Monday, 5 December 2011

Why Paper Still Works

I heard a great program on CBC the other day on which a woman was lamenting while going through the written love letters she had received over her lifetime.  The premise of this program was this - in a technological era, has paper lost its place?

The program made me to realize that I too have kept every valuable paper-based communication I have ever received, but have not kept any of the important, personal on-line communications.  It also caused me to realize that in spite of all of the environmental and cost issues surrounding it, we must always keep a place in our hearts and our business minds for paper.  Here's why:

Paper trails have value.  Whether it's a marketing-communications brief everyone signs off on or an actual work contract, certain documents still need to be paper-based.    Having a signed piece of paper is the only recourse for saying that you mutually agreed upon something.

Paper-based communications make people feel important.  Every year, I contemplate sending out electronic Christmas cards (or not sending them out at all).  But the truth is that a personal written letter is one of the best ways to make people feel valued and important.

Some people only trust paper.  My father, who is incredibly bright and well-read, tells me there is no way he will ever trust social media.  A few other business associates who are senior to me say they will never use Linked In.  Paper-based communications often appeal to more mature audiences. This is important to remember since Canadians are living and working longer than they ever have.

Sometimes paper is the only thing that works.  Even today, it happens that you have your entire presentation on your laptop or tablet, and it won't function properly right when you're ready to make your pitch.  A paper-based marketing piece in your hand accompanied by a one-on-one presentation is often the most reliable way to make a sale.

Do you still value paper above all else?  If so, tell me why.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Strategic Communications Make Tomorrow's Sale

It's not coincidence that social media has increased in use and popularity since the economy took a turn for the worse.  Social media is far more cost effective than print marketing materials.  It also provides invaluable two-way dialogue with customers that is crucial to market research and branding exercises.

When skeptics say that social media hasn't proven any return on investment, I'm perplexed.  Do they not realize how tightly people are holding on to their purse strings?  Do they not understand that engagement in the discussion is actually the best return on investment you can get?

All of us are working hard these days.  Reaching out to more poeple, arranging more meetings, putting in longer hours.  In an economy like today's, we need to hunker down and clarify strategy for the days ahead.  We also need to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard as the case may be so that when the time is right, we have the best materials possible to drive the sale.

Strategic engaging communications - whether it takes the shape of public relations, social media or traditional marketing materials - mightn't make a sale today.   But those organizations that make it a priority will build customer loyalty and one day, see the flood gates open. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

No Industry Needs New Leadership More Than Hockey

I'm not a sports fan, but even I watched last night's NHL game to witness Sidney Crosby's return. This caused me to reflect about how much this game is in desperate need of new leadership and an operational overhaul.

It's obvious at this point that the very nature of NHL Hockey is a threat to the best players in the game.  If there is a collective desire to continue to see the best hockey players perform on centre stage night after night, we need to make some changes to ensure the long term health of the game and players we love.

As well, any parent who scrutinizes their children's TV viewing habits knows that an NHL hockey game is dicey family viewing at best.  It's pretty tough to explain why everything we teach our kids on a daily basis  (i.e., non-violence, respect for authority, respect for others) can be thrown out the window when it comes to an NHL hockey game. Physical violence and fighting that causes concussions aside, hockey is one of very few professional sports where verbal abuse of a referee is "part of the game".   If you watch the NHL as a family, I guess you make your best pitch and then keep your fingers crossed that your child doesn't bully or swear at an adult just because they feel like it...

We are selling ourselves and this game short to maintain the status quo. This great game stands on its own merits. No one would argue the quality of The World Junior and Olympic tournaments that are void of the cultural issues outlined above. So what can be done to save this great Canadian game?

Hockey is in desperate need of new leadership.  I understand that the Don Cherry's of the world have earned their place in Hockey History.  But in any other industry, this man would have received his walking papers when he insulted Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson for linking the issue of fighting in hockey to possible addiction and/or emotional problems later in life. (Afterall, these men are heros in my mind for admitting their demons.)  It's time for a new Hockey Night in Canada spokesperson, and for the owners to realize that getting one would result in more people watching the game. 

I also believe that it's time for some NHL players to take a leadership role.  Think of how Sydney Crosby is idolized in the NHL.  I'm astounded at that this young man who is possibly at risk of losing his hockey career (aka his life).  Why is he not taking the opportunity to say loud and clear that something needs to change about the rules of the game?

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that true leaders - spokespeople, coaches and players alike - will step up to the plate.  The minute they do, I'll start watching the NHL and I think many others will do the same.  Then more money and fame (which ironically NHL players and owners feel are at risk if the game is changed) will follow.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Why Wikipedia is Invaluable

My job as a communications consultant is often the translation of  technical terminology into laymen's terms.  Unfortunately, I don't know something about everything.  I'm a fairly well-read person but my degree is in English and Political Science, as well as Public Relations - nothing math or science-oriented.

The best tip I ever got was from a good friend of mine who is a CIO.  I always thought that she knew something about everything, but she let me in on the secret that this is not the case.  Whenever she doesn't know what something is, she nods her head like she does know, writes down the term and later on looks it up on Wikipedia.  Since she gave me this tip, I use Wikipedia almost every day. 

Wikipedia is not-for-profit, but it's the fifth most used website in the world.  I made a donation today because I think it's amazing that they do so much with so little and quite honestly, I don't know what I would do without it.  I hope you'll consider doing the same. Visit <a href=""><img border="0" alt="Support Wikipedia" src="//" /></a>

Friday, 18 November 2011

Occupy Efforts Need to Say What They Want

For the past month, like everyone, I have been listening to the news in awe of what's happening with the Occupy Efforts across our country.  A year ago, when my husband told me that this economy was going to lead to civil unrest in Canada and the US, I told him he was overreacting.  Today, I turn on the news every day keeping my fingers crossed that the Occupy Efforts in Canada have not gone too far...

I'm actually quite astounded that the Occupy Efforts have not taken advantage of the ample opportunities they've been given to tell their story.  In an interview with eleven protesters the other day on CBC, not one of them said what they would need to be given in order to vacate St. James Park.  I'm not suggesting that they don't have a right to pitch a tent and protest.  But if you're going to go to the trouble, at least know what you're going to say when your efforts get noticed. 

Of those eleven people, only one man said something worth listening to.  He said that St. James Park was a place where they felt comfortable having uncomfortable discussions that couldn't be had elsewhere.  Fair enough - but is that all you want?  Afterall, a good portion of Canadians listen to the CBC, and they might lend support if your requests were realistic and achievable. 

For example, would you be happy if one or several high income earners announced that they were making more donations to charities?  Or if certain corporations made it their mandate to build more affordable housing?  You're spending all of that time hanging out together and talking - can't you get your wishlist together? 

Seems like the Occupy Efforts need someone to help them with their key messaging.  They need to figure out what they want and need and just say it.  It has occurred to me that people with key messaging expertise mightn't be camping out in St. James Park.  I might take a walk down this weekend to satisfy my own curiosity. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Respect for Audio and Visual Learners

Yesterday I had two meetings back to back that I think were meant to send me a message.  At my first meeting, the radio was on in the background.  "I'll turn it down," my colleague says.  "I can't function without background noise. My radio is always on." 

The second meeting was with a friend of mine who is heading up a major healthcare initiative.  She developed all of her print marketing materials and then got together with a gentleman who was influential in the Punjabi community - one of her major stakeholder groups.  His eyes glazed over when he looked at the material.  After a bit of poking and prodding, she got to the crux of the matter.  His community is verbal, so her print material was wasted money.  Radio advertising is worth the bang for the buck.

This speaks to the age old importance of knowing your audience REALLY well before you spend money on marketing.  Canada is a beautiful multicultural country, and we need to recognize and respect how different cultures and different people learn.  This means finding out as much as you can about your customer before you do your marketing.  And redoing the research periodically, because as your business grows, your customer demographic will change.

Someone knows when they're being listened to and respected.  Even though you might have to spend more money to accommodate different learning styles (i.e., online videos and radio ads in addition to print advertising), respected customers means more respect for your brand.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A Break From the Norm

Today, I'm departing from the communications topic to give you an enjoyable break from your day.  You MUST take a minute to listen to this band of grade ten kids. 
The Goodwood Road Band is playing the El Macombo for an all ages show on December 3rd. The drummer/backup singer is a grad of DAREarts that gives at risk youth the opportunity to gain life coping skills through the arts as authentic artists (singers, dancers, actors, sculptors) donate their time to teach and renowned arts institutions (AGO, ROM, National Ballet etc.) open their doors free of charge. Please consider giving to this very worthy cause - Visit
And grab your kids for the all ages show on the 3rd.  You will win the cool parent award.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Motivation to Create Jobs

We had the greatest dinner party conversation the other night - about the economy and what's preventing Canada from getting ahead.  Our friend is a very successful independent consultant who could likely grow his business twenty-fold (and create jobs in the process) but he's just not interested.  He is comfortable doing what he's doing.

This is the case for many independent business owners in Canada.  People are quite happy doing what they're doing while being able to maintain quality of life.  Fair enough - quality of life is important - and I'm not suggesting people work 24/7.  But we as individuals have so much more knowledge, power and ability to create jobs than we did in previous recessions...

It's time for a massive brainstorming and strategy session in Canada. What will motivate business owners to want more to the extent that they're willing to put a bit on the line in order to employ more people?  What options are available to uneducated people who are losing their jobs and are those options being communicated to them? (Perhaps network marketing with low overhead cost and minimal experience required.) What jobs can only PEOPLE and not computers do - and are we doing our best to grow those opportunities. (i.e., Our aging population needs care and they don't want it from a robot.)

For those who have the ear of people who can do something to create growth in the economy, I hope you're asking the questions. Many of us would love to know the answers - and be willing to lend a hand in promoting the cause.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Communications with Impact in Times of Change

I was saddened to read the story in Today's Globe and Mail about Zellers preparing for the Target takeover.

Zellers is the first store I remember going into as a kid, as it was in the mall I cut through on my way to school.  Today, I buy so many of my kids' clothes there as my daughters grow out of clothes or change their mind about them so quickly.  It's Canada's go-to store in most neighbourhood malls.

I have great admiration for Mark Foote, CEO, who realizes that especially in times of change, communications is so important. Granted, he's cutting back on his cost-prohibitive advertising budget.  Instead he's  spending more money on social media - which is sure to hit his target audience - moms looking for a great deal.  As well, he's providing sales incentive and employment transition programs to keep his employees vested.  This is so important for Zellers, especially right now while coming up to the Christmas season.   A happy and vested retail salesperson, combined with great value = a happy customer = repeat sales.

I'm willing to bet Mr. Foote is also focusing on PR since his story is being told so well.  PR is much cheaper than advertising and is the perfect communications vehicle when it's targeted in the right way to the right media at the right time.  If you're looking to build brand awareness and you don't have a topical story to sell (obviously this is not the case for Zellers), be patient.  It might take up to three months to entice the media and sell the story.  But eventually, if it's done properly, your story will be covered.

The point is this - change is reality.  It must be addressed and even embraced one day at a time - no matter how difficult.  And clear concise communications to the people who are being affected is absolutely crucial along the way.

Rachel Pardy
Cahoots Communications Inc.

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Cost of Focusing Only on Cost

Over the past week, I've seen a couple of supposed innovative ideas meant to provide solutions in a downtrodden economy that are likely to cause more harm than good. 

Most of us read about - the world's largest outsourcing marketplace, empowering entrepreneurs & small businesses worldwide - that was featured in the Star and other local publications.  This is a viable business idea that could really improve our economy if it were properly executed.  Entrepreneurs would look on the site for jobs, and companies would look for qualified contingent labour if it were a valid and reputable forum.

Here is the flaw in the business model.  It focuses on cost savings alone.  One person requested to have someone ghostwrite a novel in seven to ten days for something ridiculous like $100-$150.  They were actually allowed to post this on the website! We all know what offering $150 for forty hours of work would get you.  If a qualified freelancer or a reasonable business person seeking qualified labour saw this, they would likely never return to the site.  One posting, one full swoop - all credibility lost.

The second example is the new DVD machines that we're seeing in grocery stores.  With Blockbuster closing and Rogers rumoured to be getting out of the business, grocery and corner stores are putting up DVD rental machines to satisfy market demand.  The only problem is that they're operated by outside people, and when they break down, there is noone to accept DVD movie returns (and you get charged a $30 deposit every time you rent a movie which you don't get back until you return the movie.) 

Once again, a great idea flawed in execution.  Chances are a customer frustrated by not being able to return the movie and get their money back would stop coming back to the store - for their movies AND their groceries.

It's time for all of us to take a step back and refocus on quality of product, rather than cost savings.  Spend time and money doing research and knowing your audience.  Be strategic and do things right the first time.  Because it's so true - you get what you pay for.

Rachel Pardy

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Why Choose a Cause?

I have a friend whose organization is hosting a charitable event in a couple of weeks to raise awareness for Dystonia - a neurological movement disorder that her niece has.  This condition causes great pain and discomfort and effects mostly children.

Knowing my friend, it will be a top notch event. It's an art auction with some fabulous art, and it's very reasonably priced at the perfect time - 6:30.  Go, have a glass of wine, fill up on appetizers in lieu of having to cook dinner, while chatting up clients or having date night.  What's not to like?

But her numbers are not what she would like.

"Why is that?" she asks me.  "Is it because there are too many causes out there?"

This has made me think about how to motivate people to give more.  While everyone is so strapped - for time, for money, for personal space - how do you communicate to others how much can be gained by by volunteering and/or supporting charitable initiatives.

Here are a few reasons why volunteering and supporting charitable initiatives are worth your time.
1. Whether you're interested in the arts, animals, the wellbeing of children or seniors -- if you get involved with an organization that focuses on things that matter to you, you'll link up with like-minded people.
2. Volunteering gives you a break from your own world.  You stop thinking about your own life or what's on your desk at the office.  You do something different and make a difference at the same time! 
3. Choosing the right cause means free PR for your organization and an opportunity to network with other businesspeople.  But from a business perspective, it's vital that you choose a cause that is in line with your corporate mandate, and that the networking opportunities are valuable to you. 
4. Then of course there are the tax benefits of giving to charities, but you'll have to speak to your accountant for details on that(o;

Need some help choosing a charity to support that will deliver the ideal networking opportunities and help to build your brand?  Are you a charity looking to raise awareness for your cause?  I would love to help.

By the way, hope to see you at Curry's Art Store Charitable Auction at the Liberty Grand next Tuesday.  Visit

Rachel Pardy

Monday, 17 October 2011

Leave a lasting impression on others today.

I think in business, it's easy to forget the important things we were taught when growing up.  Treat others as you want to be treated.  Say please and thank you.  Be respectful.

For example, I know a lot of people in sales and they say the toughest part of the job is getting people to call you back.  I'm not talking about perfect strangers.  I'm talking about family friends, former colleagues, neighbours, people you went to school with. 

Granted, the sales person is likely calling these people for business purposes, but what is up with that?  How long does it take to pick up the phone and say, "Hey Buddy, I would love to help you out, but our organization just doesn't have a need right now."?  It's common courtesy.  It's the way you treat people who you have any modicum of respect for. 

On the flip side of that, I deal with a lot of people whose very nature is the opposite (which I guess makes things easier).  Within a half hour of making a sales call to a senior exec this morning, I got a call back.  The answer wasn't what I wanted, but it doesn't matter.

I had someone send me an actual thank you card and gift the other day for doing business together, and in the grand scheme of things, she has done way more for me than she was compensated for.  Guaranteed, I will refer her to others.

I'm willing to bet that these two people leave a lasting impression on everyone who they work for and with. 

What kind of impression are you leaving today?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Is technology taking away from respectful communication?

Recently, the news has focused on technology and how it impacts our lives. The death of Steve Jobs made us all think about how our lives have been altered by iTunes and the iPhone.  At the same time, Health Canada issued an advisory last week that cel phone use should be limited for children and adults alike because of the WHO's findings that cel phone use may be linked to brain cancer. (Have you read the fine print that says cel phones are to be held an inch away from the ear?)

I am all for technology and how it makes our lives easier.  My concern is that technology is enabling us to not treat each other with the respect we deserve when communicating.   (It drives me crazy when someone texts someone else while they're talking to me.)

Here are some simple tips for respectful, effective communication.

1. If you have something really important to say, it is better to say it than to send an email.  It's common courtesy to give the other person the opportunity to ask questions and gain clarity instead of wondering what you mean.
2. Make an effort to be present and engaged while in discussion.  The other person will sense if you are not, and you mightn't have a second opportunity to convince them you're worth talking to.
3. Evaluate each opportunity before you speak.  If someone isn't a morning person, don't talk to them in the morning. If your colleague or boss is busy at work, save discussions for later if possible.  If you can't, in the words of Sara Knapp, Executive Coach - Be brief, be bright, be gone.
4. Ensure all criticism is constructive and try to balance the good with the bad.  People will be more apt to talk to you and work with you if you occasionally have something nice to say.
5. Try to listen more than you speak.  Each discussion is a learning opportunity and if you're doing all the talking, what will you learn?

Do you think that technology is taking away from respectful communication?  Let me know what you think.

Rachel Pardy
Cahoots Communications Inc.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Share some good news.

Welcome to the Cahoots Blog!  This blog will contain tips, tools and ideas for how to raise awareness of your organization through clear, concise communications.

Thought for the day - Be solutions oriented.

In an era of doom, gloom and economic demise, there is real opportunity to share good news stories to attract attention for your organization.

Watch the media for prevalent issues of concern (health concerns, work/life balance, unemployment) and identify how your products or services are solutions to these challenges.

Craft a press release or a matte story with tips or tools that people can use to deal with the challenge at hand.   Post it on your social media outlets and send out an email newsletter to your key stakeholders.

If you're looking for broader reach, send it out to the media.   Then follow up with a compelling phone pitch as to how you are a solution and why viewers, listeners and readers NEED to hear your story.  And you just might see your name in the paper the next day.

Are you a solution?  For help with your matte stories and news releases, contact me at

Thank you to SO Studio and I-Candy Web Design

A huge thank you to SO Studio for creating our brand and to I-Candy Web Design for creating our website.  And a bit of background to our look and feel.

Cahoots is centred and focused on one thing - delivering clear concise communications so you can further your initiative or close a deal.  The blue water drop in the middle of the Cahoots logo is that centre piece.  The four tentacles (or C's) around it represent how we reach out and collaborate with others to deliver a polished, professional product that surpasses expectations.

Clear concise writing is only one piece of the puzzle, but guaranteed we have exceptional partners to deliver on every other piece of the puzzle (web design, branding, SEO, graphic design, printing - you name it) to make sure you're ecstatic with the results.

Looking forward to working with you!

Targeted Communications Will Make You Money

I met the most amazing Company President the other day.  She is driven and resolute in her business development objectives.  She also knows exactly how her business makes money and focuses her spend on those channels in order to get the biggest bang for her buck.  So simple. So strategic. So smart.

Every company is trying to save money these days, so it's more important than ever to be strategic about your marketing communications initiatives. Here is a step by step plan to make sure you're doing just that.

1. Define your audience - Figure out who makes you the most money or who you absolutely need buy-in from. (Not to be crass.)  This is your main target audience.
2. Know your audience - Once you determine who your target audience is, reach out to them via blogs, emails, surveys or one-on-one meetings.  How do they spend their time?  How do they learn?  What publications do they read?  What networking groups do they attend?  What do they need to know to run their business?  Not only is this a necessary exercise but it helps key stakeholders to feel important - and they are!
3. Brainstorm - Meet with colleagues or team members to brainstorm how to best reach out to these audiences, knowing what you now know.  Capture all ideas in writing and watch your team get excited about being involved.
4. Determine a budget - A marketing-communications plan cannot be properly executed without a pre-determined budget.  Don't waste your time or anyone else's by developing a plan that you don't have the money for.
5. Make a Plan. - From this point, make a plan that outlines:
a. The Objective - What do you want to achieve with your marketing communications?
b. The Strategy - How are you going to achieve your objective?
c. Tactics - What communications/social marketing/sales/public relations vehicles will you use to achieve those objectives?
d. Timelines - First determine all of your deadlines (i.e., networking opportunities or sales events, national or regional events or days of celebration that you can send out press releases or matte stories on).  Map all of the work that needs to be completed in project management software or in a good old excel spreadsheet.  Work backwards building in time for research and revisions to figure out timelines for developing each communications piece.

There is your plan.  Sounds simple right?

But sometimes you need an outside perspective or you mightn't have the people power to make a plan on your own.

Looking forward to hearing from you so that we can make that plan together.

Rachel Pardy
Cahoots Communications Inc.