Mocean Dance raises $20,000

Yup, you read that right. Twenty. Thousand. Dollars.

Mocean Dance is a brilliant and bold contemporary dance company founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2001 by a collection of artists and visionaries. 20 years later, and its co-artistic directors, Susanne Chui and Sara Coffin, were driven to take on their biggest fundraising initiative in their history. To celebrate 20 years, they set a goal to raise $20,000.

Typically, this kind of would take months of planning and investment in marketing and communications. I, however, connected with Susanne and Sarah with the help of Strategic Arts Management on Nov. 8 and we launched the fundraising campaign on Nov. 23.

In two weeks plus one day, I created a logo for the “20 for 20 Holiday Fundraising Matching Campaign” and a look and feel using existing photography and elements of circles to tie the images together. I wrote key messages, designed graphics templates for Instagram and Facebook, and wrote copy for social media posts and their newsletter. Susanne and Sarah were keen with their feedback and helped shape every element for their loyal and supportive audience.

With a solid commitment of $10,000 from two core Mocean Dance donors, the campaign raised $10,000 in matching funds, and Mocean Dance achieved their goal for a total of $20,000 by December 31, 2021. What a way to ring in the new year!

Back in the (virtual) classroom

Late one winter night, I was scrolling LinkedIn and came across a job posting for a teaching opportunity with Digital Media Academy, an international educational organization that delivers applied technology programs at prestigious universities like Stanford, Oxford, and NYU. I quickly put together a video as directed in the ad and sent along my resume.

My time spent as a teacher at NSCC and daVinci College were some of the most rewarding experiences of my career thus far. When they reached out to me for an interview, I was elated. Fast forward a month later, and not only did I get the job teaching the Entrepreneurship & Innovation program in the new year, I developed the curriculum!

Due to the pandemic, Digital Media Academy needed an online version of their in-person programs and I was keen to take on the challenge. With hundreds of pages of material to review, I worked diligently to produce 20 engaging, entertaining, and educational lessons that can be adapted for various class times and age ranges.

I can’t give away any spoilers, but you can read a really nice description of the course (and me!) on the Digital Media Academy website. I’m really excited to meet my new students and execute all the fun ideas we put together. Time to sharpen my pencils!

Flamenco en Rouge in the news

Award-winning dance troupe, Flamenco en Rouge, debuted their live performance “Tierras oscuras” at the Cape Breton Miners Museum in October and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in November to a flurry of fanfare in the media. Artistic director Martine Durier-Copp invited me to work as the publicist to promote the shows, and we’re simply thrilled with the results.

Halifax Presents’ Mark Robbins wrote a excellent piece titled Flamenco en Rouge pays tribute to minters with Tierras oscuras and Steve MacIntyre’s piece in The East Magazine, Nova Scotia’s Flamenco en Rouge offer up a special tribute left feeling excited. CBC Radio picked up the news and Martine was interviewed by Wendy Bergfeldt live on-air for CBC Mainstreet Cape Breton. The icing on the cake came days before opening night when Ana Almedia, TV host and producer of CTV Morning Live Atlantic, asked Martine to be on to talk about Flamenco en Rouge and “Tierras oscuras”. The segment featured photos, video footage of the dance troupe, and Martine even dressed the part of her flamenco alter-ego to liven up the event.

It’s always exciting to do publicity, but it’s even more exciting when things take off on multiple platforms – digital print, radio, and TV. Flamenco en Rouge delivered no less to their audiences and standing ovations.

Roswall’s new website

Dan Roscoe is the managing director of Roswall Development, a renewable energy company that’s based right here in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s been steadily growing his business with his team for over two years and was in need of a website upgrade to coincide with a big announcement that was expected to draw international attention.

We put our heads together and dove straight into WordPress, picking through the best themes to present Roswall’s look and feel. After deciding on a template with more whitespace than before, we made our selection and I moved on to sourcing photos (one of my most favourite parts – I use Unsplash almost exclusively). We worked on the headlines and copy for each page, going back and forth on big and little things, until each word was in place. I made some last-minute tweaks to make sure everything lined up and, before we knew it, it was time to flip the switch.

After only two weeks – with the bulk of the work completed over four days (and lots of take-out) – the new website is up and running, just in time for Roswall’s big announcement.

Creative Pictou County

Working with the talented and dedicated team at Creative Pictou County over the past three months has been equally challenging and rewarding, in the best possible ways. Their mission is to promote, support and connect the artistic community, illuminate the creative economy, and promote its growth in Pictou County – and they do not disappoint.

I had the good fortune to connect with the board chair, Denise Lynch, and their summer intern, Monica Rivers, through Strategic Arts Management (SAM) and we set to work on a 3-year Strategic Business Plan for the organization. We decided on four main goals for Creative Pictou County with subsequent objectives to achieve to from 2021-2024, focused on effective and representative leadership; financial stability and economic development; connection, engagement, and promotion; and we established and implemented a new membership program to help bring their artistic community together.

Graduating to new heights

I’ve had the pleasure to author three features for Saint Mary’s University Alumni Association’s Maroon & White Magazine highlighting their esteemed graduates. Most recently, in April 2021, I interviewed four new alumni and was blown away by their dedication to their studies and their school.

Although they have each faced their own unique challenges in their individual pursuits, they all share the same “Huskies” spirit and determination. Regardless if all goes according to their plans, I’m confident in their futures to succeed in their academic, athletic, and professional careers.

You can read the full article online and below are short excerpts from each of their stories:

Alexander “Alex” Peters graduated with his Bachelor of Commerce degree and a double major in Finance and Economics, along with an impressive list of awards and accolades. He is the captain this year for the Saint Mary’s Huskies Men’s Hockey team, a four-year Academic All-Canadian (an honour that recognizes exceptional student-athletes who achieve a high academic standing) and Alex was on the Dean’s List each year, too.

Growing up in a small town in Manitoba, Gena Dufour was not exposed to many educational opportunities first-hand beyond her high school degree. At 24 years-old, today she not only holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology, Gena is a first generation academic in her family.

As a young girl, Leena Roy Chowdhury wanted to be an engineer or a doctor when she grew up. While attending high school in her hometown of Kolkata, India, she focused her studies on chemistry, physics, math and biology to prepare for her future education.

During her first year of studies at Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai, China, Yingjun Chen participated in the Saint Mary’s University Exchange Program. She selected courses that piqued her interest, including a French class, and that experience influenced her to transfer to Saint Mary’s for her second year.

Congratulations to all the 2021 graduates!

Revive! with the National Arts Centre

The National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa launched its Revive! campaign to engage with their existing audience and create awareness for the organization among new audiences, too. The marketing team saw the opportunity to onboard the NAC to TikTok and pilot the app as its primary social media platform for the campaign.

I had a fantastic time working with the NAC team to produce and post 14 TikToks to kick-start Revive!. I was also thrilled to present my first “TikTok 101: How to make a TikTok” lunch and learn for dozens of NAC staff.

Among the many highlights during the six-week campaign: there were almost 4,000 video views, an average of nearly 100 plays/day, and the NAC TikToks were viewed in eight different countries. We drilled down further to determine their engagement rate for Facebook and YouTube is close to 5% (well above the less than 1% average), and for TikTok it’s 376%. WOAH!

We wrapped our work on the project in mid-May and I’m excited to see the NAC TikTok account is thriving. I’m looking forward to working with more entrepreneurs and enterprises to help them explore the app and engage with audiences from all over the world.

Your new neighbourhood awaits

The Lawen Group is building their first project in Halifax’s West End, located at 7037 Mumford Road, in the heart of the Halifax’s quintessential suburban neighbourhood. At a towering 22 stories, West22 embraces contemporary architecture with modern amenities and finishes, creating a relaxed atmosphere with an abundance of natural light.

Diane Lawen is the digital media manager at The Lawen Group and is preparing to introduce the building to the public. I was hired to provide copywriting to support the launch and various marketing initiatives including descriptions for the building design, suite features, amenities, the neighbourhood, and its history.

To set the theme and tone for West22, I wrote a statement, “Your new neighbourhood awaits.” to accompany the title of the building, for on-site signage, as an introduction to the website, and a descriptor for social media.

It was my pleasure to work with The Lawen Group and Dexel Development to help promote their latest edition to the West End.

Fresh looks for Cal LeGrow


Stephen Bishop is ridiculously talented graphic designer and website developer in Nova Scotia. He invited me along to help create the concept and write copy for Cal LeGrow Insurance & Financial Group‘s new website for their home and auto insurance.

I cannot tell you how much fun it is to work with the Cal LeGrow team. They’re a youthful, dynamic group of experienced and empathetic people who I would trust with all my most prized possessions. I looked forward to every moment of our time spent together, just like you would a best friend. Aww 🙂

Real Talk: Please read this if you want to onboard your business to TikTok.

In November, I was hired by a social media company to pitch, plan, produce, and execute a TikTok campaign for one of their clients, a non-profit organization that had received a small amount of funding to “experiment” with the app. I won the work and the company gave me the project to run with.

I’ve been on TikTok for 18 months and I have more followers on the app than on my Instagram, with over 45,000 likes for my content and 634,500 views.

I’m going to share with you some of what I’ve learned, in hopes that as the app continues to grow, more professionals over the age of 25 will better understand how to onboard their business to TikTok without making fools of themselves.

a) Just download the app and use it.

I’m shocked by how many people have reached out to me and said they want to be on TikTok for their business, but they don’t use the app because “my sixteen-year-old daughter has it”. That’s an actual quote from a potential client (who’s work I turned down).

If you are looking at your teenage daughter’s For You page and you think that is TikTok, then you and I are so far away from having a mutual understanding about the app that there’s no point in even talking about it. It would be a lot easier for me, and anyone else who you want to work with on TikTok, if you just download the app and use it for 2-3 hours a day for a week and then see how you feel about the whole thing. I have over 1,500 hours logged, surely you can manage 15.

b) Get a phone.

In the beginning, my client and the non-profit underestimated me and their own potential success on the platform, unfortunately. I explained that it would be best for someone, other than me, to get a phone for the campaign to download, set up, and manage the account. Otherwise, at the end of the campaign, I would need to delete their TikTok account from my app and send them their data files. The latter is what they chose to do.

What happened? The campaign went off like gangbusters and, of course, they wanted to keep their account active and run a second campaign. However – back to my first point – their TikTok account was set up in my app on my phone and I had no choice but to delete it once the campaign ended because you can only have three active profiles on TikTok at one time and I needed to make room for other projects. If you were to set up a TikTok account for yourself, you would also know this.

c) TikTok isn’t YouTube.

Please don’t send me your big-budget infomercial that you made for something else to post on your TikTok account. I’m telling you now: it won’t get plays, nobody will follow you, and it will be a big waste of time for everyone. It doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose video footage you already have, but TikTok isn’t YouTube. You need to create original content for TikTok for your account to be successful. I know that’s hard for you to hear, I’m sorry, but I don’t make the rules.

d) TikTok isn’t Instagram.

Think about TikTok vs. Instagram like movies vs. TV. Would you go to a movie theatre to watch a TV show? No. Just like you wouldn’t go to TikTok hoping to watch Instagram content. However, true to the analogy, movies are sometimes broadcast on TV. Do you notice how half your Instagram feed is now full of TikToks disguised as posts, stories, or reels? Oh wait, you’re not on TikTok so how would you know?

e) The word “Influencer” is gross.

As a content creator, I’ve had free offers for products and collaborations in return for promotion in my videos. This is the influencer game and that’s not what TikTok is about. I don’t want to intersperse your advertising in my content. My strategy is a reality-based, educational model and that is my focus; I don’t use hashtags and I don’t pay for advertising or to promote posts. I’ve come up with a formula that makes it easy for me to capture footage in the moment and share it as it happens, and my audience appreciates that. I don’t want to ruin my relationship with them by pretending to use your brand of air freshener in my shot while I’m cleaning up dog poop on the floor.

Plus, you’re undermining the entire TikTok audience if you think passive advertising is going to work. I will try things people give me and if I like them and they find their way into my content, I will give you a shout-out, but I’m not bargaining my audience’s time for money. Instead, I’m in talks to offer workshops, write a children’s book, and to produce my first TV show. All because I simply make great content, for free, at no cost. I’d rather do those things and be a content creator than an influencer.

f) Talent comes at a price.

“We want you to just manage our TikTok account.” This is a real statement from another potential client (again, who’s work I turned down) who had no intention of making their own videos, collaborating to create content, or contributing a “face” to deliver their message.

I understand that because I was the face in the TikToks for the non-profit campaign, people who saw that and contacted me might think that’s what I do. But, I’ll say it here: I invested in myself to be the talent in the campaign – there was no line item for talent in the budget – because I knew that’s what would make the strategy successful.

Not only did I buy my own equipment and film in every room in my home (at Christmas time – don’t ask how many times I had to move my tree to block shots), I pulled non-logo garments from my wardrobe, did my own make-up, paid to have my nails done, my hair done, and my teeth cleaned (yup!) because I have a background in film and television production and casting talent and I know that these things matter.

TikTok is a place where genuine content thrives. Unless you want to hire me personally to represent your company on social media, the “face” of your campaign needs to be figured out, not faked. Talent comes at a price, and if you chose to go in that direction, it’s a price you should pay.

g) The analytics provided by TikTok are far superior to Instagram or Facebook.

TikTok puts Instagram and Facebook to shame when it comes to data analytics, and you don’t need to pay to promote posts to find out more insights. The client who hired me and the non-profit didn’t know the extent of what the app offers so they declined a final report and opted for a final meeting to re-cap instead. I went ahead and spent the better part of an entire week (including one all-nighter) compiling data and exploring inferences to illustrate their success on the app. The non-profit said the report was “phenomenal”, it went far beyond their expectations, just like the campaign.

Oddly enough, the social media company tried to steal my documents digitally by changing my settings on their Google drive from edit to read only for the final report. I can only think they wanted to plagiarize my work for future projects, and I was angry at first, but now I keep in my mind that “imitation is the best form of flattery” and I’m accepting it as a compliment. Thankfully, I do have backups.

I’m not going to go into details about the analytics because if you create a TikTok business or creator account, you can see them for yourself.

h) I don’t want to talk about numbers for ROI.

I understand you run a business and you want to see a return on your investment in the form of money. Think of it this way: if social media was a marketing department with divisions, Facebook is your sales and advertising people, Twitter is communications, Instagram is graphic design, and then TikTok is your public relations.

I can send your press release to 100 media outlets but I cannot promise you that your story will be picked up. Your publicist isn’t responsible for selling your product, but if you happen to get sales because their strategy is very good, then you can all celebrate.

i) Follow me on TikTok @apollo.stella and IG @kristakeough

Because the campaign with my (former) client and the non-profit ended on a sour note, it left a bad taste in my mouth every time I shared the work I did with others, and I’m not waiting for another RFP to bid on to show off what I can do. So, I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

Over the past three weeks, I’ve created an IGTV docuseries called “Apollo & Stella Selena’s World Tour” to document, from the very beginning, my foster fail journey. It’s pure, wholesome, PG content on the daily that I make from my home with my two dogs who have fallen in love @kristakeough. Tomorrow we’re celebrating 20,000 views with our friends. In the next week, we’ll be introducing ourselves to TikTok @apollo.stella and you’ll see how I’m straddling the two apps using my video footage. I’ve also written The Story of Joy and shared it on my website to help you follow along (see my next post!).

Thank you for watching!