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Grace Toby – Freelancer



Our interview series continues with Grace Toby to talk about trends in the world of journalism and what she loves most about being a writer.

  1. What made you go into journalism?


“English was my major in university. I loved to write and found an internship at a magazine one summer. This is where I truly fell in love with journalism and the industry. Although the media landscape has changed drastically since I first went into the field, I love the idea of being able to learn about a variety of different topics throughout my work. It’s exciting to get an assignment where I need to research or learn about something I have little knowledge about.”


  1. What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about journalism?


“I love being about to write about a variety of different topics and interviewing strangers and having them open up to me. I get to learn something new with every story I write and it’s great to be able to share with readers new ideas or stories that they can relate to. My least favourite thing about the industry would have to be the uncertainty the future has to hold. The changing media landscape leaves little room to know exactly what will happen with new technologies and practices that are being adapted by media today.”


  1. Where do you see the industry heading in the next few years?


“I think in the next five years the industry will be very different. More online publications will surface with PR and marketing agencies having to adapt their pitching styles. More freelancers will be working in the field and individual relationships between freelancers and PR agencies are going to be very important.”


  1. What’s one piece of advice you can give PR agencies when pitching story ideas?


“Do your research. Make sure you know the beat of the journalist you are reaching out to. There is nothing worse than getting a mass email for people asking me to write about something that I have never covered before. Blanket pitches are not the answer here. If you aren’t sure about what the journalist writes about just ask them!”


  1. How to do you feel influencers differ from traditional media?


“I tend to only follow influencers that are experts in their field such as nutritionists, personal trainers, stylists, etc. I like to know the information being shared by those influencers is factually correct and authentic, since there is so much data being thrown around these days. The majority of influencers use content creation as a source of income and may not be the most knowledgeable about the things they are promoting.”


These five questions with Grace Toby were compiled by Kristina Mikhalkova, Coordinator, and Lindsey Soper, Consultant, APEX PR/ruckus digital. Follow Kristina on Twitter. Follow Lindsey on Twitter.

5 QS: Georgia Eliopoulos of Extra Sparkle Please

Georgia Eliopoulos
Extra Sparkles Please


Up next, we sat down with Georgia Eliopoulos, creator of ExtraSparklesPlease.com, to talk about future trends in the world of blogging and what she loves most about being an influencer.


1. Tell us about your blog currently and the direction you see it heading in the years to come

“Lifestyle! As 60 per cent of my followers are moms and dads, I want to provide more content about family life in general. I also want to talk more about personal experiences… the stuff people “don’t talk about”. Most recently I started adding in food and recipes.”


2. Why did you start blogging?

“When I started this blog my slogan was always “because she had so much to say and wants the world to hear it.” I had people in my everyday life asking me questions and decided to take that and make it more accessible to them… just one click away!”


3. What is your favourite and least favourite thing about being an influencer in Toronto?

“My favourite things are the experiences I’ve had and the people I have met along the way. I’ve met two of my closest friends through this industry – if all of this were gone, I still have friends for life. My least favourite thing is how cut-throat and cliquey it can be. I’ve learned that the reality is that the “bloggers supporting bloggers” concept may be true, but people will do whatever they have to do to get ahead.”


4. Where do you see the industry heading in the next few years?

“Personally, it’s going to be interesting. EVERYONE seems to want to be a blogger, so it is becoming very oversaturated. This is what I am doing for a living and I can see how many people are finding loopholes in the system, which sets back the ones who are staying as organic as possible.

“I think bloggers in the next 2 years will end up gearing their content more towards podcasts and “video diaries” (not YouTube); people will want to visually see and hear what people have to say rather than looking at the same photos of people at the same trendy cafes and restaurants. I think in 2 years, Instagram won’t pack the same punch and we will have to rely on a new, more realistic platform to be heard!”


5. What’s one piece of advice you can give PR agencies when working within their existing network of influencers, or those agencies that are looking to start working with influencers?

Be less sweet. There are a lot of influencers who have a sense of entitlement and people have to realize that you have to get through all the no’s in order to get a yes! I started working towards this in January and first started getting paid in September. Let us work to build a relationship with PR agencies and help you guys out. It goes both ways! Also, give us more links to purchase to include in our posts. For example, even if no one buys anything from one of your client’s posts, look at how many people’s interests are being piqued to go beyond Instagram and our blogs.”


These five questions with Georgia Eliopoulos were compiled by Kristia Pavlakos, Coordinator, and Laura Zechel, Consultant, APEX PR/ruckus digital.


How to get the internship

For many college and university students, the search for an internship can cause sleepless nights and worry-filled days. Our four interns can attest to these feelings because only a few short months ago those were the shoes they occupied. Fast forward a few months and all four are busy working in the world of PR. So we thought who better to ask for some advice on how to get the internship than our interns. Here’s what they had to say:



Kristia Pavlakos, intern coordinator for 6 months

“My best piece of advice is to not be afraid to take chances and get out of your comfort zone. If you want to grow and thrive in this industry, you need to network! One month before I got the internship (almost to the day, actually), I went to a networking event hosted by a Toronto-based magazine, The Kit. Everyone was so accomplished (and fashionable!) and I was absolutely terrified to start a conversation, but I set a goal to introduce myself to at least five people by the end of the day. I ended up speaking with The Kit’s marketing director, Evie and met with her a week later to discuss breaking into the industry. Forcing myself to get out there and talk to people really helped me with the interview process at APEX (and it was a bonus that APEX works with The Kit all the time!). It also helped me after I started working – PR is all about building relationships – with your coworkers, your clients and the media, among others – and learning how to start a conversation, how to ask questions and how to thrive in new (and sometimes intimidating) settings is a very important part of building any career.”


Kristina Mikhalkova, intern coordinator for 3 months


“Research! I can’t stress this enough. Research is the most important first step of getting your

internship. It’s important because during this process you’ll start to identify which organizations you really want to go through with the application process for and which you don’t. After you’ve done your research think about you, who you are and whether or not you will fit into the organizations based on the research you’ve completed. You have to find the internships that best suits you. Because after all, even though it’s a trial period in the workforce, you don’t to be going to work and waiting for the weekend. You want to love your internship.”


Kevin Behar, intern coordinator for 3 months


“Perseverance and networking. We all go through tough times where we are applying for internships and jobs and we are not getting responses. Keep pushing through that because eventually, you will begin to get those call backs, which is an awesome feeling. All that hard work will pay off. Networking opens doors for you. You could end up working for someone you met, or they can connect you with another internship opportunity. These connections can also give you a real sense of what it is like to work in that particular field because it’s important that you find something you like.”


Alison Chiu, intern coordinator for 2 months


“The first step is definitely to do your research! While looking for an internship, you want to make sure the organization or company you’re applying to is one that you feel would be the right fit and that you’re passionate about joining the team. Look into what the company cares about and what they’re involved in, as well as the responsibilities of the intern role. It’s a good idea to also research the people who will be interviewing you; you might have similar interests or have a better idea of what you want to share during your meeting. Along with lots of research, I found it was helpful to prepare myself for what information I wanted to share with my interviewers. Don’t have a whole script prepared, but think about your key points and stick to that. Otherwise, it’ll sound too scripted and disingenuous. When you think about your key points, think about ways you can stand out with your personality and experience with what they’re looking for. Making connections and being open to learning and new ideas is also really important, you never know who you might meet, and what you can do, unless you try it.”

MakeLab: edible selfies and laser cut swag

Last month, some of us at ruckus digital toured the MakeLab studio – a space tucked away in the downtown core pumping out larger-than-life event activations. Founder and creative director, Jonathan Moneta and lead events producer, Alyssa Janzen share their thoughts on digital technology and working with brands to create memorable brand experiences.


Founder + Creative Director

Jonathan Moneta is the Creative Director at MakeLab — a studio of designers, technologists, and logistics freaks who invent hands-on pop-up-style interactives for events. Three years ago, they took eight 3D printers to a Toronto bar and taught design ‘till last call. Since then they’ve taken their laser cutters, light tables, giant colouring books, and edible photo booths out of the lab, and into public events, brand activations, and parties of all kinds. MakeLab’s interactives leverage new technologies to spark wonder and creativity — and better social media engagement — in unexpected places.


What is MakeLab?

“Our studio explores technology + play. We take new technologies — like 3D printers, laser cutters, and other creative tools — out of the lab, and transform them into accessible experiences that let people meaningfully interact with them for the first time. We host in-studio workshops and produce live experiences at events around the world. Many of the interactives we’ve created ourselves, while others are tools that we have customized to create hands-on experiences at events, conferences, and festivals.

We’re a close knit team hailing from design, technology, and theatre. Our studio began with us taking 3D printers to bars and restaurants, showing people how to design in 3D for the first time. We thoroughly test each event offering, ensuring they’re designed for fun, and to stir creativity in unexpected ways. We work with brands, agencies, and event planners for public and private engagements.”


How did MakeLab get started? How and what did you see in the market that led to creating MakeLab?

“We started taking 3D printers to to bars and cafes three years ago and taught drop-in design classes till last call. Shortly after we began doing it, the Royal Ontario Museum invited us to create a Mesopotamian city-building 3D printing experience at their 19+ Friday Night Live series. This was the first big test of our hypothesis — that new technologies could be made accessible, would have mass appeal with demographics that would otherwise have little opportunities to engage with them, and that bringing real individual creativity to interactives would drive engagement. Even we were delighted by the results. We quickly became experts in teaching uninitiated, non-technical (and often somewhat intoxicated) people how to quickly design. And after several nights of packed events with our printers going at full speed, and hundreds of guests going from unaware of the technology to holding a 3D printed object they designed (and taking a million selfies with it), we knew we could build on this. We’ve taken the same approach to all our interactives, continually bringing in new tech and adapting it to events.”


What makes for a strong digital experience/activation? What elements should brands consider when planning an event they want a strong digital/online presence for?

“Giving people something that they can be proud to post about. We too often see brands begging for posts by incentivising sharing of a logo or hashtag with a contest or swag. When we design an interactive, we’re not thinking about reducing barriers to sharing, we’re thinking about how to help people create something they’re excited to share. We focus on creating something people haven’t seen or done before. It’s why we’re often using tools like laser cutters and 3D printers; they’re magical to watch and empowering to create with. We saw clients use more traditional photo booths with limited engagement/sharing. The idea behind our edible selfie photo booth was to take that interaction a step further. Laser-caramelizing photos onto macarons and cookies in front of people’s eyes is an authentic and new experience, and it’s shared with gusto.”


Where do you see the business/field going? Any trends you’re noticing in terms of the type of digital experience brands want to create?

“We’re seeing a lot of brands shift away from digital to more physical experiential. There are a lot of screen-based interactions in people’s day, and we’re increasingly being asked for interactives that involve physical, hands-on elements. Our Analog Instagram Light Table is one way we’ve begun catering to the call. Another is our giant 10-foot digital graffiti colouring book wall, where people grab electronic spray paint cans and create murals.”


If budget wasn’t an issue, what type of activation/experience would you most want to create?

“Oooo this is a fun question. We love interactives where people can walk away with something that continues to have value/presence in their lives. We also like really big installations that make a visual impact at events. We’re working on some new activations now that we can’t talk about quite yet, that combine big digital design, and physical paint and canvas.”


What’s next for MakeLab?

“We’re working with retailers on in-store interactives where people get to customize products on-site. The tools we use allow us to do much more than simple engraving, such as letting customers etch their signature or handwritten dedication onto perfume bottles and beauty products. We’re starting to book the 2017 holiday season with it. We’re also about to launch a new line of food + catering interactives made with lasers. Our Edible Selfie Photo Booth — where people get their faces laser-caramelized into a french macaron — has been killing it at parties, and we’ve got lots of new foods coming down the prototyping pipeline.”

These questions were compiled by ruckus digital digital content strategist, Vivian Kwong. Need digital help? Drop us a line.

Apps on my phone

As a millennial and a digital content strategist, it’s no surprise that I’m always on my phone – it’s an extension of myself and my work.

Community management is part of my job when managing the social accounts for APEX PR and ruckus digital. For businesses or brands on social, it’s important to stay on top of the engagement, especially what followers are saying about or on your account pages. While actively engaging with followers is how you build relationships with key players in the field, negative comments from followers can really damage a business’s reputation.

Here are the top apps I use for work!


Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter


These are the Big 4 apps. Needless to say, I have these apps on my phone at all times and they’re probably the ones I use most frequently. Whenever there’s an update, I see it on my phone first. I like being the first to know what’s going on in every one of my accounts.



My Hootsuite app allows me to manage content across different social media platforms in one place. It gives me flexibility because I’m able to switch around content when I’m on the go. It also allows me to monitor engagement from different social channels at a glance. Definitely a must have!




Emojis are now a part of most conversations that happen online. Why wouldn’t you want your very own personal avatar? I’ll admit, I was pretty late to get on the Bitmoji train – I only got it after Snap acquired Bitmoji’s maker, Bitstrips, but I’ve learned working in this industry that I need to keep my finger on everything. Even if I wouldn’t use an app personally, I need to understand what it does and how it works to find new and fresh social media opportunities for the brands I work with. That being said, my Bitmoji wears a Wonder Woman outfit and I love her.


Vivian Kwong is a digital content strategist at ruckus Digital. Need digital help? Drop us a line.

Visual story telling with Instagram Stories

Opportunities in visual storytelling continue to evolve each day, and as digital nerds we are constantly strategizing what content should go where, when and targeted to who.

A definite contender for brands would have to be Instagram Stories, which launched in August of last year.  (And the newest contender Facebook Stories, which launched a few days ago.) What was initially a feature of flattery (essentially another Snapchat), has evolved into something more robust (and in my opinion) surpasses Snapchat in many ways.

With Instagram Stories you can

– tag users (handy to call out partners, influencers, etc.),

– link to a website within the Story itself (it’s all about those web clicks and conversions my marketing friends), and,

– include Boomerangs (a personal fave where you can put it in a mini video mode that plays forward and backward).

These features, along with the usual editing capabilities (stickers, tags, filters, etc.), have led to over 150 million users a day posting to Instagram Stories.

Many brands jumped on board quickly, as it allowed for an established and often much larger audience (than Snapchat) access to the content. Instagram stats show that 1/3 of the most view Stories on the app are from businesses, which makes sense when over 70 per cent of users are following a brand (or two).

Today brands continue to use Stories as a spot to share

– promotional info and events,

– how-to tutorials,

– discovery content, and,

– authentic and exclusive behind the scenes experiences.

So, with the value of organic Stories proving itself in under a year, it’s no surprise that ads are now available. Fashion, beauty and alcohol brands were some of the first to test ads on Instagram Stories earlier this year.

With additional objectives and calls to action expected, there seems to be great opportunity for brands that want to integrate the vertical video, mobile-first approach, which according to this year’s Facebook Retail Summit is the way of the digital future, into their digital strategy.

Of course the effectiveness of the ads will depend on the audience, targeting and quality of the visual storytelling, which can (hopefully) suss out with detailed metrics.

Sarah Rogers is a digital account coordinator at ruckus digital. For more digital insights or to chat about your strategy, drop us a line.