COM0015 Blog 3 Professional Networking

The wine industry is an extremely social industry, relying heavily on developing networks both in person and online. As many of the small wineries lack the funding to run traditional advertising campaigns, social media and word of mouth advertising plays a huge role in their development and recognition. It’s also a great way to connect with key industry professionals such as winemakers, educators, influencers and other  businesses on the periphery of the industry.

Over the past few years, I have dedicated much of my personal time to studying wine, both for professional development and personal satisfaction. Social media has proven a great study tool, both in that is a constant source of new information, with users regularly posting fountains of knowledge on everything from new products to old champagne houses, it’s a great way to integrate learning into everyday life. However, it has also been provided a wonderful vantage to find and connect with top educators, who have proven to be always more than willing to share with knowledge.

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A great scotch tasting with Canadian Glenfiddich ambassador Beth Havers

My personal strategy is to continue to use social media as a learning tool, and as a means of connecting and learning from other wine industry professionals. In the past few months I have had the opportunity to move connections I have made online into in-person networking opportunities. Not only was it exciting to finally meet with these online connections, we were able to connect and share to a much greater extent in person. I am working towards setting up new meetings in the future, and look forward to turning social media networking, into personal networking … moving from Facebook to face to face, so to speak!

COMM0015 Blog 2: Strong and Weak Organizations

Inexpensive and highly effective, social media is rapidly becoming an integral element of many companies’ marketing plans. Like many other facets of the hospitality industry, many wineries are actively using social media to call attention to their products and draw tourism to their estates. Since traditional advertising mediums are nearly unattainable to the smaller, and often family run businesses, social media offers a way to connect with brand audiences, build brand recognition as well as advertise events and programs running at the winery. For this post I wanted to look at one winery that is doing an excellent job of using social media to boost their visibility, and one that, is using social media, but could be far more effective.

Nestled between Beamsville and Vineland, Redstone Winery is  the third winery owned by financier Morray Tawse. It is by far the most modern of his properties, and offers a state of the art tasting bar and expansive restaurant overlooking the vineyards. The award winning wines are mid-priced and crowd pleasing but are only available (outside of the winery) in limited release through the LCBO.

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However the winery itself has garnered major recognition, largely from their impressive reputation, but also from their active social media strategy. The winery is active, posting daily and peppering their content with pictures from both the winery and restaurant. A hub of activity in the summer, Redstone’s Instagram is filled with clips from their many summer concerts and on site events. An element of their social media presence that I particularly enjoy is their weekly profiles of winery staff members. Not only does it show an appreciation for all of the team members it takes to execute a memorable hospitality experience, but it add a human element to the posts, saving the page from feeling like one giant advertising push.

As a member of one of Canada’s largest winery groups, Andrew Peller Ltd., Peller Estate is one of Niagara’s largest and most visited wineries. And though they do use social media, the strategy seems lacklustre for a company of such size. Posts are infrequent, and fail to highlight the wineries impressive features. Boasting a number of private tasting rooms, event venues, a concert stage and a unique “Ice Bar”, the winery is an Instagram-er’s dream. However their page is littered with sparse postings of winery activity, and many of the posts have an inherently “advertisement” feel to them.

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A summer concert series featuring Canadian country artists such as the Road Hammers and The Reklaws were only mentioned in one post, and no footage or images from the actual events are available. So while their is nothing inherently wrong with their social media strategy, it does leave much to be desired, particularly for a winery of their magnitude. Scheduling regular posting, developing a more intimate social media voice, and aggregating content from all aspects of the winery would be a great way to improve the Peller Estate social media presence, and would create a greater tourism draw (not that they necessarily need it).

Overall, many wineries large and small are using social media platforms to their advantage, drawing attention and visibility to brands that may not have been seen otherwise. It’s great to see their followers grow, the bustle of tourism in the area year round, and follow along with the seasonal operations. Wine lover’s – follow along, you won’t be disappointed, and better yet if you have the chance to visit, do so. Because the only thing better than looking at wine is drinking it!


COMM0015 Tools and Sources

Social media is it’s machine of it’s own kind. Much like the papers we read and the networks we watch, how we follow along with social media is an entirely personal experience. Similarly, how we monitor and track our use of social media can be custom tailored to fit our every preference too.

As a highly visual person, I like to use platforms and dashboards that not only appeal visually but are user friendly to the casual social media peruser.

Google Adword is a tried and true standard for planning and analyzing social media. The keyword planner is a must for strategizing posts, keeping in mind SEO and visibility. Allowing users to find relevant keywords creates a thesaurus of sorts to ensure that the diction of the post will maximize its accessibility to it’s target market. Although it takes some practise to navigate, the platform is fairly simple and connects easily with any personal website. In regards to visual appeal, the interface is basic, modelling the traditional Google interface – if it works, it works!

My personal favourite social media dashboard platform is Hootsuite. A collective dashboard supporting the eight major social media platforms as well as access to personal blog sites, the interface is both easy to use and visually grabbing. Not only can one create reports on their social media feeds, it also allows for scheduling and direct posting from the dashboard as well. Although the free subscription allows for only three social media feeds, professional accounts can support upwards of 30. For a one stop shop in social media dashboards, this one takes the wheel!

As I mentioned, maybe just a few times before, I am a very visual person. And in many ways this rings true right across the hospitality and food industry -a written description, no matter how verbose doesn’t hold a candle (or a fork) to a well-timed picture of a luscious menu item. My go  to social media platform is, of course, Instagram. I love being able to share a “digital portfolio” of events I am running and simultaneously attribute visual credit to the talented chefs and sommeliers.

Is also an amazing way to gain information on industry trends, product recommendations and to connect with other industry professionals. A snapshot of a well-received bottle of wine is as likely to influence me to use it in a event (or just pick it up myself) as a lengthy newspaper writeup.

While Facebook is my personal go-to for social media use, I prefer to monitor Twitter when using social media for professional purposes. The quick-draw style feed allows for easy updates, particularly while on the go in a fast paced environment. This allows us to live tweet events without appearing to “bog down” newsfeed. The ease of use between Twitter and Instagram is of huge appeal as well, because once again, what is the point of live-tweeting a cooking class if there aren’t any pics of the delicious food.

COM0014 Personal Reflection

Digital communication has been a great opportunity to reflect on the importance of developing a specific voice in order to convey your intended message. Although I’ve always understood the concept that the tone of the content must speak to the intended audience, it was interesting to examine the power of developing the correct style of branding, and what can happen when the voice misses the mark. I particularly enjoyed the discussion board regarding the Motrin, as it was clear to see what they were attempting to communicate, but by choosing the wrong tone and script conveyed an entirely different, and ultimately damaging message, to their brand.

Since taking this course I’ve been finding myself more thoughtful of the craft that has gone into many social media brands. Details as small as using a particular colour throughout an Instagram account (@girldrinkswine is an amazing example of a well executed voice, and a visually stunning Instagram account, using a light pink undertone throughout all of her posts) can make all the difference in creating an effective social media impression.

In the future I’m looking forward to using the concepts we examined in this course in creating new campaigns for events. Particularly the importance of developing and executing a brand, and the effectiveness of putting a voice behind that brand. Many of the events I’ve been fortunate to have worked on have great stories behind the participants in them, I think going forward, sharing these stories would be a great way to put a human connection behind the events, and will definitely be a strategy I will be looking into!

Do People Know Your Story?

What about your childhood shaped you for this moment?

I’ve always been a planner, probably longer than I knew what I actually wanted to do with my life, which quite honestly wasn’t until well into my 20’s. But I did always know that I loved to plan ways to entertain people. And when recently asked what the first event I ever organized was I initially thought back to a number of shindigs and parties I threw for friends over the years, but my first true event, perhaps the one that started the spark, was “The Carnival” – I was eight.

Long summers were spent at the family cottage, and while I adore being in the water, I openly admit that I entirely lack the skills, or basic coordination to participate in most semi-athletic summer sports (hello broken ankle!). But I needed a way to pass my time, and more importantly I needed something to be passionate about- a project. Unlike myself, my cousins were extensively athletically talented, and to top it off great singers too – a cash cow thought my little mind. Because hey if you can’t beat ‘em use them to make money.

We organized a Cirque du Soleil style event featuring the singing gymnast and her harmonizing strongman, the daredevil and a flatulent contortionist. We made banners, and posters, built a plywood concession stand and marketed the event as aggressively as a group of children on a shoestring budget could.

And it worked! The turn out was to us tremendous, not only our families, but a dozen members of the community turned up as well. The hours of rigorous practise that we put into reciting the show, paid off and in our minds we were as good as Ringling Brothers. And we made enough money to buy a new inner tube (because it is a cottage essential even for the athletically uncoordinated).

The event became a summer traditions, some years with the planning beginning before the snow even melted. And while we eventually our love of belting out show tunes while preforming backflips, it will always be a truly amazing memory, even if I am sometimes remembered as the over-zealous show director.

And that was it, the moment in my childhood shaped my path, and thanks to all of the people who’ve supported me, (put up with my rigorous rehearsal schedules) led me into a career I love.

COM0014 Blog #5 Personal Brand

Working in an industry, like events and hospitality, which require the development of solid relationships with both customers and suppliers alike, I feel that I have been fortunate to have been able to connect strongly with those in the industry. I think that is is essential to build a strong customer base, not by thinking of potential clients as potential dollars but rather by generating personal relationships with each one; getting to know each event participant – their likes, dislikes, what style of event they enjoy, remembering details they have shared can help to build repeat customership.

I feel that something I bring to the table, that sets me apart from, not necessarily competition but others in the field, is my ability to connect deeply with both my customer base, as well as partners in our event programming. This has allowed me to build the program network, and increase our overall customer satisfaction.

In the past year, our corporate office has begun changes to the event program marketing which as deeply impacted the program, and overall has proven as disappointing to many of our customers. Something I feel particularly proud of, while unable to reverse many of these changes, has been my commitment to customer satisfaction and ability to deescalate situations which could have resulted in losing long term customers. I think that it is essential to communicate openly, and sympathetically, and ensure that teach customer know they are individually valued, which I think has been a tremendous key to my personal success in my position.

COM0014: Blog 3 Target Audiences

I thought that this week’s topic was very interesting, as I am dealing with a bit of a digital marketing disaster at work at the moment. As I mentioned in my bio I work in special events for a very large company. While the event department itself is fairly small, it still holds (at least I feel) a tremendous part in separating us for our competition, particularly in terms of superiors hospitality. For the past many years one aspect of the event program was marketed via printed brochure, which was distributed both in store and via mailing list. This was incredibly lucrative as it met the needs of the target market (high income individuals and couples between the ages of 50-75). While this form of marketing was quite effective it was also costly and it was determined in the past year that the guide would be moved online to save the cost of printing and mailing. In expressing my concern that the online marketing would not meet the needs of our target market, I was told that we would also be trying to reach a younger market as well. The online brochure launched alongside a quarterly email to remind customers of the programs available.

Within six months sales to the program declined dramatically. The B2C marketing which could have potentially reach the intended target market, was ultimately too infrequent to keep the program at the front of customer’s minds. The marketing attempts to reach a potentially younger market seemed to ignore the fact that programs offered were often out of the attainable price point for those who were being reached via social media.

While this is a bit of a ‘worse case’ scenario, I think it is a really interesting way to examine what happens when B2C marketing isn’t focused on the correct target market, and also the importance of listening and consistency.

COM 0014 Blog 2: Storytelling

What I’ve found most interesting about this week’s lesson is the importance of focusing writing on the “voice” that the audience most wants to hear. While I’ve always focused on the importance of grammar, it is equally as important to focus on structure and style. I think that listening to the intended audience prior to writing a post is the best way to understand what they most actively respond to, and are most likely to be influenced by.

In my own online writing, I tend to be fairly colloquial, and write very much in the way I would tell a story in person. I like to use humour, and in some cases sarcasm, as I do believe that it best reflects my own personal voice. That being said, I can also be a little verbose, and in some cases use excessive detail – I am a little theatrical in real life too, I admit. In particular I was struck by #15 on the list by Alan Martin, substituting short for long, as in other forms of formal and creative writing, it is often the other way around. Similarly, using the active voice, as I often speak, and write more passively, because well, it’s a little more dramatic. I think my biggest challenge in developing my social media voice will be focusing on being more concise, and planning my pieces using the inverted triangle structure. And perhaps, being a little less dramatic!

COMM0014- What I Did On My Last Vacation

This past year has been full of changes in my life (moving, career advancement, new house, etc.) Needless to say, I’ve had little time to take a vacation. Reflecting on this assignment I started thinking about all of the wonderful opportunities I’ve had to travel in the past. My travels to Europe, Alaska, the Pacific North West and the Caribbean have been nothing short of magical and I could indulge myself in near essays on those trips.

However this post isn’t about those enchanting whims through the streets of Paris or scenic hikes around the base of Mount McKinley. This post is about an ill fated, but well intended trip to rural Florida, that began at a retirement park shuffleboard tournament and ended at a Tampa Bay Costco. A trip that has inspired to me the sentiment “If life gives you lemons, then get yourself some Kirkland brand vodka” .

After a particularly gruelling winter in Northern Ontario, I had decided on a whim (and a little wine) that a visit to somewhere warm was in absolute order. Luckily, my in-laws owned a small vacation home in a retirement park, in a fairly remote town in central Florida.

“Florida is always sunny!” I erroneously announce to my husband, who has at this point has realized that begrudging acceptance is his best argument.

Two discount plane tickets later we were on our way to tropical humidity paradise. My spend-thrift way landed us a multi-layover flight, giving us the unique vantage to explore the bathrooms of no less than seven American airports. If enquiring minds wonder, O’Hare has by far the nicest. Finally, after  hours of making new friends with the people we were nestled between on opposite ends of the plane, we saw the ocean – bright, gleaming and through a 8×8 window.

My father in law greeted us excitedly at the airport, and we were off on weekend adventure! Winding through the backroads of Tampa and into rural towns full of Windixie delights, the palm trees dwindled away to mossy swamp land – we were almost there. Our arrival to the retirement park was full of delighted anticipation on my behalf, and clear dread on my husbands – after all what twenty-something doesn’t want to spend three days in small trailer with their parents?


We celebrated the first evening with cocktails on the deck, enjoying the last hours of sunshine, and conversations with people whom we weren’t uncomfortably sharing tiny armrests with.

“There is a shuffleboard tournament tomorrow morning” My father in law announced

Enthusiastically I retort, “I am a pro at shuffleboard”  – this is an absolute fallacy.


In the morning we joined the rest of the park at the club house, the air rife with competitive anticipation and whisps Bailey’s laden morning coffee. The sunshine of yesterday, had given way to tropical showers, the likes of which I was told hadn’t been seen there in weeks. But, there we were, and I was determined to enjoy my trip, and kick some butt at a sport which I had never actually played. Incidentally, shuffleboard pucks don’t shuffle in the rain, and our game was cut short.

“I probably would have won too” I informed my father in law.

Having narrowly been spared the humiliation of losing a game which I had talked up so much, we deferred ourselves to the streets of Zephyrhills. The torrential rains had taken their toll on the  town and much of it had lost power. We strolled the aisles of Big Lots as if it were Fifth Avenue, and triumphantly returned to our blacked out trailer with a dozen hotdogs, and other delicacies that we could craft up sans electricity. We grilled, we laughed, we went to bed at 8:45.

Our third and final day brought forth the opportunity for a trip into the city, perhaps even to the beach. The previous days storm had not broken our spirits, we were going to have our big day out. Traffic however, had decided otherwise. A purported two hour drive into town, saw the major highways shut down due to heavy construction and a slew of fender benders, and took only slightly longer than discount airline flight across the country. We arrived in the city, with only moments to spare prior to the Costco closing time.

“This has been one heck of a trip, eh?” My mother in law announced as we glided into the liquor aisle. “I think we need margaritas” And as fate would have it, there was absolutely no tequila left – Kirkland brand vodka it was.


But here’s the thing; those Costco brand vodka and limeade were delicious; the laughs we shared in the glacially paced traffic were endless; the power-outrage hotdogs were actually the best I’ve ever had; and I got to keep my pride in tact having not been absolutely beaten at shuffle board. Sometimes vacations end up being a comedy of errors, and what should have been a weekend beach getaway, is ultimately spent in the backseat of a truck on the interstate.  Vacations aren’t always about dreamy sightseeing, or gourmet dining, sometimes the best travel memories are just the time you spend with people you love, and the crazy circumstances you overcome. Because, hey, when the Canadian weather is warm, and your glass is filled with real margaritas, you need trips like this to look back on and laugh.

Falling for Fall Beer


It’s that time of year again: a chill in the air, scarves and boots, and of course, pumpkin spice everything. And I mean everything. So when the liquor store shelves began filling up with pumpkin spice beers, it was time to investigate. With almost every micro brewery producing a fall beer, it only made sense to wade through the lot, and suss out the good, bad and the ugly (tough job but someone had to do it). We picked out five and got down to business.

Collective Arts Sour Pumpkin Saison $3.45

img_0462Don’t overlook the word sour, this stuff packs a real pucker. But once you get past it, it’s actually a neat little beer. Reminiscent of the sour Belgian beers that are also wildly popular right now, this pint brings a fun seasonal twist to a style that has been around for centuries. Good for a festive sip, but probably not a drink all nighter.

Score: 3/5 Pumpkins



Amsterdam Autumn Hop $3.00

Hoppy as heck, but will make any IPA lover smile. Crisp and lightly bitter this is beer was img_0461easy to drink and full of flavour. My only complaint: there wasn’t really anything to set it apart from other IPAs that are on the market year round. Was it yummy? Sure was. Was it memorable? Not so much.

Score: 4/5 Pumpkins



Big Rig Tales From The Patch  Pumpkin Porter $2.75

img_0464I think I had the highest hopes for this one. As a diehard porter lover, I was imagining something rich, sweet, like a cold pumpkin spice latte of sorts. I was way off. It felt light and stringy, like uncooked pumpkin guts. The acidity was over the top for a porter, and there was no characteristic creaminess. It may have been the first time I’ve ever done this but it was right down the drain for this festive brew. I should mention that besides this rare miss, Big Rig is a phenomenal brewery and has hit it out of the ball park with all of their other creations.

Score: 1/5 Pumpkins


Parallel 49 Schadenfreude $5.90

img_0467Made with Munich malt, in a traditional Oktoberfest style, this pint knocks it out of the ball park. Rich in texture with little hints of pumpkin, and cinnamon, this flavourful treat hits at only 5% abv. so it’s easy to drink (maybe too easy). It comes in a 750ml bottle, but the price is still a little steep for mass consumption – I assure you it is worth every penny. The winner of the taste test for sure!

Score: 5/5 Pumpkins 



Samuel Adam’s Oktoberfest $14.95 (6 pack)

img_0468For comparison sake we decided to throw in an import. Similar in style to the Schadenfreude, the Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest is creamy and full of candied fruit and toffee flavours. A little happier than it’s Canadian counterpart, but still easy to drink, and offering lots of seasonal spice. However, we tried this last, right after the Schadenfreude, so there was it was tough competition. The American was good, but you just can’t compete with Canada on this one.

Score: 4/5 Pumpkins


The verdict? Kind of like pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice beers are fully of flavour and novelty value. It’s exciting to see what craft breweries come up with each year, and fun to test out the good. It’s back to our old stand by on our next trip to the store, but for one night, it was a fun experience.

Has anyone else done some taste testing this season? What have you tried? Any different opinions on these ones?