PIC Newsletter - May 2015
Hope you enjoy the latest edition of The Buzz!

Conference suggestions from  the PIC chair, Sharon Aschaiek

Like many groups for professionals, we've wound down our 2014-15 professional development season. Our last evening seminar, on May 6, was on making the perfect pitch to prospective clients (see event recap further down in the newsletter). We're now kicking off our summer social networking season, with our first event at The Pilot on June 3.

But independents who want to avoid a full-on case of patio brain can still bone up on the knowledge and skills of the business and craft of communicating, thanks to the arrival of conference season. Here are some upcoming conferences you may want to check out:

From June 14 to 17 in San Francisco, IABC will host its world conference, Changing the Landscape: Informing the Future. Expected to draw 1,200 participants, the conference will feature a mix of skill-building sessions, in-depth workshops and informative panel discussions. It will also include dynamic keynote speakers such as Silicon Valley entrepreneur and marketer Guy Kawasaki, SAP CEO and world business leader Bill McDermott, and brand personality innovator Sally Hogshead.

Conference 2015-Editing Goes Global is a joint conference between the Editors' Association of Canada and the Professional Writers Association of Canada. It will feature professional development sessions in five different streams: editing, language, unexpected markets, networking, and how to run an association. Taking place June 12 to 14 in Toronto, the event will also include half- and full-day seminars on topics such as work and business practices for editing professionals, and rethinking the role of the digital editor.

Finally, starting this Sunday, May 31 in Montreal is the three-day national conference of the Canadian Public Relations Society, Engagement + Impact. Expected to attract more than 300 participants, the event will feature a combination of keynote speakers and workshops to support professional development in the field of public relations. It will also provide a chance to network with some of the top public relations practitioners from across Canada. 

Continued success,


In This Issue
Conference ideas from the PIC chair
May 6: Perfect Pitch recap
June 3: Patio season starts
Sign up to steer PIC
Welcome new members
New indie comms podcast
Apologies to Tracy & Heather
Meet Heather Gramlow
Need a mentor? Want to be a mentor?
Update your profile
Quick Links
Newsletter archives
Join Our Mailing List!
We want your talents!
PIC 2014-2015 Executive
May 6 report: Capture attention and interest with your perfect pitch
By Sue Horner

Networking is an important part of finding customers. Is the way you introduce yourself helping land those prospective customers? PIC members and guests at the Perfect Pitch session May 6 were eager to find out.

When it comes to getting people's attention, "You have about as much time as it takes to start your car," speaker Kevin Smith (aka The Story Architect) told the group. "After five to seven seconds, people stop paying attention."

Kevin advised us to follow the CPU approach:

C = Customer

Position yourself based on the customer you want. Write down your top two customers and come up with a pitch targeting each one.

P = Problem/pain point

What is the pain? What causes it? What's the effect? The more you can tie what you do to a problem your customers have, the more likely they are to see your value.

U = Unique selling point

What's unique about you that allows you to solve your customer's problem? (If you aren't sure, ask your customers why they hire you.) What are you really good at and what do you most enjoy?

Once you've thought through your CPU, you need a hook. This is something unusual or memorable, or a statement that piques curiosity and buys time to explain your value. For instance, when Kevin introduces himself as a "story architect," it's memorable and prompts people to ask about it.

Your hook and the pitch itself may change depending on the customer and the context, Kevin added.


The Buzz polled guests afterwards to see what people took away from the session.

Priya Bates, ABC, MC, says she appreciated the idea of "identifying who your customers are, the major problem they are trying to solve and how you, in your unique way, are the one who can solve their problem." She adds, "It got me thinking that I need to create a variety of pitches for my various audiences, since each of their perspectives and perceived problems are different from one another."

Susan Diaz says, "I've always had a hard time with the first sentence of a 'cold pitch,' struggling to strike a balance between memorable and rehearsed. Kevin's ideas about making your pitch really centre around your audience hit home for me. It's easy to want to be everything to everybody and the session reminded me to keep focused."

Pamela Bailey calls the evening a "really useful refresher session. I'll definitely be refining my introductory pitch -- possibly even condensing it further for certain audiences."

Katherine O'Brien is also planning to change how she introduces herself. She adds, "I loved the presentation and I felt energized by it. It was one of the best seminars I have attended. Kevin was smart, insightful and he really engaged the audience."

Recommended reading: Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. The book includes the Clifton Strengths Finder online personal assessment test.

June 3: Summer patio season takes off at The Flight Deck

Wednesday, June 3, 2015, from 6 p.m. onward

The Flight Deck, top floor of The Pilot, 22 Cumberland Street, Toronto (near Yonge/Bloor) 

You'll be flying first class at our next social networking event on The Flight Deck, The Pilot's rooftop patio in the heart of Toronto. We're looking forward to connecting with friends and colleagues, and enjoying summer cheer and great food al fresco. 

Named Canada's favourite patio by The Globe and Mail, The Flight Deck has heaters and retractable awnings for a safe landing even if the weather is turbulent.

As usual, it's pay-your-own way for drinks and snacks. File your flight plan and let Jane Langille know you're coming so we can reserve enough space for everyone.

Step up to help steer PIC in 2015-2016

You can help independent communicators advance their careers while strengthening your own professional development. How? Join PIC's executive for a one-year term from September to August.

This fall, Sharon Aschaiek returns to the PIC executive as past chair, along with Sohini Bhattacharya in membership and Sue Horner in communications. We regretfully say farewell to Jane Langille, Donna Papacosta and Andrew Wright. That leaves three openings for 2015-2016:

  • Chair
  • Director of programming
  • Director of social media

PIC executive members each have their own portfolio responsibilities, and everyone helps with events in their own way. Each month, we alternate evening seminars and social networking events. These typically take place on a weekday evening the first week of each month. During the summer, we ease up the pace by sticking with patio socials.

Among the highlights of volunteering for PIC are:

  • exploring the best practices, latest trends and leading expertise of the craft and business of communications;
  • engaging in valuable networking and insightful conversations with our members;
  • helping promote the success of other independent communicators and the profession as a whole; and
  • ensuring that the needs and views of independent communicators are met and represented within IABC/Toronto.

Read more about the responsibilities of the three open positions or ask those now in those roles about what they do. Talk to the current executive about what it's like to volunteer for PIC at our upcoming events, or send your questions to Sharon at sharon@cocoamedia.ca.   

Welcome new members

Irene Bakaric

Email: irene@mediaprep.ca
Blog and website: http://www.mediaprep.ca
Twitter: @mediaprep
Irene's focus is media training and crisis communications. Her journalism background gives her an insider perspective. She helps clients develop media strategies and skills so they can manage issues, protect their reputation and feel confident talking to reporters.


Linda Ambos
Linda Ambos Communications

Email: LindaAmbos@rogers.com
Website: ca.linkedin.com/in/LindaAmbos
Twitter: @
Media materials, web content, newsletters, articles, speeches, presentations. Plain language editing. 15+ years in corporate communications and journalism.   

Check out IABC/Ottawa's "indie comms" podcast

PIC's own Sohini Bhattacharya was one of the guests interviewed on IABC/Ottawa's new podcast series, The Voice. Episode 1 is The Starting Block: How to Become an "Indie" Communications Consultant. Sohini and IABC/Montreal's Deborah Hinton share some of their experiences, the ups and downs of going indie, how to set yourself up for success and more.


Thank you to PIC member Patricia Davies, who kindly responded to the April issue of The Buzz with this comment: 

  • "As always, a great read. Thank you for consistently producing an interesting and relevant snapshot of PIC."

Some anonymous feedback on what people who attended the May 6 session liked most about it:

  • "I think the subject was good and he gave you something to think about. I will use his tips and tricks."
  • "Discussion made me think about how I introduce myself; catching up with fellow independents."
  • "Great speaker with good experience and stories to tell. Interactivity. Location good but closer to Union Station is best. No food ok, but it would be good to have water available." [Just a reminder that to keep costs down, we can't even provide water because that would mean expensive catering costs. Crazy but true!]
  • "The workshop was more insightful because it involved participation."
  • "The crowd and the speaker; both personable and interactive. I will be joining your association in the near future!"

If you have a comment on The Buzz or any other aspect of the PIC experience, we'd love to hear it. The fastest way to share is by hitting "reply."   

PIC Personality pic: Tracy Chisholm, ABC
Our apologies to Tracy Chisholm, ABC, and Heather West. We profiled Tracy in the April issue, but neglected to include her photo. We also somehow left off the credit for writing the profile, which goes to Heather.

See the full profile, with photo (once some glitches with the website are sorted out) and byline, on IABC/Toronto's CommVersations blog.

PIC Personalities
Meet Heather Gramlow

by Sue Horner

Heather Gramlow runs Sprocket Communications Inc. She is a writer and B2B specialist providing the written word for web and print. Learn more about her at sprocket-communications.com, reach her at 905-235-3124 or connect with her by email at heather@sprocket-communications.com. On Twitter, she's @HeatherSprocket.   

When did you launch your independent business and how did it come about?
In September 1998. I had been working in the corporate world for a number of years and had had enough of the rat race and a long commute from Jackson's Point and later Keswick. That's well over an hour each way. I decided to start my own business to do something I enjoy and achieve better balance between my work and personal lives.

I chose the name Sprocket Communications because just as a sprocket engages the links of a chain, I help customers engage their markets with attention-grabbing words.

What's your background?
I wasn't a stranger to freelancing because I had been working in the television and movie business as a production coordinator. The hours were crazy, 12- to 14-hour days, six days a week. When a production would finish, I could take a few months off.

After that, I worked in B2B (business to business) sales for a telecommunications provider. From sales, I ventured into the training area, so had a lot of exposure to content development. I found it something I really enjoyed.

What type of work are you doing now?
I create content for B2B companies mainly in the technology space. I write copy for white papers, websites, case studies, electronic and print direct marketing, blogs, press releases -- basically anything to do with marketing communications.

What do you enjoy most about being an indie?
Like many others, I like the flexibility and independence. I like the short commute from my coffeemaker to my office. I like being able to hang out with my dog, a 14-year-old black lab/border collie. It's nice to have the company and she gets me out every day for a few short walks.

What don't you like about being an indie?
The main thing is I miss the daily face-to-face contact with other people; nothing can replace in-person communication. Most of my meetings are by Skype or telephone. So once a week, I pack up my laptop and walk to a local café that has wi-fi to work for an hour or so, just to get out in a different environment. It's important for a writer or anyone being creative to change your environment to stimulate your creativity in different ways.

How long have you been a PIC member and what value do you get from your membership?
I joined IABC about six years ago, and PIC pretty much right after. When my schedule permits, I really enjoy attending the events. My preference is to attend in person, get out of the office and see real people. If I can't do that, I like reading the summaries so I can still learn from them. The website has also been a great resource.

What advice would you give someone new to independent life?
If I had to go back and do anything over, I would probably have joined IABC, PIC or other professional organizations sooner than I did. They provide a great opportunity to network and learn.

My other advice is something I've always done: Make sure to structure your day and week to stay focused. It can be easy to get off track if you don't keep to a structure.  

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? Our PIC Personalities feature 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 in The Buzz archives and on IABC/Toronto's CommVersations blog.

Need a mentor? Want to be a mentor? Sign up with Sharon

Our mentorship program is live, with two mentorship matches among our members. We're looking for more seasoned communicators to pair with aspiring mentees who may be new to being independent.

If you're willing to be a mentor or would like a mentor, email Sharon Aschaiek at sharon@cocoamedia.ca.  We'll set up the connection and leave you to work out the details of how often to meet and where you want to take the relationship.

For some tips on making the most of a mentoring relationship, see Sharon's column in the January Buzz, recapped on the MentorCity blog.

Make sure your PIC member profile is current

As a member of PIC, you can promote yourself at no charge in the PIC directory, located on the IABC/Toronto website. Yes, it's f-r-e-e! Make sure you're taking advantage of this chance to share key details about your services.

If you want to add to your existing profile, or create a completely new one, email PIC's Director of Membership & Events, Sohini Bhattacharya. Sohini keeps a running list that she shares with IABC/Toronto every quarter. Send Sohini your name, company name, location, email address, telephone, website, blog and a brief description of your business (up to 35 words).


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