THE BUZZ Your source for everything indie

March 2021: diversity and Inclusion



THE INDEPENDENT VIEW: How to bring D&I into your Indie business

Nkiru Asika, our chair, shares eight ways you can be part of a joint commitment to stay inclusive to all races, ages, genders, cultures, religions, abilities and sexual orientations


PIC personality: Meet Caroline Horcher

Learn from PIC member Caroline Horcher about the journey from employee to indie, interviewed by Anjali Rego, IABC/Toronto’s social media manager.


18 tips to make it through the pandemic

Sue Horner, PIC's director of social media, sums up the tips, trade-offs and coping mechanisms of a diverse representation of Toronto indies as we enter the second year of COVID-19.


Video: embracing neurodiversity

Nancy Miller, PIC's director of communications, argues that we need to embrace neurodiversity and take a more enlightened perspective of the human brain into our business practices.

PIC and IABC/Toronto stand firmly against racism and discrimination. In our online and in-person activities, we aim to provide an inclusive space that is welcoming to all and fully representative of the diversity in Toronto. We see you, we hear you, and we are with you. We also welcome your comments and suggestions on how we can do better. Please email our chair, Nkiru Asika, at toronto-sig@iabc.to.


The independent view: How to bring D&I into your indie business

By Nkiru Asika

An independent practitioner has the same reasons to embrace and promote diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a large corporation — it’s both good for business and the right thing to do. So, how do you run a more diverse and inclusive business when you’re a solo freelancer or a small team? Here are eight ideas.

1. Intentional Messaging

Be intentional about neither creating nor promoting messaging that excludes or offends any race, gender, culture, religion, ability, sexual orientation or age.

2. Leverage technology

There are a slew of apps that can support your mission to be more inclusive. Check out language tool Alex, which removes insensitive language, the free site Gender Decoder, which helps you identify and remove unconscious bias, and the amazing app Accessibe, which will upgrade your website to full compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) with a few lines of short code and an affordable monthly subscription.

The amazing app Accessibe will upgrade your website to full compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) with a few lines of short code and an affordable monthly subscription.

3. Use diverse imagery

Use diverse imagery in your blogs, social media posts, emails, websites and other content. If your clients seem oblivious to this issue, do them a favour and suggest it. A 2019 survey by Google and The Female Quotient found that 64% of all respondents took some action after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse or inclusive.

Add these sites to your usual free image favourites: Nappy, a free site for stock imagery of Black and Brown people, Push Living, for disability inclusive stock, and Vice’s Gender Spectrum Collection, for gender inclusive stock.

4. Feature diverse voices

Feature people of diverse racial, religious, gender, age, sexual orientation and ability in your interviews, case studies, testimonials and stories — and suggest the same to your clients.

5. Invite diverse participation

Invite diverse and marginalized professionals to join your collaborations, event panels, networking groups and masterminds. This will not only widen your network, it will help more under-represented people break through.

6. Speak out!

Speak out when organizations to which you belong promote leaders, speaking panels and initiatives that are neither diverse nor inclusive.

7. Cater content to all abilities

Ensure your online content caters to people of all abilities. Use descriptive alt-text on your digital images so the visually impaired can read them (it also helps your SEO). Add captions on your videos. Include transcripts for audio or video recordings. And suggest these tips to your clients.

8. Learn

Learn about the history and lived experience of people from other cultures, races, sexual orientations and abilities. Explore fiction and non-fiction accounts, search out movies and documentaries, follow diverse voices on social media and, best of all, make friends outside your typical social circles.

Of course, in the end, diversity and inclusion is not about any image or app or checklist. It’s about a joint commitment to do better — to watch our words, to listen to voices from varied backgrounds, to be sensitive to our unconscious biases, to be honest about our unacknowledged prejudices and, above all, to celebrate our differences.

On a final note, at this month’s IABC/Toronto Board meeting, Past President Lindsay Grillet shared the initial recommendations report from the IDEA Committee, which she chairs. The IDEA Committee has done an outstanding job in pulling together a data-driven “living” document that will evolve as the chapter continues to explore ways to promote the values of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. Look out for the final report upon release.

As always, if you have any ideas for professional development topics, possible speakers (including yourself) or any questions, concerns or ideas about PIC, please don’t hesitate to reach me at toronto-sig@iabc.toronto.

Nkiru is PIC's Chair and IABC Toronto's VP of Special Interest Groups. She is a marketing strategist with a background as a TV producer and award-winning journalist. She coaches, speaks, trains and delivers online marketing services to help entrepreneurs build their business and authority and is the chair of PIC.
In this seminar, former IABC Ottawa board member Carolyn Ray details how her PR and marketing communications career led to an entrepreneurship path and the eventual ownership of established online magazine and travellers network JourneyWoman. This webinar will cover 1) Assessing and preserving the legacy of the JourneyWoman brand; 2) Using innovative communication strategies to build new relationships with an established and loyal target audience; and 3) Evolving an online brand by offering new services, including virtual events.


PIC Personality: Meet Caroline Horcher

By Anjali Rego

Caroline Horcher is the principal of Catalyst Communications, providing writing, editing, media relations, event planning and other strategic communications services. With a focus on creating and delivering high-impact messaging to inform, persuade and inspire a wide range of diverse audiences, Caroline’s background spans the non-profit, corporate, health care, arts and culture and broader public sectors. Learn more about Caroline on LinkedIn. She can also be reached by email at caroline@catalyst-communications.ca

When did you launch your independent business and how did it come about?

I started my business 12 years ago when I left a full-time job for a position that was four days a week. Establishing myself as an independent was something that I’d long thought about doing alongside my regular job, which motivated me to get started.

My first client was a previous employer in the non-profit sector, and I subsequently got several more referrals from former colleagues who moved onto other organizations. I continued to work on projects part-time until a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve primarily worked on a retainer for a single client. Although it’s been part-time since the pandemic hit, I couldn’t ask for a better team to be a part of.

"As an independent, you’re likely your own marketer, IT professional, accountant and everything else. Get the resources and tools you need to manage the various functions of running a business — so you can keep your focus on what you do best." — Caroline Horcher, Principal of Catalyst Communications

What do you enjoy most about being an indie?

Working independently offers the chance to collaborate with different clients across sectors, providing more exposure to different ways of doing things. I enjoy working with various people, seeing how different organizations function and honing my skills in new ways.

Having a retainer agreement is in many ways the best of both worlds between employee and indies because it offers both continuity and flexibility. Working with one great client long-term gives me the opportunity to build my expertise in one area and focus on specific groups of stakeholders.

What don’t you like about being an indie?

Marketing myself and selling my services doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’m continuing to develop those skills. I miss the organic learning opportunities that come from working alongside colleagues day-to-day and the chance to absorb some of the expertise of people in different departments across an organization.

Although I’m fortunate to have the stability of working on a retainer, it would be great to have a vacation, benefits and other employee perks. And there are many days I would appreciate having IT support at my disposal.

What advice would you give someone new to independent life?

Have a clear idea about your niche and the specific types of services you want to offer. This will help you market your business to potential clients. Use IABC to network and connect with your peers in the industry to maintain a support system and stay up-to-date.

As an independent, you’re likely your own marketer, IT professional, accountant and everything else. Get the resources and tools you need to manage the various functions of running a business — so you can keep your focus on what you do best.

How long have you been an IABC and PIC member and what value do you get from your membership?

I joined IABC for one year in 2018 but didn’t take full advantage of the professional development and networking opportunities. I recently rejoined and have found the information and resources to be helpful. I look forward to connecting with other members and getting more involved in PIC and IABC in the coming year.

Anjali works as a public relations consultant at Milestones Public Relations. She manages all the social media channels of IABC/Toronto.

Learn to put diversity in action

“Beyond my Disability” is just one of the insightful discussions and presentations happening at the one-day Diversity in Action online conference March 23. Global industry experts will discuss creating an anti-racist organization, storytelling for social change and building a truly inclusive culture.

This is a great opportunity for leaders who want to learn more about diversity issues and be part of a growing movement for inclusion.

The conference is an initiative of A Leader Like Me, founded by PIC’s Priya Bates, ABC, MC, SCMP, IABC Fellow, and Advita Patel, FCIPR, in partnership with SummersDirect Conferences & Events. Cost is $149.


18 tips to make it through the pandemic

By Sue Horner

After a year of pandemic life, many of us are burned out. Even where it’s allowed, we’re reluctant to go out for dinner. We can’t hug people. There’s no concrete plan yet for distributing vaccinations, and new fast-spreading variations of COVID-19 are popping up. It’s winter.

Still, we’re seeing faint signs of hope. At our Zoom social in early February, PIC members and friends said that people have become more compassionate throughout the pandemic. For some people, the pandemic has been a gift—it has eliminated a lot of unnecessary activity and cut down on (or cut out) long commutes. We can celebrate events online with family in other countries and even make it to PIC events without getting on the GO train.

Here are some of the ways PIC members have found to cope with the downside:

How to manage stress

It’s a pandemic. Of course we’re all stressed! The first step in managing stress is to recognize that you have a right to feel that way. Then, try these tips:

  1. Exercise. If nothing else, get outside and walk.
  2. Watch comedy shows and laugh.
  3. Do yoga, meditate or practise mindfulness.
  4. Set limits: Know when to say “no” or “I’m available these times and these days.”
  5. Respect other people’s limits; if working early or late, use “delayed send” function or say you don’t need a reply right away.
  6. Limit your time on social media/doomscrolling.

How to stay connected

The human desire to gather is strong, and even introverts are hungry for interaction. Here are some ways to fight isolation and “meet” other people:

  1. Stay connected by phone, text, email, Zoom, even snail mail.
  2. Set up daily and weekly calls with family and friends.
  3. Drop off food at neighbours' doors and enjoy it together over Zoom.
  4. Keep in touch with young relatives you can’t see in person: send pages to colour and make dates to colour together on Zoom.
  5. Take part in online conferences. Move your avatar around and have virtual conversations.
  6. Join in online communities (have you visited the PIC groups on LinkedIn and Facebook?).
A big thanks to the members of the PIC community who made it out to our last social and shared tidbits of wisdom on how to stay sane as we enter the second year of the global pandemic.


One year ago, many of us had big plans to learn something new, maybe even lots of new things. Now we know that just getting through each day can be challenging enough. Still, there’s no harm in giving your creativity a subtle boost, no strings attached:

  1. Take a writing class.
  2. Try your hand at painting.
  3. Find podcasters, musicians, artists and other communities to support and follow on Patreon.
  4. Take Zoom classes in standup comedy and join in open mic nights.
  5. Go ahead, make banana bread and sourdough.
  6. Get inspired by John Cleese’s Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide.

Above all, don’t worry if you’re not as productive or focused as usual. It’s a pandemic, after all. Be gentle with yourself.


  1. Boredom can be an incubator for new ideas, writes Marilyn Barefoot in "Are You Bored Yet?" in the IABC Catalyst.
  2. Hitting your “pandemic wall”? Experts share "11 tips for Alleviating Your Pandemic Burnout in 2021" on the health and wellness website Well + Good.
Sue is a writer, principal of Get It Write and PIC’s director of social media. She stays positive by walking every day, with and without a dog, and keeping a daily gratitude journal.

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Video: Embracing neurodiversity

By Nancy Miller

You may have heard the term “neurodiversity.” But what does it mean? And why do we need to embrace it?

Nancy is PIC's director of communications and founder of InsightEd, a consulting, communications and marketing company that acts as a bridge between innovative ventures and the education sector. She is also a NeuroCoach who teaches practical neuroscience and evidence-based mindfulness strategies to help leaders, groups and individuals from all backgrounds move insightfully through change.

See you on social media!

Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

Build and strengthen your connections, advance your business and network with other PIC members. In case you missed them, recent posts include "How to blow your own horn without embarrassment or apology," which is particularly important for women and people from underrepresented groups; a new EmpowHER podcast series celebrating women entrepreneurs, hosted by Centennial College and FINCA Canada; and an invitation to join the newsletter mailing list for DEI updates and stories from A Leader Like Me.
Join the conversation!

Who we are

Professional Independent Communicators (PIC) is a special interest group of IABC/Toronto. PIC's mission is to support independent IABC/Toronto communicators through professional development, networking and marketing. IABC connects communicators from around the world with the insights, resources and people they need to drive their careers and their professions forward.

The Buzz informs members about upcoming events, shares professional development tips from past meetings and keeps us connected.

Editor and Designer: Nancy Miller

Want to suggest a topic or contribute to The Buzz? Contact Nancy Miller at hello@insighted.ca

Executive team

Chair: Nkiru Asika | Communications: Nancy Miller | Membership: Kathy Lim | Programming: Judy Irwin, Sharon McMillan | Social Media: Sue Horner | Design: Ilan Sivapathasundaram

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