One year in: How has Saskatchewan navigated Covid-19? A provincial business panel weighs in (KnowYXE television)

On April 1st, live-streamed over KnowYXE television, community and regional planner (Founder of Prairie Wild Consulting), researcher and host of CFCR’s “Civically Speaking,” Lenore Swystun, moderated a 90 minute conversation with a panel of Saskatchewan business experts, on how we as a province have navigated Covid-19.

Panelists included (in alphabetical order):  Jason Aebig (CEO, Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce), Jim Bence (CEO and President of Hospitality SK), Ashley Charles (CEO, Prince Albert Regional Economic Development Alliance—PAREDA), Monica Kreuger (Chair, Saskatchewan Chamber; CTV Citizen of the Year, Saskatoon) and Judith Veresuk (Executive Director, Regina Downtown Business Improvement District).

Associate moderators were Anika Mysha, Madhurja Ghosh and Rashid.

Panelists took five concepts or questions as starting points for their discussion:

(1) The pandemic has revealed how much our Saskatchewan communities rely on the business industry. 

Judith Veresuk observed that in pre-Covid times, 30K people would daily use downtown Regina, many of them office-related workers who have since gone away. Their counterparts in the suburbs have had an easier time because they have been able to work at homes that are closer to their places of business.

No urban downtown can function well with that kind of a loss in numbers.

Jim Bence spoke about the pain being felt by urban, downtown hotels and restaurants. Those still open are paying their bills each month, but don’t know if they’ll manage next month. Fixed costs on large property can be $250K/month. With no revenue, who can survive?

Bence said that the provincial government has helped businesses to survive, but if the industry loses the summer season and conference season (September to November), it will be on the brink. Currently, industry leaders are “balancing many plates in the air” and find hope in the ingenuity and resilience of its members.

The second question for discussion was this:

(2) What are some of the key things business organizations have done to endure Covid-19?

Monica Kreuger said that the team at Global Infobrokers, including the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship, is keeping well despite Covid fatigue. There have been positives, like the money saved on gas for her to commute between Regina, Craik and Saskatoon, but then that industry has simultaneously suffered. Her team and associates have strived to make optimal use of the “down time,” to put skills and programming “in our wheelhouse to get ready for down the road.”

Kreuger said they’ve had lots of innovation, they’ve asked what are the changing needs of the people we serve, how do we come out to the other side of the pandemic? The PSE has started new relationships with people, worked in collaboration and in new ways, “stepping out of silos, that we should leave behind,” post-Covid.

Ashley Charles said it’s no surprise that Prince Albert Tourism has been badly hit. They have been challenged to meet health and safety standards. She said that it’s been especially challenging to start PAREDA in the chaos, with everyone scrambling to learn Zoom, with small businesses needing provincial and federal grants and capital that can only be accessed by detailed application procedures.

Jason Aebig said the pandemic has been top-of-mind for the Saskatoon Chamber, as it tries to connect with business owners and to assess risk, encourage pivoting or altering operations, and then to attend to members’ needs, such as having children in school, and how families cope in the pandemic. He said that the Chamber has seen the “personal toll of Covid on businesses and business owners who are exhausted, hanging on by their fingernails.”

Aebig observed that the Chamber is paying particular attention to health and wellness, asking its members what support they need and “showing up differently.” He said the Saskatoon Chamber has been discussing the economic determinants of health, recognizing that financial security is a major part of a community’s overall recovery. Members seek stability of income, investment and sector-specific advocacy. The Saskatoon Chamber has been actively managing cases of more than 60 members who were challenged with applying for grants and programs to secure rapid relief.

The Chamber and related organizations have had to be strong “to keep the lights on and to give entrepreneurs reason for optimism.”

Kreuger commented that the SK Chamber is still working on developing a strategic plan and continues with online training to help the community keep connected (e.g., the “growSMART” program, led by Kreuger and Deanna Litz). “Programming has focused on how to stay in business and even to grow.” Respondents to programming said collaboration with others has enabled them to see that entrepreneurship is not a solo effort and that collaboration is needed for every business—it’s an insight that has been illumined by Covid.

Focusing on “shopping local” is essential during Covid and after. The SK Chamber has not stopped advocating for businesses with the provincial and federal governments. The PSE has helped businesses to apply for strategic grants to keep their lights on.

Charles said that PAREDA did not implement the strategic plan it had in place, because Covid left members scrambling. Energy focused on going online, creating a website, trying to build momentum and get an investment strategy that would see Prince Albert and area benefit. How can they approach large companies and ask them to set up businesses in PA?

PAREDA has focused on activities of “response, recovery and resilience.”

Veresuk reflected similarly that the Regina BID has increased its communication with business owners to help them to apply for emergency grants, by acting as a connector. She observed that the pandemic has exposed the prominence and visibility of individuals with mental health issues, when downtown homeless shelters were also closed. Regular downtown businesses and office staff were concerned for street people, so that the BID accelerated its program, now about to launch, called “Our Community Support Program.” This links service providers with people in great need, so that law enforcement does not have to participate.

Bence said that the hospitality industry was hit early on and will be the last to recover, because no one is moving around and attending events. The “Profit and Loss sheets” show that “losses are staggering.” So they keep balancing plates in the air of (i) liquidity and (ii) mental health and wellness, mounting webinars and podcasts that are open to all.

Humans, he says, are intrinsically social beings. We “love to communicate with others and to party,” but currently, “we’re all at home, isolated, worried about job security, which can lead to alcoholism, financial ruin (esp. in the 55-65 year age range) for those not eligible for insurance but having their mortgages called in,” etc. He says the organization holds wellness checks with some of its members, via the RCMP, and that four out of five suicides occur by men.

The hospitality industry has started developing a program for mental health and wellness specific to its employees. 

The third question for discussion was this:

(3) How can businesses deliver better outcomes in times of crises like these?

Charles said one has to ensure that one’s organization is online and can pivot quickly to respond to members’ needs.

Aebig said we shouldn’t think the business community is homogenous, when it has different practices. Saskatoon businesses’ longevity has depended on their capacity for three things: (i) changed physical space (working from home, staying 12 feet apart); (ii) increased their use of technology—moving into online sales; uptake with technology in the province is the highest in the country; (iii) workplace considerations, including policies and practices to work from home.

Veresuk said that for some businesses, 2020/2021 has proven to be the best year ever. Use of technology (such as electronic take-out ordering and delivery) in the food industry has been crucial to its resilience. Equally important is that marketing messaging should not scare customers away. Regina is currently in a lockdown due to the intensity of “variant” cases. But she says consumer confidence should simultaneously increase if businesses are to benefit. So businesses need to appeal to loyal clientele with stories of how they’re coping and keeping the public safe.

Bence agreed that consumer confidence is key in going forward and that the hospitality industry can stress its own responsibility and accountability. Hotels are at the top of safety standards and (with the exception of a few outliers), most are safer than home-based teenage drinking parties and the like. But hotels need to think creatively about how to pivot and reimagine their  services.

Kreuger said pandemic times are excellent in getting to know one’s customers better and what their new needs are. Chambers have done surveys to establish these things. It’s also an excellent time to scale up by taking courses, by learning to digitize with technology—there are lots of resources available for businesses to grow (now more than ever). Businesses can get the support of clients to collaborate on ideas and feedback. It’s a great time to explore pain points and how they can be addressed as opportunities for growth. Small groups meeting virtually will continue. We are all also ready for in-person, large scale events, too.

The fourth question for discussion (raised by Ghosh) was this:

(4) How do we increase diversity in our entrepreneurial and educational communities (as the pandemic ends)? 

Kreuger commented that diversity in the business community serves everyone. Saskatchewan has welcomed diverse populations, notably in our two universities and at SK Polytechnic.  We have online virtual sessions for newcomers. We need to think about how to lay out the “welcome mat” to new immigrants or to people from other areas, so we have a robust number of entrepreneurs and customers entering our doors.

Aebig said that newcomers are crucial to the business community, such as by supplying the workforce that is trying to build us out of Covid. A painful reality is that skilled newcomers to SK have lost a year of their service or human capital to Covid. 

Charles said that attracting fewer immigrants to SK affects Prince Albert’s business model. This is a good time to strategize on how to appeal better to newcomers, to promote PA and SK as great places to live and work. Videos and website resources can extend PAREDA’s reach.

Veresuk said that we need to market our communities as good places to live and work. Regina’s low housing costs create an opportunity for home ownership. But there is too much property available “for lease” in downtown Regina: we must market these spaces to everyone, including newcomers.

Bence said his industry relies heavily on newcomers, so their reduced immigration points to a looming crisis in already crisis-ridden times. Saskatchewan’s available labour pool is very low for the hospitality industry. A pathway to permanent residency and citizenship should be service in his industry—the industry will only grow when there’s a better, more stable, pool of labour in place.

The final question for discussion was this:

(5) What supports are needed from the governments, as the pandemic ends, especially when provincial and federal budgets are about to be released?

Aebig observed that there’s a “terrible gap where businesses under two years old” can’t qualify for support and are “hamstrung and needing oxygen to survive.”

Kreuger said that entrepreneurs need to scale up and out by tapping into the “Re-Open Saskatchewan Training” incentive. If an owner can scale, they bring staff with them. Also, the SK Chamber advocates for companies to digitize. Digitization isn’t only about selling, but about how to take companies to the next level. Government investment there would be welcome and well-invested.

Veresuk referred to the “Digital Mainstream” program from the Government of Ontario, that went out to AB, and NS, as well, but SK has hovered around a decision to use it.  It addresses how small businesses can become resilient by digitization, which dovetails with downtown development, because downtown infrastructure has capacity to get projects off the ground, as Covid ends.

Charles said that investment in infrastructure in smaller and rural centres needs to increase, so that everyone has digital connectivity in their homes.

Bence said that at least the government understands the crisis and the need for supports. Allowing for more use of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) has helped some bar and restaurant owners to survive. There should also be a cap on third-party delivery of food and alcohol, because most operators are losing out to “Skip the Dishes” or “Doordash.”

By the beginning of 2022, Bence predicts that the hospitality industry could have lost a lot of businesses. He asks what would happen to the retail market if hotels and similar services are gone? What would it be replaced by, year after year? He says entrepreneurs need to discuss these questions with mayors and city councils, about how much could be lost in losing the downtown.

Swystun and fellow moderators referred to a frustrating stigma experienced by entrepreneurs and other business members who report that the public says all they care about is staying open to make money—heedless of public safety. Swystun commented that all businesses are owned and run by people, the vast majority of which follow public safety protocol.

Kreuger said she has not heard an “open or nothing” philosophy amongst entrepreneurs.

Veresuk said that some businesses that remained open were not eligible for subsidies (CERB) and were simply trying to survive. 

Aebig said there is a polarizing effect from an economic downturn when most businesses are bending over backwards to keep employers and customers safe. Four hundred and thirty-six people have died of Covid in SK. But another tragedy would be the forcible closure of all businesses: “Be careful. Exercise caution. Let’s be as precise and targeted in our strategy as we move ahead.” This is “not an open or nothing strategy.”

When concluding, Bence commented that the business and medical communities want the same things and are not really at odds. We have to “take care of ourselves (including our employees) before we can care for others (customers).” Statistics in Alberta show that only 0.8% of transmissions of Covid occur in the hospitality industry. Most cases occur elsewhere. There are intrinsic damages done to health and wellness of a population when hospitality is taken away.

Similarly, as Charles said, there must be ways to reduce the challenges that arise from striving to get onboard with health standards by new and small-town businesses.

And now it’s your turn: are you an entrepreneur in Saskatchewan, striving to survive these late pandemic times? Do you agree with the points made by this business panel? Please weigh in on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

More thoughts on creativity from Daphne Gray-Grant in this month’s “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

March 2021 Vol 3 Issue 3

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling
Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-March, 2021!
As spring is on the horizon in Saskatchewan, we long for more of the sunshine of last weekend but less of yesterday’s gusting wind! No Saskatchewanian ever dares to call an end to winter in March!

But longer daylight hours (and our province’s wisdom in not having accepted Daylight Savings’ Time), bring welcome relief!

Although the late phases of the Covid pandemic are wearying, I was relieved to test negative for the virus recently, after developing some troubling symptoms. I’m grateful to colleague and friend, nurse Laura Van Loon, for assisting me with getting tested. And I’m happy to be on-the-mend!

Despite these self-isolating, pandemic days, may the growing light and warmth of this month (even if limited to a balcony or back yard) bring you a return to or renewed good health, accomplishment in what you do and gratitude for the blessings (people, projects, books and more) that grace your life.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth

Principal
Storytelling Communications
www.elizabethshih.com

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IN THIS ISSUE:

ARTICLE 1: More thoughts on creativity from Daphne Gray-Grant
STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Bryan Garner and the origins of “milquetoast”
SHOP NEWS
ABOUT US

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Article One, on Entrepreneurial Wellness: More thoughts on creativity from Daphne Gray-Grant

Readers of this newsletter will recall that I’ve often discussed the concept of creativity and how we can enhance creative thinking processes, as entrepreneurs. Recently, Vancouver writer and writers’ coach, Daphne Gray-Grant, recommended 10 ways we can all improve our creativity.

Unlike writers Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic) and more in the vein of Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird), Gray-Grant stresses that creativity is “not a special gift, reserved for a limited few,” but is “a skill that anyone can learn.” Do her following 10 tips resonate with you?

(1) Get enough rest: Gray-Grant reports that most of us need between seven and nine hours of rest, nightly, and yet very few of us reach that target. She questions while we feel shame about needing sleep and argues against subordinating our need for sleep to anything else.

Most sleep studies “confirm that creativity is better after prolonged sleep”
(Sleepline.com/creativity/). Right-brain centred, verbal creatives may fall asleep later and sleep later than those who are visually creative (i.e. artists) and definitely from left-brain, science thinkers.

An article on the US National Institutes of Health website tells us that sleep is needed to flush out metabolic waste from the brain that accrues when we are awake. Sleep helps to restore our thinking and creating capacities (reasoning, problem solving and attention to detail) and to store memories, as
well.

(2) Creativity can improve if we allow for boredom. Because of foolishly overusing our smartphones, we never allow ourselves to be bored. When we’re waiting for a bus or at the supermarket, we surf YouTube or social media.
Gray-Grant says that instead allowing our minds to wander is healthy. She suggests: “look at the other people in the same space as you—notice their appearance, think about what makes them tick, imagine what their lives are like. You can look at the physical space [near you]. What are the
colours? What re the objects like? What makes it pretty? Or ugly? Or boring?”

This kind of mind wandering allows for creativity, since your mind can “go in any direction it likes. “Doing the same old activities does not allow for creativity.” And “noodling” on one’s smartphone is the mental equivalent of eating junk food, says British psychologist Sandi Mann.

When people are bored, they engage in deeper thinking, create games, amusements, diversions. I recall the great English actress Emma Thompson saying in an interview years ago that when she was a new mother, she coped with periods of creative underwork (e.g. a film project that lost its funding)
by daydreaming and developing far-away thoughts that bore no relation to the present.

(3) Gray-Grant says that it’s a mistake to try to write or create in a silent space and that this is why many writers work in coffee shops. She recommends seeking sound in the “70-decibel range,” like some soft living room music, which will not be too distracting; something with consistent rhythm
and tempo, such as Baroque composers; music that you already know and that does not have lyrics (which are distracting). Writers like me who dislike hearing music when thinking, can use a soundbox that quietly plays the repetitive sounds of rain, the surf, running water, wind and singing birds.

(4) Exercising regularly helps our brains, because it encourages the growth and survival of new brain cells (in the hippocampus). Writers for centuries have spoken of walking as a stimulant for better thinking (e.g. Virginia Woolf’s famous essay on “Street Haunting.”), since physical movement
can also promote mental activity.

(5) Gray-Grant recommends allowing ourselves to be “more childlike,” by which she means to allow oneself to have more fun in life—by questioning the status quo; by speaking our own simple truths (without white lies meant to spare others’ feelings); by “approaching the world with open hands and
open hearts,” instead of selfish egotism; and by not allowing discouraging things to burden you, by looking for positivity elsewhere.

(6) She also recommends taking more frequent breaks. Taking rests from work and not chaining oneself to a 80+ hour work week allows mental rest that increases one’s productivity in fewer hours.

(7) Seek the company of others who are creative, or, when that isn’t possible, read about creative people. I blogged years ago on creativity as discussed by Twyla Tharp and Elizabeth Gilbert’s books on the topic. Gray-Grant recommends Just Kids (Patti Smith) and Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
and The War of Art (Steven Pressfield), amongst others.

(8) Know that being and thinking creatively “isn’t easy” and can be messy. “It’s not about playing with paints . . . on a sunny day. Instead it’s about sticking with your program when you’re discouraged with it and frustrated.” She recommends “set[ting] up routines and practices.”

(9) Do creative work, “just because,” and not always for a specifically defined purpose. Creativity can be “for fun” or because you “feel like doing it.” These are worthwhile motivations.

(10) Allow yourself time to be creative, practice it as part of a routine, so you become used to allowing time and energy for it. Gray-Grant says that while we can’t simply turn on a creativity tap, we can get used to developing a routine that encourages it.

And now it’s your turn: do you already use these recommended activities to increase your creativity? What does or does not work for you? Please share your experience on my “Contact” page. I’ll be delighted to hear from you.
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STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: Bryan Garner and the origins of “milquetoast”

Etymologist Bryan Garner recently wrote in his “Usage Tip for the Day,” that the term “milquetoast” is derived from Harold Webster’s early-20th -century American comic strip, “The Timid Soul.”

The popular cartoon featured Caspar Milquetoast. His surname (then and now) refers to a “weak, timid person who is easily led” by others. The character is meek, overly sensitive and paranoid of offending others.

Webster had his character speak the following, which was reprinted on a Christmas card in the 1950s: “If you won’t think it presumptuous of me I’d like to -uh-er-wish you a merry-or at least as reasonably pleasant-a Christmas as we are entitled to, things-uh-er-being what they are.”

Garner says the word is now so commonplace that it should not be capitalized. Today, we might call someone a “milquetoast” if, for instance, after many years of political correctness, the person becomes unable to speak assertively about anything.

The name is derived (as sources including Wikipedia remind us) from “bland and . . . inoffensive food, milk toast, which, light and easy to digest, is appropriate food for someone with a weak or ‘nervous’ stomach.”

The cartoon started in the 1920s, resurged in the 1930s and continued for one year Webster’s death in 1952.

Do you have a story, riddle, cartoon or joke on any aspect of communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue.

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SHOP NEWS:

I’m taking a needed few days off from my usual writing and editing activities, so am happy to delve more deeply into my stack of unread books.
Maybe Middlemarch or Tristram Shandy will finally get their due . . . .?
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I’ll be delighted to return to editing Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE) colleagues’ blog postings and to develop their website copy, as part of the staySMART, pandemic-friendly program.

The program will be renewed in 2021, so stay tuned to join in! Meantime, it’s always wonderful to work with fellow alumni. I’m grateful as ever to PSE Chief Visionary Office Monica Kreuger, group coach and facilitator, Deanna Litz, and Elaine Mantyka and the PSE administrative team, who developed this work for me and other service providers.
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Special acknowledgement to those of my readers who in recent months have lost beloved spouses or family members, whether due to Covid or other illnesses. You are on my mind and in my heart.
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And deep thanks to those who continue to provide support via the province’s Healthline (811) and at our Health Region’s Covid-19 Testing Centre.
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Finally, thanks and prayers to those who care well for seniors in these trying times, providing necessary stimulation, support, good nutrition and other basic needs, even when the pandemic limits our activity.
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ABOUT US:
Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now teach English as a second language that helps new and economic immigrants to secure better jobs; I write communications documents that help SMEs to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I write ebooks and chapbooks that help major companies share their legacies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca)

How has Covid Changed Copywriting (and Entrepreneurship)? Five Tips from Copywriter & Coach, Steve Slaunwhite

Pandemic times are not “unprecedented,” if we know the history of the Spanish Flu, the Bubonic Plague and others. But Covid-19 has shown us up close that pandemics have an extraordinary effect on the world of communications and marketing.

For instance, Terry O’Reilly dedicated a wildly entertaining and informative episode of his CBC radio program to “Marketing in the Time of Covid” on “Under the Influence” (February 18, 2021).

My colleague (and former coach), Steve Slaunwhite, blogged recently on ways in which Covid has changed copywriting. He says that rules of the game “have been altered. Perhaps permanently.” His observation that Covid has caused copywriting to “become more relevant, authentic—even caring” resonates with me.

Yes, we continue to write copy that tries to persuade and ultimately close sales.  But now, more than ever, conversational copy, which I find draws on storytelling, matters. The conversation outperforms any effort to pitch.

In fact, heavy pitching in pandemic times will only sound tone-deaf to the buyer. So how can copywriters and entrepreneurs address these uncertain times in our writing? Steve gives five tips, which I develop further, below.

  1.  He recommends that we update our understanding of our target buyers, or “buyer personas”: Ask yourself who they are. “If they were created before March 2020, they’re way out of date.” 

Spend some time reading and asking your customers what they’re thinking about, what worries them, what their “hopes and desires” are. Steve says that their answers will be different now than they were, one year ago. Customers and prospects may even be buying differently.

I’ve heard from the CBC and from trends in my local community that some people, not only in northern and remote Canadian communities, but also here at home, deal with pandemic risk by buying many of the amenities of life through Amazon:  For some of these buyers,  not enough stable providers (and deliverers) of food and goods have persisted, through the past year.

Now Zoom has become a means of hiring service providers, whereas earlier more in-person methods (or a combination of virtual and actual) were used.

Steve asks: “Does your marketing copy reflect” these kinds of changes? It needs to.

2. Learn to write conversationally: This is not news and yet I regularly see copy online that does not flow well. It reads, as Steve says, “stiff and formal.” I rebranded my business, Storytelling Communications, in 2018,  focusing on the importance of communicating in ways that quickly resonate with human readers–both thematically and in tone.

Consider that copywriting and marketing greats like Steve, as well as Nick Usborne, Michael Katz and giant, Seth Godin (the latter partnered with Bernadette Jiwa), have all developed training materials that teach conversational copywriting through storytelling.

  1. Build facts and details into your writing: Why? Uncertain times make people crave for certainty. I’ve noticed recently that terms like “bedrock,” “foundational,” “flagship” and “landmark” have circulated more in online news than I can ever remember! We often feel better just for reading those words.

Steve recommends inserting facts, details, useful knowledge from highly credible, authoritative sources. Make sure your statistics are up to date. (We need to update website copy from content that’s four or five years old.) Also, cite “plenty of testimonials.”

  1. Be very realistic about the benefits we tout and any outcomes we quote. Experienced copywriters know that we can write persuasively but still must be honest about benefits and expected outcomes. Otherwise, we have no credibility. Steve writes: “What has changed is that buyers are being extra cautious and scrutinizing the claims made in marketing copy much more closely.”

So we must write convincingly, but not overlook that we are being realistic (honest) in how we describe benefits and promises.

This reminds me of the anger of an accountant I know, who voiced his frustration to a nearby assistant, that a salesperson of their recently purchased photocopier was “a bald-faced liar” for promising a higher volume of copies than the machine produced. The salesperson’s credibility was shot—and won’t easily, if ever, be recovered.

  1. Reward your reader for reading your marketing copy: So we must not “pitch” or push in a hard-sell way. Steve knows that “pitch fatigue” can undermine the effectiveness of marcom copy.

He recommends an “alterative approach,” of including within a promotional email a few tips on how to make the most of the product or service: This “makes the email exciting and helpful to the buyer, whether they buy or not.”  Salespeople call this “adding value with every contact.”

Consider that companies as diverse as Vistaprint and FlexJobs (and many more) have sent me promotional emails in recent months that tell how to improve one’s resume, job interview strategies, etc.

But remember the evergreen power of storytelling (used by civilizations from cavemen to millennials), especially in pandemic times, to hook the reader.

To summarize, then: Covid times force us to be on top of our game as copywriters and entrepreneurs, more conscious and self-aware of our clients and prospects than ever before. We can avoid falling into a “tone-deaf” state if we update our understanding of our target buyer; learn to write conversationally; build facts and details into our copy; are realistic about benefits or outcomes; and add value to our audience, rewarding them for reading our writing.

Covid challenges us to be more nimble in our mindset, as promotional writers.

Copywriters and entrepreneurs who merely crank out copy or promotions in age-old ways will be left out in the cold.

And now it’s your turn. Do Steve’s five tips on how to update our approach to marketing in Covid days resonate with you?  Please share on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

 

 

 

On Covidology: Language in pandemic days

In a recent episode of  CBC’s show, “Under the Influence,” called “Marketing in the Time of Covid,” ad man and marketer, Terry O’Reilly, cited the “word of the year” for 2020. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, it was, not surprisingly, “pandemic.”

But O’Reilly’s interest in Covid related language is motivated by his claim that “for marketers, every week” in Covid “is a brand new year,” in which “new opportunities and challenges become apparent.” Covid related language, although often humourous, reflects that double edge of both opportunity and challenge.

Here are some of his favourites:

  • Covidiots” – people who disregard pandemic protocol, such as wearing masks and washing their hands, putting others at risk.
  • Zoom party”—the online meeting platform has become the software of people’s lives, including their means of communicating socially and personally, while displaying images of their and their respondents’ heads and shoulders.
  • Quarantini” – the term given to alcoholic drinks (especially martinis), shared with others during a Zoom call.
  • Locktail” – similarly, alcoholic drinks people turn to, to cope with  Covid lockdown periods.
  • Drivecation”—a holiday taken in your motorhome, parked in your own driveway, since travel out of one’s province (and certainly air travel) is prohibited or restricted.
  • Covid 19” – pounds people have gained over the quarantine period, digesting homemade sourdough bread.
  • Blursday” – confusion as to which day of the week it is, due to pandemic chaos and work-at-home scheduling.
  • Zumped” – for the unlucky in love, who get “dumped” over Zoom (not in person).
  • Covidantibuddies” – former friends who get on each others’ nerves after experiencing isolation time together.

and . . . .

Apocaloptimists” – people who believe “it’s bad now but we’ll get back to normal sometime soon.”

O’Reilly comments that “the yearn to feel normal” in Covid times is “overwhelming,” resulting in new interest in golf and outdoor sports activities often ignored in pre-Covid days; and in the popularity of touristy flights that don’t go far but remind us of when we could travel by air.

But he adds of these times: “The changes are breathtaking. . . . . We are all coming face-to-face with things we’ve never seen before.” And therefore the need for these neologisms that blend together familiar words in unfamiliar ways.

Although the distribution of vaccines and the coming end of winter have raised global hopes for recovery, we have been willing (or unwilling) participants in a watershed cultural moment:  As O’Reilly concludes, “Separate worlds can meet, born by the opportunity spawned by pandemic times.”

And now it’s your turn. What worlds have you seen combine, what opportunities have arisen in your pandemic life? Do you have new Covid words of your own?

Please share on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

 

And it’s a wrap! Teaching ESL on the horizon . . . .

And it’s a wrap! Despite Covid office lockdowns in the UK, where Tefl.org is based, I recently received my certificate to teach ESL to new immigrants to Canada, after a three month training period.  Here’s what it looks like:

 

The upcoming practicum will allow me to gain actual experience with language teaching!  I will, of course, continue with copywriting and editing, but will add language teaching to my list of services.

Stay tuned for new stories: Tell your story in English, or learn English to tell your stories!