<![CDATA[Arka Communications - Blog]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 17:19:15 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[A New Path]]>Mon, 02 Jan 2017 14:52:08 GMThttp://arkacomm.ca/blog/a-new-pathAs I sat down to write my first blog of the year, I found myself struggling to translate my thoughts into words. Funny thing about writing – the art is really about taking those ideas and shaping them into phrases that resonate with the reader. Some days the words flow. But other times, like now, the thoughts won’t cooperate. I suppose it’s because 2016 was anything but simple.

For many people, the year brought a flood of emotion and confusion that couldn’t end quickly enough, and yet, couldn’t last long enough.

It was the year of a revolution of voices beginning with the Academy Awards and continuing with Black Lives Matter, provoking controversy and calling out for justice and an even playing field.

It was shockingly scattered with celebrity and populist deaths, including Toronto’s former Mayor - a whirlwind in time - only to be replaced in the headlines by a dramatically drawn out and sensationalistic US election with a surreal outcome. Finally some balance was created with a long-awaited victory for the great, great grandchildren of the original North American inhabitants, only to flip again with the passing of a dictator and finally, more celebrity deaths seeped in drama, as only celebrities could.

No doubt, it was a significant year that has made a historical dent in our minds.

I’ve watched the many Facebook posts of people crying out and begging for 2016 to be over, and then read the Twitter posts of activists riding the waves of progression. And I felt the emotion that comes with change - the resistance and the anticipation.

The majority of the year was the Year of the Monkey - my year, which came with its own set of events and personal shake-ups. After recovering from an early breast cancer diagnosis, I found myself fitting back into the working world again, as I slowly regained my footing. The loss of a beloved family pet drew tears for a moment, only to be replaced by the realization that the impact she'd made will never be undone. There were reconnections with significant people from my life, separated by more than two decades, but as our paths converged once again and we emerged wiser, greyer, and no less familiar.

Amid the tornado of events swirling behind me, I managed to break my own ground with the acceptance of my first fiction novel, scheduled to hit the book stores by the Fall. In the meantime, I began work on the second, hoping to harness some of the swirling dust of 2016. Because for me, it wasn’t a year to forget. What was physically lost was just space being made for more creation. What seemed defeating at the time, brought revelations, strength and most importantly, unity.  Despite all of our differences in culture, pigment and opinion, it was heartwarming to see how people can come together when the ground becomes shaky.

Professionally, 2017 brings me to the tenth anniversary of Arka Communications. When I set out on my own path ten years ago, I had no doubt that it was the right decision, despite the many external fears and insistence that a full time job would be a better choice. Throughout this journey, there have been many hills and even more valleys, but never any regrets.

An interesting end to my year however, was a report card circa 1974, fished out by my mother and gifted to me over the holidays. I read in awe, the teacher’s assessment of a six-year old girl, newly emigrated from a foreign county to a modest Toronto neighbourhood. Although it was written over four decades ago, her comments, ‘creative, independent and original,’ is just the reassurance I need as I move into the new path of 2017. Happy New Year.
<![CDATA[From the Heart of a Poet]]>Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:07:56 GMThttp://arkacomm.ca/blog/from-the-heart-of-a-poetPicture
The late American poet, Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When I first heard the quote, just after her death in the Spring of 2014, it took some time to resonate. I mean, technically, we can’t make anyone feel anything, right? That’s the rebuff that I’ve heard from many skeptics. But as with anything that I don’t fully understand, I placed the quote on a shelf in my mind where it was accessible, because I wanted to see if it was true.

Injecting this theory into personal life makes much sense. After all, friendships and romance are always based on feelings. Otherwise why would we bother? But when we think about work, the idea of feelings seems out of place.

We are always taught that professionalism is the ability to put aside personal feelings, biases and emotions in order to achieve the ultimate goal – success, whether it’s our own or that of the organization.

But this concept is not realistic, because even at work, we must build and foster relationships. And relationships are built around feelings.

Think about the concept of ‘fit’. It’s all built around the premise of comfort. When hiring a new team member, many organizations are putting more emphasis on fit over experience. Does the person make others in the team feel at ease, or do they stand apart, creating a sense of discomfort among the others? Skills are usually considered secondary when new employees are hired.

It’s a common theory that most people leave, or are asked to leave companies because of feelings – they don’t get along with their managers. If your boss doesn’t like you, she/he does not like the way you make them feel, and vice versa. People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.

In turn, successful organizations are run by great leaders who make their employees feel valued, their clients feel satisfied and ultimately, their competitors feel concerned. When you feel like you have an important role within your team, don’t you try that much harder?

I can only imagine that the talented Ms. Angelou coined this phrase because she lived it for most of her life. A woman who lived in a time when freedom was legislated by government actions, where she could go to school and get an education as the law stated, but every day felt the pain of injustice and sting of discrimination as she tried to fit into a society where she was marginalized.  

In a progressive work environment, we could argue that new employees should not have to fit into the environment, but should be hired for their experience and skills, and welcomed into a culture where they feel like they belong. But perhaps this would be akin to an early 20th century society adjusting to make an African American woman feel comfortable. And although our society pushes forward to promote the brand of diversity, maybe the concept still needs more time to resonate before the action can be implemented.

Maya Angelou’s quote still resides on a reachable shelf in my mind, and I access it often. In fact, it’s taken precedence as a guide in both work and play. And amazingly, I’ve learned how a little adjustment to prioritize feelings ahead of words and the actions, can produce such successful results.

Happy Summer!


<![CDATA[Allowing yourself to fall]]>Fri, 22 Jan 2016 14:48:15 GMThttp://arkacomm.ca/blog/allowing-yourself-to-fallPicture

started the 2016 calendar year with the usual cliché mindset that a new year brings – new beginnings. And in my case, it made sense, because the end of 2015 was timed with the end of my cancer treatments.   ​So it was very tempting to discard the past - close the door and lock the key, and move into the future without looking back. But I know all too well that it’s our past that shapes the next leg of our journey. Besides, experiences provide the foundation for great stories, and with my first novel completed and awaiting decisions, I was looking for inspiration for my next project.  

The first week of January brought me the acquaintance of a new client who is motivational speaker and workshop facilitator who works with youths. She recently published her own story in a memoir called If You Played in My Playground, a painfully shocking story about life as a foster child in the projects of Toronto. I  have to admit, I didn’t begin reading the book until after I met her. By that time, I had formulated a view of a well put together, professional and articulate entrepreneur who met with me over coffee to discuss some publicity for her work. She explained that her story was the foundation for her motivation. “From pain to purpose” she said to me. Ok, I thought. Sounds like a good message. 

Only when I started reading the book did the picture unfold. If we relied on statistics, the girl in the book would not have been the woman I met. But as I consumed page after page, I realized the accuracy of her message and marveled at the courage it took to turn a painful past into a purposeful future.  

During the month, we were both invited to attend a lunch hosted by a dear friend and former client who is a tireless advocate of public education. We met in 2010 when I volunteered as a media advisor on his political campaign, which led to many freelance gigs and some of the best learning experiences of my career. He was the instigator who introduced us and has a knack of putting random people together to watch creativity unfold.

 A fourth participant at the table was another friend who was embarking on a new career after receiving his PhD last year in Indigenous Studies. The friendship with Bob, aka Great Bear, began a few years ago while on a canoe trip to Centre Island via Lake Ontario. As he sat resting beside his hand-made kayak, he explained that he was close to completing his PhD in Indigenous Studies which he started while in his early 60s.  

Today, doctorate completed, he is preparing for a new role as a speaker who will share stories of his own past to students across Toronto. Technically, he could have retired over five years ago. But there’s still much left to do and many tales that needed to be told about growing up in Toronto as an Aboriginal man. 

As we sat around the table eating homemade burritos and jalebi for dessert, stories emerged, experiences shared and plans unfolded. Despite the differences in careers, ages, races and religion, each one of us were bound by a common element – we all chose to build on our past experiences and develop a means of earning a living by following our hearts and our passions. Ironically, the talk of money or earnings never made its way into the conversation.

I was inspired by the courage, and yet, the 21 days still brought more.   

Earlier in the month I was fortunate to meet a videographer who spent his free time chasing solar eclipses around the world. Another independent entrepreneur, he had built a career doing something he’d loved since he was a kid – even before video technology had emerged. By middle age, he had built a successful business where his efforts were spent on the experience rather than the monetary end result because he knew it would work itself out.

As I marveled at his accomplishments, looking for some words of encouragement for my own journey, he looked at me, smiled and said, “Fall. And the net will appear.” 

​If I'd been given that advice a few years ago, I would have laughed, deeming it impossible. But it's the first three weeks of 2016. What better time to fall?

<![CDATA[What I learned in Cancer care]]>Wed, 01 Apr 2015 20:26:26 GMThttp://arkacomm.ca/blog/what-i-learned-in-cancer-careI just finished a contract for a Regional Cancer Program located at one of the province’s largest hospital corporations. It was the first time that I’d worked as a lead communicator in cancer care and it was quite an experience.

As a communications consultant, I’ve spent the majority of the past 8 years working in short term contracts and on projects for mostly public sector organizations. It means being able to jump in and pick up the pace quickly, learning along the way. But even though the learning curve is always about the organization and the industry, the principles of communications remains the same, varying only based on audience and stakeholder needs.

I realize, this type of work is not for everyone. It’s fast paced and there are many challenges as you try to jump in, develop and implement communications strategies and solutions, sometimes in the middle of a project. Clients and organization leaders have no time to train because they’re busy, which is why they choose someone with experience.

I was fortunate with this particular contract because it required working with the clinical staff. It was a rare opportunity to work with family physicians, oncologists, surgeons, nurse practitioners and oncology nurses who deliver cancer care on a daily basis.

My role as the communicator was to ensure transparency, making sure information about cancer services was available to patients and the general public. In the public sector, the role of a communicator is essential because taxpayers need to know how their dollars are being spent. So I had to digest clinical information quickly, and turn it into simple language so patients and all community members were aware.

It sounds challenging, doesn’t it? And yet, the best part about my role was working directly with the clinical staff. While I was in awe of what these professionals did every day, they were incredibly respectful of my role as a communicator and, all had the understanding that yes, information must be simple and clear to reach out to patients. Because in this type of work, the patient always comes first.

As my contract started to come to a close, I found myself teary-eyed on more than one occasion. The send-off I received was overwhelming. But most importantly, the knowledge I acquired and the opportunity to work alongside cancer care professionals is, and will be invaluable as I move forward.

So now I’m taking a short break as I look for my next challenge. It might not be for everyone but I must admit, working as a consultant and freelancer is a lot of fun. And since we spend so much time in our lives working, shouldn’t we have a bit of fun?

<![CDATA[The power of the personal story ]]>Tue, 01 Jul 2014 20:59:19 GMThttp://arkacomm.ca/blog/the-power-of-the-personal-storyI’ve been working with media for the past fifteen years, both as a reporter and a publicist. Having experience on both sides of the fence has given me a valuable perspective of what each one needs in order to do their jobs.

Perhaps the most simple and yet useful insight I’ve gained is the power of the personal story. I've learned through my work in communications that despite attempts to reach audiences by promoting organizational goals, processes or achievements, audiences tend to resonate with a story that touches them in some way. So I’ve decided to share a story that’s been on my mind for a few days.

I was on one of my frequent power walks through the neighbourhood about a month ago, when I came across a woman playing ball with her dog.  Like most dogs, he was eagerly on the chase after each throw. Although he was fast, there was something about his gait that made me look closer. The black-border collie mix was galloping around the grass on three legs.

I was intrigued so I moved closer.  Apparently this fascination was mutual because when our eyes met, he stopped, put his head down and slowly walked in my direction. Then he paused several feet away, eyeing me cautiously.

Removing my earphones, I approached the woman with the obvious inquiry.

The story was painful to hear. Abused as a pup, his rescuers realized that one leg was so badly infected for unknown reasons and it had to be amputated. He was only a year old when he was adopted by the woman who confessed to me how he’d enriched her life. Bear, was his name.

But he’s wary of strangers, she said, as she noticed his gaze from a distance. I reached out my hand in a gesture of friendship, but the movement made him turn and run in the opposite direction. Given his story, it made sense.

A couple of weeks later I bumped into the two again. Bear was eagerly frolicking on the grass, catching the ball in his mouth. The woman recognized me and we exchanged greetings. Bear stopped in his tracks and looked over. Was there a hint of recognition in the dark eyes? Slowly, his graceful three legged stride followed his gaze and I reached out my hand. This time he allowed a couple of feet between us before he turned and walked away.

Ok, perhaps not yet I thought. Perhaps never, given his experience with humans. I walked home, a little disappointed, wondering if it was his experience, or was it me. Animals after all, have instincts we could not hope to posses.

This past weekend however, I went biking with a friend. At our meeting spot, two people and a wet dog approached. The animal’s gait was recognizable. Bear.

He’d  been swimming in the creek, his adopted mother explained.  

“Bear,” I called. “Hey buddy, how are you?”

Without hesitation, he confidently strolled in my direction. When he was close, I reached out my hand to allow a sniff.  He move closer, allowing me to scratch his neck and gently stroke his head. And when I stopped, a soft nudge asked me to do it just a little bit more.

“He probably recognized your voice,” the woman said.

As you can imagine, it was a euphoric event. He trusted me.

I admit I wasn’t sure I would ever feel the softness of his fur in my fingers. But it really was a good reminder that time, patience and understanding can get us further than we expect. It doesn’t hurt to put ourselves in the other’s position either.  Really, that’s the key to effective communication.