Tree planter to ad agency boss

18 Oct

(Guest post by our Managing Director 4 a Day winner Grace Campbell)

Copeland's Managing Director 4 a Day winner Grace Campbell of Royal RoadsThree months ago

I plant my 800,000th tree, pack up my tent, move to Victoria, and begin Royal Roads University’s Bachelor of Professional Communication Program. I have no Twitter account, no fixed address and no idea who Doug Brown or Copeland Communications are.

One month ago (to the day)

Doug visits Royal Roads to speak about online self-branding and invites my classmates and I to enter Copeland’s Boss 4 a Day contest. I immediately freak out about my lack of an online presence and my limited knowledge of social media. In a desperate attempt to prove (mostly to myself) that I haven’t “wasted” 5 years of my life planting trees I decide to enter a video in the contest.

Four days later

I create a Twitter account and use my first tweet to submit my video entry. I share it with friends and family on Facebook and YouTube just in case it goes somewhere.


Monday, September 26

I receive an email from Doug telling me that my video has been selected for the finals. I am so shocked that I forget to respond to his email. Doug has to email me back to confirm that I am still interested in the competition.

Tuesday, September 27

Boss 4 a Day contest goes to a live vote. I share it on Facebook and recruit my Royal Roads class of 39 students to my cause. I let the other finalists know that I am in it to win it!

Wednesday the 28th

Begin to use my new Twitter account to share my progress and keep followers (all 14 of them) updated on my progress.

Thursday the 29th

It becomes clear that Brandon Wright from University of Victoria and I are duking it out. So, I appeal to the Royal Roads community for support. I create little flyers with links to Copeland’s Facebook page that read:

Royal Roads University vs. UVIC


I hand 120 of these flyers out at the Royal Roads Fall Fair and make contacts within the three other on-campus cohorts to try and keep the buzz going.

I also create a Facebook group called “Grace Campbell Needs Some LOVE!” Strangely, this is my most successful campaign initiative, teaching me about the power of a simple slogan, no matter how desperate it seems.

The race is so tight that I begin to send personal emails asking for support.

Friday the 30th

I make sure to continue thanking all the friends, contacts, and organizations who have been supporting me. Even if I don’t win, I don’t want to be that annoying girl who asks people to vote for her and then is never heard from again.

3pm– Two hours of voting left and Brandon is 19 votes ahead. As my classmates head to the pub I ask one last time for their help and hunker down with my laptop in the now-empty classroom to virtually battle it out.

4pm– I can’t seem to catch up to Brandon. I send Doug an email saying, “I am chugging water right now to replace the fluids I have lost from sweating and the fluids I might lose from crying.”

4:55pm– My classmates are sitting in a pub with their laptops out, frantically trying to keep me in the lead. I now know exactly what “Too close for comfort” feels like, because I have been uncomfortable for hours.

5pm– I have no idea who has won, but I can’t take the stress any longer. I phone Copeland and beg for the results. 4 votes. I won by 4 votes out of over 1400. I am exhausted.


1. Appreciation for the value of both in-person and online networks.

I had no idea I had such an amazing network that would readily support me and share their influence. At first, my personal sphere of influence seemed small, but through social media and extended networks I had votes from Chicago, Korea, South Africa, Costa Rica, and beyond!

2. Importance of knowing my audience.

I had to learn quickly how to frame this contest in a variety of ways depending on my audience.

For example, with the tree-planting community I framed it as a chance for us planters to prove that we are not wasting our lives doing something we love!  But for the Royal Roads community, I positioned it as a David vs. Goliath story, in which we needed to prove to UVIC that we were worth competing against.

3. I don’t regret a single day spent tree-planting.

This competition was both rewarding and exhausting, a combination that all tree-planters are familiar with. The feeling of trailing by 19 votes with only two hours left is not so different from the feeling of facing nine hours of outdoor labour, knowing that the forecast is sleet and a grizzly bear has been sighted in the area. Both situations seem insurmountable. Both situations are entirely worth the effort.

Even if I hadn’t won in the polls, I learned so much more about marketing myself in four crazy days than I thought I could learn in months.

What about you? Have you ever faced a steep learning curve and decided to charge at it full speed? How did it work out?

(NOTE: Grace enjoyed her day of tyrannical rule yesterday, October 17. She was spectacular!)


24 Responses to “Tree planter to ad agency boss”

  1. louisa October 18, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    Hey Grace…congratulation! I voted for you…repeatedly…so get ready for all those political favours you need to repay! I face a really steep learning curve every October when my work goes crazy. I am sure you are up to the one day in office challenge, just bring plenty of Turtles for Doug…he loves them!

  2. Doug Brown October 18, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    I hate Turtles!

  3. Renee October 18, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    I love that you don’t regret a single day of tree planting. Everything about what you said in this post is refreshing. Well done!

  4. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Hi Louisa,
    Thank you for your vote (s). And thank you for the reminder about political favours. I can’t lie– the campaign promises were flowing in the last half hour, and I am afraid to remember what I offered in return for votes!

  5. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    Renee. I think I was more tired after my day at Copeland than after a day of planting, and I don’t regret my single day with Copeland either 🙂

  6. Christine Gleed October 18, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Congratulations Grace! I was rooting (and voting!) for you. Sounds like you truly made the most of this unique experience. Way to go!

  7. Stephan Rosger October 18, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Awesome, great contest and story!

  8. Simonas Uzdavinys October 18, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Wicked blog! Jealous…

  9. Mary-Anne Neal October 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Amazing Grace! I LOVE your reflection on what you learned from navigating the turbulent waters of an online competition. Real life at its finest. Onwards and upwards!
    Mary-Anne Neal

  10. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    Rooting and voting were equally important Christine!

    While votes decided the winner, knowing that people were rooting for me kept me motivated through those last few, panicked hours.

  11. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    Stephan. You are right, this contest was a great idea!
    As the Boss, I had a chance to meet with almost every staff member at Copeland, including their mascot Oliver, and grill them for career advice and industry observations.
    Best advice of the day?
    Remember that every employee at Copeland has “the most important job.” Just ask them.

  12. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    Thanks Simonas.
    If you had told me three months ago that Doug Brown would be making me coffee I wouldn’t have believed it. Even now, a day later, I hardly believe it happened.
    Thankfully I have proof in the form of a clip from the evening news.

  13. Doug Brown October 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    You forgot to mention that I ran your dry-cleaning too…

  14. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    The waters were definitely turbulent at times, but now that the seas have calmed I want to be back in the storm!
    Funny how that works–always too much action or too little. Thankfully I have schoolwork to catch up on and keep me busy 🙂

  15. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    You’re right Doug, but then I would have to admit to multiple wardrobe changes throughout the day.

  16. Doug Brown October 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    No doubt there is video proof of that too. 😉

  17. Robert James Koyich October 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Keep at ‘er Grace… I note that Alex Koyich was pushing well for you too. One bit of advice I’ve heard a lot recently too is “Don’t try to do it by yourself.” We need other people’s help, and in your case the help was found.


  18. Les Gardner October 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    well done Grace, I knew you could do it.

  19. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Too true Robert.
    At no point during this process have I felt like I could do it on my own. Your fellow Koyich was a huge part of my success. Helpfulness must run in the family?

  20. Grace Campbell October 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    Les, you are a true prophet. I think you told me I would win even before you saw my video entry. You and the rest of the gang at Royal Roads University were the key to this whole thing!

  21. douglasmagazine (@Douglasmagazine) October 19, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Excellent post, Grace, and congratulations on your win. Glad to hear someone finally got Doug Brown to do some work around there — even if it was just making coffee!

    Best wishes in all your future endeavours.

  22. Doug Brown October 19, 2011 at 10:53 am #


  23. Grace Campbell October 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    There were times when the whip needed to be cracked, but Doug soon learned how short my temper can get, especially when there is no cream in my coffee.

  24. Deep Fry November 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    Right on.

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