COM0015 – Blog #4 – Great strategy tools that are cheap or free

No money - zero dollarsIt’s sometimes hard not to get discouraged about comms capacity when you work in the not-for-profit sector. Our budgets are small and so are our teams. What that usually means is that special projects move forward very slowly (as we can find the time), budgets are sometimes cut, and the work has to be done for cheap or free.

But, since starting this course, I’ve been feeling really inspired to find and use as many free or cheap services/platforms as I can to help amp up our SEO, increase engagement on our website or blog, and uncover and fix issues that are affecting people’s user experience. I’ve been on an absolute tear lately — I can’t believe how many amazing free tools there are that I didn’t know about!

Here are just four of the tools I’ve come across that offer out-of-the-box thinking/approaches to improving online engagement:

Built With is a site that allows you to explore which sites use which tools and platforms on their sites. Say there’s a website that you really like, and you want to model your shopping cart or user engagement tools after theirs. You head over to, type in the URL of said site and find out what they’ve used to build out their functionality.

Builtwith-com - screengrabDomain Hunter Plus is a free Chrome extension that helps you to find broken links. This is a great way to increase your link-backs on other sites, as you can reach out to the owners of these sites and offer to replace the broken links with your own content.

Domain Hunter Plus - screengrab

Ahrefs is a site that allows you to research competitors in your online niche, see exactly where they’re succeeding (and why!) and gives you clues as to how you can better compete in your market.

Ahrefs - screengrab

SEM Rush is another competitor research tool that provides analytical data and customized reports on the other organizations working in your online space, how they’re performing and what they’re doing to get there.

SEM Rush - screengrab

As you can see, there are LOTS of useful tools out there that are either free or affordable, and I’m definitely capitalizing on it.

Are there any tools that you’re using for website optimization that I’ve left out? Comment with links to them below!


COM0015 – Assignment 5 – You can get bitter, or you can get busy

On October 30, I attended a webinar called Advanced Customer Acquisition by Neil Patel, the co-founder of Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg. I was really excited to learn from Patel about his online marketing techniques after seeing the massive success of his online projects. People absolutely rave about his talks and his work for their organizations and, while I can’t afford to hire him at $15,000 a month USD, I can certainly take fast and furious notes while he talks!

The main reason that I decided to take this webinar is because we’ve really been struggling to get our site traffic back up since the launch of our redesign in May 2017. It’s pretty typical to see a dip in traffic for about six months because Google needs to trawl the new site and index it, people have to get around to fixing their broken links to your site and visitors need time to learn, and hopefully get used to, the new layout. But I’ve been starting to sweat about it. It felt like time to act.

If this is something you’re struggling with, too, I would highly recommend taking this webinar. It’s geared toward for-profit businesses primarily, but there was so many easy fixes that can be applied to any website to boost site traffic. I would say that the two main benefits of taking this webinar are: (1) learning about free tools (aka GOLD) that can increase your insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your website like and (2) learning from all the questions posed by other participants and the answers provided by Neil Patel’s main website manager, Mike Kamo, who managed the chat stream during the webinar. There were 930 people sitting in on that webinar from all over the world, so the questions were rapid-fire – but somehow he kept up with all of it.

Assignment 5 - image 8

In the course, I was able to interact directly with Neil Patel and Mike Kamo, which surprised me. I honestly expected that the webinar would consist of all of us learning the “Neil Patel technique” from one of his staff. And, at the end of the course, Neil promoted an advanced marketing course that he offers via 46 individual modules that are dripped to you on a weekly basis for the period of a year. As part of enrolling, you’re added to a private Facebook group that allows students to discuss strategies with Neil and Mike and the other participants in the course for a full year. What an incredible source of support, learning and network-building. After everything that I learned in 90 minutes, I’m seriously considering taking it.

This session gave me at least 5 new, concrete ideas for improving SEO and online engagement, and I can’t wait to implement them – like using BuzzSumo to find out what’s hottest in our online niche, implementing a tripwire (an irresistible offer that people can’t refuse) to increase membership, using short visitor surveys to assess UX satisfaction, or asking visitors to enter their email address in order to view a video or download one of our research reports. It was so valuable, and I loved the positivity and enthusiasm of the participants. I hope that I end up in the same course group with some of them!

I would definitely take another Patel webinar again – I might even retake this one just to make sure I captured all of the amazing advice we were given. But I think the most inspiring idea from this webinar was this quote from Neil Patel: “You can get bitter or you can get busy.” Ain’t that the truth.

COM0015 – Blog post #3 – It works if you (net)work it

Weaving a web

I very strongly believe in putting time and effort into the development of professional networks – and what they can do for a career.

Right now, my primary networking is through the professional associations I belong to, which include the Canadian Association of Marketing Professionals (CAMP), the Canadian Association of Journalists and Editors Canada. I’ve joined all their social channels as a way to connect with other members on a day-to-day basis.

Thankfully, there are also some in-person opportunities. CAMP and Editors Canada both hold regular national conferences, and I’ve attended and presented at the annual Editors Canada conference. Two of the benefits of CAMP membership are admission to CAMP’s members’ forum and their bi-weekly webinars and seminars. Here are some of the sessions they held in 2017:

CAMP webinars and seminars

While most of the in-person seminars are held in Toronto, the webinars are a really rich resource and give me a chance to learn who is doing what and where their sticking points are in their work. It’s possible to follow up directly with the facilitators and other participants, so it’s a great networking opportunity.

I also leverage my projects at work as a source of networking – I sit in on coalition calls that are focused on campaigning for specific animal issues (farm animal welfare, the prosecution of animal cruelty and a national project that looks at helping to improve outcomes for cats and birds). But one of the main sources of networking is via our annual national conference, the CFHS National Animal Welfare Conference – both on the level of connecting with colleagues and connecting with animal-friendly media.

I have three main goals for future networking:

  1. Attend the 2018 CAMP Marketing (R)evolution Conference (date TBA)
  2. Attend the 2018 Editors Canada Conference
  3. Start attending the local meet-ups for a networking group for young non-profit professionals

Do you think there are any key networking activities I’m missing? Leave a comment below and link me to other resources!

COM0015 – Blog post #2 – It only takes a few steps to go from weak to strong

I’m going to stay within my sector to do this analysis of strong and weak orgs when it comes to social media strategy.

One organization whose social media strategy I admire is Animal Justice. Up until a few years ago, Animal Justice was a relatively unknown organization. Under new leadership, it has blossomed into a more active and visible organization with great communications strategies.

AJ podcast naming contest - screengrab

Their Facebook channel is a great mix of timely news stories, marketing content (like fundraising campaigns, donation promotions, videos of their team taking action, naming contests, videos on campaign successes, etc.) and action requests from their followers (like petitions, email campaigns, requests to attend protests or other activist events to show support).

AJ success video - screengrab

They’ve also been using Facebook Live streaming to interact with followers who have questions about animals and the law in Canada. They call this “Lunch Break Live”, and it features the Executive Director or their Director of Farmed Animal Advocacy.

AJ Lunch Break Live video - screengrab

They use Twitter to share timely news stories, marketing content (see above) and also to live-tweet court cases, Senate Committee testimony and Senate or House of Commons legislative processes. Below is an example of their ED, Camille Labchuk live-tweeting the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans as they debated and voted on amendments to a whale and dolphin captivity bill on Thursday.

AJ live tweets - screengrab

Theirs is a multi-faceted content strategy that engages followers to support them in multiple ways – through action, awareness-raising and donations. The transformation since 2014 has been incredible to see.

On the other end of the spectrum, Canadians for the Ethical Treatmet of Farm Animals (or CETFA) could use more of a honed strategy to support their brand and increase their visibility. While they’re active on social media, with Facebook and Twitter channels, they post identical content to both streams and more than 90 per cent of the content is news stories on Canadian farm animal issues. Rarely is the organization featured in these news stories, so unfortunately it doesn’t even serve to grow their thought leadership profile.

When I scanned the last several weeks of content on their channels, there was only one post asking their followers to take any action on issues they’re working on.

CETFA - one action ask

But even then, it wasn’t set up as an internal campaign so that they could collect data from their followers and build their lists. It was a request for people to contact the above email address – which means CETFA is missing out on an opportunity to collect email addresses and stay in touch with the people who took action as potential future donors.

As I looked through their Facebook and Twitter channels, there was no other info about their animal welfare work or their need for donations or other support. When they did share awareness-raising videos or campaign asks, it was from other organizations.

CETFA - sharing other people's campaigns

Definitely some food for thought above about starting places for a more cohesive social media strategy. I feel they’re selling themselves – and their work – short by not showcasing it more readily on their channels.

I think the main two things they should be doing are:

  1. Showcase the work they do with at least one post a week about what they’re working on, why it’s important and what their followers can do to help make their animal welfare objectives a reality. As you can see from the screengrab below, they have plenty of active campaigns, but they’re not capitalizing on their social media audiences to help them get their work done.

    CETFA - campaigns

  2. Sign up for a service like New Mode that will allow them to engage their followers with campaigns via embedded forms on their website.

Taking these first two steps will work wonders for the effectiveness of their channels.

COM0015 – blog 1 – a good listener

radar-dishes - blog post 1Being a good listener comes in handy.

It’s a helpful tool that I bring to bear in every type of relationship in my life from friendships to romantic relationships, from navigating dynamics with co-workers to knowing what kind of content to bring forward on our channels.

I value listening, whether giving or receiving, and I can listen to multiple sources at once. I’ve always been that way. It’s like my ears are satellites that can tune in to different things at the same time. I remember in Grade 1, I would listen to the teacher while talking to my friends, which always got me–and them–in hot water. The teacher would always try to catch me in a moment when I wasn’t listening to make an example out of me. But I was always listening. I just wanted to listen to more than one thing at once.

When I started having to do this kind of multi-channel listening in my professional life, it made an intuitive kind of sense to me. At first, I did it all manually with no automation at all, which is a recipe to make a person totally cray-cray. Over time, I learned how to hone my use of listening tools so I didn’t have to go out there and find everything I needed to know. I would say that, right now, my two favorite social media trend listening and monitoring tools are and ActionSprout. helps me keep on top of which hashtags are trending and which are growing stale or fading into the background. This matched with keeping an eye on the “Trending” stream on Twitter helps me keep our organization’s Twitter channel more vibrant and relevant. I need both and don’t feel like I can get enough insight from either alone.

ActionSprout has an aggregator service for top-performing posts on Facebook, which gives me a constant source of content to either share or replicate for our page, and I don’t even need to go looking for it! It comes right to my inbox. What I like about ActionSprout is that it aggregates all sorts of different kinds of posts rather than streamlining it to only include posts that would be considered relevant for our subject areas.

Vibrancy, freshness and relevance are especially important to our organization because we’re making a comeback from a fallow time when we were known as out-of-touch and ineffective. It’s been a hard slog to turn that around, but it’s starting to work–in part because we’re listening so well and applying what we hear. It’s making us much more agile.

As part of my listening for our organization, I also keep my eye on the feeds of social media marketing/community development thought leaders. My two favourites are Chris Brogan (Owner Media) and Social Media Examiner. Brogan’s authenticity and transparency is refreshing and helps to keep me curious rather than clinging to rigid ideas of how everything should be done. Social Media Examiner is a constant source of best practice info about multiple channels, and it keeps me thinking and growing my skills. (I also really appreciate their Social Media Marketing Industry Report, which shows what’s growing and dying and discusses current best practice based on data.)

But my comms candy is definitely the Capulet Communications‘ weekly Remarkables email list, where they highlight successful marketing campaigns that undertake unexpected approaches and end up going viral. Great food for thought that keeps me dreaming!

COM0014 – Blog post #7 – Looking forward and looking back

I love how this course brings together storytelling with strategic planning and audience analysis (especially psychographics, which I don’t track as much as demographics). Bridging these three things has been a real revelation to me because, in my work, I often focus more on things like post themes and timing rather than how to tell the story itself.

I always put effort into the quality of my writing, of course, but I have a pretty straightforward style and don’t think much about the beginning/middle/end structure that was encouraged in our posts here. It’s been fun to bring more creativity and authenticity to my online writing. What I’ve especially loved is thinking about organizational storytelling from a different perspective – as a way of making an organization’s brand more like (effective) personal branding and centering it around reputation rather than products or services. That has already started to transform my work.

The questions in this post in particular inspired me to think more deeply about the history of the organization I work for, and how we might be able to tell our story in more human, interesting and relatable ways. I’m really excited about that and feel like it’s something I’ll be able to use in my approach to the new blog we’re launching later this year.

But I think the most influential content in the course for me was this post about personal branding. Without meaning to, I had started to use the plastic, jargon-y, news anchor writing that he condemns in his write-up – as well he should. It really is the bane of the marketing world. Authentic, human communication is much more compelling. People don’t read you unless you’re really saying something, after all. I would say the personal branding post and the personal brand exercise reminded me that my work has to be guided by my gut as well as my values.

As I look back on some of the content I’ve created at work recently and see where I could strengthen it with what I’ve learned in this course, I look forward to honing our voice and our brand. When a unique voice emerges, the audience gathers around it. It’s a process of magnetism that happens when you’re true to yourself and your place in the world. I feel inspired to work toward that.

COM0014 – Blog post #6 -The unifying voice


When you hear the term humane society, most people think about cats and dogs. But the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, or CFHS, covers a lot more ground than that. In fact, in the beginning, CFHS was focused entirely on farm animal welfare. The reason that Canada finally got the momentum to create a national organization to improve animal protection in 1957 was because the public became aware of horrific animal abuse on Canadian farms and insisted something be done about it. While we still have a ways to go until farming and other animal use industries are humane, the situation has improved ten-fold because of our work. In the 60 years that we’ve existed, we’ve introduced dozens of new laws and policies that improve life for all types of animals in Canada.

What’s our main role – our raison d’etre? Well, to answer that, we need to look at the main issue that plagues Canada’s animal care industry. One of our industry’s greatest flaws is a lack of unity. There are seemingly endless animal welfare issues that need our attention, and the industry has a hard time agreeing on what is most urgent and what needs our immediate attention.

That’s the power of CFHS. We convene a group that offers representation to all kinds of animal care groups across the country, and we work with our members to set an agenda, solidify a unified purpose and increase the effectiveness of our industry’s approach to issues like much-needed updates to provincial and federal legislation, improving industry and government policies and educating the public about the lived realities of Canada’s animals, from cats to caribou.

Without the voice of CFHS, individual organizations across the country would still be clamouring to be heard by government and industry – with a voice that is rarely loud enough to make meaningful and sustainable change. We can be that voice. We have the reputation, the expertise and the relationships that are needed to evolve thinking about animals in Canada and truly elevate animal welfare.


COM0014 – blog post #5 – Hope, wisdom and courage

COM0014 – blog post #4 – Working with weaknesses

There are lots of business-to-consumer companies doing interesting things on social media these days, like how Denny’s is cornering the market on weird to appeal to younger demographics…

…or how Oreo pumps out so much fresh, high quality content that it seems like their team never sleeps. (Seriously, 3 brand-new, flashy celeb videos launched on the same day? Who are you people? And yes that is Shaquille O’Neal below doing elaborate circus stunts to dunk his Oreo.)


But one B2C that really blows my mind is Royal Dutch Airlines (also known as KLM). Like many big companies, they offer 24-hour service through their social media channels, but unlike most other companies, they have made concrete commitments to responsiveness, built the infrastructure to support it, and consistently delivered on their promises.

This has positioned them effectively as the airline that cares in an industry that’s riddled with service letdowns. I mean, who hasn’t lost a bag, missed a connecting flight, been overbooked – and then had to deal with customer service people who really couldn’t give a damn? Insult to injury is business as usual for airlines.

So KLM is leveraging social media to set themselves apart. Their first commitment to their customers is to respond to every tweet. Every single tweet. Whether it’s smart-assed, snarky, insulting, demanding, unreasonable or complimentary. Did I mention that they have 2.23 million followers? And they do it in 12 different languages.

Their second big commitment to their customers is to tell them exactly how long they will have to wait to get a response, treating Twitter like the customer service interface it has the potential to be:

Note what they’ve written at the bottom. They update that estimate every 5 minutes so that people aren’t left hanging.

Royal Dutch’s approach shows that they know their industry’s weaknesses and are willing to work their butts off to set themselves apart from the pack. It’s brilliant. And it’s working. There’s nothing more charming than a company that knows its weaknesses and works to overcome them.


COM0014 – Blog #3 –

I work for the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, and we’re blessed with really passionate, committed followers. They want to learn, be informed and take action – basically, they’re lifers who are committed to improving the lives of animals.

Because I interact with them on our Facebook and Twitter every day, I already know a lot about who they are – including some of their habits and political leanings. All the same, it was fun to dig deeper into the analytics to see what I had right and where I was off-base. What I found out was that, demographically, our audience is made up of mostly Canadian, English-speaking women in the 25-55 age range with pets but no children.

The top image in blue below is a gender and age profile from Facebook analytics and the bottom image in orange is from Twitter. As you can see, we have a slightly different age distribution on Twitter, but the user profile is almost identical otherwise.

As I was poking around, I found out some pretty interesting psychographic info about our audience, as well. Twitter offers a lot of background on the interests, consumer habits and household income of our followers, some of which is below:

It doesn’t surprise me to find out that the number one topic of interest is news and that dogs, pets and cats are in their top ten list. This fits with my understanding of our audience as informed, engaged and animal-loving. Interesting to see that dogs rank a couple spots above cats. That does make sense because our dog-themed posts always perform slightly better than our cat-themed posts.

What’s cool about this process is that I could take some of this basic information (about consumer habits and such) and extrapolate. For example, in the list of our followers’ top ten consumer products below, you can see that eggs, milk, produce, yogurt and cheese all ranked above meat, which suggests that we might have a significant number of vegetarians or people who only selectively eat meat (which would makes sense given how educated our community is about animal welfare).

I know from my interactions with our followers that they’re lead-with-your-heart people who volunteer in their local communities and donate to a variety of causes. That said, they will only sign and/or share something if they believe in their hearts it will make a difference for animals. They’re critical thinkers, well-read and well-informed. If a post is unhelpful, baseless or sensationalistic, they will call it out and say that they expect better.

What it comes down to is that they’re caring, informed and committed people who are driven to be the change they want to see. Lucky us!