Québec Versus English Canada Public Relations: How to Successfully Navigate Two Media Universes

June 20, 2022
Chloé Lebouc and Estefanía Lovera Marín

While core principles remain the same from coast to coast, the secret is in the title: Public Relations is about relationships – and in that, English Canada and Québec have a different approach. From the way we manage interpersonal relationships, to socio-economic trends, language, or spheres of influence, we simply view the world a little differently.

But before we dig deep into these differences, the first question businesses and communication experts should answer is why are they adapting their communication strategies for the Québec market? If you are ready to sell, or are already selling products and services in La Belle Province, the first reason is obvious: Québec is the second biggest market in the country, with record low unemployment rate and proven economic resilience. Knowing how to address Québec consumers is definitely good for business. A further reason is more creative, but just as good for finances. We see it every day: putting Québec and Ontario brains together around the table (or over Zoom) allows us to generate the most inventive and effective communication programs for our clients. Once you are ready to communicate in our province, how do you create successful and scalable communications programs?

By developing a Montreal office within its national agency, Kaiser & Partners (Kaiser & Associés in Québec) has mastered the art of cross-market public relations – and we’ve compiled our top five best practices to help!

  1. Get nerdy with statistics: major socio-economic trends differ

Statistics and surveys are at the heart of the news, and we very often notice disparities – even contrary trends – between Québec and other Canadian provinces. Sentiments around remote work, the gender pay gap or the labor shortage rate are all macro-trends that can, and have had, significant differences. Of course, a data point does not explain everything, and conversely, you have to understand the sociology of the market to be able to analyze a number – but it will be a good clue to understand your audience better.

  • Our advice: read statistical reports! Unemployment figures just released? Compare provincial results, look at demographic surveys and identify emerging patterns. If you are publishing your own surveys and Québec findings vary, use them to tailor information for local media.
  1. Media influences: Europe or the United States?

While media markets in English Canada often look to their southern neighbour to identify trends, monitor the stock market, or anticipate inflation, Québec is also looking towards Europe. Did you know that we find daily articles from Agence France Presse in Québec media? Québec is, in fact, at the crossroads of different spheres of influence and burgeoning trends from Europe, notably France, the United States and the rest of Canada.

  • Our advice: whether you want to feed media stories or inform stakeholders across markets, look both ways: follow press correspondents assigned to Europe and the United States, review major political news in the U.S. and Europe, determine the nature of the exchanges between continents (commercial exchanges? Cultural exchanges?) and the trajectory of their economic developments.
  1. Developing integrated cross-market strategies will take you further

Integrating Québec while building your national data strategy will enable you to establish statistic sample-sizes large enough to account for provincial breakdowns, integrate the angle that will resonate locally, prepare a bilingual social media strategy, establish key messages that resonate across markets, or simply anticipate any points of divergence that will require greater adaptation, and find the resources to address them.  All of this will lead to more refined and “glocal” (both national and local) public relations.

  • Our advice: Be nimble. Define your target markets early on and identify the communication points of divergence. Incorporate those into your timeline and create enough space to seek out the right cultural strategic adaptation and external resource, if necessary. 
  1. We don’t pitch journalists quite the same way

The “dance” between PR and reporters varies across French and English markets, especially in how information and are built. The nuances are almost imperceptible, so it is imperative to culturally adapt your approach, your pitch notes, the way you speak on the phone or follow up by email.

  • Our advice: surround yourself with a team of public relations experts who have a foot in both markets to enhance your results and build stronger relationships between your brands and the local media.
  1. “Francophonie” is a way of life

Speaking a language influences the particular way you see the world. If you can speak more than one language, it becomes clear that some cultural concepts are difficult to transcribe, while others are commonly shared. A common mistake is also to think that there is only one French. In reality, there are several, and together they form what is called “Francophonie”, a proud and treasured way of life. When it comes to communication, you have to feel your market, convince your audience, generate an emotional connection with your consumers in order to be successful. It is therefore crucial to “locally adapt” content to get your key messages in a compelling way.

  • Our advice: translations of pan-Canadian communication materials should always be carried out by a team from the target French-speaking market. Then, ask a PR professional to proofread content to ensure the consistency of key messages and make the final adjustments. Finally, adapt the way you build your client key message document (still conserving the same meaning): it might need to be structured differently for a French-speaking spokesperson, because mnemonics can vary.

While navigating from one market to another can be challenging, we believe it’s worth the effort. Differences will create and cultivate big ideas. Beyond the obvious measurable benefits noted above, there’s also something quite fascinating and empathetic about understanding how different groups behave. The greatest benefit that emanates from bilingual PR? Organizational intelligence.

Have a question? Interested in finding out more?