Personal Reflection

It will be interesting to see where technology continues to take humanity as we forge ahead into the unknown. As much as we’d think we can anticipate the future, we really can’t. The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the most obvious example of this. However, there are so many revelations during this crisis, such as the real capability of performing job duties at home, which can become a permanent fixture once the world returns to some sense of normalcy. This transition could alter the way we spend time with our families and friends that could be of great benefit. I know for myself, this has been a fortunate advantage. It is no coincidence that modern technologies like Zoom and GoToMeeting have allowed us to continue our day-to-day professional careers.

Social media has been at the forefront in all of this, as the communication preference, whether through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, humans are reliant on online messaging. This can be good and bad. I like the fact that small businesses or seemingly obscure individuals can utilize these tools to advance their personal growth, independence and profitability. The global reach that the Internet provides is truly limitless. I will harness these same tools in ways that will hopefully benefit my endeavours as well. Yet, my greatest concern still is the face-to-face disconnect social media has inflicted on us, especially our youth. We’re a species that has communicated vocally for tens of thousands of years and all of sudden a vast majority of human interaction is through texts and online messaging. If anything, the pandemic has shown us how difficult it really is to be away from others. It is something that we should be mindful as we forge into the unknown.

The Story In Me

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It’s amazing how much you appreciate things when you’re an adult, looking back at the mistakes in your life, especially during your youth. I know it’s so cliché, but that’s how people grow, learning from their mistakes of the past. At least that’s what I hope for. You wouldn’t want to continue making the same mistakes from your teenage years into your 30s, 40s or 50s. I know I wouldn’t and thankfully I don’t.

There are certain moments in one’s life that shape your perspective in future years. One of these experiences was when I was a teenager. If you’re expecting a Richard Dreyfuss narration like in the film Stand By Me, it won’t be as dramatic. There used to be a pizzeria across the street from my high school, situated within a plaza. We used to hang-out there throughout the day, but especially during lunch hour. The owners of the pizzeria were European immigrants, a couple in their early 50s who still spoke a broken English. They seemed proud to have opened up this food-joint in a seemingly ‘perfect’ area with hordes of teens.

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After some time, the pizzeria wasn’t as busy as it used to be. Moreover, big gangs of students would sometimes just hang inside there and if it rained, we’d smoke cigarettes like chimneys. Then when the owners weren’t looking, someone would reach over and steal a slice. The owner would clearly distinguish what had happened and listen to the marauding banter of testosterone filled teenagers and would do his best to defend his business. The last thing this couple expected was to deal with spoiled kids that were brought up with every luxury imaginable. Even though I didn’t participate in the act of stealing, I was there, recognizing the anguish in the man’s face while his wife was in the back preparing the pizzas. I was equally to blame. We all were.

All of us, including myself were first generation Canadians and understood the challenges that our parents faced as immigrants in Canada. Yet, this couple was not afforded the respect they deserved. It’s hard enough surviving in the food industry on any given day, let alone dealing with the mischievousness of a spoiled youth. I never forgot the look of defeat on their faces. The pizzeria closed after only a year, which was likely the result of a lack of foot traffic. However, from that moment on, I made sure to always remind myself of the trials and tribulations newcomers face when they leave their native country and start a new one in Canada.

My Personal Brand: The Balkan Cuisine Guy

Photo by Mile

What will set my brand apart from all others? That’s the million dollar question that everyone wished they had an answer for. But I’ve centralized a few principle ideas that will help me achieve this objective. First and foremost, I’m a pretty social and personable individual that likes to listen to others and share stories of past experiences. For me, that is the best way to learn and most interesting. I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to travel around world and I’ve seen so many different human elements encompassing religion, ethnicity, culture, language and of course food. I’ve remained humble, yet observant in these voyages and have absorbed a great deal.

Perhaps my greatest skill that I possess today is my ability to capture video and edit footage like a professional. This is something that I had to learn during the last year for my work, as I’ve created several promotional videos and even a documentary. I wish I can say that I’ve had formal training, but that’s not the case. Rather, hundreds of hours watching YouTube videos of editing and filming tutorials. It was pretty exhausting, but worth it as my projects have been well received by strangers and commended by colleagues. I’ve incorporated certain filming techniques that have become a trademark. Moreover, I select music that fits scenes when necessary, which livens up sequences.

Photo by Pexels

One example of how I’ve improved the look of my videos to make them more professional is incorporating multiple cameras. This allows greater flexibility to switch from different angles during the post-production process. Additionally, implementing movements while filming is an effective technique that provides fluidity and is more visually attractive than simply taking stationary shots.

These skills will be an invaluable asset while developing videos for ‘The Balkan Cuisine Guy.’ So much of cooking is about visual presentation and it is important to approach filming that will make each video stand out. In the end though, it’s all about the food and hopefully tasty results (fingers crossed). As the old adage goes, ‘work before pleasure.’ Wish me luck!

Cineplex Odeon: Connecting with the Online Audience

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Everyone likes movies. Everyone enjoys going to the movies. Movies are perhaps the greatest past time in modern life, whether it be through the viewing pleasure on one’s computer or television, or at the cinemas. Cineplex Odeon, a Canadian trailblazer in movie experiences has led the way for in showcasing the feature films of the day. They are also leading the way with their social media presence, engaging with consumers by utilizing the three big apps, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cineplex Odeon has over 700,000 followers on their Facebook page that is detailed with updates practically every day. Forget waiting to see new trailers on television when upcoming films are promoted directly on their page. Furthermore, interviews from actors/actresses and directors open up audiences to the personal side of professionals in the entertainment industry and an in-depth look at their work. This engages followers to post, click the ‘Like’ button and have on online dialogue with others. One of the biggest mistakes B2C enterprises make is failing to monitor its online audience (Rice 2010). However, Cineplex Odeon has capitalized in this important strategy.

Moreover, their use of Twitter and Instagram is equally successful with over 178,000 and 74,000 followers respectively. Cineplex Odeon’s social media sites are designed in a similar manner with synchronized updates so-to-speak occurring across all platforms and they are impressively user friendly. There’s a certain ease and fluidity that makes it easy for followers to interact.

Cineplex Odeon has done a fantastic job utilizing the most popular social media tools at their disposal. With the increasing popularity of online mediums that provide visuals, photos and videos, it seems that companies like these are only going to continue their influence in the online world. What do you think? Will Cineplex Odeon only continue its popularity?

Hockey: Who are the fans?

Photo courtesy of Hockey in Society

From a very young age, I had a passion for the game of hockey. This was in part due to my parents introducing me to the sport when I was four years old. As I grew older though, this spirit only intensified, even after I stopped playing at the age of 16. Now well into adulthood, I find myself still having a strong interest in the sport, even though I’ve been detached from any sort of hockey event or activity. I guess that’s what a fan is. No matter what sport it is, there’s always a huge fan base for a particular sport, team or player. But, who are these persons who call themselves hockey fans?

According to The Shelf, an influencer market firm, the average age of hockey fans in 2019 is about 50 years old and are primarily located in Canada (The Shelf). This figure actually increased quite a bit compared to the year 2000 when the average age was 33 (Notte 2017). It is no surprise that hockey is more popular in Canada than in the U.S.; we practically have snow year-round and is our greatest past time.

Photo courtesy of The Hockey Writers

As Chanin Ballance notes, it’s important to know who your audience is and sometimes, this means its ethnic makeup (Ballance 2010). For instance, you might be advised against promoting a cricket tournament in Siberia where warm and dry days are quite limited. However, there are exceptions of appealing to ethnic groups that are not part of a traditional fanbase. This includes large cosmopolitan cities, such as Toronto where there’s a wide array of ethnicities and cultures. A great example of how this manifested is Hockey Night In Canada’s televised broadcast in Punjabi.

Video courtesy of p00njabiHD

Still, a strategy should be developed that focuses on the correct demographic as much as possible. In this example, middle-aged viewers make up a significant part of the viewership. However, millennials aged 18-34 comprise 33 per cent of the NHL’s viewership, which is the second highest of all professional sport leagues for this demographic (The Shelf). If I had a hockey blog, I would share it through applications, such as Twitter, which would be much more useful to attract millennials who are more tech savvy, versus those born before 1970. Do you think hockey would become even more popular in the U.S.?

Storytelling: Millenia of Human Experience

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Storytelling is an empty canvass waiting for the first stroke of a painted brush. It only becomes a masterpiece once an artist completes their desired vision. Fortunately, in today’s world an individual has more power to communicate stories as they like and even earn a living through blogs, vlogs and other methods of digital expression. If there’s a motto one should follow, it’s this: You are the master of your own digital domain. We can largely thank the Internet for this and streaming platforms, such as YouTube.

Storytelling has always been a characteristic of the human experience. Whether expressed through paintings on the walls of prehistoric caves, hieroglyphs etched on stones in Ancient Egypt, mass production of books with the advent of the Gutenberg press or typing on a computer. Humans like to tell stories. However, a more interesting aspect to ponder is whether humans evolved into less truthful beings as technologies advanced and populations grew.

Photo by HeritageDaily

The vast amount of information that exists online creates a digital maze, leaving users lost. Thus, it’s no wonder that Internet surfers want to be guided to a particular destination. Oftentimes, this is achieved by offering some sort of entertainment in the process, as users scan bits and pieces of information they find interesting and funny, rather than providing the full picture (Clark, 2020).

Photo by Pixabay

And within this reality, lies the importance of connecting with your audience. Its a give-and-take relationship, more so today than ever before with an endless stream of online competition. I know if I was writing a daily blog, I would think of ways to create unique content on a consistent basis. One popular and effective way to incorporate audience engagement is to film yourself answering questions from subscribers and fans. Not only does this create a greater personal connection with your audience, but the message is delivered in a more visually pleasing manner.

Know the world you live in. People have short attention spans, so give them what they want in the most digestible manner possible. Do you think peoples attention span will continue to shorten?

The Balkan Cuisine Guy

Photo by Mile

About the Balkan Cuisine Guy

Through some miraculous act, I was born into a Macedonian family, thrust into this planet a few decades ago. I love food. At age 4, I realized that I had a deep lust for traditional Macedonian dishes, such as stuffed peppers and grashe (white bean stew). A bit biased to say the least. This quickly morphed into a passion for all sorts of Balkan cuisines the older I got. Greek, Croatian, Serbian, Romanian, you name it, I ate it. But, I thought to myself, how much more amazing would it be to be able to prepare such feasts for friends and family? What an invaluable piece of skill to possess.

Inspiration wasn’t difficult to obtain after many years of eating my grandmother and mother’s delicious recipes. Before I knew it, I delved into the realm of the kitchen to try and capture culinary nirvana. My journey began with three dishes.


Photo by Panacomp

This traditional Macedonian dish involves stretching out thin layers of dough (more appropriately filo pastry) that are drizzled with a little bit of olive oil. Then, pieces of feta are crumbled onto it, or even thinly shredded potatoes. The dough is then rolled into one long stringy piece that is wrapped in a large, flat, circular pan. Once the pan is completely filled, it is placed in the oven for 1hr15 minutes, with the last 5 minutes set on broil to leave a golden colour on the top. It’s a meticulous process, but as the late Julia Child once stated, one must have a “need for patience in cooking” (Tomkins, 1974).


Photo by Rouxbe

Probably the most popular serving in every Greek household is moussaka. A combination of minced beef or lamb, it is cooked in a tomato based sauce and is as delicious as it gets. What makes this dish especially tasty is the creamy béchamel sauce and eggplant layers that would leave any food connoisseur itching for more. A great recipe that I enjoy cooking once a month when friends come over for dinner.


Photo by RGBStock

The Romanian dish name for cabbage rolls, which is real comfort food and is commonly served at weddings, but is also a household favourite. It is usually made with minced pork, along with rice, spices, onions and is rolled up in sour cabbage leaves. Once these steps are completed, all rolls are placed into a large baking pot with sauerkraut or tomato juices where they bake for a couple of hours. You won’t feel guilty eating sarmale late at night, because it’s a healthy mix of ingredients.

Although I’m still far away from being Julia Child or Lidia Bastianich (two inspirations besides my mother and grandmother), mastering one recipe at a time is certainly the tastiest way to learn about the rich culinary attributes each country in the Balkans has. Come and enjoy this journey with me!

COVID-19 Pandemic Leads to Another Niagara Falls Vacation

Photo by Mile

With all borders practically closed while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the choices for a weekend getaway are quite limited. Fortunately, I live in Ontario and equally fortunate, Niagara Falls is situated there. So I set off one Friday in October with a friend to explore the legendary falls for a night. A very long night. Adding to the excitement of this last minute adventure was the recent announcement of the Provincial Government deciding to shut down bars and restaurants in Toronto. What awaited us an hour-and-a-half away?

It was several years since the last time I visited. I’ve always enjoyed the Falls, watching the immense force of the water rush down, draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, producing extraordinary amounts of electricity for Canadians and Americans alike. We didn’t know what to expect when we got there. Would there be lots of people that embarked on a similar journey? Would the city be as luminous as I remember? Much to my pleasant surprise, the main strip was bustling with people, enjoying the last few weeks of mild weather, comfortable enough to endure the outdoors for hours at a time.

Photo by Mile

The city itself changed a great deal in the last couple of years. There are so many more street vendors selling all kinds of products. There’s also an array of new restaurants along with the never-ending attraction of haunted houses, a Niagara hallmark. Although some would remark negatively (Taekema, 2020) at such socialization during a world crisis, people were wearing masks and social distancing was observed. It was good to see that people were still finding ways to enjoy their time with friends and family, something I think is necessary during this period of uncertainty, which has left so many cocooned for far too long in their dwellings.

Video by bhadeshia123 from YouTube

The weekend trip might not have been the most exiting getaway in my travel repertoire, but the health crisis reminded me of how lucky I am to live so close to a natural visual and environmental wonder that I can visit anytime. Can any of you southern Ontarians relate to this sentiment?

Unexpected Applications Of Online Marketing And Social Media

During these past two months enrolled in an online social media class that has expanding my knowledge of the digital world, I’ve been amazed at the variety of applications that are popular, especially with the youth while I’m still preoccupied with Facebook. What’s more is the way these new platforms have become key in propelling careers, especially that of musicians.

1. TikTok

Described as a video-sharing social networking service, TikTok usually boasts people lip-synching over cover songs, while also improvising some sort of choreographed dance number. While it seems that the majority of users are simply following a trend, especially amongst the youth, the application has actually launched music careers. For instance, Lil Nas X was practically unknown to the world until his song, “Old Town Road” was uploaded onto TikTok and it blew up.

According to the rap star, “I should maybe be paying TikTok, they really boosted the song. It was getting to the point that it was almost stagnant. When TikTok hit it, almost every day since that, the streams have been up. I credit them a lot” (Alexander, 2019). Short snippets of the song were used and it spread like wildfire from one user to another. While I still believe these types of applications generally garner mediocrity, it’s an excellent way to market oneself in today’s digital age.

2. Hootsuite

I’m still amazed at the power behind social media management platforms like Hootsuite. I use to send posts from different applications individually and it took me forever. When I discovered Hootsuite, it cut my social media time by less than half and as a communications officer, that’s significant. More importantly though is how easily it allows me to gauge my audience by reading monthly reports about user engagement, popular posts and optimal times of the day to tweet or post on Facebook and Instagram.

Obviously, one will have to negotiate as to which application is beneficial to their personal or professional need. There will always be emerging tools that will be attractive to millennials. Although I believe many of these applications are simply time-consumers, they do fill the demand of people’s reliance on social media. Do you think social networking apps will continue to rise in popularity?

Professional Networking: Now And In The Future

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As a communications officer, I find it prudent to build a network of professionals in the same field of expertise in order to enhance my knowledge and skills and also create potential job opportunities for the future. In order to achieve this, I’ve made it a point to follow some helpful steps.

1. Community Events

I’ve made it a priority to attend events in the community that I work in that are organized by different groups, such as municipalities, townships and First Nations. In this way, not only am I learning about initiatives and programs that others are offering, but I’m also getting to meet a variety of people in person. Moreover, individuals that I already communicate with via email or telephone can put a face to my name, which creates a friendly rapport and allows them to see my character and listen to my ideas (Dodd, 2015).

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2. Working Groups

Oftentimes, challenges arise, which require some sort of collaboration with team members. For instance, there have been negative posts by some followers recently on my organization’s Facebook page, which border racism. As such, I’m in the process of drafting a social media policy with the assistance of a working group in which I’m also part of. This allows senior management and others to discuss ideas and share insights into tackling the issue at hand. This ‘meeting of the minds’ is essential when writing policies that have far reaching effects as is listening to teammates expertise, which can only benefit the organization’s long-term goals.

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It is crucial to acknowledge that if one wants to succeed in their careers ahead of the pack, they will have to remain proactive. During the next six-to-twelve months, I will continue collaborating with internal staff and individuals from other organizations and companies. I believe it’s beneficial to build a network of communications officers and share information amongst each other. Although it’s important to be diverse in networking attempts, focusing on my sphere of expertise will narrow down my search (Arruda, 2017) and increase my chances of building solid contacts.

What types of newsletters do others offer? How frequently are social media applications used by other communication personnel? What are other organizations social media policy? These are important questions that should be asked with no hesitation. I don’t know everything in my field of work and there’s bound to be others who have more expertise than I, so why not ask for assistance. It can only lead to better contacts and shows a sense of humility that can go a long way. This is why it is an effective strategy to participate in a plethora of team building activities to effectively maximize collaboration skills (Gibbs, 2020). Do you think these steps are a constructive way in expanding networking opportunities?