The A-List: Citizen Relations

Making every conversation count
The Citizen Relations Canada team.

The Citizen Relations Canada team

There’s been a seismic shift in the conversational zeitgeist over the last year. The topic of workplace productivity has been eclipsed by employee wellness; in-person collaboration has been replaced with a grid of virtual faces; and racial justice is being discussed in great depth from living rooms to boardrooms.

For integrated public relations agency Citizen Relations, where the mission is to make every conversation count, this change is serious business. So, when the typical forms of connection evaporated following the onset of the pandemic, the agency set out to adapt.

The 90-person shop with offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Quebec City has bolstered capacity with a social-impact practice, formalized a flexible work policy, launched a conversation metric tool, and reimagined how it engages with “citizens” – its preferred term for consumers.

Citizen Relations worked with SickKids Foundation to build a Monument to the Brave in celebration of achieving one million donors. The Monument represents one million-plus acts of bravery from over one million SickKids patients to date and is adorned with Bravery Beads donated by patients past and present. It will live in the new SickKids hospital once construction is complete.

Citizen Relations worked with SickKids Foundation to build a Monument to the Brave in celebration of achieving one million donors. The Monument represents one million-plus acts of bravery from over one million SickKids patients and is adorned with Bravery Beads donated by patients past and present. It will live in the new SickKids hospital once construction is complete.

“Conversation is the new currency in PR. Every action, whether it’s changing behaviour or influencing a purchase decision, starts with a conversation,” says agency president Nick Cowling. “We’ve become much more deliberate in making sure the conversations in which we’re involving our clients will have a specific impact.”

One way the agency is doing that is through a newly launched practice led by EVP of social impact Dr. Shilpa Tiwari, who joined this year, bringing extensive experience building and growing sustainability, social impact, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

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To raise awareness and drive trial of Oroweat organic bread in the Vancouver market, Citizen delivered a collaboration between Oroweat and the Dalina cafe to create a menu of sandwiches made from ingredients produced within a 50-mile radius of the city.

Cowling often sees brands needing guidance on how to connect on social issues. “The right opportunities are not always obvious. Take a client in the food business. Many would say, ‘Let’s support food banks,’ when they should say their corporate purpose is to make those food banks [unnecessary],” he says. “Real social impact could come from helping address job availability or community safety. We’re helping them zone in on where their support will matter the most.”

Citizen Relations has also seen profound change in how its clients connect with people through influencers, something Cowling attributes to the rise of TikTok. He says influencers have evolved to become more authentic on the video platform versus the glossy, curated personas seen on Instagram.

To promote the return of ketchup-flavoured Doritos, Citizen worked with influencers to launch streaming platform Doritos Ketchup+, featuring original programming from content creators.

To promote the return of ketchup-flavoured Doritos, Citizen worked with influencers to launch streaming platform Doritos Ketchup+, featuring original programming from content creators.

“Their roles have changed; they’re now teachers, DIYers, brand ambassadors,” he says. “They’re also more direct and less polished. That’s what Gen Z wants.” That means brands looking to play in that space must relinquish more control.

The agency tapped sports, food and lifestyle influencers to bring attention to Molson Canadian’s launch of the “most Canadian case of beer ever,” filled with 43 Canadian brands and aimed at dethroning Budweiser as Canada’s number-one beer.

The agency tapped influencers to bring attention to Molson Canadian’s launch of the “most Canadian case of beer ever,” filled with 43 Canadian brands and aimed at dethroning Budweiser as Canada’s number-one beer.

When Molson Canadian launched the “most Canadian case of beer ever” – one filled with 43 Canadian competitor brands, aimed at dethroning Budweiser as Canada’s number-one beer – the agency tapped sports, food and lifestyle influencers to amplify the message. The campaign generated over 85 million impressions and over one million dollars in earned media. PR and social impressions exceeded 31MM and sales increased 11%.

To promote the return of ketchup-flavoured Doritos, Citizen worked with influencers to launch streaming platform Doritos Ketchup+, featuring original programming from content creators spanning sports documentaries to abstract expressionism and fringe conspiratorial viewing choices.

To help Tourism Australia keep the country at the top of North American travelers' lists when the borders reopen, Citizen devised a virtual cookery class with celebrity Australian chef Curtis Stone, connecting the organization and three of its key regions with media and consumer audiences

To help Tourism Australia keep the country at the top of North American travellers’ lists when borders reopen, Citizen devised a virtual cookery class with celebrity Australian chef Curtis Stone, connecting the organization and its regions with media and consumer audiences

 

 

These efforts are informed by Citizen’s conversation monitor, launched as a prototype in May 2020, which helps marketers determine the kind of content that will connect with people on social and digital channels. The platform measures data points and KPIs and provides insight on content that drives online conversation and how many relationships are needed to drive specific results.

The pandemic also forced a tactical overhaul at the agency’s Citizen XM division. For instance, whereas historically the agency has helped the Humber College Student Union execute an on-campus event with activities including axe-throwing and pop-up cafes, that wasn’t possible in a virtual school year.

Instead, the agency developed a “virtual tournament” to engage students with week-long digital games occurring over five months. Students earned points tracked on a leaderboard and won prizes, allowing the union to connect a virtual student body throughout the year.

“One positive out of the last year is that it’s caused agencies and clients to think differently about how we engage with audiences,” says Kevin Wagman, Citizen XM’s managing director. “It has opened up the possibilities of other tactics that can be incorporated or layered into traditional events or experiences when they eventually do return.”

CONTACT:
Nick Cowling
President
nick.cowling@citizenrelations.com

The 2021 A-Listers:

Intro

Zulu Alpha Kilo: from strength to strength

Target: natural born storytellers

doug&partners: ready for whatever’s next

UM: winning in an uncertain world

C&B: connecting on a deeper level

Initiative: doubling down on innovation and creating cultural velocity

Media Experts: shaping what’s next

Giants & Gentlemen: the power of unwavering philosophy

Wunderman Thompson: a multidisciplinary service offering

DDB: the power of informed creative