Peak Communicators
December 6, 2019

Squamish Nation

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.

Client Objective

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.

The Campaign

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.

Key Results

  • 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
  • Over 20 pieces of coverage online


March 7, 2018

Shawn Hall


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.


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:


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.

August 8, 2016

Chelsea Clinton’s Speech vs Ivanka Trump’s Speech – who won?

Chelsea 2

Chelsea Clinton at the National Democratic Convention 2016


Both of the Presidential candidate’s daughters spoke a week apart at the respective conventions. Both are young and attractive women and mothers. Both spoke with praise about their parents. For both it was the most important speech of their lives and in front of the biggest audience ever.

Chelsea Clinton talked of her mother’s love for service and her great skills and love as a mother and grandmother. In contrast Ivanka Trump’s speech was about her dad’s focus on his business career.

If you were reading the text of each speech, they both supported their parents and described what they are well known for. But that is not how TV works.

Back in 1964 Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase: “The Medium is the Message.”  He wrote all about it in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. McLuhan said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.


Invanka Trump at the Republican National Convention 2016

So put the content of the speeches aside, and think back on how the ladies presented. One person had a clear advantage and expertise performing on TV.  That was Ivanka Trump.  She has co-hosted her dad’s national TV show “The Apprentice” and spoke with ease to the thousands in the stadium and the millions tuning in. She was confident, paused when she needed to and looked like she had made dozens of similar speeches before. She definitely has the training and like her dad she knows how to put on a show.

Chelsea Clinton, not so much. Chelsea has made speeches before, but she’s more tentative, not a commanding presence as all.  While pleasant, she is not a forceful personality. Subtly, she came across as lacking confidence.

Donald Trump does not have a lot of substance in what he says, but his bombastic, argumentative and dominating presence his taken him to the top of the Republican ticket. None of his competitors work TV the way Trump does.

One of the big knocks on Hillary Clinton is that people don’t know who she is – they don’t know her; therefore they don’t trust her. Even when TV media are friendly to her, the TV medium is not.

Does the top TV performer always win? The Trumps hope so.

Fun to watch.


May 11, 2016

How Corporate Social Investment Can Improve Your PR Game

Last year I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Canadian Public Relations Society’s (CPRS) AGM to share my public relations CSI experience on the African continent. This is my story….

Before we get started let’s clarify the definition of CSI and CSR, which are sometimes used interchangeably.  CSI, or corporate social investment, is the organization’s contributions (either monetary, employee time and resources, or gifts in kind) which bring benefits over and above those directly associated with the core business activities. CSR, or corporate social responsibility, on the other hand is a corporation’s initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing such as companies “going green”.

Companies need to invest in CSI as it ensures their contribution towards building and enhancing the quality of life for the people in the communities that they operate in, both internally and externally.  When companies involve themselves in CSI programs it improves the recognition of their brand and can contribute towards brand loyalty.

CSI provides a social return on investment

Corporate social investment is more than just financial spending; it can also intensify a company’s commitment to its own mission.  Global pharmaceutical company, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), for example, launched the “Secure the Future” program in 1999 offering grants to countries in Africa for women and children living with HIV/AIDS.  To date, this has made a positive and lasting difference in the lives of more than 1 million women and children.  The information that BMS has access to in the pandemic, as a result of their social investment, may also prove to be helpful in their on-going research and product development.

CSI initiatives have to be sustainable to be effective

In order for a CSI initiative to be sustainable, it needs to be treated like a business initiative. It cannot merely be an investment with no financial return. Even the most innovative, well-received CSI initiatives will eventually fizzle out if not directly tied to the business motives of the company.  It will only continue for as long as the company has the appetite for spending money. As soon as the economy suffers or profits drop, CSI will be the first thing to be cut from a company’s budget. CSI program stand a much better chance of survival if they are tied to the profitability and sustainability of the company itself.  Therefore, due diligence should be performed on all CSI initiatives: there should be a strong business case, and like all businesses, there should be a business plan with clear, measureable outcomes.

One company that has succeeded in proving a sustainable CSI campaign that is tied to its organizational goals is McDonald’s McHappy Day. In South Africa, for instance, this is a global charity event that aims to raise money for HIV/AIDS orphanages in South Africa.  In the past, celebrities have enthusiastically worked at McDonald’s restaurants nationally over one weekend to raise the targeted amount of money while customers flooded the restaurants to meet their local celebs and to buy a meal.

CSI campaigns have to be authentic to survive

CSI activities cannot be a smokescreen for an organization’s real social or environmental impacts. For example, a company that sells designer clothes that runs an excellent CSI programme aimed at looking after HIV orphans, while most of its clothes are made through child labour in textile factories that use and pollute water unsustainably and foster corruption, is not accomplishing anything but setting themselves up for scandal.

While companies can contribute through CSI initiatives, the impact is far more significant if it is integrated into its core business at a local level, such as its procurement and employment practices.

At the end of the day, a well thought out and executed CSI campaign can work wonders for one’s brand identity and help the brand achieve PR exposure far beyond their expectations. Combined with public relations, a good CSI campaign can take a company to a completely new level and even establish it as a leader and innovator in its industry. As such, companies should consider investing in a reputable CSI campaign to share the love, spread the love and organically boost their brand identity too.


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March 23, 2016

Lessons in PR: Should We Be More Like Donald Trump?

Donald Trump is breaking every conceivable PR101, 202 and even PR PhD rule and remains completely unaffected by it.  In fact, the more he breaks the rules, the more popular he becomes. So, are those basic public relation rules that we all know outdated?  His communication style is aggressive to the point of stand-up comedy; more propaganda, less public relations. But, for argument’s sake, should we throw out what we know and adopt the shoot-from-the-lip style Trump embodies – especially in the face of a crisis?

In a political nomination campaign, particularly in the United States, you can do the following, apparently without fear of law suits or reprisals:

  • Attack competitors
  • Call opponents liars
  • Threaten to punch protestors in the face
  • Be yourself – no matter what
  • Make fun of the media who carry your message

Say Trump wins the election. Should you or your company adopt his style and become more aggressive in the face of attacks by the media or critics?  Should you go on the offensive to try to galvanize your supporters? Should you simply thumb your nose at powerful media and treat it and your detractors with disdain?

Consider this: If “the Donald” was your CEO in a crisis and talking about your company’s critics or competitors as he is talking now about his opponents and others, how do you think it would affect your brand?  I suspect his board of directors would be the first to say, “Donald, you’re fired!”

In the real world of business, you simply can’t do what “the Donald” is doing. Why? Because politics is not business reality. So, in light of Trump’s recent antics in the media spotlight, here are some lessons we can all learn:

Never attack your competitors

The first rule of good public relations is you never attack competitors.  Exxon didn’t gloat publically when BP sprung a leak in the Gulf of Mexico. When Walmart parmesan cheese was found to contain cellulose recently, Safeway didn’t run attack ads about it. When you begin throwing stones it’s too easy for the media or the public to pick up some of those same rocks and toss them back at you.

Don’t call opponents liars

“The Donald” calls his opponents liars.  He does this often. It’s his go-to pitch. In a heated public debate which your company may be involved in, calling opponents liars will galvanize opposition and lose you public support.  When you lose your cool, you lose – period. The best strategy is to stick to your facts day in and day out and to let your facts ultimately win the day.  Keep a level-head because the more nasty and out of control your opponents get, the more support you will get.

Don’t threaten to punch protestors in the face

When asked, many a CEO might agree privately, that in certain instances they’d like to punch a protester in the face. Now imagine a big project, like B.C.’s pipelines and Site C dam proposals. Imagine a CEO saying on TV, “I’d like to punch that protestor in the face.” They’d be looking for a new career immediately and the project would be dead.

You can be your own worst enemy

In Trump’s case, this means his shoot-from-the-lip style is not a good idea in a crisis. Being yourself is actually good advice for a CEO facing a crisis, as long as being yourself means you show that you care, admit your mistakes, are truthful and outline a plan to make things right. If you are shaken by what happened, allow it to show, allow your concern to show through – be human. But, if being yourself means you go on the offensive and attack everyone in your path, then save that for the boardroom.

Media don’t like to be made fun of

The media, including social media, carry your message.  Making fun of media pundits, reporters, bloggers and analysts is never a good idea.  It may feel to you like you are winning but the “win” is temporary.  They always get the last word.  You should correct factual errors they have made, point out your positive message, and then take the high road.  The public is smarter than you think.  They will get your message and understand when the media is being unfair.

The bottom line?

Everyone likes to copy a winner; business schools teach investment success models such as Warren Buffett’s. But, we also laud those who break the mold and go against the establishment. Case in point? Donald Trump.

If you copy Donald Trump’s nomination strategy in your business I would say that you do so at your own peril.  Right now, Donald Trump doesn’t need real answers, he just needs one-liners, of which he seems to have an endless supply.  When pushed into a corner he goes on a personal attack, calls someone a liar, raises a boogeyman or mentions 9-11.

A nomination campaign is not the business world or even the real world.  It is more like reality TV.  There is only one measuring stick: winning, and the focus is extremely short term.  There is no tomorrow.

Successful businesses have a long time horizon to consider because the public won’t forget and you don’t get to completely rebrand every four years like a political party does.  Unlike a new political leader, a new CEO doesn’t make all the old negative news magically disappear.


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January 15, 2016

Kelowna PR

All the services of Peak Communicators are available in Kelowna and Kamloops.

No matter what your public relations needs, we can help through Vice President 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 or

Call 250-808-4910 or Peak Vancouver at 604-802-7139.

August 11, 2015

Great River Fishing Adventures

Since 1988 this Chilliwack-based fish charter company has provided expert guides and boats to people who want to fish BC locations such as the Fraser River, Pitt River, Lillooet River and/or the Columbia River. They provide a first class adventure and the opportunity for clients to try their hand at many styles of fishing: fly-fishing, single & double-handed spey fishing, steelhead fishing and sturgeon fishing.

Client objective

Great River Fishing Adventures (GRFA) wanted to publicize a record sturgeon catch. The goal was to highlight the unbelievable size of the prehistoric monster fish, the excitement of the catch would attract more business as a result. Great River Fishing wanted to express their underlying passion to see that the Great White Sturgeon population is preserved and maintained by the catch and release and tagging program.


Peak worked with Great River Fishing Adventures when an elderly British couple caught a 12 foot – 4 inch long Great White Sturgeon on the Fraser River in July 2012. Peak Communicators worked quickly to have media interview the visiting tourists aboard a Great River Fishing boat with hand-out visuals provided. With dozens of TV, radio and print stories that resulted, the story had International media coverage.

Every time a huge sturgeon is caught, Peak has turned on the publicity machine. It’s worked every time.

  • September 2012 – A Kamloops accounting firm doing a 30 person team-building
    •  Paul caught a 10 foot – 10 inch long sturgeon
  • June 2014 ­­– 19-year-old Paul Jarvis and his dad from Atlanta on their first fishing trip together
    • The firm owner caught an 11 foot – 8 inch sturgeon
  • June 2015 – A nine year old boy and his dad from Atlantic City, NJ dreamed of catching a big sturgeon
    • The 4 foot tall boy pulled in a 10 foot – 1 inch long sturgeon

Key Results

Over a four year period, Peak and GRFA’s marketing man have worked effortlessly together. We secured hundreds of online articles and traditional media hits. In the process their business has grown and they are industry leaders. They are acknowledged by Trip Advisor as the #1 boat tour and water sports company in Chilliwack and they’ve attracted fishing TV series from all over the world to do episodes and segments on their company.

August 7, 2015

Pacific Blue Cross

Pacific Blue Cross, British Columbia’s leading benefits provider, supported Mental Health Week, presented by CMHA. This year’s theme for Mental Health Week was ‘Get Loud!’ aiming to promote ongoing dialogue and open discussion about mental health issues.

July 27, 2015

Alyn Edwards


Media training, media relations, issues and crisis communications, video production

Career background

Newspaper and TV reporter for 30 years, followed by 18 years in PR


Bachelor of Arts in English from York University

Volunteer experience

Director and Chair of the Communications Committee for the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast B.C.

If you wrote an autobiography, what would you call it?

I didn’t do it all but I sure tried

Furthest flung city you’ve lived in?


Favourite part of Peak life

The team attitude that delivers amazing results

Career highlights

Starting Peak with my two co-partners and winning the PR Daily Award for crisis management

PR role model and why

The late Tom Butler was a master of the PR stunt. He once organized a tourism promotion tour through California with a beaver from the Stanley Park Zoo. It created front-page headlines across the state, and I covered it for Global TV at the time

Favourite B.C. pastime

Restoring classic cars, and writing about them too

Favourite social media site

I keep in touch with friends and relations through Facebook

Secret talent

If people can make it, I can fix it!