Honeymoon in Paris

Honeymoon in Paris

Now in the times of Covid-19, I think we all would love to go and take a vacation to our favorite place.
So, why not go down memory lane and think about the last vacation we had. Today, I will talk about mine. Paris, France in the summer of 2018!

Deciding where to go for our Honeymoon

My husband and I renewed our vows in my hometown Hanau in Germany in July 2018. I decided that I wanted to surprise him with a Honeymoon.
I planned the whole thing without him knowing and I also booked everything online.

The only thing I had asked him a few months earlier was, if he got the chance to see either Rome or Paris where he would rather go. He chose Paris. And that’s when I started planning everything.

Arriving in Paris

At the Gallery Lafayette


We were staying in Paris for 6 days. I thought this would give us plenty of time to see “everything” but I was so wrong! I think we just saw a small part of what we wanted to do.

I booked tickets to go to Paris for us by train on early Monday morning. We were in Paris (from Frankfurt) in as little over 4 hours. By about 1 pm we were in our little hotel in Montmartre (just a few meters away from the Moulin Rouge). Thinking back, I’m still glad that I booked a hotel with Air Condition because we would end up having at least 35 degrees every day during our stay.

Anyways, our first day was a very relaxing start in Paris and as I said earlier, I had planned everything. So, we had a clear idea of what we were going to do in the next few days.

The first day we walked to the Gallery Lafayette, not to shop but because I knew that you could see the whole city from the rooftop. The view was amazing!

To finish our first day off and to take in the city, I had arranged a tour with a Parisian 2CV Car. If you ever visit Paris, take the time to do a tour with one of those cars. It is amazing.

View from the little 2CV Car

Versailles, Catacombs, The Rodin Museum & Museum D’Orsay

In the next few days, we had planned many things. Our second day was completely booked off for the Palace of Versailles. Stunning. I highly recommend it. Especially the gardens.
We stayed there the whole day and we spent about 2-3 hours in the Palace and the rest of the time we spent wandering the gardens. I think I could have spent our hole trip just in Versailles. It is an amazing place.

Gardens of Versailles


Day three we went to the Museum D’Orsay, which is located in an old train station. It is a beautiful museum and I wished that we had more time. Great collection of french art.

The next stop was the Catacombs. I had heard about them a lot and I wanted to see them. The Parisian catacombs were modeled after the catacombs in Rome and go through the hole Paris underground. All the people that were killed during the French revolution are buried there (except Marie Antoinette and the King). Fascinating place. We kept talking about this place for the rest of the day.

Day 4 and 5 we went to the Rodin Museum, which has a great selection of Rodin’s most beautiful sculptures. Close by is Napoleons Tomb and Les Invalides, which is worth checking out as well.

And by accident, we stumbled upon the Luxembourg Gardens (close by is the Notre Dame which we were lucky to see before it burnt down).
But if you are in Paris, those Gardens are worth checking out. They are so beautiful. Take a look at the photo below.

Our second last day we spent at the Louvre. I think everyone knows that you need about a week in the Louvre and you still haven’t seen everything.
Beautiful art collection!

Last Day

Our last day we spent exploring Montmartre. We ended up regretting this because it was the favorite part of our trip. It is a wonderful part of the town and we hope to explore it more if we can come back.
The last thing we went to was the Sacre-Cour, down below you can see some photos from the top of the church and from Montmartre.


What was your favorite vacation? And do you have some favorite spots and tips and tricks? If so, let me know in the comment section.
Thank you for reading!

Do People Know your Story?

Thrifting has been a part of my life since I can remember. I grew up going to Value Village and small local thrift stores rather than the mall. It allowed me to be creative with my style, and to save lots of money to have experiences rather than things. As i grew up societal pressure to buy new overtook me and I fell out of love with thrifting. While in college I got into a car accident and developed chronic back pain which resulted in a lot of time in bed and a LOT of online shopping. I mean a LOT. I would get a new wardrobe basically every week, and every week I would just give my old wardrobe away or pile it at the bottom of my closet. 

Eventually I realized that what I was doing was not healthy for my wallet so I stopped buying things. I then started doing research into the companies I had been buying from and the whole fashion industry. This is when my mind was blown. I started reading about the horrible ways that Fast Fashion impacts the environment and impacts people. As I read I started to feel worse and worse about my shopping habits and I started to thrift again. What started as a moment of “shame” quickly turned into an educated decision. I realized that I truly didnt know any better when it came to buying my insane amounts of clothing. I had no idea the effect my purchases were having in the grand scheme of things and I had no idea there was another option that would allow me to continue to shop and have fun with fashion while supporting charities and supporting sustainable shopping. 

This is why I started reselling thrifted clothing on Instagram. To show people that there are some seriously cute items out there, and that its easier than it looks to shop second hand. I started to share information about the fast fashion industry and why shopping sustainably was so important. My business is not about making insane profits, but rather giving people information about thrifting and offering a place for them to get started. 

COM0014 – Blog 7: Personal Reflection

Between mid-May and early July 2020, I took a Digital Communication course at the Algonquin College. Here is my brief reflection on what I learnt in the course.

Stories make great content

There is a lot of information in the digital world. An average social media user is bombarded by thousands of various messages as soon as they go on any online platform. If you want your message and content to stand out, you need to tell powerful stories. You also need to do so in your unique and authentic voice.

Social media users are bombarded by information. Source: Hulu on Giphy.

Stories shape content into something that resonates with audiences. A story provides content with a natural flow, from a beginning to an end. In doing so, stories give digital content a form that most people are wired to follow.

Stories help you explain what makes your business or organization unique, and they do so in a compelling way.

Every story needs an audience

In crafting digital content, it is important to know who its audience is. In modern multicultural societies, audiences are bound to be culturally diverse. Therefore, it is important to understand the various groups within your target audiences and to ensure that your messages resonate with all of these groups.

In storytelling, it is important to know who your audience is. Source: GOV BALL NYC on Giphy.

When you know who exactly you are targeting with the content, it is much easier to decide what kind of stories you want to tell and how you want to tell them. Stories will guide your content.

My stories

Storytelling is already helping me in my job. I use stories to communicate important digital safety messages to audiences that are not likely to pay attention to information conveyed in a different way.

And what kind of stories are you telling? Does your audience find these stories compelling? Let me know in the comments below.

COM0014 – Blog 6: How I Help Make the World a Better Place

Stolen laptop

One evening in 2018, Olga closed her laptop and walked out of a hotel room in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, for a quick dinner. She had arrived in the city the previous night to participate in a workshop for local civil society groups. As the head of a small human rights watchdog, she was a regular at these events.

When Olga returned to the hotel, her laptop was not there. The hotel had no security cameras, and police officers who soon arrived said it was unlikely that she would get the device back. That only reinforced the woman’s suspicion that the laptop had been taken by the authorities. As a vocal member of a coalition demanding justice for victims of police abuse, she knew the authorities would do anything to get access to her data.

Having your laptop stolen can ruin many lives if you have sensitive or confidential files on the hard drive. GIF source: Giphy

Having the laptop stolen could have had dire consequences for Olga, her organization and other people that she worked with. She had a lot of sensitive files on her hard drive, including testimonies from victims of police torture. If this data fell into the hands of the authorities, it would have been a disaster for many people.

Encryption and backups

Nonprofits and activists are particularly vulnerable to attacks targeting their online assets and digital devices. The Ottawa-based organization I work for helps civil society organizations in countries like Kazakhstan to tackle digital risks.

Shortly before Olga’s laptop was stolen, we had helped her organization to put in place basic digital safety measures. Those measures included encrypting her laptop and setting up automatic backups. So, Olga not only kept all her files but also knew that the thief would not be able to decrypt them. As a precaution against possible device loss, we had also enabled remote erase on the laptop. With the laptop gone, the woman activated this function and knew that as soon as her device connected to the Internet, its hard drive would be wiped.

This is what we do on a daily basis. This work is important for activists and civil society groups fighting injustices and making their communities and nations better places to live.

Your turn

And what is your your favourite customer story? Have you ever helped someone in a way that made you particularly proud of your job? Share your stories in the comments below.

COM0014 – Blog 5: Brand Me

I am a communications professional who currently manages social media for an Ottawa-based nonprofit. Several things set me apart from other professionals in my field.

There are a lot of people out there with skillsets and experience similar to mine.
A key part of my personal brand is what makes me stand out. GIF source: Giphy

First, I have a lot of experience in delivering high-stakes communications campaigns in difficult operational environments. Such environments include post-conflict nations, characterized by repressive political system, endemic corruption, and deep-seated suspicion of foreign-funded projects. I know how to move forward and secure crucial allies in seemingly hopeless situations. This means that I can be a valuable asset to internationally funded development projects and initiatives working in such places.

I have delivered successful communications campaigns in difficult
operational environments. GIF source: Giphy

Second, I am good at crafting messages that resonate with various audiences. In my current role, I develop a lot of social media content focusing on digital safety. The people I work with often commend my ability to explain complex and technical terms or processes in plain language. I have recently begun using comics to convey digital safety advice.

I am good at writing for various audiences. GIF source: Giphy

Finally, I have a sharp analytical mind that allows me to see patterns amidst thousands of data points, extract key information from these patterns, and pinpoint connections between seemingly unrelated events and developments. In addition to my social media work, I help the organization I work for to understand and position itself to capitalize on major political, economic and social developments in the regions where we operate. I am particularly proud of this aspect of my work.

COM0014 – Blog 4: Books and Nooks

On a recent walk in the park in Kanata, ON where I live, I noticed a sticker on a bench. In black letters on a simple white background, the sticker read, “Support a local business. Shop at Books and Nooks.” The catchy name stuck in my mind and I soon found myself googling it.

Books and Nooks is small, family-owned company selling books, accessories and knick-knacks online.

Screenshot from the Books and Nooks website.

Books and Nooks on social media

The company has a great-looking and easy-to-navigate website. The website tells the story of Books and Nooks and features on online store. It is also home to the company’s blog, MishMash, offering tips and insights around everything related to reading, home decor and fashion.

Books and Nooks has an active presence on Facebook and Instagram. The company is using these platforms to build relationships with its customer base and to drive traffic to its website. To achieve this, Books and Nooks posts images related to reading, motivational quotes, links to new blogs, and stories about the products it is selling.

Screenshot of an image on Books and Nooks Facebook page, encouraging customers to buy from local businesses.

Interactions

The company also uses its social media presence to responds to questions and comments from customers. These interactions, however, appear to be scarce. Overall, Books and Nooks’ social media accounts do not seem to register much engagement.

Yet, the company’s interactions with customers that are visible on the platforms are timely and professional. Whoever runs these accounts responds to comments and questions in a courteous and helpful manner, thus helping to establish long-term relationships with customers.

I think that Books and Nooks has so far failed to capitalize on its social media presence. The company does publish content that some of its existing customer base may find interesting. However, its posts on both platforms generate few interactions and do not seem to help the company attract new customers.

Do you happen to know of any small, family-owned companies successfully using social media to promote their business? What makes these companies successful? Please let me know in the comments below.

COM0014 Blog #4: Modern wisdom: Shop’s Facebook page reflects owner’s style

By Cindy Macdonald

A friend of mine is co-owner of holistic health business in Lindsay, Ancient Wisdom Holistics. She paired  her retail experience with her deep belief in alternative healing to launch a small shop which also offers some professional services and learning events.

As with most start-ups, there’s little money for marketing, so she and her partner are employing social media as best they can. They’ve chosen to have a presence on both Facebook and Instagram, which seems to be the appropriate choice for their target market and type of business.

This photo of the shop was used on both Facebook and Instagram.

On Facebook, @Ancient.Wisdom.444 has more than 500 followers. The owners post a few times a week and generally earn a few comments and 10 to 20 likes. The posts tend to be product photos or announcements of events. They are not optimally worded to encourage engagement from other users; this is an area which needs improvement. Spelling and grammar could also be improved. The owners also share inspirational and wellness-themed posts, very relevant to their market.

The Facebook posts have a very gentle, respectful tone. They invoke a sense of peace and wellbeing, and are very true to the personality of the owners. Consider this example, from this winter:

Good snowy morning everyone. Ancient Wisdom Holistics will be closed for the day do to the weather. Let’s stay off the roads and let the plow drivers get there job done easier 🎉😇 P.j’s hot tea and movies day! After we shovel out😜 Have a safe and great day. See you Friday

The owners have taken advantage of some other Facebook features that are beneficial for business marketing. The “About” section contains appropriate keywords for this market: “A large selection of Crystals, Minerals & Sage as well as Meditation classes. Psychic / Mediums. Reiki classes and privet Reiki session. Oracle & Tarot decks, Psychic lessons. Incense and a whole lot more!”

Also, the Messenger chat window opens when you visit the page and offers a list of standard queries as well as the opportunity to post your own question. This encourages visitor interaction.

Ancient Wisdom is also using Facebook events to promote classes, services and special events.

For their Facebook page, I would suggest a little more personalization and storytelling, with an emphasis on the owners. They should also network more with other similar businesses to boost each other’s marketing efforts.

The business’ Instagram presence (@ancientwisdom.444) is less developed than the Facebook page. Posts are generally a repeat of the visual/photo posts Facebook, with little text. It would benefit greatly from more verbiage and the use of hashtags such as those found in the Facebook “About” section: #crystals, #healing, #meditation, #psychic, #reiki.

It is evident that the two owners have made a start toward social media marketing. They are using the appropriate tools but need some training or guidance on how to better use these tools.

About me: After more than 25 years as an editor of trade publications, I’m now learning social media techniques. I’ll be writing about news, communication, social media and travel as I go through this career transition. Please join me on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or my blog, and we’ll chat.

COM0014 – Blog 3: The Audience I Am Trying to Reach

Digital technology is everywhere. It is permeating everything we do and shapes how we do it. In this context, it is important that everyone understands risks associated with digital technologies and has the skills to handle these risks.

Digital technology is everywhere. Source: Giphy

Digital safety project

I work for an Ottawa-based nonprofit that helps civil society organizations stay safe online. One of the particularly challenging projects that I am currently helping to get off the ground supports small civil society and independent media organizations in Kyrgyzstan, a small nation at the heart of Central Asia, by helping them understand and tackle digital risks.

The following is my attempt to define the audience for the project’s social media channels and describe some ways to reach this audience.

The younger urbanites

The project’s audience includes individuals working for or collaborating with small independent media organizations and civil society organizations in Kyrgyzstan.

These are mostly young people, between 20 and 35 years old, living in large cities. About two out of three individuals in this group are men. Most of these individuals are recent graduates from one of two Western-style universities in Kyrgyzstan, the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) and OSCE Academy in Bishkek. More than half of people in this group spent at least a year studying abroad, typically in the United States or United Kingdom.

The younger urbanites have grown up in the world
permeated by digital technology. Source: Giphy

These individuals come from middle-class families with mostly university-educated parents. At least eight out of 10 people in this group speak fluent Russian and more than half speak fluent English.

Reaching them

Most individuals within this audience have grown up in the world permeated by digital technology. They embrace digital technology and have a good understanding of risks stemming from their reliance on these technologies.

They embrace digital technology. Source: Giphy

The best social media platforms to reach this audience include Facebook and Instagram. Video and images are the two types of content best suited for this audience.

All educational content should assume a good level of familiarity with basic digital safety practices and aim at providing practical recommendations rather than abstract advice. One type of content that I expect to resonate particularly well with this audience is humorous content, specifically memes.

Do you know of any organization doing similar work around digital safety? Do you have any suggestions or tips on how to reach the audience I described? I will be happy to hear from you in the comments below.

COM0014 Blog #3: Sell the “happy cows” idea

For several years while my two boys were teenagers, we subscribed to a local farm’s CSA program. They delivered a box of in-season produce to our door every week. We also opted for local meats in our order.

This #buylocal option was definitely more expensive, but we justified the expense, as I think most people do, with the belief we were doing good for local businesses, the environment and the animals. When we were eating the local meats, I used to tell the boys it was meat from “happy” cows, or pigs, or chickens. We believed that by buying local meat, using less of the “factory farmed” products, we were making life better for the cow/pig/chicken.

It turns out, I fall right into the target demographic for #localfood businesses, such as farmer’s markets, small local food retailers, specialty food retailers and other farm-to-table businesses.

Research (here and here) shows that these enterprises should aim their marketing at married women in higher income brackets. The women using their services are likely to have a family and an interest in gardening. In terms of their attitudes and values, these consumers are often food advocates and people of strong opinions. They are generally eco-conscious, have strong diet concerns and believe in giving back to the community.

From a social media marketing perspective, local food retailers should incorporate popular hashtags that appeal to foodies and to married, female consumers. Examples would be: #buylocal, #localfood, #farmtotable, #homemade. A Google search shows that the terms “local food” and “buy local” reached their peak popularity in the last 12 months during the week of April 12-18, 2020. The target market likely uses Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest more than other social media platforms.

Retailers could also check out and join local Facebook groups as well as food-oriented groups. In the Toronto area, there are many: Ontario Food Entrepreneurs, Local Food, Muslim Foodies of Ontario, Farm to Table, and Friends and Fans of Belleville Farmers Market.

Gourmet food shops, farmer’s markets and on-farm retail outlets are designed to serve a specific niche. They serve a defined group of consumers with a specific interest in local food, which makes it fairly easy to design and direct marketing toward this target group.

COM0014 Blog #2: The same message, three different ways

By Cindy Macdonald

Image by Pixabay.com, OpenClipart-Vectors

The emphasis in my social media class this week was on storytelling and communication styles, so I would like to provide a short demonstration of how you, as  writer, can communicate the same information in multiple ways, depending on the nature of your audience.

Why the image of a cucumber you ask? Well, it’s going to become the star of our story.

I pulled this quote from a corporate blog for Resolute Forest Products. It is written in typical promotional corporate tone.

“Today, the company has grown into a global leader in the forest products industry with over 40 pulp, paper, tissue, wood products and energy facilities across North America…. From the filter used to make their morning coffee to the lumber they buy to renovate their home – even the cucumbers in their lunchtime salad – all may contain a fair amount of Resolute.”

– Resolute Forest Products

Presented in a more casual, instructional tone, it could read:

Many mills in Quebec and Ontario belong to one of the world’s top forest products companies: Resolute Forest Products. The company has more than 40 plants in North America, producing items you would use every day: the filter used for your coffee, the lumber for your home renovations, even the cucumbers in your lunchtime salad.

Here it is in a light, first-person style:

I just found out that a Canadian company which makes paper and lumber also grows cucumbers! I think it’s so fabulous that Resolute Forest Products uses the waste heat from some of its mills to provide energy for a greenhouse to grow cucumbers. It just goes to show that even big companies – Resolute has 40 mills in North America – can still be innovative, and cool as a cucumber! 😊

Now you try re-writing the original corporate bland copy using a different tone, and share it in the comments section.

About me: After more than 25 years as an editor of trade publications, I’m now learning social media techniques. I’ll be writing about news, communication, social media and travel as I go through this career transition. Please join me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or my blog, and we’ll chat.