Target´s reputation: learning with the Canadian Closure.

Posted on

I´m a real Target client. I visit their store at least once a week, and I have to admit my shock when I heard the news about them closing their 133 stores in Canada.

Despite what might have happened with Target´s business in Canada, I wonder why this was so badly communicated in-house and for the external audiences. What I have read in the Canadian Media, International media and by the comments I still hear while shopping in the store, I feel a few things were not made to minimize the reputation impact this will have on the brand.

I assume Target has a big PR agency working for them, but honestly, as an outsider, I feel some steps were not followed or, perhaps, the possible reactions were taken for granted. The news spread within social media, and traditional media, before the employees were aware of it. I witnessed as one client shared the news to an employee who had no idea and was not even able to breathe.

I feel surprised because this is not the first time, or company, that announces a huge closure as this one, and there are many experiences that have taught what to do and how to do it to protect the company.

Today some Target stores have closed aisles for the groceries; employees still have no corporate message or training on what to say about this. If Target found out that the business was going to be profitable by 2021, as mentioned on the Financial Post (http://business.financialpost.com/2015/01/19/targets-severance-package-shows-the-good-side-of-employers/ ), why was it so difficult for them to adjust for that to happen. By the way, is commonly know that the 5-8 years is the basic North American time frame to see some profitable growth on any business.

Trying to share something about the complex communications and PR field on this blog and looking forward to read some feedback, here are some of the Basic Crisis communication strategy things you can think about before announcing a big closure:
• Establishing the creative and “decision making” team, including Canadian CEO, Legal Advisors, HR, and PR or communications team. Determine the responsibilities as spokespersons and set their ability to be reachable 24/7. Media training (this first step should have been done at least 3 months ago).
• Develop strong key messages that serve as the backup to explain the decision. Numbers, statistics and any information with the options the company managed to survive before. Next steps (the Calendar).
• Creativity with a detailed FQ&A inspired with what would internal and external audiences would worry and ask about.
• Prepare immediate Media relations, offering one on one session with top Canadian Media and opinion leaders for the business.


A Person on the Road

Posted on Updated on

By Lucia Lecuna

I love planning, programming and having all figured out within a year or a decade. That is my ideal world, but not the real one. My reality made me get trained to be able to adjust to changes in a pace that was absolutely complicated and uncertain, almost every day.

In Venezuela, the country were I grew up, the last thirty years have been actively changing times. I will not give you all the details, because they will lead me to write about economics and politics, two words that should never be together but they are; but I can say that planning only worked for some gift list and dinner plans.

I have to acknowledge that I got very good at adapting and I consider myself as a very flexible person. So my comfort planning zone changed to the unknown reality. Flexibility has come to be absolutely necessary in the changing world we live in, especially in the international business fields.

Recently I finished a Scott Pilates course that will lead me to get my Instructor Certificate, something that I always wanted to do, since exercise has been one of my passions, and that. So, why would a journalist want to teach Pilates, since she has grown in a career in PR?

The extra income will sure help me, but I will do it because I enjoy teaching and I know this exercises really help people with back pains, posture problems and getting more strength in their stability muscles. Yes, I love finding health related information, sharing it and making it grow, but along the way, I have found that balance in my life requires extra activities that can actually complete the 24 hours a day with something more than sleeping.

My relaxing zone comes after work and after exercising. I love doing crafts too and I have a small business creating earrings, which gives me a great satisfaction too. Being a mom it’s actually my other professional career. And it may have uncertain moments too, but it’s a lifetime career.

One thing I would love to share: the road is now more different that it was for my parents or grandparents. To be certain about what’s going to happen in the next ten years it’s impossible. I know that more scientific developments, mobility and technology use, as well as social progress focused on equality and safety are going to impact the world we live in. I only hope nature holds on us as we get to reduce our impact on it.

Lucia Lecuna is a PR and journalist professional who has worked in the Global International corporate world. She moved in Canada in 2013 and joins several social justice organizations as a volunteer. She follows health organizations along the world and in Canada, finding her passion when new ideas and solutions help different communities. After years connected to the fitness and health business, she will include Pilates Instructor in her complementary professional profile.

Accidents Happen, Despite Increased Training

Posted on Updated on

By: Lucia Lecuna

Is Canada adapting to the changing face of health and safety? Canada is one of the most regulated and safety-conscious countries in the world, crisis, accidents, serious injuries and even death, should be rare.

In reality, life-changing medical accidents, workplace mishaps and psycho-social tragedies, like violence and self-harm are not diminishing. Despite a national increase in training for first-responder safety skills, crisis intervention and sensitivity training workplace accidents continue to occur.

As a new Canadian, I admire the safe model Canada has developed in any field that involves humans, nature, law and industry. As a researcher, I wanted to find someone who could respond to my questions. I searched and found Alec Gardner, Clinical Director for Stratford Health Support. He has analyzed from a Sociological and Scientific approach, modern health and safety issues related to workplace.

When interviewing him I found out that he wrote for the Ontario Association of Psychotherapists. In his research, he discovered an increase in aggressive posturing and risk-taking, both at work and in the community. He found bullying tactics, desensitization and other disturbing trends across society in his findings. Gardner explained, “I also examine how emotional stress can be a direct threat to physical health and safety. Consider an angry worker going to his job after fierce argument with his partner; this situation of underlying domestic unrest is weighing on his mind throughout the day, and later in the afternoon, distracted by his morning altercation, he ends up rushing, and gets his hand caught in an industrial saw. This in turn requires emergency First Aid and results in many other problems including lost work time and frustration. While this is a bit of a contrived example, you can see where I am going with it.”

I asked Alec, “Do you, as a professional safety trainer in CPR, First Aid and Crisis Intervention, feel that increasing levels of legislation requiring people to take physical and social safety trainings is effective? Are you disappointed with the results?”

He replied, “Not at all. The numbers of accidents, injuries and other dangerous events is probably more reflective of our population simply becoming so much larger, especially in Ontario. In fact, there is more need now, with an aging population displaying cardio-vascular, diabetic, dementia-congruent health problems. Today, more than ever before, training in core safety skills, like CPR and First Aid is needed. I would strongly recommend that people also look for training in a Non-Violent Crisis Prevention and Intervention Course.”

Through my research I found that one of his most recognized courses is Crisis Prevention and Intervention. According to Alec, this blends his love of psychologically pro-active safety measures with concrete tactics to re-stabilize any situation that may have gotten out of hand. Alec recently had an article published in The Crisis Prevention Institute’s magazine Supportive Stance. In the article he describes the mind of someone who has lost control, describing in detail why it is medically safer to keep a hands-off policy in place.

“What individuals, agencies and companies need these days is safety training and preparedness assistance solutions that are reasonably priced, time flexible and geared to their needs. Though I started in the caring professions back in 1979, it wasn’t until recently, actually in the past ten years that I have taken my training to areas including hospitality, manufacturing and administration.” he explained.

I continued my interview and I learned that like most people in the caring professions, and like most Instructors, he didn’t get into this business to make a fortune.

Alec joked. “I often found myself loading my teaching equipment into my old car and going to meet the people needing training where they were located, keeping mileage and fees as moderate as I could.” For Alec, this was about improving physical and emotional safety and well-being; for without those core hierarchies in place, people cannot develop and grow in other areas of their lives.

Alec offers ‘geared-to-income’ counseling through his Stratford Health Support.
Many people out there in immediate crisis may not have:

• The money for expensive psychotherapy
• The time to sit on a waiting list for several months

Alec tries to get his referrals in as fast as he can so that he can do, at least, a basic assessment and treatment triage.

I asked him what his reaction would be if a client had no money. “That’s what ‘geared-to-income’ would mean.” he said. That sounds like pro bono to me.

I left Alec after wading through a massive file folder of unsolicited Letters of Appreciation from those he has helped pro bono over the years. I saw that these letters were predominantly for his work in therapy.

There were other letters thanking him for providing free community CPR courses for organizations and associations.

Alec Gardner nourishes the needs of his clients with energy and strength, doing the work he loves, helping when and where he can.

For more information, please visit: http://www.stratfordhealth.com or visit Alec’s LinkedIn profile.

Spanish Speaking Education Network (SSEN) and their 6th Congress of Education: STEM

Posted on Updated on

By Lucia Lecuna

Changes in this Digital era never seem to stop, scientist all over the world are constantly creating more and more devices to help people managing time and space with more accurate precision than ever.

The race began for Canada many years ago and taking part of this technology race keeps all Canadians close to the innovations that are getting in the market. It is just in time, and we are learning to enjoy the innovations and make good use of them. We are learning to think outside the box when it comes to planning our future.

Educators are now emphasizing the need for more professionals trained in the STEM professions, Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics). We need to be competitive as a nation and continue to adapt to the new challenges we face in the future.

The Spanish Speaking Education Network (SSEN), is a non-profit education promotion group founded in 2005, they are actively working within the Latin American immigrant communities, living in the GTA.  They recently announced their up-coming 6th Congress of Education, which will take place at the University of Toronto on November 8th; the focus of the congress will be on STEM.

Educators, principals, social researchers and local Toronto police representatives, will be promoting this Congress. The purpose will be to share the importance of Latin American Immigrants being pro-active and prepared to never lose the opportunity to be part of Canada’s technological future.

Esthela Cuenca, SSEN´s secretary and founding member, explained that, “The best way to help our children, and guarantee a better future for Canada and our Spanish Speaking communities, is through education. Canada is a country that has all the resources to help us to prepare for a competitive future, and we have to share the importance of education focusing on STEM with the families that will participate in this challenge”.

The cultural, professional and religious diversity that Canada offers is unique and is a great environment to learn and share; creating and leading with innovation.

In a city with over 5 million people, elementary school students and high school students are beginning to realize the importance of the preparation needed to help them succeed in the future.

There are several government programs that help low income families help their children to get through college or university. This is opening hundreds of possibilities to get them trained in one of the STEM sectors, hopefully one of their career preferences.

SSEN has been working alongside both parents and students helping them move towards the academic success of the community they represent.  They have been facilitating seminars, workshops and specialized programs for parents where they are becoming more active in their children’s education.

Canada has 18 Nobel Prices for Physics, Chemistry and Medicine. Statistics show it rates 12° in the world for most Internet users worldwide (over 84% of the population). It´s considered 3rd in the world leading in Aerospace Research (Canada was the third nation to send an artificial satellite into space, after the Soviet Union and the United States of America).

The world is changing at an incredibly fast pace and Canada is adapting.  Communities like SSEN will be on track helping this new generation to be part of the new era  through education and commitment.

Kerr Street Ministries Day Camp

Posted on

They did it again: Summer camp for all, By Lucia Lecuna

For Gary O´Neil, Executive Director of Kerr Street Ministries -an Oakville charity organization designed to provide help for low income families-, speaking about their Day Camp is a “back to school” situation, because he was an energetic camper when he was a kid, and he knows the fun and learning experience you get just for being in a different environment. Being away from home and out of school is what makes it work.

It has being 18 years since Kerr Ministries has been offering one of the best Day Camps in Oakville. This is a camp for kids to laugh and learn from playing while often making lifelong friendships. It is a life changing experience for many of these kids, and it’s possible thanks to the many donations that sustain and maintain the low cost of the programs they provide for low income families.

LL: What makes the difference with Kerr Ministries Day Camp and the other options we have in Oakville?
“We have developed a program that includes a huge amount of creativity along with fun and excitement. Kids never get bored here and they feel absolutely included and appreciated by their peers and the counselors. We select and train our counselors and they are selected for having qualities we want the kids to benefit from and imitate.

The kids won’t have to stay at home just because they can´t pay for a camp experience. That is what Kerr Street Ministries Day Camp is all about. Summer can be a long time doing anything, but it can be fun when the best moments are at camp, making new friends and growing up socially and emotionally.

Last year one volunteer for a counseling guide told us that he was a former Kerr St. Ministries day camp camper, many years ago. He came back as an adult proud give something back with his experience and his happines for what he lived with our help. This made us realize that the work we are doing is improvig the future we want for all the families. This motivates us and is a proof that We have build respect and a sharing relationship with the kids. The camp experiences will make them part of a group and they will want to stay here during the whole summer.

LL: What are the main activities you will offer?
We will have arts and crafts, sports, music, swimming, field trips (in the past we have taken the kids to Niagara Falls, the Science Museum of Ontario, and The Toronto Zoo) and much more. They will have parties, movies and costume days among other exciting activities.

LL: How can the families register their kids?
We have the capacity to provide the camp for over 120 kids each year. We receive kids from ages 6 to teenagers. Their parents or Guardians have to fill out a form that they will find on our web page: http://www.kerrsteetministries.com or in our front desk. We charge $25 for registration fee. This fee may be waived for eligible families. Families should bring the form to our offices located at 485 Kerr Street, Oakville, ON L6K 3C6.

For more information, please visit: http://www.keerstree.net or call: T 905. 845.7485

Good Habits Are Getting Trained

Posted on

Kerr Street Ministries scores again with Club 31 , By Lucia Lecuna

Walking into the Kerr St. Ministries building, which is close to the intersection at Speers Rd makes you wonder, how can they do it? And why didn´t I know about this before? The busy groups of children come and go to join guided activities in a calm and organized environment.
You can sneak into a sports and recreational room to the left, and also into a kitchen that is prepared to provide a healthy dinner for those who seek help in their facilities.

Gary O’Neil is a young business man who became attracted to this charity when he was at the top of his career. He truly believes in the success of this social enterprise, where Kerr St. Ministries is helping families from Oakville deal with their financial problems. For without the help they receive here at KSM they would find poverty at their door.

Working with children isn’t an easy task, but at Kerr Street Ministries they know how to maximize the time they spend with these children. They recognize that it is important to gain trust and respect from both the kids and their families.

The challenges they face: handling all ages, with a wide variety of situations, and helping families have a more productive life. KSM helps the children and the teens, knowing what they have to live with every day.

It’s a long path being walked by the staff and volunteers at KSM, to keep motivated, to understand, to be flexible and adaptable to the specific needs of the families and kids is a challenge they handle each day. When Gary offered me a tour of the facilities I saw the light, it was a genuine shine radiating from him. The fluency of his speech, the passion in his words, and the light in his eyes showed me what KSM is capable of accomplishing.

I have a little knowledge of some of the charities here in Canada, and I have to say that it seems Canadians have all covered. But for me, with my personal backgroud groing close to some Latin American Charities (Fe y Alegria, OSCASI, Damas Salesianas, Fundacion Corazon de Maria),this one is truly is amazing, has grown full with creativity, local compromise and great reputation. The exciting piece is that it is located in the heart of Oakville, available for local families who need help.

Club 31:
That’s 31 minutes with 31 kids doing homework!
Starting last January, KSM included a guided teaching experience designed to help children who need assistance with their homework. Some just needed a little extra practice to improve their learning experience, while others were seeking to “Grade Up” with a serious incentive to study.

Below is a Q & A with Gary O´Neil, Excecutive Director of Kerr Street Ministries

LL: How did you come up with the idea to create Club 31?
We have worked with the schools that are close to Kerr Street Ministries, and found out that the kids needed support for their homework and that the grades were coming down. Most of the kids were already part of our after school programs and we decided to be focused on their academic performance. It was a real problem that their families weren’t able to pay for extra lessons to help them with this. Kids just don´t feel that learning and good grades is something important because they see it in the distance, not important for today.

We formed an alliance with the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation (MPCF), Oakville Toyota-SCION and Lexus of Oakville, and together we designed a $1.000 RESP award to students that showed improvement with their academic grades, discipline and ability to manage their study time.

LL: How can you get them to sit and do the work?
First we only ask them to stay for this task for a short period of their time. We also offer them the possibility of the $1.000 from Toyota-Lincoln fund. The teacher is very motivating so we invite them to think beyond their homework and bring their learning experience into a real life situation. Chemistry, Physics and Math become more real when the children understand how they can be involved in their world.

LL: Can any child from Oakville join your Club 31?
Yes. For the moment it is designed for 31 children, and we have two groups, one for children that are still in Elementary School and the other is for teenagers from High school. The first group comes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other group comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They have to apply and demonstrate that their family has a low income. Any child, in either category from any Oakville School is welcomed.
We asked them: “Why don’t you do your homework here instead of doing it at home when you get back from the after School Program?” It just made sense for them, and voluntarily they joined in the groups.

LL: Do the children have the possibility to choose if they want to work on their homework for 31 minutes, or it is a compromise?
They are always allowed to choose and obviously they rather be playing basketball than doing their homework. But at a certain point they get it, especially if the find out that the gym or the park is empty because the other kids are in Club 31 room. Some bring friends and are starting to get into the habit. They know that afterwards they will get a snack and free time in the gym to play whatever they want until 6 pm.
I always quote the old saying, “You can lead the horse to the water but you cannot make them to drink”, so they have to figure that this temporary sacrifice will be a long term achievement.

LL: Is Club 31 seeking volunteers as teachers?
We are open to anyone who will want to contribute with Club 31. Right know our volunteers are retired or non-working professionals with a teaching background. But we still need more support that can come from anyone with teaching experience. They must be willing to help by sharing their own experience. Sometimes kids have essays to write, so it’s not only math or sciences that they need help with.

LL: Have you identified a specific population that needs Club 31?
We have identified that some clients are immigrants in the process adapting to the Canadian lifestyle. Some have been here for a long time, but have a very low income, and are often without a job. Club 31 also has Canadian kids whose families cannot finance the academic extra support needed and they come to us.

For more information, please visit: http://www.keerstree.net or call: T 905. 845.7485

Outdoors in Canada

Posted on

By Lucia Lecuna
This week we finally started to wear short sleeves shirts and flip-flops! Mother Nature finally decided to step in and hurry Spring along. This beautiful season displays more than flowers in the soil; it is the moment when people decide to go outside for more quality and healthy living.

Obviously, in a country like Canada the community has managed different and creative ways to stay active during the cold months, but the sunny days and the safety of moving and doing things outdoors, really invites people to turn off the TV and make the most of it. Canadians really enjoy being outside; they like to hike, bike, go boating, fire up the barbecue or just take the kids to a park for hours of active living and family time.

It was before this entire social nature boom started to amaze me, that my family doctor shared information with me. This is information that I considered important, to not only for new comers like me, but to all Canadians. This is because it is related directly to the weather conditions in Canada and the basic rule: stay healthy, enjoy the season and make the most of it. The following tips might be worth considering:

1. No matter what your skin complexion is, you must use sun block over the exposed skin. Originally, we believed that only Caucasians were at risk of developing skin Cancer (this is one of the most common kinds of Cancer). We now know that darker color skin types can also generate Cancer cells if they don’t protect their skin from UV rays. Hats, sunglasses and sun block lotion are meant to be used all year long. During the spring and summer season you are reminded to pay special attention to arms, hands and neckline skin, looking after these areas as much as you do for your face.

2. Allergies get triggered during the spring; if you are aware that this can happen to you, prevention is the best way to deal with it. Drugs for severe allergies can be provided only with a Doctor’s prescription. A timely tip is to ask for a refill before the season is in full bloom. Statistics show that a night time shower can wash away pollen that your hair and skin has been exposed to during the day. It’s a good idea to let your doctor know about any changes in your diet or personal hygiene (for you or your family) this can help determine what might cause allergies to erupt.

3. Shoes: some people like to run in their flip flops (I have seen plenty of people doing this here in Ontario), some also wear flip flops when riding a bike. Don’t – please, wear proper running shoes. Statistics show that ankles, knee joints and even hips can get hurt if you are not wearing the proper foot wear. You don’t have to spend hundreds on those running shoes, but if you plan to work out or do outdoors activity, plan on wearing the right shoes.

4. Use the trails, sidewalks or biking routes the cities have developed. I love to run, bike and walk. I now know I should also be careful of where I go; research shows that in Canada I have more chance to die by a car striking me, than suffering a gun shot wound. Towns have developed on-line maps of the routes that are created for safe outdoor activities. It is the best way to enjoy those outdoor sports. Talking about safety; check out the traffic signals and whether on your bike, walking or running, follow the rules the same way you would when behind the wheel of a car.

5. Hydrate before, during and after you enjoy any of the above activities. Outdoors activities consume your body’s reserve of water faster in this weather, than in winter. Always remember to carry a bottle of water with you.

Spring happens to be the best time to work on your lawn, to cut and weed the grass, do the gardening and handle all the little things needed to perk up your house for the good weather.

Exercise is important; remember to bend your knees instead of just leaning forward when picking up anything from the lawn, flower garden or outdoor patio. Use gloves; they can be silicone or gardening gloves, they will help avoid some of gardening injuries and scratches we often get as we welcome Spring. Don’t expect to get everything done in one day. Keep it simple, follow the rules, enjoy Mother Nature’s gift to us. Remember, we are supposed to enjoy this great weather, so don’t try to fit it all into one weekend.

Lucia Lecuna is a newcomer to Canada, a journalist who is enjoying her new lifestyle. Read all her articles on her Blog.