Leadership

Sheila Wisniewski

President and CEO, Canada
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Sheila Wisniewski is the President and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada. She has over 25 years’ experience in public relations and is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of corporate communications, consumer marketing, and influencer engagement.

Sheila joined Hill+Knowlton in 2003. She became general manager of H+K’s largest Canadian office and headquarters in Toronto in 2015 and was appointed president and CEO in 2018. With sectoral expertise in technology, consumer goods, health care, and retail, she has led integrated national accounts for such diverse clients as Whirlpool, Coca-Cola, HP, and IKEA.

Sheila holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) degree in English and political science from Trent University and graduated with honors from Humber College’s public relations certificate program. She is passionate about social issues and is a driver of H+K Canada’s national DEI program. Sheila currently serves as Vice Chair of the Sinai Health Foundation’s Brand Strategy Council.


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Kristy Payne

Chief Operating Officer
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As Chief Operating Officer at H+K, Kristy oversees the firm’s operations, driving a culture of collaboration, and delivers strategic counsel to clients drawing on two decades of marketing and communications experience. She currently leads H+K Canada’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts and is part of H+K’s Global Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. ​ ​

At the beginning of her career, Kristy did internal communications for a school board before managing a publishing company’s marketing acquisition and research arm producing niche lifestyle magazines and television guides. She then worked in public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola and led the partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, launching Coca-Cola Canada’s first Corporate Social Responsibility Report and then traveled across Canada doing media relations during the Vancouver 2010 Torch Relay and Winter Olympics. Kristy also worked for the Ministry of Education in Alberta, where she integrated leading-edge digital learning resources into K–12 curriculum.

Before joining H+K, Kristy spent a decade at Plan International Canada, one of the largest NGOs in the world, most recently as Chief Communications Officer, where she worked with a talented team to improve the lives of children and youth – particularly girls – around the world through advocacy, fundraising, and integrated communications.

She has traveled to more than 50 countries, including a year teaching English in South Korea. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in International Business, and Marketing from the University of Alberta, a French language certificate from Laval University, an MBA from Queen’s University and is currently completing a Master’s Certificate in Organization Development. ​ Most recently, she earned the badge for Black Executive Leadership Program at McKinsey Academy.


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Hilda Kinross

Chief Innovation Officer
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Adopting an ‘always in beta’ philosophy as H+K Canada’s Chief Innovation Officer, Hilda is responsible for adapting and deploying new proprietary innovation tools and approaches across the national network, providing strategic counsel on large national files and integrated new business opportunities.

She brings over 20 years of experience in planning and executing integrated communications and marketing programs in a wide variety of sectors including, Consumer technology, CPG, Entertainment, Fashion and Retail, Food and Beverage, Consumer Health and Leisure and Travel.

Before joining the firm, Hilda spent several years directing national public and media relations efforts in the technology marketplace, with a focus on consumer marketing. Her background includes event management and, in her prior years of practice, managing direct mail and employee communications campaigns. While living in South Africa, Hilda managed the external communications programs for a leading wireless company and headed up a global sponsorship project for an international telecommunications company.

Hilda holds a bachelor of arts and an honours degree in business from WITS University in South Africa. She also studied international relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.


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Jennifer Koster

Chief Client Officer
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In her many years with the firm, Jen has specialized in consumer marketing, leading complex 360-degree integrated campaigns for many global consumer brands.

Jen is a nationally respected public relations professional with expertise in communications strategies that deliver outstanding, measurable results. Jen brings insights and creative ideas to clients to drive consumer engagement and brand affinity.

​Jen’s passion is to manage high-performing teams that flawlessly execute complex programs. She has knowledge and experience in many sectors, including food and beverage (Coca-Cola, Ferrero Rocher, Loblaws, New York Fries); alcohol (Campari, Corby Distilleries, Labatt); consumer packaged goods (P&G); travel and tourism (InterContinental Hotels Group); automotive (Mazda) and fashion (Joe Fresh, Cotton Ginny Organics).

​Jen is also passionate about her consulting work in the not-for-profit sector. She has managed many clients and initiatives, including Plan International Canada, Because I am a Girl, Yardsale for the Cure, Sunnybrook Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, Heart & Stroke and Virgin Unite.


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Greg Yaroff

Chief Financial Officer
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Allison Dewhirst

Vice-President and Acting General Manager, Toronto
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Allison oversees the strategic development and execution of public relations programs. She has experience leading a mix of corporate, business-to-business and consumer accounts.

An avid professional writer, Allison uses her understanding of strategic communications to help clients identify the best ways to meet their business objectives and reach their key audiences. Her range of expertise encompasses media relations, thought leadership, analyst relations, product launches and corporate reputation management, in addition to brand message development and event management.

As a project manager, Allison is the day-to-day resource responsible for driving forward the work plan to ensure successful project execution, directing the H+K team and working closely with her clients to ensure deadlines are met. She’s known for being prepared for all scenarios, and for her quick problem solving when a change of course is warranted to keep a program on track.

During her tenure at H+K, Allison has worked with clients across a number of industries and sectors, from business-to-business technology, finance, health care, automotive, education, hospitality, tourism, consumer technology and corporate social responsibility.

Allison holds a bachelor of arts (honours) in political studies and development studies from Queen’s University. She is also an honours graduate of Humber College’s postgraduate certificate program in public relations.


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Isabelle Verreault

Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Québec
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Isabelle has been providing leadership oversight to H+K Canada’s teams in the Montreal and Quebec City offices since May 2016. She has more than 20 years’ experience in project management and communication, the last 13 of which have been in the fields of urban development, land use planning and public participation.​

With her exceptional ability to quickly grasp the dynamics of different environments, Isabelle plays a key role in major projects in the energy, mining, real estate and infrastructure sectors. She advises major public and private institutions in the development of information, communication and consultation strategies that will enable them to interact with the various stakeholders involved in their complex projects. With her comprehensive knowledge of various regulatory bodies, Isabelle helps steer project teams through municipal, provincial and federal approval processes and prepares them for public hearings.​

Prior to co-founding Acertys, Isabelle spent ten years in the banking sector, in marketing communications and call centre management, and as an agency account manager. In the early 2000s, she joined an organization that supports local cooperative initiatives in the Montreal area where she collaborated on numerous urban revitalization initiatives and helped develop and implement public participation processes for major real estate projects.

Isabelle has a Bachelor’s degree in political science and has completed graduate studies in management. Isabelle is very involved in her community and she is a board member of SOVERDI and Technoparc Montreal. She is also involved in the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), and she often gives talks and training workshops on the challenges associated with public participation and social acceptability.

 


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Michelle McLean

Senior Vice-President, Acting General Manager, Ottawa and National Sector Lead, Health + Wellness
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An experienced lawyer, public affairs and communications professional in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors, as National sector lead for Health + Wellness, Michelle provides strategic counsel and support to a wide array of communications and public affairs clients and takes a leading role in developing corporate communications, stakeholder engagement and government relations strategies and campaigns. ​

Michelle’s background includes a decade of public affairs and communications experience, including almost three years as vice-president of public affairs at the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). During her time there, Michelle managed several national, large-scale projects, including a multi-year public relations and government relations campaign for the MHCC’s homelessness project and the launch of the Mental Health Strategy for Canada, a campaign which was recognized by the leading medical journal The Lancet as having achieved remarkable success for a public mental health campaign. ​

Michelle has led and managed other national, large-scale campaigns, including a campaign for the funding of the Cancer Control Strategy for Canada. This national campaign, which relied on grassroots mobilization, traditional media relations and advocacy, resulted in a commitment by the federal government of $260 million over five years, a record at the time. Michelle has twice been named as a Top 100 Lobbyist in Ottawa. Some of Michelle’s past and current clients include CADTH, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Partners for Mental Health, TRIUMF, CSL Behring Canada, Hoffmann-La Roche, Pfizer, Abbott, Ovarian Cancer Canada, Ontario Hospital Association, Research Canada, Cochrane Canada, the Alliance for the Canadian Arthritis Program, and ALS Canada. ​

Michelle completed her undergraduate degree at Queen’s University and her law degree at the University of Western Ontario. She spent four years as a litigation associate at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, LLP.


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Stephen Smart

Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Western Canada (Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina)
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Stephen brings 20 years of communications and media experience to his role as the General Manager of Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Vancouver office and as a member of the agency’s Canadian leadership team. Focused on delivering strategic counsel to clients across a range of sectors, Stephen is a trusted resource for strategic media relations, public affairs, issues management, as well as stakeholder relations advice. He is also regularly engaged by both government and corporate leaders for crisis or issues management counsel across North America as well as executive level media training.​

Stephen stepped away from agency work for two years to serve as the Press Secretary to the Premier of British Columbia and then as Executive Director of Communications and Issues Management for British Columbia’s Official Opposition Caucus. ​

Before moving into communications consulting in 2014, Stephen spent 15 years as an award-winning journalist with several of Canada’s top news organizations including serving as the Legislative Bureau Chief for CBC News in British Columbia, as well as experience as a reporter, producer and talk show host for CKNW Radio, CTV, and Global BC. His journalism expertise and local BC market knowledge gives him a unique media relations insight as well as unparalleled contacts in major newsrooms across the province and the country.​

Stephen is also regularly engaged by media outlets to provide political commentary and analysis and volunteers as a senior advisor to a non-partisan society working to encourage more younger Canadian to seek political office.

 


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Meredith Burns

National Lead, Business Development + Marketing
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Meredith leads H+K Canada’s business development and marketing efforts. Her team is part of H+K’s global business development and marketing unit, working together across geographies and time-zones to ensure one cohesive offer.

Her role is focused on building reputation and supporting growth for H+K as we seek new client partners that align with our values and capabilities. Her goal is to create an inclusive culture of new business across the agency to ensure we’re always learning, growing, and bringing our best teams and thinking to the pitch.

She has an appreciation for the changing nature of public relations, and stays close to client work through her role as day-to-day lead on H+K’s work with Scotiabank.

Meredith brings agency experience in both advertising and public relations. Prior to joining H+K, Meredith was at a global advertising agency with a split new business and client service role.

Meredith holds a BAH in Political Science from Queen’s University, a graduate certificate in Marketing from Humber College, and recently completed the Rotman School of Management MBA Essentials course.


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Elliott Gauthier

Senior Vice-President and National Lead, Data + Analytics
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As Senior Vice President and national leader of Data + Analytics at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Elliott delivers deep insight into client audiences by combining powerful primary research methodologies (quantitative and qualitative) with the best social media and digital intelligence tools.

Elliott is an accomplished research methodologist with particular expertise in segmentation models. Elliott oversees hundreds of research  assignments each year at H+K, providing robust analysis, detailed presentation of findings and strategic insights and recommendations based on credible, reliable and innovative research methods.

Elliott has extensive experience working with boards of directors and executive leadership teams to uncover the meaning of research findings while providing counsel on how to position the research in support of their objectives.

Elliott has over 15 years’ experience in senior-level positions in the research industry.  Immediately prior to joining H+K, Elliott was co-founder and chief operations officer (COO) of an innovative and successful research consultancy based in Ottawa. In this capacity Elliott oversaw hundreds of research assignments a year, along with company operations, business development and client relations.

In addition to his work with H+K, Elliott is a professor of Research, in the Public Relations Program at Algonquin College. Elliott is a recently retired member of the Primary Army Reserves having served 20 years in the infantry. Elliott also coauthored a paper on audience estimation models and methods with Google in 2011.  In 2016 Elliott was awarded the Forty Under 40 award for innovation and entrepreneurship in his field as well as his contributions to his community.


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Jason MacDonald

Senior Vice-President and National Lead, Corporate Affairs + Advisory
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Jason is a bilingual communicator with over two decades of public and private sector corporate communications experience. His background includes developing effective strategic communications plans, media relations and executive profiling strategies, and media and spokesperson training programs to help organizations deliver a compelling message to the right audience.

A seasoned adviser, Jason draws on knowledge gained from his time working for Canada’s largest media organization in a range of senior roles, as well as from his tenure as director of communications and chief spokesperson for Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister. His approach to counseling clients is also informed by his private and public sector work in the not-for-profit, health care, education, manufacturing, and energy sectors, among others. Jason also has extensive experience in helping organizations and their leadership, including recent work in the charitable and not-for-profit sectors, effectively transition to new brand positionings in the marketplace.

He excels at working with clients to identify target audiences, develop tailored messaging that is relevant, engaging and persuasive, and then prepares them to deliver that message across a range of platforms and channels, including the media.


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Will Stewart

Senior Vice-President and National Lead, Public Affairs + Advocacy
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Will Stewart is a senior strategic advisor with over 20 years’ experience in public affairs who has driven project teams on complex files in a broad array of sectors for corporations, not-for-profits, start-ups and member driven associations.  Most recently, Will served in executive leadership roles with a variety of start-ups across Canada.

A regular speaker and strategist on public policy, Will has spent the majority of his career in and around politics both as Managing Principal of a public affairs firm and as Chief of Staff to the Ontario Minister of Energy as well as other portfolios. He has provided strategic planning, research and communications advice to many of the leading firms, associations, and companies in Canada where public policy, public opinion, and governments converge.  Will was named by the Hill Times as one of the Top 100 Lobbyists in the country for seven consecutive years. Will has spent hundreds of hours in front of TV camera, radio microphones, and featured in written publications as a strategist and commentator.

In addition to his career experience, Will has also served on the Board of Directors of a publicly traded company and volunteers his time to a series of organizations including Women’s Brain Health Initiative where he serves on the Board of Directors.  Will was also appointed by the Premier of Ontario as Chair of the Advertising Review Board of Ontario which ensures value for money in all public relations and marketing services contracted for Ontario government assignments.

In 2013, Will was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to Canadian Public Policy.


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Elma Foric

Creative Director, The Studio
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Elma is an award-winning conceptual and strategic thinker with a keen eye for design. She works in both the physical and digital space with a wide range of experience spanning energy, lifestyle and pharmaceutical. Beginning her career in the UK, Elma brings global experience to the agency world, creating multi-million-dollar campaigns for Canada’s largest retail, airline and beverage brands.

Combining big ideas and social strategy is her forte. Most recently she has done this for clients such as, YMCA, J&J and Westjet’s partnership with RBC. She’s not only proficient in design, but has a depth of experience in styling shoots, creating interactive customer experiences and directing video production. She also leads client workshops to uncover brand narratives and bring those concepts to life.

In a recent campaign for Pfizer’s oncology department, she developed an awareness campaign that turned an unknown disease into a social media campaign that was viewed by almost 1  million Canadians and was recognized as North American Campaign of the Year at the Sabre Awards.

Her background has allowed her to seamlessly blend elements of PR, design and advertising, while leading creative teams to combine big ideas and creative platforms for Canadian companies.

Her objective is to always push, keep it simple, and create something that makes a meaningful difference.


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Angie Lamanna

Senior Vice-President and National Sector Lead, Consumer Packaged Goods, Food + Drink, Retail + Leisure
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Angie is a nationally respected expert in the delivery of integrated communication strategies, bringing over 18 years of public relations experience to Hill+Knowlton Strategies. She has successfully built and led highly integrated teams to deliver breakthrough campaigns for a number of global brands in the CPG, Food & Drink, Retail & Leisure and Personal Health & Wellness sectors. These campaigns have positively impacted the bottom line, and helped clients increase their reach and relevance with their target consumers.

Angie has worked at several large national and international based public relations agencies across a number of global brands developing strategic communications initiatives for clients including Whirlpool, adidas, Starbucks, Dyson, Mars-Wrigley, Lyft, P&G and Tim Hortons, to name a few.

She has a honours degree in mass communications and French from York University and a post-graduate certificate in public relations from Humber College.


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Janice Foreman

Senior Vice-President and National Sector Lead, Technology
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A technology sector veteran, Janice runs H+K’s Canadian Technology communications sector. She has extensive experience running large, complex client assignments such as 3M, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Interac; targeting both consumer and business audiences through stakeholder communications, corporate visibility and thought leadership initiatives, message development, issues management, media strategy and training and campaign management.

Janice has held a number of positions within the H+K family, most recently as lead of the Toronto Corporate Communications team. Prior to joining H+K, Janice was a consultant at a boutique agency that specialized in corporate PR for blue-chip Canadian companies where she assisted in managing various product launches and communication programs for corporate mergers, employees, stakeholder and media relations programs for such clients as The Oshawa Group Limited, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Volvo Canada and Reebok Canada.

Janice started her career in journalism at the Toronto Sun as a general newsroom reporter.


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Matthew Gibson

Senior Vice-President and National Sector Lead, Energy + Industrials
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Matt has spent the past 15 years working as a trusted voice and leader within the provincial, federal, and North American energy sectors. He’s advised some of the continent’s largest energy companies and their customers on progressing needed infrastructure projects and corporate objectives, as well as the social and political license needed to make them all a reality.

Before moving to the private sector, Matt worked in government for Ontario’s then-Minister of Energy, the Honourable John Baird, as well as for former Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader, now Mayor of Toronto, John Tory. He was also Executive Assistant to several Government and Opposition House Leaders and has a keen interest in legislative and regulatory processes.

Matt is a well-recognized leader in politics and energy-related policy. He has spearheaded many legislative, regulatory, policy and planning initiatives and has led teams dealing with energy security, reliability and affordability across the country while working closely with host municipalities and Indigenous communities to support win-win outcomes.

Matt is also an enthusiastic supporter of H+K’s commitment to values and culture.  He is very active in his local community, having long been involved in various charitable organizations and causes.  He is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and is a former intern at Canada’s Embassy to the U.S.A in Washington D.C., specializing in transportation, border, and trade policy.  He has also received certification in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the University of Windsor.


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