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Switchboard Cares: Changing the world through the ripple effect of educating girls and young women

At Switchboard we are on a mission to bring positive change into our communities and the world. That’s why we run a “Switchboard Cares” program, in which we take on one pro bono impact project quarterly. For the spring of 2016, we’ve worked alongside Educating Girls of Rural China, a registered charity that sponsors girls in rural China through their high school and postsecondary educations. EGRC operates under the belief that educated women have educated children, and that educating women is the best long-term strategy for bringing communities out of poverty.

“Thus far, EGRC has supported over 597 young women from the most rural parts of China in receiving an education,” says Ching Tien, Founder of EGRC.

During China’s Cultural Revolution, Ching Tien was removed from her studies at a privileged all-girls school, and sent to work in a factory for eight years in one of China’s poorest provinces, Gansu. This is a common story for those who survived the cultural revolution as the education system was gutted and many of the country’s intellectuals were sent to work in rural parts of the country in factories, farms and the military. Women were especially disadvantaged as, males carry on the family name, they usually receive the families’ access to resources. Many families still believe that the role of women is to support men in a marriage and that there is little value in educating girls.

Ching Tien was able to move to Canada in the 1970s, where she has a daughter and son who graduated with degrees from Canadian universities. It is now Ching Tien’s objective to help young women in rural China receive the education that was taken away from her own generation.

EGRC has a 100 per cent graduation rate, and on Monday, June 13th, it celebrated EGRC alumna Bixia Wang’s PhD graduation with a dim sum luncheon. Attendees enjoyed a delicious Chinese lunch, compelling stories from EGRC supporters and hilarious entertainment by MC Fred Lee of the CBC’s “Steppin’ Out” series. Thanks to the generosity of those who participated in the event, EGRC raised over $28,000 to support girls and young women through their high school and university studies.

Through the power of PR and storytelling, Switchboard has been able to have a hand in this inspiring cause. We are proud to be apart of a team that believes in using our skills and expertise to help the progression of social equality, justice and innovation. To learn more about Educating Girls of Rural China follow them on social @edugrchina.

More than Wine and Designer Shoes

Switchboard’s practicum student, Danielle Palfery, provides a more realistic look at the PR industry

“So, what is it that you do, exactly?”

As a student completing my practicum at Switchboard Public Relations, I had one-on-one conversations with each member of the team, which allowed me some insight into their roles and the PR industry as a whole.

Vancouver, as a highly-competitive (and arguably cluttered) market, requires businesses and organizations to not only present a valuable service or product, but also to provide an element of originality and inventiveness that inspires the target audience. That’s where PR comes in. PR teams examine culture and understand how to build public awareness through thoughtful engagement.

As PR is a rapidly changing industry, there are plenty of entertaining popular misconceptions about who PR practitioners are and what we do. Here are my four favourites based on my practicum at Switchboard:

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1. Everyone in PR is a Samantha Jones.

If this were true, the world would be a much more eccentric – and dysfunctional – place. However, not everyone in PR embodies the extravagance of Sex in the City’s Samantha. We’re not going to turn down a good cosmo, but PR professionals are about as diverse as the public they’re trying to reach; not everyone is required to be a socialite. In fact, without a range of academic backgrounds, skillsets, and personalities, most PR teams couldn’t stay afloat. Full-service public relations includes strategy, media relations, social media, community engagement, digital, creative and events, and pulling it off requires more than charm, a resilient liver and designer shoes.


2. You can get me on the 5:00 news by tomorrow, right?

Most people don’t understand the process of pitching news to journalists. As PR practitioners, it is our job to find the news value in our clients’ stories. Given that media convergence and downsizing has Canadian journalists pressed for time and budget more than ever, this isn’t a walk in the park. Building real relationships with representatives from the media is a proactive way to better the chances of getting client coverage. Compiling a meaningful media list, building relationships and pitching in its entirety takes tremendous patience and care.

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3. Public Relations only comes into play when a crisis occurs.

Occasionally, crisis communications comes into play when a client requires that kind of support. Switchboard recommends that clients prepare for a crisis – a data breach for example – in advance, with a process in place to make sure information reaches staff and the public in a timely fashion. However, proactive public relations is the real meat and potatoes within the industry. Proactive public relations gives the brand or organization the opportunity to build their messaging and public reputation. With good use of strategic proactive PR, a brand lessens its chances significantly of having to resort to reactive PR, which is more commonly known as crisis communications.

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4. Public Relations lacks ethics and authenticity.

Sadly, PR over the years has developed a bad reputation stemming from the concept of us “spinning” the truth to gain favorable public opinion. Historically, PR has been used in propaganda campaigns for wars and cigarette companies and has, thus, made a bad name for itself. However, as mentioned above, the industry is rapidly changing and sometimes that’s for the better. As my time at Switchboard has confirmed, PR professionals work from a place of transparency, and we pride ourselves on representing ethical clients – businesses and organizations that align with our core values. Quite simply, public relations is a relationship building tool, helping members of the community tell their stories in an authentic and impactful way. There’s nothing deceiving or villainous about that!

Feature image photo credit: The Odyssey Online, 18 Signs Mindy Kaling Is Your Spirit Animal

Because Everything is Better in GIFs

While often deeply immersed in the digital vortex we call life, it’s hard to ignore the eye catching, flashy memes, kitten clips and life fails also known as the GIF (pronounced Jif, like the peanut butter). With more hi-res video options offered by social media providers, it’s a wonder why we still cling to our pixelated, mediocre-quality friend.

Earlier this year, Twitter announced the release of GIF Search, where users can search, or browse Twitter’s GIF library when composing a tweet. “You can search by keyword, or browse categories of different reactions like Happy Dance, Mic Drop, or YOLO.”


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Twitter is not the first to adopt this new integration of old technology. Other platforms like Slack, Tinder and Facebook Messenger are also offering means to connect via celebrity memes and cat clips.

So when asked to write a blog post about one of our most recent projects, I naturally responded. “Can we make it into GIFs?” So here we are friends, a long interlude into how we printed some pretty awesome business cards for our recent rebrand to Switchboard Public Relations, in GIFS.


The GIF is 27 years old. That’s 29 years younger than this letterpress that is creating our business cards.


We chose the letterpress process as it illustrates the story behind our brand. The term switchboard refers to interconnected circuits, connecting users to each other. It is an old technology and timeless concept, much like what you are seeing here.


The front of each card is digitally printed, boosting the colour to show off our new vibrant gradient. With new technology on the front and an timeless technology on the back, our business cards are the physical reflection of what we do. We are using the newest technologies with traditional methods that work to connect people, brands and communities.

Shout out to Kaldor who did a phenomenal job helping us rebrand and design these business cards. If we were to describe the work that you do in a GIF, it would look like this…