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

A message from the PIC chair, Sharon Aschaiek

I've been thinking a lot lately about inspiration -- where it comes from, and how it affects the way I work. Many of my business ideas come from work-related experiences, such as an encounter with a colleague, a professional development event, a client assignment. But some hail from outside the work realm -- over dinner conversation with friends, at a cardio kickbox class, playing Minecraft with my son. All kinds of lessons can emerge, and sometimes they apply to my professional life.

Over the last few weeks, I've picked up some useful insights about how to succeed from some not-so-common sources, and I'd like to share them with you.

Food for thought

 Recently, I helped George Brown College develop communications for a series of culinary events featuring world-renowned chef and restaurateur Alain Ducasse of Monaco. At one event, Ducasse, who owns 22 top-tier restaurants in nine countries, said several things about how to get ahead that resonated with me. He aims for harmony in every detail and object in a new restaurant he creates. He constantly refines his culinary approach and today, aims to use less fat, salt and sugar in his cooking. He recommended must-read cookbooks for today's up-and-coming chefs. And he emphasized the importance of keeping dishes simple to let nature's wonderful ingredients speak for themselves.

The parallels to communications that I draw from his insights: aim for cohesive communications campaigns where every element is in sync; constantly improve your craft and cut the waste in your communications; stay educated on best practices in the profession; and remember the golden rule of KISS.

The power of positivity
I have an eight-year-old son with autism, so anxiety pops up fairly often in our life. This led me to attend a parenting workshop about how to raise an anxious child. One of the strategies the instructor suggested was cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), an approach that emphasizes the importance of our thinking in determining how we feel and what we do.

One CBT technique she explained involved isolating specific life challenges, like performing poorly on a test or having a loved one dying, and breaking down the ramifications of thinking about it positively versus negatively -- what the resulting emotions and behaviours would be in each scenario. It's a systematic approach that I hope will be helpful with dealing with my son's anxiousness. It also strikes me as a useful way for any of us to overcome any of our mental obstacles, whether they be related to personal or professional matters.

Meditate on this

I have been meditating regularly for the last few years, as a way to be more mindful and in the moment, optimize my relationships with others, and manifest what I want in life. But lately, I have been feeling an itch to make my practice more dynamic and meaningful.

A friend recently turned me onto metta, or loving-kindness, a fundamental Buddhist practice that is the heartfelt wish for the well-being of oneself and others. As written on the website of the Metta Institute, metta promotes the "softening of the heart that allows us to feel empathy with the happiness and sorrow of the world." I have started integrating this beautiful concept into my meditation practice, and I look forward to seeing how it affects all aspects of my life.

Have any unusual sources of inspiration helped you grow your business? Please share your insights by messaging me at sharon@cocoamedia.ca or Sue Horner at sue@getitwrite.ca.

Continued success,

In This Issue
A message from the PIC chair
Next meeting Nov. 13
Holiday fun Dec. 3
Oct. 2 recap
New columns in Communicator
Welcome new member
Meet Alix Edmiston, ABC
Explore the PIC blog
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 2014-2015 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:
Sohini Bhattacharya
Programming: Jane Langille
Social Media: Andrew Wright
Next meeting November 13: Collaborating to succeed
Thursday, November 13, 2014, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Metro Hall, 3rd floor (room 310), 55 John St., Toronto

Do you want to find out how to work with fellow indies to win bigger projects and deliver what clients need? Are you juggling multiple deadlines and need help? Are you going through a slow time and have expertise to offer others? If you answered yes to any of these scenarios, do you know how to find the right people to work with, who will complement your own working style? 

At PIC's next professional development event, Collaborating for Success, on Thursday, November 13, four experienced communicators will share their secrets for successful collaborations:

  • best practices for finding and working with other communicators
  • the kind of projects that require collaboration
  • the benefits of collaboration
  • things to watch out for.
Here are our panelists:
  • Deana De Ciccio is a freelance graphic designer and infographic specialist. She has a couple of decades in marketing and communications and is an expert at combining images, words and ideas. 
  • Alix Edmiston, ABC, owner of AE Public Relations, is a former journalist, accredited business communicator, published author, entrepreneur and passionate follower of technological change.
  • Greg Ioannou is past president of the Editors' Association of Canada, head of writing and editing company Colborne Communications, owner of book publisher Iguana Books and part owner of CPMO (Collaborative Project Management Office), a project management company.
  • Avery Swartz is a Toronto-based web designer, consultant, speaker and tech skills instructor. She is also the founder and CEO of Camp Tech, a learning hub that provides practical tech training in a fun and friendly environment.

Registration fees*:

IABC members: $16 ($18.08 with HST)
Non-members: $26 ($29.38 with HST) 

*Please register and pay for this event in advance. Sorry, we can't accept payment at the door.  

Remember, to keep costs down, we will no longer have refreshments at PIC meetings. To give you time for a quick snack before the meeting, registration and informal networking will start
 at 6:30 p.m. (half an hour later than previously), and the panel discussion begins at 7:00 p.m.

Register now!

Um, is it too soon to talk about the holidays?

Wednesday, December 3 from 7 p.m. onward
The Bedford Academy, 36 Prince Arthur Ave, Toronto

We're already planning this year's seasonal social, on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014 at The Bedford Academy near Bloor and Avenue Road (St. George subway station, Bedford Road exit). It's a pub, it's a bistro, it's a bar, all tucked into a converted mansion.

Come join fellow indies to toast the season and chat about what lies ahead for 2015. PIC will spring for a few platters of appetizers, while drinks and anything more substantial will be on your own tab. As always, expect great company and great conversation!

Help us reserve enough space for our group by sending Jane Langille an email at jane@janelangille.com. Hope to see you there!

No celeb sightings, just PIC members and friends on October 2

PIC members and friends met at the Bell TIFF Lightbox on October 2 to commiserate, kvetch and catch up about the successes and challenges of working as indie communicators. While there were no celebrity sightings, the venue provided a welcome backdrop for forging new connections and sparking conversations.

PIC likes to switch it up, with a professional development meeting one month and a social gathering the next. If you have a suggestion for a hot topic you'd like covered, or you have a tip for an interesting venue you'd like to try, let Jane Langille know. Thanks!

  Care to contribute to IABC/Toronto's Communicator?

IABC/Toronto's revamped Communicator launched in October, including new columns on the independent life (The Indie Scene, co-ordinated by Sue Horner) and for "seasoned" communicators (The X-perienced Files, co-ordinated by Linda Andross). Contact Sue or Linda if you have future story ideas for either column.

The editor for the December issue, Crystal Hopkins, is also interested in these submissions for the issue:
  • 'Head to Head' (two people debating a question about this issue's theme, not-for-profits)
  • a feature article related to communicating in a not-for-profit environment
  • a person to answer the Proust Questionnaire (with questions such as "What is your greatest fear?" and "Which person do you most admire?").

Email Crystal to volunteer your efforts as soon as possible. Copy is due Monday, November 10.  

 Welcome new member

Kendell Duthie
Kendell Duthie Communications


Kendell offers professional and corporate communications consultation and execution. Writing, editing, planning and advising -- the goal is to help you articulate your story with clarity and creativity.  

PIC Personalities
Meet Alix Edmiston, ABC
by Sue Horner

Alix Edmiston, ABC, is the owner of AE Public Relations. She is an impassioned follower of technological change who helps companies use the power of social media to tell their stories. Find her online at http://www.aepr.ca/ and http://lovehavingwritten.com/. Connect with her by email at alix.edmiston@gmail.com, by phone at 416-698-7760 or on Twitter at @Alixed.

When did you launch your independent business?
I started out in 2000 with a partner. We had worked together at Canada Life and she had also been an indie before. We parted after about a year because she needed more time with her children. I went solo and have loved it ever since.

What's your background?
I have a degree in psychology from the University of Windsor, and went to Ryerson for journalism before starting work as a reporter. That kind of free-flowing job suited me. I've also worked in the corporate world and occasionally go back. For instance, I spent four years working with a team at RBC four days a week.

Where does your work come from?
Maybe 70% is through referrals. There's still effort involved, and you have to do your due diligence! I do a lot of networking, going to events, staying in touch with people, outreach, sitting down and having coffee with people.

I find that traditional PR and marketing communications are really going digital. That's why I'm polishing my digital skills doing a Digital Marketing Management certificate at University of Toronto. I've already seen that as a value-add when I can tell people, "Here's what I've been doing lately."

What do you enjoy most about being an indie?
I love working at home, having my dog nearby, and having control over my day. I'm a night owl and don't keep strict schedules, so I like that I can work at 3 a.m. if I want. Or I might work on a proposal on the weekend and give myself Friday off.

I used to get in trouble at school for my incessant chatting with friends, so I love that I get paid to communicate. I love the variety of work and using my skills to help people. I also love partnering on projects with other indies.

I value giving back, and being on my own has allowed me to volunteer, including as IABC/Toronto president in 2004-2005.

What don't you like about being an independent?
I'm not fond of the selling part of it; I feel like I'm always auditioning! And then somebody's gotta have the budget to hire people like us, and the budget might be cut. So you could do the greatest job but it could abruptly end because of money. It can be a lot more tenuous than being an employee.

What advice would you give someone new to independent life?
There are a lot of elements to becoming an entrepreneur, so I would say, even if you aren't certain, try it. You can always go back. Listen to your gut.

You need to have a skill or deep experience to sell. You need a good network of people who could potentially buy your skill. Ask other indies for an informational interview and do some advance planning. Reputation is huge. If anything happens that might affect your reputation, you need to diffuse the situation and do something to make it better.

The Ontario government has a great program that teaches you all elements of running a business -- the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit program. You can learn about selling, finances and so on before launching your business, and the deliverable at the end is a business plan.

Has PIC helped you? How?
I launched my business at a time when there weren't too many indies and not a lot of support. PIC's predecessor group, Alliance of Independent Practitioners, was just new. As AIP has evolved into PIC, it's doing an unbelievable job. We get great advice, and it has terrific, fascinating members.

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.
Need help with some aspect of the 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. You'll also find past PIC event reviews, promotional podcasts and previously featured PIC Personalities, and you can download the report on our recent fee survey.

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! 

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