I have gotten a lot of mixed feedback from people about not posting photos of my children online. I often get a request from friends on Facebook, or grapevine comments about how I should post a photo so that people can see how my daughters look. I like to take pride in the fact that people are curious after hearing about how darn cute they are, but maybe that is more reason for me not to post things online.

Social Media Babies

To be honest, I am not necessarily preventing myself from posting online because of an exaggerated fear of online predators, but I am also not oblivious to the fact that these people do exist. I watched a documentary once about how a photo can be tracked to show where it was taken. In many cases, the coordinates in the photo’s coding can even show you the child’s favorite place to play in a park, or even his or her bedroom.

My main reason for not posting photos of my children online was based on a thought I had before I had my first daughter was born: Why do I think I have the right to post her photo online? This should be a choice of hers when she is old enough to make that informed choice herself.

The internet is a scary beast, and once it is online, anyone can find it. That does not mean that everyone will have malicious intent. However, in a world of limited privacy, it would be nice to know that someone “had my back” before I was born to ensure that I could choose the amount of access to my life people would have.

I never posted pictures of ultrasounds, or when my babies were born, or pictures of them playing outdoors. When I have seen photos online, or when people have kindly informed me of these photos, I kindly request that they be removed. Nobody has ever questioned me making these requests. I have, however, posted status updates announcing the birth of my children, including their full names, date of birth, weight and height.

I also understand that for some people, posting on FacebookFacebook Baby is a convenient way for all their friends and relatives around the world to see the photos in one shot. I also recognize that for some people this is the only way to share photos with their families. I preferred more private methods of texting a photo or emailing (although I recognize that even these are not completely private and secure). I also do not judge those who post their children’s photos online, and admit that I enjoy seeing all the cute kiddos in my newsfeeds.

I am curious to know your opinions on this, however…not so much suggesting that I start posting photos, but rather: Do babies have a right to privacy from the womb to young-adolescence when it comes to their photos online? Or should this be an acceptable norm?

COM0011 – Post #4 – WestJet’s “Hairy” Dress Code Debate

The age old debate about dress code has come again, but in this case, I find it very intriguing. To ask the question of company branding, versus an employee’s right to self-expression is always intriguing. In this particular case, a woman decided to quit her job at WestJet because they asked her to have a more natural hair style. She has a short, spikey hairdo with brown and blond colouring.

WestJet Employee

Janet Moore’s “Unnatural” Hairdo for WestJet Standards

 

I guess, for starters, I am surprised that they considered this to be an unacceptable hairstyle. I thought this was a fashionable and trendy hairdo, as opposed to a “punky” look. If, perhaps, there were unnatural colours, such as green and purple, then I would understand their concerns a bit more.

It is important to note that the company did not fire her, but rather asked to work with her to find a hairstyle that is more natural. She quit, because she felt offended, particularly as she always had this hairstyle, and was even interviewed and hired with this hairdo. At the same time, WestJet’s dress and appearance code also never changed since she was hired. “The company’s staff manual calls for employees to have natural looking nails, free of colourful polish, as well as natural looking hair colour.”

At the risk of sounding ageist, if I were 64 years old, even if I loved my job, I may also quit rather than give in, since I would be so close to retirement age (but that is also making the assumption that she planned on retiring at 65 years old). At the same time, going to the news about this, is, I suppose, her way of fighting it. Even if it does not benefit her, it may benefit others like her who still work for WestJet. After all, other companies have changed dress policies to be more relaxed. Even Starbucks now allows its employees to have visible tattoos (except for face and throat), which was previously against its appearance code.

On the branding side, WestJet is trying to build its image for an upcoming uniform change in 2015. With having new uniforms that match their branding, they are trying to re-emphasize the dress code to its employees.

So, I am going to throw it out there, knowing fully well that this is a very sensitive topic: Do you think that WestJet was justified in requesting this physical change from its employee?

(More information can be found in the CTV video and article: http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/branding-or-discrimination-employee-quits-after-westjet-asks-her-to-change-hair-1.2074880)