Brigitte Foisy | President | The PR Department Inc.

The PR Department Inc.: Empowering Companies through A Commitment to Excellence

A company needs to build strong relations with its customers and other audiences in today’s age and time. This helps them to make a mark in the industry and establish themselves in the competition. Their prime motive is to become relevant in the industry and to enhance their popularity in the market.

By building a solid rapport in the market, companies want to march ahead towards the peak of excellence. Accordingly, they require the assistance of dedicated public relations (PR) and marketing agencies, which help promote themselves and their services.

These renowned PR and marketing agencies leave no stone unturned to promote their clients and bring them to the spotlight. They enhance businesses’ profit and success ratio while developing mutual understanding or positioning them among the audience. These companies create positive perceptions and predispositions among the target audience for their clients.

One such noteworthy company making waves in the PR and marketing space is none other than The PR Department Inc. It is a one-stop shop that harnesses the power of senior creatives, along with 18 years’ worth of experience in designing and implementing a range of full service, 360° Marketing-communications strategies, and award-winning brand activations.

Fueled by an undying need to go beyond its clients’ bottom line, the idea brokers and problem-solvers team together to forge strategic and creative plans that will exceed the clients’ marketing and business objectives. The company boosts traffic, smashes bottom lines, and gets brands noticed. It believes in turning fledgling brands into superstars.

In an interview with Insights Success, the leadership team at The PR Department Inc. shares about the company’s inception, its journey, the various services it provides, and its future plans.

Following are the highlights of the interview:

Please brief our audience about your company, its USPs, and how it is currently positioned as a leading player in the PR and Marketing space.

Founded in 2002, The PR Department is a newer, fresher, more forward-thinking agency. A one-stop-shop that harnesses the power of senior creatives fuelled by an undying need to go beyond the bottom lines of our clients.

We feel what makes us different is not only our ingenuity, high-quality and dogged dedication but our belief that business IS personal. We don’t believe in the traditional definition of “agency”. In fact, we treat our clients’ businesses as though they were our own, and we know that’s been the key to our success.

We don’t bill per hour because our clients don’t count their time. It is about delivering results, working with our clients as one team, in all transparency, to exceed their business and marketing objectives and being committed to making a difference. This business is our purpose, not our work!

As one of Canada’s most awarded boutique Marcom agencies (we’ve received more than 20 national and international awards in the last four years) with a history rooted in driving results for some of the biggest food and lifestyle brands on the planet, The PR Department is nationally renowned as the champion of leading brands (and those who want to be). Our approach is reflected in the unique “big agency” experience we provide each and every one of our clients and results that come without the “big agency” price tag.

What other services does your company offer, and how are these impacting the industry and your clients?

Initially, The PR Department was only about that – PR… but thanks to clients who believed in us and continued to seek more and more services, we grew to be a one-stop-shop marketing-communications firm.

Our team of idea brokers and problem-solvers comes together to forge strategic and creative plans that’ll exceed our clients’ marketing and business objectives armed with an array of Marcom services offered in both official languages as well as Portuguese, Greek, and Italian. We boost traffic, smash bottom lines, and get brands noticed; it’s about turning fledgling brands into superstars.

Our services include everything from strategic thinking and counsel to media training, social media management, content creation, digital ads, and even AR/VR for brand activations. If we don’t do it, we will find someone who can!

Through the years, we found a “recipe for success” for retail goods, with most of our campaign resulting in double-digit growth. We build 360° campaigns that incorporate as many tactics from the marketing mix as possible.

This, to ensure to effectively reach the target consumer through multiple channels (media, advertising, social, influencers) as many times as possible, mixing earned, paid and owed strategies and tactics based on the budget available.

By reaching consumers through several different platforms simultaneously, we build strong awareness, strengthen the message, and influence the decision-making process.

Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on what impact have the adoption of modern technologies such as AI, big data, and machine learning had on the PR, and Marketing niches and what more could be expected in the future?

We’re success enablers, a passionate hub of big idea ninjas that crafts powerful, influential, results-driven marketing communications solutions for some of the country’s and the world’s biggest brands.

To craft these plans, achieve our goals, keep our clients competitive, and successfully promote and sell products or services (while providing clients with a stellar ROI), what we do needs to be measurable. We need to rely on data and technology – not our guts or experience!

Consumers are speaking, and it’s our job as marketers to listen. Without data, brands (and their agencies) are deaf, aimlessly making decisions and spending money like a five-year-old at a candy store.

Big data enables us to know our customers, make enlightened decisions, whether it is to improve customer loyalty, engagement, optimize the performance of our initiatives or improve customer acquisition. It is business intelligence, an indispensable tool that provides time and cost savings while optimizing marketing performance!

It’s always been there, but now there’s more of it! A recent article in Forbes mentioned that by 2025, more than 150 trillion gigabytes of data would need analysis. For us marketers, that means that as time goes on, we will need more advanced tools to analyze and store data and use it in a timely manner in order to have a competitive advantage in the market.

When it comes to new technologies, we stay at the forefront of the trends. We have been offering AR and VR for brand activations and campaigns since 2017.  Though it is still costly to produce, we believe these technologies, when used well, can help cut through the clutter.

Taking into consideration the current pandemic, what initial challenges did you face, and how did you drive your company to sustain operations while ensuring the safety of your employees at the same time?

We’re very blessed to have close relationships with our clients. Some have been with us for over 18 of our 19 years of existence! In fact, many of the services we offer today are because of their needs.  With an average of seven years, our clients continue to trust us, year after year, to build on the foundations that we have set. Though the pandemic has changed most of our clients’ plans, we’ve been able to pivot and adapt our strategies quickly to the new reality of reaching consumers at home.

In November, we closed our office in the west end of Toronto and shifted to working remotely. It proved to be a great decision! With every change, there’s certainly a period of adaptation and challenges to overcome, but we’re in a good place right now.

Equipped with new technologies to connect the team (who works simultaneously in four different countries and 6 cities!), every member of our team now offers owner-like dedication as they are all part of a new profit-sharing plan.

They manage their own schedules and are responsible for the performance of their own part of every mandate. It’s about not only making “our dreams come true” but theirs as well.

We’re growing and continuously looking for stellar individuals to join our team.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the PR and Marketing space?

Take the time to learn and gain experience under your belt. What we learn in school is a great foundation to build upon but ultimately, creating marketing-communications plans, counselling clients, and crisis management are only a few of the many tactics that require experience. Though working with “big firms” might be glamourous because you’ll work with big-name brands, we believe there’s nothing like gaining your experience from small boutique firms. You’ll get to experience a wider range of work quicker than in a large firm.

Don’t undervalue your work. The old adage “you get what you pay for” resonates with most clients. Early on, someone told us, “If it’s free, it’s worth nothing.” You can charge less than a larger agency as a freelancer because you don’t have any overhead but don’t undersell your services to the point that a client will doubt your effectiveness.

Build relationships! Don’t burn bridges. It’s a small world out there – especially in Canada. The junior person today could be your client tomorrow. The intern at a publication could be the editor you’ll need to pitch in five years.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything! Hire help where you need it most – to counterbalance your weaknesses!  Our first hire was a bookkeeper! Focus on selling and implementing. Leave the rest to pros that will help you shine! They say if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room, and it’s true. Your business will grow by adding people you can look up to! Our team knocks our socks off every day!

Don’t be afraid to partner with others. We started our business as freelancers to Quebec agencies that wanted to implement in English Canada and those in Ontario that wanted to reach media in Quebec. Those partnerships with agencies were our main sources of income for over five years, and we still partner with many to complement our mutual service offering.

How do you envision scaling your company’s operations and offerings in 2021?

We have been working on a new business for the past three years. We saw a need in the market for both agencies and small brands, and we’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to create a service that will enable both to communicate with the media in an easier and more cost-efficient way. This new service will be launching in Q1 of 2022.

As for The PR Department, we’re boutique, and we intend to stay that way. While we focus on doing what we do best, we’re always growing and listening to our clients to serve them better. We’ve added team members with specific expertise to provide clients with additional ways to reach their audience, so we’re also focusing on expanding our service offering.

Exceptional Leaders

As a respected marketing and communications professional with over 20 years of solid experience, Brigitte Foisy is a true Quebecker—passionate to the core! After eight years in the agency, her desire was to partner with clients to provide smart, creative, and cost-effective communications solutions, expert counsel, superior execution, and objective-driven results.

She enjoys being part of her partners’ successes and commits her time and dedication to help ‘clients’ take their business to another level. That is why being the ‘outside’ counsel was never satisfying, and why she created The PR Department, it is all about being an integral part of your team.

Debora Marques moved from Brazil to Toronto in 2010 and joined The PR Department as a bilingual consultant shortly after. Thanks to her strong willingness to learn, unwavering dedication, passion and hard work, Debora quickly became an invaluable asset to the firm.

Debora became a partner of The PR Department in August 2016, following the staggering success of a two-year activation with French brand Maille (Unilever). As Vice President, Debora oversees media relations, influencer programs and social media.

Under her supervision, the results of media relations and social media mandates of the agency have seen significant growth, and the team has enjoyed an influx of experiential marketing mandates.

Over the past four years, the agency has been awarded over 20 national and international awards, making the firm one of Canada’s most awarded boutique agencies.

Exhibiting Excellence

  • “We are extremely pleased with the PR Department. PR is one of our company’s biggest success stories in terms of driving awareness to our products from the very first strategic meeting; they were able to understand who we were and what our needs were. They listened and were insightful in keeping our objectives in mind. It’s a pleasure to work with a team that constantly puts forth the extra effort and really cares about their clients.” – Tazeem Maken Karmali, Ex -Marketing Director T-fal Canada
  • “The outstanding work done by the PR Department has been instrumental to the success of GEOX in Canada. The team is constantly coming up with innovative new ways to generate visibility and have demonstrated a deep understanding of our brand and the market. It is rare to find such dedicated and passionate professionals, and even rarer to find an agency that implements strategies seamlessly in both English and French Canada.” – Gino Stinziani, Ex-President of GEOX Canada
  • “We were impressed by the quality of execution of our event strategy. The PR department team has successfully deployed a national tour and promoted the Maille brand through various festivals. Media coverage surpassed our expectations. A devoted and passionate team.” – Marie-Eve Brunet, ID Foods Corporation.
  • “Few are tuned into trends like the team at The PR Department, and even fewer can rally such a great calibre of individuals with such a strong network, dedication and professionalism. Always ahead of the game is how I would describe them.” – Harry Lalousis, Unilever
  • “This is BAR NONE the best publicity we have ever gotten – best integrated, best executed, most clever, most creative, most stretching of our feeble budget – and just downright fun and fast-paced. You’re the bomb!” – AnGeL Ministries USA