TORONTO — Bob Pickard and Janice Mandel have struck a partnership to launch a new consultancy in Canada, focused on helping CEOs navigate the impact of digital disruption.

Signal Leadership Communication (SLC) bills itself as a 'social PR consultancy', and also counts an advisory partnership with pollster and Nanos Research chair Nik Nanos.

The new firm marks a reunion for Pickard and Mandel, who worked together at Hill & Knowlton Toronto in the Nineties. Pickard then built a lengthy career in Asia-Pacific, leading Edelman North Asia before heading Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific and serving as Huntsworth Asia-Pacific chairman prior to his return to Canada last year.

"In Canada and around the world, communication is becoming a more critical strategic leadership function, and increasingly all communication is being driven by social media," said SLC Principal Pickard. "Yet many CEOs remain fearful about online risks and unsure about opportunities and so they are cautious about pulling the digital trigger. Our new firm is aimed at helping these executives become savvy with social so that they can powerfully signal their leadership."

Mandel, meanwhile, held senior client-side roles at P&G and Tarion before leading boutique consultancy Strategic Ingenuity for the past five years. Citing Global Communications Report research, Mandel noted that almost a third of PR firms now report directly to CEOs, calling for a better understanding of C-suite digital strategy.

"Digital has become essential to creating public image and it is also a dangerous risk to one’s reputation," said SLC Principal Mandel. "Social media is now the key to relationships with the communities who are important to business success."

While clients were not disclosed, the firm is understood to have commenced work in Toronto and plans several thought leadership initiatives in the weeks ahead, including a poll about the power of social media to make and break one’s public image and a study of social media adoption by CEOs. SLC is also in talks with other firms around the world regarding partnership agreements.