A Networking Odyssey and That’s Final

The Marketing Seminar Series I participated in for class MARK 4029 has been genuinely interesting. It’s rare that a succession of presenters is lined up for your benefit in such an accessible manner. The fact that about a third to a half of the speakers were young and early-career did not detract from the overall benefit. While seasoned industry veterans can serve up the big picture, the younger interlocuters added a key element of relatability and plausibility. The sheer range of work and life experience represented was worthwhile.

Something I’ve come by honestly is my status as one of the top questioners in the entire program. I’ve always been a curious persona and I certainly didn’t take this opportunity to change that about myself. While one could argue that my copious questioning crowded out others, in many cases it seemed that my peers did not have questions ready to go. My questions were also more of the “tradecraft” variety rather than inquiries for the purpose of career advice. So, while fundamentally I think I posed good questions, they could have been somewhat more geared to the actual exercise. Truth be told, I do have the tendency to use networking interactions as outlets for my curiosity rather than career advancement, but I’m slowly getting over that as I have no choice.

Two speakers that stick in my mind are Lia Grimbeg and Ahmet Kul. Both exemplify what I would call “extreme competence”. Both have thrived in the more “technical” career paths marketing offers. Being exposed to such people is itself inspirational.

One regret I have is missing the seminar on “influencer marketing”. It’s a fascinating du-jour discussion but I justified my absence from that class as I was attending the Collision technology conference. Collision was obviously a great venue for networking, and I did converse with a handful of people at the event like the RBC technologist who explained his firms micro-tracking capabilities and the man who fleshed out the new Bell Demand Side Platform. The latter was a notable moment personally as just a few months earlier I wouldn’t have been able to understand what he was talking about, but in a serendipitous moment, networking and knowledge came together.

I’ve followed up with a handful of people I interacted at Collision and plan to take full advantage of the annual event, it’s in Toronto after all. Really, Collision is a must for networking. George Brown College did promote the event but ideally more could be done to integrate it with relevant programs at the college. That’s a lot to ask but I can only reiterate that it’s an incredible event.

Closer to “home” I’ve successfully networked amongst my peers and taken advantage of the wider George Brown College web of connection. As soon as my eyes opened to what was possible on LinkedIn, especially as a LinkedIn “creator”, I did not hesitate to “connect” with students and alumni of the Digital Media Marketing program. Initial exchanges of pleasantries gave way to in-depth conversation in a few cases and early career advice was kindly dislodged in my direction. I also added many of the seminar guests on LinkedIn and was sure to include a note of thanks for their participation.

In addition to the directly relevant and obvious connections alluded to above I also used LinkedIn to connect with people I respect in other fields who may be relevant to future career moves and paths. On LinkedIn I joined a handful of digital marketing groups and associations. These were less helpful as the element of “real world” connection was tangential to non-existent.

On campus I’ve attended a handful of peer events intended to encourage cross-pollination in the Center for Business ecosystem. While these events yielded a few of the kind of experiences described above, the sparseness and rustiness of Covid-era campus life certainly left me wanting more. I plan to stay in touch with my George Brown peers indefinitely, it’s tempting to say “forever”. While advancing in the field of digital marketing will be a positive outcome of this continued contact, a wider community of support is an even greater prospect.

As far as advice to impart, I would suggest that anyone trying to network must force themselves out of their “comfort zone” post-haste. There is a baseline of social confidence and self-assurance necessary to network effectively. The good news is that a college program affords the opportunity to network in a comfortable “low stakes” environment. Basically, if you can’t do it here you can’t do it anywhere. Finally, the most important thing I learned through the series of seminars and my wider attempts at networking is that everything is social. If you have social confidence and marry it to practical knowledge and skills the sky is the limit. A concluding thanks is due to all the speakers and Prof. Wendy Greenwood for running a very tight ship.

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Young men & YouTube, women on Instagram

Not long ago the liberal media and similarly inclined institutions were preoccupied with YouTube’s influence on young men. From this vantage, YouTube was a rightwing radicalising cesspool. Bitter young men were being brainwashed by rightwing creators who were nodes in a network of hate.

There was some truth to the overall notion but it was also too convenient. The scapegoat of the washout young man is just that. The whole story catered to a concerned parent inclined to see discrete sources of rightwing fake news as the issue of the moment. YouTube has since changed what it prioritizes and no one really talks about the whole thing anymore.

There are other dodgy focal points of online information that aren’t nearly as marketable, however.

It turns out many women (who are disproportionately anti-vax) make fulsome use of Instagram to confirm each other’s fears and resistance. Anecdotally I can confirm that this is true. From The POV of the bien pensant concerned parent this must be an equivalent threat to that of YouTube’s reactionary heyday right?

You’d have to concede the point. But so where’s the wall-to-wall coverage? It’s not marketable. Women into health and wellness trading emotional affect and codewords can’t be turned into a hate worthy God Head figure in the same way. It’s all too diffuse and there isn’t a convenient stack of scapegoats. There’s no foundation money to be had.

Linda McQuaig on the Canadian National Railway’s pioneering use of radio

“Starting in 1924, the CNR launched a dramatic innovation: radio on trains. At the time, radio was a relatively new technology. There were only a few stations, mostly located in the United States, whose signals could be heard in Canada, and only in the evening hours. Still, radio was an enormously exciting new form of entertainment that brought music -often live performances in studio- into homes hundreds of miles away.

Sir Henry was determined to make this exciting new technology part of the pleasure of train travel. There had been some earlier dabbling with radio technology by several U.S. rail lines, but no follow-up on those limited experiments. The CNR therefore became the first to overcome the considerable technological challenges and actually outfit railway cars so they could receive radio signals while in motion. On Janurary 5, 1924, the first radio-equipped transcontinental train, operated by CNR, left Montreal bound for Vancouver.

The concept proved popular. Passengers were delighted to be able to stroll to the train’s lounge car, put on a headset, and suddenly, almost magically, hear live music broadcast by a radio station somewhere out there in the dark. The addition of radio service quickly became known as an attractive aspect of travelling on CNR, and there was a noticeable shift of passengers from CPR to CNR on the well-traveled Montreal-Toronto run, which had long been dominated by CPR.

The enormous appeal of radio to the ear of a railway passenger in the 1920s is captured in an anonymous account from the CNR archives. The writer describes a scene in the observation car of a CNR train passing through the Prairies. The passengers are bored and waiting for lunch. Suddenly, the sound of organ music fills the car, grabbing their attention. The organ strains are followed by a sermon, Bible readings, and hymns broadcast live from a service in a Saskatoon church many miles away. When there is a pause in the church service to take up a collection, a passenger on the train rises, puts a five-dollar bill into a hat, and then passes the hat to the other passengers, who all contribute something. When the train pulls into Saskatoon later that day, thirty dollars are delivered to the church from the enthralled passengers.