What I learned in 12 weeks of blogging

The Challenge

The way we communicate has changed. When I first began my career in corporate communications more than 20 years ago, personal computers were still relatively new and the World Wide Web was in its infancy. It was suddenly much simpler and faster to get our messages in front of stakeholders. As technology continued to advance, communications professionals kept pace and embraced the convenience and reach of the new tools.

Fast forward a number of years and the rapidly accelerating pace of change made it difficult to keep up. Ironically, there wasn’t enough time in the day to use the abundance of all the tools available. Suddenly digital communications was becoming a niche subset of corporate communications. Where we once had specialists in media relations, internal communications and issues management, we now had experts in social media and digital strategy. Recognizing that I was woefully inexperienced in many of the new digital tools, I set out on a journey to contemporize my resume and buff up my skills.

The Project

To familiarize myself with the various social media platforms out there and to develop hands on skills using new digital tools and technology, I enrolled in the Foundations of Digital Strategy and Social Media course at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies. This blog assignment provided an opportunity to explore a new form of storytelling and to build an audience base by promoting the blog through social media.

The Goal

After years of shaping corporate narrative and telling others stories, I now had the opportunity to tell any story I wanted. Uncertain that anyone would be interested in anything I had to say, I struggled to think of an idea. In the end, my daughters suggested I write about our family and my life. These were the stories I had been sharing with them verbally for years.

The goal of SpinMeisterBlog, therefore, is to document anecdotes, stories and insights from my own experiences that others could relate to. My intended community is my family and friends and perhaps others who might see a bit of something from their own lives in my stories and be inspired to follow my blog.

Screenshot 2017-04-12 15.02.24

Strategic considerations

Strategically, I saw a number of opportunities in pursuing this blog concept. I would be able to create a family diary that would provide a documented record of family stories that might otherwise be forgotten or lost over time; I would pursue two of my passions – writing and family; and I would have the opportunity to showcase another side of my writing talent for would-be employers and perhaps build new friendships or relationships. The downside is that people are busy enough with their own lives and would unlikely be interested in the ramblings of some unknown, middle-aged woman. Another potential risk is that people may not like what I have to say and make comments in social media that damages my reputation with people whose good opinion I seek.


SMART formula Tom Van Saghi.com
Source: Tom Vansaghi



Adopting the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) formula, my primary objective is to develop and publish a minimum of 10 blog posts by the end of the course on April 12, 2017. A secondary objective before the completion of the course in April is to establish an audience base that exceeds 10 and extends beyond my immediate family members and classmates. Another objective within the same timeline is to see some evidence of engagement by my blog readers with at least one-third of my blog posts (three) receiving at least one like, share or comment.


My strategy to achieve this objective is to build and leverage a presence on social media to promote my blog and drive followers to my posts on SpinMeisterBlog@wordpress.com. Specifically, the tactics of my promotional plan would comprise no Paid or Earned media but instead would focus on Shared and Owned tactics.



PESO Model IterativeMarketing.net
Source: IterativeMarketing.Net



Owned tactics

  • Develop and publish minimum of 10 blog posts, with images/videos/links on SpinMeisterBlog by April 12, 2017
  • Develop, edit and publish minimum of two videos on YouTube channel and to be embedded on SpinMeisterBlog by April 12, 2017

Shared tactics

  • Promote blogs on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
  • Publish videos on YouTube


I do not intend to put a lot of money into my blog. I have set aside $500 to cover any incidental costs that may arise related to the maintenance or enhancement of my blog (e.g. purchase of images, software or upgrades).


SpinMeisterBlog will run at least for the duration of this course and will likely continue for the duration of my sabbatical and perhaps longer.


I met all of my objectives by the April 12th deadline and exceeded some:

  • I delivered the 10 post minimum required
  • 26 people have subscribed to my blog either through WordPress or by email and these comprise some immediate family members (4) and classmates (10) but also include extended family, friends, and colleagues
  • 6 of 10 posts were Liked and 5 of 10 received Comments, exceeding the one-third goal I set for myself
  • According to my WordPress Insights stats my first 10 posts on SpinMeisterBlog received 820 views, 351 visitors and 15 Likes and 21 overall comment/interactions.
  • The most viewed post was on March 1 What a leapling does in a non-leap year and my most popular post was my March 14 post on How my birth order got it right – sort of with 5 Likes.
  • I also know that there are many more people who follow my blog regularly via social channels but have not yet subscribed.

To subscribe and have my next blog post land directly into your email in-box please go to the sidebar and Follow Me.


I learned a lot by just doing. Before starting this course I had no Twitter or Instagram presence and the only social media I used was Facebook but not regularly. I had a basic LinkedIn profile but rarely looked at it. Today, I have 75 Twitter followers, 115 Instagram followers, 200+ Facebook friends, and 500+ LinkedIn followers. I found out that the more I post on any of these channels, the more followers I get.

For my blog, I decided only to focus on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as I wasn’t sure I wanted to showcase my blog yet in a channel dedicated to professional networking. Perhaps later but not while I was still getting my feet wet.  However, as part of this exercise, I cleaned up my LinkedIn profile, started Liking and Sharing stories and found that more people started to connect with me and two even reached out to see if I was interested in working on some projects with them.

By far, I generated the most engagement through Facebook with multiple Likes and Comments from family and friends in the UK, Netherlands, and North Carolina, some of whom I hadn’t connected for years. My grade 3 teacher even commented on my Born and Bred in Victoria Village post and going to a visitation for a family friend, the first thing two of my husband’s cousins said to me was “I love your blog” and I hadn’t known they had been reading it.

The main thing I’ve taken away from all of this has been noted by others – “If you build it they will come.” By putting myself out there I have found new connections interested in the same things.

I struggled initially with the theme of my blog and I have to admit I still struggle with the relevancy of some of my story ideas for all my followers. What I’ve rediscovered is my love of history, my passion for storytelling and my commitment to Toronto. I’m now starting to follow blogs and organizations related to these concepts and have generated new followers with some of my social media shares and interactions.

The biggest challenge for me is not only the Creation but the Curation. I’ve learned it is not only the story we tell but how we package and redistribute content that shapes our theme and builds our brand.  I haven’t figured it all out yet – I’m still defining my theme and refining my brand – but I’m glad that this course has helped to provide me with some of the tools and the insights to set me on my journey.

Next steps

Not sure what the future holds for SpinMeisterBlog but I do know that I will continue it for at least part of the duration of my sabbatical. I recognize that it takes a lot of time, imagination and commitment to establish a presence and generate a following. I have taken a first step, founded a profile of sorts, and re-energized my interest in storytelling about things that matter to me. If I can turn this into a viable career I might. All I know is that there is still lots for me to learn and the journey is only beginning.

Thanks to instructor Alison Garwood-Jones and my classmates for a great 12 weeks.

I encourage anyone reaching this paragraph in this post to check out some of the blogs I follow in my blogroll on the sidebar of SpinMeister. These courageous and creative fellow bloggers have inspired and enlightened me over the past 12 weeks. I will miss you all and look forward to continuing to follow your blogs.

You won’t believe what happened when 15 strangers spent the night at a 150 year-old mansion

20170331_213722Anyone who knows me knows that I love nostalgia. It’s the small trivial bits of history that build the bigger essential story of how we came to be and why we are as we are.

I’m also someone who loves games. Puzzles, word games, mind games. When you can combine the two into a single evening it’s my ideal of entertainment heaven.

So on the last dark day of March I grabbed my two besties (my husband Donald and my favorite gal pal Jill) and headed out to one of Toronto’s oldest mansions – Spadina House.

In the heart of Toronto’s Annex, this historic heritage home and museum pre-dates Confederation. Built in 1866 by Toronto financier James Austin, the home is now a treasured time capsule of Toronto during the interwar years, a transformative time in our city’s growth from its colonial roots to the cosmopolitan centre we are today.

Frozen in time, the house is modelled in the decorative Art Deco style that was popular in the affluent Roaring 1920s and Turbulent 1930s. Our very own Downton Abbey in the 6ix, if you will – surrounded by 6ix acres of maintained gardens.

As part of its mandate to engage visitors and connect them with the past, the Spadina Museum was hosting its annual 1920s Party Games Night:

Spadina Museau Party Games.jpg

Our tour and games hosts Cathy, Emily and Liza explained to us that people began to have more leisure time in the 1920s as the result of industrialization and the invention of many new conveniences that simplified day-to-day living. Popular parlour games and newly developed board games served to provide hours of home entertainment for families and friends.

Donald, Jill and I weren’t the only ones to venture to the mansion to play some parlour games. We met a young couple named Sara and Ibrahim and a pair of college professors named Kaylene and Jennifer. But it was the young group of 20-somethings who drove all the way from St. Catharines and Oakville dressed in their flapper finery who arrived en masse and really embraced the spirit of the event.

Together we played a number of fun, silly games taught to us by Cathy and Emily.

Simple games like Celebrities where you write down the name of real or fictional people and see how many you can guess in a minute, to Consequences where random words are dropped onto folded paper to create a crazy story were just some of the games that simply required a pencil, a bit of paper and a lot of imagination.

One of the sillier games we played was Pictures, an early forerunner to Pictionary and the Telephone Game. Here, the first person writes a sentence, the next person draws a picture that represents the sentence folds the paper and passes to the next person who only sees the picture and has to write a new sentence. The game continues until the paper gets back to the first person. Have a look below at some of the stories and pictures our team drew:


Another game we played was First Line Last Line where one person read us the synopsis from a book, then the first line of the first chapter and we had to guess the last line. We had to craft a credible last line that would earn us points for everyone who selected it.

With a standard deck of cards and a handful of spoons, we played Spoons, a card game that is reminiscent of musical chairs:


From card games to games of logic and creative word play, we spent an amusing few hours that resulted in hilarity, some hearty laughs and overall just plain silliness. Luckily for us, we were provided with instructions for the games we played and other games we could play with our own families.


As part of the evening we were able to tour all three floors of the mansion, including the upper floor with its views of the garden and city vistas that are usually not part of the museum tour.

A family home for three generations of Austins, the Spadina House was renovated and enlarged by James’ son Albert Austin and his wife Mary in the late 19th and early 20th century when they lived in the home with their five children. It was Anna Kathleen, Austin and Mary’s last surviving daughter who arranged for the home to become a Toronto Historic site in 1978.

A major restoration in 2010 illustrates the evolution of styles in this historic home reflecting the mid-Victorian to 1930s Colonial Revival styles and includes items from the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movements, as well as items from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.

So what happens when you take 15 strangers and put them in a 150-year old mansion for the night?

You get one great evening of fun!

Before we left the museum, I purchased a small bar of lavender soap and a post card of the Spadina mansion to remember my visit.


The gift store also sold vintage toys and board games just in case we got tired of the parlour games we learned.

For more information email spadina@toronto.ca or call 416-392-6910.

In the spirit of the public art project #MyCityMySix where Torontonians tell their story in just six words, here’s mine:

Spadina Museum: Roaring 20s time capsule


Interesting side note – the word Spadina is an old Ojibwa word for high place or sudden rise in the land. It should be pronounced Spadina with the i as /i/ in ski but it is more commonly pronounced with the i as /ai/ in mine.