Sunday, November 30, 2008

And the winner is...

I have spent the last 25 minutes reading the list of the places that people come to see in Canada. No surprise, Niagara Falls topped the list with 12 to 14 million visitors per year. That's a lot of people...

The list included Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Stanley Park and Granville Island in British Columbia, Canada's Wonderlandand the CN Tower in Toronto, Mont Tremblant and Old Quebec City in Quebec, and the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, just to name a few. For the complete list, click here.

I am pretty proud, after reading that. We are a pretty cool country - and I mean 'cool' in the truest sense of the word. It's nice to see that others appreciate it as much as we do!
I've been giving a lot of thought lately to destination branding - my background is in tourism, and that seems to be the perfect way of combining my two passions. Living in Canada, there are so many options...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The Students Association at Carleton University in Ottawa, ON has cancelled Shinerama, a national fundraiser that runs on college and university campuses all across Canada to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis.

Reason: The misconception that CF affects only white men, and Carleton University Students Association (CUSA) doesn't want to discriminate. In actual fact, CF is the most common, fatal, hereditary disease affecting young people in Canada. While it is true that it does predominantly affect Caucasians - but Caucasian doesn't necessarily mean 'white'. It affects boys and girls equally, and is generally affects children, not men. And it does PRIMARILY affect Caucasians, it has been known to affect people of all races.

CUSA is now doing a little backpedaling, saying that they may reconsider the decision - but their primary reason for making it was because they want to focus on other fundraising efforts.

Now, I personally am not directly affected by CF (although a very good friend has two cousins with CF and I am sure this situation has been very trying for her family), but I do have Multiple Sclerosis, and while there are no real comparisons as far as the actual disease - MS is not life threatening - the implications of halting fundraising is very real.

MS is most commonly found in women between the ages of 20 and does that translate to inclusivity and political correctness according to CUSA standards?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Imagine...Lennon has been 'forgiven'

John Lennon has finally been forgiven for uttering the now-famous words, "We're more popular than Jesus Christ." According to Osservatore Romano, Vatican City's daily newspaper, it clearly must have been a joke, or just some cocky, British kid who didn't know how to deal with his new-found fame.

This 'forgiveness' comes 42 years after he said it, 38 years after the Beatles broke up and 28 years after John Lennon was assassinated outside of the Dakota in New York City by Mark David Chapman. To this day, the Beatles remain one of the most influential bands in pop music history. The Lennon-McCartney brand is still one of the most successful partnerships of all time and it certainly wasn't damaged at all by Lennon's statement.

According to many of the articles, the negative reaction came mostly from America's Bible Belt - there, they started burning photographs and albums - even the Ku Klux Klan got involved, some going so far as to say that the Beatles were the Anti-Christ and Communists.

A couple of weeks ago, our class focused on crisis communications for the week - you can't get much more of a crisis than to compare yourself to Jesus. And John Lennon did what anyone would do...he apologized. In a sense.

After his "apology", it all blew over and most of the world forgave John Lennon. Most, except for the Vatican, apparently. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but to be quite honest, I doubt John Lennon really cares whether or not he was forgiven. I don't think he asked for forgiveness. I spoke in an earlier post about the re-branding of the Church, and I can't help but wonder if this is a chance to prove that they are hip. It makes me wonder too, why every headline has the word 'forgive' in quotes. Is it just a theoretical forgiveness?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'm not worthy...

I'm not going to lie...this post has absolutely NOTHING to do with PR - I just need to talk about my night last night. I saw Bob Dylan....THE Bob Dylan.
In the days leading up to the concert, people were warning me that sometimes, he doesn't even acknowledge the audience. Sometimes he doesn't even turn and face the audience.
Last night at the K-Rock Centre, we apparently got a rare treat - he faced the audience, he came to the front of the stage and played his guitar. He played his harmonica. He even danced a little. And after the encore (during which, by the way, he played Like a Rolling Stone AND All Along the Watchtower), he even turned up the house lights and took a picture of the audience AND posed for pictures with his band. How lucky were we? At the end, not only did he introduce his band, but he also said, "Thank you, friends."

I grew up listening to Bob Dylan and I can't remember ever NOT being a fan. He is approaching 70 (I think he's 67 or thereabouts), and I had to see him before he stopped touring. I have been waiting for this concert for my entire life, and it was certainly a blessing to see him in a venue the size of the K-Rock centre (and to have 15th row, floor seats). It was truly humbling to be in the presence of true greatness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No food or drink permitted on deck

I was reading the Toronto Star today, and read a story about a woman who was breastfeeding her baby while swimming in a public pool. I'm not saying I'm against feeding your baby in public, but seriously...there's germs in there. People pee in pools. Sometimes, they have pink-eye and all other sorts of nasties - chlorine only kills so much. Do you really want that in your baby's mouth?

Ellie Karkouti who owns the pool has suddenly come under fire for not allowing breastfeeding at her pool. A protest was scheduled for November 7 and, not sure what to expect, she hired security guards to make sure the situation didn't get out of hand. Unfortunately for Ellie, the security guards reported for duty wearing bullet proof vests - one even had handcuffs. Cinira Longuinho, the breastfeeding mother, claims that Karkouti did it on purpose, "as an act of intimidation."

Poor Ellie. She is pregnant with her first child, and I don't think she intended for this to happen.

There have been so many of these situations lately, people protesting at La Senza and H&M among others, citing human rights violations. I do agree that feeding your baby in public is something that has to be done - you certainly can't explain to a baby that they have to starve because it makes other people uncomfortable, but in a pool?

Ellie claims that she was only looking out for the best interest of the baby, and quite frankly, I would have to agree. Just because mothers have the right to feed their babies where ever they want, doesn't mean that they should. I can't stop thinking about the pee and the chlorine. I bet that baby is not thinking, "Mmmm...pee and chlorine...tasty." Eww.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Enough, already

I promised myself that I would never blog about the current activities that are happening on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. I have, however, become sick and tired of turning on my radio every morning and hearing the latest "event" staged by those involved. While I do recognize that Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte are in the midst of a PR crisis, up to this point, I have refused to give Shawn Brant (no relation...thank God!) any more exposure than what he has already been given.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory is a beautiful little community, about 15 kms east of Belleville. I have many fond memories of visiting my grandparents, swimming in the Bay of Quinte (back when you could still swim in it...) with friends that I had made from the territory, and yes, I even remember Shawn Brant - he and my uncle have been friends for a long time (and yes, my uncle is STILL friends with him and is still being arrested for Shawn's many causes).

I don't even know where to start in talking about Shawn's many "causes" - it goes back many years and I'm not even sure where or when it started, but I do know that our community seldom agrees with his antics. He has become the face of Tyendinaga - he is always in the news, always criticizing, always challenging, always threatening horrible outcomes such as those at Ipperwash.

Recently, there have been a few situations that have been facing the residents of Tyendinaga.

A quarry on Deseronto Road that has seen protesters camped out at the entrance since March, 2007, protesting its establishment on tract land. The Culbertson Land Tract is a land claim that Tyendinaga has filed with the government. As discussions have slowed down, protesters have caused a number of negative impressions of the people of Tyendinaga, including a blockade being set up in April, 2008, preventing people from getting in and out of the entire town of Deseronto. The residents of Deseronto were both frightened and angry - many were forced to call in "hostage" to work that day. Protesters even went so far as to set up a blockade on the CN lines in 2006, halting all VIA and freight trains (and making thousands of people very angry) in an attempt to call attention to their perceived injustices.

And now, there is the issue of the new Police station. Money from the Federal and Provincial government was allotted, along with dollars from Casino Rama to buy a new police station for Tyendinaga. The prefabricated building was originally brought in from Grimsby, ON on September 23, but Shawn and his cronies wouldn't allow the trucks to enter the site - they said it was because the community was not consulted about how the Casino Rama dollars should have been spent and it should have been used to ensure clean drinking water for the community. Again, on October 29 they attempted to bring it in but to no avail. So now, the band has to spend MORE money to store the building - it has been bought and paid for. It's not like they can pull the receipt out of their back pocket and say, "Uh, I'd like to return these nine truckloads of prefab building please."

That being said, I do know that things are in motion for treating the water and that the issue is not the water itself but the treatment system - but it does take a whole lot less time to move in a prefab building than to figure out a way to bring in clean water. A water treatment strategy isn't always as easy as that, and the fact that the police station made it here first had more to do with that it was done faster than that it was higher on the priority list.

And so Shawn Brant has become the face of our community, regardless of whether or not we want him there.

Someone I know (I don't want to name names, just in case) pointed out that Shawn only gets involved in a situation when the grunt work is done. After all the research has been done, after all the necessary leg work has been done, then he steps in and takes the ropes and when there is a victory, he says "Look what I can do".

Recently (which is what prompted me to write this), I was reading a letter to the editor and realized that it's not just me who is annoyed at this, that the greater community (Belleville, Napanee, Kingston) are getting exceedingly tired of Shawn's antics

I don't always disagree with his causes, I just seldom agree with the way he approaches things. Our community, as a whole, is not like Shawn Brant. Not at all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Alpha course

In today's class, we were talking about re-branding. Our professor Kerry presented some cases - the New Coke, political parties...but then she brought up the re-branding of religion, which is something I never really thought about. The two reasons to re-brand an image and/or product are when the brand has changed (which does not really apply in this case) or when the brand image requires a complete overhaul - which I think does apply. I never really thought of religion as a "brand", but now that it has been pointed out, it makes sense.

One of the re-branding tools that the church has used is something called the Alpha Course. The Alpha Course is a program offered to educate people on the basics of the Christian faith (although at first glance, one is led to believe that it is more of a philosophical discussion on the "Meaning of Life" than a lesson in Christian doctrine). It promotes that these discussions take place in a "relaxed, friendly setting" and that people of all faiths, backgrounds and viewpoints are welcome to participate.

The Alpha Course was founded by Charles Marnham, a clergyman at Holy Trinity Brompton, London, a Church of England parish in London in 1977. It was a program originally designed for members of the church. Alpha was taken over in 1990 by Nicky Gumbel and it was at that time that they realized the evengelical opportunities and it was then used to educate non-churchgoers in the fundamentals of Christianity. While it was started by The Church of England (an Anglican Church), Alpha has now spread to over 164 countries in a variety of denominations - including the Roman Catholic Church.

Alpha is organized in a series of ten weekly discussions - each session begins with some sort of refreshment, and then moves on to a short "talk" about some aspect of the Christian faith, be it Jesus, God or resisting evil. About halfway through the course, there is a day or weekend "Holy Spirit Retreat", in which the discussion focuses on who the Holy Spirit is, what the Holy Spirit does, and how you can welcome the Holy Spirit into your life.

So, I have tried really hard to explain the re-branding of the church to include people like me without being critical, without being judgemental, keeping an open mind. It has taken me a long time to write this, as I keep looking back and realizing that I am allowing personal opinion to infiltrate this blog. I must admit, I am a little curious - not so much about the content of Alpha, I have, after all, heard it all before - but whether or not we non-Christians would in fact be welcome at these meetings as their website says. I am also curious as to whether their "Convert in Ten-Weeks or Less" method is actually working.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Microsoft offers reward for missing boy

I read a story today, and I'm not sure if this is an example of corporate social responsibility or cause-related marketing...Brandon Crisp, a 15-year-old boy from Barrie, ON disappeared after being told that he was no longer allowed to play his Microsoft Xbox game system that his parents felt he was addicted to. He hasn't been seen since leaving his home twelve days ago. Yesterday, the boy's father "appealed to 'the highest levels of Microsoft' " for assistance in finding his son.

Microsoft, who has been cooperating fully with the investigation, went one step further than bypassing the company's privacy policy and doubled the reward money originally offered for information on Brandon's whereabouts to $50,000. I heard a lot of criticism of Microsoft for doing this - mainly because some people were personally offended that they don't offer a reward for all missing children. But the fact of the matter is that their product, at least in the minds of Brandon Crisp's parents, caused the fight which led to his disappearance. So, at first I was wondering what it was a better example of, but then I realized that none of that really matters. What matters most is that Brandon is found and comes home, safe and sound.

**Update Nov 5, 2008** Hunters in the Barrie area came across the body of a teenage boy today - police have not released anything official, but they have stated that the clothes the boy was in match those that Brandon was wearing, and was close to the place where Brandon was last seen. No details have been released concerning the cause of death, but in my opinion, none of that matters right now. My thoughts are going out to Brandon's family and friends - may they find that strength in each other to get through this horribly tragic event.
**Update Nov 7, 2008** An autopsy was conducted today and the body is, in fact, that of Brandon Crisp. He displayed injuries that were indicative of a fall from a tree. Funeral services will take place in Barrie on Friday, November 14th.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My friendly, neighborhood recording

So, yesterday I got a phone call from my Liberal candidate - I already know how I am intending to vote - but this particular call got me to thinking...does such a thing ACTUALLY make a difference in how the people are going to vote? Like, I'm intending to vote Green, but suddenly, I get a phone call from Ken Cole, and suddenly I become a Liberal?

But, the thing is, it wasn't even a REAL phone call - a standard recording was all that I warranted from Ken Cole, not even a real person on the line. I would have been happy with a representative of the Ken Cole campaign. Instead, all I got was an auto-dialer - which of course, made me think of Homer's AT-5000. At least the other candidate that called me at home used a real person (although I didn't understand a word this representative said - but at least he was a person and not a machine).

In my opinion, that's just bad public relations - showing your constituents that they are not even worthy of actual human contact. The purpose of this blog is NOT to discuss politics, so I will just leave it at that, but seriously...I just hung up. I would never be that rude, hanging up on an actual person - I'd at least listen to what they had to say.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Busking for Change in Toronto

I received a news release in my inbox this afternoon from Tomi Swick's official website - yet another online community I belong to. For those of you who don't know, Tomi Swick is a brilliant Canadian musician from Hamilton - he is super-talented and I am so disappointed that I haven't had the chance to see him live yet! (How's that for a third-party endorsement?) Anyway, he is taking part in Busking for Change, a fundraising effort for War Child Canada that has celebrated Canadian musicians, such as Our Lady Peace, James Black and Rick Jackett of Finger Eleven, Neverending White Lights, Dave Bidini (a founding member of the Rheostatics), The Waking Eyes, and Brian Melo scattered throughout the streets of Toronto busking for change on October 2, 2008. All proceeds from this event will help to provide urgently needed assistance to children around the world whose lives have been affected by war.

It was last October when Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace took to the streets of Toronto, busking for change for War Child Canada and publicizing his new album, The Hunter's Lullaby. In the twelve hours he spent on the streets, he raised $22,000 which was used to build the Abala School in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His effort was the inspiration for this year's event, one that has spread to not only include a variety of musicians (the entire list will be announced on October 1st), but also students from all across Canada can register to participate by busking at their schools and in their communities. Best of luck to them with this effort, and I will certainly keep everyone posted on the outcome!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Question: What is the quickest way to turn 20,000 female 30-somethings into 20,000 screaming tweens?
Answer: No, not a time machine - take them to a New Kids on the Block concert. Seriously.

It all started way back in early February, long before they announced their reunion. I have long been a member of the online NKOTB community and I got an email from them that simply said "Are you ready?" Nothing else, just those three words - and those three words sent out to every member of the NKOTB fanclub started the wheels in motion...there was an undeniable excitement in the air. Well, for the fans anyway - and there are a surprising number that have survived.

In late February, I received another that was a montage all of their old and most popular videos - "Please Don't Go Girl", "Hangin' Tough", "Step By Step" and so on, and at the end of it all, those three words appeared again - "Are you Ready?" At this point, I was - we all were...we were so ready. But it was still only speculation - were they or weren't they?
And then there was nothing - for over a month, there was nothing. In late March, a third email went out telling us to tune in to the Today show on April 4, 2008 for a surprising announcement. When the curtains lifted at 7:00am that morning to reveal all five original members of NKOTB, it was suddenly my second chance at living my childhood. We had to wait for another month to see their first performance together in 15 years - those that saw it live at the Today show were waiting for over 48 hours in the pouring rain...just like old times - except now, they are adults, many with families of their own. Oh, the anticipation! I know I was up with the sun on those mornings! Absolutely brilliant!

Fast forward to September 21, 2008. This was sold-out concert number three at the Air Canada Centre (although it was the first concert to go on sale - and to sell out in a matter of minutes) and the energy was indiscribable. Seven months building up to this final two hours...whoever thought this strategy up was a genius! When I was on the GO Train heading back from the concert, I started thinking about all of the people that had to come together to make this a success. A reunion tour (especially the reunion of a boy band made up of 40-year-olds) is always a risky venture, but the New Kids (and their team) have done a great job of coming together, creating (or re-creating, depending on which generation you come from) a brand - finding out exactly what their audience wants and delivering exactly that.

To be honest, I had no doubt that this would be a success - but there was still this little voice that was whispering, "Don't set your expectations too high..." Not only was I amazed at what they still have in them, but I was astounded by how quickly I became a screaming tween with all the rest - and how awesome it felt. I still (obviously) love New Kids on the Block - and I'm not ashamed to admit it (even at 31). *sigh*

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Welcome to My First Post!

This is not only my first post in this particular blog, but this is my first post ever, so please bear with me. I am not very 'computer savvy' - in fact, technology and I are not friends at all - but I guess there is no better time to learn than right now!

I am a student in the Public Relations program at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario and my blog is going to focus on news, events and other tidbits of interest in the PR world - wish me luck!