On April 7, the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee (SSC) hosted their last event of the 2015/2016 school year, which took place at the Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto. A total of 72 public relations students from across the GTA attended the event, which allows small groups of students to intimately sit with professionals from a variety of public relations sectors.
Of course, the hot topic of the night for students was internships. They sought out advice on how to be exceptional during the internship hiring season and how to better their chances at landing their dream job. In additional to these useful tips, the participating professionals shared additional industry insights.
At the Finance table, Laurrell Mohammed, Corporate and Public Affairs Manager at TD Bank Group, stressed the importance of being able to “sell yourself” in an interview. David Rowney, Senior Manager of Canadian Banking Communications at Scotiabank, added that volunteering for your choice company is a good place to start.
Mike Van Soelen, Senior Principal from Navigator Ltd., seated at the Crisis Communications table, defined the process of building media relationships as “tricky” and explaining the importance of developing thick skin. While Vice President of NATIONAL PR, Jeff Roman, and NATIONAL PR Associate, Laura Poplak, advised that students should consider how to help the media you’re working with, and to offer them your support.
In the Government session Keerthana Kamalavasan, Senior Communications Advisor for the Office of the Mayor, recommended letting your coworkers know which projects you’re especially interested in and making yourself invaluable. Brendan Agnew-Iler, Account Director from Argyle Public Relationships, gave the students wise words to ponder whilst pursuing a career in PR: “If you’re not failing sometimes, you’re not trying hard enough.”
From left to right: Lauren Poplak, Brian Rosevear, Linda Andross, Tracy Ford, Dan Young, Jeff Roman, Mike Van Soelen, David Rowney, Laurrell Mohammed, Abby Albino, Brendan Agnew-Iler, Christine Faulhaber, Jeanette Jones, Sandra Gregory, Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, Jennifer Wasley, Samantha Taus, Ogho Ikhalo and Keerthana Kamalavasan
The event showcased the range of positions in which public relations students could find themselves in their future. Other sectors included in the event were Consumer/Corporate, Global/Mid-size Agency, Non-Profit, Sports, Entertainment and Hospitality. Following the table discussions, attendees were free to mingle, network and try to glean final bits of crucial advice.
Not only was the night a fantastic chance to meet professionals, but it also provided a great opportunity to connect with other PR students entering the field. The SSC will be back in September for another great year of student-focused events.
It is a wonderful time to be in public relations and good luck to all the students this year heading into the industry!
Elyse Carney is a representative on the SSC currently attending Durham College.
Informational interviews are less stressful than job interviews and offer practical career advice outside the classroom. Instead of reading a company’s “About” page I have found it more effective to reach out to someone I admire and pick their brain to accelerate my career search.
After researching professionals on LinkedIn, I came across Humber PR alumna and former TVO public relations manager Kathy Saliba. I was eager to meet with her and our second degree connection was kind enough to introduce us.
I learned a lot from our coffee chat and she offered relevant industry advice. Here are three reasons why I recommend going on informational interviews:
1) Gain insight from industry professionals.
It’s a great opportunity to ask specific questions about their personal experience, which you won’t get from an online search engine.
- Be open-minded. Opportunities can open up where you least expect them.
- Be a sponge. Absorb as much information as you can. Make the most of every experience.
- The learning process is never ending. Keep searching for opportunities to grow. Take advantage of the professional development and training courses offered online, at work or through professional organizations such as the CPRS Toronto Society.
2) Their knowledge of the industry can help you choose your path:
I was interested in learning about the differences between working in a large firm, boutique agency and corporate setting. Since Kathy had experience in all three she was able to shed some light on the subject.
Kathy suggested trying different work environments throughout your career to determine your preferred lifestyle and sector.
3) Helpful career tips
Kathy generously shared advice on how to succeed in job interviews:
- Read the company’s press releases and conduct a media audit to become more informed about the employer’s latest projects.
- In case of any questions about media relations, research media outlets tailored to the company’s clients or products. It’s a good habit to form a media list filled with specific traditional media, online bloggers and influencers.
- Research the person you are interviewing on LinkedIn to see if you have any shared connections or experiences you can bring up in the interview.
I encourage students and recent graduates to go on informational interviews if they want to build their confidence and learn more about their future. The more you go on and the more interview practice you obtain, the more prepared you will be to navigate your PR career.
By: Alessandra Manieri, Post-Graduate Public Relations Humber College
ACE Awards Judge, Lauren More, answers that question and shares her insights on the qualities of a gold winning submission
Taking the leap to judging the CPRS Toronto Ace Awards was a natural next step for Lauren More, VP Communications for Ford of Canada. Her six years of judging allowed her to see some of the freshest and most creative campaigns across industries. From helping run the CPRS Toronto mentoring program to ACE Awards judging, Lauren sees volunteering as her way of supporting the communications field.
Lauren shares her insight into creating an award-winning submission with this year’s crop of ACE award applicants:
The most popular categories
While ACE award judges typically judge on a variety of different categories, there are some categories that receive far more entries and are more competitive to place.
“It’s very competitive because it’s kind of the meat and potatoes of a lot of what we do as communicators,” said Lauren. “But the other area that has certainly just expanded exponentially is the social media category.”
The social media category, in particular, has some of the most creative submissions she’s seen.
The most standout campaigns
Lauren notes that often the most memorable and effective campaigns are the ones where “maybe it’s not the sexiest product or the sexiest point of view or the sexiest issue to grab awareness for”. Yet with a creative approach, these campaigns gained a ton of media attention.
While there are some topics that are naturally going to be of more interest to the media, the campaigns she’s enjoyed over the years are the ones where the brand really has to work at it to find something that would be meaningful to their audience.
The challenges to creativity
While it’s increasingly challenging, to come up with new ideas and new approaches, Lauren concedes sometimes there are periods where budgets have been a lot tighter.
“You have to do a lot more with a lot less,” she said, “And you’re still expected to deliver the same type of results – so I think that’s really pushed the level of creativity.”
The ability to sit back
It comes to no surprise that most communicators rarely have time to slow their everyday pace. Lauren explained the ACE Awards provide that perfect evening to do just that with your team and reflect back on your best work.
“We tend to in our jobs and our field to run pretty fast and run pretty hard.” she said, “And I think it’s really worthwhile to stop and take a breath now and then. To acknowledge the work and commitment we put in.”
There are certain things that separate excellence in our field. Lauren believes it’s important as a profession to both recognize and celebrate that.
The extra “oomph”
Key to winning best in show or taking home gold in any given category, Lauren emphasizes the consistency throughout the RACE formula steps. Some of the best submissions, in her opinion took the following measures:
- The research connects well with the analysis
- The analysis connects well to the communications tactics
- A solid evaluation of the results
If you research well you understand what you’re trying to achieve with a communications program. Those winning gold and best in show have that extra dose of creativity, she said.
Lauren also notes past campaigns resonated with people – their key audience – and they told a story, a really good story and “they have that little extra oomph to them.”
Written by: Jessica Chong, Account Coordinator, High Road Communicatons
“And the 2015 Public Relations Campaign of the Year goes to Weber Shandwick and McDonald’s Canada McCafé Retail Launch.”
On May 20, 2015, the Weber Shandwick team jumped out of their seats and congratulated one another as their McDonald’s client walked on stage to accept the most prestigious ACE award of the night.
The Work Behind Winning
When asked to reflect on the agency’s big achievement and what it was like to compete in the ACE Awards, Jessica Greasley, account director from Weber Shandwick, stepped up to the opportunity.
In September 2014, Weber Shandwick devised a communications plan for McCafé’s first ever grocery launch. The essence of the communication plan focused on driving awareness of the retail launch to both consumers and the business sector.
Weber Shandwick demonstrated how the brand was innovative and appealed to a younger demographic through their campaign’s creative strategies and tactics. The global agency also took risks to try something new with Songza and the McDonald’s Canada internal team embraced this opportunity to engage their younger audience on a new digital platform. Greasley also explained how the agency’s partnership with the McDonald’s team also fueled the campaign’s success.
The ACE Awards Submission
The submission was comprehensive.
“All of the components in the submission emphasized how the campaign’s strategies tied directly back to the company’s business objectives.”
Greasley also noted the submission’s careful attention to distinguishing how their results matched their initial objectives and goals, which was instrumental to ensuring the campaign stood out. She even identified how showcasing the large scope of the campaign combined with the business and consumer phases and the planning and timing layout were key aspects of the submission.
In terms of advice to agencies developing their submission for the 2016 ACE Awards Greasley said, “Provide a good understanding of the insights that led to the approach. Having clear targets, and how you measured against it will make help the judges understand why it’s award-worthy.”
The Best In Show Presentation
With only 15 minutes to present in front of the judges, the team selected critical parts of the campaign to prove why it was deserving of the top award.
Their presentation communicated why the McCafé Retail launch should receive the prestigious award by:
- Demonstrating a strong understanding of the company’s audience and brand image
- Highlighting the agency’s thought process and initial research that was conducted to tailor the campaign’s objectives
- Showcasing innovative strategies such as the Songza partnership and proving why it was chosen to effectively reach McCafé’s younger audience
- Explaining the media relations strategy behind the campaign and timing it with International Coffee Day, which engaged consumers and garnered an overwhelming and successful amount of media coverage
The Importance of Celebrating the Public Relations and Communications Industry
After finding out the campaign surpassed Weber Shandwick’s targets (and stretch targets!) the team was confident that it was a strong contender to compete within the ACE Awards. “It was a great honour for the company and client,” said Greasly. Especially since McDonald’s has had a long standing partnership with the agency. Greasly also mentioned “it was all hands on deck”. Everyone from the agency contributed to the campaign and award.
Greasley informed me the agency is currently assembling their application for the ACE awards again this year, “As an industry, it’s definitely important to submit and recognize the great work that’s being done by communications professionals. Wishing all this year’s submissions the best of luck!”
To learn more about the campaign watch this video
Follow Weber Shandwick @WSCanada
Written by: Alessandra Manieri, Post-Graduate Student, Humber College
Friday February 26 is the deadline to submit to this year’s ACE Awards and returning judge, Lisa Covens, vice president of communications and public affairs at Leger, discussed her marking style and approach to judging this year’s campaigns.
Before stepping up as a judge, Lisa would attend the ACE Awards to support the clients who used Leger and the research they conducted for the award winning campaigns. When the opportunity came up to be one of the esteemed ACE judges, Lisa took it and started doing something she had never done before.
Lisa shared with us her strategy to marking submissions and to help prepare this year’s hopeful campaigns. Here are some highlights from her interview:
On her judging approach
“My focus will be on the RACE formula.” Research and evaluation jump at her the most.
On what makes a campaign stand out
“Today, campaigns are now so integrated – videos and visuals – which allow people to be very inclusive in their submission. Not only is the winning campaign sharp, but there’s something special about them. It is supported with research, includes creativity, success was measured and explained and overall well-executed.”
On the importance of submitting to the ACE Awards
As a returning judge for the third year in a row, Lisa listed why it is important to submit to recognitions awards such as CPRS Toronto’s ACE Awards:
- Keeps public relations professionals on top of their game throughout the year
- This isn’t done in market research so this a an opportunity worth taking advantage of
- Provides a good reflection on the campaign – when summarizing a submission it makes you think of the campaign from beginning to end
- Outline and learn from the issues encountered
- And of course, recognition is always a good thing
On one piece advice for this year’s submissions
“It’s a shame when we mark a submission and it’s so creative and clear but misses a part of the requirements. Doing that will take you out of the running for the gold.”
TIP: Ask someone, who was not part of the campaign, to review the guideline and checklist. Ensure all the components are included because anything can be overlooked and the missing section will be marked with a zero.
On what she is looking forward too
“One aspect of the ACE Awards I really enjoy is the Best In Show judging day. That day, candidates are on top on their game. You get to witness great presenters and great speakers. I take away so much and I even receive insight on how to be a better presenter. It is such an inspiring night.”
One last thing: “Keep up the great work!”
Follow Lisa Covens on Twitter: @lisacovens
Submission deadline is this Friday February 26. Submit your campaigns here.
Written by Charzie Abendanio, Humber College BPR Student and CPRS Toronto’s Student Steering Committee President
Last year, APEX Public Relations & Walmart Canada took home the ACE Award for Best Creative for the innovation and creativity behind their “Back-To-School with Walmart” campaign. We sat down with Jennifer Stein, vice president of APEX Public Relations, to look back on the award-winning campaign and the importance of celebrating success.
- What inspired you to launch Back-To-School with Walmart?
The inspiration started with the Snack Report. In our research we found out people were talking about lunch and dinner solutions, but not snack solutions. When I think about kids I think of them trading snacks on the school ground. Kids have snack envy, and that really set the tone for what we did.
- Why do you think the campaign was so successful in the end?
We really touched on a nerve on something that was applicable. We had a hypothesis, we did a survey to prove the hypothesis and the hypothesis was true.
It wasn’t just 50 per cent of moms, it was 85 per cent of moms that have this problem, and we knew we needed to provide this solution for them. We worked with a recipe developer to create fun recipes that would resonate with everyone. The content was amazing and when you have amazing content the media is more apt to pick it up.
- You have your finger on the pulse with key industry trends. How important is it to know your audience?
Not only do you need to know your target audience, you need to know what their habits are. How much time they’re spending shopping, how much time they’re spending watching TV, online and listening to the radio so that they can really be targeted, otherwise your message isn’t getting to them.
- Was an ACE Award priority during the campaign, or was it after it ended that you decided to submit?
After. Even though we knew we really blew it out of the water with media impressions, we didn’t know until a couple of months later when all the sales data came in that we helped drive sales and in-store foot traffic. It’s not until you get that insight that you know you have a winner.
- Back-To-School with Walmart was completed and your client was satisfied. Why submit to the ACE Awards?
I think it’s a nice way to congratulate the team. Awards can be tedious, but everyone squeals when you get an e-mail and it tells you you’ve won an award. It’s a feel-good ending to a campaign and something you can show the client, too, that it was an award-winning success.
- Do you think it’s important to submit to recognition awards like ACE?
Yes, often in our industry we do a campaign, we wrap and then we’re on to the next. We don’t take the time to sit back and relish how amazing the campaign was because this industry is so fast and furious. This allows us to take a step back and reflect. Not enough people do.
- Why do you think APEX won last year?
We had amazing content, content that was backed by research. And the campaign helped drive sales and at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important.
- What advice do you have for those PR campaigns being submitted this year?
If you have a sales stat, always use a sales stat to show your success. Or stakeholder analysis. The more you can dig deep into that the better your awards submission will be.
- When you found out you were competing for the highest ACE Award, how did you prepare for the Best in Show judging?
We treated it like a new business pitch to a panel of 12 people we didn’t know. We put together a presentation, we vetted it and then we rehearsed. We rehearsed three to four times as a group.
Written by Bianca Jimeno, Post-Graduate Student, Humber College
2015 has seen one the biggest cases of corporate fraud since Enron in 2001: the Volkswagen emissions scandal. By rigging the software system of their diesel vehicles so that they can successfully pass environmental tests, Volkswagen has not only broken the law in many jurisdictions but also blatantly lied to its customers and stakeholders. In doing so, VW tarnished two of the core values on which it had built its reputation since World War II: trust and integrity—technical reliability and safety being the others. Ironically, Volkswagen had been the least probable candidate in terms of corporate fraud in the public eye. Nobody would have expected such a breach of ethics from the German carmaker. The fact that recent news reports seem to confirm that the number of cars equipped with the test-rigging software system might have been overestimated does not lessen in anyway the initial intention to mislead. As a result, Volkswagen is facing its most severe reputation crisis since its implication with the Nazi regime over 70 years ago.
While there are too many facets to this scandal to be evoked in a single blog post, the Volkswagen story is sure to become a textbook example of what not to do—and what to do, if the recovery is well handled—in business management and public relations manuals. For us, public relations professionals, the VW story is interesting on many fronts: from crisis planning and crisis management to image restoration and the role of social media in fuelling and potentially helping to solve a crisis. Who hasn’t smiled at the joke circulating on social media platforms and turning the company’s well-known tagline “Volkswagen. Das Auto.” into a well-deserved “Volkswagen. Das Cheater.”? The story is also a compelling case from a professional ethics point of view. Public relations professionals pledge to never “knowingly disseminate false or misleading information.” Therefore, it must have been quite an ordeal for VW’s PR team to learn of their company’s breach of trust and to realise they had communicated information that was misleading all along—although unintentionally.
A recent Leger marketing survey conducted in October 2015 indicated that Volkswagen’s reputation score among Canadians (
— David Scholz (@dave_scholz) October 15, 2015
) has dropped 61 points from 44 to -17 pre- to post-crisis—one of the lowest scores ever recorded in 18 years of Leger’s reputation index. What is interesting, however, is that the survey paints a different picture among VW customers. Despite a 32-point drop, VW manages to earn a score of 62 points (down from 94, pre-crisis). VW customers, (https://twitter.com/dave_scholz/status/657550765045784576) seem to be less affected by the emissions scandal than Canadians as a whole. One of the reasons for this put forth by some experts is that the German carmaker might still be viewed by its customer base as a safe and reliable carmaker from an engineering standpoint despite the company’s breach of trust and ethics on the emissions file. Above all, this survey reinforces the fact that the VW scandal is complex and that the company’s stakeholders have been affected differently as it is usually the case. The fact that Volkswagen operates globally only adds to the complexity of the story and makes VW’s road to recovery even more compelling to watch.
As Volkswagen sales growth in Europe and North America has stalled, only time will tell whether or not VW remains in the ditch and for how long. The Volkswagen emissions scandal was most likely the worst PR crisis of 2015. What was the one that caught your attention and why? Tell us at #CPRSToronto.
Katia Collette, APR CPRS Toronto, Treasurer
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.
Get to know our 2015/2016 student representatives from Centennial College’s three public relations programs.
Centennial College, Bachelor of Public Relations Management
Hi, I’m Tysha. I currently live in Oshawa, Ontario and commute three days a week to school. This is my second year volunteering with the committee and I am looking forward to the networking opportunities this year has to offer.
What are you most excited for this year?
This year I am most excited for Building Media Relationships event and hopefully meeting and making some new connections with the media.
What do you do outside of school?
I am currently volunteering with Pride Toronto on the accessibility team, and I am so excited and happy to be working with such a great organization.
Tell us something unexpected about yourself:
I’ve taken a road trip to Belize! Took us six days but we finally made it!
Connect with Tysha:
Centennial College, Graduate Certificate in Public Relations (Story Arts Centre)
Hello! My name is Sarah and I’ll be representing the postgraduate certificate program at Centennial College, Toronto. I’ll be honest, when applying for the program I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. However, after these first few weeks of classes I’m certain I’ve landed in the perfect place!
What are you most excited for this year?
Along with being introduced to the diversity of the PR industry, I’m really excited to be part of the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee. The events that CPRS Toronto holds are truly amazing, and it sounds like this year they’ll be bigger and better.
What do you do outside of school?
Other than school I like to be outdoors, hiking and biking. When time (and money) allows I also like to travel.
Tell us something unexpected about yourself:
I went on a trip to Southeast Asia a few years back, and ended up staying for three years!
Connect with Sarah:
Centennial College, Post-graduate Certificate in Corporate Communications and Public Relations (Pickering)
Hello everyone. I am currently enrolled in the Corporate Communications and Public Relations Certificate at the Pickering Learning Site of Centennial College.
What are you most excited for this year?
I am most excited for the year to end. I know it sounds bad, but hear me out. By the end of this year, I will have gained practical experience from both my program and from the working with the SSC. These experiences will equip me with the skills needed to enter the workforce and build my own brand. So yes, I cannot wait for it to end, because it means I have completed a crucial point in my learning, and I am well on my way to beginning an exciting career.
What do you do outside of school?
I work part time at a music studio as a receptionist. I am also on the board for a pageant and I am working on starting my own lifestyle blog. I also volunteer with organizations like the Canadian Liver Foundation.
Tell us something unexpected about yourself:
I am a fighter. This is my mantra at the moment. No matter what is thrown at me or despite the obstacles in my path, I will find a way to keep moving, keep pushing, and keep surviving.
Connect with Sophiti:
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Congratulations and welcome to all our 2015/2016 Student Steering Committee representatives.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @CPRSStudents