An Ounce of Prevention…

I like to keep tabs on what’s happening in my adopted city, Vancouver BC, and today my Twitter pal Dixon Tam sent out a tweet about a post by our friend Gus Fosarolli in his Gus Digital blog.  It’s called “You Don’t Want to Drown Today”, and it centers on the efforts of a BC group called The Community Against Preventable Injuries to raise public awareness of drowning dangers.

Here are some sobering stats:

  • Half of the children who drown are alone and unsupervised
  • Alcohol was associated with 40% of drowning among Canadians aged 15 years and older
  • About 90% of people who drown while boating do not wear a life-jacket

The Community will be distributing beach towels and putting up signs and posters throughout BC. The overall message packs a punch:

“You’re Probably Not Expecting to Drown Today.”

Why did this post make me stop and write about this?

Because 40 years ago this summer, my cousin Robert O’Donnell drowned at the age of 17.

He was a smart, handsome boy who was loved by everyone. He was a wonderfully supportive son and brother. He had a promising life ahead of him. And it was cut short all too soon. To this day, I always wonder what the world would have been like with him here, and what he could have contributed to his family and community.

Hats off to The Community for all its hard work as it educates British Columbians that accidents can be prevented, and lives can be saved. Check them out here.

Have a happy – and safe – rest of the summer.

On Twitter? You’d Better Be Real.

A few days ago, my friend and social media maven Irene Koehler wrote a fantastic blog post entitled “11 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Me to Unfollow You on Twitter”.  After I laughed myself silly over #1 (you’ll see why), and smiled and nodded at all the others, my eyes lit again on #11.  Here’s what it says:

“You don’t get that authenticity is a key component of social media success. You have the default Twitter avatar or are using a photo of your dog. You haven’t completed your Twitter bio – come on, it is really, really easy to do. I don’t know your name and can’t find your blog, your LinkedIn profile or any other online presence…”

I couldn’t agree more.

I love Twitter.  I take it very seriously, whether I’m debating, offering advice,  or joking with friends.  Always, in the back of my mind, is one constant reminder to myself  –

Be real.

And I am, all the time.  My commitment to authenticity started with the page many people ignore, or scurry through, with no thought to content or context.

The Settings page.  Where you start to build your personal brand on Twitter.  Really.

I can almost hear the sound of heads snapping to attention.  It’s just a silly image and a tiny, insignificant bio, right?


If you are on Twitter to inform, engage, discuss, grow your business, join a community or support a cause, then give your brand the attention it deserves.

Think about how you want to look to the world.

I’m a strong advocate of an attractive photo or avatar that conveys something about you.  I’m not a huge fan of logos, unless you are writing exclusively for a company or product and not as yourself.  Otherwise, it’s hard to warm up to a logo in conversation.

Bios are short, but they pack a punch. And don’t forget – they are searchable, so choose your words carefully. Ask yourself a few key questions:

What do I want the world to know about me?

What is important to me right now?

What sort of people do I want to find and follow me?

Depending on how you answer, your bio may focus on your business, or the fact that you are looking for job opportunities.  Or it may be all about your hobbies, passions and talents.  Or your cats:-)

And it’s all good, because you’ve taken the time to understand what interactions you want out of Twitter.  And feel free to change the bio.  It keeps things fresh as your priorities change.

And yes, by all means add the links to your blog, Facebook or LinkedIn profiles  if they’re complementary to the brand you’re building on Twitter.

And ask for help if you need it.  Irene’s offered. So am I.  There are tons of smart, helpful people out there who would gladly offer their assistance in the name of authenticity and engagement.

We’ve had enough of names that are nothing but jibberish,  silly or offensive avatars, and NO story.  And we aren’t impressed if all you tweet about is yet another site that got you hundreds of new followers or another quick and easy way to make lots of money.

We want to talk to, learn from, share life’s moments with, and  help real people who are just as eager to do the same.

So if you are one of those people, I’d love you to follow me @CathyBrowne so I can follow you back.  For the rest of you, I have only one thing to say.

Please get real.

Twitter: For Me, It’s Not About What I’m ‘Doing’

Early last year, when I first put a tentative toe into the Twitter waters, I faithfully followed  people who responded quite literally to the question “What Are You Doing?”

They reported at fixed intervals during the day that they were hungry. Or thirsty. Or that they satisfied their hunger/thirst by eating/drinking something somewhere, and boy, was it good!!  Well, I got bored.  And impatient.  I almost gave up on Twitter. Thankfully, I had a change of heart and gave up on the masses who hungered and thirsted.

But “What Are You Doing?” remains a question I find difficult to answer.  I try hard not to report on what I’m actually doing, unless it’s either unusual, unexpected or quirky/funny.

And while Facebook’s “What’s On Your Mind?” reflects thinking as opposed to doing, it’s still not the question I’m mentally responding to when I tweet.  In fact, I think I have several.

Here are just a few:

What Am I Feeling? – Often what I post is directly related to an emotion, rather than an activity…I’m happy, sad, excited, inquisitive, thoughtful, incensed – and I want to tell people about it because that reflects who I am.

What Have I Learned? – So much of what I do on Twitter involves recommending great people and passing on valuable information  that I’ve gathered from articles, blogs, presentations and my own work/life experiences.  Twitter is a perfect vehicle for sharing what and who you know.

Does Anybody Know…? – When I have a burning question or want an opinion on anything, at any time, Twitter is the best place to be.  And whatever I learn, I re-tweet:-)

How Can I Help? –  The opportunities to support a worthy cause, to offer a helping hand,  or just listen to someone who needs a sympathetic ear are endless on Twitter.   I love to reach out whenever I can.

What Have YOU Got to Say? – I don’t want it to be all about me.  Engaging people, many of who I’m never likely to meet, is a blast.  It offers new insights, sparks conversations, builds communities, cements friendships,  and sometimes makes us laugh – and cry.

What inner questions motivate you to tweet?  I’d love to know.  Wouldn’t it be terrific to give Twitter some new food for thought?

Not Your Typical Fish Story…

Vancouver (and social media) have been very good to me.  In less than four months I’ve met wonderful people, and attended amazing Tweetups, meetups, conferences and fundraising events that have enriched my experience here.

Last night, I was privileged to attend the 2nd Annual Red Carpet Soiree in support of the Canadian Red Cross, which celebrates its centennial this year.

I owe this to Twitter.  And a special fish recipe.

A few weeks ago, someone tweeted that Canadian Living Magazine’s Foodie-File blog was giving away two free tickets to the contributor who submitted their favorite fish recipe.  So I sent them my friend Barbara’s halibut and potato stew, which she has made for many a Friday night Shabbat dinner when I lived in California.

And I won!!  I was stunned and thrilled.  You can find the recipe online here.

It was a grand event, held at the incredible Blue Water Cafe and featured limitless seafood, sushi and canapes, and fine wines donated by Mission Hill Family Estate.  My good friend Bonnie and I had a lovely time.

But I want to remind people why we were all there – to demonstrate our support for a revered organization that has done so much for Canadians and citizens of the world for 100 years.  And as usual, Vancouver responded with its customary generosity.  This is an amazing community.  I love it and I’m honored to be part of it.

The party may be over, but the need remains.  Check out the Canadian Red Cross website and help them continue their magnificant work into their next century of service.

I’m Back…and Working for a Good Cause

Hi everyone,

Sorry it’s been awhile.  Many things have been happening – lots of them good.  And I’ll be catching you up over the next several days or so. I’m sorry that the busy-ness has taken me away from this blog far longer than I ever wanted, and I’m determined not to let this happen again.

I love talking to you too much

One thing I have been doing is volunteering for a few worthy endeavors.  I’ll be telling you more about them all.  But tomorrow, I’ll be devoting my time to a very important cause  – the Vancouver MentalHealthCamp – that’s outlined below in the press release I wrote.  I’ll also blog as much as I can.

My PR career began in non-profits.  I’ve never forgotten how difficult it is for these organizations to gain mindshare.  I hope my time and efforts can influence others in my field to do the same.  It’s worth every minute.

So read on, and track the day’s events on Twitter under #mhc09.  You’ll see me  – and many others in this giving, caring Vancouver blogging community there.  And feel free to add your voice here, or on the MentalHealthCamp site at  Many people will thank you.

It’s so good to be back:-)

Vancouver’s First MentalHealthCamp Scheduled for April 25

Day-Long ‘Unconference’ to Examine Positive Affects of Social Media in
Mental Health Education, Treatment

VANCOUVER, April 22 /CNW/ – According to the Canadian Mental Health
Association, mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time
through a family member, friend or colleague. In fact, 20% of all Canadians
will personally experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. This
can range from a decrease in mental wellbeing (e.g. acute stress, anxiety and interpersonal problems) to chronic mental illnesses including clinical
depression, heroin addiction, schizophrenia, or bi-polar disorders.

Mental illness is widely feared and misunderstood, resulting in lack of
treatment, discrimination and isolation. In an effort to help combat the
stigmas surrounding mental illness, Vancouver’s rapidly-growing social media and blogging community has organized the first-ever Vancouver MentalHealthCamp on Saturday, April 25. The day-long ‘unconference’ will be held at Workspace 400 – 21 Water Street, from 9am – 5pm.

MentalHealthCamp is being coordinated by two prominent Vancouver
bloggers, Raul Pacheco-Vega PhD, a recognized authority on environmental
policy and Isabella Mori, a Vancouver psychotherapist and writer.

“We came up with the idea for MentalHealthCamp as a result of very
positive feedback we received from a panel discussion about social media and the stigma of mental illness at the 2009 Northern Voice blogging conference,” said Dr. Pacheco-Vega. “We believe that social media tools like blogs, Twitter and Facebook can be used to openly discuss issues, share information, and enable people who are struggling with mental health issues to find a voice and make it heard.”

“Social media can be therapeutic,” Mori said. “Sometimes an individual’s
need for support feels overwhelming. Individuals get a feeling of relief when
they can read someone else describe a struggle that they are privately
experiencing. This validation is priceless, and is one piece of professional
therapy that patients find so helpful.”

Among the issues to be discussed during the sessions are:

How can blogging help decrease the stigma of mental health?
How does someone with a mental illness navigate the waters of
anonymity in the transparent world of social media?
How is the journaling that happens in blogging similar to or
different from journaling for healing?
How can social media participants with mental health issues help each

Registration to MentalHealthCamp is limited to 75 attendees interested in
mental health issues and/or social media. Admission is by donation, and no-one will be turned away for lack of funds. “Every effort will be made to help all attendees keep as much anonymity and confidentiality as possible in such a venue, and we are planning to have counselors available to attendees,” Dr. Pacheco-Vega added.

“We’re all extremely grateful for the generous support and sponsorship by
WorkSpace and the British Columbia Mental Health Foundation, and the help of numerous volunteers,” Ms. Mori said.

For more information, or to volunteer for the event, email or visit the MentalHealthCamp blog at Also visit the Vancouver MentalHealthCamp on Twitter @MentalHealthC.

Dr. Pacheco-Vega:
Ms. Mori: