Tag Archives: APEX

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.  

2012 APEX Scholarship winner announced


The Communications + Public Relations Foundation and APEX jointly announced the recipient of the 2012 APEX scholarship. Below is the news release, also posted on CNW on October 31, 2012. Congrats Cole!

TORONTO, Oct. 31, 2012 /CNW/ – Toronto resident Cole Douglas is the 2012 winner of the APEX Scholarship, established by APEX Public Relations in 2010/11 for launch in 2012. The scholarship assists a student in need of financial aid who has demonstrated high academic achievement following completion of the first year of a four-year public relations degree program at the Toronto-based Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. The scholarship offers $3,000 per year over a three-year period to the same student contingent upon academic achievement. It is offered on a three year cycle.

In his first year at Humber, Cole was a lead ambassador in the Recruitment Office at the College and served on the Student Board of Directors for the Humber Students’ Federation.

He has consulted on social media work with Hearth Place, a support centre for cancer patients and their families to assist the organization to better understand how to use social media tools and the use of monitoring analytics, which resulted in a Canadian Public Relations Society 2012 Silver ACE Student Award for campaign of the year.

This past summer, Cole was a communications intern for Humber’s Student Recruitment and Advising Office where he researched and developed a plan to engage students to share their first year experience with their high school, revised the College recruitment brochure and tour scripts, among other activities.

“The jury felt that Cole’s early involvement and interest in the public relations industry was inspiring and his community involvement and grade point average demonstrated the qualities we look for in a young practitioner,” said jury Chair Scott Bonikowsky, Vice President, Corporate, Public and Government Affairs, Tim Hortons Inc. “Cole is an outstanding scholarship candidate who will make a difference in public relations in Canada.”

“There are a number of talented students who have the potential to be leaders in our industry”, emphasized Pat McNamara, CEO, APEX Public Relations, “but might not have the financial resources to obtain the education they need. We hope this scholarship will help Cole in his pursuit of a public relations career, and look forward to supporting his progress.”

The Communications + Public Relations Foundation, manager of the scholarship, promotes the advancement of communications and public relations as vital functions in society, is dedicated to the public interest, and is committed to increasing public knowledge and awareness of the role of public relations in daily life. The Foundation accepts individual and corporate contributions towards research and educational initiatives nationwide.

“We are delighted to be working with both APEX and Humber College in establishing and managing this Scholarship,” said Dr.Gordon McIvor, chair of the Foundation, especially, when we can support leadership development in our industry”

APEX Public Relations is a high-performance, high energy, public relations firm with an unmatched track record of award-wining campaigns. Its clients include consumer brands, and corporations with a focus on financial and technology communications.

For more information about the Foundation and its public relations educational initiatives, contact Barbara Sheffield, Executive Director, Communications + Public Relations Foundation, Suite 1515, 73 Widdicombe Hill Blvd., Toronto, Ontario, M9R 4B3, or phone 416 242-6146, or e-mail: foundation@prmediaconnection.com.

SOURCE: Communications + Public Relations Foundation

For further information:
Barbara Sheffield, APR, FCPRS
Executive Director
Communications + Public Relations Foundation
(416) 242-6146

Pat McNamara, APR, FCPRS
Chief Executive Officer
416 934-2120