As the end of the year rapidly approaches us, the H+K team has once again reflected and nominated the top newsmakers, campaigns and events to take Canada’s media landscape by storm in 2013. Scandal, resolve, triumph and tragedy all made headlines across Canada this year and there was no shortage of options to fill out our list.
Here’s our round-up of our country’s top unexpected media moments of 2013:
Calgary Floods Fallout
From the onset of the Calgary floods, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi was there for his citizens, touring and tweeting critical information, and quickly emerging as the city’s hero with his honest perspective and wry humour. A few days into the flood, Nenshi’s most memorable media moment came at a news conference. His words: “I can’t believe I actually have to say this but I’m going to say it. The river is closed. You cannot boat on the river. I have a large number of nouns that I can use to describe the people I saw in a canoe on the Bow River today. I am not allowed to use any of them. I can tell you, however, that I have been told that despite the state of local emergency, I’m not allowed to invoke the Darwin law.” His statement was vintage Nenshi, brutally frank on a serious situation, but doused in much needed humour with its reference to the Darwin awards. His approach to flood communications spawned the @ShitNenshihastosay parody Twitter account and a number of popular hashtags: #keepcalmandNenshion, #nap4Nenshi, #SuperNenshi, #dontbeaNenshinoun, #NenshiForPrimeMinister, amongst others.
Lisa Walker, General manager, Alberta
The Ottawa Senate Scandal
While the senate scandal created one of the most reported political stories of 2013, the story is far from over. For the media and the opposition, the senate scandal is the gift that keeps on giving. The 2013 political minefield involving Nigel Wright and the Senate scandal created a media frenzy that shows no sign of abating. Much has been written about Nigel Wright’s intent to ‘fix the Duffy problem’. We do know the ongoing political story has been an embarrassment to the Prime Minister and created a ground swell of public confusion over the rules and even the role of the senate in our parliamentary system. Wright, known to many in business and politics as a smart, disciplined and respected advisor, took actions that will remain under scrutiny until all the entrails are exhumed. The PM has been front and centre in the management of the government’s response. When voters go to the polls in 2015, the specific details about ‘what he knew when’ may be fuzzy. What they will remember is how the PM handled the controversy. It is too early to come to a judgment about how the story ends so stay tuned as we haven’t heard the end of this one!
Elizabeth Roscoe, National practice leader, public affairs
One of Canada’s favourite figures in social media channels for 2013 was the world’s tiniest superhero: five year-old cancer survivor Miles. The city of San Francisco and the Make-A-Wish Foundation truly made a young boy’s dream come true as he sped around the city, clad in his Batkid suit, in a police escorted Lamborghini…outfitted with a booster seat! The crowds grew after each stop, reaching into the thousands. The Twittersphere exploded, including a tweet from the White House and a video message from the President. And what was essentially a local event spread around the virtual globe, captivating the Internet and catapulting young Miles to rock star status. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proclaimed Nov. 15 to be “Batkid Day Forever”. Now that’s a day worth celebrating!
Hilda Kinross, National practice leader, marketing communications
BC Election Shocker
At the start of 2013, B.C. New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix was the province’s premier in waiting. His party led the polls by a commanding 20 points, the BC Liberal government was facing a major internal scandal and virtually every pundit was predicting an NDP victory in the election set for May. Meanwhile, Premier Christy Clark kept telling British Columbians what few were willing to believe: that campaigns matter. Clark was proven right in spectacular fashion on election night, with her BC Liberal Party not only winning government, but also picking up new seats in the process. Observers were stunned, media were caught flat footed and pollsters spent the following weeks determining what went wrong. As for Dix, he has since announced he will step down as leader, making way for an NDP leadership convention in 2014.
Joy Jennissen, General manager, British Columbia + Saskatchewan
The Aftermath of Lac-Mégantic
There are so many powerful images that come to mind from the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. As a crisis communicator the words and actions of the chairman of Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway stand out because of their stark contrast with any principle of appropriate corporate response. The chairman seemed to be acting quite alone without evidence of communications counsel either at the outset or at any time in the days that followed, most particularly during his belated appearance in the community days after the incident. The chairman accurately acknowledged that he is not a communicator but had no one else to stand in and, incomprehensibly, failed to offer a French speaking spokesperson in a community where French is the official language. The tragedy was a wakeup call for so many reasons, prime among them for organizations thinking about their own ability to manage urgent situations.
Jane Shapiro, National service leader, corporate and crisis communications
Revisiting the Physician-Assisted Suicide Debate
Dr. Donald Low, the Toronto microbiologist who rose to prominence during the SARS crisis, opened an old wound in the Canadian psyche when he recorded a video in support of physician-assisted suicide, prompted by his own tortuous death from an inoperable brain tumor. It sparked unprecedented comment from coast-to-coast and even made it onto the agenda for the Provincial Health Ministers’ meeting in October. Low earned the trust of hundreds of thousands of Canadians with his reassuring and forthright approach to managing the public’s perception of SARS via media conferences a decade ago. It seems we, as Canadians, haven’t forgotten the impact. How often does a posthumous plea for dignity make multiple ministers of health speak out about a subject that has lingered in the dark corners of provincial legislatures for decades? This conversation is certainly not over.
Leslie McGill, National practice leader, health