I am driven, resourceful and highly passionate about learning, leading, and putting brands front and centre using my content, email, and social media marketing expertise. Oh, and I like writing about AI too!
Author: Chona Fe Canlas - Writer. Artist. Designer.
Chona creates powerful content poised on the edge of innovation and the mainstream. She seeks out new concepts and strategies aimed to help businesses advance in branding, marketing & sales. She specializes in creative/technical writing, brand strategy and art direction.
I love to write, and emails are a breath of fresh air.
No editing. No fancy words. No issues over length. No need for profundity.
It has been almost five years since I left Bell Mobility to pursue a career in marketing, and one thing that has drastically changed is how often I communicate via email.
I miss the simplicity of it all. I miss reaching out to my clients daily. I miss the back-and-forth motion that builds connection.
At Bell, I had so many great relationships; I used email to build better ones along the way. It was just so damn efficient. Templates allowed the writing to take shape quickly. In mere minutes, I was sending off concise and compelling messages. Over and over again. Each email was re-read once, at most twice, and then sent so I could continue to the next case. It was a beautiful workflow, and it was all supported by Salesforce.
And by the way, I am trying to write more like Seth Godin. Also, finding my way back to my university days. My favourite professor and mentor, Paul Woodrow, graded an essay I wrote on the fallacies of Coca-Cola, commenting in tiny writing and bright green ink, “Swift and punchy, Chona!”
So begets my email manifesto –
I will always try to write swift and punchy.
If I can remember to, that is.
Alas, I have a pop quiz for y’all.
I want you to decide which entry below is authentic, meaning not edited. And which one is “fake”, as in completely and utterly revised from its original style + tone.
How can you tell? What gives it away? Which is written better?
Ah, so many questions to ponder, but if only we had more time.
Off to bed, now, enjoy the exercise!
For all my years as a Corporate Account Manager at Bell, some of my fondest memories included writing emails. I loved how fluid and uncomplicated it was to craft messages on the spot without spending copious amounts of time editing. I would not mind working on some ideas to “wow” our current and prospective customers with something easy to read, memorable, and impactful!
I spent many years as a Corporate Account Manager at Bell, crafting friendly and professional emails. I thought it was so exciting (yup, I love communication!) to be able to write something on the spot that didn’t require any editing. It’s an art form really. Would love to work on some ideas to incorporate more emails into how we communicate with our customers.
Job hunting can be gruelling. For six months, I searched for the perfect fit. I did everything I could to embrace the energy, excitement and engagement that comes with it, but frankly, I was exhausted. Each step required work. Hard work. It felt like a fight for my future. I was gaining momentum, but I did not feel empowered. I wanted to make positive decisions that would bring me closer to achieving my goals. So I created a mission statement to give me a sense of purpose. I added it to my resume with gusto –
My vision as a marketer is to empower and inspire people to make a difference in their daily lives.
These words, within my experience, proposed change as a way to improve and move forward. Suddenly, I was motivated to find the next step in my career and not just a new job. Suddenly, I was searching for similar words in job descriptions as a way to feed out mismatched opportunities. I felt like I was in control. By developing this meaningful statement, I was working on myself. I started to see that helping others was important to me, and I wanted to find work that would help me grow into a person who could Make Change Happen.
Making my routine move, I visited their website. A sentence, written in white, spread across the front page drew me in. Helping you do your best work. It reminded me of my mission statement! I envisioned the word empowering substituting the word helping and knew at that moment that my marketing mind was intrigued. Then I thought, what is my best work? The answer to that? Me. I decided right then and there that Clearbridge was invested in this tagline—they want to empower their customers to do their best work and employees to be the best versions of themselves. This brief exercise in recognizing worth drove me to apply, and the rest? Keep reading.
We always have a choice and the option to take the first step. In the context of job hunting, if we choose the best option, that is, making positive decisions that bring us closer to achieving our goals, then we are empowering ourselves. The concept of connection becomes a critical building block here. Connection is about linking two entities that work better together (think: peanut butter & jelly). When you take time to recognize a connection (they stick so well together) and then work toward building that relationship (how many versions of a pb & j sandwich could you make), you are creating the best ways possible to put yourself in a favourable circumstance (eating the pb & j sandwich), and there is nothing more empowering than that (delicious).
Learning to see
Since becoming a marketer, I’ve been inspired by the work of Seth Godin. He says you can’t be seen until you learn to see, and this was my experience applying for the Marketing Coordinator position at Clearbridge.
My first interaction was with Amanda, the People Operations Coordinator. Bright and outgoing, she started our conversation with a compliment. Now, how often would that be the way to begin an interview? I was drawn to this approach. She acknowledged me (creativity and all), and I appreciated that. Acknowledging or demonstrating gratitude and acceptance is one of the best ways to get to know someone (am I right Amanda?).
After a spirited discussion about my interests, work history and marketing experience, Amanda reinforced our connection through her use of positive language and overall eagerness to empower me through the next step. I was impressed and wanted to learn more about the position and the company. I was starting to see what Clearbridge was about! She scheduled a meeting with the CEO (Ryan) and Operations Manager (Allison) early the next day.
The interview went smoothly, and I noticed something about Ryan and Allison. They were both contemplative, friendly, and engaged. There were moments when I got stuck on a few questions—I get nervous. I used these opportunities to find inward answers and show my resourcefulness. There was a lot of feedback. It felt like we were all learning from each other. By the end of the interview, we were smiling pretty hard, and for the first time in a long time, I felt seen.
I returned to work feeling ecstatic about the new connections I had made. It felt like they were offering me the opportunity to take my career to the next level, focus on what mattered the most, and grow as a person and creative marketer. Minutes later, I received a phone call from Amanda. To my delight, they offered me the position!
Doing better is often described as arriving home. This is what I felt when I joined the team at Clearbridge. Suddenly, there was a better space for me to dream and create (more peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, right). I was welcomed into a cool, bustling office filled with natural sunlight and a sense of possibility. During my first week, it felt like each day was a chance to do better and become a better person. Someone my peers could rely on. I learned that my true calling was not just about fulfilling a lifelong dream or pursuing an arbitrary passion. It was about being connected with the right people and being in the right place at the right time.
Sitting at my new workstation, I leaned back into my ergonomic chair and beamed.
When you know something is just right, you know it is (I can’t stop with the pb & j references!). But there are a lot of clues that can help you see better.
Here are some I can take away from my first week at Clearbridge:
When the team takes time to put you through a well-thought-out onboarding process, you know they are devoted to empowering you, helping you feel ready to take on the responsibilities of your new role.
Working in a space that promotes collaboration for someone with creative inclinations is living the dream. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
Joining a company that embraces change is everything. This especially matters when you’re creative because ideation thrives in a facilitative environment. If I’m able to grow creatively, I know I will become a better marketer and, in turn, can create and develop the best ideas because I am part of a group of people now who value that too.
Feedback is essentially a means of trust. It allows us to discover possibilities, and at the same time, we earn the right to discover our peers’ communication styles. Once we unlock this type of interaction, we can evolve as human beings and accomplish larger goals, like I’ll be honest—changing the world!
In pursuit of innovation
Seth Godin says, “The first step on the path to making things better is to make better things.” This is now my truth since joining Clearbridge.
I’ve always been driven and ambitious. From a very young age, I partook in various extracurricular activities, from public speaking to creative writing and sign language classes to competitions with my classmates on who could act out The Babysitters Club book series with the most panache. Life back then was always about showing the world who I was and what I was capable of.
In my first week at Clearbridge, I feel like that kid again, taking on my dreams as if there were no limitations. I’ve also learned a thing or two about communication strategy. For one, you need a dedicated team that wants to make change happen for anything to improve. You also need to be laser-focused on outcomes and putting the best systems in place to win in every situation. We must constantly be challenged to innovate in our domain, then share our knowledge with one another, our customers, and partners.
We are doers
From snacks of every kind (lots and lots of chips, locally-made ice cream, and most critically, Phil & Sebastian coffee) to a business book library, the environment at Clearbridge supports doing. There’s no hiding in a cubicle as if you didn’t exist. It’s more like—look around you and see. See everyone and everything in its place. I’ve already started working on a social media strategy that will educate and engage our audience around technology, helping them find pertinent information (hello cybersecurity), how-to-dos, tips, tricks, and hacks that every person can find handy. I am also working on a company manual that entails everything from branding guidelines to who we are to our communication strategy. It will be a living document and serve as an introduction for future Clearbridgers.
Building great relationships with great communication
So, it all comes down to this—through empowerment, connection, communication, and the desire to do better (and find the best ways possible), we can succeed in work and life. I know that’s a big statement to make, but since joining the team here at Clearbridge, I feel that is the journey I am on. What’s more, I am starting to build strong relationships founded on intention. We are all here to do great work. We all want to understand that. I hope my time will be productive, meaningful and filled with positive transformation for Clearbridge and me.
How did you feel when starting a new job and what made you think it was the right choice? Share your comments; we would love to hear them!
Effective communication is simple, straightforward, and accurate.
It follows a linear path and is easy to digest.
Still, in its best forms, it can empower and inspire us to uncover new ways to respond to business demands and challenges. This is change!
a b c
For example, by understanding what type of communication drives our customers to choose us over the competition and then using that data to promote growth, we can harness communication to cultivate opportunity.
a b c
a b c
Here are some things to consider:
Be self-aware and understand the need to adapt your message to your audience
Communicate what you are doing, why you are doing it and how you are going to get there
Build a system or process, then be accountable and track your progress
Focus on transparency, empathy and consistency to elevate trust
Create opportunities for learning and development
Practice active listening to understand and feel the situation
Share your milestones, challenges, concerns and victories
How do you develop an effective communication strategy? What are some important values that support your communicative work?
After all that hard work, you’ve finally made it here.
I’m ready. She’s ready. She’s finally prepared!
“Where are you going?” it asks quizzically.
Well, I am headed toward reality.
It’s bursting at the seam from being grappled for so long.
I’ve been waiting, hankering, perfecting my song.
“Do you know where you’re going?” it asks once again.
Well, I certainly have an idea. The spot is a delight. Filled with smiling faces, happy circumstances and scenarios of hard work.
“Well, welcome home then, I suppose!” it pats my back congratulatorily.
Why, thank you, my friend! Now, let’s pencil this in!
A little explanation:
On Monday, March 14th, 2022, I had a wicked phone interview that started with a compliment about the same content you’ve been passionately reading here on ChonaBLOX. Swiftly, I was scheduled super bright and early the next day, Tuesday, March 15th, 2022, to meet the CEO and Operations Manager of Clearbridge Business Solutions. I walked away from that interview, thinking I had done horribly. And as I arrived at work, I furiously texted my husband, saying, “Man, I’m worried. I don’t think I did that well.” But it turns out I did because I received a phone call within minutes saying they wanted to offer me the job! So, it’s done. I’m starting a new journey with my new company, Clearbridge. So excited! This is going to be a lifetime experience. Can’t wait to get started!
It’s weird how important points in life can become permanent as art—written in 2018. In other words, it can feel like the universe has swallowed me up, and I have become a planet—experienced as a child and adult. So big, my sight became distorted—on the drive into work. I would look at my bedroom door, and its imposition startled me—the nightmare. I tried to comfort myself by huddling underneath the blankets, but they too swallowed me whole—while dreaming. It was and still is the most alarming thing I have ever experienced.
What is the fear factor? The risk that you will not change. The fault of your pursuits. The question of your intentions. We form who we are based upon who we’ve been and are set on a continuous quest to find and form a new self. These pieces have formed me for a small portion of time, yet they are timeless, ongoing representations of growth and quiescence. My art is my refuge. How do you relate?
I’m no design wizard, but I have an eye for harmony and style!
These images were created as draft ads for a publication. They are not final but simply an example of my design strategy at work.
What strategy is that, you ask?
Well, for a multitude of reasons, there is always a small group of work that stands the test of time. I hold on to these works, for I know they will come in handy later.
And so, I found some old designs used to create our persona project Facebook ads and decided (ever-so-decidedly) that they were appropriate to appropriate (see what I did there) for this particular task.
So alas, using my trusted canvas called Canva, I copied the design in the new dimensions and spent about 2 hours iterating upon iteration, if that could be a thing!
So, what are your thoughts? Which one speaks to you the most? Which one do you think the team went with? Let me know!
Day to day, I think of ways to express the importance of change. How it can help guide us toward growth. How by honouring and trusting in it, we can start to thrive.
Still, we have such a hard time adjusting our habits. They are formed and a part of who we are, though not always good for us.
What happens when you start the process of change and go backwards, reverting to previous habits, undeciding that you’re brave enough to follow through and succeed?
These are the questions I am constantly asking myself. What will be the conclusion? How come we’re not there yet? Will we ever arrive?
And so, as change is constant, we can only continue on our quest, taking the small steps to bring us closer toward our goals.
As you search, tell yourself you’re alright. Then, document your actions and take time to examine how you got to each stage. As Deepak Chopra says, “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” Chaos being –
A United Nations report declares we have reached “a breaking point”.
So, what does that mean?
With almost 10% of the 8 billion people living on this earth suffering from malnutrition, 3 million lacking healthy diets, and climate change issues rising to the forefront, it is no surprise that we are in desperate need of a way to produce more food without harming the environment.
The report reviews a few critical ‘climate change impacts’ like reversing water degradation by choosing smart technologies and sustainable farming practices or sequestering greenhouse gases emitted during agricultural activities by employing regenerative farming principles.
And perhaps the most critical solution of all? Deploying technology to enable a more connected agriculture and food industry. In my opinion, we can become powered by data and collaboration, putting us in a better position to come up with answers to big global problems and, in the long term, create a more resilient economy.
Still, to make an impact today, we need to understand the challenges and realities that farmers face now. So your first stop is here.
I am so passionate about educational marketing. It inspires me to look beyond the standard expectations of my role. For this project, I tried to situate myself in the mind of a teenager reading a presentation about a job in farming. It’s so much more than that though. It’s igniting their energy with thoughtful and calculated design. It’s creating flawless headlines and engaging copy that will leave them fascinated and motivated. More urgently, it’s about arming that younger generation with the knowledge to pursue a rewarding career in an ever-growing and transitioning industry.
Our primary call-to-action invokes us to – farm smart start today. We’ll provide you with the education and the technology to succeed. To change your operation for the better. To help the planet survive. So let’s band together and fill each other with hope to prepare ourselves to fight with our minds and hearts to beat global problems like a growing population, food waste, and climate change.
I hope to participate in more projects like this in the future and maybe even join the classroom for some face-to-face interaction and hands-on teaching!
Read more about the project I launched here. Alongside a blog series, these are the assets I designed for the students:
And here are the blog graphics that were used to complement the content. I mimicked a rainbow effect because the colours of a rainbow positively impact our brains, affecting emotions, mental clarity, and energy levels. We all know long nights of studying could take advantage of a rainbow or two!
The ‘support local’ movement is a force driving change worldwide. It moves people to want to purchase fresh, healthy products from farmers. It creates a connection between shoppers, where we can ignite conversations to examine how we’re doing our part and why it’s so important. Products are showing up more readily and in places where you least expect to see them. Overall, there is a feeling of togetherness, kindness, and open-mindedness that helps promote awareness and captures the interest of new, existing, and prospective customers.
I wanted to create a fun digital ad that spoke to the nature of the ‘support local’ concept, one that explores options (expressed using a carousel format), eliminates predisposition (articulated in the ad copy), and ultimately grants us the ability to choose (the call-to-action ‘but local first’) – take action (decide what you want to eat for breakfast) or take action through inspiration (are your eggs local? Well, you can get them laid the same day of delivery! How awesome is that!). The inspiration trickles through in a matter of seconds affecting all those involved (conveyed through various images, colours, animation, and the image of a family). As individuals watching the ad, we feel more attuned to thinking about what’s on our plates, how it got there, where it comes from, and why our consumption habits can negatively or positively impact the planet. The focus remains on the following values –
Help the planet
Grow the community
What are your thoughts on this ad? If I could make one change, I would use a graphic of a globe in place of the farming graphic (at the end of the video). Does it speak to you and make you feel empowered to support local? Let me know your thoughts; open to discussing with you!