#CPRSVAN60 SERIES: Launching CPRS Vancouver into the Digital Age

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Adam Grossman is the Manager, Communications Delivery at ICBC

This year marks CPRS Vancouver’s 60th anniversary. To honour this milestone, we’ve launched #CPRSVAN60, an initiative focused on highlighting some of the amazing work and talented professionals that have contributed to CPRS Vancouver over the last six decades. In this edition, we bring you wise words from Adam Grossman (Past President 2011-2012), who was part of the Chapter’s Board of Directors for 5 years and had pivotal role to play in launching and improving its online presence.

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN for our 60th anniversary event being held on June 13th at the Bill Reid Gallery. Early bird pricing is available until May 9th. Join us for an evening to honour the past and celebrate the future of CPRS Vancouver. Register here!

What roles did you take on during your 5 years serving on the CPRS Vancouver Board of Directors?

I joined the CPRS Vancouver Board a decade ago in 2008. Initially I met the then-president, Shawn Hall, for a coffee just to explore possible volunteer opportunities but, if you know Shawn, he’s a persuasive person and before I’d left the coffee shop, I’d signed up to be the education chair running the student portfolio, which I did for two years. I then went on to be the Chapter Vice-President, President and Past President over the following three years.

How did your volunteering experience at CPRS Vancouver contribute to your professional and personal success?

Really, in countless ways – there were so many highlights that made my five years on the Board so worthwhile. I loved, just loved, running the education portfolio. The PR program leaders and students in Vancouver were so engaged and eager to work with our Chapter. We had record-high event attendances and some topics which I remember to this day, including one with various leaders working on the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

I also spearheaded the relaunch of the Chapter’s Mentorship Program – pairing students and young professionals with seasoned pros – and it was incredibly fulfilling to see that program flourish and continue to do so today. It’s such an important component of what I think CPRS Vancouver should be doing.

Serving on a Board with so much talent, both those newer to the field and those more experienced professionals, was endlessly rewarding. My time on the Board enabled me to learn from CPRS all-stars like John Kageorge, Joanna Wyatt, Alyn Edwards, Judith Walker and so many more. They taught me a lot and I’m very grateful to this day.

According to you, how has PR changed since you first started your career in this field?

In my role managing external communications for ICBC over the last decade (wow, I suddenly feel that much older…), the biggest revolution has been the changing media landscape and the ever-increasing blurring of the lines between traditional, digital and social media. This has not come without challenges but, more-so, it’s been really exciting and has opened up many more channels for how to communicate directly with your audiences.

I’m proud to say ICBC was one of the early adopters of Twitter, especially for a crown corporation in B.C., and we continue to be widely-recognized to this day for how we use that channel to serve our customers and promote our content.

All that being said, as much as things change, some things stay the same. For example, the best practice of building – and maintaining – good relationships with the media remain as important as ever.

You were involved in a revamp of the CPRS Vancouver website during your term. Tell us about that process and what challenges you faced.

CPRS Vancouver had a website already but when I moved into the first of my three years as an executive member of the Board, it was becoming evident that the current website was terribly out of date. It lacked much of the functionality that people were coming to expect from a digital platform at that time, and the back-end support was also very unstable. Luckily, CPRS Vancouver hosted an extremely successful CPRS National Conference in Vancouver in 2009 which gave us the funds we needed to overhaul our online platform.

We worked alongside a couple of great local digital media agencies and, while the whole Board was involved, our core committee was comprised of myself, Deborah Chatterton and Kurt Heinrich (I may have forgotten some others, so apologies in advance). By the way, I realize I’m mentioning a lot of people by name and it’s because that’s what CPRS has always been about for me – the great people and connections you make, that truly make you feel part of a wonderful PR community.

The whole process took around a year from conception to launch and did involve some major hurdles to overcome – particularly how to integrate the online front-end site users would experience with the back-end support to allow for new services such as online event registration – but the end product was a great success.

What benefits did the new website bring to CPRS and its members?

The online event registration and membership management was a huge improvement for our members. We also put a big emphasis on expanding our job postings functionality, as we knew that was a benefit our members really valued.

Beyond those all-important back-end enhancements, we also really wanted the look of the new website to be much simpler, brighter, more engaging and – of course – more mobile and user-friendly. I’m really proud of the website we launched which focused on profiling blog posts, member stories and our events right on the homepage.

The website has continued to evolve in the years since – just as any good digital platform should – but we built the foundations back in 2011 and it’s great to see the website still working well eight years later.

What social media channels were created in the beginning? What were the goals CPRS Vancouver wanted to achieve with each one of them?

Social media’s prominence as the primary channel for communication really started to gather speed back in 2011, so launching, expanding and integrating CPRS Vancouver’s social media channels into the new CPRS Vancouver website was a massive priority for us.

Our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn channels had already been recently established by that time but through prioritizing links to those channels on the website homepage and through the work of a very passionate digital communications committee, we experienced good growth in our followers and engagement.

The goals were to use the channels to drive membership recruitment, promote member benefits, showcase the great series of events we ran throughout the year and, of course, drive people back to our new website as a hub for all things PR in Vancouver.

As with the website, it’s been great to see CPRS Vancouver’s digital channels continue to grow, including a presence on Instagram now too. As we all know, the social media landscape is always evolving so keeping up with that will be important to the Chapter’s future engagement with members.

- Adam Grossman, Communications Delivery Manager, ICBC

Adam manages three key areas of ICBC’s Public Affairs division – media relations, issues management and social media – all areas which have tight deadlines and daily fires to put out. Adam has worked at ICBC for 10 years and served as the corporation’s spokesperson for much of that time. Prior to working at ICBC, Adam worked as a media consultant for a Vancouver public relations agency, has served as the President of the Vancouver chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society and worked for years as a journalist in London, England. Adam became a Canadian citizen in 2009 but decided to keep his funny English accent.

About the Author

Paula Schütt has a bachelor's degree in Public Relations from UNIVALI and a marketing certificate from Arbutus College. She has over 3 years experience working both in agency and in-house settings for companies in the fitness, logistics and cosmetics industries. Linkedin: @paulaschutt