Will CEO pledge improve the lives and conditions of employees and communities? We will see

Do you remember back in the early days of 2012 when Caterpillar Inc. closed the doors of its plant in London, eliminating 450 good-paying manufacturing jobs.
I remember thinking at the time that this was one of the more brutal and blatant examples of how corporations competing in the age of globalization acted on behalf of shareholders. 
Well, according to a recent pledgesigned by corporate CEOs, the interests of employees, their families and communities may be on the upswing. The Business Roundtable document spells out five commitments, putting employees and communities on equal footing with other priorities, including delivering value to customers, and generating long-term value for shareholders.
Investing in employees “starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect,” reads the statement.
“Supporting the communities in which we work” means respecting “the people in our communities and (protecting) the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.”
Might not sound like a big deal, but if the CEOs are serious, this could represent the most important attitude shift since the early days of globalization and free trade, which some, including this scribe, have always considered a bill of rights for corporations to do what they wanted in pursuit of shareholder value and profit.
It wasn’t always that way. At one time, decades ago, corporations were very much more involved in the lives of their employees, providing a fair wage, employment benefits that included pensions and healthcare coverage, vacation pay, and others. Some still do, far too many don’t or offer a much reduced package of wages and benefits. Defined-benefit pensions, for example, were once the mainstay of a secure and dignified retirement. Now, and for the last 30-40 years, they are disappearing from the private sector, although remaining a presence in the public sector. It’s no coincidence that this timeframe coincides with what has been called the ‘race to the bottom,’ a reference to the pressure on governments and workers to accept lower wages and benefits to keep an employer, usually a manufacturer, in town.
The old employer/employee relationship allowed employees and their families to have a relatively secure middle-class lifestyle, benefiting their communities as the money they made got spent on local goods and services, creating jobs and supporting the tax base along the way. It helped sustain the middle class and upward mobility. Take a look at the landscape now: rising income inequality, a gig economy with no benefits and low wages, lower standards and expectations.
I believe in capitalism, but am not sure that what is going on now can be called classic capitalism, which is the best economic system for creating wealth and opportunity. Rather, I’d suggest we live in an age of corporatism, defined as governance for and of corporations. It was corporations that largely wrote the rules of globalization, mostly excluding labour and environmental standards, or ignoring them if they were included. If those standards had been taken seriously, it might have levelled the playing field somewhat. The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is said to have stronger labour and environmental standards, but we will have to see how that plays out.
It should be mentioned that globalization has its proponents, with some reports linking it to a decline of global poverty rates. Some sectors and regions have benefitted, others have not.
We aren’t going back to the age of company towns and cradle-to-grave jobs with a single employer, but a refocusing of corporations on employees, their families and communities can only help battle the economic and social ills of today, and perhaps along the way help people live happier, stress-reduced lives. We will see.

Staff report sees little traction in privatization of marina, but identifies ‘alternative operating’ strategy

A staff report investigating the potential privatization, either through lease, sale or outsourcing management, of the Barrie Marina recommends not entering those waters as they offer no clear advantage for the City.
Rather, the report, prepared by Gus Diamantopoulos, manager of corporate facility services, presents an alternative operating strategy for the marina, which includes the potential for it to become a “higher service marina,” in part by removing restrictions that prevent non-residents from getting a slip.
“There is demand for slips in the Barrie marina from non-residents who own larger more expensive boats. These boaters are willing to pay higher rates based on the size of boat provided that marina amenities more closely match those of other marinas in the area,” reads the report.
“These enhanced amenities include wi-fi, winter haul-out and storage services, laundry facilities, upgraded dedicated washroom and shower facilities plus community space for barbecues and member get-togethers.”
However, the report recommends no action on this alternative yet, as “staff are continuing to investigate these opportunities.”
In addition to the alternative operating strategy, the report presented three other options: leasing the marina as a public/private partnership, selling the marina to a private operator, and outsourcing marina operations to a management firm.
Requests for expressions of interest received no responses for selling or leasing the marina, and one from an American marina management operator.
The report is in response to a May 9, 2016 motion that called on staff to “investigate and update the feasibility of privatizing the City of Barrie Marina and/or Marina operations through lease or sale and report back” to general committee.” 
Also, during the Barrie Waterfront & Marina Strategic Plan, Baird & Associates were asked to specifically comment about the advisability of selling or leasing the Marina to the private sector. The following is an excerpt from the Baird & Associates Plan, states the report.
“In our view, there would be no significant advantages to the City. Given the marina’s central placement in the waterfront and the opportunities that surround it for future public benefits, the disadvantages associated with losing control outweigh any benefits.” 
The Waterfront & Marina Strategic Plan also recommended maintaining public ownership and operation of the marina. This recommendation was accepted by council through motion 13-G-274.
The City has managed the marina since 1971. Prior to that, it was leased to a series of private operators with the City being responsible for all capital investment and renewal, with the primary focus being to provide “seasonal marina services to Barrie residents for small to mid-sized boats, and transient boat slips for visitors. 
Staff refer to it as a low-fee, low-service marina compared to other such facilities in the region.
“On average the City marina fees are 20 to 40 per cent lower than other local marinas. The marina offers the basic services essential to the boating community including a gas dock, waste pump-out, boat launch, potable water supply, shore power and minimal restroom/shower facilities.”
However, the report doesn’t go into the additional costs marina patrons pay, including winter storage, parking, lift in/out, that are covered by fees paid at other marinas. These additional out-of-pocket expenses bring the overall costs of keeping a boat at the Barrie marina closer to the fees paid at other marinas which include such services in overall costs.
The marina is self-sufficient, with all operating and capital costs coming through fees and at no cost to the “tax fund.” It operates with an annual surplus. Weaknesses identified include distance from the Trent-Severn system and related boat traffic, limited boater amenities, lack of parking, lack of winter storage, and limited capacity to accommodate larger boats.
Opportunities detailed include rate increases to support upgrades to the marina and “immediate vicinity,” expanding launch, pump-out fees, and masting fees to all users; currently, only non-residents are charged a launch fee.
Other opportunities identified include expanding services, including wi-fi, laundry facilities, winter storage and commercial opportunities.
“A broad range of commercial opportunities including sailing and fishing charters could be supported out of the marina.”
Threats listed include access to capital and resistance from marina users. “There is a general resistance from the marina’s current seasonal lessees, 98 per cent of which are City of Barrie residents, to pay more than a marginal rate increase for an enhanced level of service.”



Let the pros craft your editorial solutions

Know what you want to say, but running into constraints in communicating and presenting your messaging to clients and/or stakeholders? Why not turn to expert wordsmiths and paginators to get the job done?

It’s a wired world with tweets and posts dominating the messaging  landscape, but sometimes substance is required to give all that instance communication relevance and meaning. From newsletters to blogs, crafting the right dialogue and tone forms the basis of the conversation between you and your audience.

Every writer knows the agony of staring at a computer screen, fingers poised at the keyboard, waiting in vain for a streak of inspiration to come along. Why put yourself through all of that misery? Pay the experts to do it and save yourself the aggravation.

Devine Media Service welcomes that aggravation. We are here to relieve you of that misery, with solutions that include:

Writing solutions

• Do you know what a lede is? Or as it is sometimes spelled, a lead? If someone mentions story flow, structure, second lede/lead, any idea what they are talking about? If not, turn the job over to the pros who can craft your story in a compelling, engaging, informative and entertaining narrative.

• Style matters, but so does structure. Is the content valuable to readers? Usually it is, but often the message gets lost in the structure. A professional writer, such as a brand journalist, will structure your tale so that it resonates, ensuring you are heard and understood. Often it starts with a question: what do I want the reader to know/do after reading this? The answer begins with a focused writing style and strategy.

• Same goes for press releases, speeches and opinion pieces, blogs, and content for brochures. Style, focus, experience and talent all go into the mix for successful messaging.

Editing/pagination services

• Using programs including InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, Devine Media Service provides pagination/page layout for print and online publications.

• Those publications include magazines, newsletters, industry newspapers, online blogs, and more.

Web writing solutions:

• You have designed your site, and now you need to populate it with content to describe the products and services available. As with all content, this writing should be engaging, compelling and informative, leading the reader to contact you for more information.  Words matter, and so does structure and tone.

• Blogs and other online content should follow journalistic principles, as provided by a brand journalist. In telling your story, let us go beyond mere marketing and press releases to engage your audience, bringing them back to your content hub for a more detailed exploration of what you have to offer.

• Web writing has its own style and tone, including writing in shorter sentences, using the active voice, having different points of entry into the story for all those ‘scanners,’ writing for the reader, using subheads and lists, providing useful links, and, of course, including keywords for SEO.

Contact us today for solutions to all your editorial needs. We look forward to hearing from you.


Build brand and audience through social media platforms

When strategizing about reaching an audience for your products and services, social media platforms rank among the most important tools available today.

The data shows that there are now more than
3 billion people using social networks across the planet. And these people aren’t just using social media to discuss their lives and follow celebrities. In fact, following brands now ranks higher than interest in celebrities, with research showing more people using social media for the former purpose than the latter. Instagram numbers reveal that 80 percent of subscribers follow at least one brand.

So, what are some of the benefits of engaging an audience through social media platforms? One of the most obvious and profitable is the ability to build brand awareness, letting people know about your products and services. Engaging people through social media is essential to building brand awareness and creating a direct link between you and current/future audience. The numbers don’t lie. According to Instagram, 60 per cent of their members say they find new products on that platform.

Other benefits include:

• Establishing yourself as the go-to resource in your field of expertise. Social media interaction allows you to connect on a personal level, through relevant news and information, with your followers, creating a level of trust that builds brand awareness and loyalty. Pushing information – and it needs to be impactful content – out through social media channels helps bring traffic back to your business website, or content hub, for a fuller exploration of what you have to offer.

Trust is enhanced by thought leadership, which builds credibility and brand loyalty. Research by Edelman established that about 50 per cent of B2B marketers believed thought leadership built trust, however more than 80 per cent of customers believed that to be so.

Additional research by Edelman revealed that technical experts are trusted by 63 per cent of people, while only 42 per cent say they trust businesses.

• A social media presence helps to humanize your brand. According to this research, more than 50 per cent of adults don’t commit to a brand until they see concrete proof that a business delivers on its promises. Social media platforms are effective tools to deliver that message.

• Being active on social media is a key strategy for keeping your brand front and centre; according to data from the Pew Research Center, social media users are active on the accounts daily, with many checking in throughout the day.

• Social media increases website traffic through a push-and-pull strategy: relevant content, including thought leadership tweets, reach the audience, building brand and loyalty, pulling traffic back to your website, or content hub, for a more detailed exploration of your products and services.

• It’s a great strategy for generating leads, boosting sales, promoting content and getting people talking about your brand. According to this research, about 20 to 50 per cent of purchasing decisions is driven by word-of-mouth dialogue.

• Other benefits include managing your reputation, crisis management and communication, and engaging with customers and audience.

If you aren’t using social media to build brand and audience, you are ignoring an effective marketing tool, and in the process probably losing business to competitors. Luckily though, you don’t have to be an expert in social media feeds or have your own social media resources. Devine Media Service has the solution for you. Contact us today.

The benefits of having a journalist build your brand and audience

The art of story-telling is as old as the ability to communicate verbally, and may even predate actual language itself, come to think of it. It’s not hard to imagine the cave-dwelling denizens of ancient days grunting and gesturing to get a point across. The most proficient of them probably told the best stories.

Of course, no one seems to know when people began speaking to each other in a structured language. Research estimates it could be as recent as 50,000 years ago or as far back as two million years. Whatever the timeframe, as long as people have been able to speak they have used language to communicate, make sense of things and tell stories of lives, histories, families and communities.

The more interesting the telling, or narrative, the more compelling the story for the audience, or in today’s parlance, the market. And if you want someone to tell your story with style, quality and impact, get a journalist for the job – or more to the point, a brand journalist.

Why? Well, effective communication lies in the telling. If you need some lights wired, get an electrician. If you want your story told so that it resonates with current and future customers, employ the talents of a brand journalist who will bring the principles of journalism to the table so that your narrative gets noticed.

There’s a term in the newspaper trade for information that wants to be seen as something more than mere marketing: advertorial. It’s vested-interest content contained in a story, rather than traditional ads. Why? Because advertisers know that readers are more likely to respond to their message if it’s presented as a story. That establishes credibility and trust.

Brand journalism goes beyond simple advertorial, uniting journalistic principles and skills with strategic corporate and business content and messaging to inform, entertain and engage – all with the goal of building brand and audience. The idea is to connect with the audience by not simply pushing out promotional material but instead thinking and acting like publishers.

Journalists think differently from a traditional marketer, putting audience and reader first. That’s why so many businesses are developing blogs. They see the benefits, including:

• developing a connection with your audience

• strategic messaging

• improving SEO with keywords in narrative

• building a reputation as a brand leader

• better customer relations

• supporting social media strategies

Brand journalism is a new way of approaching marketing and audience, developing content that speaks to your narrative while also impacting the audience through a ‘good read.’ Contact us today for more on how we can help build your brand and audience.

Media monitoring helps you stay ahead of the news and trends

If information is currency and knowledge potential and opportunity, then it stands to reason that the more information a business or organization has, the greater the potential for opportunity to be realized.

Media monitoring serves a number of different purposes, including:

• Staying on top of trends and developments that can and will impact your business and/or reputation, allowing you to proactively respond to complaints and/or customer/client worries

• Avoiding unwelcome surprises – being aware of what is being said helps you to manage the message

• Crisis management is much enhanced when you can lead the conversation because you know, through media monitoring, how the conversation is evolving

• Tracking the success of media campaigns, including the impact of press releases in getting news attention

• Identifying new business opportunities

• Spotting the influencers by finding out who is talking about your services/products, and connecting with them to get them talking about you

• Staying alert as to what the competition is doing, from product development to marketing campaigns

• Spreading the good news posted on social media by customers thrilled by the quality of service/product you provide

Once, not too long ago, monitoring the media meant reading a few newspapers, watching a couple of TV stations and listening to some radio channels. With the advent of social media and the explosion of online content, the job has become a lot more complex. The good news is that there are a variety of online tools to simplify that task.

Devine Media Service deploys these tools to monitor media mentions of your brand, compiling a report that measures the success of a marketing campaign, or threats to your brand. It’s about listening to what is being said, and interacting with that conversation in a positive and proactive manner.

Contact us today for more on how a strategy of media monitoring can assist you stay informed in a very competitive environment.