Viewing posts tagged as "PR"

2015’s Biggest PR Hits And Misses

Whoever said you that you can’t take brand equity to the bank never dealt with a knife to their reputation — a hemorrhage that would put them squarely in the public eye and expose them to the harsh judgment of the folks that count the most. Looking back over 2015, some notable stories stood out for being classic PR blunders, but there do exist a few situations that give us hope that doing right by doing good is still possible.

The year began badly for Halifax’s Dalhousie University when some dentistry students posted degrading comments about their female colleagues on Facebook. Later, a medical student facing expulsion told his psychiatrist about a plan to stab an associate dean and her daughter and shoot up to 20 people. And, as if things couldn’t get worse, a student about to start medical school was charged with murdering another student.

From a PR lens, one crisis was easily preventable because fostering a paternalistic culture in 2015 should have been detected and corrected before it was exposed on social media. Dalhousie came under harsh criticism on a number of levels, from failing to protect the physical and psychological well-being of their community, to paying more than $300,000 for outside communications counsel. Ironically, it’s been reported that student applications are at the same level as last year, but I question how they are doing on endowments.Jared Fogle

Subway’s longtime pitchman, Jared Fogle, was a striking example of what can go wrong when your brand is tied to a single individual. It wasn’t all that long ago that Lance Armstrong demonstrated how fast adulation can unravel. It’s a lesson marketers should have learned from.

Fogle’s weight-loss story made him a celebrity and Subway a lot of dough. But their relationship came crashing down after Fogle’s home was raided by the FBI looking for links to child pornography. Social media was quick to judge him with followers on Twitter practically begging for a response from Subway. When none was forthcoming, they formed their own opinions.

Part of my training as a PR professional is to gauge how an initiative can hurt as much as help. This negative thinking has been a valuable strategic imperative.

Subway eventually severed ties to Jared Fogle who was sentenced to many years behind bars. The lesson here is to be clear on your position of zero tolerance, understanding that customers are families who will make their decisions with their wallets. If Subway can retake ownership of their brand and define what they stand for, they should be able to repair the damage and move on.

As the owner of a Volkswagen, the company’s scheme to fool regulators and consumers hit particularly close to home.

The Volkswagen debacle is among the year’s worst corporate blunders, and no air bag on earth will cushion the blow to Volkswagen’s trustworthiness. When you mess up, you need to fess up and show how you are going to clean it up. VW never got the memo.

At the time the story broke, the company stayed silent. Despite the legal implications, I would have advised their CEO to display greater empathy to help soften the dents to their reputation. VW is not nearly as communicative or contrite as they need to be and it will hurt them. While other car manufacturers have climbed out of the abyss before, the road ahead for VW looks pretty bumpy.

Charlie Sheen’s disclosure that he is HIV positive reopened the conversation on HIV/AIDS and depending on you look at it, could provide Sheen a noble way to rehabilitate his bad-boy image.

While treatment of HIV/AIDS has improved dramatically, stigma and discrimination are still entrenched which might explain why he kept it a secret. Social media commentators were quick to say that the only upside of the announcement is to generate sympathy for Sheen, but I am optimistic. If Sheen can use his celebrity as a teaching moment he has the potential to shine a powerful spotlight on the burden of this disease — if that’s the case, he will be doing a great service to society.

You couldn’t buy a better story than that of our young, attractive #CDNFirstFamily.

It’s Canada’s version of Camelot or Trudeau: The Next Generation, and it’s a warm, engaging and human story that many are happy to soak up. And what is PR if not the building and nurturing of deep, trusted relationships between an organization and its diverse publics?

The Liberal government has hit all the high notes in terms of trying to regain public trust by positioning their leader as approachable, transparent and authentic. Justin Trudeau’s proclivity for taking selfies and posing for glam shots in Vogue seem to be working out just fine — no damage control needed.

What this revitalized image of our national government means in a practical sense here at home or on the world stage remains to be seen, but we can end the year knowing that at least the PMO knows a thing or two about good PR.

Carol Levine, APR, FCPRS, is CEO and Co-Founder of energi PR, a national public relations agency. She is Immediate Past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms, the industry association that represents Canada’s leading PR agencies.


What It Takes

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

Dear aspiring PR practitioner,

Today, I received your application to be an intern at our firm. It was thorough and everything was spelled correctly. You are obviously bright and accomplished. It seems you have worked hard and done well. And your resume went straight over to the pile of folks I will likely never call. Harsh? Perhaps. But in an industry as ultra-competitive as ours, it’s a tough reality. Most resumes don’t get past my inbox.


But what is it that differentiates one resume from another? How do we decide who to see? Who to hire? The most honest answer I can give you, other than a basic understanding of the role, is that I want to know that you want this job. I want to see that when you were learning about PR you were also looking for ways to try out that learning. I want to see that you volunteered to manage the media for a local fundraiser or found ways to publicize a friend’s play or spent time drafting brochures for a small charity. You would really stand out to me if you could provide a few well-articulated examples of attempts you made that didn’t work out as well – and what it taught you about succeeding as a communications professional. Be creative. Look around. Dig deep and figure out where there is a need and go answer it.

In my opinion, passion trumps skill every time. As senior PR people, we can – and are happy to – teach you the technical side of the business, but being hungry to learn and grow can only come from you.

We all hear the same song: jobs require experience but how can I get experience without a job? Frankly, I call BS on that one. There is no end of organizations that are starved for volunteer communications support. If you really want to be a PR practitioner, you will find those opportunities and turn them into the experience you need to set yourself apart.

What I’ve learned after 15 years in the industry is that success comes to those who work hard and have that fire in their bellies. I’ve also learned that sometimes the greatest success and learning comes when you’re prepared to jump into the deep end of the ocean, even if you don’t feel 100 per cent prepared, just because there is the inspiring and amazing chance that you will learn – and become – something new.  Often, it’s the first of many rungs on an exciting and highly gratifying ladder.

So, go for it. Seek those opportunities and eat up the lessons they throw at you. And, I look forward to seeing your resume in my inbox next time around.






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.


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

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


Rules for Content, Social TV, Google+ as a Religious Experience and a Purse of Wine – Now Trending @SO_pr, September 12 2012

Check out what’s trending at Toronto PR Agency, Strategic Objectives for September 12, 2012. This post originally appeared on the @SO_pr blog.


Four Rules for Online Content Development

There is no question that content is king! Did you know that there are some “best practices” when it comes to your online content. Inc Magazine sums up the four golden rules of online content development from graphic overload to understanding your customer (and their habits) to the simple task of testing your links – you can read more about these golden rules here.

Q&A – Google+ Gave Guy Kawasaki a Religious Experience

Google+ has been on the scene for quite some time now and Guy Kawasaki happens to love it? Why does he love it so much? It’s visual and good looking and seamless. In his interview with Fast Company, Kawasaki compares Google Plus to Macintosh in the early 1990s – more or less written off but ultimately a superior product. Will Google+ roar to life in the coming hears? Time will tell. Read the entire interview here.

Why TV is Going Social

The tablet revolution of recent years has added what many are calling “the second screen” to the TV watching experience. According to Forbes, between 60-70% of people have an active “second screen” while they are watching TV. Many broadcasters are beginning to develop complimentary programming for this device and, if you’ve watched Big Brother recently, you’ll notice they encourage tweets by popping #BB14 or #BBVeto on the screen. So why is TV going social? Find out here.


Obama’s Convention Speech Breaks Political Twitter Record

Content Marketing & Trend Spotting in the Social Media Wild

10 Ways to Write the Most Effective Facebook Posts

11 Savvy Ways to Use Buyer Personas to Strengthen Your Marketing

The Legal Implications for Brands of Using Pinterest

7 Underrated PR Skills


Image via Vernissage

“Did you just say you needed to pick up a box of wine?” is something you box wine lovers will hear no more. Tired of the shame of drinking wine from a box, wine maker Vernissage came up with the “bag in a bag”. Now you can carry your box (bag) of wine in a stylish purse. No more shame! You can read more about it here.


“Boom Goes the Dynamite” – No words for this. Just enjoy:

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Behind the Scenes at #Cashmere BT Couture

Behind the Scenes at #Cashmere BT Couture

A stunning show of Fashion with Compassion™ took to the Toronto runway at the eighth annual White Cashmere Collection, on Wednesday, September 28 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Unique in the world, the collection features 15 established and emerging Canadian designers and their vision of a future without breast cancer, all showcased in garments and accessories crafted in 100 per cent pure, soft and luxurious Cashmere Bathroom Tissue.

Strategic Objectives created the White Cashmere Collection with Kruger Products eight years ago to launch Cashmere as the progressive evolution and replacement for Cottonelle toilet paper in Canada. An instant hit, Cashmere became, and remains, Canada’s best-selling bathroom tissue.

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A fund- and awareness-raiser for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Cashmere BT Couture collection heralds the annual return of limited-edition Pink Cashmere with twenty-five cents from the sale of every package going directly to the cause, throughout October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Please be Social – VOTE Couture for the Cure! View our unique-in-the-world BT couture collection at and vote for your favourite design. Cashmere will donate $1 for every vote to the cause, in the winning designer’s name. Join the Cashmere Facebook page and you can win an exclusive white cashmere scarf created by WCC 2008 designer, Thien Le.

Want to see the garments and accessories up close and personal? The collection will be displayed in The Bay’s flagship store windows at Yonge and Queen streets in Toronto and on Rue Sainte-Catherine West in Montreal, for the fourth consecutive year, throughout October Breast Cancer Month.

Don’t just take it from us, this story is making news! Take a look at what the media is saying about Cashmere BT Couture!

Toronto Star

Fashion Magazine

Flare Magazine

Toronto Life


Montreal Gazette

Trend Hunter

Our awesome Strategic Objectives team was thrilled to produce the 8th annual White Cashmere Collection: Fashion with Compassion. A year in the making, it is a beautiful example of a brand collaborating with its high-power community to create social good.

The White Cashmere Collection is now on display in The Bay’s windows looking as gorgeous as ever!

VOTE Couture for the Cure NOW at!

The Demographic Landscape of Social Networks

The world belongs to those who understand it. In the social media ecosphere, we at Strategic Objectives believe those who understand their audiences best have the highest likelihood of generating the best results. PRs need to understand how to tell a brand’s story and make it speak to audiences so effectively that the message can transcend all platforms and inspire sharing. PRs are natural communicators, but even here, you really need to understand your audience to maximize results.

Everyone is trying to figure out user behaviors online. Once we understand behaviors, we can better understand how to reach our target markets and build the best and highly-engaged online communities for our clients. What if we were to say most gamers have never been to college? What if we were to tell you there’s a strong use of social networking in the workplace?

Social Media Today recently released some statistics on social media usage and its demographic landscape. The statistics are deduced from 900 websites that average 9 million visits/month per site and offer some very valuable, not-so-surprising and nonetheless interesting results on user data. That data can be found in the chart below, where we have also created a quick summary of the research findings.

Demographic Findings:

  • Social networking is dominated by younger generations with no children, and online networking activity picks up in college
  • Social networks are most popular among the youngest generation (18-34) and are used less frequently for each successive age group over 35
  • Youth ages 18-24 tend to use social networks to supplement social life, learning, and having fun.
  • The most diverse use of social networks comes from the 25-34 year old age group.
    • Continue to use the services they used in college, but less often
    • As they start to have new interests (business, family), they are most likely to use online social engagement to benefit their business/career, discuss or plan travels, and share family-related experiences online
  • The 35+ demographic show technological bias against social networking.
    • High likeliness of these age groups to use business, family, and dating networks
    • Stats also suggest that social networking’s popularity among youth may be not just be due to technological differences, but to a better fit of interests
  • People with college-level education tend to have a higher rate of social for participation with networks across the board.
    • This suggest the expanding network once in college
    • Also demonstrates there is a tremendous amount of information shared between students

Outlier Findings: Two categories break this trend

  • Gaming has an unusually high participation rate among people without college experience
    • Likely that a high percentage of gamers are young
  • Places has a very high participation rate among people with graduate-level schooling
    • Likely positive correlation between graduate school and income, and between income and travel.

Male VS Female Findings:

  • Gaming is strongly dominated by males
  • Lifestyle and family is strongly dominated by females
  • Dating, Places, and Business are used more often by females
  • Education networks are used most by males

Location Findings:

  • Strong use of social networks in the workplace
    • Distraction or sign of increasing application of social websites for practical purposes?