PD Event Recap: Ottawa Marketing & Communications Excellence Panel

On Wednesday February 25, IABC had the pleasure of hosting a breakfast marketing and communications excellence panel at the Metropolitan Brasserie. Over the course of the two-hour event, attendees were given a unique opportunity to hear from some of Ottawa’s award-winning communications and marketing professionals as they discussed their exemplary work within the field.

After guests were ushered in from the cold, early Wednesday morning, they were promptly met with fresh coffee, a warm buffet, and great conversation with fellow attendees. Once everyone had arrived and settled in, the panel moderator introduced the crowd to the award-winning panelists, which included:

  • Susan Barrett, Manager, Communications, Hydro Ottawa Limited
  • Dyna Vink, Independent Consultant
  • Sherrilynne Starkie, Vice President, Thornley Fallis Communications

Over the course of the discussion, each panelist explained the premise of their award winning work/campaign/program before delving into some of the challenges and surprises that were encountered along the way. Audience members were also encouraged to partake in the conversation and pose some questions of their own to the panelists as well.

Susan Barrett

As a Communications Manager for Hydro Ottawa, and an IABC Canada Silver Leaf Award of Excellence recipient, Susan has worked on numerous communications related projects over the years. Recently, she has been a key member on “Open Doors Ottawa,” an award winning community engagement event that takes place over the course of a weekend each summer. The premise of the project is to put a face to Hydro Ottawa and offer visitors greater insight into the industry. The event features guided tours of the Chaudière Falls Generating Station No.2 (Canada’s oldest operating hydroelectric generating station), displays, video presentations, handouts, postcards, bucket truck rides and a barbeque, making the weekend Ottawa’s largest heritage and architectural event.

Susan explained that two of the biggest challenges of hosting the annual event include logistical issues (the event is out of the way, and parking space availability is limited) as well as media involvement. After last year’s event however, organizers were surprised with the number of visitors that used bicycles to attend the event, as the bike racks filled up quickly each day. Susan then emphasized how events are not only viable, but are more important than ever before, as they give face-to-face interaction that isn’t always feasible with digital media

Dyna Vink

As an independent consultant, IABC Ottawa Excel Award of Excellence and IABC World Gold Quill Award recipient, Dyna brought forth a wealth of knowledge as she discussed her work on “Are we up for change,” an internal communications strategy for change management. The strategy was set in motion during a period of major organizational movement when a managerial employee and board member were leaving the organization.

During this time, Dyna and her team needed to mitigate the various risks associated with change management. The first step in the project was to establish SMART objectives. They then set up information-gathering sessions by speaking with members and testing out member sensitivity to change. Furthermore, in order to avoid gaps in leadership, they temporarily filled positions while searching for permanent replacements. Throughout the process, community engagement remained a top priority, as they attempted to keep audience members as informed about the process as possible.

Throughout the project, there were many challenges; however, Dyna explained that the greatest challenge during this period of ‘super change’ was mitigating any risks associated with change management, which also attempting to stay relevant with members. Dyna also highlighted the importance of establishing SMART objectives, and emphasized how change management requires a structured approach and that one must always prepare for resistance.

Sherrilynne Starkie

As the Vice President of Thornley Fallis Communications, Sherrilynne has taken part in a plethora of communications projects including the UA Canada Member Engagement Campaign. The campaign began when the UA (trade union of plumbers and pipe fitters) wanted to switch from print to digital media, and thus increase their online presence.

However, they were worried on whether the switch would work, as they were unsure how much their target audience used the Internet. As such, the first step in the campaign was to research the target audience. Secondly, in order to make the union members aware of the new online presence, they needed to speak with business managers to pass along the information to the members through pre-established means of communication (newsletters, phone calls, text messages, etc.).

During the campaign, there were a number of challenges and surprises that the team faced, including a period of resistance that nearly terminated the entire campaign. It began when a few individuals dominated the online message boards and attempted to stage a mutiny.

When they threatened to take over the website, Sherrilynne and her team had to reassure the UA that their efforts would pay off and to stand strong, and sure enough, the takeover was nothing more than an idol threat.

Shortly after the panelists had wrapped up their presentations, and answered questions from the audience, attendees said their final goodbyes before fleeing into the cold. The insight provided by the experts in the early morning was a great way to start the day! IABC would like to thank the fantastic panelists for providing attendees with some behind the scenes insight regarding award winning projects.

Thank you also to all the attendees for taking the time to join us for this event!