bicom [TCO] hits a major milestone celebrating its 15th anniversary. PR In Canada took some time to talk with Vicky Boudreau & Marie-Noelle Hamelin, Co-Founders of bicom [TCO] about her journey over the last 15 years.
What did you do before launching the agency?
We met when Marie-Noelle was working in a small boutique agency she co-owned while finishing her communication’s studies. I was just finishing my Fashion Marketing studies and needed to do an internship when a mutual friend connected us. It was an instant business crush as well as the beginning of a true friendship.
What made you launch your own agency? I saw an opportunity.
We were a super match from the start and shared a vision. Marie-Noelle already knew how to run a business and was very rigorous about all the processes. For my part, I was driven by my curiosity and was always exploring new creative ways to meet our client’s objectives. We felt like nothing could stop us!
Way before “flexibility” and “employer brand” were buzz words, we wanted to create a workspace where the team would find the right balance or guidance and liberty. All of that was fueled by an unwavering trust in ourselves and belief in each other.
Toughest client you had to win, and how did you win it?
I would say Uniqlo back when they were about to make their entrance in Canada. We first reached out to their head office in Tokyo when we had reliable information about them entering this market. Closer to their arrival, we entered a rigorous RFP process. Not only did we work very hard as a team on defining a strong overarching strategy, but we did our homework on Japanese business culture and protocols that we applied to our client relationship.
To earn this client’s trust and take an active part in their Canadian launch was a true honor. The opening of their flagship store in Toronto, occurred the same week of our 10th anniversary. We flew the whole team from Montreal to support our Toronto team for the day and contribute to the successful opening! It was amazing to see all that work come to fruition.
What are some of the biggest ways the public relations industry has changed in the last 5 years?
Everything digital! Over the past ten years – and especially in the last five – digital content has taken the public relations ecosystem by storm. Influencer marketing has evolved as a more structured business (rates, contracts, tracking, etc.). While we truly feel like the value of traditional organic coverage coming from pure media relation is more respected then ever, there is less and less space for true editorial content.
More than ever, consumers are looking for authentic, transparent recommendations from their peers and this explains the great success of b nation, our nano-influencer community founded in 2018 that had since grown to 1500+ members.
The average business does not survive 5 years, how did you make it to 15?
We have always been guided by a combination of strong intuition and a solid strategic plan. driven by a clear direction and concrete actions. When an opportunity presents itself or when we feel like a change in direction is needed, we never wait until we have all the ingredients in place before taking action. We remain agile and we promptly adapt to our clients’ needs and to the ever-changing market.
Also, I would say that long before we heard the terms “decentralization of power” and “participatory management”, we applied this model. Talents are at the heart of our success, and we have always made sure that they are heard, recognized, and that they participate in decision-making. Here, the best idea wins, not necessarily that of the bosses.
Has COVID-19 been the biggest impact you have seen on the business landscape? If so, what is 2nd?
COVID has indeed been very difficult from a business standpoint because, like everyone else, we have seen activity slowdown across the market. At the same time, from an organizational point of view, COVID has given us the opportunity to optimize our processes, our communication systems, our work tools and even to solidify the company’s DNA. We also strengthened our presence in various sectors and optimized deliverables.
What advice do you have for brands to go the distance as you have and last 15 years?
Remain faithful to your founding values. The biggest trap is to scatter to try to get more contracts, more market share. You will end up being able to do everything, but you will be specialists in nothing. It is important to stand out to last, and that requires absolute mastery of your core business.
Also, I would say go with your instincts, do not wait for the perfect conditions to take action when a business opportunity seems obvious. The perfect situation does not exist, it must be created.
So after 15 years, what is next?
We aspire to create a powerful international network of influential connectors impacting and transforming the story of brands and people!
The next steps are to continue to develop our offer while retaining our distinct DNA and transpose it into new markets. We are currently doing some work in the United States and opening an office there is in our sights for the near term, followed by Europe.