Canadian PR Agencies of the Year, North America | Holmes Report

2015 Canadian PR Agencies of the Year

Our 2015 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada.

Analysis of each of the Finalists for each category can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here. Winners were announced on May 5 at the SABRE Awards in New York, where winners also received their trophies.

Canadian Agency of the Year — North Strategic

Founded in 2011, North Strategic is one of Canada’s fastest-growing national PR firms, having doubled in 2014 to $6m in revenues and 50 employees across Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. Significantly, the firm’s focus on redefining PR beyond media relations to encompass a broader range of influencer and digital activity has struck a chord in the market, helping it net significant new business from the likes of Twitter, Airbnb, Samsung, Canada Goose, Diageo and Canadian Tire.

Like many small firms, North’s creativity also stands out — indeed, co founders Mia Pearson and Justin Creally consider it a critical part of the agency’s DNA, helping it develop eye-catching work like Sport Chek’s #My North; Samsung’s Galaxy GS5 and Gear Fit launch; the Canadian Tire Ice Truck; and the Samsung ‘Look At Me’ project.

All of which helps explain how North has earned a well-earned reputation for innovative storytelling and digital expertise. Social and video strategy MD Ian Buck also leads the Notch Video online marketplace, while director of social media Victoria Freeman previously worked at Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Buddy Media and Radian6 platforms.

Co-founder Pearson previously launched High Road Communications before selling to to Omnicom in 2001 and going on to lead FleishmanHillard’s Canadian presence. Already, North’s achievements have seen it named 2014 PR Agency of the Year by Strategy Magazine, and it seems unlikely that this be the last award this impressive new-generation Canadian agency brings home.— AS


Citizen Optimum (BlueFocus)

The unification of the Citizen brand—bringing together the former Paine PR in the US, the former Band & Brown Brando in the UK, and Optimum in Canada—did more than create an international PR powerhouse, it gave birth to a new vision, one that (as the name suggests) focused on people as citizens rather than consumers, and focused on building relationships through engagement and content creation.

That has helped the firm differentiate itself in a competitive market, with global growth of around 11% last year and global fee income of more than $30m. In Canada, Citizen Optimum has about 60 people across four offices—Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec City—under the leadership of general manager Nick Cowling. Clients include Bacardi, Bayer, Best Buy, CapitalOne, Cirque du Soleil, Disney, Egg Farmers of Canada, General Mills, Hyundai, IKEA, Rio Tinto Alcan, Travelocity, and—Citizen’s signature client—Procter & Gamble.

New additions over the past 12 months included Alcatel, Emirates, and Mattel. The firm helped Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada partner with Westjet for a social media initiative around its efforts to reunite a father in Saskatoon with his sick son in Edmonton and received a SABRE nomination for its work with Bayer Consumer Care around aspirin use in emergency during heart attacks. In December 2014, Chinese public relations powerhouse BlueFocus, purchased a majority stake in Citizen parent company Vision7, positioning the firm for further growth.—PH

Kaiser Lachance Communications

Since being founded in 2011, Kaiser Lachance has grown into a firm with 16 people across offices in Toronto and, more recently, Montreal with the capability to service clients in both Canada and the US.

In 2014, growth was remarkable — hitting 47% through new client wins and its geographic expansion into Quebec, home to 23% of the country’s population. In three years, Kaiser Lachance has built an impressive roster of clients: Sears Canada, the largest retailer in the country; real estate providers Royal LePage and Brookfield Real Estates; ICT solution provider Cogeco Data Services; US-based producer of plastics and chemicals NOVA Chemicals; analytics company FICO Canada; and TD Bank, among others.

The managing partners Anne Lachance and David Kaiser both brought more than 20 years of experience providing reputation counsel to companies across Canada. The firm’s expertise sits in strategic counsel in financial, corporate and business-to-business communications. Next the firm has set its sights on growing a marketing communications business under the new leadership of Diana Conconi.  

Highlights of the firm’s efforts include the work done with Sherritt International Corporation as it announced the divestiture of its coal business in a complex tri-partite transaction with operating coal assets to Westmoreland Coal Company and royalty portfolio to Altius Minerals Corp. KLC was retained to communicate the rationale and benefits of the divestiture to multiple key targets — and the result was positive news coverage and increase in stock price of all the parties on the day of the announcement. — AaS

TACT Intelligence-conseil

With offices in Montreal and Quebec City, TACT Intelligence-conseil provides public relations and public affairs services in one of Canada’s most complex political, social and economic environments, guiding companies through the distinct political and media networks of Canada’s French-speaking province. The firm has strong local connections: founder and CEO François Ducharme previously chaired the Quebec City board of trade and industry, while senior partner Marie Grégoire helped to found a provincial political party and is a former member of the provincial legislature.

Since its launch in 2011, the firm has grown to become the second largest in its market, with 35 people generating fee income of $4.4m. Key clients include Labatt breweries, Cisco, Roche, Merck, Canadian Tire, Ubisoft, Valero, IGA, Mountain Equipment Co-Op, Tim Hortons and Laurentian Bank of Canada, with new business during 2014 from clients such as Goldcorp, the Conseil de l'industrie forestière du Québec, FerroQuébec, Mecfor and the city of Chibougamau.

The firm has a particular expertise in securing community support and overcoming conflict: in 2014, for example, TACT firm worked with IFFCO Canada to secure support for a controversial $2 billion project, and helped to overcome serious opposition to the Serres Toundra file, an industrial project in St-Félicien.—PH

Veritas (Independent)

Originally established in 1993 as a healthcare communications specialist, Veritas has diversified over the years and today focuses on “influencing the influencers,” drawing on a “custom convergence” model that brings together cross-functional teams and multichannel solutions to ensure the appropriate solution for a range of complex challenges.

Last year saw a refinement of the firm’s strategic approach with the launch of the Veritas Growth & Innovation Lab, which focused on big picture thinking. That approach has helped the company elevate Minnie Mouse into a fashion icon for The Walt Disney Company through partnerships with World MasterCard Fashion Week and the Mercedes-Benz Start Up Competition; support the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on high-profile issues ranging from the loss of the NHL broadcast rights to funding pressures and changing revenue models, outdated infrastructure, and harassment charges against a prominent broadcaster; and delivered a campaign for Microsoft to position the new Surface Pro 3 as the most productive device on the planet.

Headquartered in Toronto, the firm has 60 staff, and a network that extends to Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Halifax. Key clients include Microsoft, Subway, Church & Dwight, BMW, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, while there was new business last year from Kimberly Clark, United Way, Bayer, and Maple Leaf Foods.—PH