Author Archives: Robin Smith

About Robin Smith

Communications Chair, CPRS TO Senior Advisor, Communications Greater Toronto Airport Authority

Event Recap: 6 PR trends to track in 2018


This post was written by Carolyn LoConte, a CPRS Toronto member. LoConte is an Account Coordinator at PRAXIS PR, currently working on alcohol beverage and lifestyle brands. She can be contacted via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.


What is public relations?

Simply put, there is no one-sided answer. There is, however, one ironic truth we can rely on to remain the same in this dynamic field – this industry is ever-changing.

In this hyperconnected, competitive world, the PR industry has changed more radically over these last two years than ever before. These years have been crowded with shifting media trends, amplified social media use, and even included the term “fake news” as Collins Word of the Year for 2017.

Amid all of this ambiguity, is there an opportunity in this uncertain future for public relations to thrive?

On December 4, 2017, a trio of accomplished communicators from CPRS Toronto sat down to dive into the conversation of what trends will persist in 2018.


  • Lauren More: Vice President of Communications, Ford Motor Company
  • Tracey Bochner: Co-Founder/President, Paradigm PR
  • Bruce MacLellan: CEO, Environics Communication
  • Moderated by Ian Ross: Director of Communications, Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development


  1. Demand for data

PR pros and students alike are notorious for sporting the statement, ‘I’m not good at math.’ It’s been a longstanding misconception that math is not part of the PR world. Yet, the demand for data has intensified. We increasingly depend on metrics and analytics to gain insights into audiences, improve integrated campaigns, understand media trends and more.

“PR people can no longer be afraid of numbers!” Lauren More said. “They need an appreciation of data. Math wasn’t part of my education, but it’s certainly part of my daily work.”


  1. Quality over quantity

The panel agreed 2018 is the time to be more strategic. Specifically, it’s worth spending the time on quality, rather than the traditional focus on quantity.

More added that as audiences continue to fragment, and channels continue to multiply, PR pros should focus on creating authentic stories and connections that resonate with their audiences.

“Once we leverage this quality-over-quantity approach, it’s more likely to guide campaigns towards successfully connecting with, and influencing, the right people.”


  1. Influencer Marketing

There’s no getting around it – influencers are here to stay for the foreseeable future. They been around for decades, but in the past, the “influencer” title was commonly reserved for people with celebrity status, in forms such as models, athletes, or actresses and actors.

This is no longer the case. Influencers have changed the definition of the term “celebrity,” as people continue to follow online personalities who inspire their passions. This ranges from make-up, food and cars, to virtually anything these days.

When choosing influencers, the question has now become, as More put it, a celebrity to whom?

“People can see a famous face every time they open Instagram. As we go into 2018, we should be selective of who we choose to work with. It’s essential to ensure the influencer is connected to the right audience and authentic to the story we want to tell.”


  1. The Consumer Experience

Consumers are currently craving experiences over material items. People are now using experiences to define themselves across social channels, and the modern consumer has caught on to the idea that experiences are as valuable as fancy things.

Looking ahead, the panel suggested practitioners should be mindful to bind creative, traditional storytelling with meaningful consumer experiences.

“Creative storytelling has never been more important,” MacLellan stated. “The demand for it, along with crafting a memorable consumer experience, is the direction successful communication is heading.”


  1. Integrated Campaigns

Well-defined differences still remain between the public relations, marketing and advertising fields. However, there is a growing realization that an integrated approach may best accomplish an organization’s objectives.

Panelist Tracey Bochner mentioned within the last year her agency has not been receiving traditional requests, but clients continue to knock at Paradigm’s door.

“This is great, because it says the world recognizes the integrated landscape should live in public relations,” Bochner said. “This is not necessarily a new trend, but the recent shift is coming towards our industry. We need to grab on, and expand our services and skills around it. This is our future.”


  1. Maintaining trust, authenticity and relationships (especially in a pay-to-play world)

Trust and authenticity has always been the cornerstone of PR, but in an era overloaded with information and “fake news,” it has become increasingly difficult to develop an audience’s trust.

“People have gained a mass ability to see through corporations. Transparency levels are incredible now,” MacLellan noted. “Companies need to learn what the current drivers of trust are, otherwise achieving a genuine relationship with your audience will be awfully challenging.”

Bochner also emphasized the importance of the industry’s continued transparency when it comes to paid programs.

“Our reputation wasn’t great when this practice was being hidden. We have to respect the consumer as they become more knowledgeable of these practices, and maintain this transparency to secure their trust.”

Many of us are already ambitious, multitasking communicators. The panel unanimously agreed everyone is not expected to be both a data-driven analyst and creative storyteller on top of it all. It’s simply important to be aware of these trends, and to embrace them.


With all of the uncertainty ahead, our industry has been presented with the opportunity to shape public relations into what Canada needs. Now is the time to start planning, so we can conquer the communications world in 2018.

October 24 Event Recap – The PR entrepreneur: Best Practices for Independent Consultants and Boutique Agencies


Kathleen Hansma is a strategic communicator and passionate publicist with an entrepreneurial spirit. Her areas of expertise are in entertainment (film and television) and lifestyle brands. She can be contacted on LinkedIn  or @kathleenhansma on Twitter and Instagram.


OCTOBER 24, 2017 –
By Kathleen Hansma

As a freelance publicist who has contemplated opening my own PR firm, I was eager to attend the October 24th CPRS event that focused on the best practices for independent consultants and boutique agencies. And from the large crowd that ventured through the brisk windy weather to attend, I could see that I was among like-minded individuals.

The selected panellists offered a wide range of perspectives with varying areas of expertise. The panel consisted of Mark LaVigne (President, Hunter LaVigne Communications), Sean Beckingham (President, Branding & Buzzing), Eric Bergman (President, Bergman & Associates) and Priya Chopra (President, 1Milk2SugarsPR Inc.).

To start the conversation, moderator Martin Waxman who is President of Martin Waxman Communications and a LinkedIn Learning Author, asked the panellists what is the biggest shock in starting their own business and becoming an entrepreneur. The top answers to come out of the discussion were that it takes a long time, technical ability alone is not enough, you can’t keep every client forever and that it is imperative that you stay current during constant change. Priya Chopra said that the last two years have been the ones with the most change out of her twelve years in the industry.

From an operational standpoint, the top tips offered for those emerging entrepreneurs were to get a mentor, have a good quality computer and internet plan, a sharp suit, reliable transportation and have staffing in place for when last minute opportunities come up. Start developing a team of people you can work with and lean on to continue growth. However, make sure that the project is a good fit for you. Take into consideration the potential clients budget and approximate hours it will take to accomplish. Do the math, is it worth it? From Eric Bergman, our accounting advocate, the advice was to ensure you are living within your means; pay CRA, then you and then invest.

The common theme throughout the night was that passion must be your driving force; know what you want to do and then get really good at it. Continue to have conversations with people and verify that there is a market for the service you are providing. And while you are out there socializing, have a life! Don’t focus solely on your company, have hobbies or something that offers a reprieve from what can be an all-encompassing project.

Now if this conversation didn’t scare you away and you’re still contemplating opening your own firm, think of the rocking chair test. When you are 80 years old and in that rocking chair will you look back and think ‘I wish I would have taken that leap’?

As for me, I’m taking the leap.

The Future of Public Relations


This post was written by CPRS Toronto’s Director of Education, Heath Applebaum, ABC. Heath is the President of Echo Communications and a professor at University of Guelph-Humber, teaching strategic communications. 

On August 15, I had the distinct pleasure of moderating the inaugural Future of PR event, where an all-star panel of corporate, agency and academic thought leaders gazed into a crystal ball to scrutinize where the profession is headed.

Panelists included Dave Haggith, Senior Director of Communications at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Daniel Tisch, President, Argyle Public Relationships, Barry Waite, Academic Chair of Communications at Centennial College, and Anne Marie Males, PR Professor and Coordinator for the Bachelor of Public Relations program at Humber College.

Together we examined a broad range of important themes impacting professionals, educators and students across Canada, including the seven megatrends impacting our industry that were identified in the recent CPRS white paper, The Elevation of Public Relations. These trends include the rising business value of reputation, the empowered audience, content shock, many speak, few listen, fake news and the decline of journalism, a gap in wealth and trust, and artificial intelligence.

The panel engaged in a captivating dialogue with a packed crowd at the Pilot Tavern in downtown Toronto with conversations flowing for hours after the formal event had concluded.


Several key ideas emerged from discussions flowing from the changing media and business landscape in Canada. Living in an era of digital transparency, relationships have become more essential than ever for building, protecting and managing organizational reputation.

In a world where information and misinformation spreads globally with the click of a mouse, public relations professionals have an unprecedented opportunity to earn leadership roles that transcend communication, truly inform and influence business strategy and outcomes.

With the emergence of fake news and unfortunate decline of journalism, panelists emphasized the need for our profession to play an even greater role in safeguarding accurate and ethical communications.

A growing concern is that the reputations of people, companies and brands have never been more vulnerable to attack. Communicators must invest more resources towards listening, engaging stakeholders and anticipating issues, and establish rapid-response capabilities.  The former 24-hour news cycle we once knew, has accelerated into more of a 24-second Twitter news cycle that is requiring our industry to consider new strategies and for organizations to become nimbler than ever.

Ultimately, with new technologies constantly emerging and predictive analytics bound to take on a greater role in our world, to stay ahead of the curve, practitioners will have to embrace lifelong learning.  Only then can we truly learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future.


Event Recap – Unprecedented Crisis: Fort McMurray Wildfire


On June 20, CPRS Toronto partnered with  the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) to host some of the key players in the dramatic Fort McMurray wildfire response and recovery, including representatives from the Canadian Red Cross, IBC and former members of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The panel was full of engaging stories and frank insight about what it took to tackle the most costly natural disaster in Canadian history. CPRS Toronto would like to give a special thanks to the team at IBC for their support in making last week’s event possible, as well as the panelists and moderator for their participation.

“As an actor in the wildfire response, I’m always happy to have a chance to discuss what was done and rehash those moves,” explained Robin Smith, one of the panelists and a former Communications Strategist at the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo who stayed behind to facilitate the evacuation of the city. “It’s enjoyable to be able to pass on the things we learned to other people who might use them one day, but we also benefit from being able to talk through the experience and gain new perspective on things that might seem mundane to us.”

“Our chapter is always looking to the cutting edge so that we can give our members the opportunity to engage with new ideas and ask thought provoking questions,” said Danielle Kelly, APR, CPRS Toronto Co-President. “It was fascinating to hear a firsthand account of an event that relied so heavily on communication. There was a lot to be learned and I think people came away with a new appreciation of how important our role as communicators can be.”

Photos of the event are posted below. Stay tuned for updates on CPRS Toronto’s next event, The Future of PR on August 15. More details are available on the Events page.

New CPRS National research explores the future of public relations in Canada


On June 7, after a successful national conference that gathered over 300 practitioners, the Canadian Public Relations Society released a much anticipated white paper by CPRS Toronto member Daniel Tisch, of Argyle Public Relationships.

The paper, The elevation of public relations: A discussion paper on a profession’s present – and its possible futurewas written in collaboration with senior practitioners from across Canada and will play a critical role in shaping the ongoing discussion of the practice of public relations in Canada.

In it, Tisch and his colleagues examine the ‘megatrends’ prevalent in public relations today and discusses the role public relations can play in helping organizations build better relationships with consumers, audiences and stakeholders.

“Public relations is in a period of rapid growth and change, driven by the empowerment of the public through the social web and the rising business value of reputation as an intangible asset,” said Daniel Tisch. “In an era of endless content, fake news and a loss of trust, there are both big risks and vast opportunities for professional, ethical public relations. That is what this paper is all about.”

The paper comes paired with an online survey that will feed into a national discussion on the future of the profession of public relations. The results of the survey and the paper will contribute to the creation of a new strategic framework for practitioners, to be released in Fall 2017.

Take the online survey now!

CPRS Toronto’s Doris Whiteside Award winners share tips for success in PR school


Education Chair and Board Member Heath Applebaum recently caught up with each of the seven outstanding 2016 recipients of the Doris Whiteside Award. The awards are given to one deserving student at each Toronto public relations program annually, who exemplifies both academic excellence and outstanding leadership qualities. To qualify, students must be members of CPRS Toronto.

Heath asked the seven winners to reflect back on their academic journeys and share their advice for current and future public relations students. Valuable insights and tips to make the most of their academic experience and prepare for the real world after graduation.

Kristen Cockburn
Program: Public Relations Post-Graduate Certificate, Loyalist College
Status: Communications Advisor, Public Health Ontario

“Public relations is definitely an exciting field, but it can also be a scary journey to embark on.  Trust me, as someone who made a career change, I know how intimidating the decision to go back to school can be. One thing I did differently this time around, which I think contributed to my success, was that I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone; there’s no better time than school to do that. Whether it is being in front of the camera, selecting a personal story to tell in an assignment, or asking a professional from a networking session for a follow-up coffee, I took this time to push my personal and professional boundaries. My advice to current and future public relations students would be to take every experience in your program as a future opportunity. Put the extra effort into your assignments and build a great portfolio, stay connected with your classmates, and talk to everyone who walks through your classroom. You never know where that door may lead.”

Zena Schmidt
Program: Advanced Diploma Program, Humber College
Status: Completed PR internship and looking for her next big opportunity

“Attending the Public Relations Advanced Diploma program at Humber College was an amazing journey. When I think back to all the professors and fellow students that took part in shaping my learning experience, I will be forever grateful. If I was to give current and future public relations students helpful advice it would be this: collaborate with your teammates; one solid unit working together is always better, and more productive, than one person operating alone. When facing obstacles, don’t simply identify the problem, be an integral part of the solution. Most importantly, compete with yourself. It is not about being better, or brighter, than the person beside you, it is about constantly challenging your personal best. Embrace your internships, be a self-starter and believe in yourself. Confidence is key; people notice it and respond to it. The transition from the academic and internship world to the real work world can be daunting. Be persistent, patient and network, network network.  In closing, a thirst for knowledge is an exceptional gift; wake- up every day with an inquisitive mind and a passionate heart.”

Erika Manassis
Program: Corporate Communications Post-Diploma, Seneca College
Status: Account Coordinator at Cohn & Wolfe Canada

“I say the same thing to all PR students that I’ve met since graduating – volunteer, and get hands-on experience. No matter how strong you are academically, there is only so much that can be learned in the classroom.  So, get out there. If I had to do my public relations program again, I would tell myself to get in the habit of reading more news, from more sources. Being a student can certainly be busy, even stressful at times, but setting aside time to read the news (newspapers, magazines, websites, social media – everything) has so much value. I believe it has made me a better PR practitioner, because I have learned to recognize the names and interests of the writers and editors that I now communicate with regularly, and I am beginning to be able to identify editorial trends. I wish I had started this habit sooner.”

Lori Talling
Program: Public Relations Post-Graduate Certificate, Ryerson University
Status: Program Coordinator, Sport Tourism, Regional Municipality of Durham

“From my first Intro to Public Relations class, I knew Ryerson’s post-graduate certificate in Public Relations was the right path for me. I loved the content and I was fueled by a desire to learn all that I could about public relations. I often spent hours researching assigned topics, I took an active role in group work, which included listening and learning from other students, and I considered quality a high priority. In my view, enthusiastic, open-minded, hard-working and engaged students will achieve the most success in the program. I recommend that students treat course assignments as opportunities to apply what they are learning and prepare for future roles in the field – work hard and have fun, collaborate, and be prepared to go the extra mile to make your mark!”

Amy Gingerich
Program: Post-Graduate Certificate Program, Humber College
Status: Account Coordinator, Veritas Communications

“One of the most important things I learned during school was to create positive relationships, with fellow students, professors and connections. This can come from a lot of things: being respectful, going above and beyond, and keeping your word, are three that seem like common sense, but are often forgotten. The public relations world is small, and memories are lasting, so the impression you make now can affect you later. Absorb as much as you can, especially when you’re learning from seasoned pros, and use their knowledge as much as you can.
Once you’re in the working world, be ready to work hard, but know that especially at the beginning, it’s not always the most glamorous work. Do it enthusiastically and you’ll make a great impression, and that’s always important when you want a reference or to move up the ranks.”

Stephanie Murphy
Program:  Public Relations Graduate Certificate Program, Centennial College
Status: Communications and Public Engagement Coordinator, Canadian Red Cross

“The best piece of advice I can think of – for both school and employment – is to take the opportunities that come your way. The best way to learn in this field is by doing, so when your instructor asks you to help with an extracurricular project, or your boss asks you to support in a new way, take it as an opportunity to learn and grow – you never know what may come of it! It will also show your dedication. While you’re in school, your instructors are a great resource. They’re industry professionals after all! Whether you have questions about an assignment or are interested in something they did in their career, chat with them outside of class time. In the workplace, if there’s a particular project you’d like to work on, or skill you’d like to develop, definitely ask. There are so many opportunities to learn in the workplace, but sometimes you have to speak up so your supervisors know you’re interested.”

Ashley Haraburda
Program: Bachelor’s Degree, Public Relations, Humber College
Status: Media Officer, The National Ballet of Canada

“Find ways to get involved in the public relations community. Throughout my time at Humber, I attended CPRS networking events, went on informational interviews and volunteered at agencies and events. You never know where one connection could take you. The more hands-on experience you gain outside the classroom, the better prepared you will feel when you start your career.”