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Vicky Boudreau co-founded BICOM 12 years ago with her partner Marie-Noelle Hamelin, the public relations agency now counts more than 40 employees in Montreal and Toronto. Vicky explores the agency's business sectors, the latest emerging trends, and continually develops her network of contacts with a view to creating collaborative opportunities. Combining her field experience with her passion for the business world, she fully understands the client's challenges in order to offer effective solutions to propel them towards their objectives. Her expertise recently led Vicky to accept the position of President of the Administrative Council of the Alliance des Cabinets de Relations Publiques du Québec (ACRPQ) and is committed to stimulating the next generation by offering conferences on entrepreneurship in schools and associations.
How did you get into the industry?
I’ve always been a people ‘person. At 6 years, I remember inviting everyone I knew to my birthday celebrations in the summer. I would pick my mom’s phone book and call all our family and her friends. When I started going to school, I had a lot of friends from different groups. I knew very early on that I wanted to study communications but finally after a student exchange in Italy, I decided to pursue Fashion Design then Fashion marketing and ended up doing an internship in fashion public relations. I had no clue what public relations was, but I had already built a great network by that time.
Any emerging industry trends?
The core of what we do in communication relies on our networks and still is about strong human connections. While those relationships are still powerful and useful influence is now starting to be measured with precise data metrics; who is being heard, how many are listening and even what actions they are taking. Also, the advent of the micro and nano influencers is growing noticeably as the quest for credibility and authenticity for brands is a real trend now, and something macro influencers are lacking with the paid partnerships and ads. In a near future data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence could make public relations easier for most companies, from predicting when customer interest will be highest to identifying potential crises and mitigating them before they explode. New tools to track the noise and analyze will continue to rise (ex.: HubSpot, TRAACKR, Marketo, Meltwater, LeadSquared).
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
Convergence in communications firms is on the rise. Large groups are buying small / mid-size independent agencies, leaving a small number of fully independent firms on the market. Traditional advertising and creative agencies now offers social media, digital, media relations and influencer engagement, and public relations agencies now get into new services such as creative, video, digital and design. The lines are blurred, and it is unclear for the client to really know what takin care of in house or outsource at their partner agencies. I think the winners will be the agencies that cultivate a strong consumer culture anchored into the business reality of the clients and their industries.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
I met my work wife and business partner Marie-Noelle in another firm where I was doing an internship and she was already partner. After a few days, we were already close friends and we had the energy and vision to grow the business! When she decided to leave that firm, I followed her this is one the best decision of my life. At the beginning we wanted to create the work place we always dreamed of. A result-oriented communication firm evolving into a collaborative and stimulant environment that offer a lot of liberty to employees as well as a strong sense of community and engagement.
After ten years in business, we came to a point that we needed to clearly define and put on paper our long-term vision: we want to create a network of locally led creative communities that together redefine the power of influence. We don’t know what the future is made of, but we will continue to evolve, and we strongly believe that the «Glocal» Global + local trend characterized by both local and global considerations is there to stay and much affect our vision of international expansion.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
Early this year we launched B Nation, the first Canadian community dedicated to building a network of nano-influencers. Defined by their social networks of under 1,000 followers, the nano-influencers shine within their highly engaged communities. Over the last decade, we built solid relationships with influencers at all levels based on trust, transparency and authenticity. From journalists, celebrities, athletes and bloggers to industry experts, the agency collaborates on a regular basis with these key opinion leaders to help elevate their clients’ brand. Micro influencers (1000-5000 followers) have increasingly become part of brand influencer strategies.
Recognizing the growing importance these smaller reach social media influencers can have on a brand’s business objectives, BICOM wanted to look further into the nano bracket and commissioned the marketing research agency Callosum to conduct a study to determine how impactful they are on purchase intent. The results were amazing, proving that when you know personally someone that makes a recommendation online you are up to 10 times more likely to buy that product or use that service. We now work on campaigns including the nano-influencers and the results are very exciting! We are looking forward to developing this platform to the next level in the upcoming months.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
In Canada the province of Quebec has its very own culture and actors (media, influencers, celebrities), the rest of Canada requires special attention. I think that our free spirit, creative business culture that is not estrange to the head office being in a French-Canadian city is a major asset. That being said, our key words for business success are product, people and process. BICOM redefines the power of influence for brands, never cease to innovate, to learn and be curious about what is going on in our industry. My partner and I came to realize that recruiting the best talents, help them grow, nurture them, and most importantly, cultivate a strong culture focused on the consumer is a major part of who we are as a business. The process is where we probably have the most work to do, simplify, structure yet remain again, be more efficient yet be more creative.
And a year and a half ago, we appointed Daniella Macri as our managing partner for the Toronto office. Her corporate experience at the Coca-Cola Company, where she overviewed public relations and influencer marketing while launching and growing Glaceau vitaminwater and smartwater in Canada was an incredible addition to our team. Her fresh perspective equips her to build strategic, results-driven plans that help push creative boundaries. Fostering a strong, collaborative culture within the agency and among clients is Daniella’s passion, and together with Marie-Noelle and I, we’ve lead BICOM into international growth.
In the last years we’ve been working with an advisory board that give us an extremely precious external perspective on our business. Together we are building a strategic 5-year plan with very precise strategic imperatives. It is so exciting to map out the next steps to reach the destination we want to reach, put it in a plan and get things done!
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
We founded an agency in the artsy neighborhood of Mile End in Montreal. Back in 2006 it was a crappy part of town with empty fashion warehouses. We launched Bicom in a 300 square feet space. Marie-Noelle and I were working on the same desk that we had bought at Structube (that later became a client!). After a year we moved to a bigger space and we would just take walls down and expand as our team was growing. The area was getting cooler and bigger corporations were considering space in our building. One day we got the notice that our place was getting sold and the new owner was increasing our rent like crazy.
We were politely getting kicked out of our office with a small-time notice. I remember crying and being desperate and my partner was so calmly telling me that everything happens for a reason and that we would find a solution. Today we just doubled the size of our beautiful Montreal office (8 000 square feet total) in the Mile End but Marie-Noelle and I still share the same office! I learned from that experience that there is always some way out and learning from challenges. When we get hit by a problem I accept to be anxious and desperate for 24 hours and then force myself in a solution/action mode. So far it works well!
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
For us strong authentic relationships are key to success. From our suppliers to our clients and, of course, our team we value transparency and open communication to maximize the work flow. With our growing team of 40 experts in media relations, digital and experiential, our clients benefit from a vast network of privileged relationships. We believe in the right mix of strategic thinking and get things done so we aim for tailored strategies that results into effective field practice.
Our clients come to us because they need an agency that makes things happen. But as marketing and consumer relationships are becoming more complex, they now also need a partner that can accompany them though the strategic thinking and creative process. We are working hand-in-hand with them to create strong relationships between their brands and their consumers – and this is what our clients value most of the work we do with them.
How do you motivate others?
Nowadays I am more involved in the strategies than the daily operations of the campaigns but every week, I take time to read every single project recap that is shared with clients. Not only I want to be in the know of what’s happening, but it makes me proud of my team to see the projects roll down and them achieving amazing results! I often write a quick note to congratulate them if they are performing well or give them some ideas if it’s more challenging.
I’m an information junkie. I attend conferences, read a lot of newsletters, articles and books and I make sure to share relevant content with team members when I feel it is of interest for them. I want them to know that I value their work and their potential. I am a very keen and energetic person. In the past I often question myself as if I was too intense and trying in a badly manner to be more formal/corporate that I really am. Now I think that being authentic (without being dramatic) with my team and clients engage people to rely and increase their desire to collaborate to our global success as members of the same team.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Treat everyone respectfully. You never know in which context you may cross that person’s path again (as we saw many bloggers getting a voice in traditional media a few years ago). We are in the business of reputation and one’s reputation is as precious when navigating in that industry.
Go out, meet people, make connections, sign in for internships – contacts and different experiences are key
Surround yourself with people that inspire you and people that are smarter than you, not only will you learn from them, but they will help you bring your projects to the next level!
What do I do best?
I am a master connector. Networking is key as much as in my personal life than in business. Meeting new people from different backgrounds and interests and learn from them is so fulfilling. I love connecting people together whether they can create a new business projects or help each other on a personal level. I firmly believe in karma and as life has been good to me I make sure I give back whenever and however I can.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I would say my ambition is fuelled by a strong feeling that anything is possible (if you work hard)! From a young age my drive led me not only to seize opportunities but also to create the ones I envisioned. My fear of missing out on a potential opportunity was always bigger than my fear of failing or being rejected. In my early 20’s I realized that even if my requests or expectations were bold, because I was well prepared and I could present situations as win win I was getting positives answers 95% of the time.
What are my aspirations?
Most recently, I completed a Certification in Leadership and Management at the Institute of leadership in partnership with Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business Executive Centre where I had the opportunity to define my life purpose: Connect people, businesses and communities and inspire them to seize opportunities and aim for success.
My Biggest Success?
I want to be a role model for my daughters (4 y.o. and 10 months). Nowadays modern motherhood comes in 2 extremes trends; one being a totally overwhelmed mom complaining about how hard it is and living for your first glass of wine at night when the kids are in bed while being proud that the house is a mess. On the opposite side picture perfect happy gorgeous mothers) that are 100% dedicated to their beautiful kids are invading our social media feeds.
I define myself as a working mom that loves her job and has a social life outside of the family and that also loves her kids so much she would stop anything if they need her. As I’m travelling and attending all kinds of events, I started created content (videos, pictures) for my 4 y.o. so when I’m back I can share with her my experiences with her. So far I feel I have met my standards! Of course I am sometimes tired with the short nights and the overwhelming workload but I have no frustrations I love my life!
My Most Challenging Moment?
This may sound odd but I don’t have anything specific to share. I take important decisions that impact on my life on a weekly basis. Sometimes these decisions are harder to take and I do sometimes make what we would call the wrong decision but every time I realized looking back that I could and maybe should have done things differently. To me it’s just another learning opportunity of learning to me.
"If you can’t change a situation change your attitude." That sentence has saved me a lot of unnecessary stress and concern. To me it is not about ignoring a bad situation but about taking action so you can control the damages.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
This is a hard question because I have met so many inspiring people throughout the years! My husband who took a leap of faith and quit has job to launch his own business a year ago, my work wife who has the best judgment a human being can have, my mom who transmitted me her amazing down-to-earth values that ground every decision I take but I will tell you a little bit more about my father (who passed away when I was a young adult).
In his mid 30’s Telesphore Boudreau left a good supervising job at the local mine to build a boat in our backyard because he had a dream: becoming a fisherman. He was smart enough to first become a boat inspector across the province for a few months and gather as much intel as possible. He had a firm intuition that the Japanese would start buying crabs that was considered gross like sea spiders and put back to the ocean at the time. It was super risky as he had barely any savings at the time and two baby daughters. His projects were entirely based on a vision he had but he made a plan and worked very very hard without counting the hours. And it paid off! Maybe a year later after, the Japanese were buying crab and it was called the orange gold. He made his fair share of profits and built a fishing company with different permits for different species throughout the following years.
My dad constantly repeated to me that anything is possible, it may take you months, years, but if you work very hard and don’t lose focus, you will make it happen. This advice is printed on my heart and has fuelled my entrepreneur fire ever since.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
Two of my favorite cities are very opposite but as exotic to me: Istanbul and Tokyo. I love losing all sense of reference and immersing myself into another culture. Food, design, art and the people are my main points of interest when travelling. I also always bring a pair of running shoes so I can run in the morning and discover the cities waking up and view it from another angle.
When in town, I think one of my favorite places would be sitting at a big table with lots of friends, great food and white wine or cuddling for hours with my husband and daughters on the coach after a big successful week of work!
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I always loved fashion and I have a thing with silk scarves (Hermès being my maison of predilection). For someone as on-the-go as me, it gives an elegant flair to any outfit and an instant pop of color to illuminate my skin complexion. I have a few of them and they are either gifts from people I love or gifts from myself to underline a success. Each of them are meaningful to me and I sometimes wear them as a lucky charm when I have a big presentation to give or a challenging meeting to do.
My Current Passions?
Cannabis legalization, Blockchain and cryptocurrency
Not only are these buzzwords of the moment but they are rising industries that are shaping our future. To be 100% honest, these hot topics are not of «natural» interest for me. I am an 80’s kid and I lived the before and after of the arrival of the Internet. I find it so exciting to live in an era where innovation evolves insanely fast paced. I discipline myself to better understand what’s happening with cannabis legalization, blockchain and cryptocurrency by continuously reading articles and attending conferences. I want to know how they will affect not only the world of business but how they will impact our daily lives.