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Six free tools every communicator needs right now

By Rachel Shuttleworth

Looking to do more with less and further enhance your communications work? There are several free online tools that can help you do that. Here are some of the top picks for communications professionals.

  1. Canva ( With this simple graphic design software, create banners, social media images, reports, posters, brochures and more. Some images are free and others are low cost. Design, download and enjoy.
  2. Hemingway ( Improve your writing with this free web app. It uses colours to identify grammatical errors and long complex sentences. The tool also assigns a readability grade.
  3. Pexels ( Get free stock photos for personal and commercial use. No attribution is needed for the images you use. Browse through popular photos or use the key word search to find what you need. The site also offers some free stock video footage.
  4. Hootsuite ( A free limited plan is available for one user. Manage three social media profiles and access basic scheduling functions. Plus, hone your skills with free social marketing courses at the Hootsuite Academy. Courses are 30-minutes and cover topics like social media strategy, growing your online community and social advertising.
  5. Piktochart ( With this graphic design software, create professional looking infographics. The free account lets you access a wide range of functions and images. You can then share your work through social media or download it as a JPG or PNG file.
  6. HubSpot ( HubSpot offers several free versions of their marketing and sales tools. HubSpot Marketing Free helps you capture leads, track their activity on your website and convert them into customers. HubSpot Sales Free provides basic inbound sales features like email integration and scheduling. With HubSpot CRM, you can organize up to 1,000,000 contacts for free. Track customer interactions through email, social media and calls with this CRM.

Some of these tools give you the option of paying to access more features or functions. However, the free versions are valuable for communicators and may be just what you need.

What free tools do you use and love? We want to know! Email us at

Rachel Shuttleworth

Rachel Shuttleworth has 15 years of experience in communications, marketing and management. She is the Executive Director of the Downtown Milton Business Improvement Area and volunteers with the Board of Directors of the IABC Golden Horseshoe chapter as the co-Vice President of Communications.

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Win a free IABC World Conference 2017 Registration! Contest deadline May 5

The IABC Canada East Region has available for use by its members two (2) IABC World Conference 2017 Registrations. Each of these has an approximate value of $1,540 USD, and is for “standard conference registration” on June 11 – 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Please note, it does not include: transportation/airfare; accommodation; pre-conference sessions; Excellence Awards (Gold Quill) Gala.

To be eligible, the candidate must be a CER member in good standing and complete the following submission requirements: Craft a brief paragraph to finish the following statement: The three reasons I’d like to be part of World Conference . . .

  • Your statement should be no longer than 100 words
  • Email your completed statement to, using subject line “My three reasons”
  • Include your name and the name of the chapter you belong to
  • All entries must be submitted by end of day Friday, May 5 (no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT)

A panel will review all the submissions and do a random draw from the five most compelling statement submissions. Only the members whose submissions are selected will be contacted; winners will be notified via email on Monday, May 8.

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Be a leader! Join the Board of Directors of IABC Golden Horseshoe

Are you ready for a new area of professional experience? We have four openings on our Board of Directors for 2017-2018!

An IABC membership gives you access to resources, knowledge and networking – on local and global levels. Having a leadership role on the Golden Horseshoe board brings the additional opportunity to:

  • Build your skill set and hone your craft from a different strategic perspective
  • Network with a diverse group of skilled professional communicators on a regular basis
  • Influence the type of events and services your professional association offers its members

We are recruiting people with a broad range of experiences and skill sets in the Golden Horseshoe area. The board term begins in July 2017 and lasts for 12 months. Self-nominations are not only accepted but encouraged!

Want more information about the Board? Read more about the current members of the Board of Directors, Plus, check out our board accountabilities and by-laws.

Nominating yourself or someone else for the IABC Golden Horseshoe Board of Directors is easy! Simply complete the 2017-2018 IABC GH Board Nomination Form and send it to

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact the current President, Rob Jeanveau:

Board positions will be finalized at our Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, May 30 at the Royal Botanical Gardens. Don’t miss this event!

Our guest speaker is Paula Barrett, a public relations professor from Conestoga College. She has been teaching for over 12 years and before that she had 15 years of corporate communications experience. Paula recently completed a year-long professional development leave to update her skills through a series of PR internships with her grads.

Paula will share her #myturntointern adventure with us at this presentation designed for lifelong learners and change seekers. She’ll challenge you to think about how you can approach your life and career with a fresh perspective – through the eyes of an intern.

Your event ticket includes a bbq dinner, free access to all the gardens and your parking fee. Spring is a beautiful season at RBG so plan to come out early and enjoy a walk through the gardens.

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Save the date! IABC GH’s AGM & Professor Paula Barrett discussing how she ‘learned like an intern’

The IABC Golden Horseshoe chapter’s annual general meeting is on Tuesday, May 30 at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. Your ticket will include access to the meeting proceedings, a guest speaker presentation, bbq dinner, free access to all the gardens and your parking fee. Spring is a beautiful season at RBG so plan to come out early and enjoy a walk through the gardens.

Our guest speaker is Paula Barrett, a public relations professor from Conestoga College. She has been teaching for over 12 years and before that she had 15 years of corporate communications experience. Paula recently completed a year-long professional development leave to update her skills through a series of PR internships with her grads.

Paula will share her #myturntointern adventure with us at this presentation designed for lifelong learners and change seekers. She’ll challenge you to think about how you can approach your life and career with a fresh perspective – through the eyes of an intern.

Registration opens soon – stay tuned for details!

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Conversations at Work

By Helen Powers

It has been scientifically proven that IMG_0417humans are hard-wired for feedback and that our brains constantly scan for threats. These survival instincts might not seem relevant in a work environment but in fact they are. In a recent presentation to IABC members and guests in Hamilton, Janet Hueglin Hartwick of Conversations@Work provided insights about how the brain works and ways that communicators can use this knowledge to help managers strengthen employee engagement.

Our emotions play a significant role in making decisions about our behaviours. During interactions, our emotions act as gate keepers and filter possible responses while our thinking is catching up to the situation. During that emotional scanning there are four common ‘sparks of success’ that we look for to decide whether we are succeeding or failing.

By getting to know an individual’s sparks, Janet says that managers can ‘speaIMG_0420k to the gate keeper’ and give employees the feedback necessary to keep them engaged. The four sparks include feeling like part of the team, feeling personally valued, being supported to take risks, and having efforts recognized.

For example, when looking for help with a difficult team member, an employee needs more than an opportunity to discuss the facts. They need to be asked how they’re doing and be reminded of their value. By not connecting with the employee’s emotive side, managers risk having employees lose their commitment. “When you feel like a failure it is hard to perform better,” Janet says. A lack of feedback can erode the social trust we need to feel secure. To the brain, social pain – from exclusion of connections and activities – feels the same as physical pain.

IMG_0428Annual reviews can be helpful but it leaves a lot of time to wonder whether you’re on the right track. If managers don’t offer feedback regularly, Janet suggests asking them.  “How do you think I did?” is a simple way to start a conversation after a presentation or meeting. “Real time, all the time,” is best she says. “Feedback from colleagues can be powerful but not as much as from a manager.”

As communication advisors, we can emphasize to managers that organizations also benefit from giving employees meaningful feedback. When they feel recognized and appreciated, staff will respond with increased cooperation, performance, motivation and passion for their jobs. It is an important part of providing a work environment that supports strong mental health and resilience.

Helen Powers

Helen Powers is a writer and communications specialist from Hamilton and also the Vice President of Administration with IABC Golden Horseshoe. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @HelenEPowers.

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Break Through Conference Conference Recap

By Delia Loveless

On March 29, 2017, IABC Waterloo hosted its first annual Break Through Communications Conference. Held at the Walper Hotel in Kitchener’s historic downtown, the sold-out conference struck the perfect balance of speakers from across industries, experience levels and expertise.

Below are our key take-aways from the day.

Cyrus Mavalwala, Breaking Through with Compelling Content

Producing digital content is now considered a basic practice. But with virality as the new industry standard and increasing amounts of content being published across social channels, communicators are left with declining engagements and plateaued followings.

So, how can communicators re-engage their followers and breathe life back into their pages?

  1. Start with strategy: Be the owner of your audience and take control of your content. Analyze everything, digital = data!
  2. Know your audience: Take the time to research your audience. Know them inside out, from what platforms they are using, to their devices and primary activity.
  3. Quality over Quantity: Invest in professional photography or stock images. Beautiful, clear images do significantly better than content without pictures or that have poor quality images.
  4. Provide value: Are you giving anything to your audience? Are they learning from you or gaining experience from you?
  5. Deliver an experience: Get on board with the trends. People crave authentic and unpolished content and content in which they can immerse themselves (think virtual reality and 360 camera).

Caitlin MacGregor, Employee Engagement and Culture

When you create a job posting, does it sell your company as the BEST company to work for? Does it look for great talent AND advertise your company’s brand and culture? Do your ideas of your culture align to the values of your employees?

Culture is about what matters to non-management. It’s what keeps your employees satisfied in their roles and knowing it can be your company’s greatest strength. Figuring out your company culture is great, but what’s more important is discovering what you want your company culture to become and working towards it to add value to your organization.

Caitlin MacGregor, Founder and CEO of Plum, offered insight as to how her software helps organizations find the discrepancy between perceived and true culture. It also helps employers find the best suited candidates for jobs based on their soft-skills and ability to succeed, versus their experience.

Caralee Ayora, Core Elements of Effective Communication

Everything you know, and everything you apply in the workplace today can be attributed to the things you learned when you were young.

In Kindergarten, you learned to be nice to everyone. As a professional, you should be making connections and getting to know as many people as possible on a personal level. You can never have too many friends.

If you don’t have anything nice to say… don’t tweet it at all. In a landscape of easy connection and communication, taking back messages is next to impossible. Ensure your messages align with your brand before posting anything.

Homework doesn’t end at graduation. Own your research and get the details down.

Connect the dots as an adult. Your strategy should always aim to achieve the broader picture.

Sam Trieu, How to Become a Marketing Octopus

Did you know that octopuses can be found in every major salt water body? They’ve managed to survive and thrive in every ocean. What people tend to forget is that everyone once started out sucking at their job, but through diversity of experience, they molded their future roles. For anyone starting out, the most important thing you can do to gain experience is say ‘yes’. Say ‘yes’ to volunteering, to learning. Know your industry inside and out.

Did you know there are over 300 octopus species around?

Just like there are 300 species of octopus, there are 300 different ways to market. While it’s impossible to do them all, what you can do is identify the practices that will best meet your company’s needs now.

The majority of their neural activities occurs outside of their brain and head, and ⅔ of their neurons are in their arms. Own your marketing role at your organization. Volunteer, and pursue online, offsite and day-to-day learning that will help you do your job, and know your industry is a good idea.

Octopuses are the first invertebrates observed to adeptly utilize tools. Everyone has limited resources – money, staff, time. Use what you have to conquer business goals. Better yet, use your people resources and network.

Females lay 200,000 to 400,000 eggs. After the eggs hatch, her body goes through cellular suicide until she dies. Build the next generation. Be generous with knowledge, mentorship and opportunities.

Lanny Cardow, Opinion Polling and Messaging Position

C8HHGf1XUAALTvFWhat words best describe your business and product? How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors and make sure you come out on top?

Qualitative research, specifically using focus groups who have been mined down to your exact audience are one of the best options for really digging into what your customers are thinking.

By refining and testing your messages, you can hone in on your brand’s image and use that knowledge to easily embed your messages.

Dr. Terry Flynn, The Role of the Chief Communications Officer

Today’s CCO is the driver of change. They wear the hat of the traditional CCO while also finding balance as the integrator and the builder of digital engagement. As we work towards our next career aspirations as communicators, the roles we will be taking on will continue to diversify.

There is no longer a clear line between the marketer and the communicator. Rather, they have become two sides of the same coin, blending and blurring the lines of what was traditionally a more divided and individual purpose.


Today’s communicator, especially the CCO, works with leadership, the CEO and collaborates to define and activate corporate character. They use data to understand individuals, create channels to engage individuals directly and equip employees to engage. They are the juggler of many roles and the leaders of modern communications and marketing.


From the morning keynote speaker to the closing remarks with IABC Waterloo President Paula Barret*, the conference went beyond educational. Fresh, contemporary, inspiring and thought provoking, Break Through delved into the obstacles and limitations communicators face. Seven speakers and a career panel later, conference attendees left with a tool box of solutions for success.

*Paula Barrett will be the keynote speaker at the IABC Golden Horseshoe chapter’s Annual General Meeting in May. She will deliver insights and anecdotes gained through her experience working as a Senior Intern. Stay tuned for details on that great event.

Delia Loveless

Delia is a communications professional with an honours certification in Public Relations from Mohawk College. She has led communications for start-ups and is currently a Co-Vice President of Communications for IABC Golden Horseshoe. When she’s not scheduling a tweet or reading up on the latest digital trends, she’s researching her next backpacking destination and trying out Pinterest recipes.

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Mastering analytics with the IABC Academy

By Billy Canning

Being an IABC member has many perks. Not only is the networking aspect fantastic, but the professional development opportunities are valuable as well.

Recently, I decided to take an online course titled: Mastering Analytics through the IABC Academy that was facilitated by Dane Wiseman. The course provided an end-to-end approach to current measurement and analytics methodologies. It also covered the latest tools and best practices for reporting to the C-Suite.

Measurement plans are essential in helping to determine the level of success of a project. This course provided great insight into qualitative vs. quantitative analysis, outcomes and outputs and how goal and conversion tracking work together for an overall strategic measurement plan.

Another key area of focus was around defining key performance indicators (KPIs) and using them to measure the success of a plan. All of these methods can be easily incorporated into an overall communications/public relations plan that in the end will provide you with great analytics indicating where things went well and where things need improvement when presenting a year-end summary to the C-Suite – just in time for the new fiscal year.

Overall, it was very informative and Dane succeeding in providing an engaging experience for course participants. This course showed me that the IABC Academy is a valuable resource within the wider IABC community.

Although this was my first professional development course through the Academy – it will not be my last. There are many courses available to IABC members and I look forward to completing more of them.

The world of communications is continuously evolving. New trends, metrics and ways to connect with an audience are coming up all the time. It is essential for professionals in our industry to stay up to speed on new developments. A great way to do that is to participate in the online workshops, webinars and programs available through the IABC Academy.

Billy Canning

Billy Canning is Executive Vice President of the IABC Golden Horseshoe Chapter.  By day, he’s the Public Relations Officer for the Canadian Welding Bureau Group, an oversight and certification body for welding in Canada. By night, he enjoys exploring the foodie scene in Hamilton, Ontario and catching a Blue Jays game.

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“Stop, Look & Listen Baby” – And Predict!

By Marie K. Fitzpatrick, ABC    

Predictions, problem-solving and planning…Every year volunteer communication leaders from around the world gather to share insights, knowledge and innovative approaches at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Leadership Institute (LI). At this year’s IABC LI, several predictions surfaced. They served to outline leading communication techniques and best practices from around the world.

Here are a few of the predictions that are emerging in our communications world. Fact checking is now the new norm but in speedy fashion. That’s the change. It’s no longer “check against delivery.” As executives give speeches, you don’t have to look far into the crowd to see a fact-checker on-line as the words are delivered moment by moment.

Business acumen continues to be the cornerstone of understanding what drives an organization. Gathering and analyzing data will drive insights and communicating results. Measurement has never been so important in our industry.

Examining communication channel delivery and chat bots will also continue to emerge as significant players in our communication field. Chat bots, a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet, continues to expand.

To no one’s surprise, high quality content will drive and build loyalty. And loyalty will be king as the battle for the “locked screen” continues. Think of your social media channels and all those sponsored Facebook posts and promoted tweets inching into your social feeds. The challenge for communicators will be to get “into” those social feeds by invitation rather than forcing themselves in. “Following” and “likes” and “shares” rather than an advertised buy. Think of the New York Times and their quality content.

Videos still reign supreme for communicators for sharing content and messages. The difference is the ease of creating videos. For example, Wibbitz is a friendly and non-technical platform that offers automated video creation for publishers. SnappyTv is another similar platform. It’s all because as communicators, we need to entertain and enlighten.

The top three communication challenges for professionals? One challenge continues to be getting included in strategy and planning efforts at the executive level within an organization. The goal is to be invited to that first initial brainstorming meeting rather than parachuted in when things go wrong. Demonstrating the value of communications to the same audience goes hand and hand with this.

Lastly, keeping up with the rapid pace of change in the field of communications never ceases. But then again, that’s why IABC LI exists. It exists to help us address these challenges among trusted colleagues and friends.

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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March is Member Month!

March is Member Month at IABC!

IABC members are part of a global network of communication professionals, students and corporate groups. Through their membership, they benefit from networking, career development and personal growth opportunities.

March is Member Month! It’s a great opportunity for current and aspiring members to enjoy savings and rewards.

Considering becoming an IABC member? Join in March and benefit from these great offers.

  • Get 10 percent off international dues.
  • Have the US$40 application fee waived.
  • Be entered to win a VIP 2017 World Conference prize package including registration, hotel, car service and more.

Already an IABC member? Here is how you can reap the benefits of Member Month.

  • Be an IABC Champion: Refer your peers to IABC and be entered to win a US$500 Visa gift card for each new member you refer who joins during March. You’ll also be recognized as an IABC Champion on the IABC website and at the 2017 World Conference.
  •  Renew during March: You’ll save 10 percent on international IABC dues automatically by renewing your membership this month. You’ll also be entered to win a VIP World Conference prize package, including registration, hotel, car service and more.
  • Enjoy FREE member resources all year long.

Invest in yourself and your career with IABC!

If you have any questions about membership, email For questions about the IABC Golden Horseshoe chapter, email

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Stand out from the crowd – become a certified Communication Management Professional (CMP) this spring

You know you have the skills and knowledge. Now prove it to your employer, to your clients, or to yourself! Apply for Certification and write the exam in London April 29.

If you have at least 5 to 7 years experience in the Communications profession, then certification is for you. Gain confidence from knowing your work measures up to the best in our industry worldwide. The CMP exam evaluates your knowledge and strategic thinking based on:

  • Ethics
  • Strategy
  • Analysis
  • Context
  • Engagement
  • Consistency

Why achieve your CMP?

  • Build trust in your own skills and knowledge
  • Embrace professional development and lifelong learning
  • Put your focus squarely on strategy
  • Demonstrate your value to your employer or clients
  • Be a leader: support the profession

What’s involved?

Step 1: Submit an Application to write the CMP no later than March 29, 2017.

Step 2: Once your application is approved, request to write the examination in London on April 29. (Details are available on our IABC London Events page). (There are also exams in Calgary on April 29, in Vancouver May 26, and at the World Conference in Washington, DC in June.)

Step 3: Maintain your certification by completing professional development annually.


  • Application fee (IABC members): US$100
  • Application fee (non-members): US$400
  • Examination fee (all): US$400
  • Maintenance fee (all): US$100 annually

For more information on the CMP, visit

or contact Kris Dundas, ABC, CMP, at