Filling a PR void of “established media outlets” in Canada

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At least that’s what members of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) were told on July 8, 2008, in an e-mail blast (presumably) provided by US-based publisher director, Julia Hood, which announced the new PRWeek Canada newsletter. Although I certainly welcome the addition of Canadian-specific information (“news and features, trend stories, profiles, and Q & As with leaders in the industry”), the tone of the announcement did come across as somewhat condescending.

This is particularly true as long-time, Canadian media outlets, such as Media in Canada, Marketing Magazine and AdNews have made more effort in recent years to focus on public relations activities and initiatives, in addition to their traditional spheres of marketing (yes, there is a difference!) and advertising. In fact, attendees at the recent CPRS conference were provided with a complimentary June 2008 issue of [Public Relations] Marketing in our kits. It’s the first such PR-dedicated edition that I can recall, although I suspect it will be limited to a quarterly or twice-yearly distribution. (There is nothing in the masthead to indicate frequency.) Another online publication that arrived on the scene earlier this year is PR in Canada, although contributions (and comments) have appeared to slow down in recent months. Other organizations, like the Canadian Journalism Foundation, also produce relevant newsletters. Perhaps readers can point to other resources, particularly in the various regions of Canada.

Some Recommendations for PRWeek Canada

To make this new, void-filling PRWeek Canada a valued and respected resource for Canadians, here are my recommendations. Ensure that:

1. The majority of its focus really is on Canadian-specific, public relations initiatives, events and practitioners—not marketing communications (an area that is already amply served).

2. It reflects the geographical*, sector and position diversity of the public relations industry and its practitioners in Canada.

3. It isn’t reduced to a house organ for Canadian PR/social media agencies and independent consultants (and their various stakeholders) to promote client wins, products and services. Instead, provide a variety of organizations and roles, so that the (under-served) in-house or client-side pros (e.g., in corporations, government and the non-profit sector) get equal representation.

4. Change your subscription page so that it does not greet Canadian visitors with the URL and header of “Register with PRWeek US!” (There’s also too much scrolling involved to find the box with the single/new Canadian e-newsletter option.) For that matter, if this venture is worthwhile, why haven’t you created a Canadian-specific landing page. Surely that isn’t too much to ask?

* * *

*Montreal-based practitioner and McGill University instructor Elizabeth Hirst, APRS, CPRSF, echoes this sentiment, as she indicated in an e-mail message, “I’ve registered for PR Week Canada and am looking forward to it. I hope they cover the whole country and not just Toronto (much as I love Toronto).” Toronto-based, sole PRWeek Canada contributor, Chris Daniels, are you listening?

Anyhow, I think it’s worth monitoring this publication, at least for the short term (including how responsive editorial and technical staff are to my requests). Visit the online issue of PRWeek Canada here, and if you wish to receive the weekly e-newsletter, sign-up here.

* * *

On a related note, on behalf of the contributors to PR Conversations, thanks are extended to the editorial/technical team at US-based Bulldog Reporter’s Daily ‘Dog online trade journal for recently adding our collective blog to its new ‘Dog Blogs page. A number of staff reviewed past posts and contributors, then they deemed our PR-content “meaty” and postings frequent enough to make the “gold” cut. PRC is the first international blog on its new listing.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Judy,
    A small branding issue: We’re delighted to have PR Conversations appearing on Bulldog Reporter’s Daily ‘Dog online trade journal (www.bulldogreporter.com/dailydog), one of many services and publications serving the PR community under the Bulldog Reporter brand. Best regards,
    Jim Sinkinson
    Publisher, Bulldog Reporter

  2. Keith, thank you for your (impressively) fast response, in particular your commitment to consider my requests 1, 2 and 3; I look forward to seeing how this publication unfolds in the growing stages. Regarding #4, I was referring to the *subscription* landing page’s URL (as provided to CPRS members in the June 8th e-mail blast). I hope readers noticed that the URL to the online edition (which *is* appropriately “Canadian”) was actually provided first.

    Jim, I appreciate you also stopping by and (gently) correcting my unintentional error. I have now updated the reference and link, as per the ones you supplied.

  3. This is a question I asked as a student. Other than Marketing Mag and IABC’s CW there really are no legitimate PR-focused publications.
    Another lagging area in Canadian PR, Judy, is in the educational text arena. As a recent grad, I can attest to the atrocious selection of Canadian-focused PR texts.
    In a country with a population base spread across such a vast land area, you would think that nowhere other than Canada would PR be such a necessity.
    I second your opinion on the material coming from sources other than Toronto-based consultants and agencies– Newfoundland, for example, has a budding PR community.

  4. Judy – You sound better served for PR publications than we are here in the UK, where PR Week is the main outlet. Sadly this is too often focused on London issues and particularly the agency/consultancy perspective. I think it is such as shame that the media rarely acknowledges there are more in-house practitioners than consultants and we don’t all take a campaign orientation to our work. The CIPR members’ magazine, Profile, is better in this regard of course.

    P.S. Glad to hear in Brandon’s comment that Newfoundland has a budding PR community as an owner of that icon of the region, a 40kg Landseer Newfie dog. In the main, she reinforces a good reputation for Newfoundland.

  5. Brandon, as a student were you asking for recommendations for *Canadian* PR-rich publications? If yes, CW wouldn’t apply, as it is published out of the US and its contributors come from a variety of countries (although my recollection was that the majority of writers were American, likely statistically mirroring the membership of that association). And I wouldn’t actually classify CW as a pure-PR publication, as it covers a broad range of communication roles, (for example) from internal comms to marcomm to media relations. I don’t know if you were made aware that members of CPRS receive preferential subscription rates to PRSA’s two main publications, Tactics (monthly tabloid) and Strategist (quarterly magazine), which are quite focused on public relations…but, again, the content/contributors are almost always American:
    http://www.prsa.org/publications/

    I can’t speak to the lack of education textbooks scenario (perhaps some of our Canadian PR academics could weigh in). I would like to point out, though, that the (highly respected) editor of the open-access Public Relations Journal of PRSA is actually a Canadian-born academic: http://www.prsa.org/prjournal/

    Heather, I’m curious to know what resources (if any) you use to supplement your PR knowledge about initiatives, events and practitioners if your only options are PRWeek UK and your trade association’s publication. For example, are you finding UK-based blogs to be a credible place for information? And what are you recommending your CIPR students read? (If you are comfortable sharing this information, natch.)

  6. Lack of Canadian textbooks — don’t get me started! Although I must note three recent excellent specialized texts, William Wray Carney’s In the News – The Practice of Media Relations in Canada, John Cooper’s Crisis Communications in Canada, and Patricia Parsons’ Ethics in Public Relations. There are also several good Canadian books on mass communications.

    What we still lack is a basic text. There are several good American ones, but our students deserve a Canadian focus on the history of the practice, pioneers in the business, government relations, public policy issues, cultural communities, etc. There are big differences in these areas. Possibly someone could translate Danielle Maisonneuve’s text (Université du Québec à Montréal)– Les relations publiques dans une société en mouvance. (If someone would like to give me a grant . . .)

  7. Judy – we have some good textbooks such as the Kogan Page series, Alison Theaker’s PR Handbook and the recent Tench & Yeomans edited book that is a great intro for PR students with lots of case studies (affectionately known by students as the one with meerkats on the cover).

    In terms of what’s going on – then online works well with publications such as the Guardian which takes a look at various matters of relevant to the PR world. I always find I can discover something of relevance if I buy a UK quality newspaper too – and I definitely recommend students to read those. This is often in terms of reflecting on how what is reported about companies impacts on the PR team etc.

    I see a lot of press releases from companies – and also follow up on what’s in the news to look for releases or how others react to the story.

    And, of course, I still do a lot of real world networking – nothing quite like talking with PRs to find out what they are involved with and their thoughts on what others are doing.

  8. Judy, indeed I know of PR academics who have wrestled with the notion of a universal Canadian PR text for years to no avail. Heather cites a good one– Carney’s “In the News”–though that is purey focused on media relations.
    It seems the Canadian PR academic is an untapped resource.

  9. To be fair to PRWeek and others, it is not easy to get contributions from the “in-house” practitioners, as I have learned when putting together events. I’ve heard responses like “We don’t really talk about our PR work” or, “Sorry, no time because I’ve moved on to the next project.” The external practitioners, on the other hand, have a good reason for talking about their previous work: trying to attract new work.

    Judy, not sure when you last saw CW, but four of the six issues now have a special focus on non-North American regions (Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean), so there’s much more non-American content than was once the case.

    In France, I’ve never seen any periodical looking at public relations. The so-called communications magazines are focused on advertising and marketing. There are resources for internal comms, but I’ve never seen anything compelling for me as a PR professional.

  10. Thanks to Elizabeth, Heather and Kristen for their input.

    Elizabeth, I’m going to look into that John Cooper book (new to me). And perhaps PR Week Canada could give you that grant, and get a first-publications right in return. 🙂

    Heather, now that I know The Guardian is your quality UK MSM publication of choice, I’ll be sure to check it out more often, online.

    Kristen, I know what you mean about in-house people being busy, but I for one have never turned down the opportunity to either write directly or source a subject expert about a PR initiative of which we were particularly proud for publication in an appropriate trade publication. In this case, I was actually recommending that freelance writer, Chris Daniels (who has been contracted by PR Week Canada), look for appropriate in-house interview subjects, etc.

    I’m glad to hear that CW is being more representational of its worldwide audience, perhaps even in inverse ratio to its association demographics. My last issue dates back about two years (the one on social media), and (yes) I believe its contents are reflective of my comments to Brandon. Note, though, that the regions you identified do not include Canada…it would get lumped in with North American coverage (Mexico, U.S.A. and Canada). Brandon referenced it as a Canadian resource, but I’d need some quantitative/qualitiative proof that now at least 20 plus per cent of the content of CW were authored by (or referenced) Canadian subject experts. Again, reflective of the association’s demographics.

    I’m also looking forward to seeing this week’s issue of PR Week Canada, to see if any of my recommendations are actually being put into place. (I gave last week’s issue some leeway, as I figured most of those articles had been filed in advance of this blog post. I’ve received some negative commentary that folks aren’t happy that the PR Week CANADA e-newsletter included a section/several items from the U.S. One idea mentioned was that it was like Sports Illustrated Canada, all over again…primarily American content, padded with the odd article from Canada.)

  11. Canadian PR content, eh!

    Here are some of the PR books and articles about Canada or by Canadians or produced in Canada. I’ve used the materials in the 4th year PR course I used to teach in the Communications Department at the University of Ottawa and in the MBA in PR Management program at Royal Roads University. I’ve recently written a chapter on the evolution and status of PR in Canada for the 2nd edition of the Global PR book edited by Krishnamurthy Sriramesh and Dejan Vercic. Out in the fall I believe.

    This list is not conclusive, but it’s free to almost everyone. Betsy, I’m sure you’ll pay me a glass of Montalcino Brunello for the list. Perhaps others could add to it – and we’d all have a better indication of Canadian content.

    Best, Fraser

    CANADIAN PR REFERENCE MATERIAL COMPILED BY FRASER LIKELY

    Amyot, D. & Likely, F. “Building on Strength: Recent Changes to the Communications Function in the Federal Government.” Canadian Government Executive. August/September. 2004.

    Bartha, P.F. “Key concepts of issues management.” Canadian Business Review. Summer. 1984.

    Bartha, P.F. “Incorporating Public Affairs in Business Management: Problems and Opportunities.” In Murray, V.V. (ed) Theories of Business-Government Relations. Trans Canada Press. Toronto. 1985.

    Bartha, P. “Issues Management: Theory and Practice.” In Baetz, M. (ed.) Readings and Canadian Cases in Business, Government and Society. Nelson Canada. Toronto. 1993.

    Basin, I. “A Century of Spin.” CBC Radio (A weekly radio Series about Spin, the Spinners and the Spun). Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/spincycles/ September 15, 2007.

    Bernier, M-F., Demers, F., Lavigne, A., Moumouni, C. & Watine, T. Pratiques Novatrices en Communication Publiques: Journalisme, Relations Publiques et Publicité. Les Presses de l’Université Laval. Sainte-Foy. 2005.

    Brown, G.D. “A Brief History and Review of Public Relations in Canada.” In Herbert, W.B. & Jenkins, R.G. (eds.) Public Relations in Canada: Some Perspectives. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Toronto. 1984.

    Bowles, J. “Consultants at the Crossroads.” Marketing Magazine Supplement: Focus on Public Relations. January 25, 1988.

    CPRS. “The Future of Public Relations.” Position Paper. National Conference Discussion. June. 1989.

    Carney, W.W. In the News: the Practice of Media Relations in Canada. University of Alberta Press. Edmonton. 2002.

    Cooper, J. Crisis Communications in Canada: A Practical Approach. Centennial College Press. Toronto. 2007.

    Council of Canadian Public Relations Firms. Retrieved from http://www.ccprf.ca/ September 15 2007.

    Czarnecki, A. Crisis Communications: A Primer for Teams. iUniverse. 2007.

    Dagenais, B. Le métier de la relationniste. Les Presses de l’Université Laval. Sainte-Foy. 1997.

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    Delbridge, P. “Advocacy Groups and the Act of Coalition Building.” In Wright, W.J. & DuVernet, C.J. (eds) The Canadian Public Affairs Handbook: Maximizing Markets, Protecting Bottom Lines. Carswell. Toronto. 1988.

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    Flynn, T. “A Delicate Equilibrium: Balancing Theory, Practice, and Outcomes.” Journal of Public Relations Research. Vol. 18(2); 191-201. 2006.

    Forstner, G. and Bales, J. “Building Dialog into the Public Consultation Process, Part One.” Public Relations Quarterly. 37(3). Fall 1992.

    Forstner, G. and Bales, J. “Building Dialog into the Public Consultation Process, Part Two.” Public Relations Quarterly. 37(4). Winter 1992.

    Frappier, G. & Likely, F. “Defining Leadership Roles in the Canadian Government.” Strategic Communication Management. Melcrum Publishing. Vol 9(1). December/January. 2005.

    Gausden, M.B. “Public Relations and Canadian Banking.” In Herbert, W.B. & Jenkins, R.G. (eds.) Public Relations in Canada: Some Perspectives. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Toronto. 1984.

    Gollner, A.B. Social Change and Corporate Strategy. Issue Action Publications. Stamford, Connecticut. 1983.

    Gollner, A.B. & Shayon, D.R. Levering the Impact of Public Affairs. HRN. Philadelphia. 1984.

    Government of Canada. “Managing Government Communications in the 1990s.” Discussion Paper. Federal Communications Council. November 1992.

    Government of Canada. Canadian Government Job Futures. Retrieved from http://www.jobfutures.ca/noc/5124p4.shtml September 15 2007.

    Grunig, J.E. & Grunig L. A. “Models of Public Relations and Communication.” In Grunig, J.E. (ed). Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Mahwah, New Jersey. 1992. (see Canadian data)

    Grunig L. A., Grunig, J.E. & Dozier D.M. Excellent Public Relations and Effective Organizations: A Study of Communication Management in Three Countries. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Mahwah, New Jersey. 2002. (see Canadian data)

    Guiniven, J.E. “Dealing with Activism in Canada: An Ideal Cultural Fit for the Two-Way Symmetrical Model.” Public Relation Review. Vol 28(4); 393-402. October 2002.

    Hallahan, K. “W.L. Mackenzie King: Rockefeller’s other public relations counselor in Colorado.” Journal of Public Relations Research. 29(4); 410-415. 2003.

    Hamilton, S. A Communications Audit Handbook: Helping Organizations Communicate. Longman. New York. 1987.

    Herbert, W.B. & Jenkins, R.G. (eds.) Public Relations in Canada: Some Perspectives. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Toronto. 1984.

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    Johansen, P. “Professionalization and the Birth of the Canadian Public Relations Society.” Presentation to the Canadian Communication Association. Ottawa. June. 1998.

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    Johansen, P. “International Public Relations: Canadian Perspectives.” Presentation for preliminary program. International Communication Association. San Diego, California. May. 2003.

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