A career is never a linear line moving easily from one step to the next. But finding a company that allows for growth, continuous learning and an abundance of happiness makes it all worth it. That’s exactly what our Novice to Now, Part 2 features have found in their time with Citizen. With tenures spanning over 30 years between the two, Managing Partner, U.S. Growth & West Coast Operations, Erin Georgieff, and Senior Vice President, Ive Balins, have found their homes at Citizen. We sat down with them to learn about their start at Citizen and how they both landed in California after a career north of the border.
A new job often creates distinct and lasting memories. Despite starting years apart, Erin and Ive both had unique and impressionable starts at Citizen. Almost immediately after joining, Ive was invited for a coffee chat with then-VP and General Manager, now-CEO, Nick Cowling. This simple gesture illustrated Nick’s commitment to establishing genuine connections with every team member, irrespective of their level, fostering an environment of inclusivity and openness. “I remember thinking to myself, “Wow… this agency truly prioritizes its people.” Moments like these prove why Citizen was named a 2022 Best Place to Work by PRWeek and PRovoke Best Agency to Work for 2023.
Erin dove right into the work when she started, recalling a memorable debut campaign for Polaroid at The Oscars. “It was a large team and we did a campaign called the ‘Polaroid Paparazzi’. The team dressed in full silver suits and silver wigs to walk the Red Carpet,” she laughed.
But PR wasn’t always the plan for either; it was journalism. Their mutual love for storytelling and writing, combined with curious minds, made journalism seem like the obvious choice for a career. Ive knew she enjoyed the communications field, but did not see herself as a journalist. Erin was lured into the field when a PR firm was looking to bring a strong writer and storyteller onto their team. Once they were immersed in their field interests- events, marketing, and storytelling – they were hooked.
Now that they knew their field, interest to go stateside began brewing. “I’ve always wanted to live in California since I was a little girl,” Erin said with a huge smile across her face, diving into memories of her dream. The same sentiments were true for Ive – but with family in Canada, the decision to move to America wasn’t easy. “Many hard conversations and sacrifices” were part of the decision making process. Erin had just purchased a home in Toronto when an opportunity to move to a new company and new country presented itself. She initially wrote off the idea but when a job offer in California came through for her husband, the stars aligned and the rest is history.
While Ive’s move to the US was while she was at Citizen, Erin moved over to Citizen -then Payne PR – once she was already across the border in 2000. But both had to learn an entirely new landscape.
“When it comes to PR, the playbooks are the same, but the playing fields are different. Not only in size and scalability, but also with U.S. brand budgets often driving global market decisions and strategies – a responsibility that gets me so excited,” Ive shared about the difference between working in each market. However, she feels that the robust North American perspectives that are brought together with the collaboration between the Canadian and US Citizen offices is what leads the company to award-winning work. Erin reminisced on a Citizen career moment that was pivotal to her growth in her new territory: her first hit in USA Today. It was for Dockers Mobile Pants and she used the cheeky subject line, “How much RAM is in your pants?” to reel in the toughest tech journalist in the country at the time and land the exclusive. The story appeared on the front page of the tech section the next morning.
“For me, as a Canadian coming here and trying to meet the media and learn a whole new market, this was a big deal” she said.
Ive and Erin have enjoyed countless shining moments throughout their longevity at Citizen . Erin shares her pride for the work she and the team have been able to accomplish with Old Spice over the last 13+ years, helping in their transformation from an “older man’s deodorant” to a younger audience and, perhaps most importantly, helping it become a billion dollar brand. Ive has been able to make lifelong connections with her US clients, even participating in a Tough Mudder race with one. “It’s always rewarding when you have an opportunity to drive business results beyond sales,” she shared.
Anticipation and excitement are in the hearts of both professionals as they see what the future holds for Citizen, with global growth and new business development happening at breakneck speed. Ive wrapped up their feelings for the future perfectly – “…having the opportunity to intersect culture, challenge boundaries, and impact real people is something that ChatGPT can’t do, and I’m here for it!”