Failing to plan, planning to fail Pt. 1

Jan O'Driscoll, Senior Counsel
Crisis And Reputation Management 

It has been over a month since the world was shocked to see a bloodied passenger being physically removed from United Airlines flight #3411. Last week, appearing before the House Transportation Committee, United's CEO Oscar Munoz rightly called the incident a "…mistake of epic proportions."

It doesn't take a PR expert to realize that this entire incident was bungled from the get go and ranks as one of the biggest crisis management failures in modern history. In this day and age, how on earth does something like this even happen?  You certainly don't need a PR firm to tell you that physically assaulting someone is a bad company policy and is terrible for your brand's image. 

One would think that this is just common sense. How else could brutalizing a customer and dragging him from the plane get any worse?  Logic would dictate that United’s best course of action would have been to have a spokesperson own the events, apologize and detail what steps would be taken to ensure this never happens again.  Maybe a three or four-day cycle of negative media and life will go on, right?

Sadly, United decided to at first defend what happened and followed that by a tepid apology that was completely tone deaf.  

I have tried to stay away from writing about this as many of my colleagues in the PR world have already provided their expert opinions on this matter and frankly I didn't see a need to add my two cents echoing what others have already written. That said, I would be remiss if I didn't point out a couple of observations that have jumped out at me over the past month as I've watched this saga unfold.  

Primarily, did United have a Crisis Management Plan (CMP) and if so, why didn't it work?  As a major international airline, let's assume they had a CMP and that they had basic issues management protocols in place for these types of situations. Which leads to the obvious question - how did their plan skid so terribly off the runway? The easy answer is to blame the leadership at United.  Let's face it, they failed their stakeholders and their brand in every way imaginable, and given my aforementioned fear of occupying the echo chamber, I'll just leave it at that.  

Which brings me to my other observation. In the days following this PR nightmare, I can assure you that communications professionals around the world were sharing this story within their organizations as a "what not to do in an emergency" and assuring their colleagues that they could rest easy as their respective organizations had a plan in place. Which is great and to be applauded, but there is a tried and true expression from the boxing world that "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the nose."  So the two questions every organization needs to ask: 1) do you have a crisis plan and 2) will it work? 



Media interviews can be a critical vehicle to get your messaging out. It has become quite common for the media to use Skype and other technologies to perform interviews. Skype can provide a stable and positive platform for interviews, provided you keep a few things in mind.

The best results often occur when the camera you are using is elevated and you look up into the camera. Place your laptop on a stack of books to get the camera at eye-level or even a bit higher for a more flattering angle. Your surroundings are equally important. Set up a clean background with the best lighting you can manage. We recommend you avoid noisy, chaotic public spaces such as coffee shops.  

Skype your mom or your buddy in Grand Rapids. Make a few test calls well before your interview to make sure your setup is working properly. Ask them how you sound, what it looks like and if they can see you clearly, etc.

You're being asked to provide comment because your an expert or have some unique knowledge, so we recommend you know what youre going to say in advance. If you’re acting as a spokesperson and need key messages or specific facts, tape them securely to the monitor or beside the camera for reference. However don’t read them verbatim.   

It’s hard to do an interview staring at your computer. And while it can be awkward to stare at your webcam, you will give a better interview if you do. Looking into the camera will make you seem all the more authentic and genuine. It will also ensure your eyes don’t stray to the video of yourself, or the email notifications or other distractions.

For those who work remotely or in a home office, or even for those who work in office environments that don’t maintain strict corporate dress codes, we always recommend you think about your interview similar to a job interview. Dress the part. Always good to keep a suit or change of clothes in the office for such an occasion.

Think very carefully if you want that 10+ year-old username to be public.  If your handle resembles 1awesomedude, UnicornDreams85 or HarryPotter79, perhaps it’s time create a ‘business’ account. It’s ok for it to be your actual name or company name.

No question, image is important and while it may look a bit goofy if you have one of those over the head, McDonald's drive-through configurations, what you say is as important as how you look. The purpose is for the audience to hear what you’re saying clearly.  The mic on your computer will likely pick up a lot of background noise and using a headset can help to mitigate that.

To the point about coffee shops above, try and be in control of your environment. Tell your office colleagues not to burst into your office by sticking a sign on the door “INTERVIEW IN PROGRESS”. Turning off your phone or mute your ringer and any notifications on your computer. Silencing your phone. Closing your email, Facebook and anything else that may pop up during the interview.

One thing to remember, while interviews are relatively short, they are often delayed and don’t start on time. We recommend you ensure you’ve used the washroom before going live. Nothing like someone fidgeting through an interview.

While this can be difficult, for the best of us, try your best to relax. You don’t want to come across as stiff, or over prepared, but comfortable. This can take some getting used to, and we recommend practicing and getting some professional media training as part of your own professional development.

And while we can all laugh at it now but recognize what happens in this video can happen to any of us. 



HOWE&WYE Grows Team of Senior Advisors for 2017

HOWE&WYE is very pleased to announce the addition two new members of the team. Jan O'Driscoll and Nick Kohlmann will bring specific expertise and deliver superior results for clients in the areas of crisis and reputation management, and Investor Relations. "We are thrilled to be able to add this depth of talent and experience to the team," says Steve Virtue, HOWE&WYE President and CEO. Their experience and insights will add tremendous value to our clients"

Jan O’Driscoll 
Senior Counsel, Crisis and Reputation Management
Jan is an accomplished, bilingual public affairs professional with extensive experience in crisis communications and media relations. He has an established track record of providing strategic communications and public policy advice at the highest levels. He has an extensive network of business media contacts at outlets such as Bloomberg, Globe & Mail, BNN, CBC, BBC, CTV and more. 

Jan O’Driscoll has held leadership roles with several federal cabinet ministers and was the lead spokesman for a variety of high-profile files including the Lac Megantic rail disaster, the Attawapiskat First Nation housing crisis and the Idle No More protests, all of which received national and international media coverage. Jan is able to tell your story where it matters most. Jan takes a client first approach and throughout his career has developed a reputation as a straight shooter who is available 24/7, and can be counted on to get the job done.



Nick Kohlmann M.Sc.
Senior Counsel, Investor Relations

Nick is a trained geologist, brings more than ten years experience developing and implementing Investor Relations programs for exploration and mining companies. Nick brings extensive investment and industry networks in North America, Europe and Asia.

Nick has represented numerous companies including Monument Mining, East Asia Minerals, CHF Investor Relations, Wallbridge and Tyhee.  Nick’s services include analyst, broker & investor outreach, networks & databases, presentations, investor communications, press releases, road-shows, marketing materials, conferences, site visits, trade shows and websites. Contact Nick


Advocacy and Engagement

By Cailey Murphy
Managing Director, Western Canada

I recently spoke on a communications panel at the Association for Mineral Exploration’s Roundup Conference in Vancouver.  Topics ranged from online presence to community engagement, public communications and crisis communications. I was there to speak about government relations and while, at first glance, the topic might seem to some a little out of place on a marketing and communications panel, there were no more important topics to be bookended by.  

Government relations is increasingly requiring proactive public awareness and community engagement building exercises alongside traditional dealings with policy and decision makers.  This is particularly true for resource industries.  In resource development there is a lot of talk about ‘social license’, a term which is often misunderstood, misconstrued or overused but refers, generally, to the level of acceptance or approval at the community level for resource development projects.  

We have heard the decades-long debate between the environment and the economy and, in Canada, parties on all sides of the political spectrum seem to be coalescing around consensus for a balanced approach.  The current federal government is using the following language around the need to “protect our environment, fight against climate change, and grow our economy.”  

These are certainly not new ideas, however, as the concept of social license and its role have evolved over the years and, as communities become more engaged and governments more responsive, we are seeing a general trend towards a demand for robust multi-stakeholder engagement.  

How has this manifested itself? I think if we look at the events leading up to the federal government’s pipeline plan, we can see this trend, at a high level, in action.

On November 8th, Prime Minister Trudeau came to Vancouver to re-open the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.  During that same visit the PM announced a $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan which included the following tenets:

  • Create a world-leading marine safety system
  • Restore and protect our marine ecosystems
  • Strengthening partnerships with indigenous communities
  • Invest in evidence-based oil spill response methods

    Less than a month later (November 29), the government announced its pipeline plan which included the approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, a rejection of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline Project application and a new Tanker Moratorium on the North Coast.

While these pieces were announced separately and in isolation of each other, they create a compelling case when viewed as part of a whole.  There is no doubt that there was a considerable amount of engagement, consultation and lobbying by parties on all sides in the lead up to both the Ocean Protection and Pipeline Plan and the outcome seems to indicate the government trending towards a holistic approach to policy development that takes into consideration a diversity of interests; they do not just want to engage with proponents or opponents, but seek to hear from broad multi-stakeholder groups, weigh the challenges and balance the interests.

So, what does this all signal?  You need to have a total plan.  You need to know all sides of an issue and your plan must be responsive.  No, you are not going to please everyone, but you have to demonstrate that you have taken the concerns raised into consideration and your plan must address them with a balanced approach.

We have seen this approach in action in BC for a number of years.  An example is the Code Review, the government led review of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines.  In this case the BC government brought together representatives from industry, labour and First Nations to provide input in the review process - bringing all parties to the table on the best way forward.

What does this mean for you in the context of public relations and communications?  External communications can be an absolutely critical tool in government relations.  Ultimately governments are responsive to the public, to the voter, and the more you invest in public relations, the more you will help your cause.  If you can get public buy-in, you will have a much easier go of getting government buy-in.

As such, it means you should not and cannot just reach out to your allies, you must reach out to all interested stakeholder groups.  Not engaging is not an option and as governments turn to communities as a measure of the merits of a project, so too must industry increasingly engage with broad communities of interest.

International Relations

Steve Virtue
President & CEO

After a recent trip to the State of Zacatecas in Mexico, it is now abundantly clear just how the uncertainty and instability created in the United States has provided substantial motivation for national and state level governments to solidify and expand existing economic relationships and plenty of incentive to search out new global opportunities.

Mexico has benefited from billions of dollars in the auto sector investment due to its geographic proximity to the United States market. For several decades, this close relationship with the United States has provided beneficial trade relations. The depth of the relationship has provided Canada and the United States with access to strong production quality and the ability to leverage positive economics while Mexico has gained billions in social and physical infrastructure investments. In fact, prior to the 2016 US election, Mexican officials estimated the domestic automotive sector growth included the productive of more than five million light vehicles across 13 different auto-brands through more than 30 facilities by 2020.

Currently, more than 80% of the domestic production is intended for export given generous access not only to North and Latin American markets but growing demand in both Asia and Europe. My trip to Mexico demonstrated the eager interest of States such as Zacatecas for diverse growth, not only in the auto sector but in information technology, Aerospace, tier two manufacturing among many others. The resource economy remains a strong counter with mining and agribusiness remaining strong in the State as well.  

I witnessed first hand the massive facilities built by Nissan in neighbouring Aguascalientes. The complex was built in 2013 at a cost of roughly $2 Billion ($US) and created more than 9,000 direct and indirect jobs. This plant is nearly 6.5 million square feet of state of the art production facility. The Aguascalientes complex is just one of 3 that Nissan has in Mexico and typical of the kind of investments auto manufacturers have been making in Mexico since the mid-1990’s. Every major automaker has a substantial manufacturing and assembly presence, including the North American ‘Big 3’. However, this level of production has caused very public concern north of the Rio Grande.

President Trump’s protectionist policy framework has proposed that all import vehicles would be levied with stiff tariffs is meeting with substantial resistance, and not just from Mexico. Former US auto executives are helping to spell out what this would mean for the US economy, and the results would appear to contradict Mr. Trump’s intentions. A CBC report highlighted how Mr. Trump's threat to "wall off the import of Mexican-made cars with a 35 per cent tariff would be a disaster for the U.S. auto industry, according to Marina Whitman, a former vice-president of General Motors".   The report goes on to note that 40 per cent of the parts that go into cars built in the U.S. come from Mexico.  

Mr. Trump’s ongoing rhetoric of dismantling NAFTA remain a concern for both Canadian and Mexican officials. Trump recently noted that he has “very serious” concerns about NAFTA, stating that the agreement has been “a catastrophe for our workers and our jobs and our companies”. However, the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research(CAR), concluded that dismantling NAFTA could cost more than 31,000 jobs in the US. Mr. Trump’s rather undisciplined approach to floating trial balloons on public policy are creating far more chaos than value.

The ongoing discussions about destabilizing of existing agreements in North America, and the potential for further dilution of the EU with several key elections this year in Europe, has created intense concern about the existing economic world order. At the national and state levels, progressive leaders such as those in Zacatecas are developing new strategies and approaches to developing progressive economic development and searching out new partnerships. Zacatecas continues its progressive approach to economic development, looking for diversification across a variety of sectors. In the face of this uncertainty, progressive leaders continue to pursue economic security and long-term development by building new relationships. 

Job Opening

HOWE&WYE is growing! We are looking for a motivated, self-starting, independent PR/Social Media/Project Manager. Ideally the right person has at least intermediate level experience. See the description below.

Fulfill day-to-day campaign execution/day-to-day client service
Support partners
Skills & Attributes:
Ability to manage own time and work independently
Can multi-task
Deadline driven
Comfort with ambiguity
Jobs to be done:
Conduct research
Create media lists
Monitor media
Cold call media and stakeholders
Attend client meetings with partners
Draft notes
Draft media materials and pitches
Draft progress reports and campaign wrap reports
Create meeting requests
Project manage - create timelines, monitor deadlines
Draft invoices
Liaise with clients on a day-to-day and as directed by partners
Developing social media calendars
Developing PR calendars
Term: Part-time contract for 6 months


OBIO Partners with HOWE&WYE to Support Member Growth


The Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization Announces New Public Relations & Communications Services Member Benefit

TORONTO, Dec. 7, 2016 /CNW/ - HOWE&WYE is proud to announce its new partnership with the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization (OBIO®). As a part of OBIO's new member benefit, HOWE&WYE will provide strategic public relations and communications services to OBIO's broad membership of world-class start-ups and bioscience companies. OBIO members will benefit from special access to top-tier agency support with optimized pricing to strengthen PR and marketing to fulfill strategic business outcomes for awareness, investment and commercialization.

As a world-class destination for innovation and investment in bioscience, Ontario's health science industry seeks to grow in an increasingly fractured media and business landscape. With communication expertise, specific to the health science industry, start-ups and technology, HOWE&WYE will support companies as a trusted advisor for sustainable long-term communications and branding.

"OBIO is acutely aware of the opportunities and challenges its members face and we are proud to expand our member benefits to include access to PR services from an outstanding firm, HOWE&WYE," says Gail Garland, CEO, OBIO. "HOWE&WYE's experience and insight is an ideal fit to help our member companies with their strategic communications priorities."

"As an upstart PR and Public Affairs firm, HOWE&WYE is thrilled to be chosen as the PR partner by OBIO for the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization's membership. The new partnership is proof of our commitment to business growth and delivering surprising results for our clients," says Steve Virtue, President & CEO, HOWE&WYE. "Bioscience innovation in Ontario is well-positioned to lead the future of investment in a global economy."

To address the complex business and communications needs of the health sciences industry, HOWE&WYE has assembled a senior team with deep expertise specific to the health sciences, technology, investment, start-ups and commercialization. A rapidly changing communications landscape means bioscience companies can capitalize on opportunities with the right communications strategies and tools. A communications partner that aligns with their culture and pace of growth to equip the companies with the right messaging and PR strategies to get the attention of investors and consumers alike.

"As trusted advisors, our job is to align the interests of our clients and the press. In an increasingly multi-screen media environment the press are important third-party validators," says Nate Habermeyer, Managing Partner, HOWE&WYE. "HOWE&WYE's focus on research and analysis to generate remarkable results for clients has helped us develop strong relationships with OBIO, as well as ProChile, City of Markham and others."

As the exclusive affinity PR partner, HOWE&WYE will provide data-driven strategic PR services at an optimized price. Those services will help bioscience companies with competitive analysis and branding as well as launching new products and services with go-to-market integrated communications campaigns. The goal is to accelerate commercialization of bioscience innovation in Ontario and Canada.

Based in Toronto and Markham, HOWE&WYE has established operations across Canada in Toronto, Markham, Vancouver and Calgary.

About OBIO® 
The Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization (OBIO®) is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization engaged in the development of an integrated health innovation economy for Ontario and one that will become a global leader in providing health technology products and services to the international marketplace.  OBIO advances this goal through advocacy, promotion and strategic leadership and via collaborative partnerships with industry, academia, patients and government.  For more information, visit the OBIO website and follow OBIO on Twitter @OBIOscience.

HOWE&WYE is an independent firm specializing in advanced spokesperson strategies, communications and public affairs. The firm was founded to address the evolving media landscape as well as educate and build confidence in brand spokespersons enabling them to articulate their story to advocate for their brand and their stakeholders. The firm offers an optimized pricing structure creating access to top tier PR, communications, social media and public affairs services.

At OBIO’s APM. From l to r – Michael Ras (Senior Counsel, Public Affairs, HOWE&WYE), Steve Virtue (President and CEO, HOWE&WYE), Gail Garland (CEO, OBIO), Nate Habermeyer (Managing Partner, HOWE&WYE), Robert Eakins (Senior Counsel, Healthcare, HOWE&WYE). Photo Credit: Angela Drennan, OBIO. (CNW Group/Howe & Wye)". Image available at:


Chapter 3 – What does it all mean for Canada?

Chapter 3 – What does it all mean for Canada?
Michael Ras, Senior Counsel

 "Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."Pierre Trudeau, Speaking to the Press Club in Washington, 1969

We’ve examined the “How” and the “Why” behind Donald Trump’s rise to the Presidency and I’m quite sure that our analysis is lacking in many ways which history and closer examination of the facts will correct and modify over time.  But the most important question for Canadians and Canadian business is what the impact of a Trump presidency will be on us.  Because, as Pierre Trudeau noted in 1969, when we sleep in the same bed as an elephant, we’re going to feel his every twitch and grunt. 

As Donald Rumsfeld once said, let’s start with the “known, knowns” – the stuff Donald Trump has promised.


You have to look for it, but Donald’s campaign did say a few things. 

And some of it might sound simple, on the surface at least.

His Seven Actions to Protect American Workers, for example, include his promise to:

1)    Renegotiate NAFTA

2)    Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

3)    Direct his Secretary of the Treasury to label China as a Currency Manipulator

4)    Direct the Secretary of Commerce and Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses and use every legal mechanism to end those abuses

5)    Left restrictions on $50 trillion worth of energy reserves including shale, oil, gas and clean coal

6)    Lift the restrictions on key energy infrastructure such as the Keystone XL Pipeline (shout out to Canada on that one!)

7)    Cancel payments to the U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix American water and environmental infrastructure

So that’s some of what we know … the “known, knowns”.  The “known unknowns” are where the dangerous game of prediction begins. 

The first comment is that the lack of specifics in Donald Trump’s Platform creates huge uncertainty.  There’s a lot of blanks to fill.  And that uncertainty is further exacerbated by Trump’s often erratic behaviour that seems to be driven more by his personality than by careful consideration of the issues.  He is the antithesis of another great Marshall McLuhan quote:   A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.

Second, is to pick up on comments made by many other commentators that Donald Trump is America’s first “independent” President.  He owes nothing to the Republican party and probably has no interest in doing much to build that party.  Some of his key advisors like Steve Bannon, his Chief Strategist, want to use the shell of the old party to build a new one in their own image, but the traditional infrastructure and historical positions of the party is something he doesn’t care about.  This means that a lot of the experts that have been around for the past 30 years might not be given positions in the new administration.  In the short-term, that lack of institutional know-how could be a big problem as Donald and his team – whoever he gets to work for him – stumble around trying to get a handle on the levers of government.  The first few months of the Trump Administration are going to be like teenagers dating … lots of groping around and awkward moments that don’t really lead to much being accomplished.  In the long-term, the rifts in the Republican Party will become even more acute and could lead to open civil war.

On a related front, the other thing to consider when predicting policy is to point out that even though Trump has a Republican Senate and House to work with, those two bodies are not necessarily aligned with him.  A lot of that congress – and especially the Senate – despise him on a personal level.  Can you imagine John McCain doing a legislative deal with Trump?  Trump once belittled McCain’s war record saying he favoured soldiers who weren’t captured and held as prisoners of war.  Ted Cruz is a leading conservative Senator and Donald Trump once stated publicly that Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.  Senator Rubio from Florida was called “Little Marco” (and worse) by Donald Trump.  Those wounds won’t be healed quickly. 

And what happens when Donald does one of his veers left on a policy?  We saw a hint of that within days of the election Trump all but conceded that the key provisions of ObamaCare would remain in place, but just have its name changed.  The Republican Congress voted to “scrap” Obamacare; not to tinker with it.  And what happens when some of the blue-collar unions in Pennsylvania or Ohio come looking for policies that favour them? Is Trump likely to do a deal there?  How will the traditional Republican establishment react?  How will the “establishment” of the Republican party react to another “grab her by the (blank)” incident?  … and you know it’s coming!  There are tapes out there!


Fiscal Policy Impacts on Canada

There are two main fiscal policies in the Trump plan that Canada should be looking at closely.  The first is his promise to spend $100 billion and leverage that to $1 trillion on shovel-ready infrastructure over the next ten years. His proposal is to leverage private capital through tax breaks for capital invested in infrastructure and the development of an infrastructure bank, similar to the one being proposed in Canada and in Asia. 

I think it’s safe to assume that Trump won’t be backing the pet projects of Democratic politicians like high-speed rail in California, but interstate highways through ruralMontana, you bet!  They are going to be some of the smoothest roads ever paved!  New highways around the suburbs of congested cities like Philadelphia and Charlotte?  For sure!  Rebuilding water infrastructure in “rust-belt” cities like Flint.  Absolutely. 

This policy and spending priority is generally aligned with the Republican congress, and most Democrats, so they are likely to get some of this moving quickly, though the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives have already expressed skepticism about the idea of an infrastructure bank and the notion of running up deficit financing.  This is where two competing economic ideologies within the Republican administration will be clashing. On the one hand, traditional, small-c fiscal conservatives will be calling for restraint while Trump will be looking to apply the principles of leverage and take advantage of low interest rates to build and build quickly.  What could go wrong?  Trump’s investments in Atlantic City were financed on cheap credit and they did well, didn’t they?  Didn’t they … Oh right, never mind …

On the subject of tax cuts, the Republican congress is aligned and ready to act.  But his tax plan is going to be expensive.   Some estimate that his tax plan will cost between $4  and $5 trillion over 10+ years, which could be troublesome to long-term bond yields, and therefore interest rates, if the market makers determine that it will be too expensive for the U.S. Treasury to sustain high debt and deficits.  Nevertheless, the short-term tax-cut stimulus provided by the new consumer money flowing into the economy should have a short-term stimulative impact. Some economists are already revising their projections saying that the impact of Trump on the U.S. economy will be 2/10th of a point upward in 2017 and probably more in 2018.  Every little bit of growth should be good for Canada. 

These tax cuts do present a short-term political and potentially a fiscal problem for Canada, however, in that both the government of Canada and the Province of Ontario have recently raised the corporate tax rate. If the U.S. corporate tax rate suddenly drops, a competitive advantage of Ontario and Canada will be removed.  This presents a political challenge for Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynne, especially if a few high-profile companies relocate plants and investment to the U.S. 


Trade Policy Impacts on Canada

In the area of trade policy, we have the most “known knowns” and the most “known unknowns” at the same time. 

Undoubtedly, certain provisions of NAFTA will be renegotiated.  Both Canada and Mexico have already acquiesced on this front.  (By the way, President Obama and Jean Chretien in their respective elections once promised to renegotiate NAFTA too, but this time, I think the threat is more real and more likely to be followed through on.)

Without doubt, the biggest danger to Canada will be to the auto sector, and particularly auto-parts as Trump fulfills obligations to Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, etc.  Unresolved matters like the softwood lumber dispute … good luck!  Trump’s team has also signalled that an early target will be the agriculture sector. 

That said, the hysteria over “scrapping” NAFTA is overblown.  There is little threat, in my opinion, of a retrenchment back to pre-NAFTA days.   The integration of our two economies is so strong that I don’t think a single President can undo it completely.  He can damage it, for sure, but he can’t undo it.  And  that’s another thing:  Trump is talking about NAFTA.  His beef is mostly with jobs leaving for Mexico. Those are (mostly) the low-paying, lower-value jobs that Canada wasn’t getting anyway.  We lost those jobs to Indiana decades ago and now Indiana is losing them to Escobedo, Pueblo and Mexico City. 

The second major point to make is that TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) is dead.  Of that there is little doubt, despite the efforts of the outgoing U.S. President and other Asia-Pacific leaders in the last few days.  Into the breach is already stepping China which is eager to extend its economic and political influence into the Asia-Pacific region.  Whether Canada decides to take that risk of a bi-lateral trade relationship with China and risk the ire of the U.S. elephant in so doing remains to be seen, but all indications are that this is the direction we’re headed. A very big “known unknown”. 

In summary, I think there will be short-term, minimal but real impacts.  Thicker borders have a cost, but the exact impact will take some time to figure out. 

In the medium term, I think the bigger impacts will be on where investment is made.  Plants will get built in Flint, Michigan instead of Sarnia, Ontario.  More customers for raw material minerals will be in the U.S. and the mineral producers here in Canada will have to figure out how to get that product across the border. 

Further, much will depend on our ability, as a nation, to negotiate bi-lateral trade deals with other nations in Asia and emerging markets.  These bi-laterals will be critical hedges for Canada in the long-term against any twitches and snorts from the U.S. beast.  It won’t be perfect, but I don’t think it will be catastrophic.

Energy & Environment Policy Impacts

On this file, I see the biggest threats to Canada’s economy because of the spread that will (or could) exist between our two countries.  The impact, however, all depends on which side of the energy equation you stand.  Are you an energy producer or an energy consumer? 

If the restrictions on coal and shale are lifted in the U.S. (and this aligns with the wishes of a Republican Congress) then the spread between Ontario electricity prices and Ohio/Pennsylvania/New York/Michigan will grow even more and this puts even more pressure on Ontario manufacturing.  That spread, which is already large and the cause of the number one political headache for the Ontario government, could lead to a further flight of manufacturing industry.  Simply put, the metal bashing industries will have a distinct competitive advantage in the U.S. because their energy input costs, tax on capital investment and labour cost will all be lower.  Over our shared history, Ontario has been able to compete relatively well when it could overcome the cost spread on one or two fronts and occasionally take advantage of currency differences as well.  Looking forward, can Ontario compete when the dollar, higher energy inputs and lower taxes on capital all exist to advantage the U.S. side? 

Second, Canada and Ontario will no doubt be out of step with the U.S. on carbon pricing, whether through a carbon tax or a carbon market, and this will undoubtedly further exacerbate the cost spread for energy production.  The governments of Ontario and Canada will simply have to determine whether they want to be competitive in these areas or whether they want to be competitive betting on green industry and advanced technologies to drive the economy.  Another thing to watch for is whether the government of Canada uses some of its political capital to delay policies and play a longer-game hoping that Trump is a one-term President or that the congress flips in 2 years.

Third, I think Trump and the Republican Congress’ push forward on the Keystone XL pipeline will actually make it harder for the Canadian pipelines (Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain, Energy East, et. al.) to receive the “social license” that they need to move forward.  On the one hand, there will be even greater economic pressure to get the pipelines to the Canadian coasts so that we can serve new customers in Asia.  On the other hand, environmental and social activists and average citizens who are skeptical will be energized by the focus on the U.S.  If Canadian’s see Trump supporting a pipeline, do they reflexively oppose pipelines?  I think that’s a real possibility and threat. 

Looking for Silver Linings

When looking for silver linings in all of this, I see two big opportunities for Canada. 

First, is the global effort to attract the best talent.   Canadian Colleges and Universities are already predicting spikes in foreign enrolments.   Foreign students are simply not going to study in the U.S. in the current environment.  On a related note, can a Canadian company compete against a U.S. company for that top-flight engineer from India, Mexico, UAE or Egypt?  If that engineer thinks they are going to be harassed on the street for wearing an abaya or hijab, bet on Canada! 

Second, the global effort to attract foreign capital is intense and notwithstanding the likely tax advantages in the U.S., the relative stability and inclusiveness of Canada should be an advantage in efforts to attract capital.  Foreign capital, particularly if the investor is looking to move with their money, should see Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or Mississauga as a better place to settle than much of the U.S.  If a foreign investor is looking for stability, a welcoming culture and a good school to send their kids, does Chicago or Charlotte look like that destination today?

My conclusions:

First, we as Canadians should take a deep breath and R E L A X …

The election of Donald Trump is most certainly a bad thing if you are an African American, a Muslim, a woman ... Your rights as an equal citizen in the U.S. are certainly under threat.  And that’s ugly and cannot be diminished.  But we’re not in America … we’re in Canada, and for that we can be thankful. 

The election of Donald Trump is most certainly going to be disquieting to the economy.  He will shake things up and when the elephant stirs, Canada feels it.  The election of Donald Trump will have a profound impact on trade policy … but most likely only at the margins.  The core of our trading relationship is far too intertwined and integrated to go back.  It might retreat a bit – and that’s a bad thing – but we’re not heading for 200% tariffs and trade wars. 

The election of Donald Trump could force Canada to look back to Europe and increasingly to Asia for trade and cultural ties, but this was a trend we’ve been seeing for years already.  If anything, this election may be accelerating that trend and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  My investment advisor has always advised me to diversify.  It’s good advice for a country too.  

And finally, lets make sure that we as Canadians – as leaders in business and politics and media and culture – take a hard look at the lessons that Donald Trump’s election teaches us as we seek to avoid making the same mistakes.  Let’s work harder to ensure that the modernization of our economy doesn’t leave people in the hard-working middle-class behind.  Let’s make sure our population has the educational and economic opportunities to deal with a changing world.  Let’s make sure our domestic policies don’t inadvertently disadvantage our own economy just to make a principled stand and allow our leaders to say they are better than Donald Trump. 

It won’t be easy and the relationship between Canada and the U.S. will never be the same, but Canada could – and I emphasize could - even benefit in the long-run from a Trump presidency … and after all the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands in the last two weeks, that’s a pretty extraordinary conclusion to reach!


Chapter 2 – Why did Donald Trump Become President?

Chapter 2 – Why did Donald Trump Become President?
Mike Ras, Senior Counsel 

We’ve examined the mechanics of how Donald Trump became President and the evidence points to a combination of:

  • poor campaign execution by the Clinton campaign (they didn’t turn out their vote);
  • unexpectedly good campaign execution by the Trump campaign where they turned out every last one of their identified supporters and made up for the traditional Republicans they lost by finding new voters for their pool; and
  • some fortuitous “switchers” in some key states that moved from the Obama coalition to the Trump camp, at least for this election cycle.

Now, let’s look at the why? 

I think there are four main reasons why Donald Trump’s message resonated and was able to speak to the middle class in the middle of the country.  The first is a story of economic dislocation.  The second is a story of mastery of media.  The third is an age-old story in politics:  the simple message wins. And fourth, it has to be acknowledged, is a story of racism and sexism.  

With respect to the first reason … these charts show clearly that the bottom 80% of the population have stagnated for many years now and they are not going to put up with it anymore.  The American dream has left them behind.  The top 20% are doing relatively well and trending up much faster than the rest.


And perhaps most telling …

Working class white men without a high-school diploma saw their income drop 9% between 1996 and 2014, according to a report from Sentier Research. This group earned only $36,787, on average, in 2014, down from $40,362 in 1996. 

In 1996, if you had a high school diploma you could work for an auto parts company, a manufacturer, a mining company and make a great middle-class living.  In 2016, you can’t.  Even if the job was there to be had, you were making less to do the same work.  You simply can’t live in places like Chicago, New York … or Toronto … on $36,000, so you’re making less and your standard of living is even worse.  Meanwhile, college educated white men saw their income rise nearly 23% over the same period, from $77,209 to $94,601.

The second reason I would give to credit Donald Trump’s win is to credit his mastery over new media that proved Marshall McLuhan right again:  The medium is the message.   

FDR mastered radio in the 30’s. 

Kennedy and Reagan mastered TV and especially the ability to get the 10-second sound-bite onto the evening news. 

Bill Clinton mastered late-night talk shows (remember his appearance on Arsenio Hall?) He connected and empathized through the TV screen better than anyone before or since. 

Barack Obama used the internet and the early days of social media to organize and to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in small donations. 

Donald Trump figured out how to master the new social media and especially Twitter and, to a lesser extent, talk radio and Facebook to amplify his message directly to his core pool of voters. 

Yes, Trump was outrageous on Twitter and continues to be, but that’s how he got attention and was able to reinforce the message that he was an outsider.  No “insider” or career politician would ever say such outrageous things!  He used Twitter to speak directly to his people and to get them activated.

The mainstream media in the U.S. all thought that the only people on Twitter were other urban, professional types - just like them.  It's true, urban, cultured, media types were on Twitter, and they were talking to themselves.  But there were other people on twitter too, and they weren’t reading the New York Times Twitter feed.  Donald Trump had those people following his every word – about 15 million people, in fact.  And those 15 million were then using mediums like Facebook and blogs and talk radio to further amplify that message to each other. 

Most importantly, Trump turned social media’s biggest challenge – the fact that it’s an echo chamber – into his biggest asset.  His large following on Twitter made it ok for other followers to support his beliefs.  They normalized what the rest of us might call outrageous behaviour and outrageous positions.  His “straight talk” and shunning of “political correctness” (what some might just call rude, racist, misogynist, bullying) made it ok for people who shared in those beliefs or were energized by them because he connected millions of others who believed the same things.  Instead of being shunted to the fringes of society, a whole lot of people became empowered to believe they were now in the mainstream.  (That’s what the “alt-right” movement is all about.  It’s an “alternative” that was on the fringe and is now mainstream, or at least heading that way … as I shudder at the thought.)

The third factor relates to the simplicity of the message. 

  • Make America Great Again
  • Build a wall
  • Rip up NAFTA
  • Stop the Chinese currency manipulation
  • Drain the swamp
  • “What the hell have you got to lose?” 

Simple messages.  Easy to understand; easy to rally behind.  And a maxim of politics is that “simple messages win” because simple messages resonate. 

 Contrast that with Hillary Clinton’s message.  Think hard. It’s only been a few weeks now.  What was her message? 

I’ll give you a hint (and I had to go looking for it). She talked about fairness and helping the middle class … and so much more.  Too much, in fact.  You can’t boil the Hillary message down to one thing, with the possible exception of the phrase:  “I’m with her”.  This was meant as a signal to women that being with her was going to help break the glass ceiling (laudable, to say the least), but it also suggested that you had to like her and “be on her side” even if you found her personally and politically lacking. 

And that leads to the final point.  Let there be no doubt that there was a distinct and real element of sexism and racism that ran through the campaign which motivated a certain portion of the population. 

Trump did give a voice to a number of people who might never have voted before precisely because the mainstream candidates of the past were too “moderate” for their tastes.  This is an element that cannot be underestimated and is an ugly truth of this campaign.  It cannot be ignored and I only hope that Trump takes steps to steer away from this element in the future.  Though I have my doubts that he will. 

It is also true that there was an impossible double-standard for Secretary Clinton to overcome.  Her qualifications and qualities were viewed in the prism of her gender.  Her qualities of toughness, drive, energy and desire for power were viewed as negatives, while those same qualities in Donald J. Trump were viewed as positives.  Furthermore, his lack of experience in government and his willingness to ignore facts, evidence or the conventions of democratic society were turned into virtues because he was “bucking the system” while Clinton spent the entire campaign defending relatively minor procedural indiscretions that she made in “the system” around whether she used the right e-mail accounts. She became “Crooked Hillary” while it is Trump who is facing numerous law-suits, possible criminal complaints and maybe even tax evasion. 

 November 19th was the 153rd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln.  272 words is all Lincoln needed to deliver one of the most powerful and impactful speeches in history.  153 years later, Donald Trump is making a similar impact, 140 characters at a time.  Progress? 

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    Credit Michael DeAdder from the Hill Times. Probably the best political cartoon from the entire U.S. election and it was published only in Canada.

Credit Michael DeAdder from the Hill Times. Probably the best political cartoon from the entire U.S. election and it was published only in Canada.

How did Donald Trump Become President?

The Election Map  

On November 9, the world woke up to the reality that the world’s oldest democracy, largest economy and a world superpower would be handing over the reins (and the nuclear weapons codes) to a reality TV star who regularly – and with some alacrity – said crazy things on Twitter just to get attention.

Since then, as our company name suggests, we have been looking into the “How?” and “Why?” of Trump’s victory and, perhaps most importantly, what it could mean to the Canadian economy and our own future and we have some surprising conclusions. 

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Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword

Social Media is a double-edged sword. Brands and organizations, big and small, have a direct channel to interact with their stakeholders, as well as serve as an important customer service function. On the other hand, stakeholders or activists with an axe to grind have an electronic soapbox to share and amplify their experiences, good or bad, with the world.


For resource-strapped associations and not-for-profits the strategic value of communicating directly diverse stakeholders couldn’t be more obvious. Preparing for a two-way dialogue with your members means planning for and spotting issues as they emerge and thus mostly avoiding escalation to a crisis. What starts out as one negative comment can turn into a major crisis that damages to your reputation.


Right now about 3.6 billion people have access to the internet and over a billion people use Facebook. The opportunities and threats for brands on social media abound. My focus here isn’t about why social media is important, but how to manage the time when a customer has a bad experience - what you can do to quickly and effectively stymie any adverse effects on your brand.


Social media is listening and caring. The best brands on social care about their customers' concerns. Just look at @DellCares. Dell is doing a brilliant job listening and responding to their customers' needs with a dedicated tone and persona focused on helping customers get the answers they need.


"Wait, I'm not a large brand but an not-for-profit association with a thousand members."


The principles of listening, caring and then responding that Dell employs are true to any organization. The way you manage your social media brand is going to function differently.


Bad experience? Get it offline…asap. A public spat can ruin any credibility your brand has earned almost instantaneously. Respond directly and get the customer offline or onto email to discuss and solve their issue before it becomes a crisis. Issues are okay, crises are hard to come back from and can destroy brands. A children's consignment store in Toronto once took to social media to "tell its side of the story" as well as going on talk radio to further inflame the situation by calling their customer a liar. It doesn't take a genius to know that a defensive approach is akin to pouring gasoline on a fire.


Speed, speed, speed. "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." No matter who you attribute this quote to, a fabrication is usually more salacious than the truth. Part of your social media strategy should include ongoing monitoring and a system for escalating issues to resolve them quickly. In the event an internal decision-maker isn't available at that second, have a plan and process for how to connect with a disgruntled customer to communicate how and when you will help them resolve his or her problem. Customers mostly want to know someone is helping them. Simple updates make a world of a difference.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Give your customers the benefit of the doubt while being firm about what you can and cannot change. The truth is the customer IS NOT always right, but never deserves to be treated so. Customer service is fundamentally about respect and empathy for the consumer experience. Maybe she's spilled coffee on her shirt before a meeting. Maybe he's late to pick up his kid from school. You don't know what's happening behind that scenes that could drastically affect the outcome. By building a culture around social media and customer service that puts customers' needs first, your brand can come out on top.


Play the long game. Many brands invest in the customer service aspect of social media because disgruntled customers can become your biggest advocates. After you've solved a customer's problem, her story told on social media can be a glowing endorsement. Avoid telling everyone that story and let your customers tell it for you.


Call us to talk about generating more goodwill and winning advocates on social media... 416 871 6283.


BC Election Series: Looking Ahead to May 2017

A BC Provincial General Election is scheduled for May 9, 2017 and, with less than a year to go, parties are beginning to organize, fundraise and position themselves for your vote.  As we gear up for a fall sitting of the legislature (scheduled for October 3 to November 24), the 2017 budget and inevitable campaign season, there are a number of opportunities for organizations to position themselves with government:

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HOWE&WYE Attend Round Table with Minister Dion

This summer HOWE&WYE's Cailey Murphy, Managing Director, Western Canada attended a roundtable in Vancouver with the Honourable Stephane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs who was on route to the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) taking place in Laos.  

At the meeting Minister Dion reiterated a number of his government’s foreign affairs priorities such as reinvesting in Canada’s global leadership role, welcoming Syrian refugees, helping developing nations and promoting peace and security.  

Dion emphasized an often quoted phrase of the Prime Minister, that “Canada has learned how to be strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them”, noting that this philosophy is something that Canada can offer the world.  Indeed the Prime Minister himself has touted this as a Canadian export, stating during a speech in London last November,

HOWE&WYE's Cailey Murphy, Managing Director, Western Canada and the Honourable Stephane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Minister Dion projected this sentiment as central to their foreign affairs approach and noted at the meeting that the message is being well received on the world stage, particularly during an era that has seen much division among and within many states abroad.




Our commitment to diversity and inclusion isn’t about Canadians being nice and polite… this commitment is a powerful and ambitious approach to making Canada, and the world, a better, and safer, place.
— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The team at HOWE&WYE has more than 45 cumulative years of experience in government relations, stakeholder engagement and communications.  We are committed to working closely with our clients to provide senior level support in advocacy and strategic government relations.  We have worked for government in stakeholder engagement and advisory capacities and have held senior communications roles with numerous industry associations.  Contact one of our team members to learn more about how we can help represent your interests with relevant stakeholders.


Public Relations is a competitive business and the media landscape is shrinking.  Early in 2016, HOWE&WYE secured the win in an RFP to communicate Chile’s economic interests, particularly in the mining industry in Canada during the PDAC Convention in March 2016. Winning the RFP was only the first in a series of victories for HOWE&WYE.

 “Our competitive analysis demonstrated that the results we achieved for Chile propelled their voice dramatically above their competition, in this case two other countries competing for mindshare and voice,” says Steve Virtue. HOWE&WYE research indicated the evidence was compelling and overwhelmingly in Chile’s favour with a stunning ratio of 38 to 1 in terms of impressions over the closest competitor.

Total impressions of earned media coverage for Chile exceeded 35.8 million. Part of HOWE&WYE’s analysis of the execution, we compared our coverage for Chile against the two other country sponsors at PDAC 2016: Peru and Ecuador. Both countries used PR firms. Peru earned 1.4 million impressions, Ecuador earned 700,000.  Read the case study...


HOWE&WYE is proud to have established significant relationships with a variety of clients. “We are proud to have built great partnerships with a range of excellent brands,” says Nate Habermeyer. “Our clients come from mining and associations, municipal and federal governments and consumer technology products, we have come to appreciate that there is strong demand for our value proposition – which offers senior level experience, competitive pricing and dramatic results.

HOWE&WYE has maintained relationships with ProChile, Chile’s international economic development agency, the City of Markham, the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, ecobee consumer products, Lift Resource Centre and the Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export. Habermeyer added, “our list of great clients continues to expand, as does our scorecard of delivering exceptional results for them.” Read the City of Markham case study


“This has been a tremendously successful first year of operation for HOWE&WYE. We have generated significant media coverage and expanded public profile for clients,” says Nate Habermeyer, co-founding partner. HOWE&WYE’s senior team represent more than 50-years of experience, across a variety of sectors. “Our team’s combined personal and professional experience consistently drives value for our clients and continues to be in high demand,” he noted.

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HOWE&WYE adds substantial depth in Western expansion

Upstart PR Firm Launches Western Canada Operations

HOWE&WYE adds substantial depth in Western expansion

VANCOUVER (May 27, 2016) - HOWE&WYE Inc. is pleased to announce the expansion of their public relations and public affairs services to the Western Canadian market. Effective immediately, Ms. Cailey Murphy will lead the firm’s presence and growth in Vancouver and Calgary.

“We are thrilled to add a professional with Ms. Murphy’s qualifications and outstanding record of achievement,” says Nate Habermeyer, founding partner, HOWE&WYE. “Cailey brings a wealth of public affairs and government relations experience and deep political networks.  She will add tremendous depth to our team and extraordinary service to our clients.”

Ms. Murphy’s responsibilities will include leading the firm’s operations in western Canada, business development, strategic counsel for clients in PR and government relations.

“Cailey’s addition will expand our multi-partisan service to clients across the country through her strategic counsel and thoughtful insights,’” says Steve Virtue, president and co-founder, HOWE&WYE. We are excited to have Cailey join the team, as she is an exceptional professional with a great track record that will deliver exceptional value to our clients.”

Ms. Murphy has more than a decade of experience in strategic communications and political affairs, having worked in industry advocacy with the Mining Association of British Columbia, the BC Hotel Association and in various communications and stakeholder outreach capacities within government.



HOWE&WYE is an independent firm specializing in advanced spokesperson strategies, communications and public affairs. The firm was founded to address the evolving media landscape as well as educate and build confidence in brand spokespersons enabling them to articulate their story to advocate for their brand and their stakeholders. The firm offers an optimized pricing structure creating access to top tier PR, communications, social media and public affairs services.


HOWE&WYE is pleased to announce the expansion of strategic service offerings. New services include strategic counsel in the development of communications and public affairs strategy, deep program or overall communications audits, management consulting specific to team, budget and performance management.  "We expanded these services after an audit of what our clients were really asking for," says Steve Virtue, president and co-founder. “In today’s market there is a heavy emphasis on value for money, and we play a very objective role in evaluating operations and providing thorough analysis of an organization’s performance relative to their business objectives,” he added.   


HOWE&WYE’s deep leadership experience has been valuable to associations, non-profits and startups, who rely on the firm’s breadth of practice knowledge gained from a variety of industries and sectors to provide expert counsel on communications and public affairs best practices. “The most important thing for clients is to ensure they are generating a substantial return on their communications investments,” says Virtue. "Our clients have come to appreciate the deep expertise we have and rely on us to ensure alignment and that expectations are being met.


Market conditions and uncertainty having a lot of organizations, regardless of size, looking inward to evaluate their operations,” says Virtue. “Given our deep expertise, we play a valuable role for organization’s looking to improve and gain a competitive advantage by maximizing their efficiency.” HOWE&WYE’s senior team brings more than 50 years of leadership experience and practical expertise to the table.