Citizen – Campaign 2023 Global PR Agency of The Year (Bronze)

Last week, global communications agency, Citizen Relations, won PR agency of the Year – Bronze (2023) at Campaign’s Global Agency of the Year awards. The awards, held in London, recognize and celebrate innovative agencies in the marketing industry from around the world, including the US, UK, Japan and Australia.  

“Our journey over the last five years has been a steady one – the growth is more than impressive and this award is recognition of that,” said Nick Cowling, who was named the agency’s CEO in 2019. “But there are countless others and this win belongs to all our Citizens.”

The win comes off the heels of a historic year of international industry recognition and a year of double digit growth, when the industry was mostly flat or shrinking. Along with being named Strategy’s 2023 PR Agency of the Year – Gold, making PRWeek’s Great Places to Work list in 2022 and 2023 and wins at Cannes, The One Show, the LIA’s and the Webby Awards, Citizen was the top ranked PR agency on two prestigious Creative lists in Canada – the Institute of Canadian Agencies’ Creative Power List and Strategy’s Creative Report Card.

The agency also continues to bolster its leadership teams, including additions of VP Vanessa Birze & Executive Creative Director Mark Mason to the creative team, the appointment of Dominic Cleall as VP, Digital Strategy, Europe and the appointment of Kelly Harrington as SVP, Integrated Solutions. The agency’s Managing Director, Experiential, Kevin Wagman, was recently featured in the Canadian Special Events Magazine’s list of Top 25 Most Fascinating People in Events

The agency has kept the momentum going in 2024 with a new PR AOR win for Nestlé and wins at the Atomic Awards – including the Public Service Grand Prix – PRovoke Media’s Innovation SABRE and North America SABRE Awards, CLIO Awards, Canadian Event Awards and the ADC Awards

Citizen POV: Managing Workload Stress

This May, we launched our inaugural Citizen #MoveInMay Challenge, marking Mental Health Awareness Month in the US and Mental Health Awareness Weeks in Canada, the UK and Europe. Citizens logged over 193,000 minutes of activity across the months and reported enjoying the collective push to get out and move at lunchtime. May has become a month to reflect, individually, as organisations and as an industry on our mental health and our approach to managing it. The PR industry has a poor reputation when it comes to mental health – which has not improved according to this month’s research from the PRCA and CIPR which found that 91% of UK PR professionals experienced poor mental health at some point in the past year, and 58% citing workload stress as a significant contributing factor. As the leader of our Global Wellbeing Committee, I was troubled to read this but not surprised; post-pandemic we’re all feeling the effects of the world seeming to spin just that little bit faster. The pace, the open lines of communication, the always-on ‘mentality’, the volume of people collaborating across time zones. It’s a heady mix.

With so much to reflect on and to act upon, here’s where my head’s at on the topic of workload stress (acknowledging that our lives outside of work carry their own weight): 

On an individual level – we can start by becoming more in tune with our stress levels and recognising when our resources are running low so that we can self-manage. The kicker with experiencing stress is that it impacts our choices, tipping us towards poor decisions instead of those that will replenish us. I can say that, for all my good intentions of leading by example, May was not a great month for me and my exercise, water intake, diet and sleep all suffered.  

Understand what self-care looks like for you, work out your non-negotiables (e.g. 8 hours of sleep, daily exercise) and schedule time for it. Most companies offer wellbeing related benefits (we offer wellbeing apps, personal days, access to talking therapy) – find out what you have access to before you need it. 

On an agency level – the pace we work at means we’ll always be working under pressure but perhaps it is how we respond to that pressure rather than the pressure itself which is important? My colleagues know that I demand client excellence and, yet, my favourite motto is, “It’s PR, not ER”. It is possible to deliver with excellence and not engender stress and fear in our teams. Our vision at Citizen is for our agency to be a mentally healthy workplace where everyone feels comfortable, able and equipped to have conversations that count. This sounds easy but is anything but. We must enable and equip our people to have the conversations they need to; these can include communicating a mistake, asking for help, sharing difficult feedback, having any type of difficult conversation, disclosing our mental health status, spotting the signs of someone struggling and knowing how to broach the conversation. 

Managing staffing levels, optimising workflows and embedding good project management practices are our daily bread but so is empowering our people to say what they need to in order to deliver with excellence. I am a big supporter of people doing Mental Health First Aid training* (we had over 50  people trained in the last year alone), it’s hugely helpful as is manager training, how to have difficult conversations and  negotiation training – invaluable for enabling practitioners to address budgetary conversations with clients. 

On an industry level – let’s all take a moment of self-reflection and think about what actions we can take individually and collectively to make this incredible, dynamic, powerful, exciting industry a brilliant place to be and work. I’ve been in the industry for twenty something years and have experienced the worst of workplace practices, the worst of my own lack of boundaries, the worst of juggling parental responsibilities – I know what bad looks like and I don’t want that for me, my people or anyone else in communications. 

I don’t have the answers but I think a good place to start is ensuring that people know they can disclose poor mental health (not to mention mental health conditions which I’ve not touched on here) without fear of judgment or penalty. If we can truly create an environment where people are comfortable, able and equipped to talk about their mental wellbeing and the listener is equipped for the conversation, we might just be surprised by the positive impact on our people, our agencies and our industry.

*Resources: 

Mental Health First Aid England – https://mhfaengland.org/

Mental Health First Aid Canada – https://mentalhealthcommission.ca/what-we-do/mental-health-first-aid/ 

Mental Health First Aid USA – https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/ 

About the Author: 

Jules Day, Deputy MD of Citizen London & Head of Citizen’s Global Wellbeing Committee, is an agency leader who feels passionately about creating a mentally healthy workplace.

 

Travel in ‘24: Trends Shaping the Consumer Journey

It’s tough to keep up with the zigs and zags of the travel consumer journey today – planning travel is a destination in itself for most. Prospective travelers are moving away from the conventional modes of research, they’re altering booking timelines and once they are on the vacation – they are aspiring to do even less. But the travel landscape in 2024 goes far beyond these three emerging trends. 

Last month, global communication agency, Citizen Relations, held the ‘Travel in ‘24: Navigating Consumer & Brand Insights’ LinkedIn Live with clients at Emirates and Rocky Mountaineer. The panelists dove into Plus Company’s latest Travel Trends report to understand how brands can cater to the ever-evolving travel consumer. 

Let’s dive into the transformative trends reshaping the journey of the travel consumer in 2024. 

Social Media For Travel Inspo

Forget guidebooks and travel agencies; today’s wanderers are turning to TikTok and Instagram for information. According to a survey by Tripit, 69% of Gen-Z and millennial travelers seek their next adventure through the lens of social media – even if it means roughing crowds to get the perfect shot. TikTok has emerged as the new travel inspiration powerhouse, seeing a whopping 410% increase in views of travel content between 2021 and 2023. 

While social media has been the primary channel for travel inspiration, new research suggests that it has an impact across the consumer journey – from inspiration to consideration and action. Seventy percent of Tiktok users agree that TikTok helps them decide which travel product or activity to choose. And nearly 35% of U.S. TikTok users — or approximately 52.5 million people — have traveled to visit a new destination (city, beach, park, etc.) after seeing a TikTok video about it. In Citizen’s recent LinkedIn Live, Rocky Mountaineer VP, Nicole Ford, mentioned how the company utilizes user-generated content to showcase the real life travel experience. 

Social media helps travelers decide where to go, what to avoid, how to venture off the beaten path, or track down fan favourite spots from TV (think: the Bear restaurants in Chicago or the tiny town in Ontario from Schitt’s Creek). Travel brands can win by setting up a diverse roster of creators to help meet the varying needs of travelers and bring nuance to the typical conversation. 

A Shift in Planning Dynamics

Instead of meticulous itinerary planning months in advance, travelers are embracing spontaneity. According to Citizen client TripAdvisor’s Summer Travel Index, 56% of US travelers are deciding part of their itineraries based on how they feel “in the moment.” Domestic trips are now orchestrated just three weeks before departure, a 10% decrease in advanced booking time compared to pre-pandemic levels. Similarly, Europeans destinations witness bookings merely eight to nine weeks in advance, a 20% reduction from previous years.

This trend extends to accommodation, with a staggering 55% of hotel bookings on the Hopper app being made for same-day check-ins in 2022. The allure of impromptu getaways is undeniable, reflecting a desire for flexibility, embracing presence over unrealistic expectations, and adventure. 

With this new embrace of adventure, consumers are also willing to splurge on adding a bit more luxury to their travel. According to Shaz Peshimam, Country Manager, Canada at Emirates Airline, consumers are now willing to spend a little extra – both money and time – at their layover stops. Instead of booking direct flights to their ultimate destination, Emirates has seen travelers break their journey at the airline’s hub, Dubai, to spend a few extra days in the city. 

The Rise of “Slowcations”

In a world perpetually on the move, there’s a growing appetite for leisurely escapades. Enter the era of “Do-Nothing Vacations” or “slowcations,” where the emphasis lies not on ticking off landmarks but on unwinding and rejuvenating the soul. Hilton’s 2024 trend report underscores this shift, highlighting that 21% of travelers prioritize rest and relaxation above all else.

What does this mean for those marketing travel? Aside from cultural and adventure attractions, rejuvenating offerings such as local spa treatments, wellness experiences and opportunities to slow down are no longer part of an alternative itinerary rather an integral part of trip planning overall.

The conversation, however, goes far beyond these trends. Citizen’s LinkedIn Live panelists shared how they address the juxtaposition of travel consumer behavior into their own strategies and how brands at large can accommodate the constantly evolving travel space. Catch the panel on Citizen Relations’ LinkedIn page here

How Agency Skills Helped Guide A Pride Month Project

At a time when the simple act of flying the rainbow flag is being banned across North America and there has been a sharp uptick in countries around the world criminalizing 2SLGBTQIA+ people, it’s important to be able to look back on queer history in Canada and cherish the work that’s been done to secure our freedoms while continuing to work towards a more equitable society. The best way to argue that we deserve a place in the present is to understand that we’ve always been here, and always will be.

This year for Pride, I wanted to honour the site of Canada’s first Pride on Toronto Island back in 1971, which also happens to be the oldest surviving queer space in Canada. The goal: to create a permanent art installation of a 600 metre rainbow along the road where those brave trailblazers walked so we could run.

Called “The Long Walk To Equality” the purpose of the installation is to prompt reflective thinking and honour for the past as people move along the road now redone in the style of the Progress Pride flag. It would be the longest rainbow of its kind in the world, and one of the largest outdoor painting projects ever undertaken by surface area in North America.

No small feat. To do so would require every skill I’ve ever learned across a decade of creative work. Here are the four major takeaways that every creatively inclined person should keep in mind for their projects at work and beyond.

1. Find good partners

I partnered with Pride Toronto as a non-profit trustee to assist with fundraising efforts, bringing the loop from that first Pride in 1971 to the present day.We connected with tenacious individuals and businesses that have previously supported the community through Pride month messaging, and put together an Avengers level team of donors from a variety of different sectors to put together the funds needed to accomplish it.

The lesson here: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone (or send off a LinkedIn message) to get things moving.

2. Learn as you go

Just like every project at work, I got to learn so much through the process in order to reframe that information and apply it in new ways. Here, I was able to learn about all different types of paint and what’s suitable for ecological safety, and what type of application processes could make the rainbow even more vibrant (or if it was even possible).

Using learnings from City of Toronto community consultation, the project was able to be made even better by gaining support and momentum along the way. The insights found during the outreach stage weren’t unlike the findings that strategists gather to strengthen creative ideas.

3. Expect the unexpected

As we’ve all experienced with deadlines and deliverables looming, there were a few bumps on the road (no pun intended). While last minute changes from clients on work projects can feel insurmountable, we generally go with the flow and work with what we can — which was the best attitude to have when the rainbow road ran out of paint and got delayed by weather.

During the first installation day, we realized that there simply still wasn’t enough available paint in Toronto to get it all done on time. We powered ahead, but a torrential downpour prevented additional paint supplies from making it to the island. The finishing touches were rescheduled and we moved ahead with the existing launch date to get the important message out before Pride month.

For those who braved the storm, there was a feeling of closeness crowded under umbrellas. Along with the media we’d invited, the Deputy Mayor along with Mayor Olivia Chow made it out for the ribbon cutting, and the Mayor said it best: “You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”

 

4. Enjoy it while you can

And, as soon as the ribbon was cut on the installation, something amazing happened. The skies cleared up and the sun came out. More and more people who had been storm-stayed on the mainland trickled in to walk along the road.

There was a feeling of joy in the air, and the important message about protecting queer history was out in the world. While that post-launch glow can dissipate pretty fast when it’s time to tie up loose, it’s important to soak it in while it’s there.

It’s my hope that with this project, people will walk along it and feel others walking with them — the ones who fought for their rights in 1971, the ones who planted the seeds of the queer community a century ago, and the ones who are yet to come. For the people right now who are in those places where they aren’t allowed to be themselves or fly a rainbow flag, I hope this road can be something to look forward to.

I can’t wait to keep walking with them in search of a better tomorrow.

About the Author:

Travis Myers is an Associate Creative Director at Citizen by day and advocate for the preservation and celebration of queer history by night.

Citizen Hires UK VP To Bolster European Digital Practice

Global communications agency, Citizen Relations, announces the appointment of Dominic Cleall as Vice President of Digital Strategy, Europe, based out of the agency’s London office. Dominic’s remit includes digital and intelligence program growth in the UK, Germany and in Europe.

In this newly created role, Dominic will champion digitally-enabled, strategic solutions tailored to their roster of EU clients, including P&G, Trivium Packaging and Seat SA, as well as foster stronger collaborative relationships between the global and EU teams for enhanced digital outcomes. He’ll bring Citizen’s AI-enabled intelligence capabilities to Europe, helping to build compliant, next-level intelligence in paid, earned and owned. Boasting over a decade of extensive industry experience, Dominic has previously cultivated award-winning digital teams and collaborated with globally renowned brands across healthcare, technology, automotive, NGOs, FMCGs and beverages.

At his previous role as the Chief Digital Officer at Portland Communications, in addition to enhancing the digital operations and innovation within the agency, Cleall advised clients on how to strategically leverage digital marketing communications to convey their messages with impact.

“Citizen has an innovative approach to their digital product, which is taking their communications to new highs and bringing real value to clients. I’m excited to embark on this journey – let’s build this rocketship together!” said Cleall.

Bringing a wealth of knowledge in digital innovation and transformation, Citizen’s Chief Digital Officer, Crystalyn Stuart-Loayza, is confident Dominic will take the agency to the next step and bring something new to EU clients.

“Dominic brings modern product and practice development capabilities to our growing digital team. He’s eager to push boundaries and explore what’s next in the market, and has great POVs on how to leverage our North American services for European and global clients. We can’t wait to unleash the magic he’ll co-create for our agency and our clients,” said Stuart-Loayza.

Citizen’s digital practice focuses on bringing next-level solutions to consumers, rooted in the consumer mindset. From performance marketing to experience design, Citizen’s digital team is at the forefront of boosting earned media with digital communications, working alongside the PR and Media teams to give clients integrated solutions. To learn more about Citizen’s digital practice, click here.

Citizen’s 2023 Mods Winners Share Their Experience

Last year, Citizen Relations unveiled The Mods – the global communications agency’s first annual value awards. The awards recognize those Citizens who best embody the company’s core values: 

  • Set The Standard 
  • Do What’s Right
  • Champion Equity 

The winners won an all-expenses paid three days at any of the 10 Citizen offices across North America and Europe in addition to a donation to a non-profit organization of their choice. 

Hear about our winner’s experience below as we gear up for the 2024 MODs! 

Paige Caldeira, Senior Account Manager (London)

Trip to: Toronto 

Non-Profit Organization: LaunchGood campaign for the MATW-Project

The most common conversation starter I had in Canada was ‘Why Canada?’ and even more frequently ‘Why Canada in the middle of Winter!?’. But despite temperatures being in double-digit minuses, I would still pick Canada in the winter in a heartbeat! 

My MOD’s trip to Toronto was an unforgettable adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, wonderful people and a city that’s so culturally vibrant, with so many things going on, I was constantly at a loss as to how I would fit everything in on my bucket list in such a short trip! Visiting the Toronto office and meeting new Citizen colleagues, gaining insights into the wonderful world of Molson (thanks for the merch!), was just the cherry on top of this MODs trip. The Toronto team is a dream team, seriously! It was great to be an outsider looking into such a well-oiled machine and seeing their passion for excellence and teamwork! Let’s not forget their buzzing weekly status’ and being put in the hot seat… I promise adult fun-houses are a thing in the UK! You all made me feel so welcome and brought all the vibes.

I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Citizen for providing me with this incredible MODS opportunity and giving me the chance to explore and discover the beauty of Canada, along with meeting so many incredible people in the Toronto office. I want to thank you all so much for making me feel so welcome, included and heard in the Toronto office and for making my office experience (and social!) super special. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and it is one that I’ll remember for the rest of my career!

Annie Robitaille, Account Manager (Montreal) 

Trip to: Los Angeles

Coming Soon!

Jordan Hernandez, Associate Director, Content Marketing (New York City)

Trip to: Vancouver

Coming Soon!

Hacking & Tracking – Food Trends At The Speed Of Social

Social media has become the ultimate accelerator for food trends. From Korean corn dogs going viral to Filipino silog breakfasts taking over our feeds, the speed at which these trends emerge, spread and die is unprecedented.

Citizen monitors the media landscape to distinguish between fleeting fads and enduring shifts in consumer’s behaviour, and TikTok provides a useful framework for categorising trends into three stages:

Moments

Common, short-lived trends that rapidly gain excitement, have a lifecycle of only a few days to weeks. Remember that “Nacho Tables” trend, where people constructed elaborate nacho displays on tables? A prime viral moment.

Signals

Signals are content patterns that reveal emerging behaviours and interests within specific food categories. They have a longer cycle, from months to a few years. The rise of Comfort Food Reimagined gourmet versions of classic comfort foods like mac and cheese with lobster or elevated Scotch eggs demonstrate this trend. It suggests consumers are looking for familiar flavours and comfort with a touch of indulgence.

Forces

Forces are the powerhouse of trends – enduring transformations that can last several years. Significant cultural shifts, influencing how consumers discover new products and how communities form around food. Plant-based diets and the rise of “food-fluences” promoting ethical eating habits are prime examples. The viral vodka pasta moment that started as a niche dish shared by l Gigi Hadid on TikTok in 2020, sparking over 12 billion views, rapidly gained traction that led to a force when Heinz recognised the immense interest, and collaborated with vodka company Absolut to launch Heinz x Absolut Tomato Vodka Pasta Sauce for consumers to easily recreate the viral dish. This didn’t stop there, restaurants also jumped on the bandwagon, with popular establishments creating their own versions and adding it to their menus. This further solidified the dish’s mainstream appeal making it a contemporary staple in the range of well-known traditional pasta dishes served at home and in restaurants globally. 

Citizen stays attuned to the rapidly evolving food landscape leveraging moments, signals, and forces. We tap into communities to identify a fleeting trend and build it into an enduring “Force” that can transform a category, reshape consumer perceptions, build community and fuelling brand growth.

Citizens Wins Gold At The ADC Awards

Earlier this week, global communications agency, Citizen Relations, took home the gold cube at the 103rd ADC Awards in New York City for the Asshole Activists campaign for TUSHY. 

The ADC Awards, part of The One Club For Creativity, is the oldest continuously running industry award show and celebrates the best in advertising, design, photography and more, focusing on the artistry and craftsmanship of the work. Along with the coveted Gold Cube, Citizen took home the Silver cube and Merit award for Asshole Activists. The campaign won in the following categories: 

  • Design For Good: Photography – GOLD
  • Photography: Experimental – SILVER
  • Photography: Nature/Landscape – MERIT

“Major shoutout to the whole team who worked their butts off for this. Luckily, while we may have photographed assholes, everyone involved was far from one,” said Shirley Xu Wang, Art Director, and Marly Dichter, Copywriter – the creative duo (affectionately known as Shmarly) on the campaign. “It’s definitely one we’ll tell the grandkids about – when they’re old enough. In the meantime, we’re loving seeing everyone’s reactions.”

Most recently, the Asshole Activists campaign took home the Best In Show – Platinum SABRE Award at PRovoke Media’s Innovation SABRE Awards, along with two other wins for Live Events & Boldest Campaign. The campaign has also been recognized at the SABRE North America Awards, Atomic Awards, SIA Awards and at the CLIO Awards.

Nestlé Canada Appoints Citizen Relations As Confectionary PR AOR

Global communications agency Citizen Relations has been named Nestlé Canada’s new PR agency of record for its Confectionery business. The agency won the business in January 2024 and has ramped up work across multiple programs already this year.

The partnership had a fast and fantastic start this year with Citizen supporting the organization with media relations, both earned and influencer, on AERO’s Mind Bubbling campaign in addition to KITKAT’s NHL All Stars Weekend Activation, AI Activation and Ramadan Iftar Bar campaign.

In addition to the confectionery business, Citizen is supporting with PR on multiple brands across Nestlé’s business portfolio.

“There’s so much delicious potential we can unlock for a brand that’s a staple in almost every household,” said Jenn Duggan, President, Citizen Relations Canada (Ontario & West). “And we’re thrilled for the opportunity to partner with such a talented and passionate group of brand leaders.”

The global agency, with offices across North America and Europe, has seen recent success in the CPG space with award-winning campaigns at the 2023 Cannes Lions and Clio Awards. Along with Nestlé, the agency boasts an impressive list of Canadian clients including Molson Coors Beverages, Loblaws Company Limited, Coast Capital and Emirates.

Most recently, Citizen has been the highest ranked PR agency on two prestigious Creative lists in Canada – Strategy Magazine’s 2024 Creative Report Card and the Institute of Canadian Agencies’ 2024 Creative Power List. Last year, the agency was named Strategy Magazine’s PR Agency of the Year (Gold) and took home awards at Cannes Lions, The One Show, the LIA’s and the Webby Awards.

Citizen Takes Home Wins Across North America

Global communications agency, Citizen Relations, had a stellar last week as they picked up awards across Canada and the US. At the Canadian Event Awards, Citizen took home two wins for campaigns in Toronto and Quebec, while the US teams picked up a Bronze Anvil Award at PRSA’s Anvil Awards. 

The Canadian Event Awards, held in Toronto, is presented by the Canadian Special Events magazine and celebrates the best in Canadian events and hospitality. Citizen was shortlisted in 13 categories, with 5 shortlists for their Highland Park Whisky 54YO Launch, and took home wins for:

  • Best Public Experiential Marketing Event – Vizzybility Booth Experience for Molson Coors (Citizen/XM)
  • Best Corporate Event – Groupe Touchette- 2023 Innovation Summit (Citoyen/XM)

“We’re honoured to have our global work recognized at the Canadian Event Awards,” said Kevin Wagman, Managing Director – Experiential. “It’s truly a testament to the way we bring innovation across multiple sectors in the experiential space for our portfolio of clients.”

While the Canadian teams were picking up their hardware, Citizen’s US team was doing the same at PRSA’s Anvil Awards! Their “I Buy My Own Batteries” campaign for Duracell x Ariana Madix – in partnership with VaynerMedia and EssenceMediacom – won the Bronze Anvil in Social Media, Multichannel Use.

“While this campaign was one that the team executed fast (moving at the speed of culture!), it has had a lasting impact,” said Aly Sturm, SVP at Citizen. “We’re thrilled with this industry recognition and are excited to continue our work with Duracell and agency partners.”

Hosted by the Public Relations Society of America, the awards have set the standard for industry excellence, and have long been considered the icon of the profession and the benchmark of outstanding performance in public relations.