Always Be Prepared: What to do in a Crisis

Always Be Prepared

OK, let’s talk about all this craziness going on in the world. Does it feel like everything is upside down to you too?!? Who could have predicted all of this (and if you say you could have, then I’d like your help buying lottery tickets!). Obviously, the health of citizens of every country is of utmost importance above everything else. But, could you have imagined all of the closures (of everything!!) event cancellations, Broadway shows, all sports suspending or cancelling their games, ITALY closing, and any number of things that haven’t been announced yet.

And while everyone is talking about what to do to stay healthy, I wanted to talk about what to do to keep your business healthy, and to help others if you can. Because even if you could have imagined some of this, were you ACTUALLY prepared for it?

Are your Communications in a Crisis?

No matter what industry you’re in, you MUST have a strategic and fulsome Crisis Communications plan in place. And it can’t be something that just sits on a shelf for years. Plans should be in place for any scenario you can think of: accidents, protests, health issues, cancelled programs or events, and more. In this case you may actually be faced with many or ALL of these situations at the same time! So, where do you even start?

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Ensure you have a small group of decision makers who can act swiftly and confidently
  • Do your research on the situation, and be aware of all potential concerns that relate directly to your business
  • Communicate! With your employees. With your customers. With your suppliers. With your agencies. With your families.
  • Be responsive to your audiences at all times. They deserve to know what is happening, and if they are either affected, or maybe if they can help.
  • When the crisis is over, that’s the best time to review your current plan, and determine how it held up. Make some tweaks (or completely revamp it), so you know that you will be prepared when (not if) you come into another situation. 

Plan B

I get it. Everyone is feeling like you’re going to be in crisis mode for the foreseeable, and you’re barely keeping your heads above water. But, now is also a critical time to put your strategic plans in place. No matter what industry you’re in, you’re being affected. But we will all get through this. Together. So, now is the perfect time to think about the future. You probably had a 2020 plan and budget locked down a while ago, and my guess is that’s pretty much out the window. Now is the time to review those plans, make adjustments and think creatively about how you can come out even stronger on the other side.

Maybe you need to rethink an event opportunity or partnership that has fallen through, or reconsider where you’re spending your paid media budgets. Or maybe you actually have money that you didn’t think you were going to have because an event got cancelled. This is the perfect time to reflect on all of those elements and revise your integrated marketing plan to ensure success through the rest of the year.

It Takes a Village

Now that you’ve figured out how your company is going to work through the current situation, it’s time to look outward. There are others who may need your help. The obvious areas are those directly affected by COVID-19 like healthcare workers and retirement communities. But almost everyone will be touched by this, and there are ways you can help. If you are in the fitness industry, can you provide your classes online so that people can access them from home? If you’re in the beverage industry, how can you support your key accounts? If you’re in the retail industry, can you provide delivery service for those who can’t come to your store? If none of those fit, there are a myriad of others. There are kids out of school and parents who don’t know who is going to look after them, university students who need to start working for the summer sooner than expected, hourly workers in the hospitality industry who need to find more work. If you can help in any way, I guarantee you, Karma will be on your side.

Lean on your Neighbours

And if you don’t have all of this figured out yet, don’t freak out….we can help! The Neighbourhood Agency has a LOT of experience in each of these areas, and we are here to support whatever you need. If you want to jump on a quick phone call and talk through your current situation, or if you need to build an entire plan, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We believe in supporting each other, and helping when others are in need. We hope you do too!

We are better together.

Stay healthy.

We The Integrated?

On Thursday, June 13, 2019, millions of Canadians watched as the Toronto Raptors brought the NBA Finals to a close with the strength of a nation behind them. The Raptors are a one-of-a-kind team. Unlike the rest of the NBA, there is only one team north of the border, supported not only by the city they represent but an entire country whose colours they sport with pride and joy.

The post season always brings a special kind of energy to Toronto, but this year was different. The fans seemed to cheer louder, line up longer, believe harder. There was definitely something in the air. Toronto was not on its own, as millions of Canadians across the globe could feel how close the Championship was. From the very start of the playoff season, Jurassic Park was filled during every game, home and away, rain or shine. Fans ensured the Raptors heard their support at every moment.

We made history when took the Eastern Conference Finals, but we weren’t done yet. And that final buzzer beater by Kawhi Leonard will go down as the BEST image in basketball history! It can not be put into words what the Eastern Conference Final game felt like to watch. The emotions were endless! The 6ix, in 6ix, in the 6ix!!


Then came the FINALS, and Toronto, the GTA and Canada literally became one!  Every single game played at that point was historical and not to be missed. There was not one empty seat in any bar in any part of Toronto, or possibly across the country during any of these games. You could find fans in local fast food restaurants watching the game, simply because they had one TV – which normally played the news throughout the day. That is how epic this moment was for Canada.  Jurassic Park Tailgate events were brought to various cities from Brampton, ON to Montreal, QC and Saskatoon, SK – our country made the NBA Finals accessible to everyone and literally became Jurassic World at that point.

The Toronto Raptors took the NBA Championship on Thursday, June 13, 2019 — a day that will most certainly be recalled as one of the greatest days in Canadian sport history. The city went absolutely insane! I don’t think anyone could have anticipated just how dedicated Torontonians were to celebrating this victory. The streets were flooded with fans for hours! Chanting, hugging, high fiving, honking, flags waving, fireworks, just pure joy on the face of every single fan! And that was just the beginning. On Monday, June 17, 2019, We The North Day could not have been predicted by anyone. Well over 2 million Canadians flooded the streets of Toronto to welcome our boys home with the Championship trophy during the victory parade. Businesses were encouraged by the mayor to give employees the day off to cheer our Raptors all the way to the end, and the Toronto Raptors parade is said to be the longest NBA Championship parade in history at 5 hours and 25 minutes.


But this post season was more than just basketball — it was about the integration of community, culture and the pride of a country who stand behind a team who has brought so many Canadians together. The NBA playoffs had Canadians on their feet in bars and homes across the country, sharing food, drinks, laughs and team-branded gear, ensuring everyone could support in the best way possible. We welcomed each other with open arms, no questions asked. We simply wanted to make sure this moment was experienced as a community.

Nav Bhatia, The Raptors beloved superfan reminded us how important the Toronto Raptors are beyond basketball. During the finals, Nav was featured in a Tim Hortons spot that tells his story of immigration to Canada. Nav has never missed a game from courtside seat A12; that’s approximately 960 season games and 50 playoff games. He is a pillar in his community and takes pride in his commitment to supporting the Toronto Raptors over the course of 24 years. Every year he gives away Raptors tickets to kids in the community, particularly immigrant children, allowing them to integrate and be immersed themselves into the culture that comes with being a Canadian – strong, diverse and embracing. He became the face of the diversity that our country has become known (and loved) for.

And every time the cameras panned the faces of fans in the arena, Jurassic Park, or any of the hundreds of pop up viewing parties across the country, we could see the diversity of our proud nation at its best. Even the Raptors themselves represent 6 different nations and many different cultures and backgrounds.


This past month has been a dream for the Toronto Raptors and Canada, but beyond that it was a great example of what true “integrated” marketing can look like, and how to accurately showcase representation and diversity. This might very well be the best example of how accurate representation advances a brand – in this case Canada’s image and brand, in the right direction and supports the narrative shared across the world.

It is time marketing focuses beyond the tactical elements of medium use, and ensure there is an accurate integration of diversity. The spotlight placed on Nav Bhatia during this time was a pivotal step and example of integrating diversity and accurate representation in integrated marketing. Canada is a melting pot of individuals from across the world,  and as an Integrated Marketing Agency ourselves, The Neighbourhood Agency  is proud to be a part of what’s happening in The North. 

By Katie-Ann Wallace

The Neighbourhood Agency

Not My First Rodeo: An Agency Owner’s Experience

Entrepreneurship can be an intimidating concept for many people. How do I do it? Can I afford to go out on my own? Where are my customers going to come from? What are we going to offer that differs from everyone else? These are all questions that I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves when we contemplate going out on our own. And they are all very important.

There is no simple solution or magic recipe that will guarantee success. If it were that easy, I’m sure we would all prefer to work for ourselves and set our own rules — live the dream! Trust me, it’s not. It takes endless hard work, determination and a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I have been here before, and learned a lot of incredibly important lessons over the years. Many of these learnings are going to be key to the success of my new venture — The Neighbourhood Agency. And I plan to succeed!

As I set out to build The Neighbourhood Agency, which we launched in January 2019,  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of these questions, and working through the solutions that I believe will bring about the business that I envision. Here are a few of the key learnings that I want to share for those who may be going down this path and are looking for some support:

Build a Plan

When I started my first agency, I really just flew by the seat of my pants. I sold my home, packed up my car and traveled across the country on a hunch. It’s not that I didn’t think about it a lot, or take it seriously, but I honestly didn’t create a plan. I relied on my knowledge, relationships and skills to start it up and keep it going. Those were all critical elements, but without having a plan to work from and towards, I’m certain that I didn’t leverage any opportunity as much as I could and should have. We would never recommend to our clients that they just go to market without a solid strategy and goals and objectives to measure our success. So why are our businesses any different? They aren’t.

I worked on that business for close to 10 years, and I believe that it was quite successful, but I really have no gauge, other than the fact that I had a number of great clients and I paid my bills. Could it have been bigger? Could our profits have been higher? Why were some years better than others? Those are questions that I honestly can’t answer, because I didn’t have a plan to refer to or learn from.

I closed down that agency about 4 years ago, and went back to working “for someone else.” And it was during this time working within a larger organization, that I was able to glean  knowledge from many other seasoned entrepreneurs, including the importance of planning.

So, when I developed the concept around The Neighbourhood Agency, I started with a plan, and I know that this venture will be successful BECAUSE of a plan, not despite it. 

Learn from Mistakes

Everyone makes them, but we don’t all understand that they provide us with more learnings than any win can. Dig deep.

While my first agency was a great experience, there were many things that I learned from it. Part of it was just growing pains, but a big part was also ignoring the areas that needed attention. It’s human nature for us to not want to face the challenges we don’t like, or aren’t confident in our knowledge of, but in my experience, those are EXACTLY the areas that we should focus on. Learn from these and take that knowledge to ensure your next plan, program or business excels in that area.

Again, when we work with clients, we always provide them with insights into challenges we ran into, what could be done better next time, and the key learnings from the program. Make sure you do this for your own business too! It is a great feeling to look back and realize that you’ve been able to conquer something that previously kicked your ass.

Work for Yourself, Not by Yourself

Networking is King. Don’t know something? Ask. Need some advice? Ask. But also make sure that you are open to providing the same. There is nothing worse than someone who is always looking for your help, but never giving in return.

Stay in touch with people. Ask them out for a coffee or a beer. Be genuinely engaged in what is going on in their life — personally and professionally — and reach out when they have some positive news in their world. And, just as importantly (if not moreso), reach out when they have something challenging going on in their life. Just as you would a friend or family member, it’s important to ask “How can I help?” Don’t just be there for the highlights, dig in for the low notes too. It is vitally important to make time for others and help them whenever you can. You never know how they may be able to support you and your goals. And, it just feels good.

Mentors, work groups and business coaches are also extremely helpful to guide you along the way, and to inspire you to strive for more. Find someone that you respect and who is knowledgeable in the areas you want to excel at, and create a relationship with them. If you can find someone that you can provide guidance to in another area, that’s a win-win. Hold each other accountable for your progress, and take time to celebrate small (and big) wins together.

That’s exactly why I started The Neighbourhood Agency.  We want to create an environment where communications professionals from all different areas can work together to build something great and deliver unmatched results for our clients. We are a collective of independent and small businesses that have determined that we are better together. We are creating an agency environment where we can all succeed independently and as a collective too.

I’ve been in the agency world for a long time, and I love that I can continue to learn every day. There are always new experiences, new clients, and new friends along the way.

So, my advice, if you want to take it: Take the risk, but make sure you’re ready for it to be as awesome as you can possibly imagine. Be prepared. Keep learning. Build a network.

It’s worth it.


A version of this post originally appeared on SpinSucks


What Makes a Great Neighbourhood?

As I drove home from my road trip to California (details to come in another post, I promise!), I thought a lot about The Neighbourhood Agency, why I was drawn to the name, and the concept behind it. And that got me thinking about all of my experience with the neighbourhoods I’ve been lucky to be part of until now.

I was one of those kids who never moved during childhood. I lived in Kingston, in the same house, for more than 20 years. It was all I knew. It was a great neighbourhood for so many reasons. That’s where I met my first friend, and many more. We played in our driveways, or in the streets, coming home when the street lights came on, or when our “louder” neighbour called for her son to come for dinner. Our neighbours were always patient with us as we grew up, had parties and became a bit louder than we’d been as kids. And while a lot of those times were fun, there were also some times where we needed support. And our neighbours were always there for that. It could be as simple as taking in our mail when we were away, but there were also many more serious events like family deaths, where we knew our neighbours were there for us. They were more than neighbours, they were, and still are, our friends.

I lived in a number of other great places throughout the years, but I don’t think my next true “neighbourhood” formed until I moved to Sudbury Street in Toronto. Once again, it was a place where neighbours became friends. We helped each other out, held garage sales together, looked after plants and pets, and perhaps had a few beverages together from time to time.

And then I moved to Vancouver. I found my true Neighbourhood when I moved to the Olympic Village. This is my place. Why was it so different? Friends. People from all different backgrounds. People who work in all different kinds of industries. With kids. Without. With dogs. Without. But we ALWAYS support each other. Even if you move away, you’re still part of this Neighbourhood. This is how things should be.

So…how does that translate into a business model?

I see The Neighbourhood Agency in the same way. We are here for each other. To support each other. Build each other up. We have created a place where we bring together great people with different backgrounds who provide unique insights, experience and skills. We may have different goals for our lives and businesses, but at the end of the day, we want to see everyone succeed.

And, while we know this is a great concept for our team, we believe it will also provide great benefits for our clients. Our team of incredibly diverse professionals will deliver amazing results to ensure our clients experience success. We all believe that being a great Neighbour is incredibly important, so whether it’s a PR and marketing program, or just a cup of milk or sugar, we’re here for you.