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Start spreading the news: 8th annual media relations summer camp recap

Start Spreading the News cover-page-001 Update:

Staff and volunteers from 21 non-profits and groups took part in the 8th annual media relations summer camp at the Hamilton Spectator June 16 and 18. The camp’s offered free of charge by the Hamilton Spectator and Mohawk College as a thank you to community builders who are making Hamilton an even better place to call home. Day one started with an overview of how to turn worthy into newsworthy, with an emphasis on answering “why should I care?” and building pitches around ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the community. Campers then took part in a series of half-hour interactive talks with reporter Teri Pecoskie, columnist Susan Clairmont and photojournalist Cathie Coward. During lunch, Linda Rourke, producer and host of Hamilton Life, talked with campers about how to pitch stories to Cable 14. In the afternoon, campers learned how to build a story pitch (do your homework and email your pitches). Nine local PR pros and Mohawk College professors then volunteered as camp counselors, helping campers to polish and practice their story pitches in small groups. Special thanks to:

  • Jane George
  • Agnes Bongers
  • Andrea Johnson
  • Mary Siegner
  • Trish Nelson
  • Robert Plant
  • Kurt Muller
  • Wade Hemsworth, and
  • Reba Shahid

Day one ended with a crash course in social media by Chris Farais with kitestring creative branding. On Wednesday, campers emailed their story pitches, which were collected into a handout. Fifteen story pitches were submitted. Day two started with an overview of community partnership opportunities at the Hamilton Spectator and an introduction to The Agency at Mohawk College by PR program coordinator Tim Tuck. Managing editor Howard Elliott then reviewed how to submit letters and op-eds and request editorial board meetings. Howard also encouraged campers to highlight multi-media opportunities in their story pitches. The morning ended with a presentation on how to work with reporters (don’t be a PITA). Over the lunch hour, a panel of editors and reporters reviewed the 15 story pitches, identified their favourite pitches and offered feedback to the entire group on all the pitches. Special thanks to:

  • Emma Reilly
  • Molly Hayes
  • Joanna Frketich
  • Susan Clairmont
  • Steve Buist
  • Carla Ammerata, and
  • Cheryl Stepan

For the remainder of the afternoon, Mohawk journalism professor David Smillie, with an assist from journalism students Kristina Costabile and Josh Stewart, ran a hands-on workshop to help campers stand and deliver in front of a camera. Campers were then offered an optional tour of the newsroom and printing presses. In an evaluation completed by campers, 100 per cent agreed the camp was a good use of their time, they learned something new and they’d recommend the camp to colleagues. Each camper received a complimentary copy of Start Spreading the News: A Media Relations Handbook for Nonprofits and Community Groups and a contact list for Hamilton media. The first media camp story pitch was published in the Hamilton Spectator on June 21. More than 150 nonprofits and community groups have attended media relations summer camps since 2007 to learn how to pitch better stories and earn more media coverage. The camp won a 2015 Great Ideas Award from Newspapers Canada. For more information on the media relations summer camp, contact Jane Allison, manager of community partnerships at the Hamilton Spectator ( or Jay Robb, director of communications at Mohawk College (

Review: Tom Rath’s Are You Fully Charged? The Three Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

FullyCharged-838x1024This review first ran in the June 22 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Are You Full Charged? The Three Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

By Tom Rath

Silicon Guild


Ask yourself three questions later tonight.

Did you spend most of your day doing meaningful work?

Did you fill your day with lots of positive interactions with your colleagues, family and friends?

And did you sustain a high level of energy from morning to night?

Answer yes and you’re likely ending your day with a full charge that will carry over into tomorrow. That’s good news for you and your employer.

“When you are fully charged, you get more done,” says Tom Rath, researcher and author of  Are You Fully Charged and the best-selling Strengthsfinder 2.0.  “You have better interactions. Your mind is sharp, and your body is strong. On days when you are fully charged, you experience high levels of engagement and well-being.”

If you answered no, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone.

Rath and his team surveyed 10,000 people and found that only 20 per cent had spent most of their day doing meaningful work,  16 per cent had positive interactions with others and just 11 per cent reported having a great deal of energy.

“Most people are operating well below their capacity,” says Rath. “As a result, they are less effective in their work. Their interactions with friends and family are nowhere near as good as they could be. And their physical health worsens as days with too much stress and too little activity accumulate.”

According to Rath, you don’t turn things around with a one dramatic change. You start taking a few small steps every day on three fronts.  Do something that benefits another person. Create far more positive than negative moments. And make smart choices that improve your mental and physical health.

Start approaching work as a purpose rather than a place and find a calling that’s higher than cash.  Be leery of anyone who extols the pursuit of happiness and tells you to follow your passion.

If you want to make a difference, start first by asking what the world needs. “Those who make a profound difference begin by asking what they can give,” says Rath. “Starting with this question allows you to direct your talents toward what matters most for others.”

To strengthen interactions with colleagues, family and friends, aim to be 80 per cent positive, says Rath. Put away your digital pacifier and only use your phone when you’re alone. Give people your undivided attention.

Spend money on experiences with the people who matter most rather than buying more stuff. “There is no better use of your financial resources than to spend them on meaningful experiences with other people. This may be the single most important discovery about how to use money effectively.”

To boost your energy, put your own health first.  Start making smarter choices every day about what you eat, how often you move and how long you sleep.  A study by the Harvard Medical School found sleep deprivation is costing the American economy $63 billion a year in lost productivity. Sitting at a desk or in meetings for eight hours a day will both destroy your soul and wreck your health.

“You have a limited number of days to make a difference,” says Rath. “Embrace the fact that you need to infuse a lot of good into this world while you can. You have the opportunity to decide how you will spend your time. Start with work that creates meaning. Invest in each interaction to strengthen your relationships. Make sure you have the energy you need to be your best.”

The questions at the back of Rath’s book will help you be honest about where you’re at and where you need to start making small changes that add up to getting you fully charged. Start making those changes today. LIfe’s short.

Review: Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra

a leaderThis review first ran in the June 8 edition of The Hamilton Spectator

Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader

By Herminia Ibarra

Harvard Business Review Press


You’re caught in the competency trap.

You’re really good at your job. You’ve mastered your craft at the mid-point in your career. You enjoy your work and you’re recognized and rewarded for being your organization’s resident expert.

You spend more and more of your time doing what you do best and less and less time learning new skills.

This won’t seem like a trap until your boss drops hints that your best is no longer good enough. You’re told to be less operational and more strategic. You’re challenged to step up and take on a greater leadership role.

So how exactly do you step up?

You could lock yourself in your office and think deep, strategic thoughts.

You could load up on the latest leadership development books and podcasts.

You could hire a coach who promises to connect you with your inner leader and you could register for conferences and courses that reveal the secrets of how great leaders think.

Or you could heed Herminia Ibarra’s advice. Ibarra is author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader and the founding director of a leadership transition executive education program at INSEAD, one of the world’s largest graduate business schools with campuses in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“Most traditional leadership training or coaching aims to change the way you think, asking you to reflect on who you are and who you’d like to become,” says Ibarra. “Introspection and self-reflection have become the holy grail of leadership development. There is an entire leadership cottage industry based on this idea.”

Ibarra’s not sold on the idea. She believes that if you want to become a leader, start doing leadership work. That work will then change how you think.

You don’t need more insight. What you need is outsight, says Ibarra.

“The only way to become a leader is to act like one. Action – changing how you do your job, how you build and use your network, and how you express yourself – gives you outsight, the fresh, external perspective you need to understand more deeply what is involved in the work of leadership and to motivate yourself to do it. Outsight holds the power to reshape your image of who you are, what you can do, and what is worth doing – it will change the way you think.”

So how do you do build outsight at work?

Find new ways of doing your job. Make new connections beyond your existing networks. And start connecting and engaging with people in new ways.

Adopt a big-picture perspective of your organization. Start scouting for emerging trends within and beyond your industry. Sign up for cross-functional projects and contribute beyond your area of expertise.  Bring people and resources together to work on worthwhile goals.

Reallocate your time by deciding what to less of, more of and what new work to take on. Build some slack into your schedule for non-routine and unexpected opportunities.

Grow your networks to include people who don’t do the same work as you or share your view of the world. Ibarra says most of us are lazy and narcissistic when it comes to networking. “We get to know and like people who are easy to get to know and like because we bump into them with minimal effort.

“Acting like a leader is not just about what you do but also about the company you keep,” says Ibarra. “Stepping up to leadership requires that you cultivate a diverse, widespread, dynamic and cross-cutting set of relationships to help you to lead change, move into assignments in which you can play a bigger leadership role and take charge of your professional development.”

Above all, be patient and don’t expect a road to Damascus conversion. Stepping up to a bigger leadership role is a process and not an event. “Stepping up is a transition, and transitions are unpredictable, messy, nonlinear and emotionally charged.”

This is a must-read if you’ve hit the mid-point in your career and you find yourself caught in the competency trap and coasting on autopilot. Don’t wait to be told that you need to step up your game. Save the self-reflection and introspection for later. Start acting like a leader now.