13th Annual Municipal Communications Conference

Toronto, ON

5 - 7

13th Annual Municipal Communications Conference – Register here!

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 three optional  intensive workshops. There is also an exhibition, reception and optional evening delegate dinner.

Thank you to our sponsors:



Courtyard Marriot Downtown
475 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON


Conference rate of $195 plus application taxes. Book your group rate for Summers Direct: Annual Municipal Communications Conference. Prices are guaranteed until October 8, 2018 within our room block. However, please note that the room block has sold out in the past, so don’t delay.

Day 1

Monday, Nov. 5, 2018 – Click here to register!

8:00- 8:45 a.m. 
Registration and continental breakfast

8:45 – 9:00 a.m.
Welcome and Opening Remarks from The Chair
Brian Lambie, Redbrick Communications &
Media Contact, Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO)

9:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Political communication in a crisis
Daorcey Le Bray, Senior Communication Strategist
Office of the Mayor, The City of Calgary

In the summer of June 2013, Calgary experienced a 100-year flood that displaced over 75,000 citizens, closed the city’s downtown core, and caused massive damage. At the time, it was the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history, and it challenged Calgarians and their municipal government in a way not seen before. Join Daorcey Senior Communication Strategist for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, as he takes us into the Emergency Operations Centre and on the front lines of the emergency to uncover the political communication lessons learned during an urban crisis.

10:00 – 10:15 a.m.

10:15 – 11:15 a.m.

Energizing tomorrow through high-stakes engagement
Tara Sprigg, General Manager of Corporate Communications and Customer Service,
City of Guelph
Luc Levasseur, Vice President, NATIONAL Public Relations

Mergers and acquisitions aren’t a municipal communicator’s typical neck of the woods. But as municipalities across Ontario look for new ways to manage their local electric utility companies, M&A is an area of strategic management municipal communicators are being called upon to enter.

Energizing Tomorrow—the communication and engagement program Guelph designed and implemented to support City Council in its decision about the future of Guelph Hydro—was the most extensive public process the City has ever undertaken. Hear the team’s successes and challenges, along with what one civil servant took away from wading into the world of high-stakes M&A.

11:15 – 12:15 a.m.

Public Trust in Crisis: 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer
Lisa Kimmel,
 President and CEO, Edelman Canada  

Fake news. Tweet wars. Journalism under fire. Today’s volatile information landscape is now a headline of its own and is raising challenging questions for business and for society. What makes the media and other information sources trustworthy—or not? What steps can CEOs and other communicators take to earn trust? The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, which is launched at Davos every year, explores the shifting expectations for the media, business leaders and institutions. Edelman Canada’s CEO Lisa Kimmel will provide an overview of the 2018 Trust Barometer findings and introduce new opportunities for building trust.

12:15 – 1:15 p.m.

1:15 – 2:15 p.m.
Using internal communications to support your corporate culture strategic plan
Wanda Bennett, Director, Corporate Communications
Town of Newmarket

Corporate Communications has a direct impact on Corporate Culture. Our internal communications strategy and tactics have greatly supported our strong corporate culture. Delegates can take away some tangible ideas to help them develop a strong internal/corporate culture strategic plan.

2:15 – 3:15 p.m.
Enhancing Citizen Engagement With Powerful Social Digital Communications
Shiva Kumar Shunmugam, Manager, Media and Communications,

The way local governments communicate with constituents has changed dramatically over the years. Before, all towns or cities needed to do was create a website and post upcoming events and information there for citizens; whereas now these same citizens demand to be communicated with on a more personal level, through targeted communications containing only the information that is relevant to them. This means websites are no longer sufficient when it comes to comprehensive citizen engagement.

Local governments are beginning to realize the need to better engage their citizens. We at Beaumont, Alberta have identified the need for serving the online appetite of our citizens for consuming news. We have invested in creating smart communication platforms that not only suit their needs but in doing so enhance citizen trust and transparency.

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.

3:30 – 4:15 p.m.
Great infographics make data dynamic
Melissa Steep, Social Media & Marketing Coordinator, City Manager’s Office
City of Hamilton

As communicators, we know that stories have great impact on an audience; we also know that monotone stats put an audience to sleep. How can we deliver our message in an engaging and memorable way? Easy – use infographics! They help to explain complex, technical or statistical information in an easy to understand visual representation. To make this information dynamic, we need to make the imagery into a story that resonates with the audience.

In this presentation attendees will learn:

  • a brief history of infographics
  • the five steps to telling a good story
  • three types of infographic executions

4:15 p.m.

4:15 – 6:15 p.m. 
Wine and Cheese Reception (cash bar)

6:30 p.m.  
Delegate dine-out (optional)

Day 2

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 –  Click here to register!

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Registration and continental breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Creating Compelling Video Content that Fits Your Plan and Budget
Brian Lambie, President
Redbrick Communications &
Media Contact, Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO)

Audiences are consuming content through videos more than ever before. But when is the right time to use video? Just like any other tool, you want to have a plan. This session will focus on understanding when to use video and how to create compelling stories – even when budgets and resources are limited. We’ll also look at how to leverage and promote content once you have it.

10:00 – 10:15 a.m.  

10:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Online Deliberation: Getting your community to learn and think before they have their say
Crispin Butteriss, Chief Practice Officer and Co-Founder
Bang the Table Canada

The best public engagement leaves the community with more knowledge about complex social issues, more empathy for their fellow citizens, stronger ties to their community, and more capacity to engage with their community in the future. And yet, despite advances in face-to-face community engagement methodologies over recent decades – which increasingly focus on deliberative group dialogue – we all too frequently see the online space being used as a rudimentary add-on. A well designed online experience can enhance face-to-face deliberative methodologies in a number of ways. Many more citizens can be invited into the process. Those citizens can take their time to reflect on, and respond to, the background materials provided. With care, participants can even be taken through an a-synchronous online dialogue; the outcomes from which are enhanced group learning, and more sustainable and implementable recommendations.

Attendees will learn:

  • What digital deliberation is
  • Why digital deliberation is necessary
  • How to create a deliberative digital space
    How to push into deliberative dialogue

11:15 – 12:15 p.m.
Building the case for infrastructure funding – getting the public on your side
Colleen Collins, Interim Director, Corporate Communications and Marketing
City of Kitchener 

Like many municipalities, Kitchener is faced with the challenge of balancing the cost of maintaining and replacing aging infrastructure with keeping rates affordable for residents. Getting the public on board with investing in pipes and sewers isn’t an easy task. We let council and the media get up close and personal with our water system in order to make the case for rate increases. Hear about the comprehensive communications strategy we developed that resulted in staff receiving support at budget time and even had citizens delivering our key messages for us.

12:15 – 1:15 p.m.   

1:15 – 2:15 p.m.
Navigating Privacy, Analytics and Digital Marketing for the Public Sector
Timothy M. Banks, nNovation LLP

Additional Speakers TBA

Governments are expected to communicate, engage and advertise on social media.  In some communities, it’s the only medium left. And it works. Analytics allow us to deliver targeted information to the many publics we serve. But social media platforms track data that governments can’t. An expert panel weighs in, discussing questions like: when we use these platforms, are we complying with the letter and spirit of privacy laws? Where are the boundaries? Where is it heading and how well are regulatory frameworks keeping up with social media realities?

2:15 – 3:15 p.m.
A Big Day for Transit: opening multiple projects on the same day
Sarah Harris, Corporate Communications Strategy Specialist
York Region Rapid Transit Corporation

On December 17, 2017, a bus rapid transit station opened in Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, right on top of one of the stations of a subway extension crossing the border between Toronto and York Region. After years of communicating both projects, it was all culminating in one big opening day, just months before provincial and municipal elections. YRRTC tells the story of the openings from the perspectives of a project funder and partner, and of a region bordering Toronto.

Delegates will hear how, even in a highly charged political environment, it’s possible to ensure all voices are heard and each project is celebrated. Plus, how organizations can scale up for situations like this by using the strengths of every member of the internal team: political communications, logistics and wayfinding, construction communications, ad campaigns, media scanning and more.

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.

3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Staff with style! – Using the corporate style guide
Melissa Westover, Communications Co-ordinator, Corporate Communications Office
The Regional Municipality of Durham

Most organizations follow a corporate style—such as Canadian Press Style—to create consistency in written materials. Yet most non-communications staff who are writing these materials, have never heard of a style guide. The Region of Durham’s Corporate Communications Office created a learning opportunity for all staff that pays off two-fold: arming staff with knowledge of Durham Region’s corporate style guide, as well as engaging contacts across the organization about communications best practices. The result: less editing, more empowered staff, and more consistent, professional written corporate materials across the organization.

4:30 p.m.


Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018 – Click here to register!

WORKSHOP A: Public Engagement Planning
8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Dr. Rebecca Sutherns

Participants will leave this highly practical workshop with a practical, co-created handbook of tools and examples that will equip them to design and support public engagement processes in their municipality.

The session will use published evidence, 20+ years of experience and a variety of interactive methods to address the following questions:

Why?              The benefits and risks of engaging the public in municipal decision-making

Who?              Practical tools for stakeholder identification

Where?           Where best to find the people you need

When?            When to invite people’s participation

How?              Combining online and in-person methods to attract and hold people’s attention

What?            What to ask them once you have their attention

Dr. Rebecca Sutherns is a Certified Professional Facilitator and the CEO of Sage Solutions in Guelph, Ontario – a consulting firm that specializes in facilitating strategic, collaborative decision-making. She is a high energy communicator and coach who has worked to strengthen the impact of public benefit organizations for more than 20 years. Rebecca holds a PhD in Sustainable Communities and teaches Community Engagement to planning students at the University of Guelph. See www.sage-solutions.orgfor more details.

WORKSHOP B: Measuring media relations efforts
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Jennifer (Jenny) Cruxton
Fifth Story

From executing to reporting on media relations efforts. Media Rating Points (MRP), the Standard in Earned Media analysis in Canada. Created by the Canadian Public Relations Society and managed by Fifth Story. In this session you will learn about content analysis and how to measure the out comes of a campaign, or ongoing media relations efforts. You will learn the standards in earned media measurement, best practices and how to benchmark against them.

 Jenny joined Fifth Story, in 2010, She has over 20 years experience in the media analysis, social and monitoring spaces. Jenny is a graduate of Durham College, Journalism; F.I.S University of Toronto, Information Professional as an Educator; and earned a certificate in Competitive Intelligence, Market Analysis & Benchmarking, Schulich School of Business.

BONUS! Full-day session
WORKSHOP C: Media training for municipal communicators
Brian Lambie, President
Redbrick Communications

Municipal communicators won’t find more municipally focused media training. For two decades, Brian Lambie has been training everyone from front line employees to mayors and ministers. He trains elected officials on behalf of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), and he trains senior municipal staff on behalf of the Association of Municipal Clerks, Managers and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO). This session will help you:

  • Make the most of positive stories
  • Manage issues better
  • Develop the good messages under pressure
  • Prepare yourself, and others, to be great spokespeople
  • Improve internal processes and protocols, and
  • Deliver interviews that get your story out.

Practical information combined with mock interviews, on and off camera, will drive home transferable skills. This session will change the way you approach everything form challenging conversations to social media posts and presentations.

Brian has extensive communications experience gained during his career as a private sector consultant, a political assistant and a public servant. He founded Redbrick Communications in 2002 with a mission to empower people and organizations to tell their own story, no matter how great the challenge. Brian leads Redbrick’s extensive municipal communications practice and he has served as the primary communications strategist for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) for more than a decade.

He is a sought-after media trainer and conference speaker. In addition to developing and delivering training programs for organizations such as AMO and the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO), Brian has chaired the Summers Direct Municipal Communications Conference since 2006. He regularly provides training for a variety of public and private sector organizations and is the trainer of record for a number of provincial ministries. 
Brian earned his M.A. in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

Early bird (Until Sept. 7) Regular
(Sept. 8 & later)
Best Value! Conference +2 Workshops (Nov.5, 6 & 7, 2018)   $1399 $1649
Conference + 1 Workshop (Nov. 5, 6  & hald day on the 7th, 2018)   $1,299 $1399
Conference – Both Days (Nov. 5 &6, 2018)    $999 $1099
Conference – One Day Only (Nov. 5 or Nov. 6)   $499 $599
One Workshop only (Nov. 7, 2018)   $349  $399
Bonus Workshop – Full day (Nov. 7, 2018)   $999 $1099


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!