Peak Communicators
July 31, 2018

Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary: Apparently small story packs huge punch

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.

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May 10, 2018

Dig for the story, believe in the story: the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

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.

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March 7, 2018

Shawn Hall

Specialties

Communications strategy; reputation and trust management; issues, crisis and change; training; media relations; social media management and governance; content development.

Sector experience

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.

Education

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.

Career highlight:

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:

LinkedIn.

Random fact:

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.

April 6, 2017

Moving beyond ‘key messages’, the value of an authentic narrative

At its core, public relations are about storytelling and now more than ever brands need to have a powerful and compelling story to engage and mobilize their audiences.

The trouble is, storytelling has its limitations. In today’s saturated communications marketplace, where information is digested in smaller sizes and competing against more channels, the ability for a story to engage and retain an audience is becoming increasingly difficult. Furthermore, technology has expanded the ability of audiences to digest information, so brands must find a more meaningful means to deliver a coherent and credible message.

Moving beyond storytelling

Brands today must move beyond segmented campaigns and episodic storytelling and develop a narrative, an central thematic that is the basis of the brand’s identity and strategy. A foundational idea that encompasses and forms all areas of a brand’s engagement across its myriad of channels and stakeholders, be it employees; consumers, traditional media, social influencers, policy makers, etc. A company’s narrative should tell everyone what it stands for and offers an idea for those stakeholders to connect with and align behind.

Today, public relations, corporate relations, publicists and marketers are all competing to engage the same audiences through more integrated means – paid, earned, social and owned – meaning that messaging needs to be not only engaging but also consistent across the various streams, and most important of all, in real time.

Brands must lead conversations

Digital and social media platforms have changed the way brands engage with their audiences. Communication no longer flows in a single direction; audiences are now feeding back to companies on a constant basis. Brands must now lead “conversations”, interacting with their audiences in real time, which has quantifiable impact on their reputation.

Brands lead the conversation

Proactively driving engagement is now an absolute. While engaging with audiences across these various channels, brands need to utilize a coherent narrative, one that provides clarity and consistency of that engagement. The ability to communicate a compelling, inclusive and consistent narrative has the power to inspire, energize and mobilize an audience in ways our industry never thought possible.

How to develop a strong narrative

  • Have a real understanding of the brand’s purpose and its values. Consumers today are more value driven than ever before. How a company is trying to achieve its objective, is as important as what it is trying to achieve. Ensure your narrative seeks to explain what the brand stands for and what is it is seeking to achieve.
  • The narrative must be relatable and easy to explain. To maintain the attention of audiences, a narrative cannot be bogged down in jargon. A strong narrative is based on fact and is not only persuasive but also easily repeatable.
  • Be inclusive and insightful. Narratives need to evoke an emotional connection and invite participation. It presents an idea for an audience to believe in, support, and ultimately recommend.

In our hyper-completive, over-saturated communications environment, being able to portray a potent and authentic narrative has the power to genuinely connect with an audience, inspire them to action, and lead them on a journey.

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March 29, 2017

Nick Anstee

Sector experience

Predominantly in retail, music, ticketing and technology

Career background

I have spent much of my career working in communications agencies in London, account managing fully integrated campaigns and media pitching for five to 10 clients at any one point. Hallmark clients include Nokia/Microsoft Mobile, Canada Goose, Puma, Casio G-SHOCK, Amazon and Patagonia.

Education

Leeds Metropolitan University – BA Hons (2:1) Marketing and Public Relations

Volunteer experience

Working annually at fundraising events for Medical Detection Dogs (UK). A charity that trains dogs to detect changes in an individual’s personal odor triggered by their disease (Cancer, Diabetes and others).

If you were going to write an autobiography, what would it be called? 

There and back again: An intrepid look into the soul of an English fella.

Career highlight

Landing a national primetime broadcast slot for my client by hijacking the viral sensation of the blue or gold dress debate.

Favourite part of Peak life

Bouncing ideas off my colleagues and seeing if it sticks or what comes back.

Favourite social media site

Instagram – it is experiencing such growth in the retail and brand sphere currently and also evolving influencer roles in the marketing mix.

Furthest flung place you’ve lived? 

London

Favourite B.C. pastime 

Skiing, climbing and enjoying the great outdoors.

Secret talent 

Flipping and catching beer mats in one movement – my record is 27.

Random fact

As a toddler I went wondering from a restaurant table in Spain – my parents found me sitting on Steffi Graf’s knee.

 

 

January 9, 2017

4 Unavoidable PR Trends for 2017

As we usher in 2017, the impact of digital and social media is only going to continue to grow. As digital news is more instant, searchable and accessible, more and more people are gravitating to the online world and using social channels to find content specific to their interests. Newsrooms also shrank in 2016, allowing for less specialized journalists and the rise of influencers. So what do we foresee coming ahead for 2017? Below is a list of what to look for and how to prepare for it.

Influencers continue to be King

Since more people are choosing to read online news that is filtered to meet their interests, influencers have become instrumental to brand marketing and PR efforts. A Nielsen survey found in 2013 that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from family and friends. While this may not seem surprising, Twitter revealed, in a similar study in 2016, that their users trust online influencers nearly as much as their friends and family.

Finding authentic advocates who already connect with your followers, and who are within your brand’s target audience, will increasingly become the best option for earned media. How do we prepare for this? Start doing some research into which influencers reach your target audience, and reach out to them. Figure out what they like and what they post, and tailor pitches to meet their needs.

Contributor marketing and thought leadership will grow

As audiences trust influencers more and more, it will be integral to build thought leadership for your brand, positioning yourself as an influencer in your field. If the audience feels that your brand/spokesperson is a subject matter expert in the product/service you are offering, you will remain top of mind.

Further, as newsrooms continue to shrink, a trend we have seen for the past few years, more content will be created by contributors who are thought leaders in their field. With less staff to conduct research and dedicate time to individual stories, many news teams are also looking for expert advice in their pieces. Positioning yourself as a thought leader will not only allow for earned media coverage and brand recognition, it will allow you to influence how the story is told.

Visuals will become a necessity

Over the past year we saw a rise not only in social media, but in live video. Snapchat (or Snap Inc. as it’s now referred to) became a force to be reckoned with and Facebook Live and Instagram Stories were born. As live video exploded in 2016, we can only see it continuing to dominate conversations this year as more news moves to the Internet. In an era of information overload, brands will have to provide content that is simple to grasp, personable and compelling enough to capture the short attention span of the audience today. That can be done most efficiently through strong visuals and live video. Videos and visuals are also easily shared through social media, allowing for a wider reach.

Facts and case studies are a must

If there was one lesson learned in 2016, it was that fake news will not be tolerated. With the many fake news scandals this past year, news outlets are going to be much more diligent about the information they put out. News stories are going to now be backed up by industry specialists, and articles are going to be written by contributors with knowledge in the specific area. Additionally, pitch notes are going to have to be supported by solid facts, and new products accompanied by user reviews and well researched case studies.

In 2017, news and online content will only become further curated for individual audiences. As a result, influencers will be the gatekeepers for brands, and content must be engaging and factual. Our advice? Brush up those social profiles, build strong relationships with influencers, establish a thought leadership program and create engaging, thoughtful and compelling content.

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October 26, 2016

Timothy Cuffe

Sector experience

Investment banking, finance and private equity, technology, real estate, telecommunications, mining and natural resources, corporate and retail.

Career background

Prior to moving home to Vancouver and joining Peak, I spent 15 years in Asia, most recently as Head of Corporate Communications for Barclays, Asia Pacific. I started my career initially as a financial correspondent, before moving into banking, first on the trading desk at HSBC, and then joining what was then Barclays Capital in 2008.

Education

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Political Science and Government from Simon Fraser University

Career highlight

Joining Barclays only weeks after its purchase of Lehman Bros at the height of the Global Financial Crisis, and working to promote the firm as it was expanding its footprint of the business across Asia.

Favourite part of Peak life

The diversity. After 15 years working in finance it’s fantastic to work with such a wide array of clients from such different industries.

Favourite social media site

Twitter. The democratization of information has fundamentally changed the nature of how the world understands and views itself.

Furthest flung place you’ve lived? 

Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong

Random fact 

Was recognized in PR Week’s 2015 Power Book, which names that publication’s list of the most influential PR professionals around the world.

March 15, 2016

Navitas

Navitas is a leading global education provider that offers an extensive range of educational services through three major Divisions to students and professionals including university programs, creative media education, professional education, English language training and settlement services.The objective of this public relations campaign was to strengthen the reputation of its two Canadian Colleges by earning positive media coverage.

the goals

  • Educate existing and potential Navitas partners on the company’s mission and operations in Canada and, in turn, create wider community acceptance.
  • Position Navitas and its Canadian colleges as caring education providers that help international students achieve social and academic success.
  • Showcase the economic impact Navitas and its pathway programs have at a local, provincial, and national level.
  • Highlight student-success stories

the campaign

Peak worked with Navitas for more than two years promoting Fraser International College in Burnaby, B.C. and the International College of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The media coverage focused attention on the college’s key messages, including:

  • Students studying at Navitas colleges achieve academic success
  • Navitas helps students integrate into their new communities
  • International students contribute to the Canadian/provincial economy

the key results

  • Peak generated 91 piece of media coverage and an estimated 18,849,483 impressions for both colleges between October 2013 and January 2015
  • Media coverage highlights included:

January 15, 2016

Kelowna PR

All the services of Peak Communicators are available in Kelowna.

No matter what your public relations needs, we can help through Kelowna-based Senior Consultant Chris Olsen.

Chris spent 30 years in radio and TV and is best known as an award-winning CTV consumer reporter, “Olsen on Your Side.” Chris knows what stories media like to tell and helps clients find the stories that will get them noticed. More about Chris and other Peak people.

Chris specializes in getting clients positive news coverage. It often starts with media training for individuals or groups, teaching you how to take advantage of all positive opportunities and deal with any crisis, then developing a public relations strategy and plan to deliver continuing positive news coverage, including social media.

If you’re facing a crisis, Chris is a calm presence who can guide you through the media minefield.

If your needs are more modest, we do that too. Peak does it all, from a single news release about an event or issue to ongoing work to help you build a powerful brand.

At our core we are storytellers, and we’d like to tell yours.

Peak Services

We offer a wide-range of public relations services to Kelowna including:

  • MEDIA RELATIONS; Peak knows how to generate a buzz about your business in traditional and social media.
  • MEDIA TRAINING; Peak has trained thousands of people in cost-effective half-day or full-day sessions. Media training can be individual or groups, even different businesses in the same session.
  • CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS; Let us help you develop a crisis response plan before an incident happens. If you are currently in the midst of a crisis situation, do not worry — we can manage the communication from start to finish.
  • ALL SERVICES; Yes, there is more. A lot more — browse and see how we can help you.

To contact Chris Olsen please email Chris@peakco.com or KelownaPR@peakco.com.

Call 250-808-4910 or Peak Vancouver at 604-689-5559.

July 9, 2015

Simon Fraser University

Client objective

The university wanted to utilize a new five-year plan as an opportunity to rebrand as ‘Canada’s  connected university’.  To enhance its reputation, SFU’s vision is to be the leading engaged university in Canada, defined by its integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and community connections.

Campaign

SFU Engage was an interactive, multimedia campaign designed to enhance SFU’s reputation as Canada’s most engaged university: engaging research, engaging students, engaging communities. Peak partnered with Karo Group, a leading marketing-communications firm in Vancouver, to create and execute a five-year plan to rebrand SFU as a connected university, and to publicize that rebranding. The university’s tagline became, “Engaging the world.” Karo carried out the rebranding and Peak planned and executed the social media and publicity campaigns. Key messages included SFU’s commitment to the community and the direct parallel between education and lifelong success.

Key results

  • 23 million impressions through out-of-home (transit) advertising
  • More than three million impressions in traditional print and online outlets
  • One million impressions in print advertising
  • More than 500,000 impressions in social media outlets
  • Nearly 40 hits in traditional and digital media outlets
  • A full house at the vision statement launch event at the Bill Reid Gallery at SFU’s downtown campus, where students, staff, faculty, alumni, government and media were introduced to the new vision and tagline
  • Interviews with President Andrew Petter on CBC’s The Early Edition and CKNW’s Bill Good Show celebrating the launch of SFU’s new vision statement
  • Production of a powerful video and visually arresting pop-banners showing how SFU is engaging the world through its new vision. The video and banners have already been used again at internal and external events to engage audiences and promote SFU
  • Successful contest drawing stakeholders from Facebook and other online platforms to the SFU Engage microsite. The opportunity to win an SFU-Haida Gwaii experience was a key element in engaging audiences in the campaign
  • A National Aboriginal Day op-ed in the Vancouver Sun by SFU student Kathryn Ovenell-Carter discussing aboriginal teaching methodologies and how they can be applied to students from all cultures and ethnicities. Kathryn’s op-ed also ran in The Tyee