The 2013 IABC Ottawa Excel Awards: Into the Dragon’s Den with Halifax Strategy Group

By Rebecca Ford


When Halifax Strategy Group vice president Craig Cernak decided to “shock and awe” the audience of 500 at Canada’s Telecommunications Hall of Fame Foundation Gala, he was admittedly stepping a little outside of his normal routine.

On top of his full time role at Halifax Strategy Group, which focuses on high-level strategic advising and consulting for the federal and provincial market, Cernak also volunteers for the  foundation—which raises funds for universities and colleges that award scholarships for students pursuing telecommunications studies.

With the help of Halifax Strategy Group, opening the 2011 black tie event with something unforgettable was Cernak’s goal.

“We came up with the idea of putting together a video spoof of Alexander Graham Bell going to the Dragon’s Den to pitch the idea of funding a wireline company,” he said, and the idea took off.

Before long, Cernak had the CBC and even the Dragons on board, as well as Canadian singer/songwriter Ian Thomas to play Alexander Graham Bell.

The four-minute-long video was a huge hit.

“We opened the gala with it,” Cernak said. “It got a standing ovation, and caught everyone by surprise.”

As a result of the video’s viral success, Cernak was urged to submit it for an IABC Ottawa Excel Award. He did—it ended up taking home an award, and was even played at the event.

Winning an Excel Award gave Cernak and the team at Halifax Strategy Group an opportunity to celebrate their creativity.

“We work under secrecy and requirements to be discreet, so it’s nice to be able to bang your chest every now and then,” he said. “The recognition caught people by surprise and put a smile on their face.”

Cernak added that it was also a great experience for four Algonquin College students who were doing internships with Halifax Strategy Group at the time.

“It was as good learning experience for them. They got to see it all come together from start to finish.”

Cernak said networking opportunities are among what he values most about being part of IABC.

“That’s the biggest value to me—the network. Sometimes I’m looking for people with specific expertise, and IABC gives me the arena I can do that. Just going to the IABC events these past few years has been helpful to expand my own network.”

Make sure to check out Cernak’s Dragon’s Den spoof here, and when you’re done, mark May 16th on your calendars.

See you at the awards!