Posts about Human Interest

The New Brunswick Challenge – Can You Rise to this Challenge?

If you live in New Brunswick, keep reading. If you don’t it’s your choice whether you want to take the New Brunswick challenge or not, but it is a real challenge that I am issuing to my fellow New Brunswickers – can you rise to this challenge?New Brunswick Challenge

So, maybe you were born in New Brunswick and chose to stay here. Maybe you went away to school, but returned afterwards. Or, perhaps you went away to see the world and work “somewhere else” for a while, but returned to raise a family. Maybe you weren’t born here, but moved here for a career, you married a New Brunswicker, or for some other reason. Regardless of the reason, you have chosen to live here. And yes, let me be clear. If you live here, you choose to live here. At any given time you can “choose” to leave. You can always move somewhere else. That is the beauty of living in a free country – a democratic society.

So, what is the challenge? I challenge you to think differently about a number of topics listed below and to share your thoughts on social media. I challenge you to stretch your thinking and to propel your thoughts to that of solutions and positives rather than complaining and negatives. So, let’s give it a try with the following:

  1. How many of you have watched the #NBProud videos available here? How many are familiar with all the companies in the videos? How many of you can think of other great companies right here in New Brunswick? How many of you have shared these videos?

2. How many of you know that the snowblower was actually invented right here in New Brunswick….Dalhousie to be exact? Cool, isn’t it? Innovation right here at home…and in my home town.

3.  How many of you know that New Brunswick has one of the most vibrant start-up communities in Atlantic Canada. How about Canada? Well, we do.

4.  How many of you know that UNB’s BioMedical Institute is one of the top five IN THE WORLD? Again, this is true!

5. Did you know that there are countless jobs in New Brunswick that go unfilled each year because we don’t want to do them? Just ask the Harvey’s of Maugerville. After years of farming, the family has decided to sell their farm because they couldn’t get workers for the countless acres of vegetables. Did you know that immigrants often have to fill this void. It’s true. So, no they aren’t taking our jobs. They are filling a very necessary void to ensure our food security and helping support “buy local.”

6. Did you know that there are countless immigrants who come to this country and create new businesses. Just ask Sam Masry who came to New Brunswick from Egypt and established CARIS 37 years ago. Oh, did I mention that CARIS employs more than 200 people, including engineers and IT professionals? What about Dr. Ali Ghorbani who established Ara Labs, which has grown into Sentrant and employs IT professionals in the cybersecurity field?  So, no they aren’t taking our jobs. They, among countless others, are creating companies and jobs for New Brunswickers!

7. Did you know cities, provinces/states and countries around the world actively go out and seek companies to expand in their regions and offer financial incentives? Did you know that this is a normal attraction practice and it is not unique to New Brusnwick? In fact, because this is a competitive process, where New Brunswick is competing with well-known cities like New York and San Francisco for jobs, we often rely on the selling point of the quality of our people – New Brunswickers, quality of life and sheer determination to win the expansion plans of major brands? Again, this is true. And the end result? More jobs for New Brunswickers. As a former Salesforce employee, I can attest to this. Working for Salesforce, I got exposure to people and expertise that I would not have otherwise achieved, unless I moved away. The experience, including having worked for a publicly traded company, was priceless.

8. Did you know that the McDonald’s McFlurry was created in New Brunswick? It was…in Bathurst to be specific.

9. Did you know that the software used to locate J.F.K. Junior’s crashed plane was created in New Brunswick? Did you know that the Franklin Expedition’s lost ship was found by that same software? Well, it is true. That little company I mentioned above…CARIS…ya, it was their software.

10.  And, here is a good one I heard about in the last year and after some google searching, I found out it was true…did you know that the movie E.T. was written in Zionville? William Kotzwinkle and his wife Elizabeth Gundy, moved up here during the Vietnam War. They even built a house.

11. Did you know that there is no such thing as the status quo? So many people talk about “if things would only stay the same” or “why do we need to attract more people or companies?” The answer is simple. Nothing stays the same. If we aren’t proactive our population will age. People will die. Companies will cease to exist. Our tax base will decrease. This is not sustainable. This is why all active and intelligent communities are always looking to attract and retain people and business. It’s in our greater interest.

12. Did you know that UNB was named the most entrepreneurial university in Canada? Well, it was!

13. And finally, did you know that Google Earth uses technology developed by UNB? Yup, that is also true!

I have been fortunate to live in New Brunswick all my life. I have been fortunate to work for companies that have enabled me to travel and work around the world. Because of this I realize and I appreciate what a wonderful place New Brunswick is. I am #NBProud. I choose to live here. I see the potential and I want to change the narrative. I want to tell people about all the wonderful things that are happening here. If we constantly go looking for what is wrong versus what is right, we will always find the bad. I was at a session today where the founder of a local company that exports to more than 20 countries said it best: “if you think you live in a shit hole, then you will live in a shit hole.” 

If you believe you can, then you will. If we believe that we have talented and innovative people and companies in this province, which we do, then we need to shout it from the roof tops. We MUST believe in ourselves before others can believe in us.

So my challenge to you is to be #NBProud and to share your #NBProud moments. Share one exciting and powerful story each day for a week on social media. Can you rise to the challenge?

7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Irish or Saint Patrick’s Day

We all love to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, don’t we? Even if we don’t have Irish roots, many pretend to be Irish for a day…usually to partake in green beer. But there are some things about Saint Patrick’s Day that you probably don’t know? Saint Patrick

1. It is estimated that there are one million Irish people living abroad.  

2. Following the Great Fire which levelled much of the city’s central peninsula on June 20th, 1877, Saint John was rebuilt almost exclusively by Irish labour.

3. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, and he wasn’t born in Ireland. Patrick’s parents were Roman citizens living in modern-day England, or more precisely in Scotland or Wales (scholars cannot agree on which). He was born in 385 AD. By that time, most Romans were Christians and the Christian religion was spreading rapidly across Europe. So, maybe we should celebrating Tartan Day on April 6th with good ole Saint Patty. (Oh, and I did I mention that Saint Patrick’s Day only started in 1970 versus Tartan Day that started as a result of action in 1320?)

4.The original colour associated with St. Patrick is blue, not green as commonly believed. In several artworks depicting the saint, he is shown wearing blue vestments. King Henry VIII used the Irish harp in gold on a blue flag to represent the country. Since that time, and possibly before, blue has been a popular colour to represent the country on flags, coats-of-arms, and even sports jerseys.

Green was associated with the country later, presumably because of the greenness of the countryside, which is so because Ireland receives plentiful rainfall. Today, the country is also referred to as the “Emerald Isle.”  (source same as #3)

5. Corned beef and cabbage, Saint Patrick’s Day staple, doesn’t have anything to do with the grain corn. Instead, it’s a nod to the large grains of salt that were historically used to cure meats, which were also known as “corns.”

6. Did you know that the stainless steel DeLorean car was designed and built in Ireland? It was.

7. Did you know that nearly 19% of New Brunswickers have Irish roots? (Not me though…I am Scottish…could you tell?)

What’s your did you know? We would love to hear?

3 #Cybersecurity Must Reads for This Week

Cybersecurity is top of mind for a lot of people, and for good reason. Cyber risks and attacks are not only impacting individuals with identity theft, but they are also impacting hospitals and businesses.cyber security, cybersecurity

So, I thought I would compile my fav articles on this very subject that I discovered this week. Let’s take a look:

  1. Want Safer Passwords? Don’t Change Them So Often, by Brian Barrett

I say ‘hooray’ to this one. I can’t tell you how often I have forgotten passwords. Everything needs its own password and the love of God, I can’t remember them all!

2. A typo partially stopped hackers from stealing $1 billion from a Bangladesh bank, by Loren Grush

Maybe we should intentionally use typos as a protection tool?

3. Pay up or else: Ransomware is the hot hacking trend of 2016, by 

I think this one speaks or itself. Definitely a serious issue that is not going away.

Well, these were my top picks for the week. What would you add?

Why Words Matter When Building Organizational Culture

As a people manager, consultant and coach, I continue to be amazed by the fact that so many people fail to recognize the power of  their words. Maybe ‘amazed’ is not the right word. Disappointed might actually be the better word. Disappointed that so-called people managers and/or leaders disregard the power of the words that they choose when communicating with subordinates and/or even peers.Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 12.17.16 PM

Organizational culture has been on my mind a lot lately. Working closely with clients and organizations experiencing change can cause that to happen.

Unintentional  or Intentional Word Choice


There is an argument that word choice is completely unintentional. In this case, people might not take the time to stop and think about the words they are selecting in the heat of the moment when sending an email, letter or even when having a face-to-face with someone.

People are busy and they really may not realize the words they are using result in people feeling embarrassed, demeaned, humiliated or even angry. Things of course are complicated further by who else sees/hears the conversation unfold and who actually uses the words.

For example, as a people manager I may realize that employee A is not as reliable as employee B in delivering and I need to get a project completed for an important deal to come to fruition. I could say:

“Employee A, I really need you to step aside and hand over your work on Project X to Employee B because he will get it done correctly and on time. Whereas you will need a lot of handholding and prodding just to get it done. I have something else I can get you to work on instead.” And of course I am saying this in a team meeting with everyone listening.

Or, I could say….

“Employee A, I really need your help with a new initiative because you are very strong in a, b, and c, which is essential for success. This overlaps with Project X so I was thinking that Employee A could take that on. Why don’t the three of us meet after this to discuss how we can make both priorities a success and support each other?”

See/hear the difference? Not only am I not embarrassing or diminishing the person, but I am actually focusing on what the person is good at. If you want to promote and develop a great work culture, you must have both: the right words and positive reinforcement. [Click to Tweet]


Of course there is also the intentional choice of using particular words. This can be both a positive, which is really the second example above, or a really negative. In the latter, a person is deliberately choosing words to hurt and diminish someone. In an organization that promotes its culture as being ideal, this would seem to not align. And, if in fact it was intentional, it is likely that the culture is not what management claims it to be. This is a red flag. Morale is likely low and people will not be as productive. Turnover will be high and internal cliques will be obvious.

Here is an example of someone deliberately intending to demoralize an employee:

“Donna, despite accomplishing everything that was set out for you to do last year and exceeding established KPIs, we don’t support your promotion. We think another person could do it better. We recognize your hard work though, so we expect you to continue to manage the projects until complete. This will give us time to train your new manager. Maybe next time!”

How would you feel as an employee hearing this? Probably not very good. Despite accomplishing everything and exceeding expectations in terms of results, you aren’t getting promoted. This does not match.

Or, how about this follow-up request two months later?

“Donna, since you managed this project until being replaced, attached are the vendor assessment forms that need to be completed. Fill them out and return to me by the date noted. Be sure to cc your new boss!

If your goal is to have people fully engaged and supporting the organization, this is not the best way to do that.

As a people manager or someone with influence such as HR or an executive assistant, your words can cut deeply. While frank and candidate conversations need to happen, there are better ways to do it, including the location and of course:  the right words. You are not doing anyone any favours bringing a person down. In addition to demeaning a person, this behaviour is also sending a signal to the rest of the team that:

  • it is acceptable to embarrass others
  • it is acceptable to make sure others know of the embarrassment
  • if you don’t deliver the way I want you to, then you might be next
  • working in fear is acceptable in our culture.

Something to Remember:

High-performing organizational cultures don’t just happen. Everyone from top to bottom and bottom to top have to live the goals and objectives. People need to be aware and coach each other to make it happen. Bad behaviour, including deliberately demeaning people should not be accepted. Good leaders get to the bottom of it. What is the root cause? Is it the real culture coming through, or is it simply that a person or person hasn’t really been coached on what the organization’s culture is to be. Word choices need to be deliberate to bring people up versus bringing them down.

High-performing organizational cultures don’t just happen. People make them happen. Words matter. [click to Tweet]

Remember, words matter. Be selective. Act with purpose and meaning. Bring people up rather than pushing them down!

Have thoughts on how words matter, I would love to hear.

5 Things I Learned from Teaching University Students

As another term starts, I can’t help but reflect on the last term. When I started teaching I was fairly confident that I would enjoy it.  And, I do – very much in fact. Last term was particularly enjoyable. In part it was because of the subject matter and also in part because I was more in tune with the process. It also helped that I had a number of students who were in my class last term. It’s always nice to see a familiar face or faces.

Learning, STU, Students

COPP 3023 Ethics Class (Thanks to everyone!)

My goal of course is to share my experience and knowledge from my 20+ years of marketing and communications. When doing my first and even second Undergrad degrees I always craved and loved when Professors were able to share their real-life experiences versus just discussing what was in text book. Learning however, is a lifelong endeavour and while I hope that my students learn very useful information from the courses I teach, I also learn from my students. Here are *5 things that I learned from teaching University Students.

5. Passion Starts Early

I had the pleasure of getting to know many, many fantastic students who were filled with passion. Whether it was learning something new or sharing information about what was learned during the day or in another class or event, nearly every person in my Ethics class was extremely passionate about his or her learning and beliefs. It made for great conversation; and great conversations get you thinking. When you think, you challenge your own beliefs. When you challenge your own beliefs you learn. The best part? You don’t have to be in a classroom to do this. Anyone can do this as long as you are open and willing to have a conversation without judgement.

In reviewing the final exams, I can’t say how rewarding it was to read about students who have done just this. They have learned. Perhaps most rewarding is reading statements made by mature students who discuss how much they learned and the tools that they can now leverage in the careers. You can’t get much better than that.

4. Silly Jokes are a Necessity for Filling Wait Times

I absolutely loved that when we needed to fill time when students were setting up for presentations, that students were willing to fill the void with silly jokes that made the entire class laugh. It was both funny and enjoyable. To me it was a demonstration of a group of students who were respectful and caring. People listened and laughed together.

3. Respect is Alive and Well

I don’t have many rules for class, aside from the regular ones like come to class, be prepared and participate. I do believe strongly in being respectful to all. That means when a person is speaking, whether it is me or a student, we respect that person and listen: one conversation at a time.

I would have to say that overall this was one of the most respectful classes with people doing just that: “listening.” Additionally, people were very respectful with asking questions and participating in discussions with other students. This shows how mature these students are and it truly lends to a great learning environment.

2. People Crave Real Experience

I already knew this, but this class really reinforced this concept for me. Learning about theory has its place, but learning about theory and understanding how it fits into the work environment and why it is important makes learning much more relevant. The more we talked about real events and issues the more the students engaged. The more they engaged and wanted to know, the more I wanted to share with them.

1. Age Has Nothing to Do with Anything

One of the things that really stood out for me was the diversity of my class this term. It was wonderful to have a good mix of Canadian and international students. It was also rewarding to see a fantastic mix of younger and mature students. Each group brought such unique experiences and learnings to the class. I could see numerous examples where the younger students learned from the mature students and I could also see numerous examples of the mature students learning from the younger students. This is perhaps the perfect mix which results in learning happening in numerous ways. Learning is lifelong and being able to learn from people of all ages and backgrounds makes for a very rewarding experience for all involved.

These are just 5 things that I learned from my students last term. They are the ones that really stand out for me. Of course there are more. In the end, I want to learn too and I believe that this adds to what I can bring to my class next term and other terms in the future. I am thankful to all the students in this class that just wrapped up. They inspired me to continue to develop my classes so that all students get the most out of the class.

*For my students reading this and wondering why I used “5” and not “five” as I taught them was the right grammatical way to use numbers, this is an exception for the purposes of blog writing. I know it is not actually the right thing to do :).

Want to learn more about me? Check out my company website.


6 Signs You Aren’t Really A Team Player

Our work environments can often be a very competitive space where we are jockeying to get the positions, perks and pay. Have you ever noticed however, that there are some people who manage to move through the ranks and they remain respected and well-liked? Of course you have. Then there are others that make it so far, but they seem to get stuck. Often times there are telltale signs of why. It often comes down to not being a team player. In fact there are six signs that you aren’t really a team player and there is a very good chance that your peers as well as your managers have noticed!

  1. You go out of your way to find fault in the work of your colleagues.
  2. Even more of a red flag, you go to great lengths to prepare communications  – usually via email – that showcase the errors of others and you cc the whole chain of command of the employee or employees to ensure that everyone is well aware of the mistakes.
  3. Despite there being subject matter experts, you make copious notes on how they can better do their jobs. And, of course you share them.
  4. When conversations are occurring, you not only talk over others, you go out of your way to one up the others, again to showcase your intelligence.
  5. You never ask how your colleagues are. You go directly to what they or others are doing wrong.
  6. And, finally you never praise others for their work.

Chances are, unless you are both really self-aware and very honest with yourself, you won’t recognize that you do this. However, if you aren’t getting a head at work quite as quickly as you would like. It might be time to step back and honestly self-assess.

Would you add others to this list?

Note: this post was previously published on LinkedIn.

The Sunday Brief (April 19, 2015)

Well, it’s another Sunday and I sit thinking of the week that has passed and the week that has yet to start as I write The Sunday Brief. Not so much out with the old and in with the new, but rather there were a lot of great things that happened over the week that has wrapped up and so much potential for the week coming.The Sunday Brief

Maybe my optimism is shrouded in the fact that it is a beautiful sunny day with snow melting and so much coming alive. Maybe it is because I am sitting having a great cup of coffee at Second Cup while I await my afternoon meeting guest to arrive.  Regardless, it is an awesome day.

So, let’s take a look at a few great reads that stood our for me this week:

1. The Rise of Inbound Marketing and the Death of the Cold Call by Derek Miller

I love this post because it gives a great easy understanding of what inbound marketing is. I also like it because it really focuses on the fact that people have changed. Buyer behaviour has changed. Unfortunately many people in traditional sales roles are holding on for dear life not fully grasping how buyer behaviour has changed. I also really like that Miller is not claiming that there isn’t a role for salespeople. There is actually! The role has changed however; and embracing that change will make them more successful salespeople.

2. You Have the Power to Rewire Your Brain for More Joy by Catherine Clifford 

This is another really great read! Why? It points out the obvious really. While obvious, there are still many of us who choose to ignore it.

So, what is so obvious? Well, if you think that going after and getting the perfect job will make you happy – when you aren’t already happy – you are wrong. If you don’g have basic and fundamental happiness in your life, seeking it from external facets won’t make it better.

“If you only look to your professional achievements to sustain your sense of purpose and well-being, a sense of emptiness or desperation is almost inevitable.“When that job is gone or when you get fired or you get really disillusioned by what you thought, then you are going to suffer.”

All-in-all, the second point of this post is that we have the power to define and make ourselves happy.

 3. 10 Behaviors of Smart People by Steve Tobak 

Stupid is as stupid does. It says a lot doesn’t it? That is the point that Tobak is making in this post. He has some great points actually, but more importantly he lists some of the things that smart people do. For example, learning from mistakes rather than repeating them and admitting that you don’t have all of the answers. I mean really, who really has all of the answers?

There are other behaviours (yes I am spelling this like a Canadian or a Brit), but this list is a great one.

So, I hope that you enjoy reading these posts. I seemed to have loved a lot of posts from this time around, but I do think that they are pretty great.

Until next time, be sure to check out our Twitter Feed and our website for more information!

The Secret Behind Every Successful Executive and Business: Reinvention

Have you ever wondered what makes some people more successful than others? Sure, talent and experience are a part of the equation, but there is an even more important component – reinvention. Really successful people don’t stand still. They are constantly changing and reinventing themselves. For a more in-depth look at this, I had the chance, on behalf of Opportunities NB to speak to Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You and the soon to be released Stand Out.

MacLean: Reinvention is an interesting concept, which in this economic climate is likely more important than ever. What was the driver for this book?

Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark

Clark: Certainly through my own career and observing others, I realized that we are being called upon far more than we ever have to reinvent ourselves. It is really an anomaly to stay in one job or with one company throughout your career. It just isn’t the norm any longer. The world is changing so quickly, that people need to be able to change with it.

For example, I started out as a reporter and got laid off. I worked on a number of political campaigns and we lost. It took a while for me to find my own professional footing, but I did. I discovered a lot about the process in doing so. Now, for the last nine years, I have my own consulting business, I write, speak professionally, etc. So, it was that process that really got me interested and I spoke to dozens of people who also went through reinventing themselves. I wanted to capture best practices and give readers the tools to do it for themselves in a faster more efficient manner.

One of the people I spoke with for Reinventing You was Steven Rice, Executive Vice President, Juniper Networks in Silicon Valley. One of the things he shared with me was a question he always asks in interviews. The question: what are you doing to reinvent yourself?  He does this because he knows that the positions he is hiring for now, will likely be substantially different in two years. So, he needs to know if the candidates will have the agility and willingness to reinvent themselves. 

MacLean: Our economy and world is really changing as you mentioned, what do you think about organizations that exclude talent because they may have changed jobs several times in a three or five year period?

Clark: I think that is a ridiculously outdated notion and it might be that people who still propound this don’t fully understand how the economy has changed the landscape.

Of course you can look at a resume and make assumptions about why someone might have been in roles for a short period of time. But without further investigation, you might not fully understand the person has been working short-term contracts, held temporary positions or have had the misfortune of being laid off. Things are just not black and white anymore. Quite frankly by excluding such people, you are overlooking a huge talent pool with tremendous potential and experience. 

Layoffs, changing economies and changing work dynamics are all great reasons for people to take control of their careers. People need to be able to identify what is needed for the next change or the next role they will be in. They can’t wait for or expect someone to do it for them.

At the same time, I think that it is important for companies to realize that they tipped the scales in the 1990’s with huge layoffs. This created a realization for a lot of people that there wasn’t a huge benevolence occurring within the corporate world. As a result perhaps the most talented and marketable employees are keeping an eye on what was happening in the marketplace and often times jumping ship. It is now more important for employers to be aware of this and incentivizing their most marketable employees in order to keep them. Essentially, companies need to put more thought into the talent pipeline that they have and specifically how they approach retention. 

MacLean: Reinventing yourself is really about developing and maintaining your personal brand. Do people connect with the term “personal brand”? There are certainly critics.

Clark: As mentioned, the book came about as a result of my own experience, but it really goes deeper than that. I wrote a blog post on reinvention for Harvard Business Review and it was so popular that they asked me to expand it into a full length magazine piece and then a book.

So, yes people do connect with their personal brand. It is, after all, a synonym for your reputation. And, yes there has been some blow back in relation to building your personal brand. It is a modern term. It was inaugurated in 1997 by Tom Peters in a cover story he wrote for Fast Company, called The Brand Called You, but the concepts are much older. Because it really is your reputation, I would challenge any professional that claims he or she doesn’t care about their reputation, or doesn’t think it is important. Paying attention to your reputation – your personal brand – is important.

MacLean: You have really had a tremendous level of support and commentary from people about your book and their personal experiences, what can you tell us about that?

Clark: I have really been heartened by the response. There are so many people with so many stories. It is incredible. One such person is Blaire Hughes, a reader from Australia. He was a teacher by profession, but really wanted to get into the world of sports. After reading the book and using the self-assessment, he was able to set up internships around the world and he found a job that he absolutely loves.

MacLean: How important is it for the C-Suite in the process of reinvention?

ClarkReinvention is important at a corporate level and at an individual level. RIM for example, needed to reinvent itself into Blackberry and they are still evolving. It really comes down to the fact that if you find yourself in a position of what used to work, no longer working, you need to find a new find a new playbook. If you don’t, you are going to be out of business or out of work. Of course, it is also important that you don’t wait until the last minute. You need to be continually scanning the horizon for trends and plan accordingly. You don’t want to face a cataclysmic disruption and shift.

In fact, I like to think about reinvention in two phases:

  • First there is Reinvention with a capital “R: With Reinvention the change may be associated with something that doesn’t happen very often. For example, a complete career change or something that happens over a period of several years. 
  • Then there is reinvention with a small “r”. This reinvention is more about having an attribute of trying and being open and doing small activities that keep us fresh enough so that we are not thrown flat on our faces when bigger changes happen.

MacLean: What role do leaders play in reinvention?

Clark: Leaders play a critical role in encouraging people to reinvent themselves. They must create a culture for this. When you are reinventing yourself, or your organization, there is an iteration process. Some things will work and some things won’t. People need to in an environment where they feel safe to try and pivot when things don’t work. If however, you work in an environment that expects perfection, people won’t try. The culture won’t accept “trying”. This is dangerous. In these environments people won’t grow and neither will the organization.

MacLean: You have a new book coming out on April 21st, what can you tells us about that?

Clark: I am very excited about it. Stand Out, How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It is for people who have reinvented themselves and now want to build on it. For example, how do you become the recognized expert in your field? There are many voices out there and there are some people who are very noisy and they stand out. They might not have the best idea or the most knowledge, they are just the loudest. I wanted to hear what some of the world’s top thought leaders did to stand out. I interviewed 50 of these people and reverse engineered how they achieved what they did. It is my goal that this book will help people take the next step.

Want to learn more about Dorie Clark and her work and books? Click here. 

This blog post was prepared for Opportunities New Brunswick.

4 Ridiculously Simple Tips to Improve Your Email Communications

Whether you get too much or not enough of it, each email that we receive and subsequently send, has a lot going on it in. More than just words, our email contains emotion: surprise, joy, happiness, hidden angst and sometimes even anger.

Sometimes our email contains emotion that we don’t even intend. You know the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” right? Well, with email, emotion, tone and interpretation falls squarely to the perception of the receiver. You may intend one thing, but quite another is perceived. And that is exactly why I wanted to share 4 ridiculously simple tips to improve your email communications.Email Tips

Just yesterday I received and email from someone I don’t know from Eve. Since I don’t know this person I can’t imagine that her intentions were to evoke the emotion that she did. I interpreted the email as curt and rude. I decided to pause and reflect before responding. I also asked another person, whom I knew was her acquaintance, about how he would describe her email style. I am really glad that I did pause and reflect. Doing so lead me to ask the person the question I did. As it turns out, she is nothing like what her email made her appear.  She is actually very lovely and sweet. When we spoken in person, I liked her immediately. After a good chat, the topic of her email style came up and she actually acknowledged that email is not her forte and asked if I had any tips. I gave her the following tips: (I also asked if she would mind if I did this blog post, without mentioning her name of course. She smiled and said go for it!)

1.  Say “Hi”, “Hello”…..

This might seem obvious for many, and unnecessary to others. However, starting an email without saying something like “Hi Heather,” and just jumping into the actual message, could potentially come across as curt.  I am guilty of this myself. I admit it.  I tend to do it however with people whom I know really, really, really well.  I also tend to do this when we are having a back and forth. I don’t do this when emailing a person I don’t know and it is our time corresponding.

In business however, I think that it is imperative to always start your email with a formal hello. This immediately sets the tone of your communication and you are showing a level of respect and etiquette. And yes, etiquette still matters in business communications.

Finally, while a personalized email does not mean that it is not a part of a mass email (or spam), you do increase the chances of someone actually reading your email when it is personalized.

2. Understand Protocols for Addressing People

If you really want to impress someone, address the email properly at the get go. For example, if you are trying to sell me something, you will likely fail if you start out with “Dear Sir.” I should add that I have received email  with such salutations from very reputable companies.

Even though we have moved to more informal communications as a result of social media, there are still situations when you should formally address an email. For example, if you are communicating with a member of the C-suite, a academic or medical doctor, clergy, etc. you should carefully consider how you address the email. You might not want to go as far as Dear Sir or Dear Madam, but you might like to think about using Dr. or Reverend, etc. in the appropriate cases.

Remember this is not about being stuffy or rigid, but rather about setting the tone and building relationships. As noted above, I have not been impressed when I receive email inaccurately addressed to me. If the goal is to sell me a service or a product and the sender cannot take the time to properly address the email, then what kind of customer service will there be after the fact? The tone has been set by that very first email.

 3.  Words Matter

In many ways email has become far too relaxed. We type them up and send them off with little thought or consideration. That is often where we get into trouble. If you have a really good relationship with someone you can often get away with a quick email. However, with people you don’t know, subordinates and peers, and managers, it is important to take your time with your email and consider your words and the potential tone that they create. Remember to pause and reflect.

4.  Remember to Thank People or Sign Off

Again it comes down to to how people feel after reading your email. Saying “thanks” or “thank you” at the end of the email is not over the top. Of course there are other options too. Just make it human and respectful. After all, there is another human being on the other end of that computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.

Email doesn’t need to be boring or complicated, but you should think about your email as it is an important communication tool that is not going away. In fact, a recent survey by Forrester finds that 73% of Marketers indicated that email continues to be effective to generate leads. So, creating thoughtful and creative email is another step closer to reaching your goals, whether they be sales, communications and/or employee or customer engagement.

For more tips, check out our website and blog and follow me on Twitter.


3 Social Media Mistakes You are Making & How to Fix Them Immediately

While social media is not the new kid on the block anymore, we are as a population still learning how to effectively leverage social media for business. For this reason alone, those of us who are PR/Marketing/Communications practitioners cringe when we hear people profess to be social media experts. Even after using the tools for more than a decade we are all still learning how to adjust to the changing world that we operate within. We know that there are no real experts. There are people with experience using social media.  Some of us even have thousands of hours using social media. In fact, there are many people with 10 years of social media under their belts.  Remember that Malcolm Gladwell claims that to be a master in something you need at least 10,000 hours. Combine that experience with PR/Marketing/Communications experience and these are the people who can help businesses better use the tools to effectively meet business objectives.

So, just what are the social media mistakes that I see most often? And, better yet, how do you fix them?

1. Failing to Know/Understand Your Audience

Far to0 often I see people using social media channels or tools in the same way that they use social for their personal communications. How you use social in your personal life is NOT how you should use it for your professional/business needs.  It is essential to know and understand your audience(s).

The Fix:  Here are some quick and easy questions to think about and answer:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What channels do they use?
  • How are they using the channels?
  • And, do they expect a business connecting/engaging with them through the channels?

These are just some questions that you should be able to answer. There are more of course and they depend on a number of strategies/tactics.  However, starting with these questions should lead you in the right direction. If in doubt, find a qualified professional to help you. This is an investment that will definitely have a quick ROI.

2. Thinking that Social Media is a Stand Alone Tactic or Strategy

It is not really surprising that 10 years into social media we are still doing this. After all there are more consultants selling social media as a stand alone option than not. I would caution managers however, to really pause and reflect about this. For example, if you are a sales manager, do you approach your sales plan in one of’s? Or, do you have an overall strategy for your product/services based on a number of variables that all fold up into one plan? It is the latter of course. Your sales plan is all about meeting corporate sales objectives. The same goes for your social media. It is NOT a stand alone.  Repeat after me: social media is not a stand alone tactic, tool or strategy. It is a part of the overall strategy and is but one tool or tactic to be used strategically to meet an overall objective or objectives. These objectives should be measured too, but that is another blog post.

The Fix: Don’t be fooled by wrong information:

If someone suggests that social media doesn’t link to the rest of your business: run! Run fast and run far. Gone are the days of silos. To effectively leverage social you need and integrated strategy. And, if someone tells you that can’t be done, well, you have the wrong person helping you. It really is that straight forward. When you hire a marketing strategist or a social media consultant, be sure that he or she is well rounded in terms of experience. Because someone has a Twitter account and a LinkedIn profile does not make them the right resource. What is their exact experience? Do they have PR, marketing, communication, business development and customer services experience? Has the person worked in social media in a number of capacities including but not limited to: community management, engagement, listening, playbook development, ads, analysis, research, etc. If the person can demonstrate that he or she has this experience, hire him or her immediately.

3.  Not Having a Social Media Playbook

A social media playbook can be a lifesaver. Imagine you and your company are going along your merry way sharing information on social when all of a sudden someone makes a very disparaging remark about your products, services or your company in general. The first comment is made on your Facebook page and you or your employee removes the comment. Good idea? Likely not. What could happen is the person who made the comment will repost and/or make it known that you delete unfavourable comments. This could very well result in a number of people calling your openness and transparency into question and filling your feed with unflattering comments. What then? What about if they are Tweeting about you? You can’t delete their Tweets? What if it is a blog post? What then?

The Fix: Have a Living Playbook:

Playbooks will vary according to your business and the level of listening and engagement that you do. At the very least you should have a plan about what you do and do not respond to, what you escalate and to whom. Having an up-to-date playbook can save you and your team a lot time and anguish. It sets the stage for how you operate. It gives everyone the same guidelines. It is your brand and you need consistency. For a sample of how to get started, here is an ebook that I wrote while I worked for Radian6 (a.k.a This is just a starter to wet your appetite. I have worked with playbooks that have been five pages. I have worked with playbooks that have been 150 pages. It all depends on your business and how you use social. In any event, you need to be prepared!

If you have any questions on your social media plan and your overall integrated strategy, I would love to help. Feel free to follow me on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest marketing and communications best practices, news and insights.