Digital Marketing, SEO and My Life as a 20-Something

Tag: reflection

5 Things I Learned In My First Semester Studying Digital Marketing

After returning to school in January to begin a post-graduate program in digital media marketing, I often get asked, what the heck is digital marketing? What do you learn about? It was a whirlwind three months and I learned more than I could list here, but here are 5 key takeaways from my first semester.

Five Things I Learned In My First Semester of Digital Marketing

A whole lot of hard skills

Content marketing, Facebook ads, marketing strategy, Google Analytics, social listening, e-mail marketing, RFM, LTV, marketing research, building personas, paid ads, SEO…you name it, I probably learned it. Digital marketers require a multitude of skills and an extensive toolbox to draw from and I certainly got a good start on building mine.

Everything must come back to your marketing and business objectives

It’s easy to stray from your game plan when you’re focused on creating engaging content and making the most of all the tools digital marketers have at our disposal. But one thing that was really drilled into my head is that everything you do must help achieve your business objectives. The ultimate goal of marketing and business is to be profitable, and if that doesn’t happen then the only thing you’ll be managing is your own LinkedIn while searching for a new job.

Marketers are constantly learning

(I mean, this is true for everybody, but especially important in digital marketing) Our world is changing at an increasing pace, and marketing is no exception to that rule. Many of our courses didn’t even have textbooks, because they would be out of date by the time they were published. Digital marketers need to stay on top of changes and trends to make the most of what’s available and to be where their audiences are. Stay current by reading industry blogs and publications, and always find ways to keep upgrading and adding new skills.

You can’t be an expert at everything

As a professor once said ‘you don’t need to know how to do everything yourself, but you need to understand how it works so you can pay someone to do it for you.’ We laughed, but it’s true! You can’t do everything, but you need to understand enough to know what can be done and to communicate effectively with the person tasked with the job. You don’t need to code your own website, but you should know enough to talk with your web developer, and you should be able to do basic things like a blog post or update copy on a website without expert help! Stay informed, but know your limit and bring others on board when you need them

Data…data…and more data!

There’s so much data out there which presents many opportunities as well as nightmares for marketers. On the downside, there are increasing concerns and legislation about consumer privacy and use of data (Cambridge Analytica and GDPR anyone?), and even many marketers don’t know how to interpret the data and analytics available and how to act it it. On the plus side, data helps us better understand and segment our audiences, do incredibly targeted communications and understand the impact of our communications, from impressions and engagement to the all important ROI. Regardless, in an increasingly data driven world, data and analytics are two things digital marketers must understand and be able to act on.

It’s an exciting time to be in the digital marketing field, and I couldn’t be happier with my career choice. Do you have any questions about studying digital marketing? Do you need help with your own digital marketing? Let’s connect.

The Friday File: February 23rd

The first in a new weekly series sharing some of what I’ve been reading and watching throughout the week.

The Power of Sharing Your Story With Students by Beth Pandolpho

Educators are human beings too, the more you show this the more successful your students’ learning experience will be. Being honest about my experiences learning French with my former ESL students helped them see me on a more human level, especially as I was pretty much the first English speaker within their community they had met who wasn’t perfectly bilingual.

Can You Afford To Risk Not Aligning Corporate And Social Purposes? by Christopher P. Skroupa, Forbes

Nope, you can’t.

The Purpose-Driven Marketer: How Patagonia Uses Storytelling To Turn Consumers Into Activists by Jeff Beer, Fast Company

Social impact and mission driven brands have been capturing a lot of my ‘I should be textbook studying but it’s alright because I’m still learning’ time lately. Career goals, right there.

Millennials’ prolonged stay at Parents Inn is having a profound impact on housing markets by Murtaza Haider and Stephen Moranis, Financial Post

Honestly this one just made me really angry because it paints an unfair picture that ignores the struggles and obstacles my generation faces in affording basics such as our own housing. I WOULD BE 100% INDEPENDENT AND NOT LIVING WITH MY MOTHER IF I COULD. But worth a read nonetheless.

Advertisers warn social media to step up, or they’re out by Ramona Pringle, CBC News

Levels of trust in various forms of media has been changing in recent years, and Canadians feel it’s increasingly difficult to trust what they read online. It will be interesting to see how social media platforms continue to respond to problems of abuse, fake news etc. and how we can find an optimal balance between personal content, brands, news and paid ads as we move forward in this constantly changing and developing landscape.

Why Real Young Women Make Real Good Role Models

“Role models really matter.  It’s hard to imagine yourself as something you don’t see.” –Chelsea Clinton

The Oxford Dictionary defines a role model as ‘a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated’. Despite this seemingly clear and simple definition, it is often widely debated whom and what constitutes a ‘proper’ role model. That’s not the topic of this post, because who am I to determine whether or not someone is a good role model to another person, who has life experiences, circumstances, and dreams different than my own?

What I will highlight, is one group who I think is greatly overlooked, despite being very important role models for our young girls. This group is young women.

It’s something that’s really dawned on me in recent months, and has been probably both the most profound, as well as unexpected, revelation of my time in Québec.

Camp counsellors, student teachers, coaches, babysitters, cousins. I hope everybody can think of a few teenagers or young adults who you viewed as a God during your youth, I’m fortunate to have had many. Based on my many years of working with young people, I can conclude that young adults are a source of great mystery to children, sometimes to the point of absolute hilarity (ohhh the questions I’ve been asked!). We’re adults to them in terms of age and authority, yet in a different way than their parents, aunts, uncles, and teachers, with our lack of cars, houses, children, and matching socks. But I guess that’s what makes us so intriguing, and why they relate to us differently.

Furthermore, tweens, particularly girls, really seem to gravitate towards young women, and this is something we should not and cannot ignore.

A lot of the girls I’ve worked with over the years have helped me come to this realization, but there are a few who really stand out to me, because I think I stand out to them. I can’t talk about them here, oh I wish I could, as their beautiful smiles and courageous hearts are the reason I am writing this, and why I have promised myself to always try to be in touch with this age group somehow.

Now, the young women who (I hope) are reading this, you may be thinking ‘What can I do, I still need role models of my own, I can’t be a role model to anybody else’. I used to think this too, and sometimes still doubt myself in this regard. But trust me when I say that you are being watched and you can have an incredible impact on some younger lives. The late elementary and middle school years are a time where girls’ confidence and self-esteem often plummets, but with your help it doesn’t have to be that way, perhaps it could even be a time where it soars.

But what they need, is they need you to silence the boy who speaks over them. They need you to pass them the ball during a soccer game. They need you to ask them a second, maybe third time to attend an extra-curricular activity they weren’t quite sure about but deep down really want to attend. And most importantly, they need you to say Hi. How are you? See you next time!

You don’t need to be a celebrity to do this, you don’t even need to have a job, you only need to be you, because that’s what our girls need most. They need you to be real and present in their everyday lives, not someone who only exists to them on television screens and Instagram posts. They need to see you wearing clothes from the local mall, not expensive designer items. They need to see you walking in the rain because you don’t have a car, never mind an expensive luxury one. They need to see that your skin and hair are not always perfect (mine sure aren’t). They need to see you eating your lunch with your fingers because you forgot a fork and were too lazy to walk to the staff room (true story, maybe I shouldn’t admit to this stuff online). Believe it or not, these things are really, really important.

There’s room for role models who make mistakes. -Taylor Swift

They need you to not just be relatable in the present, but a preview of who they can be in the future. Yes, some of them could go on to be famous musicians, athletes and politicians, and we shouldn’t stop them from dreaming big. But most of them are going to end up like you. You may be either horrified or laughing at that but I mean it in a good way. Because you are real. Unlike celebrities or fictional characters, they can, and most likely will, be like you one day.

That’s not to say that all media is terrible, and I can think of many who take being a role model seriously and try to use the platforms they have in a positive way, and I sincerely applaud their efforts. Role models in media can be important; this could be a young person’s only connection to people like them. This is not something I experienced growing up but for many this is true. Yet still, at the end of the day, are they the best we can do for our girls?

So, what am I trying to say here? Ladies, you are being watched. Don’t worry, not in a ‘walk holding your keys pretending to talk to someone on the phone’ kind of way. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you don’t need to become a crusader for female empowerment. But a little bit of time here and there, maybe volunteering in a community or school program, or simply spending some time with a cousin or neighborhood child, all while simply being yourself, has the potential to change a girl’s world. They will admire you even more when they see that you really are being your true self and not someone that other people want or tell you to be. Don’t let this stress you out, but don’t waste this opportunity either. I don’t want to say you owe it to them, but I don’t think you’ll regret it either.

If each generation takes a little bit of time to nurture the next one, we will unleash even more of the incredible, positive power that already lies within all of us. Young ladies, you can help unleash more of this power than you may realize, and our girls are waiting for you to go and turn that key together.

Role models can inspire. Campaigns can motivate. But if we want all girls everywhere to rise up, then we must find them, befriend them and support them. –Queen Rania of Jordan
















3 Months In

Three months. Trois mois. 91 days. No matter what way I put it, no matter what language, it’s hard to believe I’ve been here for 3 months. In some ways that time has absolutely flown by, while in other ways it feels like I’ve been here forever.

Now where is ‘here’ you may be wondering?

Here/home for now is a place called Rimouski, Quebec. Back on September 1st I dragged me, myself and 97 pounds of luggage onto an airplane bound for Quebec City. A few days later I was dropped off at a house full of people who don’t speak english, and life has been flashing by ever since.


Concierge (jokingly): Geez, do you have everything you own in here?        Me: Ummm, actually I do.

Work life these days consists of being an english language monitor in a francophone elementary school. I work with roughly 400 kids from grades 1 through 6 doing activities, both in the classroom and small groups, to help the kids improve their english and learn about life and culture in English speaking Canada. Madame/Mrs/Miss Natasha (said with a cute french accent) at your service.

I often get asked why I left everything behind to come here. And what I had back home was pretty good, but at the same time I know this was a good choice. First of all, to have a meaningful job that’s decently connected to what I want to do in the future that pays enough to be financially independent? That in of itself is a blessing for a 21-year-old and a reason to move 1000 km away. But the ultimate goal of my time here is to improve my french.

And oh, is it improving. Oh yes indeed. Because when you live in a house full of french-speakers, as well as in a community of fifty thousand people where a whopping 0.7% of the population speaks english as their first language (that’s 330 people), and only 22.7% claim to be bilingual in english and french, it’s kind of inevitable. (Check out the 2011 census if you don’t believe me!


But my time here is definitely about more than a pay cheque, work experience and linguistic ability. The program is called Odyssey after all. It’s been about adventure, about connecting with nature, learning more about the country I’m proud to call my own, and not following the status quo. It’s about getting a glimpse into life as a minority, making it through the tough days when your friends and family are a thousand kilometres away, and exploring the joys and treasures a new community holds. It’s been about learning how to refill the pellet stove that heats the house, being able to rattle off the times when the tide will be in or out, and finally understanding the Quebecois accent. And of course, it’s been about copious amounts of hockey, poutine, and maple syrup.

So that’s where life has taken me for the time being. For those of you who ask, no, it won’t be forever. My wandering and adventures of the past few years have been fun and I wouldn’t change them for anything, but I’ve also figured out what I love, my priorities, and that I would really love to live in one place for more than 8 months. Because I haven’t done that since I was 17 years old and I’m ready to do that again. So come summer, I’ll be back Ontario, and trust me, the wait for me to come back will be worth it.

“Language is not a genetic gift, it is a social gift.  Learning a new language is becoming a member of the club -the community of speakers of that language.”

Frank Smith




International Day of the Girl: A Message to a Younger Me

Dear Young Natasha,

In a way, International Day of the Girl isn’t the most relevant day for you; much of the focus is around education and empowerment of girls in developing countries. You were blessed to grow up in a community and family where your basic needs were always met (as well as most of your ‘wants’ as well), you were always loved, safe, and you always had access to fantastic education. So my first message is, don’t take this for granted. But even the most blessed lives aren’t perfect, and unfortunately some of these imperfections are solely because of your gender. So listen closely little one, please listen to what I’m about to say, and ignore the messages of the old boys club and the glass ceiling that are already being sent your way.

First, and very important for you, do not hide your intelligence. I know, it’s hard, especially hard when it’s the boys who are supposed to be smart, not the girls. The reality is that your mind will never be normal, and I know that’s not easy to accept and to navigate life that way, but you have been blessed with an incredible gift, so please let it shine as brightly as possible, or at the very least don’t hold back and attempt to hide it.

The reality is, because you are a girl, you are going to have to work harder. You are going to have to work harder to be heard, to be taken seriously, to get the same opportunities as the boys. For those nice events you’re going to be invited to, you’re going to have to spend more money on clothes, figure out how to do your hair, and suffer in uncomfortable shoes just to meet society’s standards for women. It sucks, and unfortunately I don’t have a solution. Just do the hard work, jump through the hoops, and try not to burn your fingers on your curling iron. But take care of yourself, take some breaks, and don’t forget to have fun along the way.

In grade 7, you are going to write down your top 3 instrument choices for music class. I saw you erase trombone as your top choice and replace it with flute! Stop! Write it again. Don’t give in to the pressure to pick a ‘girly’ instrument when you’ve wanted to play trombone for years. And you know what? In 2 years, you’e going to have another chance to learn trombone. And you’re going to be really, really good at it, so please take that first opportunity when it comes. Yes, you’re going to be sitting at the back with all the boys, and some people will feel the need to say obnoxious things about that. But you know what? Those boys will become some great friends, music will bring you some incredible opportunities, and the low brass section is more fun than the flutes anyways.

“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!" -Dr. Seuss (And one day, you will literally climb a real life mountain!)

“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
-Dr. Seuss
(And one day, you will literally climb a real life mountain!)

You are going to be told you are too impatient. You are going to be told you are being patronizing. You are going to be told you are too harsh. You are going to be told that you are a bitch. It will hurt. It will make you want to stop. But keep going. Keep going. Because you’re only doing the exact same thing as the boys, it’s just being interpreted differently because you’re a girl.

Raise your hand in class. Talk more. It’s okay that you’re not interested in makeup or Top 40 music. Don’t be afraid to let your interest in politics and sports shine through. You may be the only girl doing so, but if you persist, others will join. Run like a girl, whether it’s for office or out on the soccer field.

And those other girls I mentioned earlier, the ones who haven’t been blessed with the things you have? Never forget them. Keep up the work you’ve done to help others, and always do what you can to make the world a better place. Because if you don’t, who will?

And finally, only you can define who you are, and what you expect of yourself. All those things I just talked about? They are going to mess with your self-perception, with what you do, with what you think you’re supposed to do. Don’t listen to them. Make the most of the loving, successful, supportive people in your life, but at the end of the day make sure that you are doing what you want, not what society and others say you should.

So Tash, that’s what I have to say. Life as a girl is not always the easiest. There are traps along the way; traps of traditional gender roles, the glass ceiling, the old boys club. Traps placed by the haters, traps placed by the insecure, traps placed by those who only care about themselves. But it doesn’t have to stop you, and the lessons you learn from navigating these traps and challenges will only make you a better person. So take your crazy self into this crazy world; go play your trombone, go be bossy, and go show ’em what you’ve got.



Orchestra London: Saving vs. Enabling

As a former band kid and a person who’s life to date has been strongly influenced by music, what’s happening with Orchestra London is heartbreaking. Participating in community jazz bands and orchestras turned me into who I am today because of the friends I made, the places I traveled to, the events I participated in, and the opportunity to work with others to create something bigger than ourselves. I have performed for school children, elderly citizens in nursing homes, in small towns in France, at community fundraising events, as part of the only Canadian group that year at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and on live national television in the presence of many dignitaries at a state funeral. I have seen many of the world’s top musicians perform in a number of different cities and countries, and on some occasions even had the chance to meet and/or work with some of them. But I’ve also had wonderful nights out at local venues with friends, and most importantly I remember the awe of being a young child and seeing a musical or theatrical performance, and wanting to be like the people on stage. Music, and cultural institutions in general, are important to communities in so many different ways, especially in ways that can and never will have a dollar value.

I’ve been drowning in end of semester papers lately so I haven’t read every single fact about what’s going on with Orchestra London but what I do know is that we have a tough choice to make. My heart says ‘save the orchestra whatever it takes’ but my mind says ‘we need to make an informed decision’. What that decision is? I’m not quite sure yet, and I think we need more information, particularly solid financial information, before the decision making process can begin. We deserve nice things, but more importantly we deserve accountable, responsible community leaders who make good decisions, whatever the outcome may be.

One thing that we have to keep in mind though is the difference between ‘saving’ the orchestra and simply enabling the troubles to go on for a bit longer. If we are truly going to save them then we need to do it properly; probably an overhaul of leadership, a solid and realistic plan moving forward, and a strong commitment from the community to put our money where our mouths are and support them. I have always wanted to but have never actually been to an Orchestra London performance, but I am publicly declaring that I will go to one within the next few months if that is still an option. Your commitment could be in the form of more significant financial support if that’s possible, volunteering your time, or simply buying a ticket to a performance. No matter what your contribution may be, if this organization is important that everybody claims them to be, you need to prove it. But most importantly, this commitment and support needs to be a real, viable one that will allow them to enhance our community for years to come, instead of just prolonging the need to face the real problems a little bit longer.

I am no financial expert and my journey into learning about the workings of the non-profit sector is still in its early days, but I am of the belief that not every non-profit organization can or should be entirely self-sustainable. However, there is a huge difference between being supported by grants, subsidies etc. and surviving on hope and bail outs, and from what I know it seems that Orchestra London has fallen into the second category.

I am well aware of how hard it is to fill a concert hall. I know how frustrating it can be when many remain ignorant of fantastic and long standing community cultural groups despite their best efforts and the support of many others. But I also know the feeling, from both the audience and the stage, of what music can bring to an individual and a community.  We can’t rely on our hearts to make this decision, realistic and smart financial considerations are crucial moving forward, but I encourage Londoners to come up with a solution that finds the best possible balance between finances, culture and community.

Yeah, Life Sucks. But I Didn’t Throw Anything At A Wall Today

This is more of a personal post today because oh what a Monday it’s been. Those of you who follow me on twitter have probably seen at least one of my numerous posts ranting about my wrist issues and my related adventures in the healthcare system. Long story short, I fell while roller skating in August of 2013 (no that is not a typo, yes this is a 14 month old injury), initial x-rays showed nothing, months of physio have had little improvement, I’ve seen multiple doctors including a sports medicine doctor and a world-class hand surgeon, and despite getting the “million dollar workup” (3 sets of X-rays, an EMG, and 2 MRIs) everything has come back negative and nobody can tell me why my wrist just refuses to get better.

Today I had a doctor essentially give up on me, this is the second one to do so, leaving me to go to physiotherapy and “be patient”, not seeming to understand that I’ve been working so hard in physio for over a year with no resolution to my pain and the lack of progress is why my physiotherapist sent me back to the doctor in the first place!

I’ll admit, I was in tears as I left the hospital and for pretty much all of my walk home. I didn’t throw my phone against my wall today, unlike in January when I got my first negative MRI result, but boy oh boy did I want to. Normally I’m pretty guarded with my emotions but I moped around all day, probably looking like I wanted to kill someone, and the person who almost ran into me while turning right at an intersection got a significantly dirtier look than I usually give drivers who do that (sadly that is a regular occurrence in my life, and I swear I’m a good pedestrian).

But as the day went on, I realized what a cow I was being. Yeah, I had a legitimate reason to be upset and every once in a while I’m allowed to take a day off from my usual friendly optimism, but despite the image I was probably projecting, the world was not actually on the verge of ending. And furthermore, for every thing I had to complain about today, I had about ten others to be thankful for, such as…

-all those tests and imaging may have been essentially useless, but at least they’re available to me and covered by OHIP

-I have access to world-class healthcare

-I can walk to and from the hospital alone with no fear for my safety, and it’s a beautiful walk to make it even better

-in the 3 trips I made to urgent care/the emergency room last fall (1 for my wrist, 2 for when I was seriously sick) the only determining factor in going was whether it was needed, not whether I could afford it

-I have never heard as many “I love you”s from my little kids at work than I did today

I guess this post doesn’t really have a grand point. It’s a way of moving on from my “woe is me” day and trying to make the best of what life has thrown at me. It can be easy to focus on the bad things, but if you take a step back, then all of the wonderful things about life will shine through, and at the very least they will help you deal with the bad stuff. Count your blessings, spread the love, and reach for the stars, I can’t really think of a better way to live life.

And as I tell my pre-school kids? Sometimes if somebody isn’t being nice to you, then you have to be extra kind to them to teach them how to do it.

Oh, and don’t throw things at walls. Trust me, it leaves a mark!