Followers of the PR industry know this already, but it behooves us to announce some changes at the top here at Veritas. Earlier this week, Veritas Communications announced that Beverley Hammond, our longtime President and CEO, is ascending to the position of Chair, while former Executive Vice-President Krista Webster is assuming the role of President of the agency. Krista has been a big factor in the development of Veritas over the past couple years, and her credentials are impressive: named one of US PRWeek’s Top 40 Under 40, she has more than 15 years of marketing communications experience working with blue-chip clients in both Canada and the US. We’ve worked with both of these smart, accomplished women for a while now, and we’re as grateful for Beverley’s history of inspirational leadership as we are excited about Krista’s future path for Veritas. Nice play, ladies!
Krista Webster Named President of Veritas Communications
June 12, 2012, Toronto Ontario – Veritas Communications announced today that Krista Webster has been named President of the agency. She takes over for Beverley Hammond, formerly President and CEO, who has assumed the role of Veritas Chair.
Named one of US PRWeek’s Top 40 Under 40, Webster joined Veritas in 2009 as Executive Vice President and Partner, bringing more than 15 years of marketing communications experience to the agency, including 10 years with a global agency where she managed the North American Consumer Practice and served as global beauty director. She has worked with blue-chip clients such as Procter & Gamble, Philips, Maytag, Loblaw/Joe Fresh, Porter, Rogers Wireless, Nestle, Roche, Pfizer and Sunkist.
Webster’s appointment comes at an exciting time for Veritas. Over the last 10 years the agency has experienced a growth trajectory of over 400%, increased its ranks up to 70 employees, opened a satellite in the US and developed a top notch client roster on both sides of the border that includes: The AGO; CBC; Expedia.ca; Canada Dry Motts; Church & Dwight; McCain Foods; The Ontario Ministry of Health; Subway; Target, and WIND Mobile.
“Krista has been integral to the development of Veritas in the past two and a half years, showing great leadership across the agency in both Canada and the US. I am thrilled she has accepted this role,” said Hammond. “It’s a significant time for our industry and for our agency. Krista’s ability to be constantly looking around the corner will ensure that Veritas stays ahead of the curve for the benefit of both our clients and our team.”
A top PR, Influencer and Corporate Communications agency, Veritas walks the line between public relations and marketing to inspire positive word-of-mouth and drive brand preference. In the simplest terms, we influence the influencers™ by identifying the right brand advocates and reaching them through digital, social media and traditional channels. We are proud of our track record for fostering passionate talent and setting it loose to develop innovative campaigns that both protect and amplify our clients’ brands. We belong to the MDC Partners Network and win awards for the campaigns we create. We live online at VeritasCanada.com <http://veritascanada.com/>. Follow us at @VeritasComm or check us out at www.facebook.com/veritascommunications and http://www.linkedin.com/company/veritas-communications.
Did Rob Lowe know what he was in for when he attached the hashtag #TrappedInAHellHole to a tweet he wrote from a Winnipeg sports bar? Maybe – perhaps clearly – not. But that didn’t stop Winnipeg tweeters from taking very vocal offence at the perceived slur. “Feel free to leave the hellhole,” replied one. Another suggested that the hashtag was “a better description of being in a movie theater playing a Rob Lowe movie.” Ouch. Not surprisingly, the story got intense local and national coverage, even though it’s apparent the actor didn’t really mean to offend. When Lowe (who was in Winnipeg for the shooting of a biopic about Casey Anthony) wrote the offending tweet, he was in a sports bar trying to watch the NBA finals when the broadcast was interrupted, and through subsequent tweets it became clear that Lowe was referring to the bar as a “hellhole” rather than Winnipeg in general. Herein lies a cautionary tale about Twitter: it sometimes isn’t easy to get your point across with clarity in 140 characters or less. But you can’t afford to be ambiguous, because when you’re less than clear, few in the Twitterverse will give you the benefit of the doubt. Granted, in the hours following the gaffe, Lowe started tweeting more positive comments on Winnipeg, but there was ambiguity here too. Once he knew (or should have known) that he had given offence, Lowe should have unequivocally clarified what he meant and how he didn’t intend to bash his temporary home. “Whoops! #TrappedInAHellHole means the bar I was in, not beautiful Winnipeg! Sorry if I wasn’t clear!” would have fit nicely – and nipped this controversy in the bud.
I can still remember being glued to the TV watching Evel Knievel attempting to “jump” the Snake River Canyon on his X-1 Skycycle. The thing fizzled out shortly off the launch pad, plummeted into the canyon and, for a few minutes, it wasn’t clear if Knievel had ended up in the water and might be drowning while we watched. You can bet the ABC-TV execs in charge of broadcasting tonight’s attempt by Nik Wallenda to wire-walk across Niagara Falls remember as well. So their demand that Wallenda wear a safety harness to prevent him falling to his death on live TV in the event of a slip is actually a great bit of pre-emptive issue management, from a communications standpoint. In the absence of that requirement, ABC would have to justify in advance the potential danger and ghoulish spectacle that could result should things go wrong for Wallenda. In the aftermath of the worst-case scenario actually happening, they’d have to account for their failure to take every reasonable step to minimize the danger – no doubt with accusations of having blood on their hands in the name of big TV ratings. By requiring the tether, ABC has taken all that potential bad PR right off the table. And by maintaining the right to ditch it if he thinks it might actually pose a safety hazard in itself, Wallenda has further ramped up the anticipation and hype. Pass the popcorn!
It’s not hard to make national news when you’re the Prime Minister of the country. But when you grant an exclusive interview on the eve of meetings with European leaders about the shaky state of affairs in the Eurozone, and then couple it with some colourful and strident speaking points, well, that’s a Touchdown. Stephen Harper did a sit-down with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge in London, where the two had been taking in the celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. But the focus quickly shifted to Europe, now four years into a financial crisis with no clear plan on the horizon, and that prompted this from Harper: “I don’t want to sound too alarmist, but we are kind of running out of runway here. And in terms of structure of the Eurozone and in terms of addressing these problems, we do need to see a broader game plan,” Harper said. By saying he doesn’t want to sound TOO alarmist, he acknowledges that he is at least somewhat alarmed – and used the opportunity to send a strong signal to leaders in Europe (and voters at home) that Canada will be a lead voice in calling on the Eurozone to get its act together. Harper also recognizes that when he makes news overseas he seems to make even bigger headlines back in Canada (witness the first talk of Old Age Security eligibility changes made in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum) – a tactic I suspect we will see more of going forward.
Granted, it might not have been the most polished press conference in the history of sport. But the tag team of trainer Doug O’Neill and Canadian owner Paul Reddam pulled off a Touchdown for their straightforward delivery of the bad news that I’ll Have Another – a contender to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 34 years – was pulling out of the Belmont Stakes this weekend because of a leg injury. It was a low-key affair, long on detail, short on tears or bluster. And that’s the kind of calming signal the situation called for; after all, in these cases, speculation almost always will swirl that the horse was pushed too hard at the expense of his health. But O’Neill and Reddam effectively blocked that avenue. In his opening remarks, trainer O’Neill did a masterful job of downplaying the potential hype around the announcement. He started by noting that the decision is “far from tragic… no one died or anything like that,” and pointed to the horse standing nearby to demonstrate that – in all other respects except his inability to race – I’ll Have Another was just fine. O’Neill then went on to thank (in somewhat tedious but nevertheless down-to-earth detail) every man jack on his team, before explaining exactly the train of events that led to the horse’s withdrawal. To my mind, he did a lot of things right: setting the context before letting others do it, clearly establishing his credibility.
The horrific scene last weekend at the Toronto Eaton Centre was certainly a crisis communications situation for the Toronto Police Service. One man dead, six others wounded by a shooter in the food court – who was still on the loose, when Acting Deputy Chief Jeff McGuire stepped up to the microphones. “One idiot with a gun doesn’t speak to the state of affairs in Toronto,” McGuire said, stressing that as shocking and horrible as the incident was, it was hugely out of character for the city and not representative of the safety of our streets. “One idiot with a gun” was the dominant sound bite and headline coming out of the news conference, because it said it all in a way that was striking, colourful and resonant. McGuire said a lot more in the course of his remarks, detailing the scope of the investigation and manhunt underway, and underscoring the overall level of public safety in Toronto – but that one line was the Touchdown.
This whole “Cut The Waist Challenge” thing started off as a good communications play for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. His critics, some more subtly than others, have long used his weight as an attack point. By announcing his goal of losing 50 pounds in three months, and encouraging Torontonians to join him, Ford made his weight an issue of personal challenge and commitment. Trouble is, the follow-through just wasn’t there. Weekly weigh-ins became less and less frequent as he began putting pounds back on. Finally, after announcing the weekly weigh-ins would become bi-weekly photo ops, Ford announced on his Newstalk 1010 radio show last Sunday that it was all over. “I’m not even dieting anymore, it’s water under the bridge,” he told his co-host, brother and city councillor Doug Ford. Then, 24 hours later on the same station with afternoon drive host John Tory, he reversed himself, saying he was still on the diet and would come to his final weigh-in. He also blamed the media “frenzy” that the weekly weigh-ins had become, without acknowledging that they had become one of the increasingly rare opportunities for the City Hall press gallery to ask him about major municipal issues. It has been clear for weeks now that this PR initiative was going nowhere. The mayor should have cut his losses on the Cut The Waist Challenge about a month ago, indicating that he gave it a good try, but that it’s just too much of an undertaking for him right now. He could have empathized – and found empathy – with anyone struggling to shed some pounds and withdrawn honourably. Maybe he still will. Who knows?
New political leaders all face the same challenge: to the vast majority of voters, they are blank slates. I suspect most know the following three things about Thomas Mulcair, and not much more: he has a nice beard, he speaks beautifully in both official languages, and he’s a New Democrat. But within the same challenge lies opportunity – the chance to build a new brand (which, in the political world, you’d better hurry up and do quickly before your opponents beat you to it). In communications terms, Muclair took a big step forward this week with his visit to northern Alberta and the oil sands project. As an outspoken critic, he was met with few open arms, but no matter. Mulcair choppered over the development, toured the Suncorp facility with one of the company’s executives (who wisely issued only a statement afterward declaring it a “productive discussion” and thus avoiding getting pulled into any debate by reporters) and even met with the Mayor of Fort McMurray, who also said only polite things. For his part, Mulcair described the scale of the project as “awe-inspiring” and was careful not to use previous pet phrases like “tar sands” or “dirty oil.” He stuck to his message that more must be done to ensure that the environment is protected, but by being balanced and measured versus righteously ranty, he strike the right tone. In doing so, he won national media coverage which helped establish his brand on an issue that matters to all Canadians (economy, energy, environment) and one which will help solidify the NDP base and new supporters gained in the last election under Jack Layton.