Sunday, December 28, 2014

Webinar Summary: An Introduction to Social Media for Not-for-Profits & Social Services

The following are a few of the key notes and takeaways from a Bowda webinar delivered to a number of non-profit social services organizations in British Columbia. The topic of the webinar was an introduction to social media for not-for-profits and social services. 

It started out with an introduction to The Big Three: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, with a quick description of how each network works. These are the three major social networks that brands need to consider and evaluate if they are the right fit for their organization. Twitter and Facebook accounts are essential for your brand, and Instagram is beneficial if you have interesting visuals to share.

Following that, there was an outline of the basic information organizations need to have ready, which included: 

Profile Checklist: (ensure that your social media profiles have the following) 
  • Profile photo (business logo)
  • Cover photo (relevant and/or branded photo)
  • Short bio of your business
  • Long bio of your business
  • Links to your website
  • Physical address (and map)
  • Contact info (email address, phone numbers, etc.)

Next we learned what makes not for profits and social services different from other organizations and how these differences translate to social media. 

One of the main issues not for profits and social services face is how to deal with social media in relation to sensitive information. A tip we shared was to focus on statistics and numbers instead of using names. If you are questioning whether a post could affect a person’s reputation, it’s always best to play safe. Transparency is also key for these organizations, as people seek more background information as to where their donation and money will go. It is important to use your social media networks to inform your audience about what your organizations offers and how they do it. Many not for profits and social services have limited budget when it comes to social media and public relations, it is important to note that traditional marketing means are becoming less and less necessary. Not for profits need to take a page from startups and learn how to bootstrap effectively. Social media is an amazing resource with global reach that is free and organizations should be taking advantage of that. Many of the tools to enhance your social media strategy, such as Hootsuite, offer their basic services for free as well. 

Organizations were also given examples of social services organizations on international ((RED)), national (Canadian Blood Services), and local (Our Place Society) levels with good social media presence and practices.

Once organizations understand the whys and hows of using social media, it all comes down to content. 

Creating and Curating Content
  • Content you share should be helpful to your audience and relevant to your business - for example, if you offer services for women, mention other resources in your area that might also benefit women
  • FAQs - what are some of the questions that your organization is asked 
  • Engage with other businesses/sponsors/locals; share stories - write thank you’s to sponsors, engage with local influential people (like the mayor, for example), share stories of volunteers in action, reminders for up-coming events and follow-ups about previous events including pictures, go beyond organization centric and include issue-centric content
  • Have a plan, set goals, and stick with it - define your organizational goals and make sure your social media reflects those goals. Plan your content strategically with your goals in mind. 
  • Share everywhere - newsletter, social media, email, posters in physical locations, in person, etc.
  • Consistency is key - use the same photo/logo across platforms, post regularly
  • Get help if you can’t keep up - hire a volunteer to be in charge of your social media, or employ a professional agency to come in and ramp up your social media
Tools to Make the Most out of Social Networks
  • Instagram: use hashtags and apps to communicate and share with audiences, as well as discover other people, organizations and causes that are in line with your organization’s goals
  • Facebook: engage as your page (organization is active), reply to followers/questions, like other pages, obtain analytics/statistics
  • Twitter: create lists of interest groups/allies/influential people and organizations, use hashtags, host Twitter chats to generate awareness/discussion of relevant issues
The power of social media in communicating and reaching audiences can and should be used by organizations of all sizes. Not-for-profits and social services organizations can use this introduction to build their online presence in order to raise awareness, gain followers, fundraise, and bring attention to the causes and social issues that need support. These organizations help populations in our neighbourhoods, country, and across the world. 

If you are interested in learning more, don't hesitate to contact us for any webinar inquiries. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

2014 Gift Giving Guide - Going Local

There are many reasons to shop locally this Christmas. It strengthens your community’s economy, benefits community groups, keeps your area unique, and reduces environmental impact to name a few. It’s win-win for everyone involved. 

Here we have curated our list of ten great gift ideas that support local businesses in the Ottawa area:

The Gift of Restorative Rest  

For the practical gift giver, consider giving the gift of improved health, better memory, lower stress levels, and all the many benefits of getting a good night’s sleep. Obasan is an Ottawa-based organic mattress company that offers customizable mattresses, which are a great idea for couples who differ in their sleeping needs. Not sold on the need for organic materials? Check out this blog post on the benefits of going organic for your mattress choice. 

Fitness/Martial Arts/ Self-Defence Classes

Here’s an idea for the fitness buff in your life: let them try something new by gifting them a two-week, unlimited membership at KFMA 313 Martial Arts. They have several programs to suit different goals, and promise elite training from experienced professionals. Your recipient will get a serious workout while learning new skills and having fun! 

Give Parents a Date Night 

Sometimes the best gifts can’t be defined by something tangible. If they could, some people would put “time” at the top of their Christmas list. If you know a couple with a young child (or two), ProCare after school centre offers Parent’s Night Out services every Friday night from 6 to 10 and Saturdays 5 to 9. This provides a great opportunity for busy parents to get a break and treat themselves (you CAN give the gift of time)! It also would pair great with a gift certificate to their favourite restaurant. 

Spice up Their Life

Cardamom and Cloves, located on Preston St. in the heart of Little Italy, has a wide selection of herbs and spices suitable for anyone’s tastes. Head here for the person on your list who loves to play in the kitchen. There are gift packages available that include four different spices based on a theme, such as African, Curry, French, and Mexican (bonus: $5 from this purchase goes to the Parkdale Food Centre). They also sell locally made preservatives and host workshops based on specific flavours and spices! My mouth is watering already…

Coffee, Tea, Treats 

An easy and excellent gift this year would be a gift card for the Ministry of Coffee, an unique and cozy cafe located on Elgin St. where they make delicious lattes, are conscientious in their coffee sourcing, offer a selection of high quality loose leaf teas (try the lemon ginger) and have a variety of food options as well. This gift is a guaranteed success!

DIY Unique Ceramic Pieces 

Take thoughtfulness a step further and put some work into your gift by visiting The Mud Oven, a paint-it-yourself ceramics studio. Here you can create a truly unique gift, be it a mug, teapot, bowl… you get the idea. You may even want to turn this into a participatory event and bring your loved one along for some creative fun! Just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time. 

Local Art & Apparel 

Fall Down Gallery features art by the extremely talented owner himself, as well as works created by other artists from in and around Ottawa. If you are looking for a unique gift for the art-lover in your life, this is the place to go. You could even hit a couple of birds with one stone since Fall Down features a boutique as well, offering clothing, accessories, shoes, hats, and more.

Locally Handcrafted Jewellery 

If you’re looking to find a gift the woman in your life, jewellery is an obvious choice. Keep it small and local (and from the comfort of home) by choosing a piece from Ottawa jewellery maker Lisa Simmon’s Etsy shop Oasis Bloom. The dipped crystal necklaces are gorgeous. This is one case where you may be tempted to buy one for a gift and one for yourself (guilty). 

Bath and Skin Care

You can give the gift of awesome smelling, nourishing, and environmentally friendly soaps and skin care products this year by swinging by Purple Urchin located on Somerset in Chinatown. They make it easy by offering gift bundles of delicious products. Perfect for daily care as well as those at-home spa days everyone needs once in awhile.

Canadian Winter Staple: The Scarf 

Can anyone have too many scarves? Of course not; what a silly question! Ottawa designer brand Krista Norris Collection features unique, gorgeous scarves for both men and woman, with a wide range of textures and fabrics to suit different styles and occasions. You can find something here for everyone, and the scarf you give will undoubtedly become a staple in your loved one’s winter wardrobe.

Hopefully this list has given you some new gift ideas and inspired you to look locally for your Christmas shopping. For more information on local events and businesses, check out Apt. 613 Support Local. Not from Ottawa? Yellow Pages has developed an initiative called Shop the Neighbourhood that will help you find small businesses in your area.   

Do you buy your Christmas gifts locally? What are your favourite local brands? Let us know! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Four C's of Networking for Introverts

When you picture a PR professional, the adjectives “sociable”, “outgoing”, “energetic”, “talkative”, “persuasive”, “confident”, or ”animated” might come to mind. The word "introvert" probably doesn't top the list, as introverts are often characterized as shy, quiet, meek, or guarded. Many people, however, have passionate careers in PR and Communications and describe themselves as introverts. The main difference between an introvert and extrovert is that extroverts acquire their energy through social interactions, whereas this is how introverts lose their energy. Introverts need solitude in order to recharge their batteries. These differences are important to note, as they have a huge effect on your experience networking. It is absolutely necessary to network in order to build connections, reach required audiences, learn, grow, achieve recognition, and expand your community. 

For those introverted people who are at the beginning of their career path the thought of networking can induce serious anxiety. Fortunately, there are methods for them to get the most out of networking, without compromising their personalities or missing out on valuable opportunities. These include tips on preparing for events, how to navigate large, crowded events, choosing alternative modes of networking, and recognizing the benefits of having an introverted personality when it comes to making quality connections. Let's call them the four C's of networking for introverts: compose, connect, converse, and confidence.

When you know you have a networking event coming up, it is necessary to prepare yourself mentally and physically. You know that these events can be exhausting and uncomfortable. If you research the topic or theme of the event and who is hosting it and why, you will save yourself awkward moments, getting caught off guard, and be less afraid to pipe up and add your thoughts to a conversation. Have a goal in mind, even if it is small. For example: aim to have just one five minute conversation with someone new. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by a large room full of strangers; remind yourself that the overall goal is to make connections. It is better to make a small number of valuable connections with people you look up to or want to learn from, than to make many superficial connections. 

Since social engagements are exhausting for introverts, you may want to keep the hours before and after a networking event free of other social gatherings. For many introverts, there is a specific window of time that they are able to be “on” in social settings before they become mentally drained. Take the time before an event to make sure you are physically prepared. Don’t show up on an empty stomach or dehydrated. You want to avoid any distractions, such as feeling lightheaded, mentally fuzzy, exasperated, or irritable. It may even be beneficial for some people to spend a little time mediating; anything that helps you focus and center yourself. If you are someone who fidgets when you are nervous, bring something to hold in your hands to keep them steady. Following these tips will help you be as ready as you can to go into an event.

Now you have prepared yourself as much as you could, you bit the bullet, and have signed up to attend a large networking event full of strangers. In the beginning, you may want to attend a few events as simply an observer and not pressure yourself to be outgoing, but to get comfortable and ease into it. You can also learn what types of events most suit your needs and choose to only attend those. One tactic that can help introverts is to show up to events early (before the crowds). That can make it easier to meet and link up with someone.  The window of time you have before burnout is limited and there are many people in attendance, so don’t try to form a deep connection in such a large forum. When you do meet someone noteworthy, get their contact information in order to set up a one-on one follow up (more on that later). 

While it is true that the overall goal is to make connections, it is also important to avoid burnout as much as possible, as it can turn introverts completely off networking. You cannot access your full potential when you are mentally, emotionally or physically run down. You must pace yourself and schedule rest and quiet time between meetings and events. During an event, it can help to take five or ten minute walks into a quiet side room or hallway away from others to collect your thoughts. If you want to grow your network and make connections that will help you learn, you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone. Do it in ways that will keep you sane and not overwhelm you.

On that note, there are many ways of networking that do not include (often terrifying) large events. You can choose and manage your interactions to play to their strengths. Opt for emails over cold calls and small or one-on-one meetings over large events. After all, cold calls can come across as aggressive, and big events involve too many people, short, superficial interactions, and limited time. One-on-one meetings are easier for introverts because they generally flourish in established relationships. When you do land a meeting, keep it as lightweight as possible by taking them out for coffee, asking for advice, their opinion on an idea, etc. Search out networking opportunities within groups you are already a member of, such as alumni groups or organizations you have worked for in the past. You can reach valuable people who you already have a mutual interest with if you just get a little creative. It also makes a request for a meeting less random or reaching. As an introvert, you benefit from the current age of social media networking. Online, digital meeting places are often easier than face-to-face interactions for introverts, facilitating desired connections and dialogue. 

Being a networking introvert, you have more working in your favour than you realize. There are many strengths to being an introvert. They are good listeners, focus well in one-on-one conversations, and put more choice and thought into their spoken words. Make a point in asking open-ended questions, and your innate listening skills will open up vast opportunities for learning and connecting with people. Think of networking as a form of research and learning, and it will become less about scary social situations and more about opportunities to use your gifts to form strong, valuable relationships. 

Introverts are inherently good at research, thoughtful writing, and personal interactions, making the networking possibilities endless. You just have to be willing to prepare, push yourself, think outside the box, and let your strengths shine. 

Do you have any tips on networking for introverts from your own personal experiences? We'd love to hear them!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Different Kind of Crisis Communications

In public relations, we often learn about crisis communications. Crisis communications for your brand/client, that is. This specialized area of the industry is usually reserved for protecting and defending your client/brand when unforseen incidents occur that threatens their reputation.

But what about crisis communications outside of that? What about when your nation is facing a violent attack, such as the tragic events that took place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada last Wednesday?  October 22nd, 2014 will now always be a solemn day for Canadians, the day a gunman entered our parliament, and the day we lost a soldier all too soon.

How does a brand react in a situation like this? How do you react to something that not only affects your brand, but every single person in the country? What is the correct protocol? Brands need to be mindful and sensitive to situations like this. Here is a quick guide to help you and your brand cope with a national crisis online.

1) Absolutely Zero Scheduled Tweets 

When a crisis of this nature occurs, it takes precedence over everything. The very first thing your brand should do is either delete, edit or postpone all of your auto-tweets, scheduled social media posts etc. You don't want to be the insensitive brand that is talking sales when the country is going through a crisis, just because you forgot you scheduled tweets for that day.

2) There Is Only One Conversation That Should Be Happening 

After you ensure that you have no forgotten auto-tweets going out, clear your schedule of Twitter chats. Do not, I repeat, do not participate in a Twitter chat on the day of a crisis. There is only one conversation that should be happening and that is about what the nation is experiencing. There is nothing worse then scrolling through your newsfeed for updates on the incident when you see so and so talking about how to better promote their brand. Participating in a Twitter chat at this time is undermining the issue at hand and incredibly insensitive.

3) If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say...

This is one of those times where it is better to say too little rather than too much. Do not start analyzing the situation at hand. Let the media, police, and everyone else, do their job. It is not your place, as a brand, to scrutinize or dissect the incident and its implications Remember, we are discussing public relations. Our focus should always be our relationships. What you should be doing is caring about is how people are feeling and what they are going through, not trying to play investigator.

4) Be Mindful of The "Media"

Unfortunately, on social media the lines between reporters, journalists and Joe Blow too often get blurred. It is hard to distinguish fact from fiction, especially once everyone starts retweeting information they saw. As a brand, you need to be wary of this. Take the time to trace anything you do share back to a credible news source, otherwise you are simply fuelling the fire and feeding rumours.

5) Stay Human 

The point of social media is keep us connected and to share our thoughts, feelings and ideas. You probably don't know how to react yourself, let alone as your brand. It is ok to take off your business hat for the day and stick with your personal social media accounts to express how you're feeling. It is also ok if you do feel the need to reach out to people and clients you care about through your brand, as long as its in a respectful and mindful manner.

A great example of brands helping community healing is how local yoga businesses, such as Lululemon and Elevate Yoga, are coming together to offer free classes in the wake of Wednesday's event. Mediation and yoga are often outlets for fear, anger and worry, and have been known to help the healing process. If you have something you can offer to help people begin healing and come together as a community, then by all means, go ahead. Don't be scared to reach out in a crisis, people will appreciate it and the key here is to truly care.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Meet Hailley, Our Newest Communications Strategist

We have the absolute pleasure of introducing you to the newest member of the Bowda family, Hailley Griffis. Hailley has been a Bowdaptor since the start and has finally decided to officially put a bow on it and we couldn't be more pleased to have her on our side. Hailley grew up in Ontario and has a Bachelor of Social Science with a double major in Political Science and Communications from the University of Ottawa. She's an avid globe trotter and has lived in Germany, Norway and Colombia. 

On the business end of things, she absolutely adores helping brands and people be social. She loves developing content marketing strategies and assisting companies brand themselves online. Strategy is second nature to her, both communications and marketing strategies, as well as those geared towards content creation and distribution. Hailley is able to, and enjoys, creating and implementing said strategies from start to finish. She is well-versed in both B2B and B2C communication online from a marketing and public relations perspective.

Did you know that Hailley is a ninja in her spare time? Well, pretty much. She's been studying jiujitsu for over 2 years and can without a doubt kick butt. 

Hailley is also what we would call an extreme extrovert, and that's what we love about her! She is the ultimate networker and connecter and we're pretty sure the definition of a chatty Cathy has her photo beside it. Feel free to say hola or guten tag to her on TwitterLinkedIn, or at She would be more than happy to talk to you, we promise. She'll probably be ecstatic actually. 

Welcome onboard Hailley, we can't wait to work with you!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

6 Social Media Lessons We Learned From Suits

If you are anything like us, then your man crush Mondays constantly consists of one Harvey Specter. As the new season of Suits is about to air, we thought we’d share with you some tips and tricks that we learned from the show on how to be successful on social media. 

So, what exactly is it that they do that make them rockstars at social media? 

Live Tweet As Much As You Can

This practice is not only valuable for TV shows like Suits or news, but for all businesses; from your local farmers’ market to government officials. But, why is it so important to live tweet? Before going into a complex explanation, let’s start from the beginning: what is live tweeting? Essentially, live-tweeting can be summarized as “the action to engage on Twitter for a continuous period of time with a relevant string of tweets (often times using a specific hashtag)”. Live-tweeting is an excellent way to engage with your audience. Suits does a fantastic job of not only live tweeting, but replying and engaging with their followers. They will tweet members of their audience asking their opinions on specific situations, and continue to keep the conversation going, not only on the same day; but also connecting with the same person days or even weeks later. Also keep in mind that statistics prove that visuals receive much higher levels of engagement.

Create Your Own Hashtag

Creating your own hashtag has many valuable advantages; it sets you apart and allows you to easily monitor the conversation. Of course, you will need to wisely ‘advertise’ your hashtag and get it trending if possible, otherwise nobody will ever know about it. Associate your hashtag with an existing twitter handle so people can find your content more easily. Suits did an amazing job at coming up with #suitors and did an even better job at gaining traction for it. Thousands of followers now identify with this #hashtag. If you wish to learn more about creating hashtags, Social Media Today has a great 7 step tutorial. Never forget to use your #hashtag often, and use it wisely.

Get Your Audience Involved

This may sound like a broken record, but as social media experts we will never stop saying: engaging with your audience and involving your audience is an essential tactic to succeeding on social media. Suits does an amazing job at involving their audiences. In fact, their audience is an integrated part of how the show evolves. They do an excellent job of not only hearing their audience out, but also initiating conversation with them and acknowledging how valuable their opinions are. People love to feel like their voice is being heard and that they are contributing to something they trust is valuable; so make it happen.  They also rock at successful campaigns. They consistently hold special viewing events for fans to re-watch episodes, such as "Suits After Hours"where they ingeniously invited you to "suit up and stay up". They also acknowledge who and where their largest audiences are, and just recently completed an extremely popular college tour where students could meet cast members throughout the USA. 

Listen To What Your Followers Have To Say

Your biggest fans are your dedicated audience and they will most likely deliver a positive message about your brand or service. So listening to what they want is fundamental on social media. Monitoring what is being said about your brand is one of the most important aspects of social media interaction, so make should you listen and act accordingly. Suits always listens to their audience and they always try to take their suggestions into consideration.

Always Be Alert

 Always, always, always (can we make this any more clear?) be alert on social media; you may be in for a positive surprise. The USA Suits social media team was alert when they noticed an enthusiastic tweet by Michael Phelps (only the biggest Olympian of all time) about the show. In a jiffy, they responded and next thing you know Phelps was appearing in a episode. Be alert and react quickly to these opportunities. Being alert will also allow you to accurately monitor crises when they happen.

Create a Culture 

After they've done all of the above, Suits really does excel at creating their very own community. They share tons of behind the scenes photos and experiences, and they are awesome at creating shareable content.  They make their own GIFs, memes  and clever quotes from notable characters that boast well over tens of thousands of shares.  

Suits came out of nowhere and exploded on the TV drama scene, particularly with post secondary students and young professionals. Filmed in Toronto, Suits came from modest beginnings. The success and attention it has garnered could be seen as a surprise to some, but if you look at their quirky characters, intriguing story line and savvy social media efforts, their recipe for success is more than apparent.

For all these reasons, and many more, we are head over heels for Suits. Suits is clearly the little show that could, and did, and still is. 

Are you ready to get Litt up on June 25th?