16th Annual Municipal Communications Conference


22 - 24

16th Annual Municipal Communications Conference

For over a decade, SummersDirect Conference & Events have been bringing together municipal communications professionals from across Canada. The agenda consists of two days of sessions where award-winning experts share case studies from municipalities across the country with a third day of two optional  intensive workshops. There is also an exhibition, reception and optional evening delegate dinner.


Click here to register.



Thank you to our sponsor!

Day 1

Online only. Register here

Monday, Nov. 22, 2021

All times in Eastern.

9:00- 9:30 a.m. 
Welcome and networking

9:30 – 9:40 a.m.
Welcome and Opening Remarks from The Chair
Brian Lambie, Redbrick Communications &
Media Contact, Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO)

9:40 – 10:20 a.m.

The Organizational Strategic Plan as Your Most Valuable Communications Asset
Julia Harvie Shemko, Founder/CEO, Red Thread Connections     

Municipalities spend a lot of time developing their strategic plan and/or community plan. Often there is public consultation, internal conversations, Council workshops and many hours of time developing the right strategic plan. Unfortunately, in many organizations, the plan is developed and then sits on a shelf until after the next election. In many cases, communicators rarely look at the contents after it is communicated.

There are many reasons why a communicator should be intimately connected to the organizational strategic plan. This session will review how the strategic plan can help you gain influence in the organization, drive towards the outcomes that matter to the organization and how to wrap this all up in your strategic communications planning and issues management as well as in the advice you provide to leadership and Council. Attend this session and delegates will:

  • Understand how the strategic plan can help you gain more influence.
  • Define how to use the strategic plan in your issues management, communications planning and advice to leadership.
  • Learn how to drive business outcomes through communications strategy.

10:20 – 10:40 a.m.


10:40 – 11:30 a.m.

A Facebook Faux Pas

Tara Shand, Corporate Communications Manager, The City of Red Deer
Julia Harvie Shemko, Founder/CEO, Red Thread Connections

Sometimes we learn more from our failures than our successes as was the case when one of our team members accidentally posted a passionate personal comment about the LGBTQ+ community on The City’s Facebook page instead of her own. We acted fast, owned the mistake and put ourselves in the press on our own terms resulting in media coverage that was 90 per cent consistent with our stated key messages, triggering online community support and minimal community backlash.

In this session, learn how we quickly managed this issue and processes we changed as a result. Attendees will:

  • Understand how to manage mishaps, mistakes and muck ups in an online world
  • Get comfortable with “I’m Sorry”
  • Learn how to build trust, even when we mess up.

11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.

#StandApartTogether: How Newmarket is helping its local business community navigate COVID-19
Amber Chard, Senior Communications Officer, Town of Newmarket
Elizabeth Hawkins, Business Development Specialist, Town of Newmarket

When COVID-19 hit in 2020 and completely changed the world as we know it, the Town of Newmarket like all their neighbours throughout Ontario, Canada and around the world jumped into action. In the early days, while balancing the needs of the community as a whole, Newmarket also recognized the strong need to help the business community weather this storm. Newmarket Council and staff came together to create an Economic Resiliency Plan that included many layers of support for local businesses and a variety of communications tools and tactics with various audiences.
In this session learn details of these three positive outcomes and the role communications played in the success:
1) Business Assistance Concierge (BAC) – A virtual business support centre created to help guide local businesses on their journey back to business during and after COVID-19.
2) Choose Local campaign – An extensive campaign encouraging the community to ‘Choose Local’.
3) ‘Better Together’ – This was truly a collaborative effort, working closely with the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, BIA, local businesses and the community to get many of these initiatives off the ground.

12:20  – 1:00 p.m.

1:00 – 1:40 p.m.

Annual Report: Re-thinking Communications in an Era of Virtual Consumption
Laura Black, Project Manager, Communications, York Region Rapid Transit Corporation
Leslie Pawlowski, Senior Communications Specialist, York Region Rapid Transit Corporation

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world we knew both personally and professionally – from how we shopped for groceries with masks on and other public health protocols followed to interacting with colleagues virtually (who had ever heard of zoom?) and signing documents, etc. This change to all things “virtual” inspired their team to reevaluate our communication platforms, leading them to shift to an immersive and interactive platform for York Region Rapid Transit Corporation’s 2020 Annual Report (will be publicly available in July 2021). Using an online, interactive platform, they incorporated a video message from the Chair of the Board, pop-up images and interactive maps, GIF animations to support infographics and videos to add visual interest. 2020 was a monumental year for YRRTC and they wanted to incorporate as many visual products as possible to tell the story. In this session, they will share this new platform and inspire municipal communicators to rethink ways in which information is shared in our new, more virtual world.

1:40 – 2:30 p.m.

A first of its kind personalized citizen-first website and portal
Nicole Amaral, Manager, Digital Media and Creative Services, City of Kitchener
Helena Foulds, Manager of Service Coordination & Improvement, Community Services 

The City of Kitchener will share its journey on launching MyKitchener – a transformed website and new personalized customer-first portal. Learn about where the idea came from, customer consultation, development and completion, all which mostly occurred during a global pandemic!

2:30 – 3:00 p.m.

3:00 – 3:40 p.m.

How to get everyone on the rocket – how internal stakeholder engagement can make or break your corporate project launch

Heather Escaravage, Visual Communications Supervisor, City of Coquitlam

While building or refreshing a corporate website is not a new concept, focusing on the internal stakeholder aspect is something that is not often talked about in depth. From RFP to launch date, the City of Coquitlam structured our 2020 website update with a dedicated Project Team Lead to focus on internal and external stakeholder engagement throughout the process. This session will focus on the process of how we engaged stakeholders, what we did for them and with them and why our post-launch internal stakeholder survey got such high marks in the areas of communication and engagement, during a pandemic no less!

It’s not your typical cookie cutter approach to a major project such as a website design and we look at how all the different areas of a municipality utilize a corporate website and why internal stakeholder engagement is just as important as external when undertaking a project like these.

Conference Concludes for Day

Day 2

Online only. Register here

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 

All times in Eastern.

9:00 – 9:30 a.m.
Networking Session

9:30 – 10:10 a.m.

Who are These People and Why are They Yelling at Me?
Dave Hardy, President, Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited

Many public officials will at some time need to present to an emotional public. Based on his book “Who are These People and Why are They Yelling at Me? The art and science of managing large angry public meetings” participants will learn: how to set ground rules; how to tone down the emotion; how to turn emotion into dialogue.

10:10 – 11:00 a.m.  

BC Flood Crisis Communications
Cynthia Lockrey, Change maker, communications expert
As BC experienced its worst flooding event in history, communicators across the province rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Hear about how pre-planning played an important role in responding to a local flooding emergency and how COVID communications best practices were implemented. The result – clear and coordinated communications to a variety of audiences.

11:00 – 11:40 a.m. Networking Break

11:40 – 12:20 p.m.

Core strength: Communicating urban revitalization in London’s downtown
Andrew Sercombe, Manager, Public Engagement, City of London

Like many other downtowns across Canada, London’s core is responding to challenges such as construction, cleanliness, and homelessness prevention in addition to a variety of impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This presentation outlines the City of London’s collaborative and enterprise-wide approach to communications about its downtown. It shares how the City’s communications division has become an integral part of project teams, what issues and opportunities have been identified, and why adding communications support to different groups has contributed to their success.

Participants will:

  • Explore a scalable approach to enacting positive change in their downtown or business district.
  • Learn about the flexible and adaptive communications plans that have been developed to connect different teams, promote service changes, and respond to requests and challenges more effectively.

12:20 – 12:50 p.m.   

12:50 – 1:30 p.m.

Breaking Through the Noise
Kevin Parent, Program and Project Management Officer, Ottawa Public Health

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) utilizes an audience-first approach to social media. They read the replies and comments, they follow local media and influencers and are constantly using this information to gauge narratives surrounding the topics they discuss. This strategy led to compliments on their campaign efforts that went viral from Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and his agreement to  participate in a OPH video (that also went viral with over 400,000 views and international recognition!) This helped them meet our followers “where they are”, so to speak.

OPH’s Twitter account is the most-followed local public health account in North America, a title they’ve proudly had since before the pandemic. Their approach is data and evidence-driven and has been constantly evolving for years. Their social media team employs evidence-based best practice from communications theories, sociological theories, crisis communications practices, behavioural economics and more.

Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, they needed to adapt and pivot numerous times, with many lessons learned along the way.


  • Begin to take a more audience-centric approach to social media
  • Learn strategies to allow your accounts to be more nimble and efficient
  • Follow evidence-based strategies focusing on engagement

1:30 – 2:10 p.m.

How to Build Trustworthiness
Ginny Jones FCPRS APR,  President, Acuity Options

In this fast-paced interactive session, you’ll get a roadmap to the tools of building trust as a skill set for yourself (personal reputation) and for your employer and their organizational reputation.  By taking an intentional approach to enhancing trustworthiness, you’ll discover how values and behaviours and systemic factors work together to form your current state versus the desired state. Experience for yourself the differences between espoused and enacted values and their sometimes fragile role in trust-building. Discover how to rebuild credibility and trust once it’s been damaged. Brief discussion on how to hold a mirror up to leadership on the issue of trust.

2:10 – 2:30 p.m.

2:30 – 3:10 p.m.

You don’t know Jack
Tanya Thompson, Communications Manager, Town of Georgina

Katelyn Moore, Multimedia Specialist, Town of Georgina

During COVID, the public was subjected to an avalanche of information from all three levels of government simultaneously. There was and continues to be mixed messaging from various ‘authorities.’ Georgina is a community of approximately 50 thousand people who are highly engaged online. To ensure the Town’s messages were being heard, and not lost with the ‘noise,’ they wanted to create something (or someone) that would be different. This was particularly difficult with a small communications team juggling multiple priorities – and a limited budget.

They used  a website that features an array of animation contractors, who worked with them to help bring their character ‘Jack’ to life. This turned into an animation series featuring local resident ‘Jack’ – an everyday, likable character that helped the public navigate the many covid changes as it related to Town programs and services. Jack went to the beach, visited facilities and reminded everyone to be kind to one another. The series was well received on social – receiving a total of 26 thousand views and a gold MARCOM award. In this session, hear what website they used, the process and strategy for the development of the campaign, results and next steps. Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcjFxih5dZrc to check out Jack!

3:10 p.m.


Online only. Register here

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021 

All times in Eastern.

9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
WORKSHOP A: How to Conduct a Communications Audit
Cynthia Lockrey, Change maker, communications expert

A communications audit is used to take the pulse of an organization’s formal and informal communications processes, while measuring their effectiveness and identifying gaps. In this workshop we will look at the steps to prepare for an audit, the various audit tools available and how to create an audit report that will be read. You will leave this interactive workshop feeling better prepared and more confident so you can figure out what is working, what’s not working and where you can make meaningful improvements to communications processes in your organization. 

Presenter Details: Cynthia Lockrey

I shift people, teams, organizations and cultures to go from overwhelmed to clear and activated. I do this through my writing, speaking, training and coaching. Having worked as a communications manager for 3 local governments, in 2 provinces, I understand the unique challenges and opportunities for municipalities. Drawing upon my 20+ years of working in public relations, I’m able to break down communications skills and techniques into bite size and easy to understand pieces.

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
WORKSHOP B: COVID Fatigue: Hitting the Workplace Reset Button
Ginny Jones FCPRS APR,  President, Acuity Options

Using dynamic change communications practices, practitioners have a golden opportunity now to reset and improve their workplaces, post-COVID. Discover the steps to leading a cultural revolution that captures the minds and hearts of employees. Participants will learn how to envision and capture the Signs of Success, apply a values lens to identify and close gaps and discover which cultural artefacts are needed to strengthen that shared vision. Time will be dedicated to discuss how to pitch and engage senior leaders to support this work.

Presenter Details: Ginny Jones

Ginny is the President of Acuity Options, an award-winning relationship management agency that helps leaders focus on business transformation (healthy, two-way cultures) through strategic planning, strategic communications and fair change management practices. Ginny has over 30 years of experience in PR, marketing and corporate culture change management – first at Rogers Communications Inc. and then as founder of Acuity Options in 1997. Ginny has taught PR to post-graduate students at both Sheridan College and Niagara College and she is a Fellow of the CPRS College of Fellows.



Register here

Day 1 Agenda.

Day 2 Agenda.

Early bird (Until Oct. 11, 2021)* Regular
(Oct. 12, 2021 & later)*
Best Value! Conference +2 Workshops (Nov.22, 23 & 24, 2021)   $1015 $1200
Conference + 1 Workshop (Nov. 22, 23  & half day on the 24th, 2021)   $975 $1050
Conference – Both Days (Nov. 22 & 23, 2021)    $750 $825
Conference – One Day Only (Nov. 22 or Nov. 23, 2021)   $375 $450
One Workshop only (Nov. 24, 2021)   $265  $300
*Prices do not include taxes

Cancellation & Refund Policy

Substitution of delegates is permissible without prior notification. Refunds will be given for cancellations received in writing no later than 10 days prior to the conference date subject to an administration fee of $200 plus $26 for HST. After this time, you are liable for the full registration fee even if you do not attend the conference. If you register during this 10 day period, you are also liable for the full fee. SummersDirect Inc. reserves the right to change program date, meeting place or content without further notice and assumes no liability for these changes.

SummersDirect is a conference planning company that sets itself apart from the rest with a focus on customer service and value. We are fresh and we’re creative. We have the expertise and knowhow but most importantly,we offer you a quality product for a cost that fits within your budget.

We listen to you. You want quality speakers. You want tools and techniques that you can take away and use. You want case studies that you can relate to and learn from. You want engaging speakers and topics to motivate you! You want value. And that’s what we give you!

You are important to us. We don’t want you as a one-time delegate. We want to build a relationship. We want you to come back again next year. Let us know what you think. We want to hear from you. Contact us today!