You have arrived, Episode 4 of our Origin Story series each week we will give you a glimpse into the super heroes of the Canadian public relations industry who have gotten into the business, learned the craft and the ones behind some amazing brands and campaigns.
In our forth episode we talk with Judy Lewis, Co-Founder & Partner of Strategic Objectives [TCO]
Think back to your teenage days, what did you think you’d be doing today?
- In high school I was part of a small group of friends and we considered ourselves rebels who would somehow change the world. I never knew my way would be through journalism and public relations, but I now appreciate how integral communications are to any type of consumer mobilization whether that be around a brand, cause, company or community.
Three career moments that got you here?
- Thrill of a Lifetime: one of the first reality television shows. Canadians had the chance to live their dream, if just for a moment. I discovered how much brands could benefit from partnering with media.
The moment I decided that it would be so much fun and adventurous to hop the fence out of journalism to prove that public relations was ripe for transformation and improvements .. and that we would lead it!
Proving the power of PR to promote and achieve change, through our work with The Body Shop brand in Canada and leading their activist PR for more than 20 years
Three jobs that helped define the person you are today?
- Flower girl while at McGill: worked 3, 4 hour evenings a week selling flowers in Montreal to pay for my McGill U tuition and all living expenses. We were all University students. I learned the crucial lesson about the influence of one-to-one customer service and a simple act of kindness.
- CBC Radio Montreal: producing the daily 4-6 pm current affairs radio show, and achieved the highest rating ever for the timeslot!
- CBC National Radio: The Food Show looked at food production from farm-to-table. It developed my passion for food, agriculture, healthy living, entertaining and immersed me in insights to advance my understanding of the business of food, beverages and brands.
When did you know you wanted to work in this industry?
- I only knew I wanted to be in PR and Communication once I was in it. As former journalists, we formed our agency as a kind of PR news room. We knew there was a better way. We defined Canada as our space. We knew we could tap into our insights, experience, and long standing relationships with media to help brands and organizations tell their story and connect with the right audiences to generate meaningful coverage and brand awareness.
Tell me about your first campaign [highs, lows, anything about the process]
- One of our early campaigns was a Stop Violence Against Women campaign for The Body Shop. We were shocked and horrified that 1 in 2 women in Canada had experienced violence. This cause-related campaign helped us prove the power of PR to change attitudes and change minds. It also pioneered Social Responsibility and showed that consumers actually cared about a brand’s culture and values. This campaign was completely based on earned media, advanced brand affinity, brought brand fame, mobilized consumers and drove sales.
How are you a better leader today vs when you first came in?
- I am a better leader and mentor now because I have been lucky enough to learn from so many incredibly smart and talented team mates. I have also learned so much from our clients who include some of Canada’s and the world’s greatest brand innovators and marketing leaders. I am so grateful for all those who have contributed to making me a better leader. I feel that I now have so much more to share.
What would you do differently if you could do it all over again?
- I have no regrets. Deborah Weinstein, my business partner and co-founder of Strategic Objectives, and I created a different approach to PR that has served as a successful model to many.
What’s your management style?
- My management style is based on inspiration, empathy, collaboration, listening and guidance, and mentorship. I am a great believer of identifying an individual’s strengths and passions and celebrating and highlighting those. This can provide an individual the confidence, time and opportunity to concurrently develop new skills and leadership abilities. I love mentoring the next generation of PR leaders to help them advance, grow and shine. A roll-up-your-sleeves person, I love collaborating with the team. I believe that together we can make our sector even more vibrant than it is now.
What problem do you solve?
- Creativity and Communications Solutions rooted in Strategy to deliver results-oriented, brand-building Social PR. We build, maintain and protect brands with award-winning, effective programs that move the needle.
What is your super power?
- Wonder Woman, of course! With the superpower of creating squads of super heroes dedicated to big, powerful brand-building programs that generate awesome results.
Who is your nemesis?
- A CBC executive who suggested that I may want to take my experience to a senior position at a small, remote CBC station as they needed experienced talent: I immediately moved to Toronto. Good move!!!! The rest is history.
What have you learned this year so far that will be game changing in the next year?
- Curiosity is an essential quality of high performers. Content. Content. Content!
Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a major an obstacle that stood in the way of you accomplishing a goal or commitment. How did you approach the situation?
- Overcoming obstacles is integral to what we do. We analyze, we ask why, we ask why not, we look at the situation from as many perspectives as possible, we are thoughtful, we analyze data, we trust our instincts and then choose the best course.
Do you have a theme song?
- Three Songs: We Are Family, Imagine and Celebration.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
- The most challenging and satisfying part of my role is to collaborate and lead both our talent and clients to ensure we continue to advance and lead the industry with best in class in Social PR and Communications. This is a balancing act as being high-performance oriented, we need to be empathetic, understanding and appreciative of the pressure people experience striving for excellence.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
- Striving for excellence and doing it differently, creatively and with passion for results. This inspires and energizes me. We are data-driven and challenge the norms. We leverage technology, improve processes. I like striving to set new benchmarks and develop powerful and impactful programs that connect with the hearts and minds of consumers.
Tell us about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.
We’re constantly making things better, faster, smarter. In our services-world, time is money. Therefore we have invested heavily in the advancement of internal systems that increase internal and external collaboration and advance our team’s diversity of work styles, preferences and locations.
What is your finish line?
- Life is a long and winding road. I never put finite limits on my career, creativity or curiosity. Work style and hours may change but I will always be obsessed with nurturing our driving force: Our SO What If Quality Just Imagine philosophy.
If you woke up on a dessert island tomorrow, what are the first 3 things you would do?
- Given that you asked me about a dessert island rather than a deserted island, I would first look at all the desserts available, evaluate how many different Butter Tarts are offered and then enjoy a piece of Cherry pie and feel blessed that it wasn’t a deserted island!
What’s your favourite non-professional activity?
- Traveling – experiencing cultures and exploring communities around the world. This is closely followed by the simple joy and exhilaration of jumping into a clean, cold lake in Muskoka.