Earth Day Thoughts and Digitization

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

This is a short blog, but something I feel strongly about…

I think most agree that this new life of quarantine would be much harder without digital communications. In fact, digitization has proven to be crucial during this time of crisis. It can also make a big difference in the other massive dilemma our world is facing – climate change.

I believe if we use digital tools the right way, along with constant innovation, we can impact our planet in a positive way. I have already experienced this first-hand with one of my clients; a company that provides IoT technology to monitor and reduce energy inefficiencies in commercial and industrial buildings. A more familiar example is Starbucks, they use a Microsoft based platform to manage energy. One report, I recently read, suggested that IoT could reduce carbon emissions by about 15% by 2030.

Earth Day (April 22) is a day to reflect upon our planet and what we can do as companies and individuals to make a difference in terms of preserving and protecting it. We can’t let the Pandemic set us back in our efforts to decarbonize.

COVID-19 makes it hard to breathe – Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) makes polluted air for us to breathe.

Let’s not forget about fighting greenhouse gases so we can all breathe easier once the Pandemic subsides.

Fashion Innovation to Tackle Climate Change

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

When we break down the basic supply chain of a garment, we have to consider crop production, fiber production, clothing production, and distribution. To bring seed to life requires machinery that is fueled in order to operate, to make fibers, spinning and chemical processing is needed, and garment making calls for power for factories, machines, temperature controls, lighting, and office equipment. As for distribution – freight transportation, which requires fuel power, is expected to triple by 2040.

The good news… more innovators are stepping forward to disrupt traditional processes in the fashion industry to help create a more circular, environmental system. A circular system is designed to eliminate waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, as well as regenerate natural systems.

Here are some innovators you should take a look at:

  • The French company Fairbrics has created carbon-negative synthetic fiber. They sequester and convert carbon dioxide into polyester pellets to make textiles. This sustainable alternative to traditional fabrics still looks and feels just like virgin polyester.
  • tentree is a Vancouver based corporation that sells activewear that is produced from various blends of sustainable textiles. The company plants ten trees for every piece of clothing that is purchased, hence the name.
  • Established in Portland, Oregon, Pact has started to develop a hold in the fashion space. Pact is known for using eco-friendly organic cotton. The production of organic cotton eliminates the need for harsh chemicals and is a soft, comfortable fabric. Organic cotton uses over 90 percent less water than traditional cotton production.
  • Dresst is a Toronto clothing rental business that makes it possible for you to always dress in something new but not be a contributor to what has become our throw-away society. Dresst sources high quality, on-trend fashions. They rent outfits at affordable prices.
  • The NYC-based brand Rag & Bone oozes cool. I had to include them not only because I love New York City, but because Rag & Bone is hip in so many ways. The company marries British style with modern design. The staff makes clothing for women and men. They have a denim recycling program, so you can take in an old pair of jeans and they will turn them into a new pair. How neat is that? Aside from having their own website, Rag & Bone is available on Amazon.
  • Yoga Jeans is a Quebec company that specializes in designing and producing comfy, form-fitting jeans in a sustainable way, including the use of BCI cotton, and water conservation practices.

There are many other great fashion innovators in terms of protecting the environment, but I hope this list of options inspires you to consider sustainable brands and do your own search to find that perfect eco-fit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suggested Reading While You are in Isolation

 

 

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Now that most of us are staying home and practicing social-distancing, we have time for some of the simple pleasures in life, like reading a good book. In fact, over the last few days, I have been asked a number of times about what I am currently reading, so I put together this list of suggested reads with various genres and tastes in mind.

Take a quick look – perhaps some of these are unfamiliar to you.

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert- This romance is an easy read and a good reminder that happy endings are possible even when things look bleak.

Dear Girls by Ali Wong- This book by comedian, Ali Wong is a funny collection of letters to her daughters that cover all sorts of life situations, including dealing with dating and navigating a male-dominated profession.

Braving The Wilderness by Brene Brown- This book is about cultivating true belongings in our communities and within organizations. It calls on us to be who we are as opposed to changing to fit in. Social scientist Brene Brown PhD., LMSW, outlines a path to true belonging. She employs a mix of research and creative storytelling to make her point.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou- Bad Blood is a fast-paced, wild story about secrets and lies at a multi-million dollar tech startup.

Twigs in my Hair by Cynthia Reyes: This book is a great read for both gardeners and non-gardeners. It dives into the lifelong passion author, Cynthia Reyes has cultivated for gardening. Her profound story not only includes a journey through gardens but also creatures. There is a deeply personal side to Twigs in my Hair. Without giving too much away, what would you do if you had a passion for gardening and suddenly couldn’t do it any longer?

The One You Love by Paul Pilkington- I like a good mystery so I had to include this one on the list. It is a gripping suspense mystery with a British twist.

How Dogs Love by Gregory Berns- I love dogs and so do a lot of my friends. If you are isolated and have a pet, this is a great read. Neuroscientist, Gregory Berns provides wonderful insights into the canine brain and the bond that can occur between humans and pets.

Whether you prefer romance, mystery, science, or some other genre, consider using the downtime to enjoy a good book, it can be a comforting escape in times like this.

 

Isn’t Blogging Dead?

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

It seems that whenever I mention blogging in a group setting there is someone who blurts out, “Isn’t blogging dead?” A substantial part of my living is made off of blogging for companies, so I apologize if I sound a little sensitive to the question but here’s the thing – when it’s dead, I won’t be talking about it anymore.

Talking about blogging

Blogging is not the same as it was when it became mainstream in the early to mid-2000s, but it is very much alive because it has evolved. Blogging is not just sharing information or spewing off the latest on your favorite subject, it is a valuable marketing tool. About 70 percent of business to business buyers say they read a company’s blog before actually purchasing.

The tools available today to enhance blogs keep readers engaged. It is true that you have to employ the best writing and digital practices, including SEO to get people reading your material, but the blog has come a long way since its inception. By the way, many people lay claim to writing the first blog so I can’t tell you who the pioneer is in this case. Today, there are over 600 million blogs worldwide, some are effective – and some are not.

Although a lot of readers skim blogs as opposed to reading every word, good marketers make blogging a priority. According to HubSpot, one in 10 blog posts are “compounding.” This means that organic search increases their traffic over time.

Visuals in blogs

Today more bloggers are getting visual. They are including photos, charts, infographics, and videos. Generic images were part of the first wave of jazzing up your blog, but today, specific images; images that directly relate to what you are talking about are what people expect. Blogging has also become a great way to entice more social media followers.

Check out this link to a blog I wrote for Sumac, a non-profit software provider, to see a simple example of how visuals can enhance a reader’s experience: https://www.sumac.com/5-reasons-donors-leave-and-how-to-get-them-to-stay/

Blogging serves a valuable purpose for businesses. It can position your company as a leader in the industry. It can also help forge relationships. I am not suggesting it is all you need, but it is a good piece of the puzzle. The big issue is being consistent. In order to be successful at blogging, the writer has to maintain good blogging practices and should blog often. Of course, this can take time; lots of time, which is why I do so much blogging for others. The company’s I serve don’t have an employee that they divert from another task to blog or they don’t have qualified staff, so they turn to outside help.

Whether you have staff that can blog, or you hire a freelancer, practices such as posting inbound links directly in your blogs and using SEO techniques will help drive people to your website. Additionally, posting links of your blogs to your social sites is an important marketing tool. You want to give your social followers a reason to click through to your website.

 

About the writer: Teresa Madaleno is a former broadcast journalist. She owns and operates KTML, a small communications consulting firm in the GTA.

 

Energy Medicine: Don’t knock it until you’ve really tried it


Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Energy Medicine or EM is the use of energy fields as a form of therapy, to help improve imbalances in the human body. There was a time when conventional medical practitioners considered it “nonsense” but today many experts in the medical field are taking it more seriously. The reason for this is anecdotal evidence and scientific studies.

The National Institutes of Health, Neurology India, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, as well as other well-respected publications have published papers that support the practice of energy healing to bring the body’s systems back to homeostasis, which essentially means a stable equilibrium.

The Human Energy Field (HEF) has been described as an intricate mix that includes individual electrically charged moving particles such as ions, biophotons, and molecules, which create standing waves. When there are disturbances in the energy patterns of HEF, this can be a sign of aging and disease. However, the theory is that when these energy particles are exposed to Energy Medicine, whether that is acupuncture, Reiki, Vibrational Therapy, Magnetic Stimulation or Healing Touch, the disrupted patterns return to their original harmonic state. Today, many doctors embrace the fact that humans are composed of information energy interacting with environmental energy that impacts both physical and emotional health.

I am a recent participant in the energy healing practice (as a patient). While I am too much of a rookie to say what the long-lasting impact might be, I can report that I feel better after my sessions. For example, I almost postponed one of my recent energy healing appointments because I was so tired I could barely drag myself to the practitioner. I forced myself to go and after the appointment, I felt a renewed sense of vigor. Generally, I am not a good sleeper but did sleep well that night and woke up the next day with an immense amount of energy that carried me through the day.

It has been suggested by some medical researchers that the future of EM will depend on how adept Western medicine is at merging physics with biochemistry. Western medicine relies on physics to diagnose and then turns to biochemical tools to treat.  It is true that quantum physics drives the energy behind diagnostic equipment but the idea of a cellular and molecular communication system involving energy fields is not really a big part of Western medicine. Those who research alternative therapies say there needs to be more focus on doctors understanding of the overlap between the endocrine and chakra systems, as well as how EM enhances the body and mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Book Stores Alive and Thriving in Canada

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Courtesy:politico.ca

Despite what some people may think, the independent bookstore is not dead. In the early 2000s, Indy bookshops took a real hit because so many people were turning to the new trend of e-books. However, like most forms of technology, the e-book craze wore off and books are now popular again. During the e-book frenzy, some independent bookstores did disappear while others stood their ground and keep on going.

To prove my point, I went looking for independent bookstores and was amazed at how many are alive and thriving in Canada. If you love the look and feel of a book, and you live in this amazing country or if you travel on a regular basis within Canada, you should check out all the great independent bookstores on the list below.

  • The Bookshelf– this bookstore in Guelph, Ontario opened up in 1973 and was a favourite spot for writers and authors from the get-go. It has evolved over the years. In 1980 it became the Bookshelf Café, Canada’s first bookstore/restaurant. Seven years later the shop added a cinema. Today, the store includes a music venue, the eBar, complete with craft beer, and dancing every Saturday night. https://bookshelf.ca/home

 

  • Whodunit?– who doesn’t love a good mystery? Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Whodunit bookstore is a good place to search for mystery books both old and new. The specialty bookstore opened in 1994 and offers a wide range of crime fiction. Today you can purchase books from Whodunit online. If you live in the area, you can join the stores Mystery Reading Club or Writers’ Group. http://www.whodunitcanada.com/home

 

  • Mable’s Fables– this bookstore for kids was established in Toronto, Ontario back in 1988. It is a colourful two-level store full of books and toys. There are a lot of events here, including signings, writing courses, baby classes, book parties, and kid’s story times. https://www.mabelsfables.com

 

  • Munro’s Books– considered one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores, Munroe’s Books is situated in a heritage building in Victoria, British Columbia. In 1963 Jim Munro and his first wife, Alice (yes, as in the great Canadian short story writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013), opened the store on Yates Street. The store relocated to a larger building in 1979 and then moved to its current location, 1108 Government Street, in 1984.

 

  • Café Books– this quaint bookstore in Canmore, Alberta features a broad selection of new and used books, as well as a tearoom decorated with antiques from Europe. http://www.cafebooks.ca

 

  • A Different Drummer– located in Burlington, Ontario, A Different Drummer has been an independent bookstore for over 40 years. The shop has a wide selection of books and a lot of interesting events. http://www.differentdrummerbooks.ca

 

  • Argo Bookshop– this is the oldest English-language bookstore in Montreal, Quebec. Located in the Shaughnessy village, it opened up in 1966. It has a curated selection of both fiction and non-fiction books. Argo focuses on books on marginalized groups and books by marginalized authors. https://www.argobookshop.ca/?q=h

 

  • Turning the Tide– located on the main street in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Turning the Tide brands itself as an alternative bookstore. It opened about a decade ago and has become a favourite stop for locals, including university and college students. It offers a selection of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, cookbooks, children’s books, graphic novels, magazines, and movie rentals. Turning the Tide also hosts a book club called, Revolutionary Minds. https://turning.ca

There are many other independent books stores in Canada, like Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario, Black Cat Books in Lennoxville Quebec, King’s Co-op Bookstore in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and The Never Ending Story in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. The list of Indy bookshops goes on and on. For those who like the way a book looks and feels in their hands, it is comforting to know that independent bookshops are flourishing despite the advancement of technology. According to the latest research, consumer’s value community and personal contact – something independent bookstores give them.

Newsletter Writing Tips

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

People receive newsletters all the time. In fact, there are individuals who get flooded with automated emails that go unread. However, there are some newsletters that are so good that people not only click and read them, they share them with colleagues and friends.

If you want to be in the “click and share” category then you should keep the following tips in mind when developing your newsletter:

  • Name it– don’t call your newsletter a newsletter. Give it another name. Since newsletters have become common, many people skip over them just because they assume they will be boring and useless to them. If you give it a different name; an interesting name, there will be a better chance that it will get read.
  • Include third-party content– your newsletter shouldn’t always be about you and your company, you can incorporate content from influencers and leaders in your industry. Including quotes, tweets or links to your partners can be effective.
  • Keep it simple – our inboxes were designed for quick, easy to digest information so stick with one theme, use clear, concise language, and get to the point. Allow visuals to assist you in relaying your message as opposed to depending on the long, drawn-out text. Just remember, simplicity equals readability.
  • Use subtitles – using subtitles in newsletters can make it easier to read content. Subtitles summarize the message you are trying to get out and can be helpful to those who scan as opposed to read.
  • Involve social media – social channels are used to get people excited about all sorts of products, services, events, causes etc. so why not use social media as a way to tease your newsletter? If you have some “big news” to share in your upcoming newsletter, provide a small piece of it on social media to build curiosity then hit them with the news in your letter.
  • Be regular – when people receive your newsletter then don’t hear from you for a long time, they forget about you and/or start to suspect something is wrong. I always tell my clients, don’t start a newsletter until you are ready to be consistent with it. While you don’t want to annoy people by constantly sending them newsletters, you should be sending such information at least once per month.

Before you sit down to create your newsletter, it is important to think carefully about content. Whatever you include should be relevant to the reader. Will it entertain them? Will it educate them?  In other words, does it have value? Without these elements, it will be hard to maintain readership.

 

Books and Remembering the Past

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are an avid reader you are likely in constant pursuit of a new book – something fresh and compelling. Research suggests that books make us happier so no wonder 700 million were sold in the United States last year.  As it turns out, you can even gain joy from reading the same book over again.

Many readers have reported that some of the books that they have read in the past make them feel nostalgic. They can bring back wonderful memories of childhood, friends, and family.

I decided to share 12 books I remember from my past and that I have gone back to read a second time.

  1. Charlotte’s Web
  2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  3. Anne of Green Gables
  4. Winnie the Pooh
  5. Macbeth
  6. Lord of the Flies
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird
  8. How to Make an American Quilt
  9. Out of Africa
  10. The English Patient
  11. Lord of the Flies
  12. The Giving Tree

Some of the books on my list are common favorites. I actually have many more that I could add but I would love to know what books you remember from your past, or that you have gone back to read a second time.

As a matter of interest, The Giving Tree and Winnie the Pooh are among the all-time best selling children’s books.

 

 

 

 

Flaunting – Vintage Spice

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Spicy, rich, flavourful and full of variety is the best way to describe my experience at Vintage Spice in Aurora.

I call Vintage Spice a well-kept secret because I live in Aurora and although the restaurant has been open for over a year, I only know one other person who has been there. I have wanted to try it for months and finally did on my birthday. It was a cold, January afternoon – perfect for warm, spicy mulligatawny soup. The biggest challenge I faced was in choosing my meal since the menu is so extensive.

I am far from being an expert when it comes to Indian cuisine but the staff was friendly, patient and helpful, making the experience easy.

I ordered the mixed-chicken sampler. It comes with three different types of chicken: mild, medium spice, and super spicy. I highly recommend the medium. The dish also includes a variety of steamed and grilled veggies. By the way, this dish is for two people, unless of course, you want to take some home with you. The chicken was moist, juicy and full of flavor.  I also ordered bruschetta naan, which was served warm and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Coconut Curry, Shrimp Curry, Lamp Chop Marsala, Chicken Tikka Masala, Mirchi Prantha, Chilli Cilantro Naan, Garlic Naan, and Goat Curry are all on the menu along with a selection of desserts, including Kulfi, a popular frozen dairy dessert.

If you have never tried Indian food, this is a good place to start since there is variety and the staff is really helpful.

Vintage Spice is located at 15229 Yonge Street in Aurora and is open between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. for dinner.

Bon Appetit!

Dead or Alive – Do case studies work today?

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Depending on whom you talk to, case studies are either great tools to explain the power of your products and services or they are useless. My experience is that it depends on the business.

A case study is defined as an up-close, detailed examination of a subject. In business it is often an examination of a product or service and how it solved a problem. When leveraged properly, many businesses find that case studies are an effective tool, particularly when talking about B2B. The Content Marketing Institute has ranked case studies as the third most effective type of content marketing. Blogging and videos still seem to be the favourite methods among many marketing experts.

Case studies take a lot of time to write; however, here is why they are not dead and why they rank third in terms of preferable marketing methods…

  • They tell stories about your brand– businesses have a lot of collateral that tells people who they are and what they do, including websites. However, case studies go a step further by telling people how your business can benefit from buying their products and/or services.
  • They are full of examples– Real customers are featured; demonstrating how your products and services can be used or what problem they solve. When someone sees how a product solves a specific problem, it is easier to envision how it might help his or her own organization.
  • They contain valuable data– if they are well written, case studies include supporting statistics and other data that draw readers in and allow them to make informed decisions. The more information provided, the more legitimate you’re business appears.
  • They provide powerful proof– testimonials are part of the case study process and according to marketing experts, a large percentage of both businesses and consumers look for product reviews online and then decide whether or not they want to purchase something.

When don’t case studies work?

When case studies get placed on your resources page and nowhere else, you aren’t leveraging the information. They should be shared across many different mediums, both online and offline. For instance, reference case studies on social media, in webinars and in newsletters. You should also be talking to your sales staff about using information in your case studies as part of their pitch to potential new clients.

If you have a simple product that you sell direct to a consumer, you might think about just using testimonials, product reviews, and video demonstrations to show people how your product can be effective as opposed to investing a lot of time in a detailed case study. Here’s an example – you’re a mother who needs to purchase a car seat for your newborn baby. It is doubtful you will want to read through a multi-page case study on a Graco or Evenflo car seat. You are more likely to look for quick reviews and product demos online. Understanding your audience, in this scenario, it is consumer versus business to business, as well as what the consumer really needs will dictate whether a case study makes sense.

If a case study sounds like a good idea to you, keep in mind that they should contain a bare minimum of the following:

  • An intriguing title to capture attention
  • Details about the customer/audience you are targeting
  • An explanation of the problem a customer or customers brought to you.
  • Information on how your product or service solved the problem
  • Statistics or data to back up how you solved the problem
  • Testimonials (quotes) from the customer
  • A summary of what you have to offer
  • Strong ending and call-to-action

If you think your business needs a case study but you don’t have the time or the writing skills required, reach out to a freelance writer with experience in this area.  There is no point in spending several hours pulling together information and then more time writing if your case study isn’t going to end up being compelling or has multiple errors in it. A case study has to be polished and professional, which means well written and error free.

Writing Made Easier

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

What to write?

Stop trying to sound smart if you want to sound smart. Here is the reality – a good idea is relatable when it is delivered in clear, concise language. Many people get into trouble when they try to use big words or long, descriptive sentences.

The following are simple tips to help you if you struggle with writing copy.

  • Direction– make sure that before you sit down to write that you have something interesting to say otherwise you are bound to struggle.
  • Simple Words– short and simple is the best way to go so write “near” instead of “in close proximity” and write, “ help” instead of “facilitate”. Readers grasp simple words right away and can move on.
  • Sentence Length– keep sentences short because they are faster and easier to read.
  • Voice – use active voice. Passive can be boring. While it is true that you can’t always use active voice (subject, verb, object), you should use it as much as possible. “Sue read the book in one day” is active, but “The book was read by Sue in one day” is passive.
  • Fluff – avoid fluffy words such as “very” and “really”. These types of words do not add any meaning to a sentence and in business, they often scream desperation.
  • Repetition– unless you are writing a speech and want to drive a point home, for example, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, then do not repeat yourself over and over again. When you repeat yourself in web copy, in a blog, in a marketing plan, in a proposal and so forth, you risk putting people to sleep
  • Edit– rewrite, cut parts out, edit, edit, edit. One of the best ways to be sure your copy is clean is to walk away from it for 24 hours and take a fresh look the next day.

The above list includes common sense approaches that can make writing easier, especially if it isn’t your forte. These tips can also turn non-writers into writers as they start to discover that people are finally reading their copy.

What is and isn’t news?

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

So you want/need some media attention!

If you own a business, feel passionate about a cause or want to bring an issue out in the open, the media can be a great communication tool, but just because you think you have something important to share with an audience doesn’t mean journalists, assignment editors and news editors will agree that you have a story worth telling.

In order to get media attention, you have to understand what news is. Getting a story published in a newspaper or having it broadcast on a newscast isn’t going to happen just because you want it to or because you hired a PR firm to help you. It simply doesn’t work that way. You have to think like a journalist and the organization they work for.

Every time a story idea comes across a reporter’s desk, the first question that comes to them is – Why would my audience care about this? They then put themselves in the position of the audience or reader and answer that question. Clearly, if there is no answer the story idea dies.

When my clients have a hard time with this I ask them to go through some basic questions:

  • Is it new?
  • Is it unique?
  • Is it timely? (Related to something else in the news right now)
  • Is it shocking?
  • Does it involve conflict?
  • Does it involve emotion?
  • Does it solve a big problem?
  • Is it scandalous?
  • Does it involve Hypocrisy?

You might not like the above questions, but the truth is a “yes” to any of these questions means you stand a chance of getting your story/message heard and if you answer “no” to all of the questions your chances are slim.

All is not lost if you come up with “no”. We live in the social media age where blog posts, tweets, and Instagram, which can include photographs and video, help us share our messages. Content marketing on our websites can also go a long way in telling stories. In these cases, reporters are not required.

It is true that anyone can post, tweet, and send out news releases. This means we are in a very big pool of people all fighting for attention and getting traditional media attention is still important for many companies. While some can afford fancy events, or the release of pricey research studies to attract attention, others may have to use data from phone or e-mail surveys to grab media coverage. With a little thought and planning, questions in a simple survey can result in new and interesting information that sheds light on an issue that is newsworthy to reporters.

It’s all about being thoughtful, creative, and at the same time realistic, about your expectations. It is also important to remember to take baby steps- if it is your first attempt at working with the media, don’t discount local coverage. In other words, you don’t have to make the front page of the New York Times – sometimes coverage in your local newspaper or in a small trade magazine can lead to great things.

 

The Dawn of Facial Recognition

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

Facial recognition used to be a make-believe concept that we only witnessed in the movies but it is quickly becoming reality.

This usable reality is now in a number of technology devices. Many phone companies have or are working on some type of built-in facial recognition. The question is when will it be mainstream? The answer is not a simple one because there are always kinks to be worked out when a new type of technology is emerging. I can tell you what is currently happening with facial recognition.

According to a report in Forbes, facial recognition technology was just three days old at Washington Dulles Airport when it caught an imposter trying to enter the U.S with a fake passport. Without the technology, the passport may have passed through the airport system.

People who visit the National Soccer Hall of Fame in New York are now treated to a custom-tailored tour thanks to facial recognition software. The moment a fan enters the hall they are encouraged to check in to share their hometown, favourite team, favourite soccer position etc. Based on their information, gesture technology will recognize guests using facial recognition software, which will personalize each visit based on their individual preferences. This particular type of facial recognition technology has been used by the LPGA and will be used during the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

As odd as this might sound, there are schools in the UK that have started using facial recognition to take attendance. It is believed that this frees up teachers so they can spend more time teaching and less time figuring out who is and isn’t in class. Technology experts suggest this idea will spread to other countries.

While it isn’t available just yet, MasterCard is believed to be working on a way to allow customers to pay with a selfie. They hope that it will prevent fraud.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that law enforcement has been using this kind of technology for a while now. The FBI and Homeland Security use facial recognition all the time to identify threats.

There are several other examples but the point is, facial recognition is not something that is going away; it is revving up. The real issue becomes regulation. Many people are understandably concerned about invasion of privacy as there aren’t any regulations on facial recognition. When used for authentication, it seems to represent a security improvement, but when used in a broader sense, opinions vary among industries. Many believe that there is no stopping facial recognition but no matter what the application, the public should be thinking about pushing for transparency and ethical guidelines now before this new tech becomes common.

Tribal Voices – Flaunting it

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

A number of years ago when I was still a television reporter and producer, I had the pleasure of visiting Tribal Voices, a shop Northeast of Toronto. A colleague and I featured Tribal Voices in a lifestyle segment. Fast forward a decade and I am still drawn to this unique shop. Well, actually Tribal Voices has three locations that are filled with global art and other unique items.

The art and culture of India, as well as African influences dominant most of the space at the Tribal Voices’ shops. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, thus making it a relaxing experience. The three locations are – Port Perry, which is northeast of Toronto in the township of Scugog; Lakefield, on the outskirts of Peterborough and Fowlers corners, also not far from Peterborough.

Tribal Voices is just one of those places that you can get lost in for hours. They carry jewelry, art, lamps, essential oils, animal prints, teak furniture, Buddha statues, chakra, and energy healing books, amethyst pieces, Zen den pillows, clothing and so much more. In fact, the inventory at Tribal Voices is huge.

If you are looking for a special gift for someone, you just might find it at Tribal Voices.  One of my favorite purchases from the shop is a warm and durable coat that I wear a lot. I have also purchased scarves and jewelry at Tribal Voices.

To learn more, check them out on facebook…

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tribal-Voices/196142223780010

Bullying and Myrtle the Purple Turtle

 

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

To anyone who has been bullied, you know it can feel awful. Bullying isn’t confined to a schoolyard or the playground; it can happen in the boardrooms of small, medium, and large companies. It can also happen in personal relationships with people who are supposed to be on your side or who proclaim to love you. Being bullied can have serious consequences – it can impact a person’s self-esteem, social interaction, the choices people make in life and a person’s overall well-being. While it is not the first time for suicide to be linked to bullying, I was heartbroken to hear of the 9-year-old Colorado boy who took his life this summer after being bullied.

As someone who was a victim of bullying at a young age, I would like to see more education around the subject. I think talking about bullies and the issues that instigate bullying should happen as soon as little ones start to learn the skill of reading. They need to learn that they are allowed to be themselves without being ridiculed.

Recently, I bought a copy of Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes. I  wanted to include it in the book section of this blog because it is a beautiful tale that teaches youngsters the importance of being themselves. Myrtle discovers very quickly that it is okay to be different.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle is the story of a young turtle who never really thought about the fact that she was a different color than other turtles. One day she bumped into another turtle who refused to believe that Myrtle was a turtle because she’s purple. This led to self-doubt until Myrtle learned she looked exactly how she was supposed to look. I plan on giving this book to my niece’s children (Eleni and Donato) who are currently two and four. My wish for them is health and happiness, as well as a life that is devoid of bullies. However, if they should come across people who try to intimidate them, I hope no matter what age they are, they remember that just like Myrtle the Purple Turtle, they are perfect just the way they are.

You can get a copy of Myrtle the Purple Turtle through amazon.ca

 

 

 

 

Grounding – The impact on the human body

 

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

A few years ago I wrote an article for a health industry client on the subject of “Grounding.” The research I conducted at that time was my first foray into examining the process of removing excessive charge from an object by releasing it into the ground. Walking barefoot is an example of grounding. Since that article, I have learned a lot more about electrons playing a significant role in the cellular process that takes place in our bodies.

As reported in the U.S National Library of Medicine, multi-disciplinary research has indicated that electrical contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth produces interesting effects on our health. Studies show the effects relate to inflammation, immune responses and wound healing. Some research even suggests that grounding can prevent and treat chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. While this is still a relatively new area of research, what experts at the University of California and the University of Oregon have discovered is that grounding an organism can produce noticeable differences in concentrations of white blood cells and other molecules involved in inflammatory response. Physiology professors say grounding reduces pain and alters the number of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes. Neutrophils are white blood cells important in the defense against infections. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B cells and T cells. The B cells produce antibodies that are used to attack invading viruses, bacteria, and toxins. Lymphocytes are high if you have an infection.

Grounding is really any system that allows for frequent contact with the Earth. This includes while sleeping, sitting at a desk, or walking outside. There are conductive systems such as sheets, mats, wristbands, ankle bands, and even adhesive patches. These applications are connected to the Earth through a cord inserted into a grounded wall outlet or attached to a ground rod placed in the soil outside.

A couple years ago a group of researchers, including some from the University of California and University of Oregon, looked at the physiological impacts of grounding from various perspectives. Their work has led to over a dozen studies being published in peer-reviewed journals. A peer review is a process that subjects an author’s work or research to examination and scrutiny of other top experts in the same field, before a description of the work can be published in a journal. The fact that the grounding research has been peer-reviewed and the actual studies show grounding could be an effective healing method has opened up new and promising avenues for research, particularly in the area of inflammation. Some suggest that it could have broad implications for health prevention and public health.

Despite the current research, all of this may still sound odd to some people, but think about it this way: We are all living on an electrical planet and our bodies transmit many frequencies that help run our muscles, our heart, our nervous system, and our immune system. Many years ago it was perfectly natural to sleep right on the ground, and it was common to walk the Earth in bare feet. In our industrialized world, we rarely walk around without leather shoes and we do not sleep on the ground unless we are camping. In reality, we are all disconnected or ungrounded. Considering that this disconnection may contribute in some way to illness may not be as far-fetched as many of us think.

 

Short Stories to Consider Reading

When I talk to people about reading they often say, “I would love to read more but I just don’t have the time”.  While I can certainly relate to the fact that we live in a fast-paced world,  I try to remind people that they don’t have to commit to a 500-page novel; they can read short stories. Some of the world’s most successful authors have published books of short stories. These little gems are what I call “no pressure reading”. You can easily read one or two short stories and then put the book down for a few weeks without losing track of a storyline. When you have time, you can then go back and read another story. Many short story lovers find that they get through one story so quickly that it inspires them to read the next. Before they know it, they’ve read the whole book.

Here are some books of short stories you might want to consider:

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  • You Think It, I’ll Say It– this collection of short fiction by Curtis Sittenfeld focuses on gender, as well as Trump-era politics. It features a host of vivid female characters – many relatable. Sittenfeld is the author of five novels, including Eligible and American Wife.
  • Good Trouble– a book of eleven stories that includes vulnerable characters and raw emotion. The author is Joseph O’Neill who is known for his Award-winning novel, Netherland.
  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden– this collection contains a series of stories about an older man reflecting on life. It marries sadness with unexpected humor. Acclaimed fiction author, Denis Johnson who died in the spring of 2017, is the author.
  • This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz takes a tender and funny approach in the stories that make up this book. The stories teach us about the weakness of the human heart.
  • Anything is Possible – this collection of short stories focuses on people trying to figure out themselves and others. Author Elizabeth Strout explores a wide range of human emotions in this book.
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris crafted this collection of stories that are hilarious. You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a story about his brother who talks constantly in a hip-hop slang that is confusing to his father.

Of course, there are so many other short story books to choose from. Give them a chance – you might be surprised at how quickly you read through them.

Storytelling in Business

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

 

Storytelling is a very important part of running a business today. Whether you are standing on a stage, writing a blog, or putting together a case study, you need to get your point across with good storytelling. So what is good storytelling in business?

There are really three elements you have to keep in mind when you are trying to get attention for your brand through storytelling. First you have to be clear in illustrating your point. State up front what your message or idea is. Most people feel like the world needs a lot of background information in order to understand yet in business the truth is that we need to get to the point right away. If we don’t get to the point quickly, we lose the audience.

Another important element is proof.  The best way to help a consumer, investor, or potential business partner understand your vision, concept, product, or service is to provide proof of its value. One way to do this is through case studies. Case studies are really just examples. Yes, they can be boring so some people present examples in the form of video or testimonials – and these can be effective too.

Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to give people simple, easy to follow instructions. This can demonstrate how easy it is for the audience to implement or use whatever it is you are selling.

Standing in front of an audience singing your company’s praises or writing a blog that touts how unique your product is will do little to impress people, but telling a story about how your product or service worked for someone else carries a lot more weight. Storytelling can be creative, entertaining, and even humorous depending on the product or service you provide and the audience you are catering to so before you formulate your story, make sure you know your audience well.

 

 

 

 

PR-How do I start?

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KTML solutions

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

I enjoy working with small businesses. I think it has something to do with my tendency to cheer for the underdog. Current data suggests that about 50 to 55 percent of small businesses die by year four or five. The top reason they fail – inexperience.

Some of that inexperience has to do with promoting their company, message, product, services etc. When a small business owner comes to my company (KTML Communications) all excited and eager to “get noticed”, here is what I ask them.

  • Are you ready?
  • Have you established your identity?

Often times, the response is a blank stare. This is when I know the potential client needs to take a step back and assess. They may not be ready for PR, at least not yet.

Being ready means that your product or service is the best version of itself. Being ready means you are confident it can and will get good reviews. No reporter or blogger will be interested in you or your company if you are not ready. If you are not ready, you could experience negative press. Make certain you are ready before starting PR.

Before you can tell the world who you are and what you are all about, make sure you know exactly who you are and what you are all about. You need to know your values, your company culture, who your competitors are and what makes you different from them, and if you are doing anything that is unique.

In a nutshell, you have to fix you/your company before you can tell your story. Now don’t panic. While it is true that KTML can’t fix you, my communications company can guide you to people who can teach you how to get ready and establish your identity. 

Once you are ready and are comfortable with your identity you can start PR . We would  be happy to tell you how.

So you can be a survivor. It just takes thought and careful planning and of course, some long hours.

My Ancestral Home: Castropignano – Campobasso, Molise-Italy

 

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Rome, the capital of Italy, is a popular tourist attraction with its inspiring art, architecture and culture on full display. The ancient ruins, including the Roman Forum and the Colosseum help visitors imagine a time long ago when the Roman Empire ruled. Rome gets about 30 million tourists per year, but there are so many parts of Italy that are beautiful and worth seeing.

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Take a 3-hour drive southeast of Rome towards the Matise mountains and you will be entering Campobasso, the region of my ancestral home. To the northeast it is bordered by the Adriatic Sea, on the North by Abruzzo, to the southeast, Apulia, and Campania in the south. Here there is a mixed landscape with towns, cities and villages that run through hills and cliffs. Situated at an elevation of 2-thousand feet above sea level is a quaint little town called “Castropignano”. Due to its elevation it is often called the “Balcony Over The Biferno River Valley”. From the town you can see a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding towns and hillsides. This is where the Madaleno family home is located.

Quaint street in Castropignano

Quaint street in Castropignano

Castropignano is a very small town with three interesting historical monuments: Evoli Castle, Church of San Salvatore, and Ruins of the Church of San Nicola.

Evoli Castle

Evoli Castle

Evoli Castle was built in 1362 by nobleman Giovanni d’Evoli. He was the founder of a large herding practice called “transhumance”. Transhumance is the practice of moving livestock from one grazing area to another in a seasonal cycle – normally to lowlands in winter and highlands in the summer. In 1636 Giambattista d’Evoli transformed the castle into a residential palace with elaborate works of art and furniture. Over the centuries transhumance and the society/culture associated with it declined. In the early 19th century the castle was stripped of everything and abandoned. Within a few decades it was in ruins; however, it’s charm and mystery remains a draw to this day.

For many centuries Castropignano has been known as an agricultural community, producing high quality wine, cheese and olive oil. When it comes to food, tradition is important here. Residents try to stay true to their roots when it comes to mealtime; using fresh ingredients and focusing on a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Antonio Madaleno Teresa's Nonno

Antonio Madaleno
Teresa’s Nonno

 

Family solidarity is everything in Castropignano. This is very different from our Canadian “nuclear family” mentality. In Castropignano extended family is extremely important so everyone is included, not just mom, dad, and the kids. This is one of the reasons any kind of celebration can become big. My late Nonno (grandfather), brought this tradition of family solidarity with him when he moved  to Canada. Our gatherings at his house always included the whole family, as well as many friends, especially at mealtime.

 

Events are always big in Castropignano even though the town is small. Last year (2014), an old tradition was carried out in the streets of Castropignano to honour the institution of marriage. You can see in the link below how big the event became.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCupu4eMhnc

There are many small towns and villages across Italy that are worth noting, Castropignano is just one of them. If you are travelling this great country and find yourself in the Molise Region, visit this little town and take a step back in time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Treat Your Pet During the Pandemic

 

Writer: Teresa Madaleno

 

Caring for each other, even if it means from a distance, is so important during times of crisis. You have likely heard a lot of stories about people helping each other in various ways due to the COVID-19 outbreak. What we don’t hear much about is how pets are coping with the upheaval.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has indicated that there is no evidence that family pets pose a risk for spreading COVID- 19. Researchers in China have said that cats can get Coronavirus and spread it to other cats yet not spread it to humans. Here in North America scientists say they aren’t sure about that. Clearly, more research needs to be done, but what I want to talk about is your pet’s mental well-being during this unprecedented time.

We are not living as we normally do. We are practicing social distancing, self-isolation, working from home, as well as limiting travel and shopping. Some people are exhibiting signs of anxiety, frustration, and even depression. Let’s not forget that our pets pick up on this and thus become stressed as well. While we need to do things to care for our own mental health during this difficult period, we should consider that our pets may need help too.

Signs your pet is stressed

When I brought my little Sprite home 9 years ago, I had no idea how important a role he would play in my life. I had other dogs throughout my lifetime, but this precious sheltie became a part of our family just at the right time. A year prior to getting our furry boy, I was diagnosed with two chronic health problems. I have good days and bad days, but Sprite always senses when my physical pain intensifies. He has brought me an immense amount of comfort on some of my worst days.

Sprite’s routine has changed as a result of COVID-19 and he’s been a good boy, but I know he is confused some days and I have heard about pet owners who have had difficulty with caring for their animals lately due to behavioral problems. I decided to look into the impact the virus was having on pets and discovered that veterinarians have experienced an increase in calls lately. Many of the inquiries have been about behavior that is out of character.

All pets are different and can show various behavioral signs when they are anxious. However, here are some of the most common signs that veterinarians say can indicate your pet is feeling stressed:

  • Barking or whining
  • Rapid blinking
  • Excessive shedding
  • Yawning, drooling, licking a lot
  • Panting when they aren’t hot
  • Suddenly urinating inside
  • Hiding
  • Not eating

 What to do for stressed pets

The experts say the best approach to keeping your pet relaxed is for you to relax. Beyond that, maintaining a routine can be really helpful. For example, canine behavior specialists suggest feeding your dog at the same time every day, walking the dog at the same time every day, and reserving time to have fun with your pet at a specific time each day.

Exercise is a good stress reducer for humans, and it works for animals too, so activities like walking and fetching will go a long way in keeping your pet happy. Keeping a safe place in the house that your pet can have as his or her own, can also be calming. I have a couple of friends who say they have used music to calm their pets. You can have music or a television on low volume as you do chores or work from home.

Veterinarians say while extra petting and fussing over your pet may seem like the right thing to do in times like this, going overboard with attention can also stress them out. Like humans, they don’t want to be smothered 24/7.

If you find your pet is suddenly behaving badly and is out of control, don’t hesitate to call your vet. I’m sure he/she will be glad to guide you.