Cathy-Anne O'Brien

A full-service public relations and communications agency, BlueSky Communications takes a multidisciplinary approach to help build brands and help organizations connect with audiences. Our PR agency crafts smart communication strategies, compelling stories and innovative campaigns that drive impact and deliver results.

Tell us about yourself?

I found that coming from Newfoundland opened up doors for me when I moved to Toronto to look for work. I quickly secured an agency job out of PR school in a fast-paced, demanding environment fuelled by the tech boom of the 90s. When it came to running a PR agency, I learned from the best – Eileen Tobey, founder of ETC Communications, later acquired by Burson Cohen & Wolfe, and the leaders at The GCI Group. I loved agency life, and I knew I wanted to run my own one day. But first I needed to round out my experience with a few years client-side with the corporate communications team at Bell Canada. Then I was ready. I started BlueSky in 2004 and shortly after, my sister, Julie McCarthy, whose advertising experience complemented my skills, joined me as co-founder.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

The world was a very different place at the beginning of 2020, and while the pandemic was a challenging time, it’s impressive how quickly we adapted and figured things out. From online school to working from home, the conveniences of grocery delivery, and of course the vaccine itself, developed at a rate never seen before, we reshaped our lives to make it work. What do I take from this? “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” according to Winston Churchill who was quoted as saying this in WWII. Fresh insight and opportunities for growth can come from difficult times.

What problem does your business solve?

Most of our clients are businesses who come to us to raise awareness of their product or service, or their overall brand. We help establish or build their reputation and credibility, whether as thought leaders or category leaders. We listen to understand the nuances and goals of a business, and develop an integrated public relations program with the right mix of media relations, content, digital strategy and influencers that helps secure media coverage or builds their profile in social media campaigns.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

There are many great business stories that go untold. Helping brands articulate who they are, what they do and why it matters is a vital part of connecting with customers, employees and other stakeholders. We want to help organizations make this connection in an authentic and compelling way that resonates with the audiences that matter most.

What is your magic sauce?

We are entrepreneurs at heart with an in-depth knowledge of the media landscape. Our ability to create a compelling, dynamic narrative for our clients and deliver that message across various communications vehicles has kept our clients loyal over the years. We approach every engagement as if we own the business and we quickly get to the core of a problem, delivering solutions that drive business growth. While this may not be a ‘secret’ sauce, our disciplined and consistent approach has resulted in year-over-year growth for almost 20 years.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Like every other industry, digital is transforming public relations. We are fully prepared to take advantage of this opportunity and want to constantly push the envelope when it comes to embracing innovation.

Five years from now digital will be different from what we know today. For BlueSky, we want to be on the cusp of how brands embrace advancements in virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and explore how we can help businesses create more of an emotional connection with people.

Another area we’d like to further refine is helping brands become more socially-conscious. As the spending power in Canada shifts to Generation Z, consumers will demand more than great products from companies. They want to purchase from ethically responsible organizations playing a role in improving society. Whether it’s climate change, poverty or social justice, we want to be the go-to agency helping companies get involved with social or environmental causes that will help local and global communities.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

After two years of working from home, achieving a consensus around in-person meetings and when or how to go back to the office is one current challenge. All the rules have changed and navigating this new world is complicated. Our team performed well working remotely during the pandemic, yet some express a disconnection with colleagues and miss the richer collaborative environment that comes with an in-person connection. Finding the right balance that gives us the benefits of a workplace with the flexibility of working from home will be experimental for many companies before we get it right and that’s probably the best approach.

How can people get involved?

Whether you’re a non-profit, small enterprise or large corporation we’d love to hear about your communications needs. If you’d like to work with a collaborative, seasoned team, get in touch at [email protected] or visit us at www.blueskycommunications.com, LinkedIn and Instagram.