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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

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


A “Patient First” Motto is not a USP

Most pharma companies want to be known for putting patients first, for unlocking the mystery of serious illness and for improving the patients’ quality of life. These are noble and well-intentioned goals. But they are also ubiquitous; common to most healthcare- focused organizations, and are often not based on an intimate understanding or regular exposure to the end user.  In the classic client customer dynamic, there are two key players:  the manufacturer/marketer/distributor and the prescriber, almost exclusively the physician. So, is the patient really first?

Consumers of healthcare, a.k.a. patients, increasingly see themselves as the preeminent advocate of their own health and this role may extend to others in their circle including a spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends and even colleagues. Therefore, it’s not difficult to see how a personal connection to acute or chronic illness can grow into activism and advocacy. Taking control over one’s condition; being aware and making informed choices is increasingly the profile of the savvy health consumer. To put patients first means accepting that at the end of the day, the patient voice is louder than you might think.

But how does that relationship work best, achieving everyone’s objectives and maintaining the integrity of the process? The principles may seem like common sense, but when applied diligently, they can make or break this kind of partnership.

10 tips to a happy Industry/Patient Advocacy Group collaboration

  1. Transparency is rule number one. Keeping in mind industry regulations concerning engagement, the groups need to be clear and comfortable with what each party wants to achieve through the collaboration.
  2. Write it down. Expectations should be straightforward and recorded in writing to prevent conflict down the road. This sets a reference point by which to measure progress.
  3. Define success. What is the end game? Describe what this will look like in terms of outcome.
  4. Soft skills. It is important to understand the inherent differences between large, professional, for-profit organizations and volunteer, community based not-for-profit groups. It should not come as a surprise that patient groups will view industry with skepticism.
  5. Trust. Trust is not a quick hit and must be earned over time.  When it is achieved (earned) it will signal the beginning of a strong relationship and greater support.
  6. Listening. The patient journey is more than a drama or the content of a news release. It is why the patient or family is devoting time, not only to help their loved one, but the broader constituency of sufferers. Don’t be afraid to enter their world. This may be about business for the company, but without genuine empathy, patience and compassion you risk being seen as opportunistic.
  7. Messaging. The devil is in the details and the words used in getting the points across will be more important than you may think.  Work together to develop messages that are real and compelling for both parties and each of the appropriate audiences.
  8. Training. Offer the patient advocacy group professional training and development in areas that will be relevant to the work you do together. This might include media appearance training, presentation skills; bring in speakers on public policy, market access, and best practices and show relevant case studies. Don’t discount individual and group needs to fully understand what and how things are done successfully.
  9. Accountability. You never want to ask or be asked about whether something was done. Set up a regular time to connect face to face as well as over teleconference to report and discuss progress. Determine how much and how often you need to communicate. Ideally appoint one individual from each group to be the key contact to avoid confusion.
  10. Don’t walk away when the mission is over. Far too often companies wait until they are desperate for the patient voice or endorsement before engaging with them. Successful organizations do stakeholder mapping early in the game and get to know the groups and key influencers well ahead of a need. By the same token, any good relationship cannot be turned on and off without consequence. Stay engaged at some level through a call or lunch meeting and a contribution to further the organization. And continue to provide information on your organization’s contribution in the areas of research, patient programs, awareness, corporate social responsibility and education.


Carol Levine, energi PRCarol 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.


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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#SOcialpr: Brand Apologies on the Rise. Implications for your biz, brand, and future

With social media usage the new societal norm, we’ve developed a hyper-connected culture, where what we do and what we say is publicly broadcasted in a matter of seconds. Social media has opened up a whole new world of opportunities, many of which should not be taken recklessly, considering the presence of such a mass audience.

Every day, 50 million Twitter users and 9 million Canadian Facebook users log on to the web to check the latest news, see what their friends are up to, and check in with their favourite brands. These considerable numbers represent a public that is ever vigilant, always watching, listening and sharing – evoking a new culture of social policing.

This summer, we saw a proliferation of public apologies issued by businesses and celebrities, including Twilight heroine Kristen Stewart, Olympic athlete Voula Papachristou, online fashion retailer Celeb Boutique, and even social network giant Twitter. All of which attracted considerable controversy.

One example of a social apology done well is Southwest Airlines which recently celebrated its 3 million Facebook LIKES by offering fans 50% off a round-trip flight using the promotion code LUV2LIKE. Due to an ‘error in the system,’ customers were charged multiple times for the same flight. Southwest instantly issued two transparent public apologies on its Facebook page on August 4 and August 5, while the airline proactively canceled all duplicate itineraries and provided constant updates to customers. Southwest’s timely crisis management efforts received major positive responses from the public, including this from Sharon Belknap:

My phone agent was great. I thought it was my impatience that created the 11 bookings. Her opening line to my query was, “did you book half a plane for yourself?” We both laughed. Yes, used my debit card and there have been challenges with cash flow requiring quick thinking.

But it’s ALL about quick thinking and getting back to creating a good life…and for that, Southwest has always been my wingman! Carry on!

A recent report by Christian Science Monitor concluded that brands are apologizing more than ever before. According to Dr. Aaron Lazare, author of On Apology, the number of public apologies has tripled since the 1980s. Why are we now seeing such an increase in public displays of remorse? Is bad behavior on the rise or can this phenomenon be attributed to something else?

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide greater opportunities for companies, public figures and average Joes just like us to slight someone without intent. Even more damaging are the opportunities to share and spread those offenses. Remember, news travels fast, but bad news even faster.

People have an attraction to bad news, and that’s a fact, says Dr. John T. Cacioppo of Ohio State University, “The human brain is more stimulated by the negative than the positive.” To put it simply, bad news is just more interesting. Celebrity tabloids and gossip magazines are considered the epitome of entertainment news. We love to hear about breakups, lawsuits, bankruptcies and other forms of salacious news, which is why it’s so important for brands to be aware of our natural inclination to schadenfreude.

The public controls the Internet. It is in our human nature to enjoy seeing the diminution of successful figures, which is why those in the public eye must take extra care. Tweet responsibly, post sensibly, and remember that in the world of social media, your audience never sleeps.  Brands need to understand that the customer is always on duty, a reality that I discussed in my speech on #SOcialpr: It’s Sink or Swim in the Age of Instant News at the #140MTL conference earlier this year. The bottom line? Brands must engage and respond with proactive community management, with immediacy, and to every customer complaint and concern. This is essential to keep your community alive.

The suspicion that society is producing more bad apples than usual is probably not the case.  Our ever-connected culture yields conditions where mistakes are caught quicker and more readily than in the past. To properly manage reputation and crises, transgressions must be properly acknowledged, which likely explains why public apologies appear as prominently, and as frequently, as they do today.

Social media has transformed the way brands communicate, behave and interact with their audiences. In this age of instant news, the prevalence of public apologies is merely a reminder that brands are now assigned a new high level of accountability brought on by the average social media user. The citizen influencer’s constant watch is a reminder to brands that social media is a P2P – person to person – endeavour and must be treated with due respect and constant attention.


Deborah Weinstein (@DebWeinstein) is co-founder, partner and president of Strategic Objectives, an international award-winning, full-service public relations agency that delivers smart ideas and better solutions to many of Canada and the world’s leading brands. Headquartered in Toronto, Strategic Objectives is IABC/Toronto PR Agency of the Year 2012, 2011, and 2009. It employs more than 40 top public relations professionals, in addition to associates across Canada, and collaborates with Pinnacle Worldwide PR partners around the world. Deborah is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.