define('DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true); define('DISALLOW_FILE_MODS', true); Tapping into Quebec media » strategy

Tapping into Quebec media

Triggering a strong response from PR in Quebec is just a matter of knowing whether to be salty or sweet

‘It’s been Mastercard’s experience that Quebecers are very open and respond well to PR messaging. Because they respond well, we have always invested in programs in Quebec and will continue to do so,’ says Tracy Hanson, VP marketing for Toronto-based Mastercard Canada.

Evidence that media relations are more effective in Quebec than elsewhere is largely anecdotal, but consistently so. In a province that requires expensive tailoring of most national marketing campaigns, PR may be the most cost-effective method for getting targeted, tailored messages to Quebecers.

‘The great thing about Quebec is that they have a greater concentration of local media than other markets,’ says Susan Hayes, marketing manager for Toronto-based Workopolis. ‘It’s really anecdotal but we find it’s more highly concentrated and messages are more readily endorsed.’

Quebec represents its own media universe that is unique in North America – the province has more beauty and fashion publications that the rest of Canada combined – and smart marketers should take advantage of this.

Virginia Zimm, EVP of Mississauga, Ont.-based Faye Clack Communications, does PR in Quebec on behalf of a number of clients in the food industry. She’s found that PR is ‘highly effective’ when working in that province.

Zimm’s working strategy is to treat the Quebec market as a separate region, and to stay in direct contact with the food media, home economists, food consultants and chefs who are working in the province to stay abreast of news, politics and general trends. She also tailors her press releases specifically to this region.

Zimm notes a number of differences in Quebec when it comes to food. ‘For the most part, I think they eat well but they are indulgent. They don’t cut out their chocolates or their maple syrup, but they are very healthy eaters. They continue to cook with lard and butter and think that’s perfectly fine, and quite frankly, it is, in moderation. Food to them is a cultural experience, it’s a happening. They don’t eat for sustenance, they eat for enjoyment.’

All of which informs press releases sent to that market. In October, Zimm issued a press kit on behalf of the California Walnut Commission. ‘Quebec is a sweet-eating province as opposed to other provinces,’ Zimm says, referring to a study her firm conducted four years ago. Hence, recipes included in the Quebec press kit focused on desserts rather than some of the savory recipes sent out to B.C., a good example of a non-sweet-eating province.

According to Statistics Canada, 2003 year-to-date shipments of in-shell walnuts originating from California into the Quebec marketplace have increased 245% over the same time year prior; shelled walnut shipments have increased 414% for the same period.

Zimm notes that the pick-up ‘is much better when we align ourselves with the province.’ She’s also careful to make sure that she has somebody handling media relations from Quebec, and that all press releases have been endorsed with testimonial that comes from the marketplace, whether it be Julian Armstrong, food editor for the English-language daily The Gazette, or a revered local chef.

Another campaign showing how effective tailored PR can be in Quebec took place in August. Faye Clack was hired by the Washington Apple Commission to conduct research on apple origin awareness across Canada. The study found that the Quebec population was very aware of their own apple growing regions and apple varieties. ‘This was curious because we had done the study last year and hadn’t noticed that.’

The difference was that this time around, the Federation of Quebec Apple Growers was promoting locally grown apples.

‘The results were glaring,’ says Zimm. ‘They had done a huge article on apples and regions and varieties with Julian Armstrong. They also had a huge article in La Presse. It was everywhere. We did our research in the second and third week of August and it was very obvious that their campaign was highly effective.’

Mastercard Canada conducts its PR in a similar fashion to Faye Clack’s clients. ‘Any time we plan any program we make it fully integrated nationally, then we adapt the program. Quebec is a very specific market so you can be very specific in the market,’ says Mastercard’s Hanson.

This September, Hanson oversaw PR programs during Mastercard’s Credit Report Week, a PR, media relations and online credit education program conducted nationally.

‘We were very specific in Quebec,’ she says. ‘The week is all about credit education and being credit smart. Quebecers are more apt to be debit users than credit users, from a payment solutions perspective, so we positioned stories in Quebec about the importance of building a credit history,’ rather than managing debt.

Another Mastercard program that’s tailored to Quebec is the Priceless Index, a national survey conducted every spring to gauge what’s important to Canadians. Mastercard always makes sure to include a large enough Quebec sample to ensure news value for the Quebec media. In most of Canada, results are released close to Canada Day to ensure maximum coverage. In Quebec, the news breaks on St. Jean Baptiste Day instead. Results are segmented by region so as to produce information unique to each region.

Workopolis uses a similar tactic. Most of the company’s Quebec advertising is produced through translation by Montreal-based Diesel Marketing. PR, on the other hand, is tailored specifically from head office, in collaboration with Capital Image, the Quebec office of Toronto-based Environics Comunications.

Workopolis’s Hayes spends a lot of time analyzing usage data on the company’s French-language job site as a way to find trends that are of interest to Quebec job-seekers and employers. ‘The hiring that’s conducted there is different, the economy is in a different stage,’ says Hayes. ‘Every province is in a different stage but because we have a French site, it makes it very easy for me to see what’s going on in Quebec.’

Once a relevant message is out in the marketplace, the onus is on the target market to spread the word further.

‘Public relations is all about delivering a message or a story to someone who will then deliver it again to someone else,’ says Zimm. ‘PR has far more credibility in the Quebec marketplace because Quebecers tend to trust themselves rather than outside sources. If it comes from their own media, to them, that’s a credible source.’

Dos and Don’ts for PR-ing in Quebec

Do make an effort to train a Quebec-based, French-speaking spokesperson who can represent your company to the French media. ‘If you have a wonderful product or service that you’re launching and you can’t provide an effective, articulate company representative to deliver those messages, then you really lose credibility with your target,’ says Carol Levine, partner and co-owner with Montreal-based Communication MECA.

Don’t ignore this market just because there’s no French-speaking spokesperson in Quebec. ‘The Quebec media are actually very flexible and willing to talk to English-speaking executives if they have a strong story to tell,’ says Toronto-based Mia Wedgbury, senior partner and co-founder of High Road Communications.

Do get to know the Quebec media you’re working with. ‘PR in Quebec is much more informal, Wedgbury says. ‘They like to have things on a face-to-face basis and are less likely to find a large press event or staged event useful. It’s just their style.’

Don’t try and communicate primarily via e-mail with the Quebec media. ‘In the rest of Canada, we use a lot of e-mail communication. Our person in Quebec spends a lot more time face-to-face with reporters,’ says Wedgbury.

Top 20 magazines in Quebec – Readership

7 Jours 1,194,000

Coup de Pouce 1,188,000

Selection Readers Digest 1,131,000

Châtelaine [French] 1,024,000

L’actualité 986,000

Touring [French & English] 847,000

Les Idées De Maison 847,000

Clin D’Oeil 836,000

Le Bel Age 798,000

Elle Quebec 793,000

Magazine Les Ailes 781,000

Decormag [French] 769,000

Le Lundi 757,000

Decoration Chez-Soi 714,000

Fleurs/Plantes/Jardins 704,000

Renovation Bricolage 669,000

Primeurs 641,000

Derniere Heure 619,000

Echos-Vedettes 618,000

Sentier Chasse-Peche 593,000

Source: PMB 2003 Two-Year Readership Study, 12+