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Experience

Our team of high performing communications professionals helps organizations, large and small, successfully create and maintain a positive reputation for their products, people and services.

The case studies below demonstrate that Merkato consistently delivers great results. Most importantly, each of the case studies below was led by a current Merkato professional, either in recent months or in recent years at Trillium. That means Merkato’s proven experts are ready to deliver results for you, too.

Read on to discover the depth and breadth of experience that Merkato offers. From setting Guinness World Records to repositioning companies to generating huge multi-media coverage, we inspire and inform consumers and stakeholders alike.

Ophea

Generating positive editorial in support of a progressive education curriculum

Ophea approached Merkato to help them gain media support. Although a fully updated Health and Physical Education curriculum had been developed for elementary and secondary schools across Ontario, the new curriculum had been put on ice due to political pressure.

Meanwhile, Ontario students were stuck with a decade-old program that didn’t properly address issues like bullying, internet safety, obesity, gender identity and sexual health. Ophea wanted to ensure this issue remained top of mind for the government.

Merkato’s strategy recognized that minority governments are extremely sensitive to editorial coverage and that editors are acutely attuned to the social issues of the day. The issue of bullying had become an almost daily media story and mainstream media were searching for solutions. Editors recognized the need for social change and Ophea recognized a potential solution.

The team at Merkato worked with specialists from Ophea to develop a powerful, media-savvy presentation arguing for an updated curriculum. Together Ophea and Merkato approached the province’s biggest newspapers to make their case.

In the end, Merkato secured meetings with the editorial boards of major papers across the province, including the Ottawa Citizen, the Hamilton Spectator and the London Free Press. All three papers published editorials advocating Ophea’s cause and supporting implementation of the updated curriculum. Merkato and Ophea also secured a positive feature story in the Toronto Star.

“Revive in Five” from the Canadian Health Food Association

A five week program of natural health products, organics and exercise

As part of a long-term strategy to position the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) as the go-to source of consumer-friendly information about the natural health industry, Merkato was asked to develop a multi channel creative campaign to showcase a holistic approach to health. Working collaboratively with CHFA and its various partner agencies, Merkato came up with the “Revive in Five” concept, a five-week challenge for healthier living incorporating tips for natural health products, organic foods and fitness. Each week of the “Revive in Five” focused on a different body system, creating a vibrant, healthy body from the inside, out.

With a winning concept in hand, Merkato set about ensuring all of recommendations were factual and based on the latest science. Our in-house nutrition expert Blair Cameron collaborated with Registered Dietitian and Olympic strength and conditioning coach Nanci Guest to develop tips for effective natural health products and organic foods for each week. To accompany these nutrition recommendations, Merkato worked with Olympic athlete and World Champion Skier Kristi Richards to develop complementary fitness tips. To bring the “Revive in Five” alive, our gifted creative partner Steve Hagey with Igniter developed simple, yet engaging infographics to visually communicate each week’s recommendations in a single view. With strong content in hand, Merkato pitched and secured TV media appearances across Ontario and Western Canada, featuring our well-trained and highly credible spokespeople.

The “Revive in Five” was a great success with a large number of impressions in online, TV and print media. The story appeared on Ontario TV outlets including: CTV Noon News Kitchener, CH Morning Live Hamilton, CTV Morning Live Ottawa and Rogers Daytime Ottawa. In Western Canada, we reached audiences through Breakfast Television Edmonton, Global Noon News Edmonton, Global Evening News Edmonton, and Breakfast Television Calgary. The campaign also appeared in Alive magazine (and online), Health Castle Toronto and on InsideToronto.com.

Faced with a tight timeframe, Merkato was able to produce an engaging and vibrant program, recruit credible and media-trained spokespeople, develop strong SEO content for the client’s web presence, and secure a range of TV and print media coverage resulting in millions of impressions, all while furthering CHFA’s long-term goal of consumer-oriented messaging.

GE Canada

Working with local communities to return brownfield sites to productive use

Throughout most of the twentieth century, GE Canada conducted industrial operations in many major cities across Canada.  As operations were discontinued, GE Canada has been involved in voluntary environmental monitoring and proactive management programs at these “brownfield” sites.

GE Canada retained Merkato (then Trillium) to provide strategic advice and counsel related to building and maintaining positive relations with diverse (multi-ethnic) communities nearby these sites.

Merkato worked collaboratively with GE Canada staff, provincial and local government officials, local community groups as well as a multi-disciplinary team of legal, scientific and engineering experts to ensure that clear and accurate information was continuously provided to al stakeholders.  We also helped develop multiple opportunities for stakeholders to engage in a dialogue and ensure that all inquiries and comments were responded to in a prompt business like manner.

Activities planned and organized by Merkato included briefings of government officials, open houses and drop-in centres, producing and distributing regular information updates to nearby households, news conferences, organizing of citizen advisory committees and much more.

As a result of the combined efforts of this multi-disciplinary team, GE Canada has maintained positive relationships with all stakeholders and in many instances; these former industrial sites have been redeveloped in a responsible and environmentally sustainable manner.

Dietitians of Canada

Harnessing the power of volunteer spokespeople for Nutrition Month

Dietitians of Canada (DC) is the national professional association for dietitians, representing 6,000 members at the local, provincial and national levels.

Merkato is proud to partner with DC since 2008 in planning, organizing and executing a cross-Canada multimedia campaign surrounding Nutrition Month each year.  These campaigns are aimed at increasing public awareness of the important contribution nutritious eating makes to overall health and promoting DC as the primary source of trusted nutrition advice in Canada.

The strategy is to develop a strong media hook for each Nutrition Month and support that theme with creative and professional media materials ranging from photos to recipes to videos.

At the heart of each campaign is a team of 15-20 volunteer spokespeople who are members of DC representing the diverse regions of Canada, as well as a national DC spokesperson. Merkato works with the DC national coordinator to closely collaborate with each member of the volunteer team. Together we provide them with the training, information and support needed to arrange, coordinate and engage in TV, radio, print and online interviews in all major media markets across Canada.

In each successive Nutrition Month, Merkato has consistently improved both the volume and the quality of media coverage.  In 2011, for instance, the campaign garnered 33,599,404 media impressions with a total of 340 media hits and a cost per contact of $0.001 per individual reached.

CHFA’s top five natural health trends for summer 

Telling a seasonal story with a lasting media impact

In a continued effort to position the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) as the go-to source of consumer-friendly information about the natural health industry, Merkato developed a multi-channel creative campaign to showcase the top trends in natural health for summer 2014.

Throughout the spring, CHFA and Merkato reached out to top natural health experts across Canada to gather their insights on the many exciting trends in the industry. We were able to narrow it down to five hot topics for summer:

With timely and fun topics at our fingertips, we set out to get Canadians excited about natural health this summer by sharing the hot new trends across multiple platforms.

Our amazing and gifted creative partner Steve Hagey (Igniter) developed simple, yet engaging infographics to visually communicate the five trends.

Due to the strong content and participation of two credible spokespeople, holistic nutritionist Michelle Book and Holistic Pharmacist Sherry Torkos, Merkato was able to secure media appearances across Ontario and Western Canada. We also earned big wins in British Columbia, with a ten minute segment on ‘The Rush’ and in Toronto with a segment on Breakfast Television.

The trends were also a huge success online and in print media.  An interview with spokesperson Michelle Book and Metro Toronto Wellness editor led to a national feature story in Metro papers across the country.  The campaign also appeared in Healthy Directions magazine (and online), and in the Toronto Sun Living section.

The CHFA story grows stronger and stronger as Canadians are looking for more natural options to stay healthy.  In conjunction with the brilliant team at CHFA, Merkato was able to produce a timely and relevant story to share, recruit credible and media-trained spokespeople, develop strong SEO content for the client’s web presence, and secure a range of TV and print media coverage resulting in millions of impressions, all while furthering CHFA’s long-term goal of consumer-oriented messaging.

Canada Beef: The Ultimate Meat-ing

Media and Blogger Roast Beef Workshop

Canada Beef Inc. is an independent national organization representing the research, marketing and promotion of the Canadian cattle and beef industry worldwide.

As part of its comprehensive marketing and communications strategy, Canada Beef engaged Merkato to plan and organize a true social media experience that shared information and techniques with some of Canada’s most influential journalists and social media influencers.

Our concept involved a fun and interactive, hands-on workshop to share everything there is to know about choosing, roasting and serving Canadian beef. The experts at Canada Beef hosted an exclusive invite-only event at the Nella Cucina demonstration kitchen in Toronto on a fall weekend afternoon.

The client’s objectives were to show just how easy it is to make a perfectly cooked oven roast of Canadian beef every time.

At the workshop, participants were presented with

  • The results of more than two years of research on how to roast Canadian Beef best
  • An opportunity to team up with fellow food writers to test this research by preparing, tasting and sharing a variety of tested roast beef recipes
  • An invitation to guest blog on the Canada Beef blog
  • A take home a cooler full of well-known and lesser-known cuts of Canadian beef and a rich information kit summarizing everything they learned throughout the day.

The workshop was an amazing success with more than 35 top influencers taking time out of their busy schedules to attend. In fact, the workshop stirred up so much passion that for weeks and months after, participants enthusiastically shared their roasting adventures with their readers and social media followers.

Alberta Barley Commission: Go Barley 

An ancient grain with a new claim to fame

In 2012, barley was approved for a health claim by Health Canada on the strength of research showing that eating barley lowers cholesterol levels. The Alberta Barley Commission (ABC) asked Merkato to plan and deliver its first nation-wide media campaign to promote this health claim and new website (www.GoBarley.com). Merkato leveraged the increasing popularity of healthy grains and “super foods,” to tell a uniquely Canadian health story about barley on morning lifestyle shows, in daily papers, on radio, online and through social media.

Linda Whitworth, home economist and market development manager at ABC, was the campaign’s official spokesperson. Merkato also enlisted the help of popular Toronto foodie, Mairlyn Smith who delivered the barley message on Breakfast Television and CityLine in Toronto.

Merkato secured media placements across the country that resulted in over 20 million impressions, doubling expected reach. Syndicated journalists Rita De Montis (Sun Media) and Lois Abraham (Canadian Press) penned positive barley stories that were published in papers from coast to coast. The campaign also reached Canadian viewers through television shows ranging from CTV Morning Live in Halifax to Global Noon News in Vancouver.

Successful influencer lunches were held in Ottawa and Calgary at which Linda Whitworth served barley recipes from the Go Barley website and discussed the benefits of cooking with barley. The lunches resulted in a two-page spread in the Ottawa Citizen, which included the front page of the Food section, and a feature article in the Calgary Herald from food writer Julie Van Rosendaal.

The Alberta Barley Commission and Merkato were awarded top prize from the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association for best media relations campaign in 2013.

Dîner en Blanc Toronto

Taking a global culinary success to the next level in Toronto

Dîner en Blanc, the world’s fastest growing, elegant and secret culinary occasion, asked Merkato to plan and conduct an extensive media relations campaign to showcase their 2013 Toronto event. The evening, Toronto’s second edition, was an outstanding success with more than 1,600 guests dressed in white from head to toe creating a spectacular visual.

Merkato’s strategy was to enable Toronto Organizers Nicholas Wong and Robert Morassutti to tell the story of Dîner en Blanc to leading food, fashion and lifestyle reporters, bloggers and influencers. Using prominent international media coverage of previous events and emphasizing its ‘global’ appeal, Merkato was able to generate prominent coverage ranging from the Globe and Mail to Toronto Life.

Check out the Dîner en Blanc Toronto 2013 sights and sounds video from the Globe and Mail of the evening to get a sense of the visual sensation that is Diner en Blanc.

Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (Ophea)

Making the government stand up for a modern Health and Physical Education (H&PE) curriculum

In April 2010 the Liberal government bowed to a small and vocal group of activists demanding that Ontario’s newly-developed Health and Physical Education (H&PE) curricula be thrown out. (Opposition groups felt portions of the sex-ed prompts for teachers were controversial and inappropriate. The government promised to move forward with parent consultations and bring forward new curricula, but failed to do either).

Since then, the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (Ophea) has been urging the Ontario government replace the woefully out-of-date 1998 curriculum currently in schools with a more recent evidence-based curriculum.

With a new Premier in office, Ophea wanted to keep the issue on the government’s agenda. It commissioned an Ipsos poll that found 93 per cent of Ontario parents (with students in primary or secondary schools) wanted an updated curriculum. Merkato stepped up to develop Ophea’s key messages and media-relations strategy for a media junket at the Ontario Legislature.

Together Merkato, Ophea and Ophea’s partner organizations delivered a powerful strategic message to key media and government figures in Ontario. The CBC, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Hamilton Spectator, Globe and Mail, Metro Toronto newspaper and Xtra magazine published favourable stories urging the government to act. Media approached Education Minister Liz Sandals the same day (as the media conference) asking when the government would introduce an updated curriculum. As a result of the campaign Ophea pressured the government to respond, developed relationships with influential journalists and established itself as a go-to authority on the H&PE curriculum in Ontario.

Growing the international profile of a new Canadian natural products company

Getting lean and boosting energy with enerjive™ Quinoa Skinny Crackers

Ottawa-based enerjive™, a company that designs natural products that optimize metabolism for those who seek a passionate energetic life engaged Merkato to help them build profile and boast sales and listings of their new Quinoa Skinny Crackers

 To celebrate the abundant health benefits of quinoa and launch enerjive™ Quinoa Skinny Crackers, Merkato was able to create a three part media relations concept involving marrying the following strategic opportunities:

  1. The January phenomena of people looking to make healthy choices and smart eating resolutions;
  2. The official United Nations declaration of 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa; and
  3. The knowledge and skill of enerjive™ co-owner Dr. Joel Villeneuve, a naturopathic doctor

Merkato then conducted an integrated traditional and social media campaign involving, television, print, radio and online media to generate more that more than 60 million media impressions throughout Canada, the US, and around the world.

The campaign was an instant success, resulting in a significant number of inquiries from retailers and distributers (Canadian and US), as well as a noticeable spike in sales. Inquiries from our campaign continue today!

“I want to commend Merkato for their truly collaborative approach, high level of creativity and a results-oriented focus. Having worked with them over the last ten years, I’m happy to give Merkato my highest endorsement…”

 Korey Kealey, President, enerjive™

Dairy Farmers of Canada

The Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-off

Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) asked Merkato to develop a collaborative, multi-platform strategy to showcase Canadian cheese across Canada.

Our strategy centred on the creation of a bi-annual event called the Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off, designed to capture national and regional consumer and media attention. The integrated campaign involved recruiting four celebrity chefs from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax to develop original grilled cheese recipes and participate at a spectacular public and media cook-off event at the CNE in Toronto with a jury of Canada’s leading cheese experts and writers. The chefs also acted as regional spokespeople in a cross-Canada media tour including interviews for TV, radio and print. In addition, we developed a social media news release with integrated video and images, an online consumer contest for the best grilled cheese recipe, and an issue of the All You Need is Cheese magazine dedicated to the Grilled Cheese Cook-off.

Overall, the campaign was a huge success, reaching 47 million Canadians. We secured feature stories in top tier media across Canada, including Canadian Press, The Huffington Post, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Calgary Herald, CP24 Breakfast Toronto, and Breakfast Television Halifax, Edmonton and Vancouver. The campaign generated unprecedented discussion on DFC’s and the Chefs’ social media platforms.  Visits to the www.allyouneedischeese.ca website spiked throughout the campaign and cheese sales also experienced gains.

Most recently, The Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off video, produced by DFC and CNW, was named CNW Group’s Video of the Year for 2012.

Arctic Gardens

Guinness World Record for the World’s Biggest Stir-Fry

The Merkato team was asked to create a high profile media event to launch Arctic Gardens, a Quebec-based frozen vegetable processor, into the Ontario Market.

We developed a three-pronged strategy to showcase the quality and the diversity of the company’s products, to illustrate the ease of preparation and the great taste of their products, and to position the company as socially responsible and invested in the Ontario market.

To bring it all together, Merkato planned and executed a huge public and media event aimed at setting a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest stir-fry in Toronto’s Yonge Dundas Square. Arctic Gardens partnered with the Daily Bread Food Bank to showcase its commitment to giving back to the community and to generate media interest. We created a giant 10-foot diameter wok that cooked a 338 kg (745 lbs.) stir-fry made up of frozen broccoli florets, whole green beans, carrots, sugar snap peas, onion strips, sugar snap peas, red bell pepper strips, sliced water chestnuts and sliced mushrooms, plus 20 kg of stir fry sauce, 4 kg of minced garlic, 4 kg of ginger and 10 kg of canola oil.

Not only did we set the new Guinness World Record, the event garnered front page coverage in the Toronto Star and Metro Toronto, plus television coverage on major Ontario news programs. The event also helped raise $7,500 for charity. Most importantly, we helped put Arctic Gardens on consumers’ grocery lists. Our strategy was credited with opening doors for store listings, driving website traffic and sales.

Boston Pizza Royalties Income Fund

Building a positive corporate reputation

Boston Pizza (BPI) was being portrayed negatively in the media as an unattractive business trust and lumped in with unfavorable perceptions of restaurant sector business trusts generally. The Globe and Mail, in particular, had run several detrimental stories. The Boston Pizza executive team approached Merkato Communications (then Trillium) to help them swiftly turn around this negative coverage.

Merkato recommended a broader strategy to position BPI in a positive light over the long term by building relationships with key media and creating a better understanding of both Boston Pizza and the Boston Pizza Royalties Income Fund. We worked with BPI to help reporters understand the elements of successful income trusts and demonstrate how Boston Pizza meets those criteria. Finally, we mobilized third parties, such as financial analysts who were favorable to the Boston Pizza Royalties Income Fund, to help carry Boston Pizza’s messages to the media and investing public.

In a very short period we were able to arrange background briefing sessions connecting Mike Cordoba, CEO of Boston Pizza with tier-one financial reporters covering the technology sector. We also coordinated media interviews and encouraged journalists to attend income trust conferences and key announcements. We secured a prominent speaking opportunity at the Toronto Board of Trade and maintained a steady stream of positive announcements to key reporters.

As a direct result of our efforts, Boston Pizza Royalties Income Fund was named as one of two business trusts to watch in the Globe and Mail article entitled, “Boston Pizza can taste expansion.”

Dairy Farmers of Canada

Simplifying a complex trade issue

2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Organization for Economic Development (OECD). To honour Canada as a founding member, the OECD offered to dedicate the spring issue of its prestigious OECD Observer magazine to Canadian economic and trade matters.

This provided an extraordinary opportunity to reach the world’s most influential decision makers, as well as to reach opinion leaders in Canada.

In the spring of 2011, Dairy Farmers of Canada approached Merkato (then Trillium) to help them explain the complexity of the unique Canadian “supply management system” in simple, compelling language that was easily understandable to ordinary Canadians and foreign diplomats alike.

Merkato worked with DFC’s trade and government relations team to refine the language and to vividly tell this story through graphic illustrations.

The end result was a two-page advertorial spread that appeared prominently in the 40th anniversary edition of the OECD Observer. This was then reprinted and distributed to DFC producers as well as to elected and appointed officials and opinion influencers across Canada.

Egg Farmers of Ontario

Hatching a plan to boost farmers’ reputations during World Egg Month

Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) asked Merkato to develop and execute a PR strategy to show consumers that egg farmers are professionals who put farm fresh, quality eggs on our tables. EFO is also an organization that gives back to the community. Merkato successfully positioned it that way, as requested.

Merkato developed a three-part plan to provide a creative platform for egg farmers to tell their story to consumers through food and lifestyle media across Ontario.  This involved a series of pop-up Egg Farmers Give Back events in schools and city centres across the province where Ontario egg farmers and city mayors handed out “eggspanada” lunches and prizes, facilitating quality face-to-face time with students, public officials and passersby. We also organized an Ontario-wide TV media tour featuring a media-trained egg farmer and well-known food spokesperson Mairlyn Smith, as well as a carefully orchestrated media event at a Hamilton elementary school. There, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ted McMeekin, presided over EFO’s $30,000 donation to Breakfast for Learning.

Our strategy was a big success that delivered prominent coverage on major Ontario morning and noon-hour lifestyle shows and in print and online articles. This in turn generated increased traffic to the EFO website and provided a great opportunity to strengthen relationships with government and community leaders across the province.