The same…but different: A newcomer’s perspective to PR in Vancouver


As a British/Irish transplant in Canada (I’m from Northern Ireland) I had previously thought that the basics of PR would be pretty much the same no matter where one was in the western world.

I was wrong.  I learnt, I mean learned, that very quickly upon landing my first PR position in Vancouver.

While the principles and objectives are very much the same there are some subtle, and some not-so-subtle, differences between practicing PR in Belfast and Vancouver. I’ve summarised, or rather, summarized, some of these differences below:

The first hurdle?  Canadian spelling.  A confusing mix of American and English, I didn’t even know there was such a thing until I started having to use it on a daily basis. And why doesn’t Microsoft acknowledge it in its spell-check options? After 16 months I think I’ve finally mastered the usage and it’s almost second nature now, however, I do fear my former colleagues and journalist friends back home may be silently judging me each time I use it in a Facebook post.

PR Terminology.  I’ve been met with my fair share of confused looks since taking up this position due to the terminology I use.

Here what I previously referred to as a Diary Note is a Media Advisory.  The content I normally used in the Notes to Editor section below my press release is now used in a fact sheet.

Photography.  Back in Belfast our main goal was print media. As a small region with very limited regional radio and television programming, most of which was taken up with political reporting, generating broadcast coverage was rarely achievable no matter how compelling the client’s story may be.  However, the golden rule for getting plentiful print coverage in Belfast was to have a quirky, colourful image accompanying your media release….featuring at least one attractive female. Hence, no matter the story - whether it be business, trade or lifestyle - a model was generally booked for a photo shoot and I was off on the hunt for props and costumes.

Here in Vancouver I have had more contact with broadcast media in the last 16 months than I did in 6 years in Belfast.  There is definitely more human interest content on news shows here.  It can be the daily newspapers that are the hardest nuts to crack.

Quirks aside…the biggest challenge was learning an entire media market from scratch.  Radio and TV call signs also stumped me for a bit but in time I’ve become familiar with the various channels, their programming and the types of content they carry.

The last 16 months have been a fantastic learning experience and this has greatly widened my outlook and made me more adaptable and flexible in my role. Having the opportunity to gain experience in your chosen industry in different cultures and countries is something I would thoroughly recommend to anyone.