TORONTO — Industry veteran Bob Pickard is refocusing his efforts on building an agency focused on CEO communications following a short-lived stint leading National Public Relations' Toronto office.

“Departing a big mainline firm so soon after taking a chance is inconvenient but also probably a blessing in disguise. If I can’t build a social corporate practice there, I’m going to build it with my own hands and heart,” Pickard told PRovoke Media. “The idea is to create a highly specialized boutique offer where the risk will be more than compensated by the reward.”

Since 2016, Pickard has run his own Toronto consultancy, Signal Leadership Communication, which focuses on executive communications — and provides the platform for the expanded offer Pickard envisions, which includes working with CEOs, who have been “thrust into the public relations spotlight as never before.

“Leadership communication has gone through the roof in terms of its salience. It was a highly specialized niche before but now, almost overnight, it has become arguably the most important segment of corporate communication,” he said.

“I’m looking at doubling-down in the premium executive comms space by attracting talent and treasure to unfurl a new banner this fall for a senior-config strategic consultancy focused on serving the C-suite with coaching, crisis, image, issues, relationships, reputation — and social leadership,” he said.

Pickard (who has more than two decades of experience and has held leadership positions across Asia and Canada) stepped down from his role as National’s Toronto managing director in February, just three months after assuming the position. He succeeded Rick Murray, who in September became managing partner of Avenir Global sister agency Shift Communications in Boston.

PRovoke Media understands that Pickard’s tenure at National was cut short due to irreconcilable differences between him and National’s ownership in Quebec.

“When you’ve been doing PR as long as I have, you start to think you’ve seen it all and made every conceivable career error. But then another mistake like this one teaches an additional dimension of valuable experience the hard way,” said Pickard.

“Initially I was disappointed and frankly ticked-off, but now I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. And also of gratitude because I made many fantastic employee connections with a wonderful team of next-generation global-grade talents,” he said.

When asked for comment, National president Martin Daraiche said: “Throughout Bob’s time with National, he showed himself to be a smart and dedicated professional. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

Before launching Signal, Pickard spent more than a decade in Asia, most recently as chairman of Huntsworth Asia-Pacific. Pickard spent 18 months at Huntsworth, which he joined after serving as Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific CEO for three years.

Before Burson, Pickard spent more than five years with Edelman in North Asia, launching the firm in Korea before overseeing the sub-region. He relocated to Asia after being one of the founding partners of Canada's Environics Communications.