30 years of business and still loving it…and learning

I was watching The Today Show with Stephen Cobert one night and Matthew Broderick was his guest. He was talking about the 30th Anniversary of that movie classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The two were reminiscing about all the well-known scenes and I was laughing out loud along with them. “Bueller…Bueller…” and then they mentioned that it came out in 1986 and then moved on to discussing 1987.

1987???? Wait a second…that’s the year I graduated from university and started working.

WAIT A MINUTE….!!!! 30 YEARS?! NO! HOW CAN THAT BE??!!

I wasn’t laughing anymore.

Time flies when you’re having fun. Okay, it wasn’t all exactly fun, but it was interesting. And challenging. And I’ve learned a lot.

Oh the things I’ve learned to do for clients! I’ve learned to drive a race car…I’ve learned to make pickles…and filmed how pasta is made….

And the things I’ve done….I’ve danced with Olympic mascots and Mickey Mouse and thrown a party for Barbie at Casa Loma; I’ve launched Excel gum using one of the very first guerilla experiential programs in Canada; and texting in Canada….I launched cell phone texting in Canada – nobody thought that was going to catch on! I still remember trying to explain that to media.

I’ve written crisis plans that you hoped would never be needed, and developed product recalls plans on the fly as they were happening because plans were never written. I’ve dealt with bomb threats, fire hazards, company safety needs and personal death threats.

I’ve thrown parties for P. Diddy and Beyoncé to launch their fashion lines in Canada.

And I know the Caramilk secret….

I recently just finished a six month, full-time contract, going back to my roots and doing agricultural marketing communications.  I immersed myself in farming, seeds, corn, weeds and so much more, gaining insight about innovative new advances. It was wonderful. While I was still at Ryerson taking Journalism, I wrote agricultural stories for The Guelph Mercury and had a summer job with the Ontario Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Rural Affairs. It’s interesting how you can come find yourself coming full circle.

It’s been an exciting 30 years. I still love what I do. And I’m still learning. Every day.

Spreading a little JOY

I think I’ve finally recovered from being a Host on the sold-out 2016 Christmas JOY Home Tour in support of Guelph’s Hope House.

I say recovered because I was standing, welcoming, talking for four and a half hours on the Friday night and seven hours on the Saturday. Almost 1,300 people came through the absolutely stunning home I was hosting on the tour, which ran November 18 and 19, with an Exclusive Pre-Tour Champagne Reception “sneak preview” night on November 17.

I think my voice is back. It got a little creaky there at the end. Or husky. Or sexy. Depends on who you ask!

I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of the Planning Committee for the tour back in May this year, the first time for me. I’ve been attending this tour ever since it started, 12 years ago. It has been a part of my Christmas tradition, part of my let’s-get-in-the-spirit-of-the-season. So, to get to be a part of the behind of the scenes….I loved it!

Now, I was helping to raise funds for Hope House through the Christmas JOY Home Tour. And anybody who knows me, knows that I AM the Christmas Queen. Fifty bins of Christmas decorations earlier this week and my house is now decorated…and that’s just the inside. I’m not counting the ones for outside!

So, to get to be involved in this project was truly a gift.

I was involved from the start in viewing all the homes being considered for the tour this year. And then I interviewed every homeowner and found the unique tidbits to craft the home stories for the tour booklet that is the ticket for the tour each year. I wrote the copy for the booklet and worked with Kimberley and Pauline the designer to ensure the booklet came together and showcased all the decorators, florists and businesses that support the tour and make it happen. Proofreading, proofreading, proofreading….It was truly a labour of love.

I got to work with an amazing group of 14 women that made this tour sing…and raised $83,000 for Hope House’s programs. The Christmas hampers, the school backpacks, the Food Market, the Edu-Kitchen, the Harvest of Hope, the Hope Stylin’ clothing and hair programs, the Café, Circles and Cadence High School Program will benefit from the generosity of the homeowners, the Guelph and area community and tour goers who came from as far away as Oshawa, Mississauga and London.

Thank you. For the opportunity. For the generosity. For the joy.

2016-joy-sponsor-pkg-graphic

Celebrating 15 Years!!


Whoo Hoo! Happy Birthday to me! 15 years.
I’ve been running my own company, working with clients, helping them achieve their business goals with marketing communications tools for 15 years now.

I’ve always considered this time of the year the true “start” of my company…it’s when my company really got going. I know my LinkedIn profile says August because that’s when I was laid off from my last corporate position as VP of an agency that then folded within a year. But it was this time of year that I really made the decision — yes, I was going to do it, go out on my own, say no to the job offers I was getting and become an “Independent,” a small business person. And landed my first clients. It was freaking scary then. It still is.

I know the challenges of being a sole proprietor, of working long hours, trusting the partners you’re working with to come through so you can deliver on your promises and achieve your clients’ expectations. And I also know the frustration of clients that don’t keep to their agreements, especially financial ones.

It has been a challenge, these past 15 years. But it has also been a joy. I truly love what I do. Creating, strategizing, researching, discussing, developing, executing, delivering…finding the right marketing communications solution for each client’s business need.

From media training P. Diddy, answering his questions about the Canadian media and creating a rock star party to welcoming Beyoncé and her family to Toronto and launching her fashion line Deréon to the media and trade in just three and a half weeks…to creating programs that educated Canadians about playing safe, fair, clean hockey at the recreational level and the importance of keeping our precious water resources clean…to launching new products, dealing with personal death threats, creating detailed security plans, national product recalls and plant closures….it’s certainly never been dull.

To everyone who has shared in the journey with me, to all the clients, all the associates, all the friends and family, for the faith, trust, confidence, partnership, opportunities, support, friendship and referrals…thank you. It has been an honour. It has been a thrill. It has been a source of great pride and much learning. Cheers to all of it and all of you.

Happy Birthday Diana Degan & Associates!

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Dancing with Butterflies

I spent a recent rainy dreary foggy morning at the Cambridge Butterfly conservatory. It was in preparation for an event that will be held there in a couple of weeks that I will be overseeing for a client.

It was a wonderful way to spend this dreadful day. We opened the waterfall room door and were immediately greeted by warmth, a lush greenery and butterflies of every colour floating by. It was enchanting and it was magical.

I found myself spinning to catch sight of butterflies ducking in and out of the vegetation and up and around the waterfall.  And giggling. Honest to goodness giggling as I stuck my hand out to try and touch one as it floated by. Art on wings.

Butterflies kind of became my thing when I went through my divorce seven years ago. I came across the saying: Just when the caterpillar though the world was ending, he became a butterfly. And it spoke to me as I had returned to my maiden name and as a result, had to change my business name. Rebirth.

That’s usually what we’re dealing with as we move through the seasons, going from winter into spring into summer. Watching as the trees and gardens all bloom and unfold before our very eyes. Even our long-lost neighbours emerge from hibernation and start hanging around the sidewalks and porches to talk and share a beverage and maybe even bbqs.

Re-emergence and reinvention…they are good for the soul. And good for business too. I’m taking the time today to re-evaluate and reinvent. To return to what I love doing – and that includes dancing with butterflies.

 

Butterfly

The best time to prepare for an emergency…

    …is when there isn’t one.

First I noticed the plumber’s truck parked in front of my neighbour’s house. Next, I noticed the Flood Restoration vehicles. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself. “Not good.” Disaster had struck and emergency cleanup work was underway.

It’s been going on for the better part of a week now.  Not only did it create an immediate panic and an instant need to address the situation to prevent it from becoming an even larger disaster, but it has thrown upheaval into their daily lives and havoc for their future plans. Disasters have a way of doing that.

It seems like once a year I have a discussion with clients about their issues and crisis management plans and then it never gets mentioned again. Usually
it’s a topic that gets raised when I first meet with new clients. Everyone acknowledges that their business needs to take an updated look at their plan.  I am constantly amazed at the number of businesses that admit that their plans are skimpy at best. They really don’t know what they would do if they were hit by a product recall, a plant closure, the death of an employee on site, a serious equipment failure, a major weather storm…anything that temporarily cripples a company and prevents it from doing business as usual.

It bears repeating: the time to prepare for a disaster is when there isn’t one.

No one plans to have a disaster, but you do have to plan how you would deal with one. When did you last look at your company’s issues and crisis management plan? When did you last update the full plan and do a company role play of how a crisis would evolve? Do you know how the chain of command would fall out? Is there a binder with all the information and is at home where you would be in the middle of the night if a storm hit? It’s great to have information digitally, but what if there is a power outage? Or what if you can’t access your computer? Could you quickly access all the information you need if your business was hit with a major disaster? Do you know what you would do?

Sometimes it’s not a major crisis that we’re confronted with, it’s more of a simmering issue. You know that something isn’t quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it. Or you have identified the issue, but don’t know how to actually turn it around.

If you need some help in figuring it all out, I have specialized training in dealing with issues and crisis management and have won awards for helping clients through similar situations. Give me a call or send me an email at dianadeganassociates@rogers.com.

And by the way, after seeing all the flood trucks, I made sure my insurance info was still neatly tucked into my watertight safe. And nothing that could be seriously affected by water was sitting on the basement floor. Just in case.

crisis words pic

 

 

I’m baaaaccck!!!

 

I’m baaaack!! Yes, getting back into the groove of
back-to-school, back-to-work routines. Getting back
into my business after taking some time away.
Just getting back on track as so many of us do at
this time of year. Fall has a way of doing that for you.

It’s been a very busy year. I was named IABC/Toronto’s
Boutique Agency of the Year!
  This was the fifth time I’ve
been named an agency of the year and it is always a tremendous
honour to be selected. At the same ceremonies, I was awarded
an IABC/Toronto Ovation Award of Excellence in Issues
Management and Crisis Communication for work I did on
the closing of the Strub’s pickle plant in Brantford. I also won
an international IABC Gold Quill award for the same project
and a Gold Quill in Leadership Communication for work I did
with transportation company Fastfrate.

I was asked to be a member of the Gold Quill Blue Ribbon Panel
of judges this year, one of the five international panels. And I just
finished being a judge for the IABC Canadian awards program,
Silver Leaf. I find the opportunity to see what other communications
professionals are doing across the country and around the world truly
enlightening. (And no, I don’t get to be anywhere close to my own award
submissions! LOL!)

Another highlight of the year was being named Guelph’s 2013
Woman of Distinction in the Business/Entrepreneur category.
It was a wonderful surprise, an unexpected honour, and an evening
filled with celebrating the fabulous women that help to keep the city
of Guelph running in various ways.

I was also selected to be a presenter at the annual IABC World Conference
held in New York City this year. I pulled together a panel of fellow
entrepreneurial experts from around the world: Dr. Amanda Atwell-Hamilton
from Africa, Amy Carroll from Switzerland and Suzanne Salvo from Italy to
discuss starting your own business. Interesting how it was a panel of women….
as I started the session by saying, forget Sex and the City…we are successful
women in the city!!

Planning is already underway for the 2014 IABC World Conference
and it is being held in Toronto next June.  I was recently invited to be
a member of the Program Advisory Committee for the conference,
joining 15 other esteemed communicators from around the world.
We just held our first team meeting and it promises to be an exciting opportunity.

And on top of all that, I became a full-time stepmom as opposed to an
every-other-weekend stepmom, and got married.  In that order!

I know that we all kick off a new year with anticipation; January arrives
and we feel a newness that comes with the start of the next calendar year.
And yet, I have always felt that September is just as often a beginning tooa crispness to the days, a sunny freshness, the start of school and activities…I’m feeling it even more so this year – my first ever getting someone off to school on the first day — and looking forward to the new adventures that are sure to come.

Gold Quill NYC

Shoemaker’s children…

 Why is that I always feel like the shoemaker’s children?

I am, of course, referring to the fact that while I build
programs and make recommendations for clients, stressing
the importance of social media, and blogging and being
consistent and regular, my little blog falls to the wayside.

My clients get fantastic blog entries and thought-provoking,
dialogue-generating communication and my poor little blog
sits exposed on the internet with last year’s worn out shoes.  Sigh…

My new year’s resolution was to be more consistent.
It really was. And I’ve had a million ideas and started writing
in my head many, many times. But then a call came, or meeting
prep was required, or a writing deadline was looming…and once
again, my child was patted on the head and told, “I’ll be back soon.
No really. I promise.”

Tonight, as I researched and wrote my client’s blog, I could hear
my baby calling for me to come and play. And I felt guilty. And so,
even though I have 3 other deadlines, a growling tummy
(man, I skipped lunch again!) and a need to just stretch and
get away from the desk, I am writing and posting this blog.
And smiling. Because it feels good and reminds me of why I
started this in the first place.

Another year draws to a close…

Where has this year gone?!!  It’s December already.
I can’t believe it.

Time: never enough when you need it, but, oh
too much of it when you’re waiting for something!

At this time of year, I believe in stopping, reviewing and
being thankful for the achievements of the current year
and taking a moment to consider the goals for the next.

My first year as Diana Degan & Associates is almost done.
I launched my new blog, DDA, on my revamped web site.
I was fortunate to win another IABC international Gold Quill
Award. I was honoured to be recognized by Cambridge
Who’s Who as their Professional of the Year for Public
Relations & Marketing and featured in their magazine.

I started working with several new clients including the
Responsible Gambling Council. And I have been selected
as a speaker at the IABC World Conference to be held in
Chicago, IL next June.

The next year looks brighter than ever. A new project with
Storck for their Werther’s candy promises to be especially
sweet. I’ve just been asked back to Loyalist College to
speak to their Post-Grad PR program — my 6th year!
And I have a trip to Chicago to look forward to.

I wish you all the happiest of holidays and a very successful
2012. I thank you all for your support, your advice and
your friendship and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Getting the Wheels of Social Media Turning

Yesterday I was honoured to be part of a panel on
social media at The Infrastructure Health and Safety
Association Fleet Safety Council’s Annual Educational
Conference in London, ON.

My fellow panellists – Al Goodhall, a commercial truck
driver and 2010 Winner of Driver of the Year for the
Central Chapter, and Lorne Honickman, lawyer and
very familiar face from his days at City-TV as the legal
reporter and now host of CourtTV and Legal Briefs –
and I discussed the whys and how-tos of using social
media. With a very healthy dose of “holy crap, you need
to be careful” thrown in by Mr. Honickman. And rightly so.
As he told the crowd, “the Internet and social media is
like the Wild West” and he wasn’t so sure it was going to
be tamed.

Mr. Honickman specializes in the legal implications of
social media use and his examples of how fast an
off- the-cuff comment can turn into a legal nightmare did
make people stop and think. Our panel moderator,
Lou Smyrlis, Editor of Truck News, did an on the spot
poll at the end of the session and everyone agreed that
the legal implications did worry them and would make
them stop and pay closer attention to how they were
using social media.

One of the points that I made during the presentation
was that you shouldn’t put anything out there, regardless
of how you do it, social media or otherwise, that you
wouldn’t want in the newspaper tomorrow. It is all too
easy with social media to just send a comment “out there.”
Something that you would never dream of saying face-to-face
or even in an email. And with the ability to hide behind
usernames and anonymity, it can be a free-for-all. Although
Mr. Honickman said they can track you down if they need to.
(Just like a sheriff on horseback!)

I found it interesting to hear both my co-panellists speak. Al has
been blogging and tweeting about life on the road as a trucker
and has been asked to participate in numerous industry groups
about safety and other industry issues as a result. I certainly
made a point of getting Lorne’s business card – you just never
know where that next client crisis is going to come from and
given our discussion yesterday and my research leading up
to it, it’s clear that social media will play a bigger and bigger
role both in causing a crisis and how you can deal with it,
proactively and reactively.

 

 

 

Today we remember…

Ten years ago today I had an appointment with a headhunter
in Toronto. I had been let go from the last agency I worked for
about four weeks earlier and while what I really wanted to do was
start my own company, I was looking for a full-time job with a
steady paycheck.

I had the TV turned on to see what the traffic into the city was like.
I was in the bathroom doing my makeup when I heard a commotion
on the TV and came to see what they were talking about. As I watched
the live program, the second plane flew into the World Trade Centre
in New York. I watched as the plane hit the building and like the rest of
the world, was stunned.

My first thought was that there must be a problem with air traffic control
at one of the local NY airports. Why else would two planes hit massive
buildings? Your mind tries to make sense of what it is seeing. Very quickly
the reporting told a different story, although no one really understood what
was happening.

I still had to drive into Toronto. It was an absolutely beautiful day, with
blue skies and the occasional floating cloud. The perfect fall day.

My appointment was in Yorkville and as I parked the car and made my
way to the building, people walking around me were on cell phones and I
could catch snippets of conversations. “Have you heard from….” “I can’t reach….”
“Can you get me a flight home?” The film festival was in town
and people who might otherwise have been in NY or who knew people
in NY were desperately trying to connect and reach loved ones.
 

There was an almost eerie feeling to Toronto that day. I thought it rather
ironic that as many people were trying to get out of the city – because who knew?
Toronto
might be next – I was driving into it, and right through the
heart of the financial district.

The world was changed that day.

For me personally, several really interesting jobs I was considering dried
up because the tourism market was impacted so severely. I turned down
several jobs because I recognized that their expectations were completely
out of line in what was going to be the new business reality over the next
year. And I decided to see if I could make it on my own.

Here I am, 10 years later. It’s been a decade of immense change.
 

I’ve won 18 business awards in the last four years alone and been named
Small Agency of the Year three times. I value my family and true friends
more than ever. I embrace the opportunity to work with clients that look
for ways to incorporate social responsibility and helping and educating
others to make changes in small and large ways. I strive to meet new
people, enjoy new experiences and help others find their way. I look for
ways each and every day to bring kindness, grace, wisdom and learning
into my life and to those around me. And I take the time to enjoy my life
and live in the moment, for today…even if that is a simple as taking my
morning coffee out onto the porch to check out how the new baby mourning doves in
the nest in my hanging fern plant are doing.
 

Today, I take a moment to stop, reflect and remember.
And to wish you all well.