Content Marketing versus Journalism, with Quebec journalist David Desjardins

Content Marketing versus Journalism: Can you do both?

Can journalists do content marketing without compromising their impartiality? The question hit the Quebec news in December 2015 when Le Devoir abruptly cancelled the column of journalist David Desjardins after discovering he ran a content marketing agency. Desjardins will speak to PWAC Quebec about La Flèche, the agency he founded in 2014. He’ll explain how he combines content marketing with a career as a successful magazine and TV columnist and blogger (L’actualité, ArTVRadio-Canada) and answer questions about opportunities for anglo writers interested in working with Quebec’s content marketing agencies.

Presentation by Quebec journalist David Desjardins

November 16, 2016

7pm – 9pm

Atwater Library

1200 Avenue Atwater, Westmount

Auditorium, 2nd floor

Admission $10: Free for PWAC members

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PWAC Quebec’s New President

Julie BarlowHello PWAC Quebec Members!

I am writing to introduce myself as the new president of the Quebec Chapter of PWAC. Elizabeth Johnston had to step down after valiantly steering the Quebec chapter through the rough waters of the last years (for the national organization). I’ll be replacing Elizabeth for the rest of the 2016-17 year and I’d like to thank her for her hard work and wish her success in her writing.

Many of you already know me. I’ve been a member of PWAC Quebec for over 20 years, and a freelance writer for a few months longer than that. I just stepped down from PWAC’s national board where I helped PWAC through the transition to a member-run organization. I’m happy to say, the national organization is in good hands now, running smoothly and growing again.

If you are interested in me you can see more here. I have written five nonfiction books, ghost-written a few others, published a couple of hundred magazine and newspaper articles in French and in English, in Canada, the US and Europe, and have been a regular contributor to the Quebec public affairs magazine L’actualité since 1996.

My writing career has had many twists and turns, but PWAC has been one of the few “constants” (my husband, fellow freelancer Jean-Benoît Nadeau, has been the other). Two decades of freelance writing has taught me, over and over, how important it is to be in touch with other writers and share tips, ideas and experiences.

That’s what makes our local chapter such an important resource.

Montreal writers, as we know, face special challenges. In some ways, we already have a “niche” chosen for us, just be being English language writers in a francophone media world. That niche comes with obstacles, but also opportunities, and I think it’s easier to tackle them together than separately.

With that in mind, I’d like to get down to organizing some professional development events on networking, self-promotion, running a freelance business, managing work-life balance, refining social media skills, finding new clients and other skills of the freelance writing trade — like writing! To do that, though, I need help…

I’d love to hear what Quebec members want, but also what you have to offer. In particular, are you interested in joining the local executive (which consists of me, at the moment)? We should have a Treasurer, Secretary, Vice President, Membership Coordinator, Events Coordinator, and Communications Coordinator. If we share the workload, it won’t be too onerous. If you’d like to fill one of these positions, please let me know ASAP. The position of Quebec Regional Director is also open now.

So please, send me a line and let me know your thoughts. I wish you a happy and productive week and look forward to hearing from you, by Tweet, FB or plain old email (

All the best,

Julie Barlow

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Lisa Hoekstra Is In Our Member Spotlight!

Lisa HoekstraHere’s another PWAC Quebec Member spotlight. Today we’re showcasing Lisa Hoekstra.

Why do you do the kind of writing you do?

I am a corporate/marketing writer. My talent is mimicking voice, tone and language – so I write for companies in their brand’s voice, ensuring that all content represents them and allows their target audience to think “oh, this is [insert brand name here].”

I do a bit of article writing and journalism on the side, but it’s not my forte… writing in my own voice can be  challenging after hours of being someone else!

I also write creatively… on the weekends, when my creative juices are ready to put my imagination on paper.

How do you deal with writers’ block? If you don’t experience writers’ block, why is that? What’s your secret?

Oh, the dreaded writer’s block. I get it often, regardless of what I’m writing about or the style I’m picking. Sometimes, it’s because I’m having a hard time transitioning into a client’s voice. Other times it’s because I feel like everything I’ve written is crap on a stick… or screen rather. And yet other times it’s because I’m not 100% sure how to write that particular piece.

To fix the first one, I read over the style guides, previous texts and other branded pieces so that I can get back into the head of the brand, so to speak. It usually doesn’t take long.

To fix the second, I just need to step away from the project/computer – go grab a coffee, make myself a sandwich, sit on the balcony in the sun. This lets my brain sift through all the things I want to say and form the right sentences. Then I can get back into it without any of that self-doubt lingering in there.

For the third, it’s all about the research. I will read everything and anything I can about how to write a particular form of content – like a Press Release, or a How to Piece on Optimizing SEO, whatever it is. I make notes and, as I’m researching, the content will form in my head almost naturally. It’s actually my favourite type of writer’s block to break down.

What’s the most unusual thing that you have experienced in writing, researching or interviewing for a story?

Hmmm… this is a tough one. I haven’t had that much “unusual” happen to me. Maybe the most unusual was having to interview someone in BC who didn’t have access to the internet (who doesn’t have access to the internet nowadays?)… and wasn’t available to talk on the phone. That was an interesting experience but the person was super awesome about it, answering my questions by email while he was on the ferry.

If you could interview anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Honestly? No one. I hate interviewing people. That’s why I’m not really into journalism. I much prefer a causal dinner talking about the meaning of life and what drives people to do what they do! I would love to sit down with Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Dickens or the Bronte sisters… anyone who has changed the landscape of literature.

I’d want to find out why they wrote about the topics they chose. There are so many interpretations out there about literature that it can get frustrating – what if they didn’t have any desire to comment on society! What if they were just writing because the story was in them and they needed to get it out? (That’s why I write stories, anyway!)

What made you want to join PWAC originally? What’s the best thing about being a PWAC member?

I joined PWAC because I was just starting out as a freelancer and I was told being part of a group like PWAC would help. It did! I love the workshops and the networking possibilities. I just wish I had more time to take full advantage of all the services/benefits PWAC offers.

If you were given $40,000 to fulfill a life-long dream, what would that be and why?

Oh man… I guess I’d take a year or two off of my corporate/marketing career and finish a 6-book fantasy series I’ve been building/developing for the last three years. Either that or I’d take two months off and travel the world. It’s a tough choice. One hand – I could finally put that story out of my head and get on with my life. On the other hand, I could see the world!!!

Maybe I’d do both at the same time. 😉

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PWAC Quebec – We Rock!


Congratulations to everyone across Canada who won awards during our Annual General Meeting in Vancouver this year!!! (See the end of this post for all the winners.)

PWAC Quebec chapter member, Mark Cardwell, was a finalist in the Best Feature Article category, and I got a lovely, totally unexpected surprise when I received my Regional Volunteer Award. As Chapter President, it’s been such a pleasure to organize professional development and social events for our members in the last few months.



In November 2015, Julie Barlow gave a stellar presentation on how to write a powerful book proposal. That was followed by our holiday party hosted by Eve Krakow, who also has been a dedicated PWAC volunteer throughout the years. Next came a series of pub nights during the winter right up into the spring. At these events, new and veteran members got a chance to mix and mingle in an informal setting. It was a great way to warm up our chapter and get it going again. Before our summer break, we capped off our events with a museum visit (on one of the soggiest days of the year! LOL!) and a great potluck party hosted by Tracey Arial. All of these events would not have happened without the dedication and hard work of all of our volunteers this past year. So, a big thank you to Kathe Leiber, Eve Krakow, Julie Barlow and Tracey Arial.


Our executive is planning the upcoming professional development events, and we’ll announce those soon. In the meantime, here is information on our next couple of activities.

Pwac Reads at CD 2013

PWAC Quebec chapter members read during the 2013 Les Journees de la Culture in the Toucan Room, upstairs at McKibbin’s Pub in Montreal.



Every year at the end of September, there is a province-wide celebration of all things arts and cultural. This time around, we’ll be participating by giving a reading. It will take place on September 30th from 2 to 5pm at Mariposa Cafe. (We send out a huge thank-you to Victor at the Cafe for hosting this event.) If you’re interested in reading some of your compelling non-fiction, fiction or poetry, contact Elizabeth at info at ownyourcreativity dot com.


Our next pub night is September 15th, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. It’s open to past, present and future members, and guests. The theme is “Most memorable back-to-school story.” Come prepared to tell your story. Props and pictures are welcome. Location to be confirmed.


Wow! That’s a lot of stuff going on, isn’t it? None of it would happen without volunteers. I encourage you to get involved. We have tons of things that we need help with — small and big — and it feels so good when you contribute. Contact Elizabeth at info at ownyourcreativity dot com to help out this great organization of ours.


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Member Spotlight – Carl Bindman

Carl BindmanWhy do you do the kind of writing you do?

‘Cause I think Journalism is the best way to be forced to write a bunch, about a bunch, in a bunch of different ways. That’s how I’m going to get good. I could be wrong, of course. But I’m an undergrad student, writing/editing for my student paper, and learning and making mistakes. Being wrong is part of my job.

How do you deal with writers’ block? If you don’t experience writers’ block, why is that? What’s your secret?

Deadlines. I won’t know what to write, or I’ll start writing and it’ll be bad, but writing something bad isn’t as bad as writing nothing and letting down my peers. But also I’ve found when I’m writing a news story or something, like, more real(?), it’s harder to get stuck than writing fiction or a play. There’s always that real story I’m trying to tell that provides guidance.

What’s the most unusual thing that you have experienced in writing, researching or interviewing for a story?

Uh. Well I wrote a story about snow cricket, which was pretty out there. And the way I went about it was by playing on one of the teams. And that  was unusual. And, when I was playing I dislocated my shoulder, which was also odd for a writing gig.

If you could interview anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Jon Stewart. There really aren’t a lot of successful white Jewish male writer/comedians, and I want to know his secret as a white Jewish male writer/comedian in solidarity. No but seriously I just want to pick his brain about how to help people care about things that matter. He helped me care about things that matter. That’s why I write.

What made you want to join PWAC originally? What’s the best thing about being a PWAC member?

I’m a student studying to work in a, y’know, difficult and competitive industry. If there’s anything I can have that’ll help me survive as a writer when I graduate and become a Professional Writer, I’ll take it. And, so far, while I haven’t taken advantage of a lot of the perks of my membership, just knowing that there’s a community out there is comforting. That enough working writers exist in Canada for there to be an association (I know it’s obvious and a bit silly, but still) gives me hope that I’ll end up as one of them.

If you were given $40,000 to fulfill a life-long dream, what would that be and why?

Invest it, so when I inevitably move to New York City I’ll have a few months of padding before I go broke.

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