Tag Archives: professional development

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.

Tips on Navigating the Social Influencer Sphere

C5ynS5AU0AA9x9x By Rosita Chakardan

As PR professionals, we are constantly striving to communicate our brand’s message in a meaningful and impactful way to engage our audience. So when I received an invitation from CPRS to hear their panel of experts speak about the growing significance of social influencers, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more.

Tackling a number of key considerations when selecting an influencer, the savvy panelists touched on some key points that I think act as a good tactical guide.

Know the Power of Influencers

Influencers are individuals who have tremendous clout on social media and blogs with niche interests and topics. Having said this, the influencer does not necessarily have any expertise in their niche, but rather a passion that resonates with their audience. They establish a large following by communicating through blogs, videos, photos, and posts on social media.

Find the Right Match for Your Brand

The key in driving awareness, and most importantly generating action, is to ensure that your brand is matched with the right influencer. For instance, a food blogger writing about how fantastic a national brand’s sports equipment is, would seem misaligned. The blogger’s audience tunes in because they want to consume content related to food … not sports equipment.  The product is not relevant to the influencer’s niche. Selecting an influencer who aligns with your brand’s interests and values are the key to targeting the right audience.

Remember that Authenticity Rules!

It just makes sense! Today’s audience is bombarded with so much content that they’ve developed a discerning eye for artificial information. This is very similar to the latter point of selecting an influencer who fits your brand. A great way to achieve this is by creating a ‘top 10’ list of influencers who create content related to your brand’s focus. In order to determine which of the top 10 is the best fit, dig deeper by observing their tone, messaging and style.  Ask whom they have partnered with in the past, and what resulted of the partnership.

Give Your Influencer Creative Freedom

Once you’ve successfully recruited an influencer, how much creative leeway should they have? Well, you selected the influencer for their storytelling and ability to connect with their audience, which in turn is your target audience.  Give them creative freedom but ensure that you clearly communicate your brand’s objective, key messages and tone. If you have picked the right fit, the influencer will seamlessly advocate on your behalf with content that is on brand.

The same values that PR professionals should adhere to in every aspect of our profession also apply when collaborating with social influencers: transparency, meaningful storytelling, and authentic content. To ensure best practice, check out disclosure guidelines regarding paid promotions when working with social influencers.

With millions of influencers to choose from, it’s a whole new world to navigate. Remember the golden rule, ‘quality over quantity’, to make the biggest splash.


How to write better branded content


Written by Diane Begin, CPRS Toronto Co-president

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that he or she would be wise to develop a thick hide.” Harper Lee

Articles are a powerful tool in public relations for creating user-specific content, encouraging buzz and helping to manage the message.

That’s why author and journalist Jane Stokes offered tips at a recent Toronto Canadian Public Relations Society event, to make your branded editorial even stronger.

The approach seeks to match reporter tone through six characteristics:

  1. Cares that readers will trust the information
  2. Cares that readers receive solutions
  3. Remains neutral with the whole conversation; no persuading
  4. Interviews authorities to get opinions
  5. Does not care if audiences take any action
  6. Wants the audience to return

Ultimately, this is accomplished through the acronym Stokes refers to as “T.H.E.”

  • Build TRUST (Is every last word…Impartial? No selling, no cheerleading. Reliable? Sources given. Comfortable? Upbeat, welcoming, not preachy.)
  • Be HELPFUL (Does my wording…Promise solutions? Get straight to the point? Minimal small talk. Make the reader feel satisfied?)
  • Directly ENGAGE (Do all my words…Create a positive/helpful mood? Stimulate thought? Speak directly to the audience? Show empathy? Vary sentence structure, like posing a questions?)

Stokes offered the following headline with T.H.E. at work, to make it stronger.

Top things Canadians love about travel reward programs

How to multiply the rewards of travelling

She also offered the following tips for headlines, leads and branding.


  • Use the ‘reporter’ voice
  • No unnecessary words
  • Identify the topic exactly
  • Begin your headline with a present-tense verb


  • Don’t repeat the headline
  • Hook the audience
  • Use the ‘reporter’ voice
  • Ask a question
  • Use quick, short sentences
  • No small talk
  • Never begin with boring word “Whether…”


  • Less is more: 1 brand mention is powerful; 2 exact name mentions are risky; 3 repeats of the brand name are a waste of time (a branded URL is also a brand mention)
  • Quoting an authority allows opinion in the article – a natural path to branding. Quotes give articles a credible Two-Voice quality:
    1. The Reporter Voice: Delivers the topic; guides the article
    2. The Authority Voice: Gives tips (quoted, or tip-list) based on expertise; delivers the branded information

Passport to PR: Opening Doors for Aspiring PR Practitioners



If attending this event isn’t on your to-do list, you should definitely add it.  The positive real life discussions helped reinforce my decision about whether or not a public relations career is right for me.

I had the opportunity to visit and learn from the communications professionals of three very different organizations: Veritas Communications, Google Canada and the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

Each organization demonstrated unique approaches to public relations and provided specific examples of what they did for their clients/organization.

At Veritas, the team discussed how they helped launch Target’s entrance into the Canadian market. The presentation allowed us to hear firsthand the challenges and successes that were encountered. The demanding yet exciting environment is exactly why agencies appeals to many aspiring PR professionals. This type of organization seems to keep you on your toes with no day similar to another.

Google’s Alexandra Hunnings, gave a very powerful presentation. Alexandra spoke freely in an informal conversation about the world of PR through the eyes of Google, which was truly amazing and inspiring to hear. Three key takeaways were Nurture, Own and Follow Through. My visit to Google taught me that not everyone is going to be good at everything but identifying your strengths and weaknesses will help mould you into successful communicator.


Matthew Kofsky, from Toronto Region Board of Trade, spoke to us about the importance of getting experience. Specifically, not just experience to land a job, but rather experience that will help you grow as an individual and help you to become a better person in all aspects of life.

This was my second year participating in Passport to PR and it gets better every year. This event allows students to meet industry professionals who give great insight into their organization and productive career advice. Additionally, participants can learn what its like to work in public relations outside of the classroom. After completing one session after the other you feel inspired, motivated and excited to tackle and succeed as a public relations professional.

The CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee will be holding another Passport to PR event will be held in March 2016. Hope to see all of you there!

By: Tysha Campbell, CPRS Student Steering Committee student representative for Centennial College’s Bachelor of Public Relations Management program.

President’s message: Join us for coffee Nov. 8

Coffee at Balzac's

Coffee at Balzac’s

Over the past two months I have had the pleasure of meeting with some of our new members over coffee.  (If you are available on November 8th, email me to confirm and join us at Balzac’s at the Toronto Reference Library).   While all were at varying stages in their careers, everyone I met mentioned it was the opportunity to network with other public relations practitioners – to share ideas and get advice – as the reason they choose to join CPRS Toronto.

In light of this, we are committed to hosting more networking events this year and we are expanding our mentorship program.  Starting November 13, we will be initiating peer mentoring.  Elizabeth Verwey, author of the book The Mentors Circle will help us get our program off the ground.  This is a “members only” event. Thanks to NewsCanada for sponsoring this session.

If Boomers are from Venus, where are Millennials from?  Meet us at MaRS on November 20 and hear insights from market researcher Tanya Pyshnov on two important demographic groups we should know more about. Thanks to CNW for sponsoring this event and all our professional development events.

I hope you will take advantage of the networking and professional development events we have planned and let me or any of the board members know if you have ideas for future events.

Mary Jane

A new global mandate for the public relations profession


At the recent World Public Relations Forum in Melbourne, Australia, public relations leaders from 29 countries identified three emerging areas of value for public relations and have issued a new ‘mandate’ for the profession.

The Melbourne Mandate speaks to the role of public relations in defining organizational character, building a culture of listening and engagement, and instilling responsibility in organizations and individuals.

Are you practising to the full scope of the mandate? Can the mandate be used to guide your professional development, enhance your practice, or inform your clients?

To help CPRS Toronto members grapple with these and other professional ideals, we’ll be bringing you the idea guy behind the Melbourne Mandate in the New Year.

Watch this space for details of our February professional development event with Daniel Tisch, APR, FCPRS, Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management. You can also read Daniel’s reflections on the release of the mandate.

Is the Melbourne Mandate relevant to your practice?