Viewing posts tagged as "Energi"

Investing in the Future of PR: Here’s why you should care about the students of today

Written by Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist, energi PR.

I get it, working in PR is busy.  But we’re not the only ones juggling packed schedules. Between working, household errands and family obligations, maintaining a semblance of a social life can be a challenge. Now, on top of this, we’re often asked to meet with, and/or mentor, students and young professionals. It might seem like an unnecessary addition to an already full agenda, but I disagree. Here’s why:

1 – Pay it forward: Yes, I am referring to the movie with Helen Hunt and that little boy from the Sixth Sense. If you make the time, and we can all make time, to help, it’s likely that you’ll encourage the same giving behaviour in the person you’re meeting. So when they’re in your shoes, they’ll look back and listen to that little angel on their shoulder telling them to do a good thing.

2 – You were once them: Kinda like invasion of the body-snatchers, but not really. There was a time when you were fresh out of school, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (I still don’t get that reference) and you needed advice on how to get started in your career. If you were fortunate, a kind soul took pity on you and taught you the ropes and, if not, well then you know how hard it can be.

3 – You never know where they’ll go: PR is a small industry and if you switch Kevin Bacon for yourself in the Six Degrees of Separation game, you’ll likely connect to everyone. That fresh-faced practitioner could end up working with your newest client and it would probably help to be on their good side. Also yet another helpful reminder as to why you should never burn a bridge.

So next time you get an email or LinkedIn message from a student asking to meet for coffee, say yes.  Volunteering your time is a great way to give back and if it leads to a new friendship or business connection that’s just an added bonus.

A business spin on inflated balls


My first admission is that I know very little about football. Yes, my hubby was a Montreal Alouettes season ticket holder and yes, I did dress head to toe in orange at a Tennessee VOLS game to tailgate and moonshine. I also, most recently, coughed up cash to buy a signed Anthony Calvillo football for charity.

All that aside, what I do know is that having balls is considered to be a desirable attribute and synonymous with having guts, being bold and taking no prisoners. This past week sports, mainstream news reporters and late night talk show hosts had a field day with the language and innuendo about inflated and deflated balls and it got me thinking about what it means to have balls in business.

I found more questions than answers.

Does having balls mean being confident, professional, innovative and a risk taker? Or, is it being haughty, self-absorbed, arrogant or dismissive? Is the reference gender specific meaning that smart, accomplished, strong and assertive women can’t have balls? Can we turn the tables to suggest that the ambivalent, weak or needy of the male species can be lacking in the balls department?

As a business woman I am not alone in decrying the double standard which to this day describes strong women as aggressive, and strong men as assertive. Has this changed dramatically over the past twenty years or so? I would say not so much. Girls are socialized to do a sweet pirouette, even when they are the 7th ranked female tennis player in the world. Can you imagine a man being asked to do the same thing? Not a chance! Not men who hit balls across a net for a living.

In business we all experience the joys of being inflated through our successes or once in a while feeling the funk of having our wings clipped. After 35 years in business I know that it’s never just about winning the pitch or the money that may come along with it. Having balls in business is all about standing up for what you believe in, having conviction, being the best you can be and being proud of what you do and with whom you are associated. And for those times when we get kicked you know where, our language may sound like “sour grapes” but it’s not. It’s the echo of having developed perfectly inflated and professional balls.


How tilting your pelvis can help your business

Written by Marlo Taylor, partner and general manager, energi PR.

Four or five months ago, I joined a new gym. It really is a wonderful place featuring two brilliant trainers. Let’s call them Brian and Francis, which makes sense, given that their names are Brian and Francis.

Brian and Francis are everything you’d hope for in a trainer: knowledgeable, kind, challenging. But they share a knack for summarily ruining every exercise I used to enjoy from single leg dead lifts to planks. The problem? The pelvic tilt.

It would seem that my pelvis is a lazy little rascal (seriously, who would have thought I’d ever type that sentence?). It would rather hang out and wait for my work out to be over than hold itself tilted and tight in proper form. Every single time it seems Brian or Francis have to remind me to pause and reset my pesky pelvis. The challenge is that it makes every exercise exponentially harder. Harder in a “I @#$^! hate this” sort of way.

Recently, as I was hip bridging my way through my warm up with the requisite pausing and resetting, I realized I was stronger. The movement was more fluid and I could tackle even the most challenging parts of my work out with greater ease. Could that tiny, consistent really account for the dawning of this new workout day?

As I was sharing this aha moment with Francis, it struck me that businesses could learn from this simple approach.

The business of public relations is made up of a number of tasks that, over time, risk being done somewhat by rote. Press releases, media monitoring and outreach, even writing and planning have the potential to become stale. There is a tendency to succumb to what is known, comfortable, and, often, even tried and true. This is where businesses can stagnate. Where they stop pushing to bigger and better things. Where creativity dies.

So, with my tilted pelvis a-blazing, I challenged my team to start 2015 with a commitment to that moment of extra thoughtfulness and purposeful movement in mind. It adds nothing to someone’s work load to pause, and think: Do I have everything I need to perform this task to the best of my ability? Is there anything else I can add to this process? Is there any change I should make before proceeding?

This pause also reinforces to young, dynamic and keen team members, that their thoughts and ideas are important. It opens doors to their input in strategic decisions and encourages them to suggest ways in which we can all do – and think – better. Small, incremental improvements mean we finish the task stronger and better than we were before. It might seem harder at first (see aforementioned dead lifts and planks) but the aha moment isn’t far away.

As we all know, businesses and clients thrive when we apply the best of what we know to each task and situation. But that is true even when the conversations are harder. Even when we’re tired and “good enough” might meet the expectation. Even when our clients are happy (isn’t that a kicker?). Even then there is room to ask ourselves: Do I have everything I need to perform this task? Is there anything else I can add to this process? Is there any change I should make before proceeding?

Sometimes, improving efficiency and effectiveness is complicated. And, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, you just need to reset, take a breath, and expect the best of your team and their ability to think and perform. So tilt away and if you ever run into Brian and Francis remember to say thanks.


Marlo Taylor

Marlo Taylor

New Year, New De-Stressed You.

Post written by Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist, energi PR.

Many of us make New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps in hope that the combined unity and benchmark of a new calendar year will help them stick. Unfortunately it’s a sad reality that most of these plans begin fizzling out come March (just look at gyms for an easy example).

If you work in public relations, chances are you’re familiar with stress. Last year, the industry ranked sixth in the annual list of most stressful jobs alongside positions in the military, firefighters and airline pilots. Unfortunately for PR practitioners, this doesn’t come as a surprise, as public relations has been a fixture on these delightful lists.

Knowing that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, I wanted to share some tried and true tips for managing your stress levels in the office.

  1. Get up every hour: Whether it is to stretch or take a quick walk, a break from the screen can do wonders.
  2. Cut back on the coffee: I know it’s hard, but you won’t miss the jitters, believe me. If you suffer from anxiety, you know that it’s recommended to cut down the caffeine and there are many tasty and healthier alternatives from herbal teas to even decaf coffee if you can’t forgo the flavour.
  3. Stay hydrated: Coffee doesn’t count, so make a trip to office water cooler or kitchen (because I’ve not seen a cooler since the mid-2000s). Not only will it get you moving and away from your desk, it will prevent you from overeating and make your insides happy.
  4. Make friends: Work can be stressful and nothing beats having a support system when times get tough. Even if you’re not the most social person outside of work, having someone to vent to or bounce ideas off is invaluable. So consider eating in the lunchroom instead of your desk for once.
  5. Work-life balance: Try not to get in the habit of spending all your evenings at the office. Unless you’re on a hard deadline, leave at a reasonable time, or bring your work home. That way at least you can work in sweats on the couch, while watching the Kardashians… or, CBC. Definitely CBC.


Lauren Wasley

Lauren Wasley

Skills: We’ve all got some, but which ones do you need to sharpen for 2015?

Written by Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist at energi PR.

Many careers paths are chosen because they provide areas where our natural skills or interests can best be realized.  If, like me, you have a knack for creative writing, a passion for presenting and a short attention span, you might end up in public relations.

As an industry, a lot has changed in the seven or so years I’ve been practicing. Surprisingly, I started at the end of the fax machine era. Coverage came in each morning, hard copies were even kept in binders and we used rulers and calculators to measure the public relations value of each clip.

These past few years it seems there is a new tool, trend, app or offering emerging every few months. Keeping track of these developments alongside the movements of Canadian editors and freelance writers is a full-time job. So, as you can imagine, staying at the top of your game is a skill in itself.

Based on the evolution of the industry, I predict the following four areas will become more critical for public relations practitioners in 2015:

  1. Crisis Communications: 2014 was a tough year for the airline industry with several globally-documented crashes. Although rare, these tragic incidents are a reminder that crisis can hit at the most unexpected times. Whether it’s an accident, financial loss or scandal, it is important not only to react quickly to a crisis, but to speak and act appropriately. Local news can become global in an instant and if an issue is not handled correctly, it can quickly spin out of control.
  2. Measurement: Although Media Relations Points (MRP) is the industry standard in Canada, many agencies have clients around the world. As global integration becomes more commonplace, different practices are often employed to develop a level of consistency and allow for countrywide comparisons. Exploring best practices that all teams can understand and use will be key.
  3. Socially Savvy: Most of us can handle content development for social media, but as further emphasis is put on these channels a deeper understanding is required. From both an analytics and advertising perspective.
  4. Paid Content: Although editorial content is still our bread and butter, as newspapers shrink due to cuts in advertising revenue, organic stories are not always an option. To maintain coverage and exposure, agencies need to seek out sponsorships, partnerships and paid content opportunities, like mattes and ANRs, for their clients.

One of the most exciting aspects of our industry is that it is in constant motion. We need to think of change as a positive evolution. The more we know, the better we can do our jobs and that’s a plus for everyone.


Lauren Wasley

Lauren Wasley

Why PR still struggles with ROI

*Originally published in Marketing Magazine

Close to 20 years ago at a Spring Conference of Counsellors Academy (Public Relations Society of America), I heard a startling presentation from the then chairman of one of the big five American accounting firms. For PR to be successful, to be allocated sufficient budgets and earn corporate trust, “buy in” must come from the top.

In the same breath he warned that management consultants may represent our industry’s greatest threat. What did he mean by this? Simply stated, short of being proficient at doing media relations or event planning, management consultants bring the kind of talent that resonates with the C-suite. They are analytical, strategic, have great written and verbal communications skills, understand business dynamics and market forces, are highly productive and organized AND they know and can explain numbers. What’s more, they are comfortable responding to tough questions about profitability and can do so with really nice charts.

Were we all now going to hire MBAs? At the time that thought was quite appealing and the buzz among my PR agency colleagues was that if we didn’t get the ROI thing down pat, we’d soon end up pitching against consulting firms Mercer and McKinsey.

The industry hasn’t seen this prediction come to pass. It may be because we don’t offer the salaries commanded by management consultants or because promotion and publicity are still a big part of what agencies do. While Canada’s PR industry can be held up as a model for its Media Rating Points system, I’d say that we haven’t made nearly enough progress in quantifying ROI.

Why is measuring ROI for public relations such a challenge? To begin with, I believe that PR is so diverse in what it comprises that a campaign or strategy would have to be fractured into all of its parts if only to begin to probe each element, let alone dissect them into something that could be evaluated. PR initiatives are also not generally undertaken in a vacuum, so how do we carve out the impact of the PR and attach a number to it? Another obstacle I’ve experienced is the difficulty in getting sales data from clients as well as details on other marketing programs that may be running concurrently. Company structure may be another impediment when the sales and marketing departments are separate.

I agree with Ford Kanzler, principal of Marketing/PR Savvy in Redwood, California whose approach to the ROI question with prospects is to point out successful brands and the correlation to PR. Al and Laura Ries did a good job of this in their book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. The problem, though, is that public relations has not become any easier to understand, explain or sell, therefore it has not become easier to measure its value. Or maybe we should reverse that statement.

The greatest challenge will be to convince those who question public relations in the first place. I am not sure that we can or whether we would even want to try and convince these folks. I maintain that unlike other forms of marketing that can be seen, touched and better controlled, for some, public relations is difficult to digest conceptually.

Businesses that have experienced the outcome of a well structured and executed executive reputation or crisis communications plan, whose brands have become household names after a clever social media campaign, those that have harnessed patient and physician support for an advocacy program or driven patients to an information website, recognize the value of their investment. This is where the opportunity lies.

Having a successful ROI discussion with clients and prospects lies in the hands of the PR industry and we should employ the same rigorous processes to get to a meaningful answer. We know what clients want; we need to find a way to give it to them. If we’re not sure – then let’s find out how best to do so. As the excellent storytellers we are, we need to author the story that speaks to outcomes in a way that our readers can learn. But we may need to illustrate our story with some colourful charts.

This column is the first in a two-part series. Up next: What’s out there, what to measure and how.

Keep Peggy Olson’s ambition, but ditch the drab duds

Written by:Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist at energi PR, Toronto.

With Mad Men on its final run, it’s time to follow suit and modernize your workplace attire

We’re not accountants or corporate lawyers, but why do many PR agency professionals insist on dressing the part? This question plagues my mind at night as I toss and turn amidst bouts of insomnia, counting the tiny number of bumps in my popcorn ceiling.

Ok, that was mildly exaggerated, BUT it is a topic I often think about.

As a professional in a creative field, it makes sense to show a little bit of personality and style when dressing for the job. Now, I’m not saying wear flip flops and overalls to the office, because they’re never ok, but I do think it’s time to leave the 1960s rule book at home.  Yes, Don Draper is THE MAN, I get it, but restrictive suits, ties and (for women) nude pantyhose don’t need to be your every day.

Now there are times when it’s appropriate, of course. For example, your agency could be pitching a conservative client; attending a high level meeting or presenting at a global conference. All scenarios where you might want to find your Sunday best.

But what if you’re in a brainstorm for the latest energy drink? Or working with a fashion-forward new designer? As PR professionals we’re expected to be in-the-know and “on trend” and sometimes that ill-fitting tweed blazer with oversized shoulder pads isn’t the best demonstration of that.

Just like food, exercise and sleep, fashion trends should be used in moderation. Brightly painted nails, leather biker jackets, colourful socks and even (gasp!) jeans can be incorporated into your wardrobe if you’re properly prepared. Just leave a spare blazer and nice shoes in the office and you’ll be fancied up in no time. Seriously, Superman will have nothing on you.


Lauren Wasley

Lauren Wasley


After July 1st, will you be King of the CASL? Or Just a Dirty Rascal?

If there is any doubt about whether I am frustrated, cynical or just plain grumpy over this CASL law, the answer is yes to all three. I might feel differently if I was a lawyer, or could have one permanently on staff, but that’s not the case.

As CEO of energi PR, a mid-sized, independently owned, Canadian public relations firm, I am trying to understand why Canada’s anti-spam law needed to be so complicated and costly to implement. The law applies to all individuals and businesses sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) and so, ignorance or a lack of sophistication or resources will presumably not be an excuse to be deviant. And so the rational part of my brain says, wait a minute all you small and medium-sized business that form the cornerstone of the Canadian economy and are trying to do business, win business and stay in business, why would anyone want to penalize those Canadian businesses who do not send SPAM? Ours is the business of public relations. We tell stories. From important medical discoveries to the colour of a new lipstick – and everything in between. Those who take these stories and develop them for their audiences and communities generally want to hear from us and, even when they occasionally might become annoyed by a bit of persistence, they would hardly describe our email communications as SPAM.

Yes, we want to ENLARGE our client’s business and our own, but does this compare in any way with penis enlargement supplements, the latest weight loss scheme or an invitation to meet the woman or man of your dreams?

Make no mistake. energi PR is CASL compliant. We’ve distributed our consent requests, hired one of the country’s most knowledgeable internet law specialists, engaged our IT team, implemented a contact management system, ensured that our email signatures provide an unsubscribe function, trained our team, documented our procedures and anointed a Compliance Officer. Can you imagine any better use of our resources?

As I said at the start of this rant, I am tired and grumpy about all of the machinations and cost that CASL has imposed. But I am also sympathetic to those in PR and in other businesses who simply do not have the wherewithal to jump into the CASL action.. The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms, an industry association that represents more than 25 of Canada’s leading PR firms, of which energi PR is a founding member, has further supported its members by obtaining its own legal opinion that focuses on our stock and trade, including communications with journalists. The Canadian Public Relations Society webinar explaining CASL is another valuable resource for our profession.

I agree that SPAM is annoying and efforts should be made to eliminate it. I also don’t think that the authors of CASL were intentionally mean-spirited. But sometimes even the very best of intentions come back to bite one on the butt. My sense is that CASL will have little impact on the email junk we’ve received to date and convinced that unnecessary obstacles have been put in place for honest, legitimate individuals and companies that want to be profitable and contribute to Canada’s economy and society. I would have much rather have made a charitable donation than pour thousands of dollars into CASL compliance.

As a final note. I started in business before fax machines were invented. Who knows, maybe making the Canadian commercial email message such a villain will force us back into personal business interaction, which wouldn’t be so bad.


Carol Levine (@Carol_levine) is co-founder and Managing founder of energi PR, digital, communications, an award-winning independently owned Canadian PR consultancy established in 1990 with offices in Toronto and Montreal. energi PR is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, providing expertise in consumer and healthcare public relations to national and multinational brands. Carol is the immediate past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms and is a 2013 Inductee in the Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame as well as a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

Edward Burkhardt: Here’s Some Free PR Advice

If the tragedy of the train derailment in Lac Megantic wasn’t so horrific, it could be a laughable PR case study about what not to emulate. To the Chairman of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, let me give you some advice, on the house.

Preparation: There is hardly a business that is immune from the risk of exposure whether it is an accident, fire or scandal. If you had a crisis communications plan, it didn’t work, but most likely you didn’t have one. You were grossly unprepared and it shows. Like death and taxes, the only certainty is that the unexpected will happen. Be prepared for it.

Get out ahead of the news:  Almost everyone knows that ordinary citizens and the media get to the story immediately – MM&A needed to get out in front of it. Instead, you waited to be chased.  All that you needed to say immediately upon learning of the tragedy was “Our thoughts and prayers are for the victims, their families and the residents of the town. We are by their side.” Follow that by saying you would set up a schedule for regular briefings.

Take a cue from NASA Public Affairs with regard to the Space Shuttle Columbia –

“When things are going well, tell the media everything they want to know.  When things are going wrong, tell them even more.”                                                                 

Presence: It took five days for you to show up at Lac Megantic. From what I’ve read you said you could accomplish more being in Chicago where you could deal with insurance, the media etc. Are you kidding?! Do you not have other senior members of your team competent to deal with such things? You are the public face of the company and needed to rush to the scene and share in the communal pain; call the mayor and show yourself as human. Your actions and statements made you seem distant and uncaring and now you have positioned yourself as the enemy. Good luck rebuilding in that community.

Don’t speculate: You don’t know what you don’t know – so say so. Don’t make it up as you go along.  Engaging in a blame game, whether it’s your employee or the fire department, before all the facts are in is unwise. When asked about accountability you could have said simply, “We are cooperating with all of the regulatory bodies and municipal, provincial and federal authorities. Like everyone involved, we are waiting for the information to unfold as the investigation continues. Right now our primary concern is for the families and the residents of Lac Megantic.” Instead you use words like “obligation”, “probably”, and “the information gets better every day”. Your statements are confusing and show lack of coordination.

Speaking to the media – According to a news report you told TVA that you hope “(you) won’t get shot” when you finally visit Lac Megantic. That’s like Nixon saying “I am not a Crook” or Bill Clinton saying “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” Why didn’t you issue a statement at the news conference where you could have at least articulated what you wanted to say, before being hammered by questions? The answers you gave satisfied no one.

Doing business in Quebec – Given that the Caisse de Depot de placement reportedly owns 13% of MM&A, and, that you operated in Quebec I have to wonder why the French language communications were described as clumsily translated and why there is nothing in French on your website, including the message on the French version that it’s in the works?

Being online – When I visited the MM&A website I saw that the last news release was dated July 7th, and that there was no message of sympathy – in fact nothing to suggest that it was anything other than business as usual for your company. It would have been so simple to have you prepare a video statement on the site or better still, uploaded to YouTube.

At the end of the day the spectre of a communications and public relations critique is of little consolation to the victims, families, townspeople and emergency service personnel in the quiet hamlet of Lac Megantic, Quebec. However make no mistake, that it will likely never be business as usual in this locality for MM&A. If not for the safety factors alone, but for the sheer heartless and defensive way this was corporately managed.

Don’t take my word for it – just look at Michael McCain and Maple Leaf Foods to find out how to do it right.


Carol Levine (@Carol_levine) is co-founder and Managing founder of energi PR, digital, communications, an award-winning independently owned Canadian PR consultancy established in 1990 with offices in Toronto and Montreal. energi PR is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, providing expertise in consumer and healthcare public relations to national and multinational brands. Carol is the immediate past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms and is a 2013 Inductee in the Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame as well as a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

CCPRF Member Firms Merge

The news broke on Twitter that two Canadian PR agencies, Montreal-based Communications MECA and Toronto-based Palette PR, have sealed a deal to merge in a new firm, EnergiPR.

I had the good luck to be at a CCPRF meeting with Esther Buchsbaum and Carol Levine, the principals of MECA. They agreed to step out of the room for an interview about the merger, their motivation in doing it and how they made it happen.

Listen to the Inside PR podcast to hear my interview with Carol and Esther.