PIC Newsletter - February 2014
Hope you enjoy the latest edition of The Buzz!

A message from the PIC chair, Sharon Aschaiek

My business turned 10 this year, and while it's certainly exciting to reach this milestone, it also has me thinking about my professional goals for the next decade. How do I want to grow as a communicator? What kind of projects and clients should I pursue? What steps should I take to develop my business?

They're questions that often arise for communicators who have been in business for a while. After the initial years of starting up our operation, establishing a niche and cultivating a clientele, we start thinking about new ways to challenge ourselves. Some of us might enjoy what we're doing, and it may be viable to continue in the same direction. But given how much change has been occurring in the ways organizations interact with their stakeholders, chances are we need to evolve our practices to stay relevant.

One way we can advance our businesses is by moving from providing tactical to strategic support. For the longest time, I have identified myself as a writer, and writing projects -- whether copywriting for institutions, or articles for publications -- have comprised the majority of my work. Many communicators I know similarly focus mainly on creating content.

But over time, I've realized that not being involved in decision-making about communication strategy makes me less valuable to organizations -- and so limits my ability to grow. The latest edition of IABC/Toronto's Communicator [login required] features a great article by PIC's Lisa Goller about thinking like a strategist. Her core argument, which resonated with me, is that if we think like business people, respond creatively to problems and build a trusted relationship with our clients, we'll be in a better position to excel.

Thinking more broadly about our role and services as communicators can have other beneficial effects on our businesses. Historically, much of my work has involved working independently on small-scale writing assignments, such as e-newsletters, blog posts, news releases and feature articles. While I enjoy these projects, in some ways, it is piecemeal work and the pay is limited.

However, when I collaborate with or outsource to trusted and competent writers in my network, it becomes possible to pursue more large-scale, multifaceted communication projects. Not only do these partnerships or subcontracting arrangements lead to more dynamic and lucrative projects, they enable me to make a more important contribution to organizations.

For many of us today, evolving our communications practices means developing our understanding of and abilities in digital communications. That was the objective of Digital Day, a recent full-day professional development event organized jointly by PIC and the Professional Writers Association of Canada -- Toronto chapter. You'll find a review of the event further down in this newsletter. It's just one of many resources we're sharing with you this month.

Whichever business anniversary you're celebrating this year, we hope you'll find these resources useful to propelling your career.

Continued success,

In This Issue
A message from the PIC chair
March 26: Career transitions
Digital Day report
Rate survey coming soon
Are you in the PIC member directory?
One way to build your business
Shoppers, please weigh in
What would draw you to IABCWC14?
Other PD opportunities
Meet Karen Luttrell
We love to get feedback
Explore the PIC blog
IABC/Toronto needs volunteers
Quick Links
Newsletter archives
Find back issues of The Buzz here.
Join Our Mailing List!
We want your talents!
Interested in writing, editing or contributing ideas for PIC's The Buzz or IABC/Toronto's Communicator? We'd love your help. Let us know!
Tidbits of knowledge
Visit the Professional Independent Communicators - Toronto blog for tips on such topics as pricing and running your business, as well as pre-event podcasts and post-event reports.
PIC 2013-2014 Executive
Contact any of us with questions, comments and ideas for speakers or topics!

Chair: Sharon Aschaiek
Past Chair: Donna Papacosta
Communications: Sue Horner
Membership & Events: Elizabeth Trew
Programming: Roger Morier
Social Media: Amy Sept
Next gathering March 26: Managing career transitions
Today's career paths are not as linear as in the past, and communicators often find themselves looking for new opportunities by choice or circumstance. When the time comes to make a career change, managing the transition seamlessly can be challenging. How do you start a freelance business when you've been an employee for several years? How do you put together a job search strategy when you haven't been in the job market for a while? 

If you're ready for a change now or might be in the future, our next event from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26 is for you. Location will be the Ivey ING Direct Leadership Centre, 130 King St. W. (at York St.), Toronto.

A panel of professionals will share their expertise in career transitions and what skills and experiences are most in demand in today's ever-changing environment. They'll offer practical, timely advice on how to plan for your next career move and how best to market yourself.

This special professional development session replaces PIC's usual first-Wednesday-of-the-month meeting and is a joint effort by IABC/Toronto and PIC. Watch for registration details soon. 

Jan. 25 report: Digital Day was a hit 
by Sharon Aschaiek (with additions by Sue Horner)

How does digital technology affect your writing or communications business? What digital tools do you use to manage your workflow and collaborate with others? What are the best ways to leverage social media for your business and your client projects?

These are some of the big questions that were addressed at Digital Day, a professional development event jointly organized by PIC and the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) Toronto chapter, and sponsored by the Centre for Arts and Technology. The all-day event, which took place in Toronto on Jan. 25, featured multiple seminars focusing on key areas in which the digital world intersects with communications, including social media, blogging, search engine optimization, online research and digital tools.

The day kicked off with a session on social media basics, with Amy Sept of Nimbyist Communications tackling Facebook and Twitter, and me discussing LinkedIn.

Amy's Twitter talk covered the do's and don'ts of posting, including sharing only one idea per tweet, promoting others more than you promote yourself, and not always sharing links -- it's also about conversing, not just sharing information. Regarding Facebook, Amy talked about how to conduct searches, participate in or form a group, adjust privacy settings and more.

My LinkedIn talk focused on creating a killer headline, playing up your communications experiences, asking for and leveraging recommendations and setting measurable goals for using the site.

Next, speakers Adina Zaointz of Napkin Marketing, Helen Androlia of Draftfcb and Jennifer Shah of FleishmanHillard shared their insider insights on conceiving and developing relevant and impactful social media campaigns for their clients. Their tactics include:

  • understanding their clients' goals, customers, products and influencers;
  • engaging in social listening to determine how a client is perceived in online communities;
  • considering the unique brand stories their clients have to tell; and
  • dividing social media content into relevant buckets, e.g. events, news and issues.

When it comes to working with freelancers, the speakers said they often seek writers with specific skills and industry knowledge to contribute to new campaigns or handle overflow work.

In the first afternoon session, we heard from Jennifer Johannesen of Low to the Ground about her ideas and tips for writer websites. Donna Papacosta of Trafalgar Communications discussed why and how a blog should serve as the hub of your content marketing strategy. She emphasized that it should be mobile friendly, and that posts should include photos, videos, audio and infographics. Dev Basu of Powered by Search focused on search engine optimization tricks to make your blog stand out and generate business. He stressed integrating keywords into posts, tagging photos and sharing content through the right social media channels.  

In the afternoon, master web researcher Tim Groves delved into the many different search tools for using Google to get better results, including hard-to-find information and vintage web pages that have been preserved. Tips for narrowing a search included using a "wild card" like * to stand in for an unknown (search "Facebook has * employees") and site: to search within a specific site (site:gc.ca to search within the Canadian government site). 

After each session, participants discussed what they learned, shared new ideas, asked questions and networked. The day's final small-group discussions focused on the digital software, hardware and web applications participants use most in their day-to-day work. These revealed that many of us use digital support like Dropbox, Carbonite, Skype and Google+ Hangouts, but often turn to pen and paper for making lists, tracking time and sketching out ideas. 

While the ways in which we as writers and communicators interact with the digital world continue to evolve, many of us might feel better prepared to handle these challenges and take advantage of opportunities with what we learned at Digital Day.

A version of this article first appeared on the PWAC Toronto blog.

Many thanks again to our event partner, PWAC Toronto, and our event sponsor:
The Centre for Arts and Technology:

Coming soon: 2014 rate survey
Can we talk money? Whether new to freelancing or established independents, we all sometimes struggle with what to charge, or question whether we are charging enough/too much.

In March, we're launching a short anonymous online survey that will collect information from PIC members. We're asking what you charge for various services, if you offer discounts for non-profits, when you last changed your rates and more. By sharing the results, we hope to give PIC members greater confidence in asking for and earning what we're worth.

Watch for the link soon.

Make sure you're listed in the PIC member directory

By Elizabeth Trew, Director, Membership

One of the major benefits of PIC membership is a free online directory listing. However, many PIC members aren't taking advantage of this no-cost way to promote themselves to corporate communicators and to other PIC members for partnering on projects.

Please check the PIC member directory to see if your business is included and your listing is up to date. If it's not, then complete as much of the following as is relevant for your business. (See the current directory for examples.) As this information will be publicly listed, do not include information you wish to keep private. 

Information required:

  • Your name
  • Company name
  • Location
  • Email address
  • Telephone
  • Fax
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Brief professional description of about 20 words. 

The directory is updated quarterly. To have your listing included or revised in the next update, please email it to elizabethtrewcommunications@bell.net no later than March 28, 2014.

Telesummits: One way to build your indie business?

by Amy Sept 

As an independent communicator, you can work with anyone, anywhere; chances are that you see even local clients only rarely. In January, I participated in a virtual conference that targeted a local crowd, but made speakers available to a potentially broader audience.

The Business Building Telesummit, held Jan. 20 to 23, targeted new businesses getting ready to launch and current owners trying to make running and marketing their business more efficient. More than 60 registrants signed up for six sessions, which included: 

  • Creating a website that works for your business
  • The power of making positive choices
  • Creating a plan to help your business succeed
  • Organizing content for your website and social networks
  • Managing your time
  • Effective use of social media

Could joining or hosting a similar telesummit be a good fit for you? If you've delivered free webinars in the past, you'll know the bane of all free events: participants who like the idea, but lack the incentive to show up. I think this challenge was exacerbated by the multi-day event.

However, a virtual conference is an interesting concept, and it was an opportunity not just for me to connect with potential new clients, but also to speak about a topic -- content planning -- that I hadn't presented on before.

Have you had success participating in virtual events and webinars? Share with me what worked and what didn't via email or Twitter.
Add your suggestions to the 2014 IABC World Conference Toronto shopping guide
You're in a new city, perhaps for a conference or other business. Most of your time is mapped out, but you want to pick up a souvenir or gifts for family back home. Or maybe you didn't pack the right clothes, or you spilled coffee on your lap. Where do you shop?

With the 2014 IABC World Conference coming our way June 8 to 11, we're putting ourselves in our visitors' shoes. We'd like to offer our guests a list of hand-picked suggestions from IABC/Toronto members on where to shop downtown, with a bonus section on pampering services.

Please share your own recommended "go-to" (and DON'T-go-to) spots by March 3 by email to Sue Horner, or comment on this blog post, where you can download a Word document that shows the suggestions collected so far. Thanks!

Join the conversation about indie representation at the 2014 IABC World Conference

What kind of content would make you say, "I HAVE to attend the 2014 IABC World Conference"? IABC is considering an indie day on the opening Sunday, and would like to make sure the content has value. Our LinkedIn group is collecting thoughts, or you can send them directly to PIC member Diana Degan, ABC, who is working on the programming committee.

Other professional development opportunities in March
March 18: Prospecting tips for freelance success
7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (registration opens at 6:30 p.m.)
Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, Toronto
If you need to prospect for new clients, but you dread cold calling and networking events, this PWAC panel discussion will help you confidently connect with potential new clients through a variety of prospecting tactics.
March 28: Hands-on social media workshop
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Verity Club, 111 Queen St. E., Toronto

Are you tired of trying to figure out social media on your own? Come to a hands-on workshop and learn the WHY and HOW of social media from PIC member Donna Papacosta. Group size is strictly limited so you can get individual help. By the end of the day, you'll have skills you can apply immediately. Unlock the mysteries of LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook and more! Use the promo code iabc2014 to save 15% on your fee.
PIC members, if you have an event you'd like to promote in The Buzz, let us know.

PIC Personalities
Meet Karen Luttrell
by Heather West

Karen Luttrell helps charities raise more money, find more volunteers and fill their programs using effective communications. She led marketing and communications for a number of non-profit organizations before launching her own communications business in June 2010. Visit Karen's website, or reach her directly by email or phone at 647-287-4344.

What's your background?

I've worked with local, national and international non-profit organizations representing a variety of causes, including poverty and social injustice. Many were smaller organizations where I was responsible for everything from strategy and execution to writing, layout and working with designers.

Why did you decide to launch your own business?

I found that in my other jobs, I was doing less of the things I love and more of my time was spent managing people. I like learning about new organizations and talking to new people. I wanted to learn more and have exposure to a variety of organizations. I also needed the flexibility to choose my hours of work and the freedom to pick the assignments I wanted to work on. I love strategy and writing so I can choose to do what I love most.

What do you enjoy most about being an independent?

I love the freedom and flexibility. I like managing my own time and choosing the work I want to do. There's a great sense of accomplishment in running your own business and measuring the impact you've had with a client. It's entirely different than working for someone else.

Do you have any advice for others new to independent life?

I think it's important to network, not just to find new clients but also for advice and peer support. It's a big learning curve and it helps to meet other people who are doing well. I have found freelance writers to be a very generous group. I am connected through PIC as well as the Professional Writers Association of Canada and the Yahoo group Toronto Freelance Editors and Writers. People are exceptional about sharing information. They're not competitive.

I would advise newcomers to connect with their professional associations -- talk with peers online, attend meetings, volunteer, get involved!

What value have you experienced from your PIC membership so far?

I've had some opportunities come to me through the PIC membership directory and I've partnered with other members. I like knowing they adhere to the same IABC professional standards that I do.

I also attend events when they don't conflict with PWAC events. They are really helpful. I work with a lot of smaller charities that are very budget conscious. I attended a session with Ilise Benun [see the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of The Buzz], who shared tips for proposal writing and ideas for removing fear in budget conversations. She shared some small phrases that have made a big difference in my negotiations with clients. For example, I now follow up on the dreaded "We don't have a defined budget" response with a question like, "Were you thinking closer to, say, $2,000 or $20,000?" People then instinctively react to where their organization is on that scale, so you can better understand what is realistic for them. 

What are some of the things you're working on?

I'm currently working with clients on fundraising, marketing and communications strategies, managing and writing email newsletters and social media management.

We count more than 160 members in PIC, offering a range of talent from coaching and media relations to video production and writing. Do you know everyone? PIC Personalities introduces new members and randomly profiles existing members. Let Sue Horner know if you'd like to be profiled and she'll be in touch to set it up! You can find previous PIC Personalities posted online.

We recently heard from PIC member Jane Langille (thanks so much, Jane!):
  • On the new logo and new look: "Kudos! This new branding is terrific for PIC."
  • On this newsletter: "Packed with interesting, relevant and timely information, The Buzz is the best association newsletter that I receive."
What do YOU think? Let us know!

New to independent life? Check out the PIC blog

Check PIC's IABC eXchange site, listed upper right as "PIC Toronto blog," for the information you need to help you start, run and grow your business.

If you find a dead link or inaccurate information on the site, please let us know. If you'd like to volunteer to update specific sections of the blog, tell us that, too! 

IABC/Toronto needs you!
by Stephanie Engel, VP Member Communications

Want to share your ideas and opinions on communications? There are a couple of ways you can contribute to IABC/Toronto:

1. Communicator is the magazine [login required] IABC/Toronto publishes six times a year for its members, and we need your help to ensure we provide readers with interesting, well-written, topical articles on communications and public relations. You can volunteer to support Communicator in a variety of ways, whether as writer, editor, great proofreader, or even just an idea generator. We will take as much, or as little, time as you can offer.  If you have a story recommendation, would like to write an article (or two!), or are great at proofreading other people's work, then Communicator is looking for you!

2. Commversations is the IABC/Toronto blog. Got an opinion or idea on PR, current events or the latest marketing sensation?  Don't keep it to yourself; submit your thoughts in a written post on Commversations! We want to hear from you, so please visit often and share your insights with fellow communicators. We look forward to getting the conversation started!

Contact Stephanie Engel at toronto-memcomm@iabc.com to find out more about how you can get involved.

PIC is a special interest group of IABC/Toronto. PIC's mission is to support independent IABC/Toronto communicators through professional development, networking and marketing. 
The Buzz is PIC's e-newsletter, intended to inform independent communicators about our activities, share professional development tips from past meetings and keep us aware of what's going on. Connect with us on the web at pictoronto.com.

As the largest chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, IABC/Toronto provides access to products, services, activities and networking opportunities in Toronto and around the world. IABC helps people and organizations achieve excellence in corporate communications, public relations, employee communication, marketing communication, public affairs and other forms of communication. For more information, visit the
IABC website.

Sue Horner                                                           Heather West   
Director, Communications - PIC                              Copy editor