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Social Sergeant Shares the Road

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt Returns to IABC Golden Horseshoe

On November 7, Sergeant Kerry Schmidt from the Ontario Provincial Police came to speak at an IABC Golden Horseshoe event held at the Staples STUDIO, a new co-working facility from the Staples Business Center in Oakville.

Historically, law enforcement services were very private. Information that was available to the public was quite limited as anything that was shared could potentially be a liability or risk. The more you say, the more you’re exposed. 

Of course, with the improvements in technology, this has all changed. We now live in a society where we need to know everything, all the time. The more you hide, the more you are scrutinized. So, how does the knowledge era impact law enforcement services? 

Sergeant Kerry Schmidt of the Highway Safety Division of the Ontario Provincial Police has spent the last five of his 20 years in law enforcement in media relations. His activity on Twitter has earned him the nickname “The Social Sergeant,” as he keeps the public informed of traffic conditions, obstructions and infractions. He is also seen and heard quite often throughout the GTA, updating the media on serious collisions and speaking about traffic safety. 

During his presentation he shared his experiences and lessons learned from working with social media and media personnel. He called himself a “one man band” that has no formal media training and has been learning as he goes. Kerry’s career and experience shows that social media is a powerful storytelling tool that can be used for the public good. 

Creating messages and working as a team

With a powerful visual of training police officers walking through fire in full riot gear, Kerry said that with media relations, you are walking through the fire every day. Sometimes you get burned and sometimes you make it through unscathed. Regardless of how it appears; you need to know that people on your team have your back and that you will come out the other side looking like a unified team.

Kerry drew on his experience with the type of language used to describe situations. He showed a video of a large crash on Halloween night in 2017, involving two fuel tankers and multiple other vehicles. He said that at the time, on social media, he used the words “apocalyptic” and  “Armageddon” to describe the crash, which he now acknowledges were explosive words to use. ‘“Trying to collect our thoughts and have private discussions with the trucking industry and be able to come to some sort of consensus, understanding that we all have a common goal of traffic safety,” said Kerry. “What does that look like for us as we move forward?”

Regardless of how it appears; you need to know that people on your team have your back …

He said this didn’t invoke any confidence in the trucking industry and sparked fear in the public. Kerry said the way the messages were framed made it seem like trucks were the problem. He noted that following that incident, the OPP had to do some damage control and stress the fact that the message the team was trying to get across was that this traffic incident, like so many others, are preventable. 

Improvements in technology

Sergeant Kerry Schmidt demonstrated how his engagement with social media has helped tell stories. He showed a video that since its posting has gone viral of stunt drivers on Highway 409. He noted that this is now a criminal investigation and that following his repost of the video, he received a lot of tips regarding who may be responsible.

Kerry said that technology has allowed for timeliness. Often when he is speaking to the media or creating his own videos, Kerry sets up his phone wherever he is and starts filming. This allows him to speak about incidents live. The information is available immediately, unlike the past, when newscasts took more time to film and broadcast. 

Videos and social media tid bits are also good for our attention spans, said Kerry. He said that people are far more likely to watch a video than they are to read a media release. You have your audience’s attention for about three seconds, so you need to release multimedia content in addition to written content in order to keep your audience interested. 

Social media, however, said Kerry, comes with a downfall. He stressed that once you post something, even if you take it down, you can’t take it back. Things like traffic incidents or other “viral” videos are picked up by multiple media outlets, who use the footage for their own purposes. “Once it’s out there, you lose all control over it,” said Kerry. 

Powerful insights 

Kerry offered some final advice:

“Know your content, know your material, know your audience. The more authentic you are, the more real you are and available you are to your audience, you’re going to be well-received.” 

Follow Sergeant Kerry Schmidt @OPP_HSD on Twitter to see his updates!

This is just one of the events that is part of IABC Golden Horseshoe’s Speakers Series. Make sure you’re following us on social media to see upcoming events in your community!

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By: Ashley Glovasky

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IABC Golden Horseshoe Announces 2019-2020 Board Slate

The IABC Golden Horseshoe has confirmed its 2019-2020 Board of Directors Slate as follows:

President: John Gilbert

Past President/VP Finance: Jan Graves

Executive Vice President: Samantha Neary

Co-VP Professional Development & Events: Jessica Petrunti

2019-2020 Available Positions:

Co-VP Communications (Two positions)

Co-VP Professional Development & Events (One Position)

VP Administration (One Position)

If you would like more info, or an application, send an email to:

Deadline for applications is May 4, 2019 by 11:59 p.m.


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IABC Golden Horseshoe Announces 2019 AGM

The IABC Golden Horseshoe is thrilled to announce our 2019 AGM at the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club on May 22, 2019. Festivities begin at 5:30pm.

This year’s speaker is Jodie Sales. Jodie is a senior public relations professional with extensive experience in the public sector and with highly-regulated industries.

She began her public relations career as spokesperson for the Bank of Canada on issues related to banknotes and counterfeiting and was part of the team that transitioned Canadian currency from paper to polymer.

Since then, Jodie has worked with different levels of government and other highly-regulated institutions and has earned her APR and Masters in Public Administration from Western University.

Jodie is currently the Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations for one of Canada’s fastest-growing communities, the Town of Milton. In Milton, she has been the architect of a campaign to redefine the community as A Place of Possibility, highlighting the young, dynamic and highly-educated people that live and work in Milton.

As a successful public relations practitioner, Jodie is passionate about data-driving decision making and values evaluation and measurement in communications.


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Hit Hot Buttons

By: Samantha Neary

One effective way to foster personal connections is to hit someone’s hot button, the switch in their head that identifies a good opportunity. When I heard this at IABC Leadership Institute in Long Beach, California this past February it really resonated because, as Vice-President of Membership for IABC Golden Horseshoe, I want to know our members better.

In a full morning workshop, Leadership strategist Cynthia D’Amour, MBA, really drove home the concept that, as humans, there’s always reason behind action and joining professional associations is no exception. All members have joined for a reason but deciphering the ‘why’ is crucial. Understanding someone’s hot button is important for both board and chapter members.

Hot buttons identify opportunities to learn, help or meet:

  • Learn: Taking your career to the next level through personal or professional development
  • Help: Contributing to the greater good e.g. mentorship, volunteering
  • Meet: Expanding your network through industries, communities or common interests

This concept can be further extrapolated and applied to our day jobs when fostering relationships with colleagues or identifying audiences. Recognizing hot buttons allows us to connect with our peers on a personal level which leads to the ultimate goal: value. Without our members finding value in all our chapter has to offer, similar to employees lacking value in their organization, there is no draw.

Missing the mark when welcoming new members to your chapter is crucial. Did you know it takes five positive connections with a prospective member to encourage them to join the chapter or return to events? This could mean five interactions with board members introducing themselves or through connecting with like-minded professionals at an event.

My aim is to connect deeper with our members as well as my peers serving on the board. I want to know what brought you to an event, why you believe in the value of IABC-GH and what your hot button is.

Are you looking for career development or to expand your network? Can you add value to the chapter through mentoring a young professional? Do you want to connect with peers in the Corporate Communications industry to foster meaningful conversation? Any or all of these may apply and I’m excited to connect with you!

Samantha Neary

Vice-President, Membership

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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: