Author Archives: Diane Bégin, APR

About Diane Bégin, APR

Account Director APEX Public Relations Inc.

Keep it hot, key to crisis communications


Managing the reputation of North America’s third largest transit system (after New York and Mexico cities) is something his colleagues call a “Daily Miracle,” because of its 800 million daily boardings and daily news coverage, says Brad Ross @bradTTC, executive director, Corporate Communications at the Toronto Transit Commission.

On August 15, 2016 the Canadian Public Relations Society – Toronto #CPRSTo hosted Ross at the Rum Exchange, who shared his secret for daily crisis communications – keeping it HOT – honest, open and transparent. An approach that ironically, he recognizes, is in direct conflict with the tattoo on his left arm that reads “No comment.”

Ross – with his 30 years’ experience in communications, including eight in his current position – says a crisis does not necessarily mean an emergency, and vice versa an emergency does not necessarily mean a crisis.

While a quick Google definition check offers each as a synonym for the other, they are subtly different. A crisis is more specifically defined as “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger,” while an emergency is “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.”

Ross offered that in saying nothing in the face of a problem leaves the scent of scandal, where an issue can quickly transition to a crisis.

A recent example included the previous week’s terrorist threat in which Ross said the TTC’s standard operating procedure is to be vigilant by telling employees, “If you see something, say something.”

And in terms of communication – this is where you see HOT (honest, open, transparent) in action.

“If we don’t own issues, others will for us…own the issue by getting out in front of it,” says Ross.

The TTC was not a target in the terrorist scare and by saying the transit system was not named, by noon the next day, the transit media angle fizzled.

“In a crisis, time is not a luxury. The next news cycle is now,” says Ross. And, in a time of crisis it can mean danger or opportunity.

Twitter is the social platform of choice for the TTC – to communicate quickly with one person or one million.

Social media is here to stay and has forever changed how we manage a crisis.”

Ross also added his understanding of the criticism and feedback of the TTC on social media is because transit users are passionate.

Still he said, Twitter is in a crisis with racist, homophobic and exploitive remarks that are unregulated. Ross hopes to see swift improvements to the platform to maintain its viability.

At the TTC, potential crisis means that communications staff is on call 24/7 and that live radio and TV updates must come from other senior communications staff or Ross himself. There are eight individuals in the corporate communications department, including internal communications.

When asked “should the CEO take media interviews?” he said there are no easy answers. Reserving him or her for bigger issues – like budgets or high profile incidents that require an organization’s leadership to be seen and heard – is important but there may be other instances, so trust your gut. (Also, read 3Qs with TTC CEO Andy Byford.)

Being nimble is a strategic decision that is part of the TTC communications team’s approach, as Ross admits traditional planning is difficult for ever-changing daily issues. There is no time to ponder things for two days when issues need to be responded to on social media in real-time.

A couple other ways TTC communications remains nimble is by reporting directly to CEO and by sitting at the decision-making table.

Parting words from Ross to his fellow communications practitioners were

“Lead where you can, respond swiftly and accurately, and always do the right thing.”

That last part is also aptly a tattoo on his right arm.

Diane Bégin @dibegin, APR, is with APEX Public Relations (where this blog post originally appeared), ruckus digital and CPRS Toronto as a board member.  

9 tips for your new blog


Now that it’s the New Year maybe, just maybe, you’ve thought about starting your own blog.

Every semester in University of Toronto’s Digital Strategy & Communications Management Certificate (#digitaledu), my colleagues (@DonnaPapacosta @AlisonGJ @EdenSpodek) and I experience blogging for the first time with an incredibly diverse group of individuals looking to expand their respective digital footprints.

From what you should know about Scotch tasting to what a Breatharian is (exactly as it sounds), the breadth of topics adds so much to my cocktail party conversations. Really.

Everyone has a unique story and blogging is the ideal outlet to reflect just that.

As consumers of content, online navigation is now intuitive for most of us, but ironically that sometimes doesn’t translate to when we become publishers of our own content.

So, here are a few things often overlooked when starting a blog:

  1. Add a few categories for navigation, then use as many tags as make sense. Simplicity is always best and that hierarchical view of a few categories and tags makes it easier to follow.
  2. Add a search bar. Often overlooked, it will make it so much easier for your readers to find content or go back to something read previously.
  3. Have an “About” page with a picture and at least your first name. Also include a way to get a hold of you, whether through a form or an email. It gives me more of a connection as a reader.
  4. Include a call to action at the bottom of your posts. Do you want me to offer my opinion or share a picture of how your recipe turned out when I made it? Then ask me to do that.
  5. Don’t assume I’ve read all your previous posts. Create each piece of content as standalone and incorporate your other previous content as makes sense.
  6. Hyperlink your text with relevant content within your post. Make it easy to check out that quirky store by having your text obviously linking to it and not as a footnote or with full URL text.
  7. Embed everything else. Videos, tweets, Soundcloud recordings and anything else that has embed code available to publish should be used. It’s a legit way to add interest.
  8. Capture me in your first few words. Write a headline that tells my exactly what I’ll get. Cryptic magazine-like headlines don’t work but phrases I Google do.
  9. Keep it succinct and make it appealing to consume. While there’s a place for long form online, most of your content could be 300-500 words with subheads, bullets and pictures.

Anyone can blog and its success really comes from a willingness to constantly evolve it.

Are you a member who wants to blog for CPRS Toronto? Drop us a line.

And the new year starts


On September 24, CPRS Toronto both wrapped up its previous year with an AGM and launched a new year with its open house.

This year we’re doing things a little differently in that we have two presidents sharing the task.

We know it will be a busy year, so a few weeks ago, the board met to strategize for the coming year.

Here are four of the highlights.

 1. Membership

  • Our plan includes a focus on membership, including retention. A great membership perk that was added at National in the last year was Perkopolis. You’ll get access to hotel, Via, events, Cineplex discounts and so much more – all for free under your membership.

 2. Member communications

  • Increasing the amount of content on our site that’s relevant to PR practitioners is a priority, including having an e-newsletter every month.
  • Of course, we’re always looking for content so if you’d like to be a contributor, please be sure to send a note to

3. Professional development

 4.  Global Alliance Conference

  • And in May 2016, CPRS Toronto in conjunction with CPRS Hamilton is hosting Communication Across Cultures.
  • It’s the first time that the Global Alliance for PR is hosting their international conference in Canada, right here at the Westin Harbourfront Hotel in Toronto.
  • So mark your calendars for May 29-31, 2016 when we’ll host the world. A number of keynote speakers and workshop sessions are planned.
  • We’ll also be working closely with CPRS National to find speakers and volunteers for the event. Watch for more details coming soon!

As we launch into the new year, we have an open invitation to all members. We are all volunteers, and we need the energy, ideas and enthusiasm our members to be successful. Drop any of the board members a line if you are considering becoming a member of the board or volunteering.

And here’s to a great year! 2015-10-06 06-13-43

Diane Bégin and Jeff Rohrer, CPRS Toronto 2016/17 co-presidents


30 under 30: Congrats to board member Carolyn Merchant


The CPRS Toronto board congratulates all recipients of Marketing Magazine’s 2015 30 Under 30!

Carolyn Merchant

Source: Marketing Magazine

Special acknowledgement also goes to recipient Carolyn Merchant, who has been an ACE Awards Gala volunteer since 2010. In her role, Carolyn has been instrumental in raising the bar for our program. More recently, we’ve been incredibly proud to also have Carolyn on our board of directors. (Read more about her work at Edelman and with CPRS Toronto.)

We’re pleased to have leaders like Carolyn at the table to guide the direction of the local society as we get set to host for the first time in Canada the World PR Forum in May 2016.

Carolyn’s approach of “the status quo just won’t do” combined with her enthusiasm and depth of knowledge make her contribution invaluable as we continue to navigate the evolution of the PR profession.

Great job Carolyn! Well-deserved.

Diane Bégin and Jeff Rohrer, CPRS Toronto 2016/17 co-presidents

Storify: March 2 LinkedIn for Corporate Communicators


Kathleen Kahlon

In case you missed it, below are some of the highlights of the March 2, 2015 event with Kathleen Kahlon @KathleenKahlon of LinkedIn where she shared

  • how to promote your brand by optimizing your LinkedIn profile,
  • create compelling content to engage your network, and
  • craft a company page that people will want to follow.


Measurement, modeling & emerging transformation of PR


Whether you’re an instructor, student or practitioner who keeps up on the evolution of communications, you’ll want to check out the latest issue of the Journal of Professional Communication.

CPRS member and editor of the journal Alex Sévigny, PhD, APR, MCIPR offers the following description:

“This editorial for the fourth issue of the Journal of Professional Communication (vol. 3, issue 1, 2013) discusses how the development of a set of metrics are the necessary next step for the emergence of an applied art and science of public relations.”




Research Articles

Practical Paper

Book Reviews

Editorial Advisory Board

Help people check you out


Did you know that as a CPRS Toronto member (including students and associates) you’re automatically part of our online directory?

Here’s how you can customize your profile so that people get to know you better!

  1. Login in the top right corner of the CPRS homepage (hint: your user name is your email address; reset your password here)
  2. Click on “Membership Details” in top right corner
  3. Make changes to your profile and click “Update Profile” on bottom
    NOTE: Only your name, email, phone and biographical info appears to others in the directory. 

Of course, we’d rather see your smiling face instead of this guy. 

So, if you also want to add a profile picture, make sure your Gravatar account is up to date (meaning it must include the email address in the CPRS Toronto member directory). No Gravatar account? Start here

That’s it. Now anyone who is a member can see your smiling face in the members’ only directory.

New feature: Your chance to show and tell


There’s a game called “one-sentence summary” that some teachers play with their students. Basically it challenges students to summarize “who did what to whom, when, where, how, and why?” in a succinct statement.

We’re launching a regular feature in our New Perspectives blog asking you to tell us what you’re working on. It may be because you have a call to action that you want others to know about or maybe you just want to tell people about the really cool thing you’re working on.

We just have two rules for Show and tell:

  • You must be a CPRS Toronto member to play
  • Your submission is not award-winning yet, because we want active campaigns (But it totally may be in the future.)

Here’s how to play:

  • Answer the question “who is doing what to whom, when, where, how, and why?”  Include a call to action if you have one.
  • Email your response to Amie Zimon on the CPRS Toronto editorial team with “Show and tell” in the subject line.

Here’s a sample of what we mean (pretend it’s before Nov. 2):


  • Allstate is calling on high school students across Canada to submit solutions to distracted driving by Nov. 2 at or through video, audio and pictures for a chance to win cash prizes for themselves and their schools.



Remember it’s your show and tell, so be sure to include as many links as possible in your sentence but please keep it to one sentence. We’ll also include a picture if you have one.


New feature: PR in the news


We’re starting a new regular feature called PR in the News to highlight any news stories that have focused on the public relations surrounding a particular event or issue.

Recent examples include

If you have a headline that you think should be included, email it to Maddy Gauthier on the CPRS Toronto editorial team with “PR in the news” in the subject line. Any online sources can be included as long as there is a public link to the story.