Why ‘should’ can take a long walk off a short pier

A bright yellow pool deck with a chrome ladder that leads to turquoise water - you SHOULD dive in  Hot on the heels of an exceptionally hot European summer and CNN naming Copenhagen as the best city in the world for swimming, the nearby beaches and harbors are still teeming with people cooling off in the open water. When I complain about the heat, I’m often told, ‘You should go for a dip!’

The only valid reason I can see for swimming is to avoid death by drowning – but that ‘should’ stops me in my tracks. It carries a sense of obligation, judgement, pressure and, most of all, guilt.

I don’t like to swim, but I should.

Should is for things we don’t want to do. Should is based on the expectations of others. Should is inconsistent with our own values and how we want to behave.

So, what does my dislike of swimming have to do with marketing, branding or strategy? Honestly, not a thing – but my dislike of should is highly relevant.

It’s not uncommon for marketing managers and CMOs to feel as though they shouldhave a presence on every social media network, or they should be bright and splashy, or they should do what their competitors are doing.

But brand authenticity has never been more important and credibility can be a company’s strongest asset. Stay true to your corporate values and marketing strategy and don’t get pushed around by the shoulds. There will always be new trends and more marketing possibilities than any company could ever actually implement, but not all of them will fit your company. Keep your values, brand and strategy in mind throughout your marketing efforts – and don’t rush into something new just because you should. As HMV very publicly learned with Twitter years ago, sometimes the pitfalls of using a new technology vastly outweigh the benefits – particularly if you don’t have proper processes in place.

Of course, it’s healthy to step outside your comfort zone, to be creative and push the envelope – just make sure it’s authentic for your company’s brand. And don’t jump off the diving board unless you actually want to!


This post was originally published on Integrated B2B.

Why storytelling matters

Kids raise their hands in excitement during a storytelling session at a libraryAs a librarian, I understand the importance and value of storytelling and, as a marketer, I know how convincing narrative can be – but it’s as a human, that I really get the power of a good story and its ability to inspire, educate and connect.

Despite the modern world growing increasingly frenetic, a well-told story is still the most engaging way to explore different perspectives and learn new things – particularly when there’s some emotional resonance. At libraries all over the world, kids sit on the floor in a circle for story time, listening earnestly to fairy tales, while learning how language works and developing an interest in the broader world. As adults we replicate that sense of shared entertainment and satisfy our need to be part of something bigger through books, sports, movies, TV – and particularly social media.

From Facebook to Instagram and beyond, there is an onslaught of communication tools (check out Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic for 5000+ of them!), but all that technology is useless without the stories that connect us. We crave to understand other people and to feel like we’re not alone in the world. In everything from reality TV to advertisements that tug on our heartstrings, storytelling touches the core of human experience.

We may no longer sit on a library floor for amusement and perhaps it’s been decades since we told ghost stories around a campfire, but storytelling is not dead. If anything, the strength of a good story is more important than ever. A side effect of having information constantly at our fingertips, is that we expect everything to have a backstory. Consumers are looking for reasons to pick one brand over another and credibility combined with emotional connection is strong motivation.

How does ‘Once upon a time…’ connect you, your business, your brand? What stories do you tell to tap into the age-old desire to be part of something bigger?

Storytelling is powerful. Don’t let the profound humanness of narrative pass you by.


This post was originally published on Integrated B2B.

A very personal library

Escalators in Copenhagen's central libraryWhen I first moved from Canada to Europe in 2013, one of the hardest tasks was to dramatically reduce my personal library. Over the course of many years and two university degrees, I had collected over 400 books and I knew it was unreasonable to move or store them all. Print books take up a lot space and are a pain to ship!

I gifted many titles to friends, donated the rest and said farewell to all but a handful of print books. My collection shifted to digital format (thank goodness for iBooks!) and I resolved to stay out of bookstores in case the temptation to rebuild my collection was too strong.

Despite having millions of books available electronically, there’s something special about turning physical pages and getting a library card was at the top of my to-do list after moving to Copenhagen in September 2016. Before I had even received my yellow health card (a must for anyone settling in Denmark!), I was at the main library on Krystalgade bumbling through the process of setting up a library account.

Library card in hand, I wandered the many floors at the main library enjoying the range of materials, marvelling at the intermixed languages in the non-fiction section (Danish, Swedish, German, English, French – all side by side!) and trying to determine how the subjects were organised. As a life-long lover of libraries, I often visit public libraries when travelling and I’m fascinated by the differing classification systems – I still don’t understand the Danish scheme!

I’ve since become familiar with Østerbro’s two local libraries, attended author talks at the Black Diamond and discovered that my yellow health card is also my library card – no need for one more thing in my wallet! I’m impressed by how much Danes care about the written word, as demonstrated by the striking architecture of the Black Diamond, the wealth of the library’s collections and the ability for users to access local libraries after-hours.

I am also delighted by the ‘Hygge only’ zone at the main library: a sign directs visitors to use the space for reading or chatting – no phones or computers. ‘Hygge’ is one aspect where I notice that Denmark has a surprisingly different culture from Canada or Germany (where I lived in 2013-14). I’ve jumped into Danish culture by studying Danish, watching Olympic curling on DR, experiencing May Day at Fælledparken, making pilgrimages to H.C. Anderson’s hometown and the Dybbøl windmill, overindulging at Julefrokost celebrations and cycling just about everywhere and I’m still uncovering all that Denmark has to offer.

In spite of warnings about the Danes’ frosty nature towards strangers, I’ve been welcomed warmly by people at the two yoga studios where I teach. I have Danish and expat friends, can order pastries and engage in small talk in Danish, but it’s really the library system that makes me feel like I belong. Spotting titles I used to own on the shelves of my local library in Østerbro cements the feeling that Copenhagen is home and satisfies my desire to read ‘real’ books – without the need to build a personal library again!

What jet lag feels like

For the last few days, lying down has felt like being swallowed up. I sink as if my body is resting on moss, compressing the springy fauna and becoming part of the forest floor. My brain surrenders to the fog of jet lag and gives my body no choice but to resign itself to sleep.

Photograph of Laura in corpse pose on a mossy forest floorHaving returned to Copenhagen from the west coast of Canada a few days ago, I’m still adjusting to the nine hour time shift and the long, sleepless trip home. I have never been able to fall asleep on planes or in stiff gate-side seats, which means the two long flights and aimless hours at airports did not leave me feeling rested!

I remember travelling in the opposite direction (from Europe to Canada’s west coast) some years ago and going to a restorative yoga class the evening I landed. I managed to keep conscious throughout most of the practice, but the moss rose up and claimed my wakefulness during savasana. I managed to re-awaken with the rest of the class after savasana, but the teacher (who is also a friend) whispered to me afterwards that a few gentle snores escaped!

Sometimes sleep is exactly what is required and it can’t be fought! Perhaps, I need to make time for a restorative practice before long.

But, for now, life will not wait for the jet lag to pass and I’m left to battle the tiredness – although I hope it will only be for a few more days. Thankfully, jet lag doesn’t last forever.

Baking in translation

Baking in Translation - Cinnamon almond oat cookies
Cinnamon almond oat cookies

Adjusting to a new kitchen, new tools and a new oven is always a challenge when settling into a new home. Add in the difficulties of a new language and new ingredients in a different country and things get even more complicated! The various measuring systems also throw in another dimension of complexity…

Fahrenheit or Celsius? Or whatever ‘gas mark‘ means? Metric or imperial? Grams or cups or ounces? Is a kitchen scale required? Or a set of measuring cups?

A few years ago my sister-in-law knocked me for a loop with the revelation that there are American and metric cups (a US cup is 240ml and a UK/Australian cup is 250ml) and now I take an extra moment to determine the nationality of a recipe author before blindly following their proportions.

While I grew up using volume measurements (cups and tablespoons) for dry ingredients, the system of weighing ingredients (using grams and a digital kitchen scale) now seems much simpler. I love the ease of plopping a bowl on the scale and zero-ing out the scale with every new ingredient I add. Although teaspoons and pinches still rule for smaller increments – measuring out a gram and a half just seems impossible!

Conversions between grams and ounces and cups (I use UK cups, being a Danish-based Canadian the commonwealth still holds sway) are inexact at best (these Cooking Equivalent Measurements can help), so I like it when recipe authors indicate what consistency or texture the dough or batter should have before baking. That way I know if I should adjust with a bit more flour or an extra shot of liquid.

Sometimes translating between languages for ingredients is a bit of work, too. Rest assured that caster sugar is the same as white, granulated sugar regardless of whether it’s spelled (or is that spelt?) with an ‘e’ or an ‘o’ (caster or castor) and most oatmeal (large-flake, rolled, Irish, Scottish or instant) will work in the majority of baked goods.

Here’s a super-simple recipe for several dozen delicious cookies using multiple systems of measurements. The batter is very sticky before it chills in the fridge, so don’t worry if it seems like the proportion of liquid to dry ingredients isn’t quite right. The melted butter (or margarine if you want to make the recipe dairy-free) cools quickly in the fridge and yields a much firmer dough.

Happy baking – and translating!

Cinnamon almond oat cookies

Ingredients

  • 85g (3oz or a heaped 1/2 cup) almonds
  • 100g (3 1/2oz or just under 1/2 pound) unsalted butter or margarine
  • 100ml (3 1/2oz or just shy of 1/2 cup) maple syrup
  • 140g (4 1/2oz or 1 cup + 1 tbsp) all purpose flour (regular white flour)
  • 1/4 tsp (1/25oz or 1.5g) baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarb)
  • 110g (4oz or 1/2 cup) white sugar (also known caster/castor sugar or berry sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp (1/2oz or 6g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp (1/25oz or 1 1/2g) fine sea salt
  • 140g (5oz or 1 1/2 cups) rolled oats (the kind you’d make porridge with – not oat flour)
  • 1 egg
  • A small spoonful of cinnamon & a large spoonful sugar for rolling, if desired

Method

  • Toast the almonds in a pan over medium-low heat; when they are fragrant, but before they brown (about 8 minutes), remove from the heat and cool slightly before chopping
  • Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F, using the convection setting if your oven has it, and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper
  • Place the butter and maple syrup in saucepan over medium heat until the butter has melted; stir together and set the mixture aside to cool slightly
  • In a mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, sugar, cinnamon, salt and oats
  • Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk with a fork; add a tablespoon of the butter/syrup mixture to the egg while stirring
    • This raises the temperature of the egg and ensures that it won’t turn into scrambled eggs when mixed with the warm butter and syrup – also known as tempering
  • Mix the tempered egg into saucepan with the remaining butter and maple syrup, stirring continuously until well-combined
  • Pour egg/butter/syrup mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and gently combine
  • Stir in the chopped almonds until evenly distributed; the dough will be soft and sticky
  • Refrigerate the cookie dough for about 10 minutes to allow the mixture to firm up and become easier to handle
  • Roll teaspoons of the batter into balls (they should be about the size of unshelled walnuts) and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture if you want
    • I like the extra cinnamon sugar, but the cookies are good without the extra step (and additional dirty dish!) of rolling them in addition spice and sweetness
  • Place the balls on baking sheets at least 2cm (1 inch) apart and gently flatten with a spoon or your finger
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes (15 minutes if not using a convection setting) until the cookies spread out and the edges are firm
  • After the cookies come out of the oven, allow them to cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool
  • Makes about three dozen, two-bite-size cookies

Dark days, inner light

Your inner light lights up your outer world. - Matshona DhliwayoIn the long, dark days of February, it’s worth remembering that we can create our own light. The greyness in Copenhagen is sometimes oppressive (the clouds hang so low!), but we can tap into our inner light and allow it to illuminate our outer worlds.

“Your inner light lights up your outer world.”

~ Matshona Dhliwayo
Canadian-based philosopher, entrepreneur and author

Thankfully, the days are starting to get longer and the promise of Spring is creeping closer! And, even more thankfully, I have the joys of chatting with family, teaching yoga, spending time with friends, walking the dog, enjoying food and drink, practicing yoga and loving my husband to fuel my internal light until the Earth’s rotation around the Sun brings on more daylight!

Haircut!

A very fluffy Sofie dog (before a haircut) in the snowNowhere is the amazing transformative power of a haircut more visible than with my dog, Sofie. From sedate shaggy fluffball… to puppy-like sleek (almost scrawny!) in a few short hours.

We let her coat grow a little longer than usual to cope with the snow and cold in Calgary, but last week it warmed up a bit and Sofie’s fur started to seem like too much to manage.  While she consents to being brushed (with periodic snaps at the brush), it’s certainly not her favourite activity and we weren’t able to keep up the thrice weekly grooming sessions necessary to keep her coat from matting.

Sleek Sofie dog after her haircutSo I pulled out the clippers, slipped Sofie a little Rescue Remedy, and got to shearing.

A couple hours later, an entirely new dog emerged!

After the mild trauma of a serious grooming, Sofie tends to embrace her short coat with a puppy-like attitude. Her outlook on life always seems lighter after a haircut and she appears to revel in the new sensations that come with less fur. She also rediscovers how much she loves getting pet, which leads to lots more Sofie snuggles 🙂

Unfortunately, Calgary’s weather slipped back to winter immediately after Sofie’s haircut, but the forecast is calling for warmer temperatures – and her non-fur coats to kept her toasty in the meantime!