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Social Media, Storytelling, Risk & Reward: Canada’s 1st Live Stream Kidney Transplant

By: Helen Powers

On April 12 we hosted a presentation by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton staff who took us through the planning and implementation process of a unique approach to public education. This communication campaign reached 36 million people, surpassed all strategic objectives and left our event audience inspired by the hospital’s creativity.

Hosting an actual transplant surgery on Facebook Live held risks but also the opportunity to raise awareness of St. Joe’s role as a national leader in kidney and urinary care, to educate the public about kidney health and to show the vital need for organ donations.

Infographics, pre-recorded interviews, videos, and a website were used before, during and after the live stream. Comments from viewers were answered by the surgeons while they worked, creating spontaneous and authentic two-way communications.

The engagement around the world was remarkable with 3,000 comments during the two-hour operation, 17,000 website visitors, 15,000 views of the educational videos, and media coverage across Canada. One of the project collaborators, Trillium Gift of Life Network, had 48 new online donor registrations that day and doubled their social media impressions.

To align with the hospital’s values, this communication platform focused on education as the compelling reason for a novel approach. For an amazing behind-the-scenes look at this very successful campaign, we thank Agnes Bongers, Director of Public Affairs, Alexandria Anderson, Public Affairs Specialist and Dr. Darin Treleaven, Medical Director of Transplantations, all employees of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

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How IABC improves your life

By: Jan Graves

You never know what being part of IABC will bring your way. In my case, since joining IABC in 1990, I have served on two IABC chapter boards, the International Board, several international committees, Canada Eastern Region,  and I have become an All-Star IABC World Conference speaker. But the most exciting thing IABC has given me was an invitation to meet space shuttle astronauts and watch them launch into space at Kennedy Space Centre!


It all began at an IABC World Conference in Los Angeles when I had lunch with a Canadian IABCer who happened to work in Ottawa for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). We quickly figured out that the Robarts Research Institute (where I worked) was involved with NASA too and got chatting about Canadian space discoveries and research. We kept in touch a bit after that, and several months later she invited me to a CSA meet and greet in Toronto with the astronauts who were flying in the upcoming space shuttle mission. I went and had a wonderful time chatting with these amazingly talented people, one of whom was astronaut Dave Williams. Next thing I knew I got an invitation from Dave to the actual shuttle launch in Florida the next spring as a Canadian VIP representing my Institute.


This involved three days of touring the facilities at Kennedy and meeting dignitaries, technicians, astronauts and their families, and learning all about the shuttle. Aside from seeing Dave Williams again, I also met Marc Garneau (now Transport Minister of Canada) and Julie Payette (now Governor General of Canada) and had a chance to speak with them about their experiences. On the day of the launch, I sat with their families and my whole body vibrated as the shuttle launched them up into the blue. It was scary, energizing and joyous all at once and I will never forget it. What an amazing opportunity to meet these special people who are so talented and brave and are helping humanity reach for the stars. It would never have happened without IABC, and just goes to show you how wonderful making IABC friends can be!

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From student IABC member to incoming board president

By: John Gilbert

Being a board member for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) was not something I thought I had interest in when the IABC Golden Horseshoe came to talk to our PR class at Mohawk College in 2015. I didn’t really know what it was all about, nor did I truly grasp what PR was in those early stages of the program.

You hear the board members say that it’s a good idea to become a student member at the very least because of access to networking, professional development, mentorship and resources. A very reasonable membership fee for one year of testing the waters to see what it was all about.

In order to try and jump start my career, I made the decision to inquire about a board position. I was accepted and attended the summer planning session as one of two VP’s of Communications.

The next year I transitioned into the Sponsorship & Strategic Initiatives role which allowed me to expand my portfolio and grow into something I didn’t have a lot of experience in.

Fast forward to today and I am now planning a jump to lead the chapter. Scary? Yes. Intimidating? Possibly. Impossible? Definitely not. Attending Leadership Institute provided me with a foundation of understanding how to utilize my leadership capabilities and throw in a few tricks from other chapters at the same time.

IABC truly does open opportunities and also provides unique ways to advance your development in a safe and nurturing environment. If you’re a student who is on the fence about whether or not to join, do it! Trust me, I was in your shoes thinking it may not be of value to me. That small bit of ignorance almost cost me some fantastic opportunities and the chance to work with some very talented people.

Challenge yourself and you’ll be rewarded.

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Taking a fancy to freelance?

By: Helen Powers

Really stressful work days might get you thinking that a freelance communications role is a great alternative. And it can be. The schedule flexibility and projects of personal interest are big perks but consider these points before ditching your full dental coverage and regular pay cheque.

  1. You won’t get paid for all your hours

There will be management tasks that aren’t billable and finding projects can take considerable time and strategy. Developing a business plan takes time but it helps to identify the type of work you want, where to find clients, and set a framework for business goals.

  1. Your reputation really matters

Producing great work isn’t enough – you also have to manage projects efficiently, be reliable and reasonable to deal with. Doing all of this well is more likely to result in repeat clients and recommendations.

  1. Have multiple areas of expertise

To maintain a steady flow of interesting work, it helps to have clients in diverse sectors who need a variety of freelance services. This keeps each day interesting and reduces the risk of being dependent on a narrow sector of work.

  1. Stay in touch

Working on your own can be socially isolating so unless you’re really high on the introvert scale, consider working some or all of your hours in a communal office space.  Regular contact with colleagues and professional associations also helps you stay in the loop about emerging issues that impact your work.

  1. Keep learning

Staying up to date on trends and innovations will maintain your qualifications to offer advice for changing client needs. Case studies, social media chats, webinars and conferences are great ways to source ideas and stay current.

Working freelance means no one ever sneaks your lunch from the fridge but it also means you are the whole company. At a minimum, your skills in client relationships and project management will strengthen and, if you go on to work for another organization, those skills will be important. Staying freelance on a long-term basis means the ongoing responsibility of business management but with hard work and strategy, the rewards might just be worth it.

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From Veteran to Newcomer to IABC LI – The Institute Delivers Once Again

By: Marie K. Fitzpatrick, ABC (pictured right) and John Gilbert (pictured left)

After four IABC Leadership Institutes, it’s hard not to be ready for the ‘here we go again’ attitude. Certainly, my enthusiasm for IABC after 12 years and as an ABC never wans. Meeting new friends, connecting with old, elevator and dinner conversations about our toughest communication challenges… it’s all there. But for me, what was different about the 2018 LI was in the rich content that seemed to be within two streams for the first time. Yes, the chapter management intel was ever present, but this time there was a second stream to strength leadership skills.

Communicators are Natural Disruptors

Communicators get things done. We know this. But how we do this is an ever-evolving skill set. This LI I learned, among other things, about the four styles of leadership, how to create great thought leadership and content marketing and developing a personal communication style. Wow! That was a whole lot of me-time and introspection but, if you think about it, that makes sense. We need to pause, think about our leadership strengths and play to them. And this takes time.

Bringing Your “A” Game to LI

While other leadership conferences that I attended had solid themes and tons of supportive learning, as a veteran, for me it was this secondary leadership conference stream that made all the difference. Given that my employer was supporting my leadership journey to attend, it was significant that I had real, tangible insights to deliver not only to my chapter team but to my work team as well. This year, there seemed to more of a business focus in this regard.

Written by Marie K. Fitzpatrick


New on Deck… IABC speaking that is

As an emerging leader within IABC and incoming President for IABC Golden Horseshoe, I entered LI with eyes wide open. There was a bit of anxiety not knowing just what to expect. Still being fairly green in my communications career, there are the challenges of both learning, understanding and implementing. Challenges will always exist. It’s adapting to them that is the key. Put your best foot forward, don’t dip that toe in the water to check the temperature… just jump right in. 

Alphabet Soup

The letters ‘L’ and ‘I’ were used repeatedly, for obvious reasons. Leadership Institute was such a broad title. Here’s what it meant to me:

Lasting Impression: This would be the most applicable. Considering I am a fairly new communicator, I arrived without expectations and felt the excitement of the unknown. From keynote speakers, to breakout sessions, to the people that I met and spoke with in San Diego, I am happy to report that I was blown away.

Loving Individuals: I briefly mentioned this above, but it is well worth repeating. Everyone that I met embodied a genuine love of communications, a passion for what they do and a drive to always be better. Can’t help but fall in love with an atmosphere like that.

Listening Intently: It didn’t matter whether it was a one on one conversation, a speaker, or a group chat. Listening to the stories, advice and knowledge people had to offer was simply invaluable.

Learning Involvement: Being involved and engaged in the learning process is critical. Having the speakers interact with the audience plays a huge role in being able to absorb that information and take it back to your local chapter.

My LI experience will allow me to lead with direction, purpose and a conscious mind for those that will be next.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes

Written by John Gilbert
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Communications Uncorked: What you missed


Last month, communication and business professionals gathered from all over the Greater Hamilton area to find their inner entrepreneurial spirit alongside wine pairing at Radius restaurant in Hamilton. Communications expert and sommelier, Danielle Campana, gave the group helpful hints on how to pair your favourite wines, while discussing small ways to unleash your inner entrepreneur. For example, Danielle explained that even if you are a professional not looking to have your own business, you can practice your creativity by leading new projects in your workplace to entertain your entrepreneur within.

You can find Danielle Campana on her website as “New Age Nonna”, here:

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Membership News


By: Helen Powers

IABC International is making substantial changes to their website so that members can easily connect with each other. A new online members-only network will enable messaging and posting at possibly as soon as February.

Wouldn’t it be great if more corporations covered the cost of our memberships? A task force set up by IABC International is exploring new ways to increase the number of companies who support professional association fees for their employees. Stay tuned in the new year for more information about this initiative.

And speaking of membership costs, did you know that the Golden Horseshoe chapter receives $20 from your IABC annual fee? The majority of the membership costs support International’s many programs so be sure to take advantage of these resources:

– Articles and videos
– IABC Academy online workshops and webinars
– Job Centre postings
– Monthly Communication World magazine
– and much more…

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Taking a Bite Out of the “Big Apple” International Style

new-york-skyline-manhattan-hudson-40142 (1)

By: Marie K. Fitzpatrick, ABC

When I headed to New York City this summer on vacation, I thought about IABC and its international make up. Why not see about connecting with some Manhattan colleagues? What a great idea that was! A quick LinkedIn search came up with this:

“New York IABC Member Summer Social – Join your fellow New York communicators for drinks, apps, door prizes and more… compliments of New York IABC! We look forward to catching up with old friends and introducing new ones to the great community you’ve helped us create.”

Well, that was an invitation to be taken! The event took place at The Australian NYC, a cool pub filled with sports décor and staff who were all clearly from ‘down under.’ A quick email connected me to the event organizer and then the current President of the chapter. So off I went to experience an New York IABC event.

“It was terrific to meet with a fellow IABCer from Canada albeit completely unexpected. It certainly made for some interesting conversations about the ever challenging quest for new ideas for professional development events, how to attract new members like me and maybe some politics throw into the mix,” said Shelley McKay, a new IABC NY member and originally from South Africa.

My Learning? Next time I plan my vacation, I’m definitely going to put attending an IABC event in the city I’m in on my radar much earlier. But sometimes luck is in a “New York minute” like my luck on LinkedIn that day.

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Let’s start at the beginning…

By Marie K. Fitzpatrick, ABC

Here’s a refreshing statement from an unlikely source. According to a Canadian medical sciences society, “this is only the beginning.” It’s all part of a recent innovative marketing and communications strategy that delivers “hands-on” learning at the click of a mouse. Got a lab test? We’ve got a follow-up story for that. Want to know how you might be diagnosed? We’ve got a follow-up story for that. This customer-friendly website gives you the power of information at your fingertips.

And that’s why this cool and interactive website recently won an International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) Gold Quill Merit Award. The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS), located in Hamilton, Ontario, is the national certifying body and professional association for medical laboratory professionals and took home the international honours.

Raising Awareness during National Medical Laboratory Week

How did this communications opportunity come about? Every year, CSMLS sponsors the “National Medical Laboratory Week.” This week is hosted to raise awareness about the important work in the laboratory (lab) as part of ongoing patient care.

The marketing and communications team set out to educate the public on the science happening “behind the scenes” in the laboratory. The business objective was to provide the public with a better understanding of how the lab is closely connected to their health care.

“We created a website,, as a hub of information throughout the Lab Week campaign,” says Michael Grant, Director of Marketing and Communications.

“The messaging and images on the site were designed to tie together the patient experience with their lab work.”

Anatomy Graphic makes it Real

“Most people are only familiar with the lab from the standpoint of giving a sample to be tested,” says Cathy Bouwers, Project Lead and IABC Golden Horseshoe member.  “To change this, we used images of empty sample containers with the line “This is only beginning” on the webpage to help reinforce the message that lab testing goes well beyond giving a sample.”

The website featured an interactive component showing how lab tests are performed on different parts of the body. This was done to help remove the stigma that the lab only deals with blood tests.

Click. See the Test. Understand the How…

By clicking on different buttons on the body, the website user learns about a test and possible diagnosis done on that body part/area. For example, fluid samples taken from the lungs are shown stained under a microscope to depict abnormalities in the cells and how a lab professional detects them.

The website also included information about the different lab professions and specialty areas to help highlight the complexity and education involved in this life services industry.

Have a look yourself!  To view the website, go to

Marie K. Fitzpatrick, ABC

Marie is an award-winning, accredited business communicator with 25+ years of experience implementing strategic communications. She holds Bachelor of Arts from Ryerson University in Journalism, a certificate in Public Relations and an executive education certificate in Risk and Crisis Communications from McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business. Marie is an avid community builder with more than two decades of volunteering on numerous boards.

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My first IABC event…and why I’m coming back for more

By Cindy Csordas, Communications Officer, City of Hamilton

New Kid in the “Communications” Town

Last year, I switched careers in a major way. It was a massive change that has helped me grow as a communicator and as a person. Insert being “new” to the field of public relations and communications after a lengthy career in journalism. I’ve jumped to the “other side of the fence” so to speak and the position has been more than rewarding.

As a Communication Officer, there’s no doubt I’ve faced challenges when trying to communicate to an organization with nearly 8,000 employees and a city with half a million residents.

When You’re a Newbie

When I was invited to my very first International Association Business Communicators event, (IABC) event by a colleague, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But within the first few minutes of being there I felt welcomed and intrigued by the people who attended the event.

Authors, communicators and entrepreneurs alike enlightened our conversations. There were communicators from so many fields – from business, technology, life sciences, hospitals and government. I felt as though communications knows no boundaries, no matter what organization you hail from.

Stepping up to the Communications Challenge

That evening we discussed, in depth, different communication challenges and work scenarios. We all enjoyed a complimentary taco bar before we rolled up our sleeves and got down to work. The IABC Golden Horseshoe Board of Directors worked very hard over the past few years to launch this first ever free event.

I was a little nervous walking in, thinking that it’s going to be so obvious I’m new to the industry. I made a mistake thinking that because it took no time to feel like an equal contributor to the conversations. I felt that everyone warmly embraced my ideas and thoughts as I did theirs. I saw and experienced mutual respect. Overall, I walked away feeling more aware, more educated and more prepared to move forward in the new path I’ve taken thanks to the IABC experience.