Our first full-day professional development event was a huge success! On April 20, we presented Chill Out Summit 2017, connecting Manitoba’s coolest communicators with a keen interest in the digital world.

We heard from leaders in social media, employee engagement, intranets, videos, and content marketing. Real-life, recent, and relevant challenges, solutions, and best practices.

Local presenters social media powerhouse Susie Erjavec Parker of SPARKER Strategy Group and content marketing genius Alyson Shane of Starling Social have been recognized as Manitoba’s Top Social Media Influencers by CBC Manitoba.

American imports internal communications expert and ICology founder Chuck Gose and CEO & Co-founder of 12 Stars Media, Rocky Walls delivered the goods on engaging employee communications and using a smartphone to create pro-level video, respectively.

If you missed it, wow did you miss out. Stay in touch so it doesn’t happen again, eh? Here’s an executive re-cap:

PR and Social Media: #BFFs – Susie Erjavec-Parker, SPARKER Strategy Group


Key slide: “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin

Your audience wants to be connected with you. Who solved my problem? Who did this or created this for me?

Storytelling for 2017

Storytelling is the medium for answering these questions, but long gone are the days of sending a pdf or Word document press release. Social media drives PR and PR drives social media dialogue.

Your audience works and lives on mobile, so tailor your stories accordingly. Write for digital always. Bit-and-bite-sized tweets linking to content, Instagram posts that visually incorporate a call-to-action, and Facebook live videos are the way to provide insight, excitement, and exclusivity.

Impact of Millennials on PR and Social Media

Millennial values of individualism, brand experience, and authenticity have trickled into all demographics. Focus on benefits and emotion. Show and share your brand’s story of solving problems, like WestJet.

Research your keywords and topic clusters and weave them organically through your story. Millennials can smell BS a mile away, so make sure your point-of-view is diverse and sensitive. When you miss the mark, own up, reach out for feedback, and make changes. A lesson United Airways is learning the hard way.


Keynote: The Importance of Technology in the Employee Experience – Chuck Gose, ICology


Key quote: “Employee engagement has been ruined by dumbing it down to a number…Collect feedback and DO something with it.”

Employee experience is part of the customer experience

The workplace experience for employees has a huge impact on the customer’s experience. Engagement comes as a by-product.

Again, the recent United Airlines violent deplaning of a paying customer serves as an example. Employees did not feel empowered to do the right thing, so the right thing was not done.

Organization culture, physical space, and technology all need to be considered on an individual level. It’s not the policy, the space, or the tool; it’s the people behind it.

Employees want to give their feedback and then, they want to be included in implementing change.

Digital communication channels can drive engagement, boost user generated content, and improve the employee experience and culture. Technology is an organization’s central nervous system. Give employees access.

Other technology-based, collaborative, employee engagement tools include:

BLE – Bluetooth Low-Energy, a wireless personal area network technology for meetings, collaboration, and sharing news

AI – Artificial intelligence to analyze intranet content and determine employee areas of interest

VR – Virtual reality to bring employees together in spaces where they can’t be physically, such as international meetings across time zones

Bot chain – Sharing files and content and tracking usage throughout their lifecycle

Make it employee-driven, make it inclusive, make it collaborative, make it innovative. Give your employees the experience they need to be engaged, and they will engage your customers.



Case Study: Wawanesa’s Digital Workplace – Chris Radcliffe, Habanero Consulting Group – Chill Out Lunch Sponsor

Key quote: “When we launched the new portal, we gave employees the opportunity to share kudos for their colleagues. This crashed the system. One individual alone gave kudos to 50 other people.”

A workplace-driven digital transformation

When surveyed, Wawanesa’s employees expressed their dissatisfaction with their internal SharePoint portal.

Only a select a few people produced the content. It was stale and redundant. It excluded regional news. There was no way to interact. The network experience was confusing.

Habanero gave the internal portal a massive makeover – new name, a logo, an events section, and the opportunity for regions to provide local content.

Employees could now like and comment on content, similar to a personal Facebook experience. A new Photostream feature generated 7,000 views per month. Wawanesa is looking forward to the next survey results.

Workshop: Video You Can Do – Rocky Walls, 12 Stars Media

Key quote: “We don’t pay attention to the stories right under our noses. We run around creating content rather than listening.”

Shorter Attention Spans: Myth or Reality?

Video is now the standard for marketing communications. In seconds, we can tell stories that matter, showing how our products and services help people with solving problems. But do we really have shorter attention spans? Or something else?



Entelechy is the realization of potential. The potential for telling stories that matter to our employees and our customers is within reach using a smartphone plus a few other tools.

12 Stars Media identifies the major challenges around getting started with video as money, creativity, technology, time, and something else (such as legal and IT departments).

Top Tips

Here’s a selection of the 12 Stars’ tips for killer video on your smartphone (did you really think we’d give away the whole secret sauce recipe?)

  1. Define Purpose: Complete the sentences, “People who watch this video will…Because I show and tell them….”
  2. Scout Locations: Pay attention to lighting that can and cannot be controlled, check the acoustics; study how the space can be configured. Is it a conference room with zero natural light? A room with dividers? Dropped ceiling?
  3. Stabilize That Video: Purchase a quality tripod with a pistol grip and adapter to attach your smartphone.
  4. Get Good Audio: Purchase a smartphone-compatible lapel mic.
  5. Get Good Lighting: Make sure your main light source illuminates your subject from the side and use a secondary, less intense light, to fill in the other side.
  6. Shoot Interview First: This way, you can edit around any stumbles or mumbles and know what complementary footage to shoot.
  7. Check the Gate: An industry term that basically means to check you captured the footage correctly, free of unintentional video-bombs, before you yell, “That’s a wrap!”

Content is King: How Content Can Increase Sales – Alyson Shane, Starling Social


Key quote: “Getting your customer to give you their email is like getting the spare keys to their house.”

Consumers are doing more research before they decide to connect with you – 47% of buyers engage with four to five pieces of content before engaging with an actual representative.

If you’re not giving them authentic, transparent, honest content that builds trust in your company, your competition sure is.

How to get started?

Solve problems for your customers on your blog. Research keywords and topic clusters on Google Trends and BuzzSumo.

Yale Appliance saw a 40% increase in sales by providing helpful blog posts for their customers. KitchenAid vs. Samsung dishwasher features and prices. Not super-sexy, but super-relevant and valuable.

Other examples include in-depth FAQs, how-to’s, reviews, top 10 lists, and stories about your company’s events and community involvement. Take the knowledge already sitting there in your employees’ and customers’ brains and put it to use. Nothing is secret anymore.

Next steps

Public content increases traffic to your website and increases SEO.

Once you’ve got people coming to the website, take the next step and get them signed up with email to keeping getting your awesome content. Start a newsletter drip campaign. Segment your list based on why people subscribed and target your blog posts accordingly.

Follow up post-purchase to keep building your relationship. Track your results, adjust. Transform prospects into warm leads and one-time purchasers into lifetime buyers.

Tanya is passionate about writing; a foodaholic, late-nite cookie baker and PR under-bulldog meets cat lady. You can find her on twitter @TanyaMissenghers