Homegrown Business: Toronto P.R. Agency Strategic Objectives

This series profiles some of the breakthrough businesses making their mark in Toronto. Our latest Toronto business profile focuses in on two sisters, Deborah Weinstein and Judy Lewis whose Public Relations agency, Strategic Objectives was recently ranked #1 in the world by Clutch.com, the PR industry’s independent rating and reviews service, based in Washington, D.C. — ahead of 11,964 other firms.

The sisters co-founded their Toronto-based business more than 30 years ago and the firm is recognized as one of Canada’s leading independent public relations and communications agencies. Working with many of Canada’s and world’s leading brands and organizations and receiving hundreds of global and national accolades, their agency team helps businesses and brands meet their marketing communications goals every day, backed by a winning spirit and a strong company culture that never quits.

Judy Lewis (L) and Deborah Weinstein, partners in Strategic Objectives
Judy Lewis (L) and Deborah Weinstein, partners in Strategic Objectives

What is your business called and what does it do?

Judy Lewis: Strategic Objectives is headquartered in Toronto with associates across the country. We are Canada’s most award-winning Public Relations and Integrated Marketing Communications Agency, with a long and successful track record for building and protecting brands. We named our agency Strategic Objectives, because we start by identifying strategic objectives for every business challenge, and then develop effective, creative solutions.

We like to say “you can’t go through a day in the life of Canada without encountering one of the many brands we represent,” from cars, cosmetics, and cereal, to bathroom tissue and barbecues — our job is to elevate and distinguish our clients’ offerings in Canada’s cluttered consumer marketplace, and drive sales. We create consumer-focussed digital, social and traditional media relations campaigns, as well as major virtual and in-person events, activations and more.

What made you want to do this work?

Deborah Weinstein: Judy and I both started out as journalists producing radio, and TV news and current affairs programming for CBC, Global, and CTV Networks. Our last stop working together on the media train was producing a weekly, network TV show called “Thrill of a Lifetime,” in the 80s. North America’s first reality TV show, it invited Canadians to, “Tell us your dreams, we’ll make them happen,” and we spent two thrilling years flying across North America making ordinary Canadians’ dreams come true, all broadcast on national TV.

Producing our low budget, made-in-Canada TV show required plenty of brand collaboration, but product placement was not really a “thing” in those days. Our work, beyond creative, involved everything from lining up free hotels and transportation, to unique experiences like flying the Goodyear blimp, skating with Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, or hanging with Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.

Our work led us to understand brands were looking for innovative ways to engage with the public, and inspired our entrepreneurial spirit. We created Strategic Objectives to help brands find new and engaging ways to tell their stories and connect with their target consumers in meaningful, news-making ways.

What problem does this solve?

Judy Lewis: Canadians are savvy, smart, info-questing consumers looking for good reasons to make purchasing decisions. Public relations allows brands to tap the awesome power of honest, earned third-party reviews and endorsements from credible resources including the media, key opinion leaders, and social influencers, to build reputation and advance their position in the marketplace. We advocate for brands to show purpose and give back to their communities; and create powerful programs supporting social good — such as helping stop violence against women, advancing diversity and inclusion, fighting poverty and food scarcity, protecting the environment, and SO much more.

Who are your clientele/demographics?

Deborah Weinstein: We primarily partner with brave, bold brands that are eager to innovate and grow share in Canada’s highly competitive, and cluttered consumer landscape.

Our typical client might be the CEO or Chief Marketing Officer, VP or Director Marketing, or a Brand Manager charged with launching new products, concepts or services; building share in the marketplace; dealing with an issue or crisis; or building a corporate social responsibility program to create change and effect social good.

The 18th annual Cashmere Collection Masquerade Ball 2020, produced by Strategic Objectives
The 18th annual Cashmere Collection Masquerade Ball 2020, produced by Strategic Objectives

How does your business make money? How does it work?

Judy Lewis: We are a keen, lean, bilingual team of 30 plus PR professionals dedicated to making good news for our clients. We partner with brands to tell their compelling stories, and build consumer awareness, acceptance, affinity, and advocacy for their products or services.

From original news-making to corporate announcements and crisis communications, we form an extension of our clients’ team to help them meet their business and communications objectives. Numerous of our clients have been with us for many years, and it is a joy to partner together and to see them grow, thrive, and prosper.

Where in Toronto can we find your profession?

Deborah Weinstein: We have gorgeous, spacious empty offices, thanks pandemic, on Front Street East in downtown Toronto. But we’ve been working remotely from home since last March to stay safe and practice social distancing.

These days you can find us conducting virtual business with our teammates and clients across Canada and the world, over Zoom, Skype or Teams, phone, email, and our social media channels — whatever it takes to share info and get the good news out.

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

Judy Lewis: I hope they’d ask us about our proven-successful track record, how we deliver and measure results, and proof of how our work has contributed to the advancement of our clients’ success. Also, what makes us different from other agencies, and why we’d be the perfect partner to support them.

All of these questions are connected. As an agency, we are driven by purpose, to be recognized as Canada’s Best PR and Marketing Communications Agency, which permeates every aspect of our corporate culture. Our track record speaks for itself, more than 250 awards, evaluated by our industry peers; named IABC Best Mid-Size PR Agency in the World; named IABC/Toronto Agency of the Year eight times; ranked Top PR Agency in the World 2020 by Clutch.com; plus we are the only Canadian agency ever to win the coveted United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations. We are honest, ethical, and trustworthy, and committed to making positive difference.

We value our long-standing relationships with clients — some of whom have been with us for more than 15 years — and attracting new clients that share our same culture and values.

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

Deborah Weinstein: The best part of what we do is collaborating with our team to achieve great success for our clients. We are motivated by working on exciting new projects, and developing BIG ideas to achieve client goals. The PR landscape has changed dramatically since we began in 1983. The advent of digital marketing profoundly impacted our industry, creating limitless opportunities to reach new audiences and make good news for our clients.

We’re always sad when, for whatever reason, our Talent decide to move on. Agencies tend to have talent turnover, as creativity is such an important part of our business. We are always inspired to welcome new talent to contribute to our mighty team. Our business flows in a constant cycle of renewal. We know and accept this. Change provides the opportunity to build relationships with new teammates and clients who are looking for excellence and top PR performance.

What is your favourite joke about your own profession?

Deborah Weinstein: This really isn’t a joke, it’s a truism when it comes to crisis/issues management:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, PLUS a social media overreaction.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?

Judy Lewis: One of our absolute favourite local restaurants is The Monkey Bar. Now in its 24th year of business, it’s an institution in North Toronto. The head chef, Richard Fox-Revett, formerly of the Windsor Arms, Four Seasons NYC and Centro, uses local ingredients, and the business is truly a family affair (like Strategic Objectives!), with his wife, daughter and son also supporting at the restaurant.

During COVID restrictions, they have successfully pivoted their business to take-out, offering a delicious selection of their most popular menu items to loyal and new customers. Please check them out, you won’t be disappointed!