Other Tag - BissettMatheson Communications http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/latest Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:59:30 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Are the parents of those protesting girls at FHS doing them a huge disservice? http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/are-the-parents-of-those-protesting-girls-at-fhs-doing-them-a-huge-disservice http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/are-the-parents-of-those-protesting-girls-at-fhs-doing-them-a-huge-disservice


Fifty-nine years ago this week, on December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus to a white passenger. Parks’ protest sparked a chain of events that eventually led to the end of racial segregation. That day would later be included in the list of days that changed history.


For Parks’ decision though, the immediate consequence was her arrest.  That’s the way protests go. They can lead to progressive change, and often do, whether it is a protest over racial discrimination, unsafe work conditions, social injustice or whatever, often those partaking realize there may, and most likely will be, a price to pay, and they make the conscious decision that on balance, it is worth it.

With this backdrop, flash ahead to today and the protest over the dress code and the absence of a sexual harassment policy at Fredericton High School. I hesitate to compare this with Rosa Parks, but not every protest is world changing, but in the world of these female students, apparently it’s a big deal.


So power to them for standing up for what they see as a discriminatory policy. As is often the case in these things, the original purpose gets lost amid the over-the-top rhetoric including, in this case, the suggestion that with the dress code the school administration is nurturing a rape culture. But that’s beside the point.

What these students have yet to learn from history is that change doesn’t come easy, and those who lead the fight for change pay a price.


In this case, that price is suspensions and banishment from extra-curricular activities. But while it is under review, it is the consequence the people in charge decided on. And just as it was the student’s decision to protest, it is the administrations’ decision how they respond to it.

I would have a lot more respect for the students if they either accepted what was doled out, or protested further that the punishment is out of proportion. They would probably find public support for that because it does look like the administration over-reacted.

But at least it would be them making those decisions. But instead, it has boiled down to their parents fighting their battles for them.

So we have students, in challenging the administration over what they perceive as an unfair policy, acting like mature adults in protesting it. But when the going gets a bit tough, they retreat like children, cry about the consequences of their actions and get mom and dad to take up the fight. Or maybe it is the parents injecting themselves into the battle.

Either way, what does this teach these students about dealing with life in the real world? That if they face something that is unfair, that their parents will be there to look after it for them?

I just listened to one of these parents on CBC radio who did just that. She said she hopes more parents would get involved. Not that the students themselves would make their case, but that more parents would get involved. 

We keep hearing from experts that we have a generation of young people who are incapable of dealing with adversity or failure because they have never had to.

When I was in junior high, someone did something and the teacher in the classroom said that unless whoever did it confesses, all the boys will be punished. Can’t remember what it was but the teacher determined a male was at fault. The apparent discrimination of that aside, we were given a choice of getting the strap or staying after school every day for a week.


The discussion at home, and I expect in many homes, was around what we were going to do about it, emphasis on the “we”? No one’s parents got involved. No mom or dad went to the school to challenge the principal or the teacher. It was our problem and it was up to us to figure out how to deal with it.

A few years later, in high school, one day just about the whole school walked out to protest a decision that there would be no more school dances. I can’t remember what triggered that decision or how the whole thing played out, but again, it was our issue to deal with, and no ones parents got involved.

Times have changed. It is debatable but has it reallly been for the better? 

Thanks for reading. You can rate this blog below, Like it above, RT and/or leave a comment. Am I out to lunch on this, or bang on?  


duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Tue, 02 Dec 2014 17:22:44 +0000
Weird Al proves why I always liked him http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/weird-al-proves-why-i-always-liked-him http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/weird-al-proves-why-i-always-liked-him


I have always been a fan of Weird Al Yankovic. Always appreciated his sense of humour but even more so his turn of phrase. His parodies of pop songs were in many if not most cases, more inspired writing than the original. Also liked that he never felt any need to be vulgar. Everything he ever put out was family-friendly and genuinely funny.

But now, my appreciation of his talent has not gone up a couple of more notches, with not one but two of his new parodies because he takes on two of my pet peeves, poor grammar, and corporate speak.

The grammar one first. I’m not a purist in this regard (as evidenced by the first sentence in this paragraph) because I see English as an alive, ever-evolving language. Because of this, what is acceptable is a moving target. But that’s not license for anything goes; because you should have to know the rules before you break them. They teach us in school, or they used to anyway, that you should never begin a sentence with the word “and”. You can of course, but when Hemmingway did it, he knew what he was doing. Too many people today don’t. And that is a huge difference.

We’re talking literacy, and this is where the brilliance and delight of Weird Al has most recently shone.

Coming from the generation that made “I can’t get no satisfaction” one of the most famous song lines of all time this may sound a touch hypocritical, but it’s not. Jaggar did it for effect. Too many of those breaking grammar rules today simply don’t know any better.

Which brings us to Blurred Lines, a song by Robin Thicke that rose to Number 1 last year. It’s somewhat misogynistic and while the feminists are upset about that, others take issue with its poor grammar.

Enter Weird Al, who takes this somewhat dark song and turns it into a triumph of fun for those of us who still have an appreciation for proper English.

Here’s Word Crimes, the most entertaining grammar lesson ever.

If you enjoyed this blog, come back in a day or two for my blog on his parody of an old Crosby Stills and Nash song in which he turns his focus to corporate speak.   

You can rate this blog below, like it above, share, or add your thoughts below. Thanks for reading. 


duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Tue, 22 Jul 2014 00:10:21 +0000
Partners for Youth confirms endurance athlete extraodinaire Ray Zahab http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/partners-for-youth-confirms-endurance-athlete-extraodinaire-ray-zahab http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/partners-for-youth-confirms-endurance-athlete-extraodinaire-ray-zahab


Some may remember a while back I initiated an on-line discussion on Facebook on potential guest speakers for a celebration dinner to mark Partners for Youth’s 20th anniversary. We had lots of excellent suggestions. Every name recommended was considered, and in the end I believe we have ended up with the best possible choice. In fact, I dare say we absolutely nailed it.

You may not have heard of Ray Zahab - yet, but read on, and when you learn his story I think you will agree he is the perfect fit for an organization that is all about instilling self-esteem in young people.

Here’s a guy who was a pack-a-day smoker and coach potato, and he decides one day that he wants to get a bit more out of life.

For some of us that might have meant going to the gym, maybe some jogging or biking. Ray was thinking a big larger.

So in November of 2006, Ray and two friends set out to cross the Sahara Desert on foot. This incredible journey from Senegal, Africa ended when they stepped into the Red Sea 111 days and 7500 kilometers later.

That trek was an incredible test of endurance and of pushing limits, but it was just the start.  Other seemingly impossible walks followed. In 2009 he broke the world speed record for a walk to the South Pole, solely on foot and snowshoes, no skis. In 2010 he hiked across frozen Siberia, in 2011 across the driest desert on earth, in northern Chile, and just last summer, he ran over 2000 kilometers across the Gobi Desert.

But that’s only the half of it, and here’s where the fit with Partners for Youth comes in. Ray says walking the Sahara began for him a lifelong journey of discovery, where he learned that the biggest barriers to success are the ones we put upon ourselves. He says he learned that by breaking these barriers down, we are all capable of truly extraordinary things. That is a message he now brings to young people across his native Canada (did I mention he’s Canadian?) and around the world.

His organization, i2P (Impossible to Possible), is dedicated to inspiring young people to reach beyond their perceived limits. He achieves this through youth camps, speaking seminars, and by involving them in his journeys in many ways, from accompanying him to working on logistics and communications.

Our plan is to bus 300 youth who are enrolled in Partner’s programs from various New Brunswick schools to Fredericton for sessions with Ray during the day on June 12th, and then have him speak at our celebration dinner that evening.

The icing on the cake is that he is also an exceptional speaker, engaging, funny, and, as you might expect, with some incredible and inspirational stories.  If you don’t want to wait, or you want to get a taste of what the evening will be like, we have uploaded one of his TED Talks on our Partners website.

We see this as an excellent opportunity to educate people on our organization, and also to put on a first class dinner at the Fredericton Convention Centre as a fundraiser.

As you might expect, we’ll looking for sponsors and for people to purchase tickets and tables. It’s a wonderful cause and it will be a great evening you won’t soon forget.  For Ray’s presentation of course, but also for the meal, which Executive Chef Greg Godfrey will be creating with food produced from Partners for Youth’s agriculture partner, Sunrise Farm.  And, it will be a good opportunity to network.

It will be a great night, but we need you to help make it a success.

So here’s my pitch. If you are a business, union or any other organization, considering becoming a sponsor and be part of this. Or look at reserving a table for clients or employees. If you are not a business but are community minded, why not put together a group of eight people and claim a table. Or we can help match you up.

You can get more information and buy tickets at our Partner’s website.

Disclaimer – We at BissettMatheson are pleased to be working with Partners for Youth to help promote this event.  

Thanks for taking the time to read this.Since you did,you can rate it below or “like” it above, as well as leave a comment and, if you can help us spread the word by Retweeting it, that would be appreciated. 


duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Mon, 10 Mar 2014 03:58:58 +0000
It's one thing to cancel classes, but vacation? http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/it-s-one-thing-to-cancel-classes-but-vacation http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/it-s-one-thing-to-cancel-classes-but-vacation


First a disclaimer. This blog is communications-focused in one way or another. But I reserve the right to depart from that on occasion. This is one of those occasions. You have been forewarned.

So the UNB profs go on strike and all we hear from students is concern about how this could jeopardize their year. Most of us could sympathize. We could understand that. So we felt genuinely relieved for the students when the strike ended.

But now their chorus has changed. Their concern over studies is so, so yesterday. Now, it has been replaced by a concern over losing their March break.

I’m sure this is not true of all students, and I recognize it’s unfair to place them all in the same box, but the fact is something like 2500 UNB students have signed a petition asking that classes not be allowed to interfere with their vacation.

For some time, employers have noticed that new graduates often arrive in their first job with an unrealistic sense of entitlement. They want it all, and now. Employers find that one of the first things they have to do is temper down these expectations and educate these recent grads into the ways of the real world.

Is this the result of attitudes that are influenced by a philosophy that everybody is a winner, and all you need to do to get a medal is show up? Or is it a failing by their professors who may be instilling the academic knowledge to succeed, but don’t bother so much in molding the attitude it takes to be a success once these young people leave the sheltered halls of academe.

A hint on that might be in the response by none other than Miriam Jones, UNB Faculty President, who on the Gleaner website, took issue with the Gleaner editorial because it told the students, in so many words, that they need to grow up.  Jones was pretty critical. She said the Gleaner comes off like a villain in a Charles Dickens novel.

But the Gleaner wasn’t refusing starving students more gruel. What the Gleaner said was this: “We say this is a good opportunity for students to get used to the unexpected hard knocks of real life. There is work to do, after three weeks off, and the last thing they need is a vacation. They need to work.” 

Jones response, in part was “The last time I looked, being self-directed and actively working toward goals were better "real-world" skills than bowing down to "hard knocks."

OK, but it should matter how lofty that goal is. Not having classes so they can have a vacation many would see as somewhat on the lower end of the loftiness scale. But the fact the faculty rep doesn’t seem to understand this maybe suggests an attitude that could be part of the problem.

Very telling is a quote attributed to UNB student union president Ben Whitney who said there is a concern for student mental health if March break is lost. Why? Because there would be 11 straight weeks of classes, and then, after a four day break, exams.

Look, no question classes up until Easter break and then exams after could be a grind, and stressful, but guess what students? In the real world that’s the way it works.

When you whine about having to surrender a week’s vacation because something more important has come up makes you look immature. I’m not complaining because most days I love what I do, but I couldn’t count the number of times I have cancelled or delayed vacation because real life intervened – a client facing a crisis, a pressing deadline, you know, real life.

So su&k it up students. Consider it an early initiation into the ways of the world. And if you feel the stress of missing some vacation will adversely affect your mental health, for goodness sakes don’t ever become an entrepreneur.

Thanks for reading.  Now please rate it on the scale below, "Like" it above, RT it or add your comment in the space provided below.  



duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Wed, 05 Feb 2014 19:35:30 +0000
The communications challenges when NIMBY is in play http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/the-communications-challenges-when-nimby-is-in-play http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/the-communications-challenges-when-nimby-is-in-play


Could have seen this coming. So no surprise when I hauled Tuesday's Daily Gleaner out of the mailbox, and there on the front page is the headline “Village upset by proposed rehab centre”.


It concerns the faith-based organization Bridges of Canada finalizing the purchase of a property in Tracy that it plans to convert into a rehabilitation facility to help women suffering from substance abuse to get clean and get their lives together.


But as predictable as night following day, whenever such a facility is proposed, you get the NIMBY thing rearing its ugly head.


And the quotes from the people behind it are similarly predictable. In this case the words comes from a village resident, who is quoted in the Gleaner saying “I am all for rehabilitation, I just feel that Tracy is not the right place for this sort of thing.” Translation – not in my backyard.


Change the name of the community, and that quote is universal. It is trotted out whenever an organization wants to establish a rehabilitation centre or a halfway house or in some cases even low-rental housing.


The communications challenge for the organization is how to handle what has become the inevitable. When do you communicate what you plan to do? Do you hold a public meeting at the first opportunity, or do you wait until it's a done deal?


There's no definitive right or wrong, but there is plenty of case studies that suggest some approaches work better than others, and there is a lot to suggest waiting is better.


At BissettMatheson, we've been involved in doing the communications around a few of these kinds of projects, and have researched many others in developing our communications strategies.


Philosophically, we favour transparency and open communications, but saying this, it is important in these kinds of projects to get your ducks lined up first. This doesn't necessarily mean you wait until the very end, but you do have to be strategic.


Either way though, early or late, there's no guarantee of how smoothly it will go.


When an organization in Moncton was going to open a housing facility for people on the margins, we choose not to go public, but we did have the client meet with all the people in neighbourhood, not to ask permission, but to explain what they were doing, and answer any and all questions as honestly as possible. We felt it important that they heard from the client directly, before they heard about it from others. The result was no NIMBY backlash at all – none. It couldn't have gone better.


But with the building of a subsidized apartment complex in Saint John, despite full transparency our client had a protracted and very public battle with a local NIMBY group that spread to a full-fledged social media war and the threat of lawsuits. It was ugly at times, but in retrospect I don't think there is anything we could have done differently that may have changed that.  The only difference I can determine is that the neighbours in Moncton were reasonable, but the ones in Saint John not so much.


An example closer to home is the subsidized housing apartment building on Main Street in Fredericton North. Just before it opened, somebody tried to muster up opposition by distributing fliers that could best be described as fear-mongering. Luckily, they failed to gain traction.  


In the end, all these projects went ahead, and there were no problems at all.  That is the way these things play out. No matter how much hand-wringing there is over the establishment of these facilities, in the end they become either good neighbours ingrained in their respective communities, or they are forgotten, their work quietly continuing with the neighbours forgetting they are even there.


I have absolutely no doubt this will be the case for Bridges of Canada in Tracy. The only question is how bumpy the ride to get there will be. Perhaps they could have met with the community earlier, but to their credit, Bridges is committed to open communications, and, understandably, they were just waiting for the deal on the property in question to go through.  


This NIMBY thing probably won't go much further, but even if it does, or especially if it does, hopefully we won't lose sight of the fact that what Bridges is proposing here – a facility dedicated to helping women who have fallen victim to alcohol and drugs and the complications therein, including in some cases imprisonment, is desperately needed. Its presence will undoubtedly help the women who find their way there, and because of that, it will make our world a better place. 


If you found this blog worth reading, click the "like" icon above, or RT it, and if you have thoughts on it, there's some space below for those. Thanks for reading. 

duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Thu, 10 Oct 2013 18:02:00 +0000
Remembering Andy Scott http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/remembering-andy-scott http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/remembering-andy-scott


My thoughts are of Andy Scott today. And there are so many. The image that dominates though is of him holding court from his table at the market. We had some great chats there on Saturday mornings, he was such a greart stsory teller, but we would consistenly be interrupted by a steady parade of Frederictonians of every walk of life stopping to ask him about something, or thank him for some favour, or just the say hello. It was a testament to his popularity and the respect people had for him.


It was understandable because his priority really was to make this part of the world a better place for all. He knew the game of politics well, but more than that he was the epitome of what every politician should aspire to. His priority really was to serve, and he carried that out with a grace, and a sense of humour, but even more so with a respect for every person he dealt with.


And he did it tirelessly when he was an MP.  His workweek was unbelievable. From very early mornings to late evenings when in Ottawa, then a late Friday night flight to Fredericton, early Saturday morning at the market, then back to Ottawa for another week.


A couple of friends and I flew to Ottawa a few years back to receive an award on behalf of our credit union, and I arranged for them to meet Andy on Parliament. It was late evening before he could, but I will never forget the time he took giving us the full tour of the parliament complex, ending with him hosting us for dinner in the parliamentary dining room. He spent hours with us, until late in the evening, this after a very long day and an early morning meeting scheduled for the next day. But it wasn't just that he was doing me a favour – that's how he treated everybody.


On the political side, he had this amazing ability to build consensus. His election teams were the most diverse collection of individuals you could find anywhere. People who you were never expect to see in the same room, working together because they believed in Andy and what he was trying to accomplish.  He was a leader.


And he never shied away from the tough issues, including the emotional ones – the gun registry, same sex marriage, you name it and he was there, most likely holding one of his consensus building sessions on it.


Andy had the power of his convictions, and it carried him well. He was admired for so much but I think probably for this more than anything else. If you didn't agree he would take whatever time needed to try to bring you around, and most of the time he would. There's something infectious about someone who believes what he is standing for down to his core. That was Andy.


And that's why he was often involved up to his ears in issues that were close to his heart – poverty reduction, aboriginal issues, literacy. So it was so natural for him to throw himself into promoting lifelong learning as his second career after politics.


He has left us too young, but after a full life of accomplishments and of making a difference.


My condolences to Denise and his sons. 

duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Tue, 25 Jun 2013 17:12:00 +0000
Politicians behaving badly - why wouldn't we be cynical http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/politicians-behaving-badly-why-wouldn-t-we-be-cynical http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/politicians-behaving-badly-why-wouldn-t-we-be-cynical  

Having spent a lot of time around politicians over the years, first as a legislative reporter and in more recent years as a communications consultant, I know that most of the many of whom I crossed paths with got involved for the right reasons.


Obviously, there were politicians whom I had more respect for than others, but political stripe had precious little to do with it. No party, I found, has a monopoly on principled people, but make no mistake, there were far more good ones than ones that were, how should I put it delicately, ethically challenged.


So I never shared the cynicism much of the population has for our politicians, but I can certainly understand it. And these days, that lack of cynicism is being tested like it's never been tested before.


I'm not even talking about the mayors of Toronto and Montreal despite their best efforts to chip away at whatever respect we have for elected office. No, I'm thinking about what's going on in Ottawa these days.


We've got Prime Minister Harper being as obstructionist as possible on all manner of files, including most recently the Senate scandal. We've got his potential successor Justin Trudeau charging charities up to $20,000 for a speech, and Harper's other potential successor Thomas Mulcair allegedly saying “don't you know who I am?” to an RCMP officer who stopped him for blowing through a security checkpoint and several stop signs.


Talk about politicians behaving badly. Egos run amuck, poor judgments, compromised principles – is there any wonder ordinary Canadians feel a disconnect with our political leadership? Who among these, can we feel comfortable relating to?  Is there any wonder people are turned off so much that many have given up and don't even vote anymore?


I will never go that far. The right to vote is too precious. But before I do next time, could I see whoever is behind door #4.  Optimism springs eternal.


Remember if you like this - please hit the "like" icon up above. And if you have a comment, please share it below. 

duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Tue, 18 Jun 2013 17:10:00 +0000
Getting frank about homelessness http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/getting-frank-about-homelessness-1 http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/getting-frank-about-homelessness-1


The best communications is communications that leaves you feeling something. Last night's dinner at the Fredericton Convention Centre put on by the Canadian Action Group on Homelessness Fredericton (CAGH) did that in spades. And that something was hopefulness and inspiration.


Frank McKenna showed he has still got it as a gifted speaker. As Premier he wasn't particularly strong on social policy and homelessness wasn't something on his radar. And in so many words he admitted as much last night in a speech that struck me as incredibly honest and sincere.


He was the perfect speaker for this occasion for a couple of reasons. One, as a speaker he's very good and second, he has devoted a lot of time in his post-political life to humanitarian efforts such as helping in Haiti after their earthquake. Also, he's very respected in the business community.


So who better to make the case that helping eliminate homelessness isn't justified just on humanitarian grounds, but from, as he put it, in a “hard-nosed business sense” it's good economic policy.


That was the point of the evening – the positive point that homelessness can indeed be eliminated. Before McKenna's keynote, there was an on stage discussion with Tim Ross, the driving force behind CAGH in Fredericton, and Tim Richter of Housing First in Calgary. They talked about the success of the Housing First initiative there and elsewhere.


Pretty uncomplicated concept really. People need housing first or they can't make progress on dealing with the other obstacles to a fulfilling life.


And while just about all of us would agree homelessness should be tackled for humanitarian reasons, the story from Calgary is that a pretty compelling economic case can be made for eliminating it as well.


There are lots of pretty impressive figures that show it costs a whole lot less to deal with homelessness by giving people a place to live, than it does to allow homelessness to continue. This because of the considerable reductions in the costs of everything from emergency room visits to policing and the courts.


Want to see something really eye-popping on this? Read Malcolm Gladwell's essay Million Dollar Murray.


But back to last night at the Convention Centre.  Tim Richter made the point that we are already well on the road, and he referenced the way the community rallied after the Issac's Way fire left 26 low income people homeless and how, through the efforts of a good number of people all were placed in new digs.


My mind went to what has happened at the Fredericton Homeless Shelters over the past couple of years, with the success that is continuing of getting people who lived there, many for extended periods, finally into their own apartments, complete with the necessary supports to help ensure success. And it has been a great success.


Then I looked around at the sell out crowd in the Convention Centre, of people who shelled out $175 a pop for a plate of beans and wieners because they believe we really can do something about homelessness, and they wanted to be part of it.


As Frank McKenna put it “We are our brother's keepers.” And he spoke of the leadership in the room of people determined to make this happen. I did a quick inventory and could see it – Tim Ross, Mike O'Brien, Brad Woodside, Gary Stairs and others.


And then socially mixing with people afterwards as they lingered in conversation, you couldn't help but pick up on the buzz of optimism and determination.


There's work to do, and it won't happen overnight, but the evening ended with a roomful of people inspired to keep moving in that direction.


From here it's a communications challenge. To spread the word that Housing First makes sense as the way to go, both for social and economic reasons.


But it's do-able. And the main reason for this is because it looks like a tipping point has been reached where momentum is now on the side of those trying to get it done.


It's inspiring to see. 

duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Wed, 20 Mar 2013 16:55:00 +0000
Stompin' Tom - the real deal http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/stompin-tom-the-real-deal http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/stompin-tom-the-real-deal


He didn't have a great voice. He strummed a guitar no better than countless other people, and some of what he wrote could accurately be called hokey, but there was something incredibly genuine about Stompin' Tom Connors, something that ingrained him in the Canadian psyche.

I heard about Stompin' Tom's passing while I was watching the Leafs game last night, and they announced it. They talked about how The Hockey Song had become a standard in hockey arenas.

I went on Facebook and it was abuzz. Everyone it seemed was weighing in, many noting their favourite lines from Stompin' Tom songs. “I'm Bud the Spud from the bright red mud.”  “The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are gettin' stinko,And we think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday night.” “that woman of mine'll be in a box of pine before I hock my old guitar.”

And lots of folks shared stories about their memories of Stompin' Tom.

I certainly have mine. I recall canoeing down the St. Croix River with friends, singing Luke's Guitar and trying to do that growl thing Stompin' Tom did, that dang twang-a-diddle-dang-twang thingie that he growled out. Great fun.

So what was it about him and his songs that made him so popular? I mean, let's face it – some of them were god-awful. “The ketchup song” comes to mind.

But many of his other lyrics worked and worked well. The fact we remember them speaks volumes. Other songwriters would kill to have their songs remembered to anywhere near that degree.

But it's not just his songs; it's the whole package. We love a story of people overcoming adversity, and he had plenty. Born to an unwed teenage mother, he and her lived on the road hand-to-mouth, he even ended up living in prison with her for a while. Then Children's Aid took him and adopted him out, but at 14 ran away, hitchhiking across the country doing whatever odd jobs he could find.

Somehow it seems so fitting that his music career started when he found himself five cents short for a beer and the bartender offered to give him a drink if he'd sing a few songs. That turned into a steady engagement, then came Bud the Spud and he would never look back.

He went on to win six Junos and then, to protest the state of the Canadian Music Industry he gave them back, then refused his nomination into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. Talk about standing up for your convictions. You don't get any more patriotic than that.

Except maybe if you write 300 songs and put out four dozen albums, all Canadian in every nature of the word.

Stompin' Tom – Canadian icon, and the real deal if there ever was one. 

RIP Stompin' Tom – you were part of the soundtrack of the lives of a great many of us. 

duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Thu, 07 Mar 2013 16:53:00 +0000
Do you know what day it is? http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/do-you-know-what-day-it-is http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/do-you-know-what-day-it-is


Quick quiz. Whose birthday is it today? Here's a hint. If he hadn't died he would be 197, and probably his liver would be quite frail.


OK. I realize the accompanying picture probably gave it away, but if you hadn't checked out my blog, would you even know?


You wouldn't. And that's my point. The birthday of the man who is arguably the greatest leader Canada has ever had, and his anniversary is ignored. At least I could find no mention of it in a quick search of our major media – not a word mentioned on CBC unless I missed it, and not a word in the Globe and Mail.


By comparison, can you imagine George Washington's or Lincoln's birthday sneaking by unnoticed?


I recently saw the Lincoln movie. It was excellent. But what's not so excellent is that the average Canadian knows more about Lincoln than about MacDonald, despite the fact that what he did was equally impressive. 


There are a couple of reasons – sure, Americans are a more patriotic lot and sometimes they go over the top on that, and because of the economies of scale James Cameron or Steven Spielberg won't be doing a John A. MacDonald blockbuster any time soon, but still it's a damn shame Canadians don't know much about one of the greatest Canadians ever.


Part of the blame is the boring way they teach history in school. Mind you it's been a while since I sat in a classroom, but from what I'm told teaching of history hasn't improved much in the interim.


All that focus on dates, at the expense of the real stories was a damn shame. I was lucky back then because I had a teacher who managed to catch my interest by telling me about Joseph Howe. I became fascinated with the stories of how he bought a newspaper and was relentless in exposing political corruption at the time, and how he was charged with libel, and how he decided to represent himself. He testified for six hours straight, producing example after example of civic corruption. The judge still directed the jury to find him guilty, but the jury disagreed. It was seen as a giant step forward for Freedom of the Press. 


It was that story that hooked me on history, and influenced me enough that I decided to pursue a career in journalism.


Point being, our history matters. And the stories, in the right hands, are rich, not boring at all. And they can inspire. One of MacDonald's greatest strengths was his ability to find consensus among both his party and the Opposition. Today, that seems to be a lost art in politics, and lost with it are the opportunities and benefits for the country that consensus can bring.


Of course John A was no saint. He was human, and had warts galore, but those are important parts of the story. He was thrown out of office for bribery, but does that make him less great?


In the Lincoln movie there is a powerful quote at the end that summed up what had just transpired. “the most liberating constitutional amendment in history … had been passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America”.


Lincoln knew that buying off politicians was the only way he'd get the 13th amendment passed. You could say the same about Sir John A. and his railroad, a railroad that would eventually unite Canada as a country.


There's a group of us that meet at a local hotel for breakfast every Friday. It's a small but interesting group representing various political stripes and an array of professional disciplines. We talk about all manner of things and quite often the lack of national recognition of John A. gets kicked around.


This morning, there was a cake decorated with the Union Jack with a little statue of John A. on top, in recognition of his all but forgotten birthday.


I would have offered a toast in his memory, but all we had was coffee and water, and that would have been inappropriate on so many levels. 


But here's to ya John A., on your birthday. You really should be better celebrated.  



duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Fri, 11 Jan 2013 15:59:00 +0000
The company we keep http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/the-company-we-keep http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/the-company-we-keep  

Those of you who are familiar with BissettMatheson know that we are a small company, and unlike many of our competitors we don't purport to do everything.  We are primarily communications strategists with strong backgrounds in journalism and writing, with added expertise in crisis communications and media training.


Our edge, when it comes to providing clients with product that complements the communications strategies we develop, lies in the simple fact that we team up with people who are very good at doing what we don't do. But not just that – they are people who share our commitment to client satisfaction, and are a pleasure to work with.


People like writer Lane MacIntosh when we are looking for a specific type of writing, and Wolfgang Steffe of Desktop X-Press Graphic Design when we need a print ad that hits a specific tone.


The reason I am compelled to blog about this today is because we just launched a new website and promotional video for the Fredericton International Airport for which we relied on two of these strategic partners, Carter MacLaughlin over at Vagrant Web Design for the web site and the good folks at Atlantic Media Works for the video. 


Both we feel nailed what we were looking for. No surprise there, they always do. But we believe in credit where credit is due, so this is our way of publicly telling them thanks.


If you have a minute, have a look and tell us what you think. The site is www.frederictonairport.ca The video is there, but it's also right here. https://vimeo.com/50841077

duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Wed, 21 Nov 2012 15:36:00 +0000
Spin Gone Wild - when communications goes over the top http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/spin-gone-wild-when-communications-goes-over-the-top http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/spin-gone-wild-when-communications-goes-over-the-top  

Spin: The providing a certain interpretation of information meant to sway public opinion. (Wikipedia)


Anyone who follows politics would be familiar with spin as we see it every day. But the biggest example lately has to be around the US Supreme Court decision that Obamacare, as it has become known, is constitutionally OK and can go ahead.


In essence, it means something like 32 million Americans will now have insurance for health care that they otherwise would not have. That's a heckavu benefit for these people. But rather than the stories focusing on that, the “spin” took over.


For one thing the court ruled it is a tax despite President Obama insisting it isn't. But that's a minor point compared to the spin in overdrive displayed by the opponents.


When the announcement came down last week, I went to the Fox News website to see how they were playing it. (After Fox and CNN got past reporting it entirely wrong at first).


The headline on the Fox website – “Americans have lost the right to be left alone”. Say what?


Now that's serious spin. Millions of Americans who because of a pre-existing condition were denied coverage by insurance companies will now be able to get it, and millions others whose health would be in question because they couldn't access for example a mammogram to detect cancer will now have a fighting chance at catching it before it becomes fatal, but no mention of any of this in the Fox story, not even buried deep within it. Not a mention anywhere of what Obamacare actually does. The total focus was on how it is a step toward socialism, and is an attack on American's right to choose.


There is spin and there is spin, but my gosh, at least when we do it here in Canada there's a bit of balance.


Historical scholars say the United States is more polarized now than at any time since the Civil War. I highly suspect this kind of reporting is a big part of the reason.


I admit I have never been able to get my head around the resistance by so many Americans to see people in their own country who don't have health care, get it. It seems to me the opposition is coming mainly from people who have coverage. So in essence they are saying “I have it, but I don't want you to have it.”


I don't mean to sound like an America basher, because I am not. There is very much I admire about the U.S. but on this issue I just don't get it. Perhaps I am feeling more patriotic just now because we're just coming off our Canada Day weekend, but perhaps this issue defines a fundamental difference between Americans and Canadians, or more accurately, some Americans. I can't imagine we marshalling such opposition to something that has the potential to help so many.


Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he will nuke it on day one, take away this benefit for millions. And he said this because he believes it will help him get elected.


I guess I have gone beyond discussing spin here, or maybe it's my own. But it is a fascinating thing to watch unfold.  



duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Mon, 02 Jul 2012 15:21:00 +0000
Mark Twain – the ultimate communicator and, for me anyway, inspiration http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/mark-twain-the-ultimate-communicator-and-for-me-anyway-inspiration http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/mark-twain-the-ultimate-communicator-and-for-me-anyway-inspiration  

I was in Hartford, Connecticut recently, so jumped at the opportunity to visit the home, now museum, of Mark Twain. It was an absolute thrill for me to go through the house, as the guide explained what we were looking at, and told stories of Twain's life.


My imagination shifted into overdrive when I looked at the desk where he wrote, wondering how much of what contributed to my love of his writing, flowed right from that corner.


It's a strange relationship I have had with Mark Twain over the years. To me, he's the greatest writer ever. When I was in Grade 10 or 11, we studied The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I found it a wonderful story. I loved the writing, finding it so refreshing after Shakespeare and the Romantic poets and other such mind-numbing prose and poetry that they tried to shove down our throats back then. By comparison, Twain was a breath of fresh air, both for the writing style and the social commentary. This impression was reinforced years later when I reread it as an adult.


But back to grade 11. It was the end of the school year and the day I was scheduled to write my provincial exam on Literature. As the timing would have it, I heard on the radio that morning that there was a move afoot to have Huckleberry Finn banned from New Brunswick schools. I remember it so well. Somebody in Saint John had complained that the book was racist because it had the “n” word in it.


I was livid. To me, Mark Twain was about as far from a racist as you could get and anybody who thought Huckleberry Finn was racist literature either hadn't read it or didn't understand it. And to think that it may be banned because of such ignorance to me was just beyond the pale. My budding social conscience had been offended.


Now in my teenage brain, I assumed that these provincial exams are important things, and so people who may have a say in whether the book gets banned would probably mark them. So I ignored every question on the exam and instead spent my two-hour time allotment, writing an argument in defense of Twain and the book.


They didn't return provincial exams; all we ever got were our marks. I got a pass, barely.  Beyond that I'll never know how my essay was received. I can't remember much of what I wrote, but I like to think that whoever read it appreciated the passion, and maybe it was based on that, that he or she allowed me a pass, overlooking that I failed to take direction and answer any of the prescribed questions.


In latter years, I started appreciating Twain for his irreverence and his wit. On my desk I have one of those calendar pads, where each day is a new page and new quote. Mine are all Mark Twain quotes – today's is “Few of us can stand prosperity. Another man's, I mean.” Such insight into the human condition.


So what's all this doing in a blog that is supposed to be about communications?


It's this. If you aspire to write, in my opinion there is no one better to read. Over the years I have taken more inspiration from Mark Twain than from all the other writers I know put together. If I use a word that is too long, or write a passage that is too pretentious, I think about how Twain would make fun of it. And then I change it.


I like to think he has made me a better writer, even if it is from striving to hit a standard that is so ridiculously out of my league, I blush to even mention it.


An academic wrote that Twain's greatness came from his liberating effect upon language.  I can't argue with that. I absolutely love his use of language, and I thank him for liberating me from all those pretentious poets way back when.  







duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Wed, 06 Jun 2012 15:18:00 +0000
Lobbying - What it is and what it isn't http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/lobbying-what-it-is-and-what-it-isn-t http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/lobbying-what-it-is-and-what-it-isn-t  

As part of our communications services, we offer several workshops. Some, like media training we do all the time but others, not so much. One of the “not so much” varieties is lobbying. Not sure why – we just don't get asked for this one very often. But the other day we were approached by an organization enquiring about our providing this workshop as part of their upcoming convention. Apparently, somebody in their organization had heard about our lobbying workshop from someone who had attended it a few years back and thought it may be a good fit.


So since it has been a while, I needed to refresh my memory and see to what extent the content would have to be updated. As you might expect the “do's and don'ts” haven't changed much except a bit in regards to social media, but I wonder if people's attitudes toward lobbying have changed.


I have no doubt lobbying is seen in some circles as sleazy and underhanded. It is a reputation well deserved because of the way it has developed in the higher-level politics among our American cousins, such as with the NRA and the pharmaceutical industry. But while this holds little, some but little, resemblance to the Canadian reality, that perception I expect exists here. Current moves toward more strict disclosure regulations for lobbyists should make it more accepted because it will be more open and transparent, but maybe not. Perceptions die hard.


The fact is, lobbying is not only legal but also a democratic right and it is serious business not partisan politics. Many groups aren't as successful as they could be because they don't get this. Nor do they get that it is not about embarrassing a government into doing or undoing something. Mind you sometimes it comes to that, but it should not be the first option, just as going public shouldn't always be the first thing you do.


One group that understands the concept and practices it as well as any I am aware of is the CFIB, the Canadian Federation for Independent Business. They were a powerful lobby why back when I was a reporter, and while they have managed to remain so, not every group has. I remember for example when the New Brunswick Senior Citizens Association was a powerful voice for seniors in this province, but as a lobby group they are now a shadow of what they once were.  Same for the New Brunswick Federation of Labour.


I have to think a little more to come up with some good current examples of effective lobbying and also of efforts that missed the mark because the people doing it didn't understand what works and what doesn't.


If any examples, good or bad, jump to mind, please share. Meantime, I'm glad we got the call about it. It's an interesting topic and it will be fun preparing for and doing the workshop.



duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Tue, 22 May 2012 15:16:00 +0000
Some thoughts on Freddy's hunger strike, from a communications perspective http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/some-thoughts-on-freddy-s-hunger-strike-from-a-communications-perspective http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/some-thoughts-on-freddy-s-hunger-strike-from-a-communications-perspective  

I don't know Frederick Wangabo Mwenengabo. Never met him. But after reading about him in Adam Bowie's stories in the Daily Gleaner, I have nothing but admiration for him.  What he endured at the hands of the cruel and corrupt government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is more than any human being should face. His courage in fighting the good fight as a human rights activist against the unspeakable crimes visited upon the millions of innocent in his homeland is remarkable.


Freddy, as he is known to his friends, is now in exile in Canada, living in Fredericton, where he is continuing to try to make a difference in his country. This time by going on a hunger strike to try to get the Canadian government to boycott an upcoming conference in the Congo that it is scheduled to attend.


As much as I support his cause and admire his conviction, I wish he'd stop.


Sure, it would be nice if the Canadian government, and other true democratic governments didn't treat ruthless warlords as legitimate, but resorting to blackmail by refusing to eat isn't the way to go.


The problem of course, is that if the Canadian government concedes, it sends the signal that this tactic works. No question Freddy's cause is a legitimate one, but what about next time? Will we see someone go on a hunger strike to try to force the government to (fill in the blank).


Even Gandhi, who in fact did exact the change he demanded by a hunger strike, in fact three times, said that he didn't feel good about it. He called it “not quite pure”.


Gandhi did show though, that it can work, but from a communications point of view, hunger strikes only work when there is considerable, active and vocal public support for the person on the strike. I don't see it in Freddy's case.


His friends say his effort is gaining support. But that support doesn't seem to be mainsteam but rather confined to other human rights activists. Except for the occasional update in the media, and it for the most part only in this area, from what I can gather, Freddy's hunger strike is far from what people in marketing would call front-of-mind. It needs to be.


For a hunger strike to work, people have to rally in support. That's what it would take. Prime Minister Harper's advisors would have to see so many people on side, that politically he couldn't ignore it, or ignore it at his peril. He's not seeing that.


While I expect most Canadians support Freddy's objectives, perhaps what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo is so far removed from our reality that we simply can't relate to it. Or maybe it's because his hunger strike just isn't in our face? Maybe if he were doing this in a more public place? Maybe if there was a better organized effort to get names on petitions? Lots of maybes.


So his hunger strike is reduced to a point of interest, and maybe a passing thought of how what's happening in that far off land is such a shame, and they may feel sorry for Freddy and wish him the best, but it pretty much stops there.


Freddy did get a call from Fredericton MP Keith Ashfield, who told him he would bring his hunger strike to Prime Minister Harper's attention, but that was three weeks ago, and nothing since.  


Ashfield is a good, caring man. I expect he did what he could. But I wouldn't doubt that in the absence of public pressure, Freddy may be right in his assumption that Canada's interests in mineral extraction in the Congo over-rides human rights issues and that is why the Prime Minister is reluctant to upset the corrupt Congolese leadership when he doesn't have to.


And then there is the argument that more can be accomplished on the human rights front by attending these kinds of conferences and engaging the offending dictatorships than by boycotting. There is probably some truth in both arguments.


For the aforementioned reasons, I can see the Prime Minister not agreeing to Freddy's demands. But on purely humanitarian grounds he should at least call him and have that discussion. Let him know that the government of Canada isn't entirely insensitive to what is happening in that part of the world.


Freddy is doing what he feels he has to do. We have to respect that.  But at the time of this writing he is 35 days without food. He's getting weaker, and there is no indication he will stop. People on hunger strikes have been known to die after 52 days. In Freddy's case, that's two-and-a-half weeks from now (at the time of this posting). 


It will be such a shame if Freddy, who is such a good man, dies on our soil. If so, some will say it was his choice. In a sense I guess it is, but dismissing it as such is an over-simplification. This is much more complicated than that.


It's a tough issue. What are your thoughts?

duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Mon, 09 Apr 2012 15:08:00 +0000
A New Blog for a New Site http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/a-new-blog-for-a-new-site http://bissettmatheson.com/index.php/blog/entry/a-new-blog-for-a-new-site  

I'm not going to embarrass myself by telling you how long it has taken me to get my act together enough to start what I fully intend to be a regular blog. If you are an entrepreneur you will get it when I say in my defense that every time I turned my attention to this, a client issue would come up and that would take precedence. If you don't run your own business, you probably will not understand this, and just call me out for procrastination. To be honest, that would be fair too.  The real reason is probably somewhere in the middle.


But here it is, finally, in conjunction with the launching of our new website. Waddayathink?


Many thanks to the talented folks at OrangeSprocket for their invaluable help with this. I got to know Bill and Jeff and others on their team when I approached them to develop a couple of websites for David Alward's election campaign.  We were pretty demanding and they rose to every challenge, and nailed every assignment. So pretty easy call when we wanted help to redo our own BissettMatheson site. But hey, enough about them – let's talk about my blog. Ego much, you say?


But here's the thing. I'm passionate about communications and particularly crisis communications. It's much of what we do. And I like to write, so it would drive me crazy when I saw communications, public relations or crisis communications issues arise that I wanted to share an opinion on, but didn't have a platform. I would think – “If only I had that damn blog up”. So now it is up, so no more excuses. Simple as that.


In a way, this is kind of bringing me full circle. Long time Frederictonians of a certain vintage may remember, back in a time before internet let alone blogs, I used to do a daily commentary as part of my gig as News Director of what was then CFNB Radio. Anybody out there remember CFNB? I used to enjoy the privilege of every day being able to pontificate or rant at will and have people actually listen. Back then I was one of precious few to be afforded that opportunity.


The internet and specifically blogs has changed all that, so now we can all pontificate or rant, but unlike the days of CFNB, when aside from CBC we were for a time the only game in town and as such had considerable followers, there is no guarantee that anybody will listen to any specific blogger. That has to be earned. I plan to do just that.   


Here's the deal I'd like to make with you. If you'll come back here regularly and read my blog updates, I will do my best to keep them interesting and helpful. Not to say there won't be an off-topic rant from time to time, but mostly they will be communications and public relations focused.  And when you are moved to do so, I'd appreciate it if you let me know what you think. Thanks. 

Duncan Matheson

duncan@bissettmatheson.com (Duncan Matheson) Blog Tue, 13 Dec 2011 14:51:00 +0000