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May 24th, 2018    
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Event Type

This expert panel explores how communications teams at three BC organizations navigated high-pressure crises.

Panelists from City of Vancouver, BC Hydro, and TransLink will each present a short overview of their crisis case, including challenges and key lessons learned. Then, delving into the details of the cases, they’ll discuss concrete examples of what worked, and what didn’t. Questions will be welcomed from the floor.

By the end of the panel, you will better understand:

  • How to manage an issue that you don’t own, but that still impacts your organization significantly
  • The importance of transparency and empathy when using social media during a crisis
  • How to gauge when to weigh in, if public opinion is shifting against you
  • The importance of having a plan, and the need – when you have bad news – to tell it first and tell it fast
  • The value of framing a crisis response before the crisis happens
  • How frequent and effective communications before, during and after a major disruption can assist customers in making smart decisions and managing their expectations
  • What you need (besides coffee) to deliver effective communications on a 24/7 channel

Recommended audience experience levels:

Communication Management Professional — for people established in their careers as communication managers and looking to demonstrate their competence.

Strategic Advisor — for highly skilled professionals practiced in providing strategic communication advice and counseling to an organization’s leadership.

Register Now

Speakers & Cases

Chris Bryan, Senior Media Relations Advisor, TransLink, @chrismbryan

Chris Bryan comes to public relations by way of community newspapers, where he spent 15 years as a reporter and an editor. In February 2015 he made a career change to media relations at TransLink, where he is now Senior Media Relations Advisor, as part of a four-person team that includes issues management. It’s been a steep learning curve – he arrived in the midst of the plebiscite on the Mayors’ Vision, one of the stormiest periods in TransLink’s history. In retrospect, it was a great boot camp for a newcomer. His day-to-day work includes crafting messaging for media responses, media prep for staff and executives, and acting as corporate spokesperson. Crisis communications work includes acting as after-hours spokesperson and primary media contact during transit service disruptions.

Case: Being proactive in a crisis – Winter 2016/17 was harsh for Metro Vancouver. Snowstorms hit with alarming frequency, turning the region’s roads into a nightmare. At one point more than 100 buses were stuck on Granville Street, just when customers were looking to transit more than ever. The experience taught TransLink some valuable lessons about communicating during a crisis – not only what to do when it hits but also how to set the stage before the next one arrives.


Gail Pickard, ABC, Associate Director, Corporate Communications, City of Vancouver, @gailepickard

Gail Pickard, ABC, is an accomplished strategic communications professional with more than 30 years in the profession. She is currently the Associate Director of Corporate Communications at the City of Vancouver. In past lives, she’s told lottery winners “yes, you do have to have your name in the paper”, dealt with the unexpected death of a CEO, communicated her way through two mergers in two years, and managed corporate reputation for Crown corporations through significant public reputation issues.

Case: Caught in the crossfire – When thousands of protesters clashed with an anti-immigration rally at City Hall last August, the City of Vancouver had to manage unique PR challenges and misperceptions…and almost everyone on point that weekend was “the B team”.


Chelsea Watt, ‎Manager, Social Media and Digital Content, BC Hydro, @chelsetron

Chelsea leads BC Hydro’s digital content team, focused on developing and delivering content for owned channels and digital campaigns. Her team manages BC Hydro’s industry-recognized social media  channels, leads 24/7 emergency and crisis communications on our digital channels, and writes content for more than 4 million customers. While on the team, Chelsea launched BC Hydro’s first corporate Twitter account, managed Facebook during a province-wide smart meter installation, and led the rollout of a new brand tone. She’s “weathered” emergencies in plain sight on social media, including massive outages to more than 700,000 customers, wildfires, flooding, and ice storms. Prior to joining BC Hydro, Chelsea supported public consultation for major capital projects and infrastructure at BC Transmission Corporation. She has a degree in Communications from Simon Fraser University.

Case: Ice, ice baby – When thousands in Fraser Valley lost power after an unusual ice storm on New Year’s Eve, BC Hydro had to apply learnings from previous storms and experiment with new crisis communications strategies to support customers facing prolonged outages and crews tackling complex repairs.


Moderator – Jocelyn Fraser, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow, Liu Institute for Global Issues, @JocelynFraser1

Jocelyn Fraser is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues where her research is focused on social risk and social responsibility.  In addition, Jocelyn works as a consultant, primarily in the global mining sector, and has a significant base of crisis management experience. She has developed crisis management plans and procedures, as well as crisis simulations and table top exercises issues for companies in a variety of industry sectors, and has served as an on call crisis resource in situations from vessel groundings, oil spills, pipeline ruptures, boycotts, and food production.  Earlier in her career, Jocelyn was a vice president with one of the leading global public affairs agencies where she was co-chair of the national crisis practice and led teams for crisis response here in Canada and abroad.


Event Details:

5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Registration and networking
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Panel discussion

Light dinner (buffet-style platters), coffee and tea are included in ticket price. Vegetarian and gluten-free options will be available.

Early Bird prices (until 11:59 p.m. May 11, 2018)

Members: $35
Student Members: $15
Non-Members: $50
Student Non-Members: $25

Ticket prices (from 12:00 a.m. May 12, 2018)

Members: $45
Student Members: $25
Non-Members: $60
Student Non-Members: $35