COM0014 – Personal Reflection – Many important strategies to learn but don’t forget the basics!

Me doing some research for Sister Benilda

Mike Hammond (me) doing some research for Sister Benilda

As my career faces changes again in the not so distant future, I contemplate on the stories that I will want to share and how to share them. This course has helped me learn important strategies for writing interesting and engaging stories such as ‘Don’t bury the lead’ and target audience analysis, but it has also reminded me not to forget the basics of writing.

Even if my subject is great and I have lots of information, if I don’t tell the story in an interesting manner and direct it to an appropriate audience, no one will want to continue past the first couple of lines. With digital content it is especially critical to be a great storyteller as the abundance of available information all vying for attention makes it difficult for any one story to stand out. Incorporating my personal experiences will help make me be more relatable to you, the reader.

There are people that are competent and confident writers while others struggle. I am one that struggles with writing. This course has helped me to embrace my personal experiences to enhance my stories and make me more comfortable and more competent as a writer. Whether I include an anecdote about an exploding tea cup at work (cup had a non-microwave safe metal rim), or I talk about promoting an Heirloom Tomato Tasting Day event (despite not personally being fond of tomatoes), these experiences will enhance the stories I choose to tell.

I have found this course challenging but in a good way. It has offered many insights into effective digital communication, including important strategies to consider when writing. But it is also clear that I can’t forget the basics of spelling, grammar and choosing the correct words to tell my stories. As I mentioned in a previous post, change is a scary thing but it is necessary. Whatever career I follow, this course and its imparted knowledge will stay with me continuing to help me focus my writing.

COM0014 – What is the greatest challenge my business must overcome?

Inside of Chapel with chairs.

Chapel at the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul Motherhouse.

Change is always a hard thing. It is often scary, but usually it is necessary. Generally for a business you want to keep it growing and expanding, but what if that isn’t happening and you have an endpoint in sight. How do you plan and where do you begin? This is one of the greatest challenges that any business will face and in recent years this issue has become a focus for the organization of religious Sisters I work for. As a vocation, becoming a religious Sister became less sought after by young women and the current aging population of Sisters dwindles to non-existence.

In the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul’s 155 years of history, these Sisters have been guides to many as teachers and leaders and have been instrumental in founding several institutions including hospitals, schools, orphanages and hostels across Canada. The Sisters also created an Associates program for lay people who are called to the work of the Sisters but are not called to become a professed Sister. Some of the work began by the Sisters will carry on through these Associates. In the meantime, what plans are needed to ensure care for the Sisters and eventually how to responsibly take care of the remaining assets once the last Sister has passed?

During one of the organizations Quadrennial Chapter meetings a vision for the legacy of the Sisters emerged. The vision is to build a village in keeping with the values and mission of the Sisters, a ‘Providence Village’ as it is now called. The plans will see much of the land the Sisters Motherhouse sits on converted for use by several partners in the plan. Providence Care, which was founded by the Sister, worked with the Sisters to shape the initial plans but will now take over to continue working on the project until its completion. The key elements of the plan have been decided with a rough timeline in place but many of the finer details still need time to be worked out.

For now most of us are carrying on our daily routines but change is coming. We are all preparing for it in our own ways. This course is one of the stepping stones to enhance my skills for my professional future. I can only hope to face the changes that will come as courageously and gracefully as the Sisters who I work for.

COM0014 – Personal Brand – As reliable as a Toyota

Open hood of Toyota Camry car.

Under the hood of my Toyota Camry.

Reliability. It sounds like the start of a car commercial and indeed I do drive a Toyota Camry which is typically noted for reliability. To me, reliability represents one of my best qualities. Co-workers come to me for help and I do my best to accommodate. Friends ask for my advice and I share. Family members want someone to vent to and I listen. That’s what reliability is about, being available when you’re needed.

I’ve built up a reputation of being reliable through my willingness to help, my well-rounded skillset and my ability to resolve issues within time constraints. My positive demeanor and empathetic attitude facilitates my being approachable and easy to work with to achieve goals. In both my professional life and my personal life, people can count on my support and my help.

Recently at my work I completed the layout and final edits on two of our regular publications within a week of each other. One is for general public consumption and the other is an internal newsletter. I’m proud of the fact that I kept with the projects, completing them with a high degree of professionalism so they could both be printed and distributed before the Christmas rush.

Whether the project is large or small, I find a way to get it to completion to the satisfaction of the client. And just like my Toyota, I may not be the fastest or the most interesting, but people trust me to help them with their goals. That’s why my brand is reliability.

COM0014 – B2C Case Study – #TasteTheFeeling of Coca-Cola

Coca-cola can featuring the game scores for the 1992 World Series of baseball.

My commemorative Coca-Cola can celebrating the 1992 World Series champs the Toronto Blue Jays.

There’s nothing better than to #openhappiness and #tastethefeeling of a nice cold @CocaCola! As you can tell Coca-Cola is well versed in social media and in fact Coca-Cola uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram as well as several other social media formats. Products are promoted directly via social media posts and customers are encouraged to share their stories of Coca-Cola moments in their lives. Marketing campaigns often involve redesigned images on product containers which make exclusive special edition cans and bottles a “must have” for consumers. One effective campaign used names on single-serve containers to include you in the Coca-Cola family. More recently product containers have taken advantage of smart devices by allowing you to scan a bottle to access special music playlists on Spotify.

The social media use expands beyond simply advertising and relying on customer comments. Coca-Cola also shares recipes using its products, life tips, information on sponsored events, stories by staff and customers, unique uses of the product containers, Coca-Colas role in promoting environmental responsibility and its strive for human and workplace rights in some countries.

Empty can of Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola’s easily recognizable branding.

I reviewed some of Coca-Cola Canada’s social media interactions and found they do have people monitoring and addressing concerns expressed online. Some interactions are a simple re-tweet and some are replies suggesting direct contact so Coca-Cola can help. However I have also come across helpful answers to direct questions and even a hashtag specifically for giving Coca-Cola permission to use your photo or tweet, #CokeYes. I believe Coca-Cola is effectively using social media by putting products and promotions in the consumer driven social sphere of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, while more business oriented information such as newly created jobs, and articles about the company are featured more in LinkedIn. Coca-Cola seems to have streamlined its social media use nearly abandoning Flickr and Google+ allowing more efficient use of their resources. If the company continues its effective digital communications strategies then it will be #AlwaysCocaCola.

COMM0014 – Target audiences

Some of the board games I own and enjoy.

Some of the board games I own and enjoy.

An interest I have re-kindled in recent years is playing board games also called table top games. I investigated the use of social media with the board gaming community and found social media to be used far more than I had expected across many social media platforms. As well there appears to be slightly more men than women involved in playing the games and participating in social media interactions. Board game players, or gamers, are varied in ethnicity and those involved in social media appear to be teenagers to early 30’s with moderate disposable income. Gamers socialize in real life when using the products but converse online to relate their experiences to the wider community. Competition is key when playing games but players will cooperate to support causes such as the extra-life.org campaign which raises funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Popular themes for products are war, economics and pop culture. One issue mentioned by gamers is a lack of equality with respect to gender representation in gaming characters, thus focusing on niche markets instead of allowing for #inclusivegaming.

As there is an abundance of existing games and many independent groups creating new products, one avenue of reaching gamers is by inviting them to offer ideas on what is missing from the gaming culture. These suggestions can be collected through a new hashtag such as #mybgneeds, which allows people to list ideas on what they feel is needed in board games. These ideas can be used to create a new product or product line. To entice responses from gamers there can be a tease about a gaming competition or series of gaming competitions to be held at popular table top gaming conventions. Competition entrance fees can be donated to a charity like the extra-life.org campaign previously mentioned. The competitions could also be live streamed online to broaden the exposure of the product, and the company.

COM0014 – Storytelling and Communication Styles – Why ‘Once upon a time…’ works in storytelling

‘Once upon a time…’ grabs attention in only a few words and nothing is more critical in storytelling then getting someone to read beyond those first few words. ‘Once upon a time…’ heralds from our elementary reading days and still resonates with many of us as the beginning of a story. Today’s plethora of stories and ease of access to them, makes the first few words paramount in imparting information and transitioning a reader from skimming to analyzing a story.

How we read

You must know how people read in order to know how to write a story regardless if it’s fiction or non-fiction. People wade through the overabundance of accessible information using inspectional reading techniques. This makes your opening words the most important part in capturing the reader’s attention and making them stop to read your story more deeply.

Tips for retaining your reader

You must keep your reader engaged after they have committed to reading your story and these tips will help.

  1. Grammar, spelling, punctuation and choosing the correct word, need to be considered high priority or the flow of reading will be stopped at each mistake and disengage the reader.
  2. Your writing style is also important. If you write in active voice than you will be more clear and concise.
  3. You should break up large amounts of text with subject headings, sections or even into lists allowing easier skimming and analyzing.
  4. Include informational links in your stories to replace details as this will keep them concise and make your posts more shareable for interacting with the audience.
In the end it’s the beginning that matters most, however..

The beginning of your story is the most important part of attracting a reader and imparting information, however you should endevour to retain the reader and bring them to a higher level of reading. Your story may even encourage them to develop their own conclusions, or should I say their own ‘…happily ever after.’

COM0014 -What I Did On My Vacation: Camping with ‘The Hip’

COM0014 -What I Did On My Vacation: Camping with ‘The Hip’

People talk about the harsh Canadian winters but this year our snow “off-season” became a harsh Canadian summer with incredibly warm and dry weather pushing to the extreme of drought, especially in the Kingston region.

Orange and blue campfire

The ‘mystical fire’ packet adds some interesting colour to the campfire.

Thankfully the rains came bringing enough relief for fire bans to be lifted as this group of five, long-time friends, set out to participate in our eighth annual camping ritual, this time at Rock Point. We took advantage of having the campfire with almost every meal cooked over the crackling, hypnotic flames.

Even though the weather brought memorable conditions, it also saw an historic musical event broadcast live, making it available to almost every Canadian. I’m referring to the final show in Kingston, Ontario on The Tragically Hip, Man Machine Poem tour, and possibly the last tour of the band as it is now.

As ‘The Hip’ returned to our hometown, yes all of us are from Kingston, we were on our way out into the wilderness to get away from the cities and the rigors of everyday life. Although not all of us still live in Kingston, Kingston still lives in all of us.

Having booked our trip many months before the fateful announcement by Gord Downie, we knew we would be missing an historic event. But the CBC’s decision to broadcast the entire concert over the radio as well as televise it gave us hope, and we knew we had to tune in. Even now that event in Kingston is in the process of being commemorated. Luckily, even in the great Canadian wilderness, we were still within range of a radio tower broadcasting the concert on CBC Radio 2.

Now I ask you, what could be more Canadian than listening to ‘The Hip’, camping in the wilderness and drinking cold Canadian beer?

To me the answer is helping our neighbours!

As the concert started with Fifty-Mission Cap and we settled in to listen, other campers found their way to our site by following the voice of Gord Downie.

They inquired about the station frequency, in hopes of being able to tune in and celebrate in their sites as well. Our radio waves mixed with others coming through the dense forest and soon enough the tunes of the tragically hip drowned out even the ever present forest creature sounds and the crackling of our campfire.

And we knew “everybody was in it from miles around!” Were you?

file0031

Me (front row, right) and my mates at our camp site on the last day