The Agency A List: The Colony Project

What the next evolution of PR looks like
The Colony Project’s 20 all-female staff members work across all disciplines and clients, constantly learning from each other to drive first-to-market strategies.

The Colony Project’s 20 all-female staff members work across all disciplines and clients, constantly learning from each other to drive first-to-market strategies.

Let’s face it: PR has changed, and there is no going back. “PR agencies” must now also be digital agencies, experiential partners, consumer strategy shops and influencer experts to be relevant to client needs.

The Colony Project was built on this premise. It is not a PR agency, but is what PR has evolved into – a 360-degree communications firm. And the growth of this three-year old organization proves it knows how to make brand building work in the expanding earned-media marketplace.

The range of new clients alone speaks volumes of what this 20-woman team is capable of. Over the last year, The Colony Project began working with Pizza Pizza, Toronto’s Union Station, Escalade Wine and Spirits, online real estate disruptors Homewise and Justo, L’Oreal’s Derma blend brand and the Ontario Heritage Trust. (The agency saw 60% growth in 2018 after making a name for itself with clients such as Hyundai and Bayer Healthcare.)

“We don’t seek out clients in specific sectors just to round out some preconceived notion of what a ‘successful’ agency looks like,” says Colony Project managing director Amanda Shuchat. “We like variety, and variety serves our clients better.”

Diverse clients, she says, better inform her staff of what Canadians like and react to. While there are digital, influencer and XM experts on staff, they are not siloed away from the rest of the team; everyone learns everything to keep things flexible. And since everyone at the firm pitches in across clients, they’re constantly learning how to engage audiences, taking inspiration from one sector to create first-to-market ideas elsewhere.

To solidify the connection between Nando’s as a brand with roots in Southern Africa, Colony sent two of Nando’s biggest fans, etalk’s Liz Trinnear and rapper Kardinal Offishall, on an adventure their taste buds wouldn’t forget. Nando’s Canada hosted the two personalities overseas in Southern Africa to experience first-hand the rich brand history and the story of Nando’s PERi-PERi.

To solidify the brand’s roots in South Africa, Colony sent two of Nando’s biggest fans, etalk’s Liz Trinnear and rapper Kardinal Offishall, on an adventure. Nando’s Canada brought them to South Africa to experience the rich brand history and the story of Nando’s PERi-PERi.

“For example, what Hyundai needs from me is not yet another auto expert,” Shuchat says. “They need someone who’s an expert in communication, in audience and earned media, which is a rapidly changing target.”

Primarily, a modern PR agency must be a fully integrated partner in brand building, as The Colony Project has become with clients such as the Match International Women’s Fund and the cannabis company Aphria.

Do you know how many cows you’re worth? To promote fundraising for Match International Women’s Fund, The Colony Project built an online tool that calculated women’s “worth” as prospective wives to highlight how young girls can be traded as brides.

Do you know how many cows you’re worth? To promote fundraising for Match International Women’s Fund, The Colony Project built an online tool that calculated women’s “worth” as prospective wives to highlight how young girls can be traded as brides.

These organizations have very different goals – Match is a non-profit NGO looking to raise awareness of global women’s inequality, while Aphria is building share in a new industry crowded with well-funded competitors. But The Colony Project’s expertise in reaching Canadians is helping both.

For Aphria, the agency is a key partner building a community around RIFF, one of Aphria’s recreational-use brands. The Colony Project is using its growing expertise in the cannabis space and roots in the creative industry to co-host immersive events in major cities to reach the target with a discerning eye.

Match, meanwhile, wanted to highlight the problem of child marriage. So, working off a news story about a Sudanese girl bride who had been auctioned off for cattle online, The Colony

Project developed an online tool that showed how many cows a woman was worth as tradeable property. It personalized the story for Canadians and drove an increase in donations.

As for The Colony Project’s future, this female-led agency wants to continue growing and diversifying its roster of clients and its portfolio of convention-busting work.

“We want to do work that’s in new spaces, and perhaps in unproven ones,” Shuchat says. “We want the brave ones who are willing to take risks, go where there are no business results yet, and truly try first-to-market ideas.”

CONTACT:

Amanda Schuchat

Managing Director

Amanda.schuchat@colonyproject.com