I have an agency background, having worked for a top PR firm in Dublin for close to 1.5 years. I was part of the consumer communications team and worked with a varied list of consumer clients.
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology and History, University College Dublin – Ireland) and Postgraduate Diploma in Public Relations with Event Management and Online PR and Social Media
A stand out experience for me was spending three weeks as a student volunteer, as part of a community outreach program in Zambia.
If you were going to write an autobiography, what would it be called?
A Butterfly Grows.
Furthest flung city you’ve lived in?
Currently, it is Vancouver (which is a far cry from my hometown, the Emerald Isle).
Favourite part of Peak life
Although my journey with Peak has only but begun, it has been short but sweet so far. What stands out is the highly supportive team, all of whom have both exceptional work and life experience and interesting stories to tell.
Favourite BC pastime
I am in the process of learning how to ski! I hope to be able to carve perfect tracks on piste pretty soon (without any falls or tumbles).
Favourite social media site
Pinterest. It is such a great place to get inspiration. I could spend hours creating mood boards of everything I love, especially when it’s related to fashion and interior design trends.
Back in my heydey, I became and all-Ireland relay champion!
In the Tien Sher brainstorm session, Peak suggested a barbeque ‘Flamingo Farewell’ block party where area residents, politicians and key stakeholders would gather, share memories and Mayor Doug McCallum would do a ceremonial first claw of demolition. Media would be on hand to circulate the story widely.
Over 500 people attended the celebration. The speeches were emotional. Peak’s event producer Ross Sullivan envisioned a ‘big bang’ and fireworks to accentuate the demolition moment. The resulting ceremonial hit caught everyone by surprise and was a highlight of every evening newscast. Extensive media coverage was secured throughout Metro Vancouver and B.C. Key media outlets included; Global BC, CTV, CBC, CITY-TV, OMNI-TV, CBC Radio, News1130
On August 30, 2018 at 6:00 a.m. the Federal Court of Appeal handed down a landmark ruling on a challenge of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) by the Squamish Nation and other First Nations and environmental groups.
The court ruled there had not been adequate consultation by the federal government, a significant win for First Nations.
No matter which way the decision went, Squamish Nation leaders wanted maximum positive news coverage. Peak Communicators worked closely with the Squamish Nation to make its position understood within its own membership and across the country.
Calling on Peak’s extensive media experience we knew that all media would want instant reaction, even before the decision was fully understood. Media is a competitive business and if Squamish Nation leaders granted one outlet the first interview, all other outlets would be angered by what they would see as favouritism. That would taint media coverage on all the other outlets, turning a positive story into a negative one. We advised against any interviews until after the 9:30 a.m. news conference.
Working with Squamish Nation leaders and the legal team, Peak prepared two short holding statements in the days leading up to the decision: one based on a positive outcome and the second a negative outcome. The purpose of these statements was to have the Squamish Nation reaction to the decision included in the news cycle until we held the news conference.
The positive statement was edited and distributed across the country, directly to the desks of news decision-makers and instantly began appearing in news coverage before 8:00.
The strategy ensured the Squamish Nation was heard, with all media feeling they had been dealt with fairly.
Peak began preparing the news conference site before 6:00 in the morning. A large turnout was expected. Approximately 50 media members attended, representing all major news networks in Canada and local news outlets. The three major TV networks, CBC, CTV and Global all carried the news conference live.
After the event, Peak spent the next several hours coordinating additional radio, newspaper and television interviews for Squamish Nation spokesperson and Councillor Khelsilem.
Squamish Nation appeared in over 120 positive news stories
At least 40 different newspaper articles including the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, National Post and Vancouver Sun
58 TV hits with coverage on all major newscasts across Canada including CBC’s The National – the messaging was clear: First Nations needed to be respectfully and properly consulted by government; a meaningful and deep two-way dialogue is required
TV interviews with Khelsilem on BNN Bloomberg and CBC’s Power and Politics and radio talk show interviews on various CBC shows
The opportunity to provide input for CTV Vancouver’s televised news coverage of Sportsnet firing long-time Hockey Night in Canada Coach’s Corner commentator Don Cherry brings to mind my first career as a news broadcaster followed by a career in public relations specializing in spokesperson training and crisis communications management.
Peak on CTV: Alyn Edwards comments Don Cherry’s firing
You have to watch what you say – particularly in this era of instant internet communication.
Don Cherry did himself in – twice.
His ‘you people’ comment aimed at immigrants who don’t purchase poppies to honour Canada’s soldiers, including those who made the supreme sacrifice, was grounds for termination.
But his refusal to apologize was the double whammy. He had to go.
When you mess up, you fess up and then you dress up.
And those who are first out with the information control the message.
Don Cherry did neither.
The day after his dismissal, which took place on Remembrance Day, Cherry seemed unsure of what he had said and took the long way around to say possibly he could have rephrased his rant.
The opportunity to fess up and dress up had clearly passed. The axe had fallen.
Co-host of Coach’s Corner Don Maclean wasted no time in doing the full faceplant mea culpa apology. He needed to do that because he appeared to be nodding in agreement with Cherry’s rant and gave a big thumb’s up when the diatribe ended.
People make mistakes, sometimes say things they don’t mean or phrase things poorly leading to huge misunderstandings.
It’s what they do about it that is remembered.
People won’t forgive and forget without an apology.
Don Cherry made his second mistake when he refused to do that… and the rest is history.
After an outstanding media success on Vancouver’s 30th anniversary of the dragon boat festival in 2018, how would Peak attract another 90 media hits, in addition to the 28 event listings a year later? The goal was to attract the same or more media coverage, in advance of and during the festival.
Peak went out and pitched the same media for stories, interviews and calendar event listings. We crafted creative profiles and backgrounders. In early June, three weeks before the festival, Peak held a news conference to preview the Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival and unveil a new light-weight dragon boat that was in development. We also gave media the opportunity to get into the newly built boat and race against the older models.
In 2019, Peak drove an astounding 68 per cent more media coverage than in 2018. This is one of Vancouver’s biggest annual festivals and fun events, so it is worthy of repeat coverage. The morning news conference with real news received a significant amount of media coverage in the lead-up to the festival itself. That was a differentiator. Peak also harnessed established media relationships to ensure success in 2019.
Vancouver-based PeaceGeeks is a non-profit organization that builds digital tools to empower communities in the pursuit of peace. In 2019, PeaceGeeks launched Arrival Advisor, a free mobile app that helps refugees and immigrants in British Columbia find information and services to plan their settlement journey.
Arrival Advisor was built in partnership with the LEAP | Pecaut Centre for Social Impact and the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Jobs, Trade, and Technology. PeaceGeeks was also awarded a $750,000 grant for the app through the Google.org Impact Challenge Canada 2017.
Peak was engaged in 2019 to help PeaceGeeks raise awareness as a non-profit organization and roll out the launch of their new app.
Peak worked with PeaceGeeks to execute a traditional media relations campaign that targeted key markets across British Columbia in print, radio, TV and online media.
Peak developed media materials including a news release and fact sheet to inform the target market about the app. Peak identified immigration population data for various communities to find a local angle and target pitches and achieve widespread coverage.
Peak media-trained for Arrival Advisor spokespeople and provided key messages to ensure their messaging was effective in interviews.
More than 2.5 million impressions in traditional print, online and social media outlets
98 pieces of online coverage in over 70 communities across B.C.’s Interior, Lower Mainland and Northern regions
22 TV hits with coverage in major markets across the province (including Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George) and across the country (Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton)
Seven informative radio interviews with PeaceGeeks representatives helped to spread key messages across the province
When Langley Memorial Hospital opened in 1948, it was, essentially, a country hospital.
Langley was a small town, dwarfed by Vancouver and its neighbouring communities.
No one could have seen its exploding population coming.
Seventy years later, the hospital announced that it would build a new emergency department. The Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation launched a multi-million-dollar fundraising campaign in May, and enlisted Peak’s help.
It’s been an outstanding project. The new emerg is needed, badly. The current facility is too small, too cramped, awkwardly designed and, as you can imagine, isn’t capable of handing the new Langley. We were able to draw attention to this critical undertaking, and felt we served a small but important role in the campaign launch.
At the initial news event, two big donors were announced. One family gave $2 million, and then a $5-million donor was unveiled. The assembled guests were wowed. Even the usually skeptical media was impressed – and we were able to attract media that wouldn’t normally be interested in a regional hospital.
Six weeks after the launch, we were at it again. The foundation was set to name its latest donor – the Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. What could we do with that?
This is where effort needs to fight perception. After all, at a glance, we had a vision of what a hospital auxiliary is. They’re those blue-haired ladies, right? The ones who give you directions when you arrive at a hospital, who run the gift shop that has all the stuffies and balloons. Don’t they wear frocks? I think they wear frocks.
What sort of story is this?
Turns out, one heck of a story. Over the course of a quarter-century, Langley’s auxiliary has given about $10 million to the hospital. They have a wildly successful thrift store in town, and they’re a beast of an organization, with more than 200 volunteers and a highly committed base whose roots go back at least a century, to volunteer organizations that preceded the hospital.
At first, we didn’t think a $1.5-million donation would grab much attention when we’d already announced $7 million in one fell swoop. We certainly didn’t think media would be very interested in telling the story of the auxiliary.
Like I said, it turned to be a heck of a story. We met Diane Thornton, the longtime past-president. And Thelma Boileau, the current president. Thelma and Diane. Thelma and Diane. Hmmmm, sounds almost familiar. A couple of driven, independent women.
And when I spoke to Diane, this was the first thing she told me: “We have changed. We’re no longer a bunch of little old ladies knitting toilet roll covers. We’ve come a long way.”
That sure made the pitch a whole lot easier. This isn’t the auxiliary you’ve got in your head, we said. This is a serious kick-ass bunch, who know what they want and get it. Who wouldn’t want to tell that story?
That’s exactly what happened. CBC and CKNW. The Province. Pretty much every TV station in town. All telling the story about this powerful, motivated, altruistic group.
And so, the simplest of reminders: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or, uh, its toilet roll cover.
You’re a fundraising organization and you’d like to draw attention to the events you’ve organized.
This won’t be easy.
If anything makes media yawn, it’s another charity doing another walk to raise money.
Whether that makes sense or is simply callous, it’s a fact. It’s exactly what happens in a newsroom – they get pitched pretty much every day about those sorts of initiatives, and are often invited to write about the event based on, frankly, uninspiring hooks.
There are so many of them, it’s understandable so many get deleted. It’s hard to tell one from another. And the excuse for not biting is an easy one: “We get these pitches every single day. If we’re going to say yes to one, we’re going to have to say yes to all of them.”
Look, you and I both know that’s not true. Media doesn’t have to say yes to all of them. But they’ll say yes if — and here’s the big if — there are compelling stories to tell.
So when our longtime client, the Alzheimer Society of B.C., asked us to pitch the 2018 Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s – 23 fundraising walks around the province on May 6 – we couldn’t help but feel challenged. The society planned to honour longtime volunteers, or others who’ve been impacted by Alzheimer’s, at each site. If you think charity events are a tough thing to pitch, how about volunteerism? In both cases, absolutely worthy. In both cases, media usually shrugs.
How, then, did we do it? By investing time. Effort. Delving into the subject. Getting to know people. And becoming emotionally involved with our client’s story.
The society wanted us to pitch Michele Buchignani and her parents, Reg and Sally. They were, no doubt, keen and experienced volunteers. Reg’s mother had had Alzheimer’s. Reg came to the society for help, for guidance. And 30 years later, he’s still giving his time. So is Michele, who’s had her boots on the ground as a volunteer as well as being the past chair of the board of directors.
We knew we needed more than the volunteer angle. So we invited Michele to Peak’s offices one Friday afternoon. We sat her down and said: “Tell us about your grandma. Take us back to when she was healthy. What was she like?” And just like that, Michele brought her grandma back to life. It was really something: funny in places, sad in others. Mary Buchignani was a strong woman of tremendous character and personality – and then she wasn’t. Michele learned a lot, watching her grandma’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s. It led to her getting involved, becoming an advocate.
After an hour in our boardroom, we knew we had at least one great story. We had someone with lived experience who had the personal story, but also could deliver the key messages – the walks, the fundraising, the need for increased awareness about and support for people with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones – in succinct and effective ways. Listening to Michele, we knew she would make a compelling TV or radio talk show guest.
From there, our task was simple: Sell Michele. And determine what the other best stories were. We had a planner from the City of New Westminster who’s not only been working on New West becoming B.C.’s first dementia-friendly community but also has a father who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; a couple who’ve had a long life together, filled with affection and love, and the disease won’t steal those things from them; and a 69-year-old woman, several years into her diagnosis, who decided she wanted to go skydiving. Fantastic stories of different types. All meaningful. All human.
We went into this project knowing it would be a challenge. But when we take on a project, we always find a way to get media results. It’s where Peak has earned its reputation. So we landed the major media, from the Vancouver Sun to Global TV to CBC Radio and CKNW. And the regional media, who told those powerful stories about people who live in their area. We had a client in the Alzheimer Society of B.C. that was passionate and communicative and positive, and we were able to help successfully convey their chief messages time and time again.
When it was all over, the event was behind us and we all knew so much more about Alzheimer’s, we were able to say to the client: We can keep getting you, and the work you’re doing, attention. And we don’t need the walk to do it.
Communications strategy; reputation and trust management; issues, crisis and change; training; media relations; social media management and governance; content development.
Newspaper reporter and editor; corporate communications, most recently national Director of Social and Media Relations for TELUS; PR consulting in sectors including real estate, aquaculture and food production, mining and resource development, biotech, technology and health care.
BA in journalism.
Farthest flung city you’ve been to
Charlottetown, PEI, for the 1989 Scouts Canada Jamboree.
Favourite part of Peak life:
Collaborating with great clients.
Taking on a New York hedge fund trying to disrupt TELUS’s merger of voting and non-voting shares into a single class in order to profit from short trades.
Favourite B.C. pastime:
Skiing, backpacking, camping with my Scout troop.
Favourite social media site:
I won third place in the Agassiz Fall Fair celebrity goat milking contest when I was editor of the local newspaper. The mayor and MLA beat me to the gold.