Deep Feedback Primes a Pitch

Harrison Smith, President and Co-founder of DearLife


DearLife helps people celebrate the lives of their loved ones by using written, photographic, and video memories to create beautiful, meaningful, and immersive cinematic experiences. The company grew out of the founding team’s own experiences with grief. Harrison says, “We want to respectfully improve the ability to celebrate lost and living loved ones. This is 100% a play at improving people’s lives.” 

Harrison and DearLife first connected with Clarity Studios when we worked together in a group program run through Volta, Canada’s East Coast innovation hub. 

DearLife wanted to improve their ability to pitch to investors. Harrison used what he learned in SCS to change DearLife’s pitch and was able to secure funding to take his startup to the next level. 

Harrison’s coaching journey has enabled him to think differently about how he evaluates draft communications and to act as his own writing coach.

Resetting expectations

New to working with Clarity Studio, Harrison at first assumed that the SCS program would be a standard course, focused on a static curriculum. He quickly realized he’d set the bar way too low because SCS offers a uniquely personalized learning experience. He explains:

"Dawn took time to individually look our pitch deck and our one-pager and offer substantial and insightful comments… it was 10x more than we had bargained for. "

During Harrison’s first session with Dawn, he immediately recognized the difference in the Clarity Studio approach, which he describes like this: 

"Dawn brings this wealth of knowledge and experience that is unparalleled. Usually, the feedback we get is a mile wide and an inch thick. With Dawn it’s a mile wide and a mile deep."

Through the feedback he received, Harrison has recalibrated the process he and his team approach drafts. DearLife was already investing significant time in revising documents, but they were spending a lot of time tinkering with surface changes. Now, they have an evaluation method that goes both wide and deep.

Harrison now challenges his team to take a step back from any message or document so they can first identify “the why,” the goals they want to achieve. This helps the team keep their focus as ideas and phrasing evolve. (Improving writing can turn into an endless series of minor changes if you let it!)

Building in-house capacity for persuasive communication

One of Harrison’s biggest takeaways from working with Clarity Studio was the learning. Yes, he found the feedback process efficient—with a single round of comments, he was able to transform his pitch deck into a document that wowed investors. But the process also helped him develop as a writer. In his words:

"Dawn doesn’t simply suggest edits. She helps you understand why something needs editing. That’s extremely valuable."

Having benefited from Clarity Studio’s coaching method, Harrison is now thinking like a writing coach and guiding his team to write more efficiently. Rather than just diving into a draft and starting to make random changes, they now start by taking that critical pause: “We figure out: why does this need improving?... And we come to an answer a lot sooner.” 

Moment of Clarity

We asked Harrison if there was a “Moment of Clarity” while working with Dawn, a moment when it all just clicked. Harrison knew exactly what we were talking about. He recalled working on his pitch deck with Dawn:

"We were trying to communicate the problem, and Dawn came in and offered this really, really interesting insight that no one else would have been able to offer. She completely changed the way we communicated ourselves to investors, and they ate it up."

Insights like these happen when you evaluate writing by going deep as well as wide. Paying close attention to seemingly small details, like individual words or the tone of voice, can suddenly reveal the path to clear and effective communication.

Clarity Studio loves working with innovative companies like DearLife, and we’re looking forward to seeing them grow. 

To explore ways we could help with your mission-critical documents, book a free consult.

Blogging to Create Thought Leadership 

Padmini Balkissoon, Digital Marketer at iTransform

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iTransform is a startup that helps businesses modernize by leveraging the power of digital solutions.

Over a full year, Clarity Studio collaborated with iTransform to produce a series of 24 blog posts. These "thought pieces" helped establish the young company as a leader in digital transformation for small and medium-sized businesses. 

For many small businesses, digital transformation is just a buzzword. But iTransform believes that a client's understanding of it should be practical and lead to measurable ROI.

When Padmini Balkissoon got on board at iTransform in October 2021, she saw an immediate hurdle: communications. When she came across Clarity Studio, she found the way to tackle that challenge: 

"We wanted a voice for our website and our blogs. At the time, we were looking for someone to convey all of our thoughts and ideas through something that readers would be able to understand," she says. 

The team at iTransform has always made client education an integral part of their mission. Before working with Clarity Studio, they had attempted to broadcast podcasts and write a few blogs, but Padmini says they kept looking for a more professional approach. With Clarity Studio, she found one. 

Dr. Dawn Henwood worked with iTransform for 12 months. The research-intensive partnership involved producing two blogs each month to establish a digital presence for iTransform and connect with the company’s growing audience. Padmini believes the project bore fruit. 

"We were able to convey our message, attract more readers, and build more content surrounding the topics and ideas that we felt passionate about... This was a big plus for iTransform."

For iTransform, Dawn created original pieces that, in some cases, were "thought leadership pieces" or "thought pieces." She brought to the table both background business knowledge and subject-specific research that aligned with iTransform's goals for the articles. 

This strategic help with developing and focusing ideas provided valuable support at a time when the iTransform team was torn in many different directions.

"As a startup, we are all busy and trying to get the business running. We already know what we want the messaging to be, but when you put it on paper, it's super messy," Padmini explains. 

As a digital marketer, Padmini was able to set the direction for the blogging strategy. Then, after a few consultations with Dawn, the project transformed into a collaborative effort. 

"By bouncing ideas back and forth, we were able to narrow down broader topics and select which perspective we wanted to tackle a topic from. So it cleared up the jumble."

According to WordPress, over 409 million readers view more than 20 billion pages on their blogging platform each month. With the pandemic drawing more attention to digital marketing content, Padmini is hopeful about reaching new consumers through their amplified digital presence. 

"We just put words out there how we understand it, but we want to make sure that everyone else understands it as well. We think Dawn gave us that edge." 

To find out more about how blogging could help your business establish a strong digital presence,  drop Dawn an email:

Messaging Strategy to Transform the World of Digital Marketing

Yasir Gafar, CEO of Spokesfan


Spokesfan creates a new channel for digital marketing by connecting a referral tool with web analytics describing the online shopping experience. A simple pop-up enables Shopify stores to get free referrals and link them to the individual customer experience (CX) behind each referral. This visibility enables them to optimize the shopping experience so they can increase customer retention and organic acquisition. 

Clarity Studio guided Spokesfan through the collaborative process of developing a Messaging Strategy Map. This document will enable CEO Yasir Gafar to communicate the value of his innovative product to various audiences, including investors and customers.

Yasir came to Clarity Studio with a product and predicament.

The product had emerged from Yasir’s extensive experience as a market researcher. After experiencing first-hand the limitations of customer surveys, he knew there had to be a better way for online stores to gauge customer satisfaction. Once he envisioned the solution, he was able to quickly develop a working prototype of the Spokesfan app.

However, the predicament of defining the target audience and figuring out how to communicate with them proved to be a hurdle in taking his startup to the next step.

When Yasir came across Clarity Studio’s website, he was immediately intrigued:

“The content in the website related to me because it was talking about helping founders clearly communicate their innovations, and I felt I needed that very much.”

Yasir felt confident in his product because it was based in seven years of market research experience. But he was having trouble explaining the value Spokesfan offered to potential investors.

Yasir engaged Clarity Studio to create a Messaging Strategy Map. Through two in-depth discussions with Dr. Dawn Henwood, he refined his understanding of his target market and developed clear language to connect with them.

Together, Dawn and Yasir then experimented with different phrasing to help express his “core message,” a clear statement of the value he offers to his market.

For Yasir, one of the greatest gains from this process was recognizing who his market truly is.

Before working on his Messaging Strategy Map, he had assumed that his target market would be market research professionals, like himself. But partway through the conversations with Dawn, he recognized that his market is really digital marketers. He recognized that the problems he’s solving really belong to people doing hands-on marketing, not to those behind the scenes gathering market insights.

Explains Yasir, “The solutions I was looking for were marketing solutions and not research ones.”

Building on this a-ha moment, Yasir and Dawn fleshed out the Messaging Strategy Map for Spokesfan. Yasir now has a detailed document describing his target audience and the “persuasion journey” he must guide them along in order to get their buy-in.

Yasir says that he now has a streamlined strategy to sell his product to the right consumers, and that working with Clarity Studio has enabled him to make “big” progress. And that progress doesn’t apply only to his business. Developing a Messaging Strategy Map helped Yasir grow personally as well.

“This project was very helpful in clarifying many thoughts in my mind and making me more confident and more capable in describing the product,” he says.

Yair also says he now has better communication strategies and better messaging to reach different stakeholders with different demands:

“I will be using the content and the guidelines to create more content everywhere—in the websites, for email marketing, pitches, and in every channel and medium. It will prove to be very important.”

To find out more about how a Messaging Strategy Map could help your startup, drop Dawn an email: