CG&A COMM 1999 – 2003

In January 2019, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS celebrated its 25th birthday. To commemorate the occasion Chris George reflects on the company’s development. This is the second installment of a five -part series that chronicles the growth of the company at the Turn of the Century.  

As the clock struck twelve to mark the beginning of the 21st Century, residents of our country’s Capital were also celebrating the birth of a new city. A total of 12 municipalities and 150 communities came together that evening to become the new City of Ottawa – spanning 2,760 square kilometres and boasting 800,000 citizens.

The momentous task of amalgamating the region was given to a board of seven individuals, led by one of Ottawa’s preeminent residents – Claude Bennett. The Ottawa Transition Board’s (OTB) 14-month mission was to establish a new council and city management team; design new delivery models for municipal services; re-organize the municipal 14,000-plus employees; and, present budgetary recommendations to save taxpayers over $80 million annually. 

Chris George was named communications counsel to the Chairman, and to the Board’s Members and its staff. CG&A COMMUNICATIONS’ network of consultants was given the task of managing the Board’s full array of public relations initiatives. For all of us involved in the OTB’s challenges that year, it was a distinct privilege to work with Claude Bennett and Board Members Camille Guilbault, Ed Mulkins, David Muir, Pierre Tessier, Al Bouwers and Kathy Greiner.

The years 1999 and 2000 will remain an unforgettable time for CG&A COMM and our OTB team! For CG&A COMMUNICATIONS’ core consultants, it was wonderful to work alongside Susan Wright and Gilles Verret. These two individuals are very talented at plying their trade and they were instrumental in implementing effective employee and issue-specific initiatives. There were other talents who were integral to the OTB Communications Team, whose efforts contributed greatly to the success of the public relations program. Stephanie Machel managed the office, Carl Martin oversaw media relations and Andrée Paige worked on community outreach initiatives. Thank you to all!

Onward from the Ottawa Transition Board  

The years following the OTB were very productive at CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. We were heavily involved with MADD Canada’s government advocacy and media relations efforts as that organization grew in stature and established itself at the forefront of the anti-impaired driving battles in our country.  

In 2000, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS became the public relations company of record for Hydro Ottawa and, then later, serviced its sister companies, Energy Ottawa and Telecom Ottawa. With Hydro Ottawa, we counseled its CEO and senior management team on communications issues, helped establish its corporate brand, and assisted with the implementation of both its internal and external communications programs.

The Hydro Ottawa contract provided the opportunity Andrée Paige to sign on as a lead consultant of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. In the wake of the OTB, there was no other event that had more of an impact on the firm’s lasting presence in Ottawa than Andrée joining our core team. Andrée’s conscientious and efficient management of projects was a real asset for both the clients and our company’s reputation. Her ‘left-brain’ insight and enthusiastic approach to her tasks made her someone you want in your corner.  It was a treat to have Andrée along on the CG&A COMMUNICATIONS journey!

Also during this time, Chris George was named Communications Advisor to the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) and its Copyright Consortium – a position that he holds to this day. The education ministers across the country forged a united front when faced with then senior Liberal Cabinet Minister Sheila Copps’ attempt to place a new licensing fee (essentially a head tax) for students to use Internet materials in the classroom. CG&A COMMUNICATIONS developed a communication strategy to combat this unfair and misdirected policy and, since 2001, the company has been executing a communications program to advocate for a balanced approach to copyright and the educational use of the Internet. Through a series of elections, a revolving door of ministers, and the stuttered step of the government’s copyright reform process, the CMEC Copyright Consortium finally realized success with the federal government tabling a comprehensive copyright Bill in June of 2008. That bill included an important education amendment. In the face of strong lobbies from Canadian copyright owners, publishers and collectives, our educational leaders in Canada were resolute in advancing their case for teachers’ and students’ fair access to Internet resources in the classroom. (This legislative journey took four years – and there is more to tell with the CMEC story in future posts.)

Years of Growth

CG&A COMMUNICATIONS expanded their roles within Hydro Ottawa, CMEC Copyright Consortium, and MADD Canada. The company’s braintrust grew not only in numbers but, more importantly, in its capabilities. The strength of the team lay in the skills and professionalism of the core consultants: wordsmith Andrée Paige, creative designer Raymond Leveille, webmaster Fraser Anderson, and translators Julie Baker and (subsequently) Johanne Ladner.

Similarly, through those years CG&A COMMUNICATIONS developed an excellent network of associates and partnering companies to help service its clients. We are proud to have had affiliations with Nik Nanos, Nathan Rudyk, Barry Solway and Vicki Griffiths.

President Chris George attributes the success of the company on continually building the consultancy’s network and its partners. With one foot planted in corporate and not-for-profit advocacy and another planted in government affairs at all levels, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS evolved into one of the leading independent public relations firms in the Nation’s Capital.

Having passed a number of satisfying milestones in Ottawa, the company’s founders decided to strike out on another course. In the summer of 2002, Chris and Lisa George pulled up stakes and moved their home and office across Ontario to Niagara. Leaving a core team of consultants to service Ottawa-based clients, the Georges looked to extend its company’s reach into the GTA and the Niagara Region.

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Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

The Flashback Friday Photo Gallery

In January 2019, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS celebrated its 25th birthday. Through the year, Chris and Lisa George will post photos from their activities in this “Flashback Friday Gallery.” Enjoy this trip down memory lane.

The Ottawa Transition Board’s 14-month mission was to establish a new council and city management team; design new delivery models for municipal services; re-organize the municipal 14,000-plus employees; and, present budgetary recommendations to save taxpayers over $80 million annually. 

Claude Bennett, seen here chairing a meeting of the Ottawa Transition Board (1999). Claude is one of Ottawa’s most distinguished community leaders. He served as Ottawa South MPP and was a minister in the governments of Premier Bill Davis. Claude also served as Chairman of the Royal Canadian Mint, Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation and the Ottawa International Airport – among many other federal, provincial and municipal responsibilities. 

Federal Minister John Manley officially hands over the airport terminal keys to the Ottawa Airport Authority in a public ceremony February 1, 1997. 

Airport President Paul Benoit (far right) helps to unveil the new Ottawa Airport logo. CG&A COMM managed all public relations for the transition to the Ottawa Airport Authority – including the development of the new logo (1996-97).  

Chris speaks with MADD Canada President Susan MacAskill and National Board Chair Tony Carvalho at a MADD Canada National Conference in mid 1990’s. 

Chris and Lisa with MADD Canada Executive Director Andrew Murie at a Ottawa press conference launching a study on youth impaired driving fatalities. 

Lisa and her mother, Daisy, organizing a MADD Canada mailing – late 1990’s. (All family members have been part of the CG&A COMM story at sometime in its history.) 

Chris & Lisa are all smiles having received their first cheque from the Ottawa Airport Authority (1997). No more watering down the soup! 

Lisa Hingley in her office (1994). 

Chris George (1994).

 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

CG&A COMM 1994 – 1998

In January 2019, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS celebrated its 25th birthday. To commemorate the occasion Chris George reflects on the company’s development. This is part one of a five-part series that chronicles the challenges of the company’s fledgling first five years. 

Twenty-five years ago, everyone was fascinated by O.J. Simpson driving on a L.A. freeway, Forrest Gump providing life’s secret in a box of chocolates, and watching the plot twists of two new television series, ER and Friends. In the year 1994 commercial sites began to appear on something called the World Wide Web, mass marketing campaigns began ‘spamming’ via e-mail, and the White House launched its first website. It was certainly a different world we lived and worked in.

The origins of Chris George and Associates – later to be coined CG&A COMMUNICATIONS – are found in entertaining, after-work discussions along Ottawa’s Elgin Street. That’s where Lisa Hingley and Chris George committed to starting a public relations consultancy that would build on their public relations experience acquired through years on Parliament Hill. In the summer of 1993, Lisa and Chris began taking steps to ‘hang out a shingle’ upon the completion of the Fall 1993 federal election. In December the new business was registered and, in January 1994, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS officially opened its doors.      

Inspired by the success of good friends Nathan Rudyk and Peter Vanderlee, and their business model at Mindshare Marketing Group, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS was designed to become a virtual corporation, built with a network of talented, freelance consultants. Within months of start-up, the company offered a full range of communications services. Much of 1994 and 1995 involved fostering work relationships with like-minded communications consultants.

In the beginning…

The firm’s first office space was a small room with two desks, a desktop computer, a futon, a filing cabinet, a line of bookshelves, and a blue shag rug. E-mail had just been introduced to the workplace, and our primary mode of communications was still the fax machine. CG&A COMMUNICATIONS’ main office expenses in those early days were fax paper (purchased by the roll), cross-city bike couriers and postage for our promotional mailings. Early drafts of work were penned. Our office in the first six months was anything but a beehive of activity. 

Gus Zygoumis, Ottawa businessman and owner of Dustmoon Maintenance, was CG&A COMMUNICATIONS’ first client. Gus’ generousity and encouragement through the first year is still greatly appreciated for it provided us with the income to get our legs underneath us. We wish to take this opportunity to thank Gus and Martha for their support and friendship!

Likewise, the early contracts from Mindshare Marketing Group provided much needed cash flow for the business. Working alongside Nathan Rudyk was both rewarding and an education. Nathan’s vision regarding business opportunities with the advent of the Internet helped set our firm’s core service offerings. Mindshare’s success, providing both traditional marketing and Internet-related services to private and public sector clients, was proof-positive that we were experiencing the dawning of a new era in public relations. In those earliest, most challenging times through 1994-95, we thank Nathan and Peter for all that they shared.  

Early contracts during those first years included communications services and office support at Queen’s Park and Ottawa City Hall. Though no longer gainfully employed within the political process, both Lisa and Chris were active in politics at all levels of government. We were involved in a number of political campaigns, including the highly successful and triumphant 1997 Ottawa Mayoralty race for Jim Watson. It was during this period that Lisa met and befriended Fraser Anderson – who was to become CG&A COMMUNICATIONS’ longtime webmaster and Internet consultant.

Our initial success…

In the mid-1990s, three specific contracts helped to mould the company into a full service public relations business. First, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS with its network of consultants won an extensive RFP process against more than 100 of the country’s PR firms. In 1995, the Ottawa International Airport was being privatized from Transport Canada and established as a community-run business. (Photo: Minister John Manley officially handing over the airport terminal key to the Ottawa Airport Authority.) On the strength of our team and our strategic approach to positioning the new airport entity, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS became the public relations firm of record to manage everything from the airport’s official opening and launch of its website, to its media and government relations efforts, as well as the promotion of terminal upgrades such as the new U.S. pre-clearance facility.

Second, the company secured government and public relations work from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada). In the beginning, MADD’s Executive Director Jim Wideman had the desire to establish a presence in Ottawa, and then Chairman of the Board Tony Carvalho took the necessary steps to develop MADD’s strategic plan for government and public policy. Chris was initially called upon to manage the public policy agenda – and, within a few years the firm assumed responsibilities for creating and producing much of MADD’s print products, supporting the National President’s tour, managing government relations, directing national media relations, event planning, and building and managing the national website. For fourteen years, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS played an integral part in the communications and public policy activities of this renown, Canadian charity.   

Third, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS became the government and public relations agent for Ottawa’s newly opened Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre – a 450-bed, long-term care facility for veterans and seniors with dementia. For almost four years, our firm supported senior executives and the Board in their challenges to attain proper government funding; positioned the Health Centre’s services within the National Capital Region’s evolving health care scene; and, promoted the new facility within the veterans’ community and the greater public. Our communications support included everything from facilitating tours and presentations for MPs and community leaders, to providing strategic counsel and wordsmith services for the on-going challenges faced by the Health Centre.

In five short years, 1994 – 1998, CG&A COMMUNICATIONS had grown in stature as a reliable and creative public relations company. With a core of five consultants, we were juggling three major accounts, a half-dozen more clients in Ottawa and Toronto, and a small network of associates. To our great satisfaction, we had survived the trials of being a start-up and were confidently fixed on our firm’s development and growth.   

 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

 

CG&A Communications Marks 25 Year Milestone

January 7, 2019 – Today marks 25 years since Chris George and business partner Lisa Hingley (now Lisa George) opened the doors of their government and public relations firm. Today, the couple operates CG&A Communications, providing counsel and support services for advocacy campaigns, stakeholder relations, issue management and government affairs initiatives.

The firm – www.cgacommunications.com – is a full service company, offering discreet, reliable counsel and communications services to support clients’ advocacy and public relations efforts, and their government affairs objectives. Through the years, some clients included the Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC), MADD Canada, and the Ottawa Transition Board (responsible for amalgamating the City of Ottawa). In the Niagara Region, it serviced West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, local Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the Niagara Parks Commission. In the Ottawa Region, it serviced Hydro Ottawa, Commissionaires, Ottawa International Airport, and the Perley Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre. 

“We’ve had great clients, rewarding work and a lot of fun along the way,” says company president Chris George. “We never imagined back in 1994 that this business would have resulted in a lasting career. Looking back we have to express our deep gratitude to a number of terrific clients, to our network of talented consultants, and to our supportive friends and family.”

Perhaps offering a hint of their enduring success, Chris says, “Our business approach and strong work ethic has carried us through. We’re proud of our efforts, happy with our working relationships and, to this day, enjoy sitting down at our desks in the morning.”

Lisa adds, “It’s our personalized service, our attention to detail, and sweating the small stuff that separates our business from others. We have always worked hard and smart to get the results required for our clients.”  

To mark the milestone for their supporters, Chris and Lisa George have published a few lists of interesting facts:

CG&A Communications is offering a give-away of the By George Treasury (both Book I and Book 2) to those who wish to share comments on the company and its work through the years. Forward your comments to cgacomm@gmail.com with the subject line “Reflecting on CG&A Comm’s 25 years” and receive the complimentary e-book publications.

Through the month of January, CG&A Communications will be posting articles in the By George Journal celebrating the 25 year anniversary. To read more, follow this link: CG&A Comm 25 Years.

CONTACT:

Chris George – (613) 983-0801 / chrisg.george@gmail.com

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

25 Facts You May Not Know About CG&A Communications

  1. Always a Virtual Corporation – Since inception CG&A Communications has been a virtual corporation – a network of writers, graphic designers, web developers, translators – all working from their own home offices. When the company launched 25 years ago this business model was an oddity that had to be explained… now it’s the norm.
  2. The Business Name – We started as Chris George and Associates and a year later changed the firm’s name to CG&A Communications. Our distinctive “box” logo was first unveiled in 1995. 
  3. First Office Space – The first CG&A office was a second bedroom in a two-bedroom Ottawa apartment overlooking the canal. It was a total of 120 square feet, featuring a blue shag rug. There was a single desk top computer, printer and fax machine, a wall of bookshelves, filing cabinet and a futon for seating.  
  4. No Email to Start – In the beginning the primary mode of office-to-office communications was the fax machine. Email had just been introduced — we were early adopters connecting our freelance subcontractors to collaborate via email.
  5. Office Expenses – Through the years the company’s office expenses have changed. In the beginning, the biggest expenses were cross-City bicycle couriers, thermal-rolled fax paper, and postage for mailouts. Today, the biggest expense is cell phones!
  6. First Client – Gus Zygoumis, owner of Dustmoon Maintenance, gave CG&A their first contract in early 1994 to help with communications and administrative support.
  7. 60-Plus Clients – CG&A has worked for more than 60 clients in 25 years — corporations, small businesses, individual interest, national associations and small volunteer-run organizations, public institutions, government agencies and political initiatives.
  8. North American Service Area – Many CG&A clients are located in Ottawa and Toronto. Through the 25 years, CG&A has served clients in places like Niagara Falls, Hagersville, Mississauga and Halifax — from New Liskeard in northern Ontario through to San Mateo, California.
  9. Lasting Loyalties – Within CG&A’s core group of consultants is the same graphic artist and the same web developer for over 20 years ago. These talented individuals are not only good at what they do, they are great people.   
  10. Landing the Ottawa Airport – CG&A really took off in 1997 when the company defeated more than 120 PR firms in a RFP process for the newly privatized Ottawa International Airport. CG&A served as the public relations agency of record through the formative years of the airport’s growth, helping with its formal opening ceremony, the opening of the first US Preclearance Facility, and supporting the airport authority’s business networking in the National Capital Region.  
  11. Long Work Hours – Chris and Lisa George and their network provide personalized service that, at times, goes around the clock to meet deadlines. Often, at 9 a.m., they have already put in half-a-day preparing for their clients’ offices to open. On many occasions through the 90’s, Chris and Lisa have fallen asleep beside their computers and printers as they worked through nights to meet imposing deadlines.
  12. Long Commutes – In the early days, when it was important to be physically present in clients’ offices, Chris would regularly drive from Ottawa to Toronto for a day of meetings and then get in the car to return, all within a 20-hour period.
  13. Licked Lots of Envelopes – In promoting clients and positioning their interests, Chris and Lisa have managed countless mailouts. They have stuffed well over 30,000 envelopes for one client alone over a course of 8 years. Today, they manage even more mailouts, however, it is much easier emailing to lists rather than stuffing envelops.
  14. Most demanding client: Ottawa Transition Board – Chris George served as the lead counsel to the Ottawa Transition Board and managed the communications office team through the pivotal year of transition activities for the 13 municipalities in the National Capital Region. Results of the 14-months of tireless efforts was the amalgamation on January 1, 2001 of the region’s councils and administrations into the new City of Ottawa.
  15. Most rewarding client: MADD Canada – For 14 years, CG&A worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada managing their national public relations and government affairs programs. This service was very rewarding – helping the families of victims of impaired driving, promoting the organization and its awareness efforts, and launching a multifaceted advocacy program to advance new laws in Ottawa and in numerous provinces.
  16. A Career Accomplishment with Council of Ministers of Education, Canada – For 17 years and counting, CG&A has been the communications company of record to support the activities of provincial and territorial education ministers within the CMEC Copyright Consortium. In 2012, after more than a decade of work, the copyright landscape for the Canadian education sector shifted positively with the passage of a new copyright law and a Supreme Court decision, both validating the ministers’ copyright policy position.
  17. Favourite Meeting Place: Parliament Hill – It is difficult to tire of making the trek to a Member of Parliament’s office for a meeting.  There is something very special about being in a Hill office – something, because of the Centre Block’s renovations, will not happen again for 10 years!  
  18. Political Involvement – Through his career, Chris George has managed electoral campaigns at every level of government – for mayoralty provincial and federal candidates. Lisa George is no stranger to politics either as she has worked on projects in the offices of every level of government. Fortunately, since walking away from their Parliament Hill offices in 1993, neither have ever had to depend on politics for a livelihood. 
  19. The By George Journal – Since 1994, the company has published a newsletter / journal that features quotes, jokes, and political and wordsmith articles. From Fall 2008, CG&A has been producing the By George Journal – and today it is supplemented with both daily Facebook and Twitter social media. This on-line Journal was preceded by an e-newsletter, By George, and, earlier, by a print newsletter called The Parliamentary Monitor.
  20. Published Works – The company has produced a dozen publications through the years. There are still six works in print available as e-books, including the most recent Epic Political Jokes and Quotes. There have been two popular By George Treasury publications that have compiled the best of the By George Journal. Current publications can be found on the Journal’s e-bookshelf.
  21. Two Cross-Province Moves – Over a glass of wine with good friends, Chris and Lisa made the decision in 2002 to pack up home and business and move across the province to the Niagara Region. Eleven years later, over a glass of wine with good friends, they made the decision to move back across the province to the Ottawa area. (They are pleased to note that GG&A lost no clients as a result of the moves.)
  22. Office Location – CG&A currently operates from an addition in Chris and Lisa’s century home in Almonte, Ontario – a small Ottawa Valley town that is 40 minutes from Parliament Hill. Point of interest: the house was built in 1875 for the first school master of Almonte High School, and rumour has it that the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, was tutored on the front porch.
  23. Healthy Living – Lisa George has always been interested in healthy living and a healthy diet. In 2015, she spent a year studying holistic nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and now has her Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) designation. 
  24. Volunteering – Chris George has been involved in numerous volunteer initiatives through the years, but the most memorable ones are the Niagara Child Advocacy Centre where he served as Board Chair, and the Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative, where he was a founding director.
  25. Love Persists – Chris and Lisa are proud to say that after 25 years of working together, living together, and raising kids together their love persists. The two planned their business in Fall 1993 and it was less than two years later that they married. It was another five years before the birth of their first son. (In many ways, one could say, CG&A Communications has been a labour of love.) 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.