Category Archives: Brand

Who “won” the Olympics?

Virtue and Moir


The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics have come to a close following three weeks of excitement and memorable moments for participating athletes and countries. Even for those of us who were indignant about the anti-LGBT laws, animal brutality and astronomical costs, it was difficult not to get caught up in the swell of Canadian pride that builds with each new medal or heartwarming story. Having been lucky enough to attend Vancouver’s games four years ago, it was especially thrilling to see Canada’s brand continue to flourish on the international Olympic stage of competition and culture.

Mid-way through the games, BuzzFeed listed “10 Ways Canada Has Already Won The Winter Olympics” which focused on a number of feel-good moments including speed skating teammates Gilmore Junio and Denny Morrison, gold medallist Alex Bilodeau and his brother Frederic, the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters, cross-country skiing coach Justin Wadsworth lending a ski to a struggling Russian athlete, and in Canada, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson proudly flying the Pride flag at city hall (as did many other cities). These incidents and many, many more were inspiring in their portrayal of athleticism, sportsmanship and, especially, the human spirit.

Some of these stories were also the focus of today’s “9 most shared memories of the games” by the Globe and Mail, another roundup of wonderful moments many of us experienced together.

Canada’s success in Sochi might be measured by the number of exciting outcomes (women’s hockey, curling and bobsled); hard-fought victories (men’s curling and hockey); grace in disappointment (Virtue and Moir, Patrick Chan); or the promise of emerging sports and young athletes (Mark McMorris, Dara Howell). It could be assessed by looking at our overall ranking by total medals (4th) or gold medals (3rd). Or as the result of the internationally respected leadership of pioneers such as the late Sarah Burke, Right to Play and mental health advocate Clara Hughes, and IOC representatives Beckie Scott (retiring) and Hayley Wickenheiser (newly elected).

For me, Canada’s Olympic success is the culmination of some great results, some meaningful moments and, most importantly, much humanity shown by our athletes, coaches, support staff, families and many Canadians in general. While Vancouver 2010 was the occasion for Canada to set the scene, Sochi has provided the opportunity to demonstrate further the beauty of the Canadian spirit.

From a communications perspective, the essence of the “Canada” brand could well be summarized as “excellence, integrity and commitment, combined with a sense of fun and a generous dose of nice.” What seems to appeal so broadly are these “Canadian” qualities that genuinely come through, time and again.

While some commentators, IOC officials and Vladimir Putin, himself, are declaring that Sochi has been a great success and that Russia is the “winner” of the games – given the full story, this doesn’t really ring true.

Following Vancouver, Canada’s international brand grew even stronger in Sochi. In contrast, Russia’s Olympic legacy represents a much more complex conundrum. Lacking authenticity, and without values that resonate internationally, it seems that Putin’s “New Russia” brand will continue to be fraught with contradiction and controversy. This is especially so as all eyes now focus on the situation in Ukraine.

Dawn Charlton, Iris Strategic Communications & Marketing

Photo: Canadian and world ice dancing champions and 2010 gold medallists, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, receiving their silver medals at Sochi. John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail.

Social media: Connecting proven communications principles with new ways of engaging

Image of social media a just one piece of the communications puzzleEstablishing effective social media practices can be a daunting task for many small businesses, non-profit groups, and large organizations too.

While social media is a must-have component of the communications mix, its successful and sustained implementation can remain a challenge. This is especially true as the digital environment continues to evolve and change.

Many experts tout the imperative of social networking, while serving up advice such as the ‘5 best ways to get started’ or ’10 keys to creating great content’ or ’12 big mistakes you can make’. The proliferation of blog posts, tweets, video clips and articles can help, however they are by no means the whole solution.

Whether you are using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn; are regularly updating your website and blog content; or are employing e-newsletters to reach your communities, you are already building a foundation for effectively engaging within social media. As well, it is your unique experience, knowledge and common sense that are needed to ensure social media becomes successfully integrated into your overall communications efforts.

As has always been the case, an effective communications plan begins with identifying your business and communications objectives, audiences, key messages, brand guidelines, strategies, channels, tactics, budget, timelines and measures of success. In order to initiate, or enhance, your social media involvement, this is still a good place to start. Some considerations specific to social media planning include:

  • What are your overall business and communications objectives? How will social media activities support them? While social media can help build awareness by increasing the number of followers, fans, subscribers and visitors engaging with your brand, if you are looking to enhance customer service, Twitter and Facebook can also enable timely response and a positive customer experience. If you are aiming for an increase in online sales, social media referrals can substantially build traffic to transactional pages on your website. It is important to think through how social channels can support customer satisfaction and conversion, as well as enhance engagement.
  • Who are your main audiences or communities and what existing or new channels can be used to engage with them? While LinkedIn is a professional network, Facebook reaches users in a social, less formal environment. Twitter connects followers in both personal and professional states of mind within a wide variety of subject areas. Pinterest, the newer and fast growing network, is especially relevant to retail organizations as its users are interested in viewing and sharing themed ideas, products and services. While these and other sites, such as Google+, Tumblr and Foursquare should be considered, the critical thing is to understand your objectives and audiences prior to committing to specific ones. Ideally, you will start with one or two key networks and learn to use them well, versus jumping into a number of sites and spreading your resources too thinly.
  • What is your content management plan? Your website and blogs present an ideal option for regularly posting content that can be shared via social media channels. YouTube and Vimeo can also be used to host and share video – a popular format that is growing exponentially. Will you co-create articles, share user-generated posts and/or act as a curator of relevant external content? What subject-matter experts, or writing and design resources, can you allocate to create content on a regular basis?
  • What social media activities and channels do you currently use and why? Are they providing opportunities for meaningful engagement with your customers and communities? Are you generating results that support your objectives? It is important to ensure you are measuring results, learning from your existing activities and that your metrics are used to help establish benchmarks in future planning. Analytics is a critical component of any successful campaign or program.
  • How will you personify your brand online? How will social media engagement reinforce and enliven your brand? Start by defining your persona, key messages, communication style and voice, as well as design and photographic guidelines – as you would with any other communications application. This should influence decisions about channel selection, content creation and sharing, and the look and feel of pages, profiles and content elements. Of course, your visual identity must be applied according to guidelines, and as appropriate for the wide variety of formats, browsers and devices. This is all important while constantly keeping in mind how best to optimize the user’s experience when engaging within your channels.
  • Who will engage in social media on your behalf, and how? A first step is to establish this role, as well as your social media policy and guidelines. Your social team is representing you, your organization and your values and it is critical they have the direction, tools, and empowerment to do so well. While social media is cost-effective to deploy, it is important to ensure you identify human resources to meaningfully engage on a regular (daily) basis. This is true whether conducted by you, an internal team, or external supplier.
  • How will you add value to your clients and communities? How best can you engage in a meaningful way? What types of content will you share? How will you ensure timely, appropriate and sustained community engagement?
  • How does social media integrate with all of your communications activities and channels? How will you ensure a consistent and seamless user experience across all of your touch points?

These are some of the considerations that should go into your social media planning and there are many resources available to help you create a successful approach.

The key is to balance established communications principles, channels and results with the benefits of evolving social media applications. All will continue to work together to facilitate our human desires to connect, satisfy our needs, and share with one another.

For today’s communications environment, well-integrated social media strategies and innovation are an essential part of your plan.


Dawn Charlton, Iris Strategic Communications & Marketing

Iris takes flight!

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity, including meeting new clients, working on several projects, setting up business processes and developing the Iris brand identity. Thanks to the wonderful talents of graphic designer Rita Kim, the logo and visual design are now starting to take flight.

Key to the logo are the ‘wings’ which help symbolize the mythological goddess Iris, while the fonts Didot and Futura combine to convey a contemporary look and feel. The ‘wings’ avatar, as well as combinations of the logo and name will be used as appropriate for various applications (e.g. Twitter @iris_comms).

For the colour palette, we’ve chosen five from the rainbow to convey diversity – of clients, communities, needs, solutions, and communication channels.

We’re still working on developing all of the integrated communications, but wanted to present our work so far, including the business card below – available in multiple colours, of course.

Please let us know what you think.