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#TeamSwitchboard: What we do and who we are

pub·lic re·la·tions – noun

The practice of managing the public reputation or public-facing identity of an individual, company or organization.

PR is all about connection. Connecting people to a company, to a mission and to a message they resonate with. At Switchboard, this is what we stand for.

There are over 20 PR agencies in Vancouver, and Switchboard is neither the largest or the longest-standing among them. What we are is nimble, scrappy and willing to try non-traditional communications tactics. If an organization is looking for bulky strategies that are fuzzy, theory-heavy or require someone else to get the real sh*t done, Switchboard is not for you. Come to us when you’re ready to take action, whether that includes overhauling the copywriting on your website, or attracting the eyeballs of your target audience through the media. Sure, we could tell you how to get results, but then we have to watch from the sidelines while someone else has all the fun…

What can our clients expect from us?

Industry expertise – Our team consists of media strategists and communications specialists with expertise across a variety of industries and company sizes, from startups to larger organizations. We’ve worked with nonprofits, tech companies, public and private organizations. They range in the industry but share an unwillingness to settle for the norm. They push boundaries and, like us, are on a mission to change the world for the better.

Measures that are more than vanity metrics – You have business goals and we’re here to help you build communications strategies that hit your measures. Before the start of every campaign, we familiarize ourselves with your business objectives and set KPIs to measure the performance of the project. This is more than the number of unique clicks a social media post gets. Whether our clients want to build brand exposure, get featured in high-profile publications or throw a community event, we bring it back to the why and how the strategy we build will generate real business results.

Adaptability – We don’t come in and disrupt your team workflow. When it comes to project execution, we bring our expertise and integrate into your team’s process that fits with your approach. Our clients’ success is our success and we personalize each interaction to fit with their comfortability.

Connections for business growth – We’re in PR and, naturally, have wide networks. A direct result of our work is more industry connections that we share with our clients because building relationships is a part of what we do. We want our clients and their business to grow and succeed, so we help them build a network that they’ll benefit from even beyond the work we do together. Whether we work on a project for a few months or a couple of years, our goal is to have our clients’ thrive with and without us.

Transparent billing – We’re transparent about what our projects entail, what we’ll deliver and what you can expect. We’ll give you an in-depth proposal so you know exactly what you’ll be spending. And we’ll be honest from the get-go—we won’t be your cheapest option. We have a team of experts and we provide our clients with a collaborative approach to hit your business KPIs with the work we do.

And who are we?

We’re a team of media relations specialists, designers and content strategists. We may be small, but we’re mighty and we get sh*t done – with the results to back it up.

  • Kathleen Reid, Founder and Managing Director
  • Mike Northfield, Project Coordinator and Graphic Designer
  • Patricia Beckerman, Digital Strategist & Communications Coordinator
  • Karda Rolland-Berge, Communications Assistant and Office Manager
  • Catherine Dunwoody, Senior Media Strategist
  • Sim Tatla, Content Strategist

Have questions relating to PR? Let’s chat over coffee. You can also sign-up for our monthly newsletter to get the latest on what we’re up to.

Using PR for Your Business: 4 Myths, Debunked

Imagine you’re sitting across from someone in a cafe. Your coffee date has an exhausting job: He or she arrives at times of crisis to manage situations that are already out of control, working in an industry that’s notorious for putting people in compromising positions. If you’ve seen classic films like “All the President’s Men”, you might see a description like the one above and picture a PR professional. Chances are, however, that if the person you’re imagining has a job that revolves around damage control, they’re in firefighting or litigation – not public relations.

When it comes to PR, the myths don’t end there, and we think it’s worthwhile to bust some of the more pervasive ones…

1. Media relations and advertising are the same

Media relations is one strategy used by PR companies. The main difference between media relations and advertising is that advertising is paid visibility about your organization and media relations is earned.

Think about a fintech company looking to get featured in a large tech publication about the industry award it just won. The cost of sponsored content in the publication could be in the thousands. Compare this to earned coverage, where PR teams and agencies reach out to media outlets, and media reporters decide for themselves if the stories are worth sharing. There’s no payment owed to the outlet, and the content is typically perceived to have more credibility. Think of advertising like flipping someone your business card, whereas with media relations, you get a recommendation from a trusted source.

2. I can do it myself—it’s easy

Here are some things you can technically do yourself: create a website, come up with a crisis plan, email reporters, design a logo, put together a stakeholder event and wordsmith the copy that will represent your business online or in print. Here are some other things you can technically do yourself: cut your own hair, defend yourself in court, remove that oddly-shaped mole… See where we’re going with this one?

When it comes to managing things that fall under “public relations,” people don’t know what they don’t know (often until it’s too late).

If your organization experiences company-wide layoffs, you’ll need an internal communications strategy to explain why this is happening and what it means for the company and its staff. Sure, you could create the strategy yourself — but if you don’t have the communications experience that comes with working in PR, you risk negatively impacting employee morale, performance, retention and culture.

3. PR doesn’t contribute to my ROI

It’s a common misconception that the results of PR can’t be measured and tied to a return for your business.

To paint a picture of where PR fits into your business, consider the marketing funnel. It has four distinct parts: Awareness, Consideration, Conversion and Loyalty & Advocacy. PR fits into awareness and drives traffic and leads to your organization.

PR comes in all forms (media relations, event planning and communications to name a few). Depending on the specific use of PR, you can measure the performance in a variety of ways. To measure the performance of your PR campaign, you can track the number of media placements and impressions your business receives. Getting press coverage in a variety of outlets also increases brand awareness within a targeted audience. And you can use employee surveys to measure the impact of internal communication strategies within your organization.

4. PR only spins bad news into good news

Would you want your company mentioned in the news because of a product malfunction? Or because one customer complaint went viral? No!

Remember that song “Roses” by Outkast? Any PR professional worth their salt knows that candy coating bad news is a sure-fire way to throw your brand in the bin. A quality PR agency spends its time getting sh*t done to make sure their client’s reputation doesn’t suffer in the first place — not trying to make sh*t smell like roses when things go off the rails.

When it comes to public perception, it takes five positive interactions with the public to mitigate one negative, so you save time, money, sweat and tears by getting PR jobs done right the first time (see point number two). Having great PR means that you have external champions who will respond on your behalf, especially those on social media.

The best time to get PR professionals involved is when things are going well for you as a business – which is precisely the time when most businesses get overconfident and think they can do the work themselves.

Any myths we missed? Tweet us your top PR myths and misconceptions at @Switchboard_PR.

Working with high-functioning anxiety: A managing director’s strategies for mental wellness

Looking at me, you’d never know that I have high-functioning anxiety — most people in my life have no idea.

For a while, I was embarrassed to speak up about it. I didn’t want a label hanging over my head. Being in a management role, I didn’t want my clients or team doubting my capabilities because of it. Most people don’t realize, though, that my high-functioning anxiety makes me who I am: a hyperfocused high performer with a keen eye for details.

I don’t exhibit many of the stereotypical markers of anxiety; you won’t see me shaking, hyperventilating or having visible panic attacks. My life looks under control and my anxiety is masked behind a successful, busy lifestyle. The struggle is internal. I overthink everything to the point of obsession. These thoughts keep me up at night, create unnecessary worry and always have me thinking about the worst-case scenario. It’s no surprise that I was attracted to a career in PR, where I manage crisis communications, events and media.

Over time, I’ve accepted that I have anxiety. It’s part of who I am. In my business, I’m open with my team about it and work hard to create an environment in which people feel safe to share if and when they’re struggling. We even have a client, Starling Minds, that works with companies to make sure employees are self-monitoring mental health just like one would for physical health. Their platform helps workers manage depression and anxiety, as well as everyday stress.

Rather than fighting my anxiety, I choose to work with it. I can identify triggers (like you might with any other health issue) and have strategies to ensure it doesn’t take over my life. Being a business owner makes having a work/life balance tricky, but these are some of the approaches that I find helpful:

  1. Showing gratitude. I have a gratitude journal where I write down things I’m grateful for. Maybe this sounds corny, but it reminds me of the little things that make me happy, even if it’s as simple as good weather or meeting a friendly person.
  2. Staying fit. I block off my Friday mornings to go to a yoga class. I work 10-hour days, and this is my way of making time to clear my head and have some “me” time before the weekend. By blocking off this time, I maintain a commitment to myself, my team and my family that ensures I make my own well-being a priority.
  3. Being transparent. I tell the people closest to me when I’m struggling with anxiety. The more I share with my partner, family and team, the better they understand when I need to work from home or why I’m retreating.

I’m sharing now because there needs to be more conversation around mental health in the workplace, especially by those in leadership roles. Being a business owner is stressful (we all know that), but we don’t talk about it nearly enough. The majority of us will experience anxiety in some form throughout our lives. In fact, one in five Canadians will struggle with mental illness at some point. The more we share about the mental health issues we face, the faster we can break the stigma around it and create healthier and more transparent work environments for ourselves and, most importantly, our teams.

That being said, no one who runs a business maintains a perfect work/life balance (or at least I haven’t met any who manage to). Different approaches will work for different people. What works for you? We’d love to hear. Share your strategies with us at @Switchboard_PR.