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Quantum Leaps


Talking the talk, writing the book

client: Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women


Writing a Guide for Girls! for the Status of Women was a great opportunity for Quantum, a woman-strong organization from Day One. Our first challenge was making sure we were talking to our audience — teenage girls from across the province — in words they could relate to, in a format they'd enjoy.


We started not by talking, but by listening. We held focus groups and took note of what our teen informants told us. Make the book interactive, they said, leave room for us to write in it. We weren't surprised. Please call us girls, they said, and not young women. We were surprised by that.


The book that resulted is a lively mix of text, quotes, questions, and resources (including lots of websites) to help girls make better-informed decisions about their futures, and providing them with inspiration on everything from body image to bank balances, from careers to sexual orientation to how to make (each in her own way) a difference in the world.


Another challenge in the process was pleasing teens and parents both. We knew we'd hit the mark when one rural Nova Scotia girl and her mother emailed to say they were using Guide for Girls! as a birthday party theme. And they aren't the only fans. Guide for Girls! went into a second printing much earlier than anticipated. The original print run of 10,000 copies was expected to last more than two years, but ran out in eight months.


The book won top prize in its category in the Gemstone public relations awards — and that's nice too. We like winning awards. But we'd rather help a girl become a strong woman, any day.


A foot in the door

client: Cellar Door Productions


Chef at Large went behind the scenes in the kitchens of the world. Quantum went behind the scenes for Chef at Large.


During three years with the show, we helped to generate ideas, refine them, and flesh them out. And we did the research so the TV crew could focus on the action. Chef Michael Smith’s curiosity and taste buds took him and his viewers on once-in-a-lifetime journeys. Now that the show has been syndicated, they still are.


Ratings were high when we joined Chef at Large in its third season, but the pressure was on to raise the bar. Cellar Door Productions explained that the show had to keep evolving to maintain audience interest. In other words? Get us into more difficult, intriguing places — starting now.


We rose to the challenge and landed Michael Smith in the kitchen at an all-female Sicilian wedding shower, at the cast party for the Mamas and Papas Off-Broadway show hosted by Pamela Wallin at the Canadian Consulate in New York, and at Cirque du Soleil — to name just a few.


At Quantum, we develop a unique approach for every client. Our secret ingredient for Chef at Large:

Be nice. But be persistent.

The (Fast) Path to Success

client: Atlantic PATH


The Atlantic PATH is the largest cancer research study ever undertaken in Atlantic Canada. It unfolds in stages, so its communications must be handled at a speedy (did we say breakneck?) pace.


In April 2009, the study's first assessment centre opened, in Halifax, and things were suddenly ready to go. We designed a comprehensive communications plan. We pulled out all the stops to develop the heart of the plan and see it launched within a two-month timeframe. Media relations, that is. And direct mail. And advertising. And promotional materials. And building relationships with community champions and key stakeholders . . . .


The goal was to recruit 8,000 volunteers in Halifax, and a smaller number in Cape Breton, before the two Nova Scotia assessment centres would close in the spring of 2010 and Atlantic Path would prepare to shift some of its focus to New Brunswick and Newfoundland.


The goal was reached — and one approach that had an impact was our idea to emphasize toenails in posters and other materials (toenail clippings being among the biological samples requested of volunteers). One back-of-the-bus ad we designed around "the toenail theme" had unanticipated consequences. A CBC journalist saw it when a bus went past and was intrigued enough to do a national radio and TV story.


Atlantic Path is part of a larger national study, but is the only regional program to have garnered coast-to-coast news coverage. It all comes down to ingenuity . . . and speed . . . and toe nails.


The message no one wanted to hear

client: Food Security Project (Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre and Nova Scotia Nutrition Council)


Developing a media relations campaign for the Food Security Project gave Quantum a chance to use two of our greatest strengths — comprehensiveness and flexibility. And it let us play a small part in making a difference.


Quantum's challenge was to publicize research findings that nobody wanted to hear — namely, that a large and growing number of low-income Nova Scotians, and even many middle-income earners, could not afford a diet of basic, healthy food.


The Food Security Project used participatory research, so we developed a media relations program that was participatory, too. For example, we held workshops for community group members who would be acting as spokespeople, to show them how to "meet the press."


We created a wide range of materials — from backgrounders to press releases to speaker's notes. We strategized, targeted, and pulled it all together in an intensive campaign that culminated in a news conference and media event.


The event led to a flurry of attention — feature articles, radio and TV spots — and was followed by immediate good news. The Project, which had been about to end, received funding for a much-needed second phase. Half a decade later, the work of the Food Security Project is still continuing, and Quantum was invited back last year to do a workshop on media relations.


Facing off on YouTube

client: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia


It was a challenge. But luckily we thrive on challenges. The question was how to get youth (who tend to think they're impervious) off the couch and away from the screen, and get them walking their way to better health?


Our client, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, knows all too well that young Nova Scotians are at growing risk because of sedentary lifestyles, and the project at hand was to get teens involved in a video contest about the benefits of walking. The battle would be fought via YouTube, and those entrants whose videos got the most votes would receive an array of prizes. They'd also become part of the Youth Action Team, helping the Foundation design a walking program to raise kids' awareness and improve their long-term health.


Quantum's task was to reach out to teens — and that meant social media. We used Facebook as one of our key tools to get the word out. We emphasized the contest's "take us walkin' in your town" aspect in all the materials we created, including a website and our own YouTube short. Routes through communities have everything from neon lights to railroad tracks, helpful for incorporating a "street" look.


We also created an animated mascot: a walking stick figure so cool (if we do say) that he appealed to kids and adults too. This was a critical point, since we were also designing distinct but complementary materials for parents, teachers and others who could help us reach teen audiences.


Over the month-long course of the contest there were over 1,000 views, with many comments and votes — the first steps in a walk that's only just beginning.




Talking the talk, writing the book

A foot in the door

The (Fast) Path to Success

The message no one wanted to hear

Facing off on YouTube