Calgary Poutine Week April 19 – 26 and Calgary’s Poutine Crawl April 26, 2014

Poutine Week


For every featured poutine sold in restaurants during the 7 days of Poutine Week, restaurants will contribute towards giving someone in need a meal through Mealshare.

NO TICKETS NECESSARY for Calgary’s Poutine Week – just the desire to venture out and try some poutine!

1.  Choose a participating restaurant (below) 2.  eat poutine  3.  Yelp and Tweet it  4.  give someone in need a meal

#PoutineWeekYYC     yelp

2014 Poutine Week Participating Restaurants – Facebook Event HERE 

NATIONAL_TAGLINE_BLACKNational 17th - Pulled pork poutine with pork cider gravy, Quebec cheese curds and garnished with crackling $15

National 10th – Turkey Dinner Poutine; Confit of organic turkey leg & thigh. Pork sausage & sage brioche stuffing. Rich bone roasted gravy, St. Alberts cheese curds $15

Symons Roadhouse – Lobster Poutine pomme frites with marscapone cheese, Atlantic lobster, shellfish butter sauce & Italian parsley $18

P&D LOGOS 002Pig and Duke Pub – Swine-tine is our house pulled pork, bacon crumble, green peppercorns, Pig Gravy a nd a fried egg over top of crinkle cut fries. $13

Briggs Logo 2Briggs Kitchen and Bar – Newf’s Poutine; Kennebec Fries with lobster cream and chunks of lobster added by our east coast friend $17

Diner DeluxeDiner Deluxe - Breakfast Poutine; Roast Chicken, Red Peppers, Onion, Arugula & Poached Eggs on Hash with Quebec Cheese Curds & Basil Hollandaise $12.95

stjamesSt James Corner Pub – St. James’ version on the classic with our home cut fries and fresh cheese curds, topped with homemade gravy and garnished with green onions. $10.95 Add Bacon or chorizo for an extra $1.95

th4th Spot Kitchen and Bar – Uptown Poutine Home cut kennebec fries and Quebec cheese curds topped with homemade gravy and slow cooked BBQ pulled pork $13.99

logoNaina’s Kitchen – Naina’s Meatball Poutine. Fries, cheese curds, Grandma’s meatballs, and fried onions all smothered in our rich gravy. A half order will be $7.50 and a full order $14.00.

logoLibertine – Perogy Poutine; hand cut russet fries, house made chicken gravy, double smoked pork belly, Quebec cheese curds, sharp orange cheddar, sour cream, scallions $12

stateandmainLogoState and Main Chinook Centre - southern hospitality meets French Canadian cuisine!  house cut kennebec fries, rich country-style white gravy, quebec cheese curds, a layer of brown gravy, topped with crisp honey-drizzled chicken cracklin’ and slivered scallions.  Y’all come back now, entendez-vous? (ya’ hear) $8

LOGOWaffles & Chix Food Truck - Fried Chicken Poutine; fresh cut yellow flesh fries, Alberta cheese curds, Southern fried chicken and white gravy $10

bistro2210Bistro 2210 (2011 Poutine Crawl Winner!) - Duck Confit Poutine – slow cooked duck leg, house cut frites, poultry gravy, cheese curds & petits pois $11

Ship_Logo_SmallShip and Anchor Pub –  Chicken Balti Poutine; hand cut Russet potatoes, topped with Quebec cheese curds, smothered in our mild chicken curry and garnished with cilantro $10.95

oak tree tavernOak Tree Tavern - Vegetarian Poutine” Hand cut fries,dipped in oil until golden brown, topped with Quebec Cheese curds and smothered in a rich mushroom sage gravy”

1Tango Bistro – Braised Beef Cheek Poutine; Montreal cheese curds, morels, spring peas $11

big fish logoBig Fish lunch Poutine - East coast Lobster poutine with house cut fries, feta cheese cream and cherry tomato $19

Clive burger logoClive Burger – gluten free poutine sauce (made with organic marrow bone stock), Québec cheese curds, Clive burger patty (100% alberta organic chuck and brisket, trimmed), garnished with dices raw onion and parsley $13

sidetrack-logoShamrock Hotel Sidetrack Stage and Grill - Home-cut fries smothered in organic cheese curds, covered with a merlot infused veal gravy and topped with pulled pork and fried onions. $11.95

smokes-logoSmoke’s Poutinerie 18th Ave SW just east of 4th Street - Bacon Cheeseburger Poutine; house cut Kennebec fries, cheese curds from Eastern Townships of Quebec, dark and rich signature gravy featuring a a hint of rosemary, premium ground beef seasoned with onion, double smoked bacon and topped with sharp cheddar cheese.  $ 7.99

Henry's LogoHenry’s Pub Sheraton Cavalier - Henry’s Chicken Bacon Poutine - Our thick cut steak fries topped with spiced chicken, double smoked bacon and Quebec cheese curds, covered with a cabernet infused gravy.

LL ogoLaurier Lounge – Authentic Poutine A La Bourguignon Cabernet Sauvignon braised beef, pancetta, mushrooms and onions $18



Poutine FB page

Saturday April 26 #PoutineCrawlYYC


Wow – tickets to the 2014 Poutine Crawl sold out in 15 seconds! Calgary sure loves its poutine!

Calgary’s Poutine Crawl is on Saturday, April 26 this year and could be the best one yet – 6 restaurants in one afternoon tasting, rating and reviewing poutine! Join the Calgary Poutine Crawl Facebook page to follow this year’s adventure.

2014 Poutine Crawl Restaurants: 

  • Wurst
  • Anju
  • Naina’s Kitchen
  • Libertine
  • Downtown Food
  • Oak Tree Tavern
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Palm Springs is a colossal experience

MarylinI recently went to Palm Springs for the first time on a girl’s trip and had a fantastic time – laying by the pool, wining, dining and shopping what’s not to love! Usually before I go on vacation to a new place I do a ton of online research to get a feel for a place and to arrive with a list of recommendations from people who have been there. One of my girlfriends visits Palm Springs often so this time I relaxed and let her show us around to all of her favourite places – I call her my Palmcierge.

What really struck me about Palm Springs was the high level of customer service and the experience in each and every place we went into; restaurants, shops, taxis, poolside bars, art galleries – all at the very least were efficient and courteous but many to most treated us with genuine interest and care. Owners introduced themselves and chatted with us about their business and went well out of their way to help us get what we were looking for. Waiters told us how they came to live and work in Palm Springs (always a good story!) and an artist took the time to tell us his story and took us on a personal tour of his gallery. As a visitor and a customer I felt like all of these businesses truly wanted me to have a great experience.

This really left an impression on me – pride in your business and genuine attention to your customers is the heart of word of mouth marketing – if it’s great, people will share and recommend you to their circles. When people can connect and influence their circles of thousands to hundreds of thousands in an instant to recommend (or not recommend) a business or product, the philosophy of word of mouth marketing stems from just being great. A great product, great customer service, a great experience will be shared favourably.

Palm Springs businesses do it right. Here are my favourites I would recommend to all my friends:

Movie ColonyMovie Colony Hotel – this boutique hotel built in the 1930′s has tons of charm and a great history of celebrities who have stayed there. We loved how intimate it was – laying by the pool felt like being at your cool celeb’s friend’s home and the communal bar and kitchen was fully stocked so you could help yourself. Dean Martini happy hour was awesome. @moviecolony

Jakes – I loved loved this place! Casual vibe with an eclectic customer base of regulars this felt like ‘real’ Palm Springs. I had the Pear Cactus Margarita and Fish Tacos (both fantastic) and could have people watched all day.


Workshop restaurant in Palm Springs

Workshop - a cool industrial looking restaurant that is both indoors and out centred around a long shared table. Interesting dishes with fresh ingredients, great wine list and service. In high season you’ll need a reservation for dinner. @workshopkitchen

ElMirasol - right beside our hotel this quaint Mexican restaurant was hopping every night – we loved the staff and would recommend the pitcher of fresh on-the-rock Margaritas to share, um, very strong.

colony palms hotel bar

Girls poolside happy hour at Colony Palms

Colony Palms inside

Colony Palms has old school sophistication in an boutique setting

Colony Palms Hotel – an intimate boutique hotel with 5 star luxury makes this the place celebs go (word on the street was Jack Black, Zoey Deschanel and Kate Bosworth were all staying here while we were there!) and it just oozes cool. We had old school bourbon cocktails here for happy hour poolside made by our fantastic bartender Brendan. Colony Palms was definitely one of my absolute favourites.  @colonypalmsPS

Michael Weems Gallery - Michael (a lovely man and a complete character!) dropped what he was working on when we came into his gallery to tell us of his artistic journey and took us on a tour of his work which I found amazing! My favourite was his collection of American landmark signs that he photographed and then imposed on the hoods of classic American cars. So cool.

Trina Turk - a clothing, accessory and households brand of amazing quality and a great staff who helped us make many purchases (I got the most beautiful dress!). @shoptrinaturk

Koffi courtyard

Koffi courtyard

Koffi – our favourite morning hangout that we could walk to and a locals favourite. They have fantastic coffees (cold and hot) and the cutest dessert courtyard out back where people hangout and chat or stop on their dog walks.

My Colossal Shrimp Cocktail

My Palm Springs Colossal Shrimp Cocktail at Spencer’s (in my new Trina Turk dress :)



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Knowing about privacy and copyright is part of the job in social media

Alberta FOIP

If you are a Community Manager or are in charge of social media for your business or company your focus is probably on building relationships, engagement and customer service (rightly so). But to use social and online communities effectively you also need to be aware of how copyright and privacy laws affect your day to day activity so you don’t inadvertently get your company (or yourself) in trouble.

If you manage the social media for a business that does not have clearly outlined guidelines or policy on copyright, privacy and social/online usage you need to proactively find out what is acceptable within your company and work within it – never assume it is ‘being taken care of’ or that anything online is up for grabs.

Be aware that each social media platform (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter) has its own operating rules, each country and/or province or state can have different laws and your company may have its own policy – you need to have a general understanding of how these interact together and what the limits are to use social media specifically for your company.

As you will see at the end of this post for example, what is acceptable for copyright on YouTube as a social platform, is not aligned with what is acceptable for where I work and manage our social media.

Photos, Videos and Privacy

Building relationships and online community means sharing posts, photos, videos across several social platforms – but is it always ok to share or use your audience’s photos videos, and comments?

At Mount Royal University we adhere to the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) act to guide our photo and video usage of our students and entire MRU community.  In the day to day of creating campaigns, communication and managing our social channels this translates to:

If the purpose is to share photos or videos we do so without official permission. We retweet Twitpics, Vine or Instagram photos and video, we ‘like’ photos and videos on Instagram, we share Instagram photos and video on Facebook and we use Instagram photos as our Facebook Cover Photos all within the MRU social communities.

Tip: when you are using your audience’s photo or video make sure you give them credit with a ‘shout out’ or tagging them in your post – it is a courtesy plus they will most likely retweet or share because they are happy you used their photo or video.

Tip: before you retweet or share a photo or video (or anything!) make sure you actually look at it or watch it first – reposting is endorsement so make sure the content is appropriate for your company.

If the purpose is to use our community’s photos to market our business we get written, signed permission for each and every photo. Students own photos of their school experience is amazing to show prospective students what life at MRU is like and in recent publications and print campaigns we have used these pictures – but because this is an intentional marketing piece we got permission on each photo used.

Tip: when your audience posts a photo online it may seem like ‘implied consent’ because the internet is public, but your audience will not expect their photo to appear in magazine ads, bus ads, online ads looking like they represent or endorse your company. Find out what permissions are necessary in your business and ensure you follow this for every marketing piece.

Contests and collecting information 

A common way to build your database of customer contacts is with Contests online where personal information is required to enter. Be aware that when you are actively collecting information on your audience online (name, email, phone, history etc.) you should consider posting what and how this collected information will be used and allow audiences to opt out if they choose.  If you truly are interested in developing a community around your brand or business (you should) this step is a courtesy and helps you to communicate with those people that are actually interested in you.

Facebook contests are allowed back on your Page time line again, but remember, you are responsible and liable for issues that may come from a contest, not Facebook. Make sure you think through how your contest works from beginning to end and be sure to post right on the Contest:

  • Eligibility to enter
  • Dates and deadlines to enter
  • Full contest rules including specifically how winners are chosen
  • Disclaimer that you are responsible not Facebook for the contest


One area I am very aware of copyright is with videos, music and YouTube. YouTube has its own operating and copyright guidelines (sometimes they flag and pull your video for copyright sometimes they don’t, you can tag the artist name on your video and then a video can be ok) but these are not aligned with our university copyright guidelines. Copyright is a huge issue in an academic environment so even though YouTube has some allowances as the video platform we use, as a university we do not allow any copyrighted materials to be used in video as part of our organizational guidelines.

Start the discussions and involve the appropriate people in your company such as the owners, legal, risk and liability to ensure your understanding of copyright, privacy, sharing and using of your audience’s social posts and information aligns with what they feel is appropriate for the company you work for.

Tip: even if your company’s guidelines are generally understood between a few key people (i.e. you and the owner) I highly recommend writing them down, get everyone’s input and approval and keep in a common area for reference so you are all on the same page.

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The Savvy Traveller 2013; how to use social and digital media to your advantage

Tim and Karen EiffelI recently went on a trip to Paris and England and could not get over how planning for a trip and travelling is so different now – imagine years ago leaving all your important decisions up to travel agents and tour guides without having a clue what the options were?!



Here are some tips for you on using social and digital media to turn your smart phone into a personal travel butler for your next trip:

Search the city or area you are going to at least 1 to 2 months in advance for tips from locals or other tourists

London FoursquareUse hashtags in Twitter – when I put #Paris or #London into Twitter I received hundreds of in-the-moment experiences happening to people there which included great tips, insights and comments on sites, landmarks or check-ins at shops or restaurants they loved. Many people connect their Foursquare or Yelp accounts to their Twitter accounts which means when searching a hashtag city name you will see check-in’s in that city people are making to local restaurants or shops – I love this because it gives you the name and location on Google maps of each place making it easy to find when you get there.

If you aren’t a Twitter user you can also use a platform like Social Mention to plug in city/area names into and receive hundreds of mentions and conversations about where you are going across Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, YouTube videos and more.

Using city name hashtags I found links on Twitter to many ‘top 10’ lists written by local bloggers. These were invaluable when trying to find great fish and chips in London or a great café in Paris for example where you would be overwhelmed by trying to sift through thousands of Google results on your own.

Ask for recommendations from your friends, followers and connections

It seems obvious but remember to simply ask your Twitter followers or Facebook friends for any tips or places to visit in the city you are traveling to and you will be surprised at the amount (and quality) of great information you get! And, rather than reading a tip in a travel book, you can ask further or follow up questions to your friends who provided the tip to give you even more information tailored to what you specifically want.

Golden tips I received from my Twitter followers for my trip

  • A rooftop restaurant overlooking the Coronation Street set (I’m a die hard fan) that none of the other tourists down on the street seemed to know about!
  • A pub name and location that the actors from Coronation Street hang out at after work (we met some of the actors there! *dies*)
  • While in Paris we ‘had’ to eat macarons – I didn’t know!
  • The hop on hop off Boatabus river boat in Paris – the way to see the city
  • Do not tip in England; the smaller the city, the more it is considered an insult
  • Do not wear your Manchester United jersey (my husband a die hard fan). At all. You are just asking for trouble from rival footy teams, who knew!
  • Do expect that Parisians, Londoners and everyone else will group Canadians and Americans together. Sigh.

The number one tip I received – instead of a hotel, book a flat in Paris using AirBnB an amazing online community where you rent real people’s flats, houses and everything else. We felt like we lived in Paris for 3 days, it was the highlight of my trip!

Studio Marais

Favourite and Follow  

When using Twitter to discover tips about cities you will be visiting make sure you use the Favourite button to save all the best tips in one area that you can go back and review later. ‘The great thing about favourting peoples’ check-ins on Foursquare is that they also come with a Google map to help you find it easily once you arrive.

When searching city names using hashtags or Social Mention (ideally at least 1 to 2 months in advance) you will come across a ton of local Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and bloggers – follow or like them. You will then start receiving information from them about where you are travelling to on a regular basis (more tips to favourite!). You can even create a List in Twitter of just these accounts you find i.e. ‘Paris’ so you can easily pull out these tweets when you want from your general Twitter stream. I would recommend asking questions and creating conversation with these local accounts, they are very happy to talk to you about their home – this is how you find your ‘golden’ tips for your trip that only locals or insiders know!

Notes LondonAdd all the mentions, tips, and favourites from your online circles that you like to an ongoing list to the Notes on your phone categorized by city name to view later when you are in each city. You may not go to all of the places you have listed but it is an amazing resource to have literally in hand when you arrive in a new city.

Use Google maps and street view to virtually tour the city before you travel

Paris hotel shot

Google your city + hotels then zoom in to get information, reviews, rates

Not only is it fun to ‘drive’ down the streets of the city you are traveling to, but this is a great way to find a hotel in a specific location. Choose the general area(s) of the city you are interested in using Google maps and then ‘drive’ around the area using street view – you will discover hotels along the way (or more hotels near one you already are considering) that you can then directly link to for rates and availability and customer ratings.

Once you are in the area you like on Google maps go to street view in and check out the area!

Once you are in the area you like go to street view in Google and check it out!


On a map it looked far away, but when I ‘drove’ down the street using street view from a hotel in London to realize Parliament and Big Ben were literally at the end of our street, I booked it!

What to wear in Paris





Pro tip: as a side benefit I used Google street view in Paris and London to check out what women in the photos were wearing to help me pack a fashionable wardrobe so I didn’t stand out like a tourist! I also went to Pinterest where there were many ‘What to wear when traveling in Paris’ boards to give me great ideas.

Use Foursquare and Yelp to find nearby restaurants, shops and bars (or any service)

Foursquare and Yelp local searches come with real customer reviews, tips and a Google map to get you there.  Wherever you are while travelling, open one of the apps on your phone and choose the ‘near you’ or ‘nearby’ feature and every restaurant/shop will pop up. Amazing. I also love checking in at places we visit on Foursquare as a running tally of the names and locations of everywhere we went day after day which can become a blur on holiday – fun to look back at the end of your trip. You do need wifi or data to use these apps so I got in the habit of looking up what I needed while we had free wifi in our hotel or restaurants.

The only thing we wanted to utilize but that didn’t work well at all was iPhone Siri and Google maps – how great would it be to ask Siri “Find me a pub nearby” anywhere in England and it show you the nearest pubs within a kilometre with directions to each one from where you currently are. Yup, that would be great, but it just didn’t work, it either didn’t understand the question or often gave us Canadian search results.

Instagram horizontal LondonSee pictures from my trip to England and Paris on my Instagram account or see a few Vine videos (user name socialgrrrl)  I took while away – a great way to keep the memories alive! Happy travelling!

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Third Annual Calgary Poutine Crawl

Food Baby trophy Poutine Crawl 2013

(Drum roll please…….) the winner of the 2013 Poutine Crawl is downtown food!

Congratulations to Darren and his team at downtown food for receiving the highest overall ratings on his delicious home cured bacon poutine with a spicy kick from our Crawlers. We loved the palate cleanser and dessert as well, and that you spent time telling us about your dish. I’ll be in to see you this week to present you with your Food Baby Poutine Crawl trophy!

Congratulations to all the restaurants who pulled out all the stops to create an amazing experience on the Poutine Crawl.

  • Brava Bistro rated most decadent poutine
  • Brasserie rated most cheesy goodness poutine
  • Teatro rated most innovative poutine
  • National rated most authentic
  • Anejo rated most unusual poutine

70 Crawlers hitting 6 restaurants in one afternoon is definitely ‘a marathon not a race’ kind of event when eating poutine at every stop – I’m impressed with the commitment and dedication of everyone! *thank you stretchy pants!* What an incredibly fun way to see and try out new restaurants while having chefs compete for your ratings.

For those of you on Foursquare I have put together a List of all the Poutine Crawl restaurants so you can do your own crawl!

I’ve put together a Storify compilation of pictures and tweets throughout the day for you to enjoy.

From 2013 Crawlers:

“Loved the interaction that the chef had with us, the depth that they went to introduce what downtownfood is all about and the poutine that we were about to taste.”

“It’s more than the poutine eating, definitely the whole experience. Being surrounded by fellow food lovers, making our way around town to already-visited and new restaurants. The atmosphere and liveliness of it all is what makes it.”
“Meeting fellow food lovers and experiencing restaurants that I might not normally go to or that I have been meaning to attend. It’s also not often that you get to eat food that is not normally on the menu. I felt pretty special. The locational draws were really cool.”

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Will strategy kill the social media star?

Who loves the shiniest, newest, hottest, latest and greatest, just-off-the-presses social media thing? Marketers. I know, I’m one of them! Having to come up with new and creative ways to market ourselves or our clients can sometimes feel boring and redundant to us when we are in the same medium such as a website or a Facebook page we’ve had for several years. So, wanting to jump on the latest social media platform we suddenly seem to hear about everywhere is natural. Plus, it can be invigorating to talk about with other marketers (“what, you’re NOT on Vine yet?!) and it gives us a sense of keeping up with the cool kids.

But is fulfilling our own shiny needs as marketers serving our online communities? Is too much over-thinking it, planning and ‘strategy’ killing our inner social media star?

One of my favourite examples of the shiny syndrome is the QR code. Rarely used ingeniously (in local campaigns anyway) QR codes more often than not were added onto posters to take you to a website that was already there – not exactly creative. It seemed in every marketing meeting for awhile it was  ”what about using a QR code?”as a quick marketing solution to to many enthusiastic nods of agreement. Most of our audiences weren’t even using them, yet QR codes on posters persisted because it was latest bandwagon marketers were on.

In my job I often find myself preaching strategy over shiny, which I know can be perceived as creative crushing to aspiring social media stars. But there is good reason for putting some strategy ahead of your shiny – especially if it means introducing a new social channel to your mix.

Why strategy? To me, strategy really means thinking through introducing a new social channel and ensuring it aligns with your goals (business and marketing) and your brand. A new social platform will take a lot of resources, time and effort by you or your staff so you want to make sure it is worth it and will benefit both you (your business and brand) and your online community.

Get into the practice of mentally going through a thought process to see if a social channel is worth your time and money.

1.  Know each year your top 3 business and marketing and communication goals so that you can gauge whether a social channel will support one or more of these goals (if they don’t rethink it)

2.  Do you have the resources (time and passion not just money) to grow and maintain a new social channel? Is there training or support needed? Was this a one-off or are you going to incorporate this channel into your overall marketing mix? Is this such a great fit for your business and brand that you will re-direct current resources to it?

3. How are you going to let your audience on your established channels about your new social platform to build it? Have they insisted you use this channel because they do? Will it make sense to them and will they adopt it?

4. How will it compliment your other social channels and show off your brand? Will it add significant value to telling your story to audiences?

5. Is there something new or creative you can introduce within one of your established social channels or even your website that would get your audiences talking and sharing instead of a creating a brand new channel?

Trying to be on every new social platform could give your online community social fatigue, or even worse, dilute your brand by spreading yourself too thin. There are new features, bells and whistles coming out on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn everyday providing new opportunities to be creative in spaces we are already on, or there are a ton of third party apps available that can add on a few bells and whistles where we need them.

The real social media star challenge is – can you you come up with something new and innovative to capture the imagination and attention of your audience within the social channels you already have?

So the next time you hear about the latest and greatest that could make you a star, ask yourself – is it for you or for your online community? There will always be a Vine, SnapChat (even a new MySpace) around the corner vying for your attention. My advice for 2013 and 2014? Focus. Do what you do really well on the social sites you are already on, and continue to build relationships with happy customers. Remember, shiny may win you a one-time marketing award but strategy can build your business.

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Playa del Carmen, Mexico

We visited Playa del Carmen over New Year’s and the first two weeks of January, and as always in Playa, we have fun finding new places to go and still love some old favourites.

Old favourites

Fusion at sunset

Fusion Beach Bar – on the beach in the heart of old Playa, Fusion is a place we go several times each visit. During the day it is a great place to lay in the sun, have lunch and and people watch. At night, Fusion is beautifully lit with candles and lights and you sit right on the beach to watch live bands each night under the stars. Address: 6 Norte S/N  Centro

Dirty Martini – our favourite go to bar in Playa just renovated to double its space and is just as charming as before. Home to many expats living in Playa, Dirty Martini is famous for martini’s and its friendly staff. After walking 5th Ave with thousands of people we ended up at Dirty partying on the street for New Year’s Eve! Address: 1ra Avenida entre calle 10 y 12

Kool Beach and Pool Bar – you can rent a chair on the beach for the day (about $5) or sit by the beautiful pool bar for the day which has a DJ that starts mid to late afternoon. My favourite things to have at Kool are the Fish Tacos and any of the sushi rolls, delicious!

To sit at the pool you definitely have to enjoy dance music spinning by the DJ and a lot of people. On busy days like New Years Day when we were at Kool to get a seat you need to order bottle service so be prepared!

El F0gon – this is my favourite local ‘tacoria’ or (lovingly called) street meat place in Playa. Everything on the menu is meat, it’s cheap and it is delicious! You will usually have to wait in line a few minutes but it is worth it (there’s a mariachi band to listen to on the weekends) – I always have the grande margarita and the archerra steak fajitas! Address: Calle 6th & 30th Ave

La Bodeguita – relocated on the newer North end of 5th ave this cuban bar is pure energy; a 10 piece live band plays as salsa dancers take the floor and this is definitely the place to get a freshly made mojito. Forget the quesadillas – the authentic cuban food on the menu is what to order. Address: 5ta Av esqu. Con 34 norte

Akumal – we rented a car for our entire trip this time so we made sure to use it to take some day trips. Akumal is an old fishing village located 30 minutes from Playa and is so worth a trip. We went snorkelling in a fresh water lagoon called Yal Ku in a protected park and it was an amazing experience I would completely recommend! We wandered through the village of Akumal and spent the remainder of the day on the beach of Half Moon Bay where you can see turtles just off the beach while snorkelling.

For Top 5 Playa del Carmen experiences from my 2011 trip.

New Finds

Salsa Rosa - located on the same side street as Piola (above) Salsa is a small indoor-outdoor bar with a great staff serving up creative martinis and cocktails with a small tapas menu. The north end of 5th Ave continues to grow so Salsa is definitely one of the new trendier bars. Address: 38 Norte, 5 Avenida Norte

Club de la Cerveza - a quaint casual bar with a fantastic patio (and the owner is a great DJ) on the north end of 5th serving up an international beer menu, many of which are from micro breweries in Mexico. I tried out some of the Cucipa brand beers from Mexico and absolutely loved them! Address: entre 34 y 38 Norte, 5 Avenida Norte

Chez Celine – a lovely French boulangerie pâtisserie serves fresh pastries, croissants amazing expressos and cappuccinos and decadent brunch and sandwiches. I loved sitting on the outdoor patio watching people go by in the mornings.  Address: Av. 5 and Calle 34.

Imprevist - definitely our new favourite place to eat (3 times this trip!) Imprevist is a small and chic restaurant with a few outdoor tables on a quaint street I love (across from my favourite candle shop) the food is inspired and amazing – and affordable! I would definitely recommend the Duck with vanilla mashed potatoes or the Quail and Wild Mushroom Risotto, insider tip; have the sticky toffee pudding if on the menu! Imprevist also serves one of the best breakfasts in Playa every day with all items at $14 each (you get more than you pay for!). Address: 1 Ave entre 16 Nrte y 14 Nrte calle

Bijou Bijou Jewellery – I have followed the Mexican artist in Playa since 2006 that now sells his jewelry along with an Argentinian artist at Bijou Bijou and I am in love with their one of a kind pieces. Located in the Plaza at the end of 5th near the entrance to Playacar I visit every trip!

Travel Tips for Playa Del Carmen

Credit card/cash - When you travel to Playa at high season (Christmas and New Years) as we did for the first time this year we learned some lessons. Many small restaurants, bars and local venues did not take credit card, and,  On New Year’s Eve, all the banks and bank machines literally ran out of cash leaving line ups of people unhappy – be prepared!

Car rental – we learned that when renting a car (probably anywhere not just Playa) you need to read the fine print; the promoted price will not include the insurance coverage that per day can be more than the car rental per day so just be aware!

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How to deal with negative comments and posts

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is ‘what do I do if someone says something nasty on my Facebook page?’ A reality that you must be aware of is that creating any social media account has some risk, and that over time, you will receive some kind of negative comment or behaviour because that is just human nature. You need to consider how you deal with it especially if you are managing an online community for a brand or business.

At the strategic level I have worked with key stakeholders to create guidelines for MRU that outline step by step how to respond to negative behaviour on our social media channels (which I recommend) but as a community manager, nothing compares to suddenly being faced with negative comments and properly managing them in the moment. I have had my fair share of experience dealing with negative comments over the past few years and know how nerve wracking it can be and how overwhelming the responsibility you feel can be.

Identify issues ahead of time – if you already have some challenges that your customers complain about in the traditional way (in person, email) creating a Twitter account or a Facebook page will only provide a more public venue for them to complain. Identify these issues and how you would respond ahead of time so you are not caught off guard. Know your audience; consider every scenario and the consequences of different actions such as deleting a negative post, responding privately vs publicly. Make sure you include key people in crafting responses to sensitive issues ahead of time; depending on the organization this could be the owner, the President or the head of communications.

Have guidelines in place - taking the time to put together well-thought out guidelines for communications staff and employees of your organization can save you heartache later. Guidelines that specifically outline how to respond to negative behaviour online help people/employees feel like they have some control over their response when they are suddenly in a situation of dealing with a furious customer.

Post a disclaimer on your social media site – in the ‘about’ or ‘bio’ section of your site you can provide a short disclaimer that any posts that contains excessive profanity, threats/abuse, racial comments etc. will be deleted can be helpful so that you do not need to explain why a post was suddenly deleted every time it occurs. If you do have official guidelines in place you can also refer to those here – I like this approach because it makes the response to negativity about the behaviour not the person who made the comment.

Have a strategy for the different types of negative behaviour -  it is important you work with key people in your organization to decide what you consider ‘crossing the line’ as negative behaviour so everyone is on the same page and how you deal with different scenarios that come up.

MRU student pays tuition in coin fueled hundreds of comments on social media

Also be aware that social media channels operate in different ways so you need to consider how your response should be carried out on each channel; for example comments posted on your Facebook page can be seen collectively by all your members in one place, while on Twitter your followers only see what you post, not what all your followers post about you (unless they seek it out).

  • Venting - again, it is human nature that no matter what your business or brand you will have customers at some point that will be unhappy or angry for a variety of reasons and want to vent to you about it on your social media sites. Response: acknowledge their unhappiness publicly and quickly, and 1) try to fix their problem if you can 2) provide them with specific information that will help them 3) be honest and realistic about what you promise.  Just by responding you will help diffuse their negative feelings  – not responding at all may look like you don’t care.
  • Trolling - unfortunately there are people out there that seem to have nothing better to do than to try to annoy you (your business) using social media. This could be anything from daily sarcastic or snarky comments on your sites to posting inappropriate pictures or comments to even ‘hassling’ your other community members. Response: do not engage them in conversation as this is what they are hoping for – attention. Try to ignore them for as long as you (and your community) can withstand. If it continues post a public note to them that your site is intended for constructive/fun/thoughtful discussion between people that care about/love the brand and that further comments will unfortunately lead to being blocked if it continues. If it continues or escalates block them, your community most likely will thank you!
  • You are in the news - if for some reason your organization is in the news or media for a negative reason you may get a flurry of negative comments in a short time frame, many that are legitimate comments and many that are just jumping on the band wagon to fuel the fire. Ideally you would know this was coming and you would be prepared! Response: you do not need to respond to every single comment made, but rather with one or two general responses across various social media channels to your communities addressing concerns. This will show you are acknowledging the situation but that you are communicating about it from an organizational point of view. One tactic in this situation would be to issue a release onto your website and post the link to the release to Twitter, post on your Facebook page, LinkedIn page etc. to centralize the response.
  • Serious comments with consequences – these are usually quite rare but you still need to think through exactly what you would do in the event of a negative comment or post your organization would consider ‘serious’ such as threats to others or themselves, posting of private/confidential information, slander etc. You will know it when you see it as a community manager because your heart will stop as you read it. Response: try to access their profile/bio and take a screenshot of it so you capture any information on themselves they provide. Take a screenshot of the serious comment. Delete the comment and block them. Send the screenshots to your internal areas such as security, human resources, student conduct etc. that would be responsible to take over.

Community manager ‘must do’s’ when dealing with negative comments:

  • Remain calm – remember this is not a personal attack against you, it is aimed at the business you work for so it is imperative you take a breath, think about your response objectively and respond calmly. If you feel yourself getting overheated walk away from your computer – remember every response you give affects your company’s reputation and brand.
  • Do not delete negative comments – unless they fall under the ‘serious’ category of negative comments (i.e. threatening) leave them up and respond accordingly. The whole point of businesses and brands on social media is to provide a two-way communication channel for your customers – deleting a negative comment will anger the person (even your community) and potentially escalate the situation. It can also make your business seem cold and uncaring.
  • Ensure your response is accurate - it can be tempting to provide a quick response off the top of your head to diffuse a negative comment but if the information you provide is not correct or specific enough it will only make them more unhappy and create more negative posts. Check links, phone numbers, email addresses etc. for accuracy before providing them. If you are unsure of the information to provide or the accuracy of it, find someone you work with who does before responding. If you are responding using your phone be especially careful because it is easier to make a typo on your phone.
  • Don’t go it alone - if you feel especially stressed by a negative comment or are unsure of how to respond, engage your colleagues or boss to help you. It is much better to include others to provide a well thought out accurate response than to go it alone and risk making the situation worse!
  • Remember every response you give is public - you are never just responding to one person’s negative comments on social media, your other community members will see your response as well. And, if your members decide to share your response the potential reach goes up astronomically. So before posting, read over your response as if you were your audience; does it address the issue brought up in the negative comment? Does it make sense? Does the tone sound helpful or is there a hint of sarcasm or anger in your response (remove!)? If the situation is sensitive maybe have a colleague read it for you.
  • We are all human - mistakes can happen and we all make them; if you respond to a negative comment making any of the mistakes mentioned above, take ownership of it and take action immediately by sending out another post clearly indicating the mistake, the correct information and/or a quick apology for it.
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Why Movember is such a successful word of mouth marketing campaign

This was my first year participating in Movember and not only has it been an amazingly fun experience but it struck me that Movember is also a perfect word of mouth marketing initiative – one of the reasons I think it is so successful.

While in Toronto presenting at a conference this year I had the opportunity to visit Movember Canada’s offices and meet passionate Mo Bros Matt Matheson and Jesse Hayman where I learned that Movember was reaching out to universities and colleges across Canada, and that in addition to funding prostate cancer research some of the funds would now also go to men’s mental health. I immediately thought of what a great initiative Movember would be for MRU to take part in, and for me.

Why is Movember so successful as a word of mouth marketing initiative?

Focus on champions – Movember’s model is not to focus on advertising or direct mail campaigns; they know that working with those most invested in Movember, their loyal champions, is where to start. Those affected by prostate cancer and their families and those involved previously in Movember in every city, in many countries, are the core group that begin to spread the word each year. Movember ensures these people have all the information and tools necessary to start recruiting friends in person and online to join the cause.  This model of working with inner champions outwards to their circles and in turn to their circles is key to a great word of mouth campaign.

For example, although I had heard of Movember before, it was because of following @CaronSue on twitter that got me hooked – Caron does an incredibly creative 30 Days of Mo campaign each year and following her progress definitely persuaded me to become involved. In turn this year, I have persuaded my circle of personal, work and Twitter friends to become involved and so it goes. An ad in a magazine could never have this kind of impact on it’s own which is why I love word of mouth marketing.

Great buzz topic to talk about – the fact that men involved with Movember actually grow a moustache for one month without shaving is a great word of mouth (and over the mouth!) topic because it is participation you can see. Women or ‘Mo Sistas’ can find creative ways to wear moustaches in support of Movember such as pinky ring moustaches, moustaches on-a-stick or fake moustaches for photos and events. There are endless creative ideas you could come up with as fundraisers, events, photo campaigns and videos that center around moustaches and being a part of Movember is just fun!

Easily Shareable over Social media – Movember has integrated it’s website and individual profile pages with Facebook so that any activity, donations or pictures you post in support of Movember can also be posted to your Facebook page letting your friends know so they can become involved or donate. Many cities have their own Twitter accounts (@MoCalgary @MoSistasTO) or Facebook pages to keep you up to date on what is happening locally in addition to the national @Movemberca account.

I decided to get all my female friends involved this year so I created a team called ’50 Shades of MoSista’ with a goal of participation as well as raising some funds. I asked my personal and Twitter girlfriends to join my team by taking a black and white photo of themselves wearing a moustache for our Mo Space and then to use this picture as their Facebook profile pic for the month of November. We asked each of our own Facebook friends to donate $5 each to spread our potential reach even further with our own circles. We raised over $2,000 as a team and had fun in the process!

And because moustaches are so visually fun to show off, taking pictures on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter or making YouTube videos is a natural to share your MoGress with followers and friends and can also be put on your Movember profile. Hashtags such as #Movember #MoLove #MoBro and #MoSista are used by everyone across several social media channels connecting the conversation even more. I discovered a locally created App called ‘Mogress‘ which made it so fun and easy to get people involved by just taking their picture with a fun moustache of their choice.

At MRU I created a Mount Royal University Network on the Movember website so that every individual and team formed a community and we could watch and support our collective progress as a school. I kept everyone up to date over MRU Facebook, Twitter and Instagram providing ways for our community to easily share with their circles spreading our message about Movember. The response was amazing and as a community including our President, students, athletes, faculty and staff MRU raised $36, 500!

Take it from online to real life – it is easy to get caught up in fun social media campaigns but it is key to remember to take what you are doing online into real life and back to social media for real impact.  Core Movember supporters in every city across Canada and other countries organize several in-person get togethers on their own during the month of November to form bonds in person that can be continued over social media – this is critical to keep the momentum going. Movember Canada helps cities plan a huge end of the month Movember Gala Parte for everyone who participated to attend and meet each other and build relationships that will make Movember next year that much stronger.

At MRU on November 1st at our Registration booth we promoted a ‘live shave-off’ where a brave man agreed to shave off his beard and moustache of 15 years in support of joining Movember. This in person event made for great pictures, video and comments over social media and kick started our campaign with a bang!

I held an end of the month Go Mo party at Kensington Pub for everyone I knew who had participated and/or donated to Movember to celebrate our Mo awesomeness and to meet in-person some people we connected with about Movember only over social media.

Go Mo! Until next year…

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Students need guidance to take over your daily social media

One of the myths of social media is that because of their age, students by default can manage your social media for you. As the lead of social media at a university this is something I hear often. The reality is that our students do not come out of the womb tweeting and blogging, and that having a personal Facebook profile is nothing like using social media to market a business or use as a business communication tool. This is not to say that student interns and volunteers cannot be immensely helpful to you and your social media plans – they just need guidance and direction.

Set a framework for the students to use by doing the strategic planning up front (note: you should already have chosen your social media channels based on strategic planning before hiring a student, they should not be responsible to choose what channel you use)

  • Set the top 3 goals you have for your social media channels in the next year to two years that are tied to your businesses’ bottom line.
  • Based on your top 3 goals, set shorter term measurable objectives that are relevant to you but also realistic; for example increase number of followers to ___ by a date, increase number of comments on a blog, increase positive comments, decrease confusion over a specific topic, increase traffic to a specific website from Twitter. Students should be aware of objectives so that what they do daily works towards them over time.
  • Identify for each social media channel you use who the number one target audience is and be able to describe them in detail to create a profile.It is important with all posts on social media your student clearly understands, and can visualize, your main audience so they know who they are talking to.
  • Describe your brand in one succinct paragraph. This should provide focus to guide the tone and content for students of all your social media posts.
  • Put all of the above on one page and have students post this beside their computer so they see it every day

What students bring to the table

  • While we are the marketing and communication experts and strategic planners, students are close to our target audience (at the university) and they are idea generators. They have a different perspective on the content we are putting out over social media and unique perspectives and suggestions on ways in which various social media channels could be used (i.e. innovative). They have energy, enthusiasm, and a ton of ideas – make use of it!
  • Challenge students to brainstorm creative ideas and solutions for your campaigns, events, contests and key messages that meet set objectives and that fall within your brand. They can act as a focus group letting you know if some of your plans will ring true for other students (or a younger demographic) and ways to improve it.
  • Train students so that they understand your goals, objectives, audience and brand along with organizational social media guidelines before they take over some of the day to day duties of your social media and include them in ongoing strategic planning sessions involving social media.
  • Show them specific examples of responding to comments and questions posed on your online community, what ‘tone’ and ‘engagement’ actually mean in a real situation and how to deal with negative behaviour within your online community

The bottom line – involve your students in generating creative ideas and daily activities for your social media but don’t expect them to figure out what will market and communicate your business the best. That’s up to you.

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