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Knock on Wood's Karen Wood makes business fun

Entrepreneurs looking for a promotional push look to Karen Wood's Knock on Wood Communications and Events.

Ottawa's movers and shakers, entrepreneurs and producers know that if you want to spread the word about a new event or business, tell Karen Wood.

She'll make sure the whole city knows.

Wood and her company Knock on Wood Communications and Events specialize in staging events that build the kind of awareness businesses need to be successful. If you've ever heard of the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, Canadian Tulip Festival, Broadway shows at the National Arts Centre (NAC), Pelican Seafood Market & Grill, the Imagine: Monet Exhibit or contributed to charitable events like the Snowsuit Fund Gala in a Box or Broadway for Bruyere, you'll know what I'm talking about.

“I'm a marketing director, I help businesses, charities and event producers to create their brand and build awareness with a variety of traditional and digital tools,” Wood explains over coffee at the Elgin Street Diner. “We offer an integrated solutions to build business branding with marketing, messaging, design and state of the art digital media.”

As networking and marketing professionals go, Knock on Wood is one of Ottawa's best, winning the B2B Smallbiz Award of the Year this year.

“I'm a people person, I get my energy from my team,” Wood says. “I like to see them succeed. I don't like working by myself. It's hard to brainstorm ideas on your own.”

I met Wood 20 years ago when she was the in-market publicist for the Broadway Across Canada series. Rather than merely communicating information, a gregarious Wood turned her promotion into a party, with lots of media turning up for a good time. Before long, she was the contact person behind other events such as Cirque du Soleil, the Grassroots Festival, Mill Street's Hopped and Confused Festival, and the Ottawa Tourism #Invite2 promotion, the go-to spokesperson for Go Travel Direct/ Zoom Airlines, and co-creator Love Local restaurant delivery services, the list goes on, and in no small measure, her ability to reinvent herself, both for the client and the changing, challenging media and communications landscape.

She recently worked her eighth Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival in June and is currently putting the finishing touches on her next project, Harvest: A Feast of Fall at city hall in September.

“The only thing constant in this business is change," she says. "Publicity is a dynamic environment. We've had to adapt to some pretty dramatic changes in communications and media just to keep up.I find it helps when I surround myself with younger, smarter people.”

Wood was still a teen when she graduated at the top of her Hospitality and Tourism class at Ryerson University in Toronto. Ambitious and with a knack for team building, she landed a marketing job with the Four Seasons hotel chain in Vancouver for three years before moving back to Ottawa in 1995 doing promotions and special events for what is now Lone Star Texas Grill, where she honed her people skills, doing marketing, public relations (PR) and media relations.

Along the way, she realized that many local start up businesses had nowhere to go for help with their communications, marketing, PR and media relations. Besides, she had wanted to work for herself for some time. So, Wood launched Knock on Wood Communications in 1998.

“As a boutique marketing agency, I had to wear a few hats, and be prepared to take on any business that came our way,” Wood explains. “It's a great experience doing marketing in a smaller city where you have to be flexible. Marketing has changed a lot since digital media. We do whatever we can to generate the buzz.”

“I like having my own business,” she adds. “Sometimes the grass is greener, and I look at all the things I have to do to keep my own business going and I am envious of the people who work for someone else and don’t have to do all the little things a self-employed entrepreneur has to do everyday to run a business.

“In the end it's my shop," she says. "I surround myself with people I like to work with and client’s I like to work for and I won’t be the victim of corporate downsizing, I'm in control.”


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