Media, Darling: Lena Almeida

Lena Almeida, a wife and mother of two feisty little boys, is a writer,
social media enthusiast and authentic shopaholic. In fact, if it’s on sale –
she’s already bought it. 
Before starting a family, Almeida worked as a corporate trainer and employee satisfaction specialist for a Fortune 100
company. As much as she loved her career, she also yearned to explore her
creative side. 
Almeida started her blog Listen to Lena as a way of communicating
the best parenting finds to friends and family, but as she continued to post,
it was not long before an old passion was reignited – writing. Her site
evolved to focus on her love of creative writing and includes product reviews
and features, humorous takes on parenthood and her famous random rants. In

Almeida was named Best Blog and Best Family Blog at the Canadian Blog Awards
and is consistently ranked as one of the highest trafficked blogs in Toronto.
In 2011, she was once again named Best Family Blog and recognized as Motorola
Canada’s Social BLAZR. Today, she is the Official Shopaholic for

Almeida has extensive experience partnering with brands and is
considered one of Canada’s top digital women. She enthusiastically uses her
skills and knowledge to help elevate women’s presence and influence in social

Twitter: @Listen2Lena

you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, so naturally I studied Human Resources and
became a Corporate Trainer. 🙂 Seriously, though – I kind of fell into media
while on maternity leave. I was looking for a way to channel my creative
energy, so I set up a little blog and began to talk about the things I love.
Before I knew it, the blog had become my business. Quite happy to be in this space!

Where would you like to be five years from now?

Five years from now I would like to be as healthy, happy and fulfilled as I am

advice for people getting started in your industry?

There is no such thing as an overnight success. Don’t start a blog with the
sole purpose of gaining popularity or quitting your day job. Post often,
frequently engage with your readers (I respond to every comment left on by
blog), and if desired, position your blog to brands in a respectful and
professional way.

are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 

I spend an inordinate amount of time watching/listening to the news, so CP24
and 680 News are constantly streaming in the background. The only television
show I’ve bothered to PVR in the last six months was The Vampire Diaries. SUCH
a fan.

interview you’ve ever had?

While I wouldn’t call it the “best”, interviewing four women – all in hiding –
at a battered women’s shelter was certainly one of the most memorable.


I’m too polite to say.

advice you’ve ever been given?

Fear = absence of faith.

rule(s) do you live your life by?

It’s quite corny, but my high school motto (Father Michael Goetz, Mississauga) was “Take a risk, get involved, be committed.” Although I rarely subscribed
to it in high school, I live by those words today in everything I do.

the most important tip you can give PR pros?

Tailor your pitches and know the blogger (and her/his audience). Most established
bloggers have little time, but a lot of influence. Be brief and to the point;
let the blogger know in the first paragraph how you’d like to work together
(even if it’s simply to communicate a press release). Within 30 seconds of
opening your email I want to know what’s in it for my readers, what’s in it
for me, and what your expectations are.

experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.

Since I often review products, many times PR folk will ask if I’d like to
coordinate a reader giveaway as well. Recently, I had the chance to experience
Arlene Dickinson’s Persuasion line. In lieu of a reader giveaway, I asked if
rock-it promotions would mind donating the prize to a silent auction
benefitting Perinatal Bereavement Services Ontario. Y’all agreed without
hesitation – knowing that you’d be trading further press and reader engagement in order to help support something that I believed in. That, to me, is a HUGE
PR #win.


Anything with more than four legs.


In no particular order: Shopping at Wal-Mart early on a Sunday morning, finding
a Joe Fresh dupe for an OPI nail colour, writing with a 0.7mm retractable lead
pencil, watching my boys play with cars, enjoying a ripe mango out of season, the smell of crisp, clean sheets hanging on a clothesline, laughing so hard I
cry, watching TELUS commercials, realizing my husband already cleaned the
kitchen, having someone else wash my hair and this quote: “Success is getting what
you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” – D. Carnegie


Ugh. Don’t make me admit it! I just finished the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

place on earth?

Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was married there five years ago this July. Yes, I was one
of those 07-07-07 bridezillas.

Dinner guest?

John Cleese. But only if he came as Basil Fawlty, and stayed in character all

My two sons. They’ve taught me that unconditional love is not simply a song

app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?

Epicurious. It always tells me what to do with bok choy.

or ocean?


or email?


Media, Darling: Brandie Weikle

Brandie Weikle is parenting and relationships editor for the Toronto Star and the editor of the Star‘s She’s been working on parenting publications for 12 years. Before joining the Star she helped relaunch Canadian Family magazine and prior to that, worked at Today’s Parent for five years. She’s been both a freelance writer and a newspaper reporter. Brandie made the jump into digital media in 2008 and is an avid user of social networks, especially Twitter, where she tweets as @bweikle. She’s the mother of two boys, Cameron, 8, and Alister, 4. You can find her on a pair of skis in the winter and on a bike with a goofy wicker basket in the summer.
Twitter: @bweikle 

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?

I wanted to be a journalist from about grade 11 when, predictably, I first worked on my high school paper. Before that I wanted to be an architect, until I realized I couldn’t draw well enough, and an obstetrician, until I learned I couldn’t stand the sight of blood.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’m not sure but I hope it involves a little more time padding around my house drinking tea and being writerly. 

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Just be flexible and keep at it. If you’re not held down by a mortgage and kids or other commitments, be willing to leave Toronto. Be curious and open-minded about all kinds of subject matter. I wrote about everything from real estate to pig farming before I landed any kind of a staff job. If anything, that flexibility has become more important. Don’t despair about the field being competitive. There will always be room for people with tenacity who want it enough.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
Online I wind up wherever the links take me from the tweets I find most compelling, but in free time I enjoy, epicurious, and all kinds of others. I think the magazine Psychology Today is a bit underrated. It is so lively and well-reported, and the art direction is really clever and unexpected. New York is a city magazine that manages to be entertaining and relevant to both residents and non-residents, without taking itself or the city too seriously. I like that.

Best interview you’ve ever had? 
Hard to say. I really find so much that’s interesting from people’s ordinary experiences.

Raffi. I guess I got all flustered and star struck or something? 

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Journalistically, someone told me “there’s always another source.” While sometimes there isn’t – a profile hinges on getting a particular person, of course – I remember this mantra helping me as a young journalist with that feeling of vulnerability to people getting back to you. If there isn’t another source, there is always another story. It’s good to have one in your back pocket.

In parenting, my mom gave me the best advice. She said, “You don’t have to love every minute of it.” That helped me go easy on myself about those times when you have a screaming baby and you just wish you could head for the hills.  

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
I don’t know. We’re all just trying to figure this out, right? I guess my main thing is just to try to be decent to people. Some believe you’ve got to be a hard ass to be taken seriously in news. I think that’s old school and, often, contrived. 

Apart from that? When you’re in too deep, call someone. Otherwise, put on something pretty and trudge on like it’s not a crap day. 

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I think a tailored pitch that’s realistic for the publication is important. Understand what the website, magazine or paper you’re pitching does and doesn’t have in the way of regular departments where the product you’re representing could fit. And when you suspect your pitch might be a stretch, it likely is. I’m just not buying that your shower spray is going to liberate all kinds of time I can spend with my kids. 

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
My best experiences have started with realistic, helpful pitches I can turn into useful service for readers, and have ended with sources I’ve turned into friends.

I hate?
Emails with subject lines that only say “media release” and those containing loads of unsolicited PDFs and Jpegs that paralyze my work account.
(Ed note: PR people – please stop sending attachments – it gives us all a bad name. There is a great invention called Flickr. Learn it.)

I love?

What do I love? Are you sure this isn’t an online dating profile? Skiing, dancing, Saturday mornings, cheese.


I have two on the go: Esi Edugyan’s Half-blood Blues and Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe.

Best place on earth?

Wrestling on the bed with my two boys, eight and four.

Dinner guest?

I know I should reach back in time here and select someone important from history or something, but I’m rarely happier than when my dinner table is surrounded by a quirky group of friends old and new — preferably all enthusiastic eaters.


My younger sister, Erica, is my hero for surviving mental illness. It takes a lot of bravery to keep going when your mind regularly betrays you, especially given that these conditions are still poorly understood and frightfully under-resourced.

Favourite app?

I use my phone for email, Twitter and Facebook, but I’m not especially taken with any apps. I’m trying to put my iPhone down a little more often these days.

Pool or ocean?

No contest. Ocean.

Voicemail or email?

Email, please.